Sapphire Sky

October 24, 2015

The Trial of Jesus Christ

Filed under: culture, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 11:23 pm

The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell that Jesus Christ endured a three-part Jewish trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin:

These four accounts describe the trial before the Sanhedrin, but they also raise a lot of questions related to the history and the culture:

What is the Sanhedrin? Weren’t the Romans in charge?

Why are there two High Priests mentioned? Who was in charge?

Doesn’t a trial require proof? Were there any laws to protect the accused?

The notes below are an attempt to address these questions.

 

The Great Sanhedrin

The ancient Jews had a very elaborate legal system. Every town, depending on its size, was ruled by one of three possible tribunals [2]:

  • Towns with less than 120 male inhabitants had the lowest tribunal, consisting of three judges. These judges had very limited power, and could not try capital offenses.
  • Larger towns would be ruled by a greater tribunal, consisting of 23 men. These tribunals had greater power and could try capital offenses on very limited occasions.
  • The highest tribunal was in Jerusalem. This group was also called the Senate, the Council of Elders, or the Great Sanhedrin. This tribunal had the highest authority and the power to oversee all of the other tribunals.

The Romans stripped the Sanhedrin of most of its civil authority during the Roman occupation. The Sanhedrin had jurisdiction over all religious matters, but they were no longer allowed to punish major civil cases. The Sanhedrin could try capital cases, but they needed to bring their conclusions to the Romans for punishment. The Romans were free to follow the recommendation of the Sanhedrin, or to retry the case themselves. The trial of Jesus Christ is an example of such a case where the Sanhedrin tried the prisoner and brought him to the Romans, but the Roman procurator (Pontius Pilate) chose to retry the prisoner himself.

The Great Sanhedrin was made up of equal parts priests, elders, and scribes. The High Priest would oversee the proceedings.

 

The High Priest

Throughout most of the first century, the Sanhedrin was dominated by one man, Annas. Annas was the high priest from AD 6-15. The Old Testament law stated that a high priest would hold his office for life, but Annas was deposed by the Romans and AD 15. The Romans saw the political importance of the High Priest’s position and wanted to ensure that the high priest would follow their lead.

Annas had a reputation of being powerful, ruthless, corrupt, and very wealthy. Annas was required to step down from the high priesthood, but he ensured that the succession of high priests who came after him included five of his sons, his son-in-law, and a grandson. The High Priest during the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry was Caiaphas, the son-in-law to Annas.

Annas was no longer the official High Priest, but he still retained the title (“High Priest”) and maintained the power to rule over the Jewish religious system.

Jesus had directly challenged the power of Annas and Caiaphas on many occasions. His most direct challenges were on the two times when He stopped Annas’ profitable business of selling animals and exchanging money in the temple (see here for the first occasion and here for the second). These challenges made Jesus tremendously popular with the Jewish people, but He was hated by Annas and his fellow priests.

It was Annas and Caiaphas who had orchestrated in AD 33 to have Jesus arrested, tried, and executed by the Romans.

 

The Laws of Justice

The Jews had greatly prided themselves in their legal organization and their laws of justice. These laws insured fairness to every individual who was tried, and would ensure that justice was served.

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

However, Annas and Caiaphas used their power and influence to bypass many of the Jewish laws in order to pronounce a guilty verdict on Jesus Christ. The following is a list of Jewish laws of justice, and how they were broken in the High Priest’s attempt to ensure that they kept their power:

 

Trials were not to be held secretly at night, but publicly during the day [4]

The Sanhedrin began the trial of Jesus Christ in the middle of the night and concluded at daybreak (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1).

 

The accused was never to be required to speak [4]

The High Priest (Caiaphas) demanded that Jesus speak (Matthew 26:62-63; Mark 14:60).

 

Two witnesses were to come forward and agree on the charges [4]

Deuteronomy 17:6

On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.

This also means that the Sanhedrin could not originate charges. The charges must be originated by the witnesses.

The witness were supposed to be the prosecution and the Sanhedrin was to be the defense. Yet the priests and the Sanhedrin were trying to find any false witness who could incriminate Jesus! (Matthew 26:59-60; Mark 14:55-56).

The accused was to be set free if the witnesses contradicted each other [1].

A false witness was such a serious crime, that the false witness would be given the same penalty as was intended for the accused person (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).

 

The accused was never to be required to have to incriminate himself in any way [4]

This is similar the American Fifth Amendment. The accused was never required to testify against himself.

The Jewish medieval scholar Maimonides said, “The law does not permit the death penalty as a sentence for a sinner by his own confession.” [3]

Yet, the High Priest demands that Jesus, under oath, testify against himself (Matthew 26:63).

 

The death penalty was to be determined only after a day of fasting [4]

All 71 members of the Sanhedrin were required to fast for a day before condemning a man to death. Yet, they respond immediately to Jesus, saying that “He deserves death!” (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64).

This also means that they could not try a capital case during a feast day since they would be prevented from participating in the feast  (John 18:28).

 

A unanimous vote by the court would allow the accused to go free [4]

The belief was that only a biased and unmerciful court would vote unanimously to kill a man. Yet, Mark’s account shows that the Sanhedrin was unanimous in condemning Jesus to death (Mark 14:64).

 

Capital cases could only be tried at the regular meeting places of the Sanhedrin [2]

The regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin was in the Hall of Judgment in the Temple complex [3]. The Sanhedrin tried Jesus Christ at the High Priest’s palace (Matthew 26:57-58; Mark 14:53-54; Luke 22:54) and concluded that he was guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense (Matthew 26:65-66; Mark 14:64).

 

The judges must consider the defense of the accused

Following the principle stated in Deuteronomy 13:14, the High Priest should make a diligent search in order to find out if the statements against the accused were true. Yet Jesus was never provided a defense, nor did the Sanhedrin take the time to consider Jesus’ statements. Instead, they rushed to judgment (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64).

 

The accused could not be physically punished before he was convicted [3]

Jesus was struck by the attendant in front of Annas (John 18:22), and the Sanhedrin members themselves stepped down to abuse Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:66-68; Mark 14:65).

 

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July 6, 2015

Time to Choose!

Filed under: culture — Tags: — Travis Biller @ 10:08 pm

There are a lot of competing voices in our culture concerning the gay marriage issue. Who you listen to will make all the difference on how you decide where you stand.

People in positions of influence will make statements like, “My moral code is a matter of faith,” or “I don’t have the right to impose my moral code on you,” or “You can’t legislate morality,” or “I am not always right, and neither are you.” Comments such as these appear to have a form of wisdom.

