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Saturday, December 31, 2011

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Marriage/Family/Sexuality Headline Archives (2011)

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Christian Giving


In this Christmas season, as we celebrate the Greatest Gift the world has ever known, I thought it appropriate to address the issue of giving—especially among those who call themselves Christians. As I have noted before, Americans are the most generous people on earth. Among Americans, Christians are the most generous. Within Christianity, evangelicals are, by a rather wide margin, the most generous—far more generous than mainliners, Catholics, and so on.

According to George Barna, “Evangelical Christians distinguished themselves in their generosity. More than four out of five (83%) gave at least $1000 to churches and non-profit entities during 2007, far surpassing the levels reached by any other population segment studied.”

On average (the mean), in 2007, evangelicals gave $4,260 to all non-profits. Non-evangelical born again Christians gave an average of $1,581, while non-born again Christians gave $865. Overall, all those calling themselves Christians gave $1,426.

However, according to the U.S. Census, the mean household income in 2007 was about $53,000. This means that, though Christians are usually among the most generous Americans, we still give only at a rate of about 2.6%.

Earlier this year in an issue of Christianity Today, several Christian authors and ministers discussed whether Christians are generous enough with their money. Brian Kluth, founder of Maximum Generosity, stated that “While some evangelicals are very generous, many are not. The concept that giving to God's work (local church, ministries/missions, the needy) should be a person's highest financial priority is embraced by very few Christians in today's materialistic, consumer-driven, and debt-ridden society, even though Scripture is clear on this teaching.”

Barna notes that, in 2007, only 5% of Americans tithed (gave 10% of their income). Again, evangelicals led the way here with 24% tithing. Many sincere Christians have taken different views on tithing, but there is no mistaking that those who follow Christ are to be generous, and generally the minimum biblical standard for generosity is 10%.

Christ often used parables involving money and material possessions to teach people about the kingdom of God. In this way, Jesus was using earthly principles that people understood well to teach them spiritual principles which were far more foreign to them. The late Larry Burkett concluded that “2/3 of all parables in the New Testament deal with nothing but money.” I think that it is quite noteworthy that even 2,000 years ago the concept of money and wealth was so common and significant that Christ chose to use it in the majority of His parables to point people to the truth.

Jesus was clear: if you follow Him, if you are a part of His kingdom, you are to be invested in every way. This includes your finances. How people handle their money is a great indicator of where they are spiritually. A look at our checkbook and/or our credit card charges reveals a great deal about us. If you want to know where someone’s heart is, look at how and where they spend their time, and on what they spend their money.

However, make no mistake about it—God does not need our money to accomplish the things He is out to accomplish in this world. What He wants is a relationship with us, and just as within an earthly marriage, a great deal of this relationship revolves around material things, especially money.

As I have also noted before, the bottom line when it comes to money and finances, and the most important financial principle taught in Scripture, is that none of us really “owns” anything. We are merely stewards, or managers, of His property. Until we come to grips with this, we can never truly understand money and wealth, and we will never be as generous as God desires.

Mr. Burkett put it well when he noted that tithing, or giving in general, is recognition of God’s ownership and authority. It is an act of worship, and, as Emerson said, we all worship something.

Last—and this is extremely important—as we give, may we never forget the ultimate goal of our charity. Every good deed that Jesus performed was done with one ultimate goal in mind: to bring people into His kingdom. In other words, God became man not simply to do good deeds and to implore us to do the same, but to make us into new creatures. After all, God “gave” His one and only Son for no other reason.

Have a truly Merry Christmas, and get busy giving.

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Obama: The Occupier in Chief

A few weeks ago I detailed some of the differences between the “Occupiers” and the TEA party patriots. Alas, with the deaths, diseases, drug use, rapes, thefts, vandalism and all, the Occupiers have done even more to distinguish themselves, not only from the TEA party, but from decent Americans everywhere.

Even the left-wing media, which have endeavored to persevere when it comes to placing the Occupiers in a positive light, have begun to doubt the movement. As Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard reports, liberal journalists who traveled to Zuccotti Park “spewed forth torrents of ink on the value of protest, the creativity and spontaneity of the occupiers, the urgency of redistribution, and the gospel of social justice…Yet, as many a liberal journalist left the park, they lamented the fact that Occupy Wall Street wasn’t more tightly organized. They worried that the demonstration would dissipate without a proper list of demands or a specific policy agenda.”

