Monday, June 30, 2008

Eckhart Tolle and the Death of Truth

It is insightful to recognize that Eckhart Tolle is a number one best-seller. Even now we can see him on the New York Times Best-Seller List in the Paperback Advice books for two books in a row, the number one and two book, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, who is dubbed a "spiritual teacher who is going to help end conflict and suffering," as well as The Power of Now, which is allegedly a guide to personal growth and spiritual enlightenment.

Eckhart Tolle is a man who believes that if you go deep enough in your religion then you will all get to the exact same place. In other words, all roads lead to the same destiny.

Do all religions lead to the same place? Before I answer that question, let me issue a warning. Anyone who answers in the negative may well be ostracized for being narrow-minded and intolerant. That being said, here's my answer: no. Not all religions lead to the same place. It is incorrect as well as illogical to maintain that they do.

When you begin to examine world religions, religions like Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism, you will immediately recognize that they directly contradict one another. Moses taught that there was one God. Krishna believed in many gods. Buddha was agnostic. Logically they can all be wrong, but they cannot all be right.

Not only that but the road of religion leads steeply uphill. The road of Christianity descends downward. What I mean by that is religion is fallen humanities attempt to reach up and become acceptable to God through what we do. Christianity, on the other hand, is a divine gift based on what Christ has done. He lived the perfect life that we could never live and He offers us His perfection as an absolutely free gift. Jesus taught that there was only one way to God. "I am the way and the truth and the life" said Jesus. "No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Tolle, who is promoted by people like Oprah Winfrey, says that all religions offer only glimpses of truth and no religion has total truth. In the final analysis his final arbiter of truth is subjective experience. As I've said many times on the broadcast, experiences are notoriously unreliable.

Eckhart Tolle says the moment you say "only my belief is true" and you deny other beliefs, then you've adopted an ideology.

That raises the question: What is truth? That was the very question Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ. In the irony of the ages he stood toe to toe with the personification of truth and yet he missed its reality. Unfortunately we today, as postmodern people, are in much the same position. We stare at truth but fail to recognize its identity. That's why people like Eckhart Tolle can deceive us. We have to recognize that truth, at its root, is an aspect of the nature of God. So if we're going to put on truth we've got to put on Christ, because Christ is truth and we, as Christians, are called to be the bearers of truth.

Christianity is not true because it works. It's not true because if feels right. It's not true because it's my truth. It's true because it's anchored in the Person and work of Jesus Christ who demonstrates that He is God - the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence - through His resurrection. Truth is anything that corresponds to reality. It doesn't yield to the size and strength of the latest lobby group. It's not a mere matter of preference or opinion. Truth is true even if everyone denies it, and a lie is a lie even if everyone affirms it. Truth is essential, as such, to a realistic worldview. When sophistry and sensationalism and superstition sabotaged truth our view of reality is seriously skewed.

The bottom line is that the death of truth spells the death of civilization.

Getting Into the Word of God

We should always underscore the reality of Scripture and its importance in the Christian life. The Bible not only forms the foundation of an effective prayer life, but it is foundational to every other aspect of Christian living. While prayer is our primary way of communicating with God, the Bible is God's primary way of communicating with us. Nothing should take precedence over getting into the Word of God and getting the Word of God into us. If we fail to eat well-balanced meals on a regular basis we'll eventually suffer the physical consequences, and what is true of the outer man - our physical body - is also true of the inner man. If we don't regularly feed on the Word of God we're going to suffer spiritual consequences. That's why Jesus said man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Great physical meals are one thing - great spiritual meals are quite another.

In fact, in the Legacy Study Bible I use the word MEALS as an acronym so that people can understand what it means to eat great spiritual meals from the Word of God. The M stands for memorization and meditation. The E stands for the examination of the Word of God. The A stands for the application of the Word of God. Wisdom is the application of knowledge as Jesus taught. The L stands for listening to God as He speaks to us from His Word and the S has to do with studying the Bible for all it's worth.

In examining Scripture it's typically best to start with one good translation and then stick to it. This will provide you with consistency as well as help you in the process of memorizing the Word of God.

In studying - and here's the contrast - it's best to use a number of good Bible translations. Since there are so many translations available today we are in a blessed time when there are many different translations that give us the range of meanings that are acceptable for words of phrases as they come from one language - either the Greek or the Hebrew or the Aramaic - into the receptor language, in our case English.

My exhortation today is to get into the Word of God and get the Word of God into you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Benny Hinn's False Prophecies

Over the past 15 years Benny Hinn, along with a lot of other Faith teachers, have continued to add to a list of spurious prophecies and pronouncements. Benny Hinn in particular. On October 19, 1999 he predicted that instead of burying the dead people around the world were going to line up caskets around television sets, place their hands on the dead, take those hands of the dead, place them on TV screens and then marvel as their loved ones arose from the dead. Here's how Hinn put it:
"But here's first what I see for TBN. You're going to have people raised from the dead watching this network. You're going to have people raised from the dead watching TBN....I'm telling you, I see this in the Spirit. It's going to be so awesome - Jesus I give you praise for this - that people around the world - maybe not so much in America - people around the world who will lose loved ones, will say to undertakers 'Not yet. I want to take my dead loved one and place him in front of that TV set for 24 hours'....I see rows of caskets lining up in front of this TV set and I see them bringing them closer to the TV set and as people are coming closer I see actually loved ones picking up the hands of the dead and letting them touch the screen and people are getting raised as their hands are touching that screen."
He made this prophecy back in 1999. This is rows of caskets, all kinds of people being raised from the dead, and to date there is not a single credible testimony of a single person watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network being raised from the dead. They might have died watching the program, but there's no evidence that they were raised from the dead.