Let’s briefly consider the above ideas. First, morality is not a matter of personal preference. The source of all morality is God. True morality, the type that leads away from sin, is a reflection of God’s holy character. He, in fact, demands that we obey his moral code as revealed in His law. God’s law is not something that is given to us as a suggestion. It’s not a preference. He revealed it to the world and commands that all must obey it; and He reveals that it is this law under which all will be judged.

Second, when understood correctly, law is morality legislated. That’s the whole point. If you support something legally, you support it morally. Throughout the history of our country we have legislated morality. The foundation of law in the West has been the Bible. The Magna Carta was the first piece of legislation that recognized that all people, the king included, were under the authority of God’s law. The term “the rule of law” enshrines this idea. In making laws, people have attempted to make morality normative for the people of that society. So, yes, you can legislate morality; and in making specific laws that seek to encourage people to obey that moral code you are, in fact, imposing a moral code on others.

Third, it is true to say that “I am not always right, and neither are you.” And while people are fallible and will certainly get things wrong from time to time, the Bible is infallible and is not wrong. So, while I may not always be right, we can rest assured that the Bible is always right. In fact, communicating this very truth the Bible warns that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). As a result the Bible encourages us to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

When one applies these realities to the current issue of gay marriage, a seemingly complicated issue becomes very clear. The Bible warns that all sin is an offense against a Holy God. Concerning certain sins the Bible clearly teaches, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Notice the many different sins listed. Homosexuality is just one of many that God warns His people about. They are to flee such sins. And, we must notice that every item on this list is called sin.

The real dilemma with the gay marriage issue is that there are segments of our society that demand that we ignore the Bible’s clear teaching; and instead of calling sin for what it is, we are now told that we must affirm and celebrate what God clearly condemns. Therefore the SCOTUS has now made it legal with the intent of imposing a new, man-made moral code upon its citizenry.

This issue is difficult for many people because they are forced into the position of having to make a very clear choice: affirm God’s Word and His authority over all life as revealed in the Bible, or affirm man’s word and his authority over life as revealed in the new morality. At this point the two are mutually exclusive. And we need to understand what is at stake. The new morality seeks to replace the old.

We have come to the place where sitting on the fence is no longer an option. We have to decide. Are we going to enshrine the new morality that will be legislated and normative for all people? Or, are we going to stay with God’s law that He demands we obey?

However, it needs to be noted: God does not reveal sin to condemn. He reveals sin to save people from the condemnation that results when people fail to repent (turn) from sin. God loves all sinners, no matter the type of sin they are ensnared by. But, God refuses to affirm sin for the sake of any person. To do so would lead Him to deny Himself as a holy God for the sake of our sin.

April 12, 2014

If I were the Devil … Harvey 1965

Filed under: culture, marriage and family, politics, economy, etc., video — Anthony Biller @ 9:57 pm

The legendary newscaster saw what was happening as it began to unfold.  He called it.

March 30, 2014

I’m a Christian and I think ‘Noah’ deserves a four star review

Filed under: culture, encouragement — Anthony Biller @ 5:45 pm

The Matt Walsh Blog

untitled (37)

On Friday, my wife and I had a very rare date night.

Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian filmmaking to come along since, well, probably just last week.

In fact, if I learned anything from Noah, it’s this: despite popular perception, you can often judge a book by its cover. Also, giant deformed rock monsters make for awkward supporting characters.

We’ll meditate on that second item in a moment, but it’s the first point that should be especially emphasized.

Christians: you’ll hear people insist that you can’t criticize the movie until you’ve seen it. Noticeably, the loudest voices in this camp are the ones who will (rather coincidentally, I’m sure) profit immensely if you meet their challenge.

Don’t.

Don’t bother.

You can hate this film without watching it, for the same reason…

View original post 2,159 more words

February 27, 2014

Answers in Genesis to begin Construction of Ark Encounter

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 7:57 pm

Bond Offering Succeeds for Full-Size Ark

Ark Encounter moves forward; groundbreaking in sight

During tonight’s live web stream hosted by the president/CEO of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, AiG announced that enough money had been raised for the Ark Encounter bond offering to allow the release of the funds to start construction of the Ark project in Williamstown, Ky.

Under Ham’s direction, a full-scale 510-foot-long Noah’s Ark will be built as the featured attraction at the Ark Encounter. Research indicates that the Ark, located south of Cincinnati in Grant County, Ky., will draw up to 2 million people in its first year.

“We praise our Creator God for His blessings and for the incredible support we just witnessed from our generous supporters around the country,” declared Ham. “Yes, there have been days of nervous anticipation. Many challenges and road blocks came up as we worked through the stages of the bond offering leading up to the final bond delivery. From atheists registering for the bond offering and attempting to disrupt it, to secular bloggers and some reporters writing misleading and inaccurate articles about the bonds—the obstacles were numerous and disruptive.”

“It was a challenging time, one that on a human level required a miracle to overcome,” Ham added. “And God in His providence supplied our needs.”

The recent global media coverage of the Ark project and the soon-to-be-released film “Noah” starring Russell Crowe, plus Ham’s well-publicized February 4 debate with Bill Nye “The Science Guy” (over 7 million people watched live), have all helped bring the Ark Encounter to the world’s attention. Accordingly, Ham noted another aspect of God’s providence in the Ark project: “The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God’s timing, not ours, the high-profile debate helped encourage more of our ministry friends to get involved in the past few weeks.”

At Thursday’s live web stream, Ken was joined by AiG scientist Dr. Georgia Purdom, VP of Advancement Joe Boone, Michael Zovath and Patrick Marsh of AiG’s Ark Encounter team, and the AiG board. The mayor of Williamstown, Rick Skinner, was on hand, as well as Darrell Link, the Judge-Executive of the county and Pastor Jeff Davenport of Calvary Baptist Church in northern Kentucky.

The Ark Encounter will be built on 800 acres off I-75 and in phases over many years. The Ark and other supporting elements will open during phase one. The first phase will cost an estimated $73 million. Several million dollars in donations and Ark boarding passes (memberships) had been raised prior to the bond offering, and most of that amount has already been used to pay for the Ark’s land, secure expensive permits and licenses, clear the property, draw architectural plans, design the exhibits, etc.

Meanwhile, with the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., successfully drawing two million guests in six years, AiG is master-planning its expansion  (40 miles from the Ark site) to handle an anticipated 50% attendance increase  when the Ark opens.

