HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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When the right to choose, is chosen wrongly …

There was a brief splash in the Canadian news here recently when it was reported that in certain cultural communities the data seems to indicate that abortions are being used as a tool for gender selection. To put it bluntly, certain people are inclined to abort pre-born daughters in favour of having male children. And so, it was reported by the CBC, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Journal called for preventative intervention.

A fetus’s gender should not be revealed until after 30 weeks of pregnancy, says an editorial in the Canadian Medical Journal. This change in procedure for a fetal ultrasound, where the sex is usually disclosed to parents at 20 weeks, would help prevent female feticide, says Rajendra Kale, editor-in-chief of the CMAJ. [Read the rest of the story HERE]

As you can well imagine this raised concerns over stereotyping and/or invoking discrimination against certain people groups. It raised the question of whether information is a right or not. It raised the concern of whether or not there should be limits on freedom of choice. All of these are indeed, important questions to be discussed in their own right, but at best this particular discussion was frustrating to witness, and at times downright confusing to follow. Why?

Because all of these (rightful) concerns begin from an assumption that simply isn’t allowed to be assumed by those who hold to the right to free abortions.

Consider the following: How can a class of people (women/girls) be targeted by selectively terminating a non-person? Many calm their consciences by referring to the subject of the procedure as simply a mass of tissue (or use clinical terms like fetus to distance emotions), but in this case it is painfully obvious that what is being terminated simply isn’t anything of the sort. Why is it OK (even good some will argue) to kill both equally, but not one more or less than the other? The sex is medically irrelevant, unless it is being used to select out certain individuals? People should be free to choose – unless they choose wrongly?

The only moral conundrum here is why any of this news should be morally repulsive … unless of course what we are talking about aborting is NOT some lump of tissue, but an actual human person …  a son or (in increasing numbers) a daughter.It is only an issue if they are really people!

Abortion has always stereotyped against certain people groups – unborn humans.  Abortion discriminates against those who cannot speak for themselves. Abortion limits the freedom (to life liberty and happiness) of those conceived to others who simply choose not to give it to them. Why should we be the least bit surprised when this begins to spill over into unintended victims? Why should we be surprised when the wrong choice is then chosen wrongly?

Withholding information will not change anything. It will just cause there to be more late-term abortions (which are not normally practiced – but are certainly allowed here in Canada). Trying to foist some sort of ill-conceived, reactionary, and baseless morality upon the situation will not change people’s hearts or their desires for a male child. Trying to protect one class of human beings cannot be done while not recognizing the humanity of another. The only thing that will change such terrible situations and sad choices is a new-found respect for all human life, wherever you may find it. Spreading the knowledge that a person is a person whether in the womb, in the cradle, in school, in the hospital, or the senior’s center. Giving the freedom you and I enjoy to all who are part of this human race, whether they are boys or girls, born or not!


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How Quickly the Signs Appear!

Not so very long ago I was walking with a friend who happened to notice that leaves were beginning to fall around his neighbourhood.

“Tell me it’s not Fall already!” he bemoaned “I’m just getting used to summer!”

“Well it IS late August,” I said, very sagely. “You knew it was coming.”  Lucky for me, friends don’t mind it when you are a bit of a jerk now and then.  They let the comments slide. Not even a few prematurely falling leaves were going to ruin our weekend.

But sometimes words (and their underlying attitudes) have a way of coming back to give you a glimpse of what you deserve.  Fast forward only a couple of weeks from my sage advice on the preparedness of one’s self for the signs of the changing seasons …  to the day when I woke up to the sound of geese flying south for the winter, my son getting ready for his first day of school, and the radio saying that it would be a cool morning so break out your jackets! “What happened!” I thought to myself. “When did fall get here!”

“Well it IS September,” I could hear Jim stating matter-of-factly in the back of my mind. “YOU knew it was coming hot-shot!” And what could I say back to my friend’s imaginary barb?  Nothing. He was right.  Even though I knew the signs, even though I had chastised him for the very same thing only days earlier, here I was in the same spot. Knowing the signs and being ready for the signs are not always the same thing.  Because when the signs do come, they appear quickly.

It is something we have been discussing as a family lately.  We have been reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair.” together for our bed-time story. In it the children are given four signs to complete their task and they miss or goof up on every single one of them.  Just like in real life!  Knowing the signs, and being ready for them when they come are not the same thing!