Then on January 1st, 1990 Hinn attempted to delude his devotees into believing that God spoke to him and revealed the fate of Fidel Castro in Cuba as well as homosexuals in America. This is what he had to say about Fidel Castro:
The Spirit tells me Fidel Castro will die in the '90s. Oh, my! Some will try to kill him and they will not succeed, but there will come a change in his physical health and he will not stay in power and Cuba will be visited of God.
So we have three prophecies in the space of two sentences in terms of what is going to happen with Fidel Castro and what is going to happen in Cuba. What's particularly chilling about this - and this is what I want you to catch as you're listening to these clips - is Benny Hinn is not saying "This is my opinion." He is attributing this go God Himself. Remember, he started by saying "The Spirit has revealed to me." Not only did the Holy Spirit reveal to Benny Hinn that Castro would die in the 90s - which, of course, hasn't happened - but he also said that Almighty God revealed to him both the timing and the method through which homosexuals in America would be destroyed.
The Lord also tells me to tell you in the mid-90’s, about ’94, ’95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America. [Round of applause] But He will not destroy it with what many minds have thought Him to be. He will destroy it with fire. And many will turn and be saved, and many will rebel and be destroyed.
Again, Benny Hinn says "The Lord also tells me." In other words, God revealed this to him. Now, what I don't understand about that particular clip is the audience listening to Benny Hinn applauding when Benny Hinn says that God said that homosexuals would be destroyed. Why would you applaud that? Do we as Christians really want homosexuals to be destroyed? Is that what Christianity is all about? Or is Christianity about reaching people no matter what condition they are in?

In 1993 Hinn pontificated that because Jesus promised that He would return within a generation of Israel's restoration in 1948, and because a generation in his view was 51.4 years, only six years remained before Christ would come back to rapture the saints. Seven years later, on March 29th, 2000 he began predicting that Jesus would appear physically in his crusades. Again, according to Hinn, the Lord spoke to him. In fact, the Lord spoke to Hinn audibly, and the Word of the Lord came to him saying "Tell Benny I'm going to appear physically on the platform in his meetings." What is particularly noteworthy about this prophecy is that Hinn here was prophesying that Jesus, God's Son, was about to appear physically in meetings and that the supernatural appearances would take place in Nairobi, Kenya.
I believe - hear this, hear this - I believe that Jesus, God's Son, is about to appear physically in meetings and to believers around the world to wake us up. He appeared after His resurrection and He's about to appear before His second coming. You know, a prophetess sent me a word through my wife right here, and she said "Tell your husband that Jesus is going to physically appear in his meetings." I'm expecting to see - I'm telling you, I feel it's going to happen. I'm careful in how I'm saying it now, because I know that people in Kenya are listening. I know deep in my soul something supernatural is going to happen in Nairobi, Kenya. I feel that. I may very well come back - and you and Jan are coming. Paul and Jan are coming to Nairobi with me - But Paul we may very well come back with footage of Jesus on the platform….Now hear this - I'm prophesying this: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is about to appear physically in some churches and some meetings and to many of His people, for one reason - to tell you He's about to show up.
Now why did I say that this is worthy of particular note? It's because scarcely weeks before Hinn's prophecy a Florida newspaper drew attention to New Age guru Benjamin Crème's prediction that the second coming of Christ had taken place in Nairobi, Kenya. Florida Today reported that in a photograph utilized by Crème this dark-skinned, heavily bearded man in a white headdress and a white robe seemed to float above a crowd of worshippers at a healing service in Nairobi, Kenya. Florida Today not only noted the mass healings that allegedly took place but reported that even though Christians present firmly believe that Jesus Christ appeared to them that day, Crème held that Maitreya, the fifth and final incarnation of the Buddha, had materialized. Interesting.

In any case another eight years has gone since the prophet Hinn predicted that Jesus would appear physically in churches and crusades. We're now in 2008 and his prophecy remains unfulfilled.

One thing does not remain unfulfilled: the Apostle Peter predicted two thousand years ago "Jesus must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything."

Another thing that is being fulfilled today is that we are having a proliferation of false prophets like Benny Hinn with mega-platforms around the world seducing people with prophecies that fail. I just gave you half a dozen or so prophecies. They've all proven false. They're all sensationalistic. People fall for them because they don't know the Scriptures. They cannot discern between wheat and chaff and heat and light.

I want to underscore once again that this is why we exist as an organization. It is to make you so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon you'll know it instantaneously.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is Polygamy Biblical?