“Even in a difficult economy, tens of thousands of supporters have made donations, purchased bonds, or bought Ark boarding passes in the past three years,” Ham observed. “With the funding in place to build the Ark, it is now our goal to raise an additional $15 million in donations to provide more attractions like the special high-tech and interactive exhibits that guests have come to appreciate at our museum.”

With the completion of the bond offering, the next milestone is groundbreaking, for which a tentative date will be announced in a few weeks.

Without government funding to build it, the Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historical themed attraction. In an entertaining and educational way, it will present a number of themes from the Old Testament, centered on a wooden Ark.

The Creation Museum’s attendance has exceeded projections since it opened in May 2007 and has been a major economic asset to the area. With an Ark coming to the region, the Creation Museum’s attendance will grow, and the Ark will spur and support thousands of jobs in the region and bring in significant tourist dollars.

Answers in Genesis is a biblical apologetics ministry. This month, more than two million people visited its website. AiG conducts about 300 teaching meetings each year, publishes the award-winning family magazine “Answers,” and produces the “Answers” radio program heard on more than 760 stations in the U.S.

To watch a recording of Thursday evening’s live web stream featuring Ken Ham and others in the Ark project, go to www.ArkEncounter.com.

ark-encounter-wallpaper-impressionist

February 14, 2014

The Legend of Valentine

Filed under: culture, encouragement, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 10:15 am

The Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus, AD 268-70, is said to have been a large and fierce man.  In his efforts to fight the invading Goths and Germans, he attempted to increase the size of the Roman army.  Volunteers were few, due largely to what was essentially a life-long commitment of being a Roman soldier. Legend has it that the Emperor believed young men weren’t joining because they were too comfortable and too interested in pursuing women.  (Some things never change.  My classmates in college often were incredulous that I was volunteering for military service. I was often asked “Why?!”.)  With dictatorial efficiency, Claudius solved that problem by simply outlawing marriage.

One problem, legend has it that the Priest Valentinus continued to marry Christians.  When called before the Emperor, Valentinus refused to acknowledge the Roman Gods and reportedly witnessed to Claudius the truths of Jesus Christ.  Claudius had Valentinus killed.

A few observations from this legend of Valentine, whom we celebrate each year with a festival of love and affection. He was martyred over refusing to surrender the sacrament of marriage to Rome and for proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ to a pagan emperor.  This legendary Valentine sounds more like a man passionate for Christ and the integrity of the church and its sacraments than he does the ruby little cherubs we see on the front of Valentines Day cards who are committed to spreading kisses and romantic mischief.

If we want to celebrate Valentines Day consistent with the man for whom the day is named, we should honor this legendary martyr through observances he would approve and that would be consistent with his life.  Foremost, we should take the opportunity to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to someone.

Second, we should look for a way to support the sacrament of marriage.  For those of us married, that should start with tending to our own marriages.  Are we entirely faithful – not just physically, but also emotionally, in our relations, and with our time as well – to our life mate?  We should pray over our marriage, with our spouse.  For those not married, give an encouraging word to your married friends and pray today for their marriages.  Tell them you are praying for them.

Third, recommit today to loving in a manner worthy of our Christian calling — with all that we have and all that we are.  We are called not just to love others and God with all that we are, but to love also our enemies and those we just do not like.  May Christ so strengthens us.

God bless and Happy Valentines Day.

Update: A Godly Valentines Day Gift from a husband to a wife: commit to praying with your bride – see Spiritual Intimacy a Marriage ‘Game Changer’

February 12, 2014

Nye and Ham Exchange Facebook Challenges

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 7:55 pm
Nye issued Ken Ham a post-debate challenge via Facebook.  Nye challenged Answers in Genesis to create and live on an ocean bound ark.  Ham responded by asking Nye to explain the reason for his reasoning, literally, one of many questions Nye repeatedly ignored during the men’s recent debate.  Ken’s FB response yesterday warrants the best Christian-philosophical-apologetic Facebook challenge post ever … reprinted below with permission:
Liked · 17 hours ago

Bill Nye, after our evolution/creation debate last week at the Creation Museum, publicly issued me a challenge yesterday on his Facebook page.He stated :

From Bill Nye The Science Guy: “I would challenge him to build a real ark. Instead of trying to fund an ark park, Ken, why not build a real one and take it to sea for a full year? And Ken, if you’re too busy with your flock there in Petersburg, KY, have your most competent parishioners take a shot. Send 8 of your toughest, smartest people to, say, Norfolk, have them design and build a 500 foot wooden boat, load it up with 17,000 pretty good-sized animals, and show us how straightforward it would be to have it remain seaworthy for a year. They have to gather all the food needed locally before they set sail, of course. It’s one more thought experiment that would illustrate how unbelievable the literal story of Noah is, as translated into modern English. Also, we’d have to stipulate that all humans and animals come ashore alive …”

So I would like to publicly respond to Mr. Nye in the following way.Bill, during the debate last Tuesday, I asked you this question:“How do you account for the laws of logic and laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God?”I challenge you, once again, to provide a rational basis for your worldview. You dodged the question in the debate, and you continue to do so. Until you answer that question, you have no reason to trust your inductions or the uniformity of nature and have no basis to tell us what is right and wrong. I trust those things because I know the God of the universe who created those laws and has promised to uphold them in a uniform way–which is consistent with His perfect character. Indeed, I have a reason for my reasoning.The battle, as I said more than once in our debate, is not about the evidence. (And it seems even a number of Christian naysayers about the debate still don’t get this vital point, either!)

And besides, Bill, you know this, as I even showed you a “single piece of evidence” of an out-of-place fossil (using the secularists’ own dating methods)—45,000-year-old wood in 45-million-year-old rock! You said one piece of evidence like this would change your mind—but you willingly ignored it.

Again, why is your assumption that science is possible apart from God reasonable?

Frankly, you are not a “reasonable man” because no reasonable man who claims to be consistent with reality rejects the truth of God’s Word. In fact, the Bible makes it clear in Romans chapter 1 that you know God exists, but you are suppressing that truth in what the Bible calls unrighteousness.

No “reasonable man” believes that reason, emotion, or morality evolved from the random interaction of chemicals over billions of years. Therefore, you have no foundation. You have a blind faith, one which causes you to borrow from the Christian worldview to even make sense of the world around you.

Bill, I urge you to use your God-given reason to respond to God’s Word, such as:

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

Bill, Noah’s Ark was a real ship—and it is a picture of a real message of salvation from God’s judgment on man’s sin, including yours. (And the answers to your questions about the seaworthiness of the Ark and how it could have been built are on our website; also AiG is not a church and so we don’t have parishioners.) Just as Noah and his family went through the door of the Ark to be saved, we need to go through the door of our Ark of Salvation.

