Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why even bother with an oath?

Whenever the President or any congressperson takes office, he must swear an oath. For the President the oath is as follows:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Here’s the oath for a Representative or Senator:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
In both cases, the elected official swears to defend the Constitution of the United States. Well, I suggest that they should have taken the time to read the Constitution before voting to punish AIG executives with a confiscatory tax on their bonuses. Specifically, Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3 of the Constitution provides that: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed."

Regarding Bills of Attainder, former Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, gave us this quote:
“These clauses of the Constitution are not of the broad, general nature of the Due Process Clause, but refer to rather precise legal terms which had a meaning under English law at the time the Constitution was adopted. A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial. Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment.” [emphasis added]
In their feigned indignation at AIG, lawmakers and President Obama have trampled on the Constitution and voted on a measure whose sole intent is to punish AIG executives who received bonuses. Last Thursday, when the House passed a bill to tax AIG bonuses and a whopping 90%, Obama responded by saying:
"Today's vote rightly reflects the outrage that so many feel over the lavish bonuses that AIG provided its employees at the expense of the taxpayers who have kept this failed company afloat. I look forward to receiving a final product that will serve as a strong signal to the executives who run these firms that such compensation will not be tolerated."
Why only 90%, you might ask. Well per Rep. Charles Rangel, "We figured that the local and state government will take care of the other 10 percent.” How forward thinking of him.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi defended the House actions saying Bush had empowered corporate "arrogance and hubris and greed.” “Hubris,” Ms. Speaker? I would say the political left embodies that term at the moment.

I wonder why these people even bother taking an oath if they have no intent on keeping it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

... which was once covered by an ancient sea.

I was reading an article in National Geographic when I came across this curious quote:
Today the fossil site "is about as urban as you can get," said paleontologist Derek Main of the University of Texas in Arlington. "It's surrounded by several highways, and there's a Starbucks down the street. You can get coffee if you want."

But the remains hark back to a time when much of Texas was underwater, covered by an enormous inland sea that bisected North America and joined the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean.
It occurred to me that I’ve heard that before. In fact, I’ve heard it a lot. Fossils are found all over the world in or near areas that are said to have once been covered by “an ancient inland sea.” Just for fun, I did a Google search to see a few other times where such a sea is invoked with a fossil find. Below are a few of the results (bold added for emphasis):
The Western Interior Seaway, also called the Cretaceous Seaway, the Niobraran Sea, and the North American Inland Sea, was a huge inland sea that split the continent of North America into two halves during most of the mid and late Cretaceous Period. (source)

In some areas, such as portions of what-is-now the eastern United States, coal was formed from swamps covered by sea water. (
source)

This record of ancient life is preserved in the form of fossils whose ages date back 425 million years when
all of Western and Central New York State was covered by an inland sea. (
source)

Most of the recognizable fossils in the Whitewater Formation are from skeletons of animals that lived about 435 million years ago on the bottom of a warm shallow sea that covered this area [Whitewater Gorge Indiana]. (
source)

Dinosaurs might have ruled the land 100 million years ago, but enormous reptiles, toothy fish, and sharks owned the oceans in a vast inland sea that covered what is now Kansas. (
source)

Baculite Mesa near Pueblo, Colorado is just the place for easy finding of the remains of ancient sea life. (
source)

Scientists have unearthed evidence of a Jurassic killing field in a sea that once covered a wide area of middle England. (
source)

Trilobites were prolific! They lived at a time when our continents were connected and much of the Earth was covered by ancient seas filled with trilobites. Trilobites can be found all around the globe today. (
source)
There were many others, of course, but this gives you an idea of how many different places in the US (and around the world) are identified as having once been underwater. If you look at just the places mentioned in the US, you can see nearly the entire continent of North America is included. For every US state I Googled, I could find some reference to an ancient sea once covering it.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist or anything but doesn’t that say something? Is it a terrible leap of faith to suggest that all of these places were once under water at the same time? I say that common sense demands we consider that as a possibility.