It is also like another journey I have found myself on lately.  The inglorious road of getting older, developing health issues, and being poked and prodded and tested for and by nearly everything.  We all know the signs of getting older, but not one of us is ever really ready for it when it happens … because it all happens so suddenly.  (“Well, you are 41 years old,” I can hear my wife and/or my doctor sagely saying. “You knew it was coming sooner or later didn’t you.” )

So how will it be, as we turn our attention once again to the coming of the end (not just of me, but of all things), as our thoughts normally do around this time each year? As the lectionary draws toward the end of the year the signs of Christ’s second coming will begin to appear more regularly and quickly in the coming weeks. They are signs that we all know so well, we hear them every fall, we flavour our Advent with them every winter.  But knowing is not the same as being ready for them when they do appear.

The only way to do that is to trust in the one who brings winter after every fall and spring after every winter. To trust in the one who accomplishes his tasks whether we are on top of things or not. To trust in the one for whom old age has never been an obstacle to true and abundant life.  And the only sign you need to know … the only sign you need to hold onto for that  is the sign of the cross.


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Recent Visitor

Let me begin by stating that pastors love it when they receive visitors at the office. I know sometimes we seem busy, or frazzled, or frustrated, or impatient … but never with those who come by the Lord’s House to spend some time with the pastor.  We love visiting with people at the office as much as our people love to be visited in their homes.  I don’t know about other pastors out there, but I long for any excuse to get up from the desk, or out of the books and the studies, and the preparations for this that and the other.

I love it when I have visitors.

And for the past two weeks I have had the blessing of being visited at the church nearly every single morning.   Now, granted, my visitor is not much of one for conversation. They haven’t worked up the nerve to confide any of their troubles yet.  They usually can’t stay long, but are more than willing to pop over and see how the morning prayer service is going … or the Men’s breakfast … or the Sunday School opening … or just around coffee time for a quick nod and a “How-do-you-do.”

I’ve got to tell you I’m starting to feel a little spoiled … But I can’t help but wonder if all this sudden attention doesn’t come with a price.


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Bieber, abortion and babies

Here is an article I wrote for the church.  What do you think?

Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Bieber, abortion and babies.

It is a sad statement on our society when there is more outcry against the sincere answers this young man gave, than for the tactics of an interviewer who thought it was appropriate to hit a 16 year old with these questions.  Not to mention the two separate “editorial” omissions in the initial reporting that made his comments more controversial, and less specific then they were when given.


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Extraordinary Silliness

The group of atheists behind last year’s controversial bus ads that suggest God “probably doesn’t exist” will be splashing a new set of posters on buses across the country. Photograph by: Handout, Handout

Christ meets Big Foot: more irreverent atheist ads to hit Canadian cities

The atheist group behind last year’s controversial bus ads suggesting “there’s probably no God” is rolling out a provocative new set of posters on buses across the country that places Allah beside Big Foot and Christ beside psychics. The new posters bear the slogan: “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” with “Allah, Big Foot, UFOs, Homeopathy, Zeus, Psychics, Christ” listed below. They will hit Toronto streetcars in January, pending final approval from the Toronto Transit Commission, said Justin Trottier, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, an atheist organization. After the Toronto debut, the organization plans to post the ads to buses in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Saskatoon and Montreal. “Why is belief in Big Foot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination,” says the campaign’s website, http://www.extraordinary-claims.com. Trottier insists the ads weren’t designed to offend religious Canadians.

Perhaps you’ve heard this particular mantra of the atheistic crowd before.  It is a favourite for stifling any meaningful debate.  And why wouldn’t it be? If you demand extraordinary evidence it is then very easy to simply dismiss any evidence given as not extraordinary enough.  So nice try, but better luck next time.  You can see why many find it effective.  In case you are wondering, this seems to be where the idea came from:

“Carl Sagan is also widely regarded as a freethinker or skeptic; one of his most famous quotations, in Cosmos, was, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”[40] This was based on a nearly identical statement by fellow founder of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, Marcello Truzzi, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”[41] This idea originated with Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827), a French mathematician and astronomer who said, “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”[42]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan)

I agree, that all claims must be backed up by evidence, but here is where a little bit of rational thought clears up a whole bunch of silliness … Pecisely what isextraordinary” evidence? Evidence is evidence. You either have evidence for your claim or you do not.  We may certainly dispute the worth of the particular evidences given, we may seek to give differing weights to say, circumstantial evidence versus eye-witness evidence, forensic or textual evidence, and the like … but who gets to say what is “extraordinary” or not? Especially before any such evidence is even given?  And, just what evidence are they providing to make their (extraordinary) distinctions?

As a wise fellow on a discussion forum once said, The phrase has a certain emotional appeal, but such an appeal has no place in critical thinking, logic, or scientific discussion. Evidence is evidence. You either have it or you do not. Any preceding adjectives (like “extraordinary”, or “overwhelming”) are subjective and emotive value judgments that should have no place in rational discourse. To put it another way, the veracity of any claim must be assessed according to the “weight of evidence”.  Any claim, big or small must be supported by sufficient evidence.