Jesus Christ said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

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Nye Ham

February 5, 2014

Dr. Mohler on the “Nye Reasonable Guy”

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture — Anthony Biller @ 10:12 am

Last night during the debate, I had the privilege of sitting next to Dr. Al Mohler, the Dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I’ve long admired his writings, blog, and lecture series.  As freezing rain pelted Northern Kentucky last night during the debate, Dr. Mohler’s mind was on fire, as I suspect it always is.  As While I sat back to observe and enjoy the debate, Dr. Mohler wrote furiously throughout the evening.  Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, he posted an excellent debate analysis.  Excerpts follow and I strongly encourage you to read the entire post at Dr. Mohler’s blog:

In this light, the debate proved both sides right on one central point: If you agreed with Bill Nye you would agree with his reading of the evidence. The same was equally true for those who entered the room agreeing with Ken Ham; they would agree with his interpretation of the evidence.

That’s because the argument was never really about ice rods and sediment layers. It was about the most basic of all intellectual presuppositions: How do we know anything at all? On what basis do we grant intellectual authority? Is the universe self-contained and self-explanatory? Is there a Creator, and can we know him?

On those questions, Ham and Nye were separated by infinite intellectual space. They shared the stage, but they do not live in the same intellectual world. Nye is truly committed to a materialistic and naturalistic worldview. Ham is an evangelical Christian committed to the authority of the Bible. The clash of ultimate worldview questions was vividly displayed for all to see.
….

Ken Ham is a Young Earth Creationist (as am I), but the larger argument was over worldviews, and the debate revealed the direct collision between evolution and the recognition of any historical authority within Genesis 1-11. As if to make that clear, in making one of his closing arguments, Bill Nye actually went back to cite “this problem of the ark.”

The ark is not the real problem; autonomous human reason is. Bill Nye is a true believer in human reason and the ability of modern science to deliver us. Humanity is just “one germ away” from extinction, he said. But science provides him with the joy of discovery and understanding.

The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. The question was not really about the ark or sediment layers or fossils. It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared “reasonable man” and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace.

See entire post here.

 

Re: The Debate

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture, entertainment — Anthony Biller @ 12:11 am

I generally agree with Rev Travis’s comments about the debate, below.  Some thoughts after having just returned from the debate in person …  I found striking the complete difference between the men – not just content, but also in character and style.  In person, I found Nye routinely condescending and arrogant to Mr. Ham, while Ken seemed continually meek and humble in response.  I wonder if this viewed the same on the live streaming.

Nye refused to concede that there was any difference between historical and observational science.  He seemed to argue that we presently observe the age of the earth, apparently through radioisotope dating, but he had no response to the wildly inconsistent age readings from such methods.  He offered no explanation regarding the problems with the assumptions upon which these methods rely.  He looked surprised when Ken showed the nearly hundred different type isotope dating methods and the fact each on produces quite different results.

From the audience, it seemed that Nye repeatedly and directly assaulted on  reliability of scripture in the second half of the debate.  In criticizing Ken’s positions, Nye criticized Ken’s reliance upon the Bible by implying the Bible is unreliable based on the “Chinese whispers” logic of passing along information over long period of time and made numerous critical remarks about relying upon “an ancient document that’s been translated into English.”  Nye scoffed at the idea that sin affected all of creation and was all but contemptuous of the global flood.

Favorite part of the debate was when Nye could not answer where the matter that led to the Big Bang came from.  In response, Ken responded “Bill, there is this book that has the answer …”  Ken then quoted Genesis 1:1 and explained the Biblical account on the origins of matter.  The next question to Nye was what was the materialist explanation for consciousness.  Again, Nye could not answer.  Again, Ken responded, “Bill, there is this book that has the answer …” and he quoted and explained Genesis 2.

Nye’s explanation of consciousness was bizarre, something about our conscious   being “the universe looking at itself.”  Weird.  In the last quarter of the debate it became increasing apparent that Nye all but worships materialism.

I wish Ken had more time to explicate the “scientific” evidence of a young Earth.  See Ten Best Evidences from Science of a Young Earth. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to respond to many of Nye’s points.  I believe Answers in Genesis is doing a follow-up streaming broadcast to go over many of these points.

As expected, I don’t think either side “won.”  Each side presented their position with clarity. For those already familiar with the arguments and issues, there was not anything new.  For those new to the debate or previously apathetic, it should have provided plenty of food for thought from both sides.  It was a general civil and engaging evening.  As stated, Ken explained the creationist perspective with humility and grace.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I’m particularly interested to see whether or to what extent notice is given to Nye’s assault on the Bible and on basic biblical doctrines beyond creation.

UPDATE: see Debunking Bill Nye’s Arguments

December 6, 2013

The Real St. Nicholas

Filed under: culture, Ministry — Anthony Biller @ 9:34 pm
DECEMBER 6, 2013: ST. NICHOLAS DAYSaint Nicholas
by Dima Kotik

Raising three daughters in 3rd century Turkey is hard for a peasant. Without a dowry they could never get married. The joy of having grandchildren and finding financial security of a large family in the old age is all but a dream for a simple farmer caught in this despair.

One winter night, the father of three girls woke up to the noise of something falling through the chimney. In the pile of ashes he found three purses filled with gold. The gold in each purse handsomely provided dowry for each daughter. There was only one crazy man in the town of Myra who would do such a thing. This man, even though he came from a very wealthy family, had given away his entire inheritance to the poor. And even though he was a bishop now, he did not keep any of his salary. Most of it he gave away to children.

Bishop Nicholas of Myra is the real historic person behind our legends of Santa. Unlike Santa, he was an expert in theology and pastoral ministry. He was one of the top 300 church leaders that signed the Nicene Creed in 325AD. And, he was a convicted felon for preaching the gospel, serving a prison term under Emperor Diocletian and a brief exile. Real Santa was hardcore for Jesus!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

July 24, 2013

The Spiritual State of USA — Judgment?

May 31, 2013

Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth: A Totally Good Read

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., books, culture — Tags: , , , — Anthony Biller @ 2:58 pm

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1:16

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15

An Intellectual Masterpiece on the Modern Worldview

Some things in life are really good.  Like my wife’s lasagna.  A hug from your child. Sunrises and sunsets. Fresh coffee.  Good art.  The finish line of a hard race.

A good book ranks as one of the better things in life.  A good book opensPearcey the mind to new perspectives or ideas.  It takes you away, lifts you to new places and/or brings you down to places you hadn’t experienced.  Good books deliver pure mental pleasure.  In Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity, Nancy Pearcey has written such a book.  A totally good book.