Polygamy has been in the news as a result of Warren Jeffs and the child custody case that's become so prevalent in the news. As a result a lot of people are asking questions about polygamy, questions like "Is this not consistent with what the founder of the Mormons taught?" and "Isn't there some kind of a precedent for polygamy in Scripture?"

The answer to the last question is no. The ideal pattern of monogamous marriage of one woman and one man was established early in Genesis. Remember the text that says "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh." This very passage was quoted by Jesus and Paul in defense of the sacredness and exclusivity of monogamous marriage.

Not only that, but the Bible explicitly condemns the polygamy of Old Testament kings. The New Testament, in like fashion, says that elders and deacons are called to be the husband of but one wife. Just as the requirements for church leaders set the standards of morality and maturity for all believers, so the admonition against polygamy for the kings of Israel demonstrates the danger of this kind of practice.

God's distain for polygamy is clear in its consequences. The Old Testament reveals the strife and the temptations that accompany this kind of practice. Of course Solomon is the quintessential example. His legacy of faithfulness was compromised because of his polygamous behavior. Despite world-renowned wisdom his peaceful, prosperous rule ended in scandal and civil strife. Why? The Bible is emphatic. It's because his wives turned his heart after other gods.

There is no standard in civilization, there is no context in the canon of God's Word, that gives any out for this kind of behavior. It simply is not sanctioned in Scripture. The fact that the Bible gives examples of people who defied His will is simply a way of saying that the Bible is not airbrushed. It provides reality in its naked deformity, with all its warts and moles and wrinkles. It tells it like it is. But the fact that the Bible has a narrative about something doesn't mean that the Bible sanctions it. You go to the didactic, the teaching portions of Scripture, you see very clearly that this is a behavior that leads to all kinds of problems. We see this now front and center in the news, and for people who want to take this as an opportunity to besmirch the Scripture, we need to be ready to give an answer and that, again, is the purpose of the ministry. It is to help you to become equipped so that you can give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within you, with gentleness and with respect.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Last December I found myself preparing to address several hundred pastors at a luncheon in San Diego, California. As I brought this matter to the Lord in prayer I became convinced that my subject should simply be titled "Rewards." While enduring rewards in eternity are not often the subject of contemporary sermons, they were a constant theme in the sermons of Christ.

As I pondered the theme of my monthly ministry letter I thought back to my message to those pastors in San Diego and decided to make the recording of my message, as well as well as a booklet titled "Rewards" available to those who regularly pray for and support the ministry of the Christian Research Institute. The more I think about this message the more I'm convinced of both its timeliness and timelessness. Indeed, it reflects the essence of my heart and the essence of this ministry. In increasingly difficult economic times it is so crucial that we raise our gaze from earthly vanities to eternal verities, to recognize afresh that what we do now counts for all eternity. In the end this message and the booklet is my way of saying thank you to thousands who regularly invest in our ministry - not for what they can get, but because they're so deeply committed to touching the lives of fellow human beings for time and for eternity.

A while ago on this broadcast there was a man whose name was Paul. He said he'd never gotten a straight answer to his questions on euthanasia. Anyone listening in that day recognizes that this was not just an academic exercise for Paul. He was suffering and entertaining the notion of perhaps ending it all. That's why he was asking about euthanasia. Through the medium of live radio I had an incredible opportunity to directly and personally minister to Paul in a matter of life and death. You can listen to this call at and as you do realize that this is just one of thousands of testimonies that are made possible by faithful friends like you. I say it often, but it bears repeating: only from the perspective of eternity will you fully realize how your sacrifice has been used for the extension of His kingdom. I love what Paul says in this regard. He said this to Christians at Colossae: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward."

All of that is my way of saying thank you for what you do to make this broadcast and this ministry a reality. Since moving from California we have faced some economic difficulties of our own. I've mentioned this to people on the radio and you are responding. We need you to continue responding so that we can remain strong.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Prayer - Back to Basics

Our goal at the Christian Research Institute is to get people back to basics. That may sound mundane but it is so important for you to experience the reality of a relationship with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I've had the experience numerous times now - and every time it was a struggle - as my children began to outgrow their diapers I'd try to talk them into leaving the kiddy pool and launching out into the deep. For them the kiddies pool was all there was and ever would be. That is, of course, until they experienced the deep. Once they learned how to swim in the ocean they forever lost their appetite for shallow water.

As I led each one of my children into an experience with the vastness of the ocean Jesus led His disciples out of the shallow tide-pools of prayer into an ever-deepening relationship with their heavenly Father. Let's look at a couple of practical guidelines for diving into the deep.

The first one is this: make the paradigm shift. Stop seeing prayer as merely a means of obtaining your requests. Start seeing prayer as a means of enjoying the riches of a fellowship with God.

The second thing is that you ought to confess your sins daily and ask for forgiveness. Every single prayer - including the prayer of Jesus, which is the Lord's Prayer, which I happen to pray every single morning in my secret place - will bounce right off the ceiling if there's unforgiveness in your heart. That is precisely why Jesus ended His public sermon on prayer by saying "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you don't forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Here's another point. Get into the Bible and get the Bible into you. God's will is revealed in His Word. The only way you can know His will is to know His Word. The more we meditate upon God's Word the clearer His voice will be as daily we commune with Him in prayer.

