Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A strange day.

A strange day.
Author: tartanarmy (11:34 pm)

It is not every day you nearly get lost at sea is it?

Just relaxing at the beach with my 3 daughters, when suddenly, everything changes.
I am about waist deep in the water and hugging my daughters boogie board. I drift off for maybe 2 minutes floating upon it.

Well, there is a westerly wind and it starts a blowing.

First of all, I realise I cannot touch the bottom, then I see that the beach is kinda further away than I remembered!

I think, no big deal, I will simply paddle back, right?

5 feet forward, then 7 feet back, 7 feet forward, then 10 feet back!
Sigh! Is this really happening?

I stop, then go another 10 feet back. And then another 10 feet.
The beach is becoming smaller and smaller and smaller.

I see people running along the beach and I hear screams from my children.

I look over my shoulder and about 200 meters to my right is the rocks where the fisherman fish. I think how brave they are to be fishing off of there, but then realise I am past where they are. This is where the local sharks breed I remember being told!

I am now about 500 meters or so from the shoreline.
Now I decide to panic. Everything seems to be in slow motion except me drifting further out. There are no lifeguards at this beach today.
I am still holding this silly board and deciding whether I should just ditch it and start swimming.

I am not a very good swimmer, plus my leg is starting to cramp.
Then it completely cramps and I am just holding this foam board and drifting further out to sea.

Typical of me I think. Typical.

In the end a teenage girl and my next door neighbour have come along side me. This girl on a board, the other man swims out to me.
They help pull be back to shore which takes a good 20 minutes or so effort. I thought the three of us might never get back but these fine human beings paced themselves.

A strange day for me.
My girls are calmed down, I am extremely thankful.
A strange day.


Oh what an even stranger night!

After the daytime mishap’s at sea, the night time proved to be another reminder as to how vulnerable we are. What a day.

About 2.00am I found my wife unconscious and having a fit of some awful sort, and had to get an ambulance to get her to the hospital. It took 40 minutes before they came, and it seemed like hours.
She has suffered a reaction to some medication that she was being prescribed.

I really thought she was dying on me, and again, the children were in a panic for the second time in 7 hours.
They had seen both their parents nearly taken away from them in the one day.
My little 7 year old said to me just after the ambulance left with her mum, that God was trying our faith in Him.
She makes me so proud, and as it says in Scripture.

Psa 8:2 Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have ordained strength, because of ones vexing You, to cause the enemy and the avenger to cease.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dogmatic Tolerance

Dogmatic Tolerance
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (11:30 pm)

Dogmatic Tolerance
by Christopher Alexion

If someone were to rank the favourite words of contemporary thought, tolerance would be pretty high on the list. We often hear about the importance of respecting others and tolerating those with whom we disagree. In one sense tolerance is a very important virtue—we don’t use an Uzi to end an argument, for instance. Nor is it acceptable to burn down mosques or force dissenters to attend classes with which they disagree. The views of law-abiding people should be tolerated (i.e., they should not be violently suppressed), and their lives and property must be respected.

But the catch phrases and buzzwords we hear go beyond this simple truth. All too frequently the term “tolerance” is used as a synonym for “respect” or even “agreement.” And since Christians are characteristically unwilling to “respect” what they believe to be false doctrine or even (gasp) sin, they are, by means of this nifty equivocation, branded as intolerant and unenlightened.

What is swept under the rug is that tolerance is not synonymous with respect. There is no inconsistency, for example, in saying that I tolerate Buddhism in one sense and detest it in another; indeed, the very word “tolerate,” in common usage, implies that I am putting up with something I don’t like. I would be more than happy if every Buddhist in the world came to see his error and converted to Christianity. But until or unless that happens, I will tolerate Buddhism and respect the rights of Buddhists. This doesn’t mean that I respect the doctrines that Buddhists teach, or that even for a moment I can possibly consider these doctrines to be on equal footing with Christianity—that won’t happen until I become either a Buddhist or an atheist.