Well, a nearly totally good read.  The book was a wonderful surprise, to include that I now have a favorite non-fiction book with which I have significant disagreement.  Ms. Pearcey’s book is so well written, however, that its strength compensates for and overshadows the areas of weakness with which I disagree.  More on that shortly.

Several months ago, I wrote a blog piece about truth – Truly, there is a God who will be known. In it I pondered how inconsequential and incompatible the concept of truth should be in the secular humanist worldview, yet how aggressive militant atheists argue regarding the truth of origins and destiny.  In contrast, truth is a foundation concept for Biblical Christianity, and the belief in truth is hard-wired into who and what we are, itself an apologetic for the truth of Scripture.  I didn’t think it was a controversial proposition, so I was a bit surprised when a few atheists became apoplectic at what I said.  Interestingly, while they attacked ancillary points with fervor, they never confronted the central issue presented – in a world without God, what is truth and why should we care?

The topic brought me to a book that some colleagues mentioned in passing over the years: Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.  Once I picked it up, I did not want to put it down again until I had finished.  A real gem that in this reader’s experience starts well and gets better with every page turn.

God blessed Ms. Pearcey with a tremendous mind and wonderful writing skills.  Her insights and logic are reminiscent of her mentor Francis Schaeffer, and her style reminds me of C.S. Lewis.  Like Professor Lewis, it requires very little effort to read Ms. Pearcey and she has a wonderful efficiency with words.  Her reasoning is clear, concise and to the point, which is essential given the scope and magnitude of thought in this volume.  Total Truth is a remarkable intellectual accomplishment.

Ms. Pearcey divides her book into four parts.  In Part One, which she titles “What’s In A Worldview?”, Ms. Pearcey explains the centrality of worldview to how we live.  I’ve read and attended innumerable articles, books, lectures, and sermons on “worldview.”  Frankly, after so many iterations, I rarely find something new or interesting.  Accordingly, I tend to shy away from works presented as worldview lectures. But this book is different.  Ms. Pearcey transitions effortlessly from contemporary and personal anecdotes and experiences to explaining the historical and philosophical origins of the secular-sacred divide in Western thought, what she calls the “Modern Schism.”  One of the more prominent consequences of this schism in our beliefs is that most believers remain blissfully unaware and undisturbed that by and large we do not form and live a Christian philosophy of business, politics or culture.  While expressing personal conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, we live largely the same as our secular humanist counterparts, having compartmentalized secular versus “sacred” value systems.

This Modern Schism did not start in the 1960s.  Ms. Pearcey takes the reader from the ancient Greeks to today to explain the dichotomy of Western thinking and why “Christianity no longer functions as a lens to interpret the whole of reality[and why] it is no longer held has total truth.” Ms. Pearcey explains, “We have to insist on presenting Christianity as a comprehensive, unified worldview that addresses all of life and reality.  It is not just religious truth but total truth.”

After diagnosing the symptoms of our age and how we arrived in this condition, Ms. Pearcey draws the battle line in Part Two of her book.  She identifies the battle over origins as the key and foundational intellectual battle of our time; she titles this section of the book “Starting at the Beginning.” I could not agree more with her prescription, however, as noted below, she advocates that we should all join the battle over Intelligent Design, a tactical mandate with which I do not agree, per below.  Over several chapters, Ms. Pearcey lucidly explains how philosophical materialism permeates our thinking and culture, as a “universal acid.”  She marches straight through the meaning, purpose, frauds and faith of Darwinian dogma and sets out compelling rebuttal evidence and arguments from Intelligent Design.  She concludes Part Two with the chapter “Today Biology, Tomorrow the World” in which she sets forth the universal ambitions of Darwinian philosophy — how it seeks and is largely succeeding in its efforts to present itself as the total solution for all areas of human thought and endeavor, albeit a false solution.

In Part 3, “How We Lost Our Minds,” Ms. Pearcey traces the origins and history of evangelicalism and points out consistent trends and patterns therein, particularly those that left evangelicals so vulnerable to philosophical naturalism.  I found this section fascinating, having never studied it before.  The patterns illuminated many issues I’ve seen and experienced in churches and within ministries.  As part of her review, Ms. Pearcey takes issues with evangelical’s somewhat anti-historical and positivist view of biblical interpretation, with particular criticism for Lord Bacon’s Biblical hermeneutics.   She explains how empirical theology stems from Enlightenment thinking.  She also reiterates C.S. Lewis’ admonition to read the old books, creeds and confessions.

Ms. Pearcey then ties in the history of evangelicalism and the Modern Schism.  She quotes Richard Hofstadter’s observation that to a large extent “the churches withdrew from intellectual encounters with the secular world, gave up the idea that religion is a part of the whole life of intellectual experiences, and often abandoned the field of rational studies on the assumption that they were the natural province of science alone.”

The last chapter in Part Two, “How Women Started the Culture War,” is a distinct, insightful and quite educating analysis of changing female roles during the Industrial Revolution, the Second Great Awakening, and on through to the early 20th Century and how these changes affected families.

In Part 4 “What Next? Living It Out”, the most spiritual portion of the book, Ms. Pearcey reviews the importance of making sure our actions comport with a Biblical as opposed to a secular worldview.  She takes issue with Christians living their lives and conducting their affairs utilizing worldly methods through the flesh instead of relying upon the ways of God.  I heard distant echoes of Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life in this section.  She concludes this section in a similar vein, taking issue with Christian ministries conducting themselves as secular enterprises.

In total, Total Truth ranks as one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read, and an excellent world view assessment.  It could become a classic.  There were however, three points with which I disagreed with Ms. Pearcey and which I believe are worth sharing. (more…)

April 26, 2013

Education 2020 – less academic trash?

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture, technology, video — Anthony Biller @ 12:11 pm
Technological solutions for removing garbage

Technological solutions for removing garbage

“College” may be transforming now as quickly as Apple transformed how we buy and listen to music last decade …

While Ivy League “students” learn how to perfect their perversions with porn stars, UNC Tar Hell students spend NC tax dollars on orgasm clinics, and Big 10 Professors feature after-class/in-class live sex shows, the “fix” may already be in the works.  Dazzled by big collegiate names, sterling sports reputations and a host of beneficial science and engineering research, too many are oblivious to or apathetic about the morally decrepit and intellectually flaccid state of most humanities departments within our universities.