I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating: discover your secret place. The secret to prayer is secret prayer. Your public presence is a direct reflection of your private prayer life. If you spend time in the secret place you will exude peace in the midst of life's storms. If you do not you're going to be a poster child for busianity rather than for Christianity.

One more point: make prayer a priority. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Jesus said "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice (or applies them) is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." My experience in teaching memory for over two decades now demonstrates that if you faithfully practice a new discipline for 21 days it may well stay with you for the rest of your life. So make prayer a priority. Don't let the business of life crowd it out. Start building a habit.

A lot of people overdo things. They say "Okay, I'm going to start to pray. I haven't done it before. Hank has talked to me on the air about it. I'm going to do it tomorrow" and the first thing they do is make mistake number one and they try to set aside an hour and then they can't keep up with the process. What I'm suggesting is that you bite off a small chunk and get in the habit. And then involvement will produce commitment, because after a while you will not be able to imagine a day without fellowship with Jesus Christ, and that fellowship will grow ever sweeter as you spend time communing with Him.

If you do not eat meals on a regular basis you are going to suffer the consequences. In the same sense, if you do not pray on a regular basis you will suffer spiritual consequences. It's as simple as that. So get back to basics because that's where the real experience is.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Secret to Effective Prayer

Everybody wants to know the secret to something. Golfers want to know the secret to playing golf like Tiger Woods. I know I do. Investors want to know the secret to making a fortune on Wall Street. Parents want to know the secret to raising healthy, happy kids. And Christians desperately want to know the secret to effective prayer. So what is that secret? The secret was provided by Jesus Christ. Doctor Luke points out the Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. He wasn't like the religious leaders of the day. Jesus didn't pray to be seen by men. He prayed because He treasured fellowship with His heavenly Father. Hypocrites, on the other hand, gain their reward through public prayer. They may be perceived by the world as being spiritual giants but by the time they're finished they will have received everything they'll every get - their prayers' worth and nothing more.

Another secret is to recognize the connection between prayer and meditation, and I think this is so crucial that we should mark this forever on the canvas of our hearts because prayers are only as inspired as our intake of Scripture. Scripture feeds meditation, meditation gives food to our prayers and allows us to more naturally transition into meaningful prayer.

One other thing I'll say about prayer. To discover your secret place is a great place to start in terms of the secret to prayer. It's a place where you can drowned out the static of the world and hear the voice of your heavenly Father. Of course the issue is not the particular location, but the motivation. We're all unique, so your secret place will no doubt be different from mine. The point is we all desperately need a place away from the invasive sounds of the world so that we can hear the sounds of another place and ultimately the sound of another voice.

When I memorized the Sermon on the Mount, one of the most beautiful sermons ever preached, glorious in every way, I remember when I was taking these words and internalizing them: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Now this doesn't mean you can't pray publicly. It means that your motivation has to be in the right place. It's not to be seen by men. It's to genuinely communicate with the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cyclone in Myanmar

I was looking at the statistics in terms of death and people who are homeless as a result of the cyclone that hit Burma a while ago - Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is in southeast Asia, bordered by India, China and Thailand. Deaths now are estimated at over 100,000 and over 2 million homeless.

I was considering these statistics in light of a quote I read by Bart Ehrman. He's the Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He said that "The problem of suffering is ultimately the reason I lost my faith."

I was thinking about that because God certainly could have, in an Ehrman world, created a context that had absolutely no suffering. But had He done so it would also have been a world without freedom. We must ever be mindful of the fact that while our Creator made natural and moral evil possible by granting us freedom, it was humanity, it was men and women, that actualized that evil. In other words, we can't put this at the Master's feet. We have to realize that the fingers point back at us. It might be popular today to refer to the cyclone devastation as unthinkable, but the history of humanity graphically demonstrates that there is virtually no limit to the possibilities of disease and disaster and death. The cyclone reminds us that this world is groaning in travail. But the Gospel equally reminds us that creation will yet be liberated.

Paul puts it this way: "One day creation itself will be liberated itself from its bondage to decay." This liberation begins with the conquest of the cross but it will be completed at Christ's Second Coming. As Christ's conquest assures our bodily resurrection we must ever remember that His conquest also ensures the resurrection of this cosmos. Those in the cyclone who die in Christ will experience the new heaven and the new earth as both a physical place in creation as well as a personal experience and existence with the Creator. "The dwelling of God is with men," said John, "and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain, for the old order of things" - cyclones and hurricanes and earthquakes - "will have passed away." And then God Himself said "I am making everything new."

It is my prayer that these images of devastation that we see on television and on the web will arouse us from lethargy and engage us to give water and food to those in need and then to use the testimony of our love and the testimony of our lives as an ultimate witness which will lead us to give them the bread and the water of life so that they truly, as Jesus put it, will never hunger and thirst again.