The Bible describes the Flood of Noah which covered the entire earth. We look around and see evidence that the entire earth was once covered with water. Is it so hard to put 2 and 2 together? The evidence is there for whoever wants to see it. Or, as Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Are the Jews Saved by Circumcision?

While in my Sunday school class recently, we were studying Acts 7 and the subject of circumcision came up. The question was: are Jews today saved by the Abrahamic covenant and circumcision as they were in the Old Testament (OT)? In short, the answer is, “no.” More specifically, the Jews were never saved by Abrahamic covenant nor by circumcision. They were saved pretty much the same way we are saved – by faith in Christ.

Circumcision to the Jews is like Baptism to the gentiles. It is a symbol of our salvation but it is not our salvation. The Baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The circumcision is a picture of the shedding of blood through which there is atonement for sins (Hebrews 9:22). So these acts were done to identify ourselves with Christ after our profession of faith in Him. They are not (or were not) done in order to obtain salvation.

Of course, the people of the Old Testament could not know Christ in exactly the same way we know Him today since He had not yet come. But they still could know Him. The promise of a Redeemer was given all the way back in Genesis 3:15. He would be that seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. Throughout the OT, we see many more references to the coming Messiah. Perhaps the most well known verses appear in Isaiah:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
The Bible says that Abraham was saved by faith and not circumcision (Romans 4:9-16). But Jesus made it clear that Abraham specifically had faith in Him (John 8:56). Even Job (Job is believed to be the oldest book of the Bible) said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:” (Job 19:25).

By the time Jesus arrived on the earth, people were longing for the Messiah. We see this over and over by the questions and comments in the Gospels. Many wondered if John the Baptist was the Messiah (John 1:19-25). In Luke 2 we see Simeon and Anna who were promised by God they would live to see the Messiah come. The woman at the well said, “I know the Messiah comes” (John 4:25). And of course, Jesus was frequently asked if He was the Messiah.

There is no other salvation than in Jesus (Acts 4:12). This applies to the saints of all generations – both the Old Testament and the New. The saints of the OT were saved by their faith in the promised Messiah that was to come. Today, we are saved by this same Messiah who has already come.

Jews today are not saved by circumcision nor by keeping the Law. They are not saved because they are children of Abraham (Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8). If they have rejected the Messiah who has already come, then they have rejected their salvation. They are waiting for some other messiah. There is no salvation in him.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

Like a parent who gives his child a curfew, God has given us rules so that we might live healthy, happy, and productive lives. God, being perfect, knows best what is most important for us. It’s certainly not a coincidence that the first four of the Ten Commandments focus on our relationship with God. The third commandment then, the prohibition of taking His name in vain, should be a matter of great importance.

The Scribes and Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the Law. When considering this commandment, they were so concerned about breaking it that they refused to even mention the name of God allowed. When they copied Scriptures, anytime they came to the name of Yahweh, they put aside the pen they were writing with, and wrote the name with a special pen that was only used in writing His name. Even today, I see people write “G*d” instead of writing God. Of course, in their unbending attempts to keep the Law, Jesus pointed out how the Pharisees were the worst offenders of the Law. Somehow, I cannot believe that God intended us to never speak His name.

When I was teaching my daughter about this commandment (and now my son), I explained it this way: Don’t use the name of God unless you’re talking about God. Never use His name in exclamation or as a curse. I feel that’s appropriate advice for a child but I recently realized my own understanding of that verse was childlike.

It had always seemed to me this commandment was an easy one to keep. When I’m angry, I might say things I regret later – but I’ve disciplined myself long ago that using the Lord’s name is not allowed. No matter how angry I get and what I might say, I won’t say that. So I’m innocent of this, right? Wrong!

Consider 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Did you catch that? His people are called by His name. Are you aware that “Christian” means “Christ-like”? When we call ourselves “Christians” we are saying we are like Christ. So then, how much are we like Christ? Our actions directly impact our testimony and our witness.