In other words, despite months of occupation, the Occupiers are still mostly incoherent. Interestingly, some on the left are beginning to realize the same with the current administration. “What are we trying to do in this administration?” laments Mr. “the thrill is gone” Chris Matthews. He adds, “What’s he going to do with his second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets?”

Matthews continues, “He has not said one thing about what he would do in his second term. He never tells us what he’s going to do with reforming our health care systems: Medicare and Medicaid; how he’s going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How?...Why are we in this fight with him?...Give us our orders and tell us where we are going.” (The thrill up Matthews’ leg might be gone, but the bias isn’t.)

Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that since Obama cannot run on his record, to save the Democratic Party he should abandon his candidacy for reelection. Simply put, Caddell and Schoen note that, “the president cannot affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He—like everyone else—knows that they are worse off.”

So three years into his term, many on the left are now realizing what most of us on the right suspected all along: Obama was not ready to be President of the United States. As many warned in 2008 (including myself), coming into his presidency, Obama had the weakest résumé of any former president in U.S. history. Not only was he lacking in political experience, but he was sorely lacking in leadership experience. He never ran a business, never served in the military, never did much of anything other than prepare for a career in politics.

Remember, Obama was a professional “community organizer,” so it is little surprise that he identifies with the Occupy mobs. (Obama, himself. declared that he is “on their side.”) Thus, it is also little surprise that the disorganization, incoherence, and general immaturity that mars the Occupy movement also aptly describes the Obama administration.

As Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently pointed out, Obama “owns the Occupy Wall Street movement.” In fact, some of Obama’s most prominent advisors and mentors have themselves knee-deep in the Occupy movement. Jim Wallis, a recent member of President Obama’s White House faith council, and reported spiritual advisor, has called on churches nationwide to provide sanctuary to the Occupy protesters. Obama friend, mentor, and former terrorist Bill Ayers has been teaching the Occupiers in Chicago.

Not to be left out, many prominent democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, and Maxine Waters have also lent their support to the Occupy movement. Pelosi has gone so far as recently to author a fundraising e-mail for the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee that attempts to channel the Occupy movement’s energy. Therefore, as Obama and the democrats seek reelection in 2012, to best capture the mood of liberals across the country and to paint the clearest picture for the rest of us who will be going to the ballot box, let us label the President with the most apt descriptor: “Occupier in Chief.”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Science vs. Religion Myth

The word “science” is derived from the Latin word “scientia,” meaning “knowledge.” All knowledge is derived from certain governing presuppositions. In other words, as I have noted before, each side of every issue that human beings debate ultimately has certain un-provable assumptions upon which they must eventually rely. As the late philosopher, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, put it, “At the most fundamental level of everyone's thinking and beliefs there are primary convictions about reality, man, the world, knowledge, truth, behavior, and such things. Convictions about which all other experience is organized, interpreted, and applied.”

Likewise, theologian, author, and pastor, R.C. Sproul, recently discussed the “lasting impression” that the book, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, which he read over 50 years ago, had made upon him. He noted that the book was so influential to him because it “clearly set forth the importance of understanding that all scientific theories presuppose certain philosophical premises.”

The concept of “primary convictions” or presupposed “philosophical premises” is important when it comes to the nonsense that is religion vs. science. The idea that there is some battle between science and religion—especially Christianity—simply won’t go away. Writing in the UK’s Guardian, Julian Baggini recently declared that any religion “that seeks to explain the hows of the universe…is competing with science. In such contests science always wins, hands down, and the only way out is to claim a priority for faith over evidence, or the Bible over the lab.”