Christ recognised this distinction between the adherents of a doctrine and the doctrine itself. Thus He could command us to love everyone, even our enemies, without pretending to love or accept the false teaching (or, worse, considering all doctrine equally true). In other words, because of His belief in objective truth, Christ was able to describe His opponents as “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” and even “vipers.” Our enlightened moderns, or, more accurately, postmoderns, would surely have criticised the Lord on this point. (Bertrand Russell, in particular, took issue with His “vindictive fury” and compared Him unfavourably with the “bland and urbane” Socrates.) “Narrow-minded,” “extreme,” and “insensitive” are three other pejorative terms that come to mind.

His apostles were no less politically-incorrect. Paul asserted that unbelievers’ minds are “darkened,” their imaginations “vain” (Rom. 1:21; cf. II Cor. 4:4), and their doctrines “a lie” (Rom. 1:25)—i.e., knowledge “falsely so called” (I Tim. 6:20), to which he would give no ground, “no, not for an hour” (Gal. 2:5). Peter did not hesitate to describe false doctrines as “damnable heresies” (II Pet. 2:1) and “great swelling words of vanity” (II Pet. 2:18). Even John, who emphasised love so much that he is often called the apostle of love, was not afraid to say, “He that hath not the Son hath not life” (I Jn. 5:12).1 (He even had the gall to say that some people were liars, and the truth was not in them.)

This, of course, does not mean that Christians are not to be loving, or that in order to be spiritual we must become hard-nosed sourpusses who delight to tell people they’re wrong (cf. Rom. 9:1-3). What it does mean is that when it comes down to a question of truth and falsehood, Christians are bound to confess the truth and denounce the falsehood. Is this bigotry, then? I don’t think so. Rather, it is simple logic: A and not-A simply cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense, and no amount of tolerance or multiculturalism can make it so. It would seem that modern tolerance fanatics don’t have a problem with Christianity. They have a problem with the law of contradiction.

But unfortunately the confusion goes deeper still. Not only do non-Christians fail to distinguish logic from bigotry, their arguments often lead them to reject logic and embrace bigotry. Take an editorial from my local paper as an example. In it the author, who has been patiently explaining why we need a law to prevent discrimination against sodomy, comes to deal with certain “religious opposition” to the bill:

Some of the opponents of [Delaware House of Representatives Bill] 99 believe that all sex outside marriage between a man and a woman is wrong and sinful. For many, this belief is based in religious conviction and is therefore unassailable by logic or rational debate. Such beliefs deserve respect. But people who hold such convictions shouldn’t insist that everyone embrace them as well. Yet discussions about H.B. 99 often devolve into narrow religious-based pronouncements that single out homosexuality for condemnation.2

This enlightened and erudite journalist says that we should respect “religious conviction” but we shouldn’t insist that everyone embrace it. In other words, while biblical beliefs deserve respect, it is also not the case that they deserve respect. All dogs go to heaven. Some dogs do not go to heaven.

It seems that it’s this kind of thinking that is “unassailable by logic or rational debate.” If the author had said that “such beliefs should be tolerated,” he would have made perfect sense. But when he says that “such beliefs deserve respect” and then goes on to trample them underfoot, we should begin to question not only his logic but maybe his seriousness, since it becomes clear that he too makes “narrow religious-based pronouncements that single out” certain beliefs for condemnation. As Douglas Jones put it,

Claims of neutrality are always a hidden stab in the back to opposing claims of truth.… Multiculturalism calls Christ a liar. What more anti-multicultural, ideologically tyrannical statement can you find than “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6)? Multicultural “tolerance” doesn’t…give Christ an equal place at the table of worldviews, it assumes from the start that His claims cannot be true.3

And in a strange sort of irony, people like my local editor are willing to enlist the coercive arm of the state to enforce their narrow views. Persecution is always worse when it wraps itself in the mantle of tolerance. Christianity, at least, is intellectually honest: truth is objective, and Christ’s Word is objective truth. I can see nothing wrong or “bigoted” about that—especially since its opponents must necessarily be just as “bigoted.” Isn’t it better to be openly dogmatic than to hide your dogmatism in a “tolerant” smoke screen?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The God Delusion: David Quinn & Richard Dawkins debate.