When we call ourselves by His name, we must be careful then how we use it. Certainly no one is perfect. No one can hope to never sin so long as we struggle in this body of flesh. But when a person, who calls himself a Christian (whether rightly or wrongly) continues to engage in unrepentant sin, I very much believe he is taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Creation in the Classroom

I’m already on record as saying I don’t want public schools to require teachers to teach creation. I am in favor of teachers being allowed to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the theory. In February, 2008, Florida went the other way and passed a law requiring schools to teach evolution.

In a New York Times article, author Amy Harmon details the challenges face by one FL biology teacher. From the article:
ORANGE PARK, Fla. — David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote “Evolution” in the rectangle of light on the screen.

He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. His gaze rested for a moment on Bryce Haas, a football player who attended the 6 a.m. prayer meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the school gymnasium.

“If I do this wrong,” Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, “I’ll lose him.”
Huh? He’ll “lose him”? You’ve got to be kidding me! There you have it folks – indoctrination at its finest. It’s not enough to teach evolution and make sure kids understand the theory; they have to believe it hook-line-and-sinker or they’re lost!

The rest of the article highlights Mr. Campbell’s frustrations:
…at the inaugural meeting of the Florida Citizens for Science, which he
co-founded in 2005, he vented his frustration. “The kids are getting hurt,” Mr.
Campbell told teachers and parents. “We need to do something.”
Oh no, he didn’t! Did he just say kids are getting hurt?! Yes!! Creationism is child abuse – just ask Mr. Campbell.

Of course, the article tries to portray Mr. Campbell as a noble educator with the children’s best interests in mind. It talks about, for example, his patience with Ms. Yancey – the seemingly misguided science teacher who allows children to “draw their own conclusions” about evolution. How enlightened of him!

It’s obvious that Mr. Campbell sees this as a battle between his science and the religious beliefs of his students. He’s also afraid his side is losing:
“The discovery that a copy of “Evolution Exposed,” published by the creationist organization Answers in Genesis, was circulating among the class did not raise his flagging spirits. The book lists each reference to evolution in the biology textbook Mr. Campbell uses and offers an explanation for why it is wrong…. A pastor at a local church, Mr. Campbell learned, had given a copy of “Exposed” to every graduating senior the previous year.”
Where is this supposed “separation of church and state” I keep hearing about? Why does this teacher see it as his personal mission to undo the religious teachings these kids here at home and in church? Why does he lament so when a pastor gives students information that supports the idea that Genesis is a factual account of the creation? Aren’t pastors supposed to preach and defend the word of God?

Again, it’s OK to teach evolution. It’s OK to ask a student what he understands of the scientific theory. It’s not OK to undermine the religious beliefs of the students.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Parents told: avoid morality in sex lessons

I admit it. I borrowed the headline for this post straight from my source article. It was so perfect that I couldn’t improve upon it. It’s true – in the UK the government has issued a new pamphlet coaching parents on how to discuss sex with their own children. The article says:
“PARENTS should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex, a new government leaflet is to advise.

Instead, any discussion of values should be kept “light” to encourage teenagers to form their own views, according to the brochure, which one critic has called “amoral”.”
What more can I say?

Coincidentally, I’ve been discussing this very thing online over the last few days. In an effort to remain neutral toward religion, the government has become hostile to religion. Parents have the right to teach their kids morals and religious values. It seems to me that public schools are bent on undermining those values. After seeing this article, I’m speechless. Let’s just hope this particular attitude doesn’t catch on in the US but I fear it already has.

Jesus Himself told us that we should “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's” (Matthew 22:21). Raising our children in Christian values is the responsibility given to every Christian parent (Ephesians 6:4). It seems to me, Caesar is interested in teaching our kids his own values. The sad fact is too many parents are interested in letting Caesar do their jobs for them. They are giving the things of God to Caesar!