Speaking of the “hows of the universe,” some of the most famous and influential founders of what is considered “modern science”—Galileo, Kepler, and Newton—operated from a strict biblical worldview. For example, in 1595, in Kepler’s first major work, he thought that he had discovered “God’s geometrical plan for the universe.” As a Christian, Kepler believed that the universe was designed by a Creator and thus should function in a very logical fashion. He went as far as to define his view of “science” as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

Though he made many mistakes, Kepler, led by his faith, was determined to make sense of the motion of the planets in our solar system. The first two of Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion were published in 1609. The third and final law was published in 1619 in his book, “The Harmony of the World.” In this work, Kepler noted “that the geometrical things have provided the Creator with the model for decorating the whole world.” He also praised God, declaring “Great is God our Lord, great is His power and there is no end to His wisdom.”

Kepler had a rather strained relationship with Galileo, but they shared a belief in the Copernican model (planets rotate around the sun, and so on) of the universe. This, of course, is what placed Galileo at odds with the Catholic Church and is what many—especially those who worship at the alter of science—point to for evidence of the backwardness of those who operate from a biblical worldview.

However, just as Kepler, Galileo was a Christian who believed in the trustworthiness of the Bible. As Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher puts it, “[Galileo] was fighting against the contemporary principles of Bible interpretation which, blinded by Aristotelian philosophy, did not do justice to the biblical text.”

Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He is most famous for his laws of motion and universal gravitation. On gravitation he noted that, “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.”

When it comes to the age of the earth—a favorite topic of the science worshippers—both Kepler and Newton calculated the earth to be only a few thousand years old. Kepler calculated a creation date of 3,992 B.C. Newton stated that, “For an educated man…any suggestion that the human past extended back further than 6,000 years was a vain and foolish speculation.”

Now, before anyone accuses me of the fallacy of appealing to authorities, let me say that my views on Creation and the Bible are not correct simply because they are in common with Kepler, Galileo, Newton, et al. That is not the issue here. The point is that anyone can practice good science while operating from a biblical worldview and that everyone who does any kind of science operates from some worldview.

In other words, there is no battle between science and religion. The only competition that exists when it comes to our pursuit of knowledge and truth lies in our worldviews.

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011

TEA Party vs. Occupy Wall Street

There are several ways that a person can tell with which of the current popular political movements—the TEA Party or Occupy Wall Street—one most identifies. As a public service, I’ve compiled a set of identifying characteristics to aid you in your discernment.

If you cannot afford to camp out for days or even weeks on end at a rally because: a.) you have a job that requires your presence; b.) you are busy looking for a job; or c.) you are a student who actually attends your classes, you probably support the TEA Party. If you like to defecate on police cars, or paint your nude body in 1960s style psychedelic colors and designs, you probably support the Occupy Wall Street movement.

If you know why you are attending a rally and can reasonably articulate the reason(s), you are probably at a TEA Party rally. If you are (if you are) at a rally (at a rally) where they mindlessly repeat (where they mindlessly repeat) everything spoken (everything spoken) like a moron (like a moron) at a cult gathering (at a cult gathering), you are at the Occupy Atlanta rally. Yes we can! (Yes we can!)

If someone approaches you and hands you a pocket-sized U.S. Constitution or an American flag, you are at a TEA Party event. If someone approaches you offering free condoms or a joint (probably not free), you are at an Occupy event.

If you have bathed in a real bathroom within the last week and if, after your rally, you clean up after yourself, you’re probably a TEA Party supporter. If your protest site “smells like a sewer” (as Britain’s Daily Mail reported), you’re at the Occupy New York protest.

If your protest includes singing the national anthem, reciting the pledge of allegiance and/or the Lord’s Prayer, or Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” being loudly broadcast, you are attending a TEA Party event. If your gathering includes several Hollywood leftists, bussed-in union members, and recruited homeless in order to “swell the ranks” (as reported by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank), you are at an Occupy rally.

If you and your fellow protestors recognize and celebrate the heroic acts of American soldiers, you are at a TEA Party event. If your camp is infiltrated by party goers celebrating acts of sex and drug abuse (as the Daily Mail reported), you are at an Occupy event.

It is rather refreshing, if not also a bit shocking, to see such liberal values so prominently displayed. It paints a rather clear picture for any American who is in doubt about which movement is more in line with his or her values. What a dilemma for the democrats! On the one hand, they must pay homage and attempt to sympathize with the Occupy loons, who are a significant part of their base, but on the other hand, democrats know (surely they know) that a significant majority of U.S. voters rejects the “values” (forget the ideas, because there really aren’t any) that are flaunted at the Occupy protests.

