Ethnic numbers. The changing demographics of America due to immigration and the evangelism of eastern religions is making itself felt. An article in The Week (August 6, 2004, page 18) reports that the percentage of the American population that calls itself Protestant just went below 50% in 2004. This does not mean a lot except that the challenges of the 21st century in America are different than they have been in the 20th century. Related to this is another report that says that 85% of Yale's Campus Crusade for Christ chapter are Asians. Nearly 100% of the university's Buddhist meditation meetings are white.
--Reference: Christianity Today, July 2003, page 13.
horrors. We seem to be a society that feels that the most
horrible things that have happened to humanity have taken place during
our lifetimes. The fact is that media shows us everything which happens
that seems to be at least part of the reason we believe that. Few
people realize that Joseph Stalin in 1932-33 was killing 25,000 people
a day in Russia ultimately murdering over 14 million people--most by
deliberately taking their food away. This was an atheistic war against
religious peasants and shows how man's inhumanity to man exists
anywhere that the value of a human being is not promoted. We would
maintain that only the Christian system where every human is considered
to be a special creation in the image of God with intrinsic worth is
there any hope of stopping mass ethnic war and killing. People have
even distorted the Christian system as was the case in the crusades,
but man as a unique and special creation in the image of God is the
only understanding that will ever really work.
More Trouble for Mormons. Simon Southerton is a plant geneticist and for many years was a Mormon bishop. He has released a book titled Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Indians, DNA and the Mormon Church which challenges Mormon teachings about the origins of American Indians and Polynesians. The book is available from Signature Books Publishing and explores the work of Brigham Young University researchers and traditions about the Lamanites. There is also an excellent review of the book in Science and Theology News, September 2004, page 7.
Hurricanes and God's design. As I write this column, Florida is reeling from the worst hurricane season in a long time. As is true of most natural disasters, the phrase "act of God" is used by the media to describe these destructive storms. We would like to point out that there are two things about natural disasters that do not allow them to be attributed to some kind of vindictive act on the part of God. The first is that many disasters are caused by man. The flooding associated with the hurricanes is primarily caused by what man has done to the land. Black topping massive sections of land, draining wetlands and straightening canals, and building huge numbers of homes in low lying areas are not acts of God. The second thing about natural disasters is that most of the damage and loss of life is caused by human stupidity in where and how human structures are built. Building a city in the caldera of a volcano invites disaster. Constructing massive cement structures straddling the fault lines of earthquakes is asking for catastrophe. Building flimsy aluminum structures in places where high winds are likely and in places where beach erosion is ongoing is inviting destruction of those structures.
In reality, the low water levels of lakes and underground water supplies all over Florida will be greatly helped by this year's hurricane season. We feel for those who have been negatively impacted by the hurricanes, but to portray God as the cause is a gross misrepresentation of the whole picture.
More questions on Dead Sea scrolls. Modern archeologists have pretty well agreed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were left at Qumran by a group known as the Essenes who lived monastic lifestyles, having withdrawn from the rest of society at that time. Archeologists digging at Qumran have recently discovered jewelry, perfume bottles, and combs totally inconsistent with what the Essenes would have left. Their suggestion is that Jews from Jerusalem hid the scrolls in Qumran so the Romans would not find them. DNA studies on bones of mules and leather found in the area should help answer the question. If it turns out that the Essenes did not leave the scrolls, then skeptical theories about who Jesus was will be in difficulty. We will keep you posted. Source: Newsweek, September 6, 2004, page 12.
Gay marriage issues continue. The situation of homosexual marriage changes so quickly that a bimonthly journal like this one has no chance of being current. There have been some things that have happened that we would like to call to the attention of our readers. The first is that in Sweden a Pentecostal pastor was sentenced to a month in prison for preaching a sermon against homosexuality. The justification of the sentence was that "religious freedom is never a reason to offend people." We would suggest that if someone attacked Christianity there would be no arrest, much less jail time anywhere in the world. The second point is that while there have been laws passed allowing gay marriage, there have been none passed about gay divorce and in cases where divorce has been sought the courts have not known what to do with children and property issues.
We would suggest that the two issues not being addressed in all of
these discussions is what the cause of homosexuality is, and what the
purpose of marriage is. It is our contention that most homosexuals are
victims of abuse in one way or another, and need help and support to
deal with the past. Homosexuals rightly point out that many marriages
among heterosexuals are shams. Perhaps what is needed is more education
on what marriage is and what needs it addresses. It also might be in
order to make getting married more difficult and more premeditated so
that divorce is reduced and that God's purpose of marriage and
societies legal requirements and rewards for marriage are not confused.
DaVinci nonsense continues. It was bad enough to have the book on the best seller list, but now we understand that there is a TV program, a movie, and TV movies being made based on Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code. There are so many mistakes and misrepresentations in Brown's book, in our opinion, that all kinds of people are writing books to refute Brown's material. Here are some of them. We haven't read them all, but all of them have had positive reviews. The book by Darrell Bock was challenged legally by the publisher of Brown's book, but won in court. We will list them so you can get them if you have an interest:
Breaking the Da Vinci Code by Darrell Bock, Thomas Nelson, 160 pages, $19.99.
The Gospel Code, by Ben Witherington III, InterVarsity Press, 252 pages, $15.00
Cracking Divinci's Code by James Garlow and Peter Jones Victor, 256 pages, $14.99
The Da Vinci Deception by Erwin Lutzer, Tyndale House 128 pages $14.99
A good listing and commentary on all of this is available in Christianity Today, June 2004, page 57.
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