The worst thing that can happen is not to die young. The worst thing that can happen is to live a long, robust life and then to forever be separated from the love and grace of the One who knit us together in our mother's wombs. Ultimately, when we see things like this cyclone - things that we simply cannot cope with - we can have hope in the midst of the devastation because we believe that like the resurrected body God will resurrect this universe. That's the hope of the believer and I would say that without that there is no hope. Christianity does not give us a peaceful way to come to terms with death and suffering. It gives us something far greater - a way to overcome it through the power of resurrection. That is a hope that you and I as Christians are called to communicate to a searching world. This becomes just one more opportunity to be a witness in the midst of tragedy, to point people beyond the suffering to the hope, to the words of Job who said "Though He slay me, yet will I hope, or yet will I trust in Him." God has given us evidence that He is trustworthy and that we can look forward to a bright tomorrow. Paradise lost will one day, indeed, become Paradise restored.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Judaism

I along with my son Hank Jr., and two of his friends, Caleb and Mike went to Temple Israel in Charlotte, NC a few weeks back. We went to a Conservative Judaism service which lasted for about two hours. My son and his friends were doing a report for school on Judaism and he wanted to understand how it works, so we went to a particular congregation and spent two hours there. I thought it would be interesting to write to you about Judaism because a lot of people think Judaism is a monolith. In reality, it's multifaceted. Judaism finds its genesis in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but its modern day expression is largely a function of the destruction of the temple in AD 70. As such, Judaism finds expression in Torah study rather than temple sacrifice.

There are three main branches today, the Orthodox branch, the Reform branch and the Conservative branch. We were at a Conservative service. The Orthodox Judaism branch or Torah Judaism branch is best known for a strict dedication to the eternal and unalterable Mosaic law as reinterpreted by rabbis subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem. They believe that only through devotion to a complex code of Jewish law can you experience nearness to God. Orthodox Jews are awaiting a rebuilt temple much like many fundamentalist Christians are. They believe a Jewish Messiah will restore the kingdom to Israel and they believe in the physical resurrection of the dead.

Unlike Orthodox Judaism, you have Reform Judaism. It's a liberal movement within Judaism and it begins with the freedom to decide what law you're going to observe. In other words, human autonomy trumps the authority of Jewish law. This is a movement that arose in the 18th century and it's trying to adapt itself to modern world pressures because they want to preserve Jewish identity. So the Reform Judaism movement is always reforming itself and it's always trying to say "Here is a way of making the postmodern experience important to the modern Jew."

And then you have the Conservative Judaism that I wrote about earlier. It's a late 19th century reaction to the liberal tendencies that were inherent in Reform Judaism, and as such Conservative Judaism tries to find a middle way between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. On the one hand the adherents embrace modern culture. On the other hand they observe Jewish laws and customs without the fundamentalist fervor of the Orthodox movement.

We had the most incredible experience in being in the service because during the service there was a man who gave a talk on how they are trying to reconcile the lesbianism and homosexuality which has come into the Conservative movement in terms of rabbis and sanctioning same-sex relationships. They were saying that "on the one hand Levitical law or Torah law seems to speak out against this. On the other hand, modernity is accepting this, so what do we do? Well, we recognize that the law has all kinds of interpretations - where you have four lawyers you're going to have ten opinions - so maybe we've misunderstood the Levitical law or Mosaic law with respect to homosexuality, and so we have to rethink this."

That speaks to the middle ground that they're trying to forge at this time. So I thought this was very indicative and instructive to my kids as they were listening in on this service to try to understand what's happening within this movement as they seek to adapt to modern culture.

Then we also had the experience of sitting right next to a professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a wonderful lady who engaged us in conversation afterwards and we were able to find out a lot about what their views were, on a geopolitical level, for example. Do they hold to a two-state solution in the Middle East or do they want a one-state solution? It was very instruction to me to hear her as well as the rabbi talk about how they were very committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East and they were even trying to bring together Jews and Palestinians so that they could form some basis of commonality and express their feelings for wanting to exist in harmony, one with another.

So it was a very entertaining, educational experience for us, and I think what we want to do is understand where modern-day Jews are coming from so that we can use their deviations from the historic Christian faith as springboards or opportunities for reaching them with the good news of the Gospel. We need to continue learning and developing and growing so that we can be evermore effective witnesses. At the end of the day people are people. Mary Margaret pointed that out to me. She said "I'm not a Jew in the sense of my DNA. Obviously, my name should tell you that. But I am a Jew because I accept the traditions of Conservative Judaism and embrace them and believe in them." So this had nothing whatsoever to do with some kind of heritage or her saying she could link her history back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She was very open to discussion and we talked about a lot of things including their beliefs on what eternal life is all about, who the Messiah is, what heaven will be like, and so forth. When you engage in these interactions they don't have to be antagonistic, but they can be done with gentleness and respect and we can use the opportunities to learn ourselves so that we can become more effective witnesses.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Barack Obama on When Life Begins and Partial Birth Abortion

I'd like to talk about something that happened on CNN, the Democratic Candidates Compassion Forum, where Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, asked Senator Obama and Senator Clinton questions. These questions are issues that we deal with frequently on the Bible Answer Man broadcast. Questions about the problem of evil and suffering. Questions about the end of life and whether euthanasia is ever permissible. Questions about the origin of life. Questions such as when life begins and what is an embryo. Is an embryo something that has potential life or does all life begin at conception?

Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, asked this question to Barack Obama and he said in essence "I don't know if life begins at conception." This is what he said:

Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek: Senator, do you personally believe that life begins at conception? And if not, when does it begin?
Barack Obama: This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it's very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don't presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I've said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates. (Democratic Candidates Compassion Forum, CNN, April 13, 2008)
The last thing that he said was particularly interesting. He used the phrase "potential life" and he went on to say there is something extraordinarily powerful about this potential life and that this power has to do with the moral weight that the issue would have if this has life, if this is, in fact, a human being from the moment of conception. So he understands the issue.

By the way, this is a guy who was the head of the Harvard Law Review, educated at Harvard. So this isn't your average guy. This isn't the first time he's thought about these issues. It seems to me that his answer is a typical political answer - it's big on rhetoric, small on reason, and even smaller on logic.

Of course life begins at conception. What is it if it's not living? The zygote, the conceptus, the embryo, fulfills the criteria needed to establish the existence of biological life. It has metabolism, development, the ability to react to stimuli and cell reproduction. That's why taking the life of an embryo is terminating the life of the embryo, which is killing. While it's true that everyone is born and conceived in sin, according to the Christian worldview, preborn children are innocent because they have done nothing to deserve capital punishment. They deserve, instead, protection.

What Obama is unwilling to embrace is the full human potential of the embryo. He wants to hide behind the phrase "potential life." The reality is the living baby in the mother's womb is a human being. The child is the product of human parents, has a totally distinct human genetic code. If Barack Obama was living in the 19th century, give him a pass. But he's not living in the 19th century - he's living in an age of scientific enlightenment and he should know what someone from the school in which he was educated knew, namely Dr. Mathews-Roth, a principal research associate at Harvard Medical Schools Department of Medicine, who may have been saying this when he was being educated there"

"It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception, when egg and sperm join to form the zygote, and this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of its life."

Therefore, if you're Barack Obama you cannot discriminate. You can't decide "I'm Barack Obama. I'm going to decide that I can take that life, and it's perfectly okay to take that life when it's 10 minutes old or it's 10 days old or when it's 8 months old" or, in his case he cannot decide that it's okay to kill that baby in the most ghastly of all experiments, partial birth abortion, of which he is in favor.

Now think about this for a moment. I have a lot of children. I have seen my children being born and it's one of the most awesome experiences any human being will ever have, to see one human being come out of the other. It has always reduced me to tears. But what is even more tearful - and my tears were tears of joy. These are tears of pain - is to imagine that we have a politician who is saying it is okay to kill that child. Remember, in partial-birth abortion I don't think there's a whole lot of mystery to it. The only difference is a difference of location. In other words, it's okay in his view to kill the child, to terminate it, execute it, if it's partially born. But if it's fully born, well he would probably be crying for the death penalty for anybody who did this, or certainly think it was a horrendous act, at best.

Imagine this - think with me for a moment - what is the difference between that child two minutes before the umbilical cord is severed and afterwards? Is there any difference? If you've ever seen a birth you know there is no difference. And yet he is for partial-birth abortion.

Dr. Hymie Gordon is a professor of Medical Genetics and a physician at the prestigious Mayo Clinic. He summarized the perspective of science, and I think he did it well when he said "I think we can now also say that the question of the beginning of life — when life begins — is no longer a question for theological or philosophical dispute. It is an established scientific fact. Theologians and philosophers" - and I would add politicians - "may go on to debate the meaning of life or purpose of life, but it is an established fact that all life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception."

I would add that since science has demonstrated that a pre-born child is human, and since all human beings have transcendent value, it follows that taking the life of an innocent human being through abortion is unthinkable. Remember when this is debated on television that you, as a Christian, ought to be armed with the ammunition, because the questions are now coming up, they're being dealt with, they're being discussed, and you shouldn't be in the dark. You should know you didn't come from an embryo - you once were an embryo, and that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world. So we should be listening to these debates with Christian ears, Ears of Christians in an age of scientific enlightenment, the ears of Christians who know how to take these kinds of issues and use them as springboards or opportunities for communicating a Christian worldview. We should to this with power and passion because we're talking about life. The life issues are significant. Are they the only issues? No. But they are significant.