What’s more, many of the Occupy protestors are hardly what one could consider oppressed or down-trodden. Several were photographed wearing designer clothes and sporting the latest electronic gadgets. Also, as one paper reported, “youngsters…have joined the movement, many of whom study at colleges which cost their parents up to $200,000.”

Another bit of irony that seems to be lost on most of the Occupiers is that Barack Obama received about twice as much in campaign contributions from Wall Street in the 2008 presidential campaign as did John McCain.

However, the most ironic, and moronic, thing about the Occupy movement is that the vast majority of those involved seek to place more power in the hands of those who were most instrumental in our economic collapse: the federal government. As Herman Cain pointed out, “You can demonstrate all you want on Wall Street. The problem is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good Samaritans or Bad Government

Spurred on by Wolf Blitzer’s lame attempt at a “Good Samaritan” scenario, liberal pundits all over the country have climbed upon their health-care “high-horses.” Leading the parade of liberals wallowing in self-righteousness, New York Times’ columnist, Paul Krugman, laments the fact that today’s GOP has gone from Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” to Ron Paul’s “free to die.”

He comes to this conclusion as a result of last weeks GOP presidential debate where CNN’s Blitzer presented Paul, and other republicans, with a hypothetical: A 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly finds himself in need of six months of intensive care—Blitzer wants to know what the “compassionate conservative” response would be.

Congressman Paul stated, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Thrilling liberals everywhere, Blitzer pressed the matter and asked whether “society should just let him die.” A member of the audience shouted “Yeah!” [Though Krugman reported it as a “crowd erupt(ing) with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”] Krugman then piously concluded that, “The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.”

Washington Post columnist and creator of the infamous liberal blog-spot, JournoList, Ezra Klein, stated that, “It’s all well and good to say personal responsibility is the bedrock of liberty, but even the hardest of libertarians has always understood that there are places where your person ends and mine begins…in health care, it has to do with compassion.”

Asking “Where Are the Compassionate Conservatives,” Washington Post columnist, Eugene Robinson, notes that Blitzer next turned to Michele Bachmann, “whose popularity with evangelical Christian voters stems, at least in part, from her own professed born-again faith. Asked what she would do about the man in the coma, Bachmann ignored the question and launched into a canned explanation of why she wants to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act.”

Robinson then declares that, “According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the Pharisees that God commands us to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no asterisk making this obligation null and void if circumstances require its fulfillment via government.”

However, the book of Luke records that, when Jesus is asked by “an expert in the Law” what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asks him what the Law requires. The man answers correctly: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Sounding like a liberal pundit at a GOP debate, or as Scripture puts it, “attempting to justify himself,” the man smugly asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” That is when Jesus launches into the Good Samaritan parable. Of course, the parable reveals that, as a true act of love, a Samaritan—whom the Jews of Jesus’ day generally despised—took care of an injured man on his own time and with his own resources. Not quite the picture of Obamacare that today’s liberals would have us believe.

Liberals love to quote Scripture when they think it might help them further their big government social agenda. They also love to talk about compassion and morality but would prefer it if you left Scripture out of it. Perhaps if more liberals were for posting the Ten Commandments in every public school and post office in the U.S., more Americans would feel comfortable putting health care in the hands of the federal government.

Perhaps if more liberals were willing to allow their morality and compassion to move them to protect the most defenseless among us—the unborn—more Americans would take them seriously when they talk in terms of “moral visions” and “compassion.”

Taking a stand against big government—even during a severe economic crisis—President Grover Cleveland denied aid to a very deserving orphanage in New York City. Cleveland, a Democrat, said, “I will not be a party to stealing money from one group of citizens to give to another group of citizens. No matter what the need or apparent justification, once the coffers of the federal government are opened to the public, there will be no shutting them again…”

Of course, later democrats (and republicans) ignored Cleveland’s warnings, and the coffers of the federal government have been wide open for decades. As a result, most of America is suffering as we are now “reaping what we have sown.”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com