To see how this particularly silly argument holds little real weight, consider this.  If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then surely very little claims require very little evidence, right?  Then why not make the claim that anyone who seriously holds to this position is either not very bright, or is intentionally lying.  Secondly I will claim that you shouldn’t listen to those who are not wise, or who are lying.  Neither of  these is an extraordinary claim.  They are each of them, rather minor claim, therefore my evidence needs be no more than they think calling something extraordinary is enough to shut people up.

It is not my intention to get into bout of  name-calling, however, just to point out the lack of rational integrity in such a point of view.  Evidence for Jesus and His resurrection, (unlike Bigfoot and UFO’s) is not only substantial, historical, verifiable  (and found outside of the Bible too), but on orders of magnitude above and beyond any other historical figure of the ancient world.  If atheists would like to argue the particulars of the evidence that would be most productive.  But then again, it wouldn’t easily fit on a bus ad and would take a lot more conviction, care, and well-reasoned thought.

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By the way, just for fun, why not turn the whole thing around, and let them taste their own medicine for a while … Christians are not the only ones to have “extraordinary” claims.

If life came from non-life, then only being able to make new life from completely non-living materials will be proof enough, that such a thing happens.

If, in the Big Bang, everything came from nothing, then once again making everything from nothing is the evidence required to prove it happens.

Multiple universes, the spontaneous creation of (useful) genetic information on an order such as to change an organism, dark matter and dark energy, star formation, and billions of years, all need to be shown, not by extrapolated information (as the underlying constants may not be constant and the beginning assumptions may not be correct), or by secondary effect (simply showing how such a thing “must” be to balance some mathematical, or physics equation is not proof – again the underlying equation may be faulty, and/or the assumptions may be wrong), or by computer simulations (they only do what their programmers tell them to).

True science is observable, measurable, and repeatable.  Until such claims can be directly observed, measured AND repeated no amount of evidence will be enough.


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“Is It Helpful?” is not as Helpful as “Is It True?”

When did we get into the habit of allowing religious discussion to be thought of as something divorced from reality?  The stuff of the spirit separate and removed from the stuff of everyday life … “spiritual” vs “real.”  Even when we know better, why do we so often allow others to frame the conversation as an “either/or” proposition?  If it isn’t real – if it isn’t true – really and truly true – then what’s the point?  Allowing “truth” to be separated from reality (eg. religious truth versus scientific truth, my truth versus your truth) just isn’t helpful!

Here is a great quote from C.S. Lewis.

One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing.  When that desire is completely quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any of you have really lost that desire. More probably, foolish preachers, by always telling you how much Christianity will help you and how good it is for society, have actually led you to forget that Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts – to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.


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The Snag About Materialism

According to Wikipedia Materialism “holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance.”

Materialism is, whether or not you know it, the philosophy at the heart of  (and laying the foundation for) the theory of Evolution.  Evolution, you see begins with the a priori assumption that there is no God – no deity – no supernatural anything.  The only thing that is real is matter (and energy) and everything that is can be explained by the properties of it. If it can’t be explained without God, then it can’t be real.  Your soul, your mind, your thoughts, dreams, ideas and memories are simply the result of the physical interactions of physical matter (eg. in your brain).

It seems to me that there are two reasons why one should think this is a bunch of silliness.  Number one. If all thought, is simply a process of material interactions then there can be no right or wrong thought.  To call one kind of material interaction (with its attendant result) wrong cannot apply.  It simply is.  Therefore there would be no reason to disagree with anything anyone ever thought – including the thought that there must be not only a spiritual component to life, but a supernatural spiritual being responsible for creating and sustaining all that matter.  Yet see how accepting materialists are of any such idea (produced, as they would say only by material interactions).  Obviously they can still think that there are some things which are more real than others.

The second reason materialism does not, and cannot, amount to much is stated very well by C.S. Lewis, who identified this problematic philosophy so many decades ago:

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, the the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too.  If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds true for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts – i.e. of materialism and astronomy – are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true?  I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.

Two accidents, no matter how great they are, just don’t make a truth. If there is no outside guiding force or principle (eg a spiritual reality) behind all thought then every thought is simply random chance of randomly interacting particles of matter.  But random chance cannot be taken for truth.  Again, it just is. So what makes materialistic random material interactions more “true” than the material interactions leading to a trust in God?

Just because matter “is” it does not follow that nothing else can be.  Just because we can’t measure something directly doesn’t disprove its existence.  (Ask astronomers about Dark Energy and Dark Matter, or an archeologist about “deep” time!)   Nor does being able to study the physical stuff of my brain tell you what my inner-most thoughts are.  But that’s fine, because now you know!