The God Delusion: David Quinn & Richard Dawkins debate
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (2:46 am)

Quite interesting, especially when Dawkins gets away with so much, usually! But not this time!

Here is the MP3

And here is a transcript.

Ever Wonder?

Ever Wonder?
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (2:08 am)

When dog food is new and improved tasting, who tests it?

Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Your Best Life Now By Joel Osteen

Your Best Life Now By Joel Osteen
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (3:15 am)

Your Best Life Now

By Joel Osteen
Reviewed by Greg Gilbert

Someone might legitimately raise the question why we are reviewing this book. After all, the pattern here at 9Marks has been that we review Christian books.

I suppose we must be branching out now, because Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now is decidedly not one of those. Open the book to any random page, and you will likely find some mention of God or even a reference to Scripture. Yet that is just window-dressing.

When you wring the book out, what you end up with is nothing more than the soggy old self-help pop-psychology that people have been lapping up for a generation—with the word "God" thrown in every once in a while for good measure.

It was Benjamin Franklin, not Jesus, who said, "God helps those who help themselves." That is Osteen’s message, too, only it is more like "God helps those who think well of themselves." Imagine yourself to be a winner, and someday you will be a winner! Visualize yourself in a big house or a Lexus, and one day you will find yourself with both!

As Osteen puts it, "God wants to give you your own house. God has a big dream for your life" (35). The key to realizing that big dream is to follow Osteen’s seven steps to living up to your full potential:

1) Enlarge your vision. Believe that God will make you successful—not saved, not redeemed, not forgiven. Just successful. Expect God to do good things for you. "Perhaps you’re searching for a parking spot in a crowded lot," Osteen sympathizes. "Say, ‘Father, I thank you for leading and guiding me. Your favor will cause me to get a good spot" (41).

Also, expect other people to do good things for you. "I’ve come to expect to be treated differently," Osteen says. "I’ve learned to expect people to want to help me. My attitude is: I’m a child of the Most High God. My Father created the whole universe. He has crowned me with favor, therefore, I can expect preferential treatment" (39). And don’t think for a second that he’s kidding.

2) Develop a healthy self-image. After all, just like in the case of Gideon, "God sees you as strong and courageous, as a man or woman of great honor and value." So stop thinking of yourself as a loser with a bad job, a small apartment, and a lemon of a car. Start believing that you can become what God says you can become. Take Sarah, for example. It took a long time for God to fulfill his promise that she would become pregnant. Why so long? "The key to the promise coming to pass was that Sarah had to conceive it in her heart before she was able to conceive it in her physical body" (80).

And we all have promises from God, don’t we? "I wonder how many great things God is trying to do in your life. We’re just like Sarah. We can’t conceive it. We’re not in agreement with God, so we’re missing out on His blessings" (80). So start believing. "God didn’t make you to be average. God created you to excel." Therefore, "if you will start acting like it, talking like it, seeing yourself as more than a conqueror, you will live a prosperous and victorious life" (82-83).

3) Discover the power of your thoughts and words. If you think negative thoughts all the time, how can you expect God to bless you? But "when you think positive, excellent thoughts, you will be propelled toward greatness, inevitably bound for increase, promotion, and God’s supernatural blessings." "The Bible tells us that we need to ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind.’ If you will transform your mind, God will transform your life" (108).

4) Let go of the past. You can’t live successfully and with "God’s favor all over you" if you are bitter and disappointed all the time. "You can’t unscramble eggs," so just "fill your horn with oil," like Samuel did—which Osteen apparently does not realize was to anoint the king—and be happy (175, 181)!

5) Find strength through adversity. "God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner" (191). So take challenges in your life head-on. Don’t back down from them, because "God has promised that He will turn your challenges into stepping-stones for promotion" (217).