In fairness, I could have reported Senator Clinton's remarks, because she deals with the life issue as well. Or we could play John McCain's remarks. The point isn't to isolate a politician but to point out the ghastly reality that these people are getting a pass when they are standing for some of the most ghastly things imaginable in human civilization. Partial birth abortion is unthinkable. Even if you think it's okay to terminate a zygote, the very notion of terminating a child that's just about to emerge into a world that God created for them is unthinkable. It's simply ghastly and it should never be permitted in a civilized society. At least that's one issue we've made some progress on in the last eight years. We didn't make much progress on the life issues but that's one place where we made progress, and yet Obama is still in a backward condition on this particular issue.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Population Boom and Global Warming

I was reading an article written for USA Today by Oliver "Buzz" Thomas. He's a Baptist minister who wrote a book titled Ten Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You But Can't Because He Needs the Job. One of the things your minister wants to tell you - in fact, one of the things that this Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, Baptist minister, thinks that your pastor should tell you, and tell you with an exclamation point, is that you should stop having so many children. Having more than two children, in his view, is selfish and sinful. He actually uses the words in this article titled "Might Our Religion Be Killing Us?" Maybe he should be telling my wife Kathy who wanted twelve, and we're now taking care of twelve children. We have nine natural children. We're taking care of twelve children. One of our children died preborn. I guess he would be telling me that I'm sinful and selfish because I'm having so many children. The reason is when I have as many children as I do, in the view of this Baptist minister, I am consuming rather than producing. In other words it's irresponsible to have that many consumers. Of course, there's a reverse argument here and that is it may be that my children will become producers that will help other people consume.

The bottom line is that he is trotting out the tired old canard that there is a population bomb waiting to go off. Is that really true? Even if there are six billion people on the planet as I speak - and we can't always trust the census. They're wrong a lot of the time. I've look at some statistics with respect to Nigeria for example, which shows that the census showed that the numbers they were communicating with respect to Nigeria were flat wrong, and not just small on a small basis but wrong on a macro basis. But let's say there are six billion people today on the planet. Six billion people could comfortably fit in a land mass that's not a whole lot larger than Texas.

So the number of people is not the problem. If there's a problem at all it might be that these people are concentrated in a relatively small geographic area. Case in point - Egypt. I think the latest numbers are that there are about 82,000,000 people in Egypt and they live in a few crowded cities on the bank of the Nile which comprises about 3.5% of Egypt's total land mass. So the problem here is not that there are too many people but that they're crowded in small geographic areas.

I think if there is one thing that we have learned in an age of scientific enlightenment is that our planet's resources are diverse and abundant. It takes creativity and hard work to tap and distribute the earth's resources. Even though Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is saying that I am sinful and selfish by having a lot of children, imagine the fact that my children may actually work towards the solution to what he thinks is the problem through creativity and hard work.

My son was just honored as part of the National Honor Society and I believe that he is going to be someone who is the solution rather than the problem. I think I could say that about all my kids. But I should get a lecture from my pastor, according to this Baptist minister, on the fact that I have too many kids. My pastor should look me in the eye and say I'm selfish and sinful.

Biblically children are a blessing, not a blight. If you look at the statistics, countries that have zero population growth also oftentimes have very little economic growth. I think people like Oliver "Buzz" Thomas - by the way, this is an enlightened man. He's a Baptist minister, a lawyer, an author - he should not be bemoaning the population bomb and global warming, and this article has a lot to say about that as well. He should have his eye on the right ball. Instead of these kinds of people touting the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which would cost the worldwide economy somewhere between 10 and 50 trillion dollars, he should be looking at the fact that for $200 billion every person on the planet could have clean water. By having your eye on the wrong ball, by not understanding what the real problems are, by buying uncritically into politicized science, you are irresponsibly denigrating poor people.

These kinds of pastors - and I've had a lot of experience with them - were the same ones that were chastising me when I said that Y2K wasn't going to be a problem, because these same kinds of pastors don't do their homework. They rely on sophistry and sloppy journalism and sensationalism and they make extrapolations that simply don't pan out.

How many of you can remember back to the late '70s when people were saying - and a lot of pastors joined the chorus of voices - saying that we were about to enter a new ice age, and then making all kinds of extrapolations? People like Ted Turner. If you ever want to meet a closed-minded man, there's one example. He believes that in 30, 40, 50 years we're all going to be eating each other as cannibals. Again, it's because of extrapolations that simply do not bear out in reality.

This, by the way, is a subject I'm addressing right here, albeit extemporaneously, because we, as Christians, need discernment skills. Our leaders, unfortunately, now have a place at the table. They're writing in USA Today. The kinds of things that they are saying are not only bizarre, but unconscionable. It is simply incredible to read his extrapolations. He writes that "hundreds of scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned recently that the environmental crisis is more dire than originally believed. We might have reached a tipping point. Even if we stop producing harmful greenhouse gases immediately, temperatures could continue to rise and ocean levels along with them for the next 1,000 years. How much?" Well, maybe "11 degrees this century." And the oceans are going to rise nearly two feet. And that, he says, is a conservative prediction.

These are the same kinds of people who were telling you to buy freeze-dried food and making a fortune on generators and telling people to leave the cities and move out into the country. We, as Christians, need discernment skills so that we can discern between wheat and chaff, heat and light.

By the way, with respect to global warming, I had Jay Richards on this broadcast and the CDs are available (Click Here). If you want to find out more about global warming and what the real issues are and how to use discernment skills as a Christian to address the real issues, you need to get those CDs. Some of the best things we've ever produced on this broadcast.