We may not need to reform those departments, they may simply go away for being obsolete.  Why pay tens of thousands of dollars in (often tax subsidized) tuition and room and board for what can be obtained for free.  Or so we can hope.  Like so many problems that plagued humanity for ages, technological innovation may pave for real change — near universal accessibility for little to no cost, international exposure to content, and the power of social media/leveraging to filter and elevate quality content.  The following video explains not just how this might happen, but how it is presently turning into reality:

April 9, 2013

Lady Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013 RIP

Filed under: culture, politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 3:21 pm

Lady Thatcher’s words from 1994, as delivered at Hillsdale College, provide a fitting Margaret_Thatchermemorial:

The Moral Foundations of Society

History has taught us that freedom cannot long survive unless it is based on moral foundations. The American founding bears ample witness to this fact. America has become the most powerful nation in history, yet she uses her power not for territorial expansion but to perpetuate freedom and justice throughout the world.

For over two centuries, Americans have held fast to their belief in freedom for all men—a belief that springs from their spiritual heritage. John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in 1789, “Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” That was an astonishing thing to say, but it was true.

What kind of people built America and thus prompted Adams to make such a statement? Sadly, too many people, especially young people, have a hard time answering that question. They know little of their own history (This is also true in Great Britain.) But America’s is a very distinguished history, nonetheless, and it has important lessons to teach us regarding the necessity of moral foundations.

John Winthrop, who led the Great Migration to America in the early 17th century and who helped found the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared, “We shall be as a City upon a Hill.” On the voyage to the New World, he told the members of his company that they must rise to their responsibilities and learn to live as God intended men should live: in charity, love, and cooperation with one another. Most of the early founders affirmed the colonists were infused with the same spirit, and they tried to live in accord with a Biblical ethic. They felt they weren’t able to do so in Great Britain or elsewhere in Europe. Some of them were Protestant, and some were Catholic; it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they did not feel they had the liberty to worship freely and, therefore, to live freely, at home. With enormous courage, the first American colonists set out on a perilous journey to an unknown land—without government subsidies and not in order to amass fortunes but to fulfill their faith.

Christianity is based on the belief in a single God as evolved from Judaism. Most important of all, the faith of America’s founders affirmed the sanctity of each individual. Every human life—man or woman, child or adult, commoner or aristocrat, rich or poor—was equal in the eyes of the Lord. It also affirmed the responsibility of each individual.

This was not a faith that allowed people to do whatever they wished, regardless of the consequences. The Ten Commandments, the injunction of Moses (“Look after your neighbor as yourself”), the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule made Americans feel precious—and also accountable—for the way in which they used their God-given talents. Thus they shared a deep sense of obligation to one another. And, as the years passed, they not only formed strong communities but devised laws that would protect individual freedom—laws that would eventually be enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Freedom with Responsibility

Great Britain, which shares much of her history in common with America, has also derived strength from its moral foundations, especially since the 18th century when freedom gradually began to spread throughout her socie!y Many people were greatly influenced by the sermons of John Wesley (1703-1791), who took the Biblical ethic to the people in a way which the institutional church itself had not done previously.

But we in the West must also recognize our debt to other cultures. In the pre-Christian era, for example, the ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had much to contribute to our understanding of such concepts as truth, goodness, and virtue. They knew full well that responsibility was the price of freedom. Yet it is doubtful whether truth, goodness, and virtue founded on reason alone would have endured in the same way as they did in the West, where they were based upon a Biblical ethic.

Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote tellingly of the collapse of Athens, which was the birthplace of democracy. He judged that, in the end, more than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everything—security, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians’ dire fate whenever we confront demands for increased state paternalism.

Read the rest here.

March 1, 2013

Pornified Minds

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., books, culture — Anthony Biller @ 6:26 pm

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Psalm 14:1

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6

Since sometime in the 1970s, it’s been too much to expect most liberal art departments at public (and most private) universities to teach let alone endorse the classic questions of the western tradition. Apparently, it appears too much to ask public universities to focus on teaching useful and productive information with our tax dollars.  Is it too much to ask them to stop teaching our kids to be perverts? Must our tax dollars fund Porn University?

“Frankly if you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.” Governor Pat McCrory

Newly elected NC Governor McCrory recently wondered aloud whether courses in subjects such as gender studies and philosophy prepared students adequately for the job market, and thus whether public universities should offer such instruction.  Reportedly, the academics in question were taken aback and found such sentiment frightening.  Eighty-five percent of UNC system faculty disagreed with Governor McCrory’s sentiment.  Notwithstanding the self-serving demurrer of our tenured academics, the Governor was correct and perhaps too charitable in his critique.  For decades, our public universities have harbored and fostered professors devoted to intellectual nihilism and communism.  As disturbing as I find that, many in academia are dragging the worthy intellectual history of the western academy further into the depths of depravity.

Instead of continuing what had been the long-standing western dialogue regarding humanity’s relationship to God and purpose for existence, “liberal arts” studies are too rapidly devolving into intellectualizing the depraved and debauched.  Recent examples of such “studies” and of their student bodies (no pun intended):Holy Man Jam, Boulder, CO  Aug. 1970

COLLEGE HOSTS SEX, MASTURBATION TUTORIAL – INSIDE A CHURCH (Allegheny College)

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSTING ORAL SEX SEMINAR, PORN SCREENING

CAMPUS SEX GROUP EARNS STUDENTS COLLEGE CREDIT (University of Michigan)

Illinois University brings porn star to teach sex week, orgasm workshop

North Carolina State’s Student Union Sex Toy Bingo

Swarthmore student group promotes masturbation on campus

University of Chicago performing abortions on campus

Yale hosts workshop teaching sensitivity to bestiality (added March 5, 2014 — you can’t make this stuff up!)

But what do you expect from a collegiate universe that denies God.  As for those deistic universities that didn’t get the message:

BAPTIST UNIVERSITY SUED BY EXPELLED TRANSGENDER STUDENT

WOMAN SUES CHRISTIAN COLLEGE: ‘I WAS FIRED FOR PRE-MARITAL SEX’ (VIDEO) (added bonus – Ms. Allred!)

Several of the above links are courtesy of The College Fix which itself is courtesy of Nathan Harden, the enterprising young man who recently published Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad, which is a follow-up of sorts a half-century later to WFB’s  premier work God and Man at Yale.

Mr. Harden explains:

there are things happening at Yale today that Buckley could scarcely have even imagined in 1951. While the Yale of Buckley’s book marginalized or undermined religious faith in the classroom, my book tells of a classmate who was given approval to create an art object out of what she claimed was blood and tissue from self-induced abortions. And while the Yale of Buckley’s book was promoting socialist ideas in its economics department, my book chronicles Yale’s recent employment of a professor who publicly praised terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

My, how times have changed!