6) Live to give! Be compassionate, empathetic, and kind. God has created you to give, and whatever wealth, possessions, and success he gives you, he intends for you to use for the good of other people. Besides, if you plant seed in other people’s lives, God will cause there to be a great harvest sometime down the road. So when a waiter offers to pay for your breakfast in a fancy hotel—even when the breakfast is included in the price of the room and would be free anyway—don’t tell him! No, no! Better to leave the poor guy in the dark. For, as you whisper sagely to your wife, "We can’t rob him of his blessing. He’s planted a seed by doing something good for us. We don’t want to pull his seed out of the ground and give it back." So let him spend forty bucks for no reason, because you know "that when he planted that seed in the ground, God was going to multiply it back to him." (255)

7) Choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice. So smile a lot. God will bless you if you do. Also, become a person of excellence. "God doesn’t bless mediocrity. He blesses excellence." (282) So do you want a new car? Then wash the one you have. You want a bigger house? "Keep it looking nice. Make sure it looks like a person of excellence lives there." "If you will start taking care of what God has given you, He’ll be more likely to give you something better." (283) God has great things in store for you, so start living with some enthusiasm. If you will do all these things—follow these seven steps—then "God will take you places you’ve never dreamed of, and you will be living your best life now!" (306)

What exactly does one say about all this? A few things, actually.

First, even if you take Osteen’s book for what it really is—one more self-help manual focusing on the power of positive thinking—it simply doesn’t work. Thinking highly of yourself is not a pathway to success. Most of the time, it’s a pathway to having your office colleagues talk about you behind your back. You don’t believe me? Then try this: The next time you go into the office, try Osteen’s tactic of demanding "preferential treatment" because you’re a child of God. See how far that gets you.

More importantly, though, it should be noted clearly and widely that there is nothing Christian about this book. Yes, Osteen talks about God throughout, but it is not the God of the Bible he has in mind. Osteen’s God is little more than the mechanism that gives the power to positive thinking. There is no cross. There is no sin. There is no redemption or salvation or eternity. Even Jesus himself is mentioned only two or three times in the book, and one of those is as the punch-line of the story about the little tree who has a bad self-esteem until he figures out he’s being turned into the cross on which Jesus is to be crucified. That story may have Jesus’ name in it, but it’s not a story about Jesus. It, like the rest of the book, is a story about feeling good about yourself.

If Joel Osteen wants to be the Norman Vincent Peale of the twenty-first century, he has every right to give it a shot. But he should stop marketing his message as Christianity, because it is not. You cannot simply make reference to God, quote some Scripture, call what you’re saying "spiritual principles," and pass it off as Christianity. That’s the kind of thing that will have people "enlarging their vision" and "choosing to be happy" all the way to hell.

The really frightening thing is that 5 million people have bought Your Best Life Now, and a good portion of those have probably walked away thinking they have read the Christian gospel. They think they understand the message of the Bible, and it is me. My success. My self-esteem. My house. My car. My promotion.

If that is what is passing for Christianity today, then the need for true gospel preachers is more than severe. Someone needs to tell these people—even if they are not inclined to hear; even if it’s over the heads of their own "pastors"—that the gospel is not about collaborating with God to make yourself successful. It is not about getting more stuff and being more prosperous. It is about God forgiving people for their sin through the death of his Son, bringing them to life from the spiritual dead, and conforming them to the image of Jesus Christ. Whether Joel Osteen preaches those truths in his church of thirty-thousand, I have no idea. But he certainly has not written about them.

Greg Gilbert is the lead writer on the gospel for 9Marks and an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.

October 2006
Greg Gilbert
©9Marks. Website:

Monday, November 06, 2006

2006 Alpha & Omega Pulpit Crimes Conference and Cruise

2006 Alpha & Omega Pulpit Crimes Conference and Cruise
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (6:21 am)

Current Debate Blog HERE!
Good stuff