Am I going against the grain? Yes, I am, and Baptist ministers like this were telling the world "Hank Hanegraaff is going to have the blood of millions of people on his hands because he's causing complacency within the body of Christ with respect to Y2K." They were cashing in, and then right after the year 2000 they were silent. There were no refunds from these ministers or ministries and they didn't offer to buy back the freeze-dried food.

Discernment. Stick that word in your vocabulary. You will need it because we in the Christian church have become so biblically illiterate and have such little comprehension of what it means to have a biblical worldview, that if you don't have discernment skills you're going to be slapped around by every wind and wave in the culture and even within Christianity.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Just a note about a movie I saw this weekend. I actually didn't want to go and see the movie because it has been broadly disparaged as being inept and ridiculous and unintelligent. In fact, one commentator said that there's not a shred of intelligence on display in this just-released documentary.

Well, the documentary I'm talking about is the movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" by Ben Stein. I was kind of surprised, quite frankly, that this movie was disparaged, knowing that Ben Stein is a trained lawyer, a political speech writer, formidable wit. He's a credible actor. And so I was wondering how this Jewish actor would do such a horribly lamentable job in this documentary. Long story short, I was telling my kids - two of them, Paul Steven and Christina, who wanted me to go see the movie with them. I really didn't want to go see the movie and they just begged and begged and I was tired and I said I really didn't want to go, but they persisted, and I finally went.

After I saw the movie I said it may well be the most significant movie that I have seen in my lifetime. The implications, if you watch the movie thoughtfully and carefully, are world-changing. In other words, we have in our epic of time bought in to a position on the basis of "science" which is more tantamount to brainwashing. Which is to say, if you adduce all of the information on one side of the ledger and you repress all the information on the other side of the ledger, that, by definition, is not education.

Richard Dawkins is prominently displayed in this piece. He's a Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, arguably the best known Darwinist on the planet, and says that those who do not believe in evolution are ignorant, stupid or insane. But if you see him in this documentary you wonder whether or not those words might actually apply to his positions.

When he's asked about the origin of life I have never seen anyone who supposedly is an expert on the subject more tongue-tied. He simply doesn't know what to say except that maybe life emerged on planet earth as a result of extraterrestrials, which, of course, must mean that life did come from some sort of intelligent design. Of course he doesn't recognize that he actually spoke in favor of intelligent design while disparaging it.

I think in light of this you will see that rhetoric and emotional stereotypes are winning the day in the arguments against intelligent design. I think that the day should be won through reason and empirical science, not rhetoric, because worldview clearly is driving the science rather than the science driving the worldview. ID proponents are willing to follow scientific evidence wherever that scientific evidence leads. They neither presuppose nor preclude supernatural explanations for the phenomena that they encounter in an information-rich universe. As such the ID movement rightly practices what I like to call open-minded science - let the evidence lead wherever it may. Not only that, but ID begins with the common scientific principle that intelligent design is detectible wherever there's specified, organized complexity. In other words, wherever there's information. And when applied to information-rich DNA, irreducibly complex biochemical systems, as well as the fact that the earth is perfectly situated in the Milky Way for both life and scientific discovery in the first place, the existence of an intelligent Designer is the most plausible scientific explanation, period. Although it's conclusions are not worldview neutral, the intelligent design movement lends no more support to Christian theism than Darwinian evolution lends to atheism.

So I'd say this: the appropriateness of the intelligent design movement for public education ought to be judged on the basis of the theory's explanatory power, not on its metaphysical implications. Unfortunately, those who even mention the words "intelligent design" today in academic situations, contexts, pay a huge price. If you watch this documentary - and I would recommend that everybody does. I have now made it must-seeing for all of my kids. I'll tell you what - you better be ready when you see this with your kids or see it by yourself, to really think credibly and clearly through the issues involved.

I went to see the movie quite late with my kids, and late became later and then later because they wouldn't stop talking about it. They asked me question after question after question, and in the end my kids are more grounded in their beliefs than they were prior to seeing the documentary, and they were pretty grounded to start with. In other words, answers to questions that are being asked in our culture, if there are satisfying answers to questions that are being asked, only serve to solidify your faith and make you a more capable witness.

One of my daughters, the daughter that went to see the movie with me on Saturday, Christina, was quickly on the phone speaking to some of her skeptic friends, using this as an opportunity. She kept running back to ask "Dad, what do I say now?" But she was going through the process of being equipped, and what happened as a result of that will serve her for a lifetime, and that's the point of the Bible Answer Man. We are seeking to demonstrate that the Christian faith is reasonable, that it stands up under scrutiny. Even though Ben Stein is not a believer in the historic Christian faith, what he did was a credible job of exposing error, separating between wheat and chaff, heat and light. I take my hat off to him. This was a brilliant piece, and if you go see it I can't wait to talk to some of you about the piece in which he has Richard Dawkins on the hot seat. It's amazing. You've got to see it for yourself to believe it. This, I hope, is a movie that doesn't just come and go, but a movie that starts breaking down the Berlin Wall. That wall should be crumbling and falling and you should have a part in bringing it down.