There is clearly a radical sexual agenda at work at Yale today. Professors and administrators who came of age during the sexual revolution are busily indoctrinating students into a culture of promiscuity. In fact, Yale pioneered the hosting of a campus “Sex Week”—a festival of sleaze, porn, and debauchery, dressed up as sex education. I encountered this tawdry tradition as an undergrad, and my book documents the events of Sex Week, including the screening in classrooms of hard-core pornography and the giving of permission to sex toy manufacturers and porn production companies to market their products to students.

Many Christians are concerned about the character and ideas of our political leaders.  We need to be particularly concerned about how our universities are forming and feeding the minds of tomorrow’s leaders.  As America doubles down on raising our next generations apart from God’s word, focusing instead on man’s opinions, and our culture rapidly declines, we must pray hard and re-commit ourselves to being witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The sun appears to be getting low on the horizon in the West.  The light of the world shines the brightest in the dark. Shine Jesus shine!

Gustave Dore, The Inferno Canto 5

December 27, 2012

77 Non-religious Reasons to Celebrate Man/Woman Marriage

Filed under: culture, marriage and family, video — Anthony Biller @ 7:19 pm

The fact the Bible establishes marriage and establishes it between one man and one woman is compelling (and controlling) for Christians.  For those that do not believe in the truth of the Bible, here’s info on an excellent compilation of “secular” reasons for man-woman marriage:

December 22, 2012

Off the Amazon: 2.5 million reasons to shop Walmart.com, and elsewhere

Filed under: books, culture, politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 10:30 am

Be holy in all your behavior.  1 Peter 1:15

Every action contributes to culture.  While we passionately and deliberately vote every few years, the accumulation of our thousands of smaller actions ultimately contribute more to shape our culture and our country.  Our economic actions have far greater impact on our culture than does our biannual votes.  And the results of those actions?  In general, conservatives are losing American culture.  Related, although I don’t know whether Christians had ever “won” American culture, cultural respect for and deference to Judeo-Christian morality wanes in the U.S. While diligent in how we vote, Christians and conservatives, myself included, have been far less conscientious in our daily purchasing decisions than we have been in our infrequent political votes.

To promote his apparently strong beliefs favoring gay marriage, Amazon.com boss Jeff Bezos donated $2.5 million dollars to promote gay marriage in his State of Washington.  Hurrah for Bezos coming out strongly in support of his beliefs.  I have strong beliefs also, premised in God’s revealed word, as taught in the Bible. Those beliefs clearly teach that homosexuality is wrong.  The fact that two men feel strongly and passionately for each other no more make it moral than when a man feels strongly and passionately for a woman other than his wife.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Amazon.com for nearly 15 years.  I remember buying a book from Amazon.com in 1998 from my dial-up modem and thinking “how cool is that!” … For the last five years, at least, we’ve purchased “Prime” memberships and did most of our Christmas shopping online through Amazon.com.  No more.

While I support Mr. Bezos’ right to spend his money in support of his beliefs, I’m not going to spend my money to further his profits, which he uses to undermine Biblical values in our laws and culture. I have not purchased anything on Amazon since I learned of Mr. Bezos’ efforts in support of gay marriage.  With disappointment, we did not renew our Prime membership. It’s been over a month now, and not only has it not been difficult, I’ve found more cost-effective websites from which to make my online purchase.  I’ve been particularly pleased with Walmart.com where the books are often several dollars less than at Amazon.com, the shipping is less (though no “Prime” type membership, yet), and you can have items delivered for free to your local Walmart store for pick up.

Best “general” online store: http://www.walmart.com

Best online bookstore, used and new: http://www.bookdepository.com

Best sites to purchase Christian stuff like books, movies, toys, apologetics, and generally Christ-centered, counterculture merchandise:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/store
http://www.visionforum.com
http://www.christianbook.com
http://store.lamplighter.net/storefront.aspx

Happy Shopping!

December 18, 2012

Hobbit or Ranger?

Filed under: culture, encouragement, entertainment, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 11:44 pm

Is Your Family a Group of Hobbits or a Group of Rangers?

Wednesday, Aug 11th 2010

By David French

Lord of the Rings begins in the bucolic, family-focused good earth of the Shire, where generations of hobbits live the fantasy world version of the “balanced life.” They till the earth. They lift a pint with good friends. They live in family homes (holes, really) passed from generation to generation. But the Shire can’t actually exist without another group of people — a group that Shire-folk look at with suspicion and mistrust: The rangers.

Rangers (like Aragorn) hang out at the borders of the Shire, visiting only occasionally, and spending their time keeping all the nasty things at bay. They battle the orcs and trolls continually, fighting to keep the Shire oh so very Shire-ish. And they do it without any real thanks because it’s the right thing to do and because they want the world to be the kind of place that is safe enough, prosperous enough, to contain a Shire.

I think I offended a group of very fine, upstanding law students.

One week ago, I was speaking to a group of students about life in the “big law firm,” and I told them that one of their responsibilities was to “work like a rabid dog.”  (I don’t know if rabid dogs are particularly hard working, but I like the image of a snarling, foaming-at-the-mouth young lawyer restrained from attacking the next pile of documents only by the chain on his ankle).  Then I told them that they should not be “that guy” or “that girl” who leaves their colleagues at a critical moment because their kid’s soccer game is just So. Darn. Important.  “That guy” makes people like me miss OUR kids’ games to make up for their lost work.  “You’re in a community,” I said, “A community made up of your fellow lawyers, paralegals, and the secretaries, and you have responsibilities to that community just as you do to your next-door neighbor, to your fellow church members, or to any other part of the world.”

I didn’t stop there.  “Lawyers work hard.  They just do.  There’s no magic bullet for the balanced lifestyle — whatever a balanced lifestyle means — instead, make sure your spouse and children are on the same page with you, that you’re united in your family’s collective and individual callings, and that you support each other as you confront the financial world, or any other part of the world you engage.”

From the looks on their faces and from the reaction of some students afterward, you would have thought I had placed a pile of kittens in a blender and hit “puree” . . . right in front of them.  The comments came flying in.

“Are you really saying that more time with your kids isn’t good?”

“Shouldn’t we all be ‘that guy,’ and isn’t it your fault that you’re willing to stay late?”

“Look, I’ll stay 10 or 15 minutes late to wrap things up, but I’m just not going to sacrifice my family by working late.”   (I wished him good luck with that philosophy and told him I’d never hire him).

“My family is more important than anything, and I’m not going to work any more than eight or nine until five.”  (I told this fellow that “Wal-Mart is hiring.”)

In fact, the comments haven’t stopped.  I’m still getting blowback from the talk, a full week later.  Someone said that I was “mean.”

And they’re right.  I am mean.  But that’s beside the point.  I may be mean, but I’m right . . . I’m factually right, and — more importantly — I’m morally right.  In at least one limited but vitally important sense.

Nothing world-changing has happened within the limited confines of the nine-to-five work week.  Nobody can wake up in the morning and say, “I’m dedicating myself and my family to my fellow man, but only so long as I keep exactly the kind of balance that would make my therapist proud.”  Eight hours per day can help make one happy (maybe), but is happiness the point?  Do we even know in any given day, week, or month what will make us happy over the medium to long term?  We think we do, but I know many, many people who get exactly what they want . . . and then find out it wasn’t as great as they thought it would be.

I don’t think so much of happiness as I think of purpose.  My purpose.  My wife’s purpose.  My kids’ purpose.  Our purpose.  If I may geek out a bit, let me draw analogy from Lord of the Rings.  If you recall (and you should), the story begins in the bucolic, family-focused good earth of the Shire, where generations of hobbits live the fantasy world version of the “balanced life.”  They till the earth.  They lift a pint with good friends.  They live in family homes (holes, really) passed from generation to generation.  But the Shire can’t actually exist without another group of people — a group that Shire-folk look at with suspicion and mistrust: The rangers.  Rangers (like Aragorn) hang out at the borders of the Shire, visiting only occasionally, and spending their time keeping all the nasty things at bay.  They battle the orcs and trolls continually, fighting to keep the Shire oh so very Shire-ish. And they do it without any real thanks because it’s the right thing to do and because they want the world to be the kind of place that is safe enough, prosperous enough, to contain a Shire.

To put things more clearly, I think every family has to ultimately ask itself: Are we rangers or hobbits?  It really is a family decision, by the way.  If a wife wants to live in Hobbiton and the husband heads out to the wild lands, resentment builds in both directions, children feel abandoned without higher purpose, and marriages dissolve in acrimony and bitterness.  Stay in the shire until the parents are unified in heart and mind and willing to take on the wild.

Of course, the obvious analogy is the “Shire” of America defended by the rangers (like the literal Rangers in the United States Army) abroad by the terrorists and radicals who seek to kill us all.  But our culture lives or dies, prospers or withers, on the basis of much more than force of arms.  Liberty at home depends on the courage and perseverance of a small army of police officers, lawyers, and civil rights activists. Economic hope and prosperity depends on entrepreneurs willing to invest their life’s savings, their dreams, and all their energies into new businesses.  Even the much-maligned financiers provide capital that makes virtually any economic project of any consequence possible.  For every employee drawing sharp lines at 5:00 p.m. there’s a boss or owner who has sacrificed much to create such an idyllic job.

In the past three years, I have spent more than 500 days away from home.  More than 300 of those occurred on my deployment to Iraq, but the first full year that I was home, I traveled more than 100 additional days on business.  In my civilian life, I’m a free speech and religious liberties lawyer, and liberty is often under attack here at home.  I travel too much, and I’m trying to cut back, but there’s also work to be done.

At the same time, however, I’m blessed to have a wife who loves and supports me through all (well, ninety-five percent) of my travel.  I’m blessed to have children who understand that “Daddy’s gone” because there are some things that are more important than ourselves, some things are worth fighting for.  And I think they might even be a little proud of me.  In short, Nancy and I made a decision many years ago that we’d be a family of rangers . . . dedicated to defending the Shire.

As a ranger, I’m not much count.  I was a very small cog in a very big machine in Iraq.  I labor hard on my cases and try to achieve justice, but it’s a big world out there, and so far my efforts haven’t reached nearly as many people as the efforts of fellow SixSeeds contributors like Tom “Saving Hundreds of Thousands of Lives in Africa” Walsh or Nathan “Inspiring Millions With My Books” Whitaker.  And our family’s sacrifice is simply insignificant compared to the ultimate sacrifice made by men I knew and loved in Iraq.  We do what we can do, however, and we do it with a common purpose.

When I speak to students, I know that most of them are hobbits, either by choice or destiny.  Their lives and purpose will be defined within the four walls of their house, and their thoughts will be dominated by hearth and home.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and there is a lot to love and admire about such a lifestyle.  I want to live in a world that has room for a Shire, and I wish the Shire were larger, so more people could enjoy its bounty.  But folks in the Shire need to understand that the life they live wasn’t created by their own virtue and that they are ultimately consumers of the liberty, prosperity, and security provided them at immense cost by the blood, sweat, and tears of others.  So enjoy your kid’s soccer game and your five o’clock departure from work, but know that your liberty was bought with blood, your security is maintained with blood, and the degree of prosperity you have is largely created by the generations of risk-takers and hard workers that came before you as well as the boss or owner who works beside you.

As for my wife and me, we thank you for making the Shire such a nice and hospitable place to visit.  But we can’t stay for long . . . there’s orcs on the borders.

Ranger

October 23, 2012

Reagan on Christ

Filed under: culture, politics, economy, etc., video — Anthony Biller @ 8:08 pm

August 29, 2012

Re: The Gift of Life

Filed under: culture, Life!, video — Anthony Biller @ 12:50 pm

I agree with Travis’ highlighting how a culture that trashes life contrasts so much with the nature and character of the God of all Creation.  Of course, the trashing of human life is not just a metaphor, as Melissa Ohden’s powerful testimony explains:

The Susan B. Anthony List produced Ms. Ohden’s story, which story is tragically under reported.  SBA explains:

“In light of the recent national discussion over abortion, it’s important Americans know the President’s best-kept secret: his extreme record on abortion. Melissa Ohden’s powerful story draws a stark contrast to his unbending support of abortion and the abortion industry and reveals the human face to this debate.” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “President Obama’s appalling record on abortion is not just limited to his four votes to deny rights to abortion survivors but spans to his recent heartless refusal to support bans on sex-selection and late-term abortions. These actions fly in the face of mainstream American views and run counter to the President’s first term pre-election talk of finding common ground. Recent polling reveals the majority of Americans support bans on these horrific practices.”

Related, the President is reportedly funneling more than $400,000 of federal money to Planned Parenthood in North Carolina in response to the N.C. General Assembly voting to discontinue $340,000 of N.C. taxpayer money being paid to Planned Parenthood.  the NCGA felt it was inappropriate to use NC taxpayer money to underwrite the operations of the world’s leading abortion mill.  See here.

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