Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thought Police

Many of you would have heard of the "Intelligent Design" movement. This is made up of a group of scientists and academics who have become convinced through their research that our universe had to have come as a result of design. Intelligent design is the assertion that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

This movement has grown to include a number of high profile scientists and experts in their fields but has been the source of a great deal of controversy. Many of these academics have been surprised by the negative reaction that they have received from others in the scientific and academic community. The obvious message is that no theory other than evolution is allowed. Sound crazy? Look at the evidence.

There are many examples - here are just a few. Biologist Carolyn Crocker was banned from teaching evolution at George Mason University after mentioning intelligent design. We also saw evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg demoted by the Smithsonian Institute after he approved an article that supported intelligent design.

One of the latest was Guillermo Gonzalez. Last month, Gonzalez, assistant professor of astronomy and physics at Iowa State University, was denied tenure. Apparently his crime was that he believed something other than Darwinism.

His credentials are impeccable. Iowa State requires its faculty to publish fifteen peer-reviewed articles in order to qualify for tenure. Gonzalez has submitted sixty-eight. On top of that, Gonzalez's ground-breaking research in astronomy has led to the discovery of two new planets.

However, on his own time he has written a book and produced a DVD called Privileged Planet in which he gives evidence to demonstrate that the Earth is uniquely situated to sustain life. As Charles Colson summarizes: "Random chance cannot explain the alignment of all of these conditions, such as the optimal distance from the right kind of star, plate tectonics, the size of a moon that can stabilize itself on its axis, the shielding presence of larger planets nearby, the right amount of oxygen and water . . . just to name a few."

Since the release of his documentary over 400 faculty members of Universities across Iowa have signed a petition opposed to the teaching of Intelligent Design as science. It doesn't seem to matter that Gonzalez has never taught on Intelligent Design in the classroom. His crime is simply believing it - and this was enough to cost him his tenure at the University. So much for academic freedom.

It makes me even more convinced that Phillip Johnson of Berkeley University is right. The rules of science have changed in such a way as to automatically reject any theory other than the prevailing theory of evolution, despite the lack of evidence. The reasoning goes like this: Darwinists assume that the history of the universe and life itself must have a purely naturalistic explanation, which they call science; because God is supernatural, any reference to a Deity's role in creating is religious, and therefore not scientific. Add to this the fact that science never discards a theory until a more plausible one is found and we understand why evolution is still being taught in spite of evidence to the contrary.

As Johnson wrote in his book Objection Sustained: "If science has exclusive authority to tell us how life was created, and if science is committed to naturalism, and if science never discards a paradigm until it is presented with an acceptable naturalistic alternative, then Darwin's position is impregnable within science."

There's a new name for this - it's called scientism, and it means the religion of science. It is no longer solely about the evidence. It begins with the statement that all life has evolved from non-life through purely naturalistic means. This is as much a faith statement as the Christian's belief that all life was created by God. Only one of these faith claims is allowed on University campuses so, if you're not a Darwinist, look out for the thought police!

Friday, May 18, 2007

2007 March for Life Ottawa

This is a video from this year's Pro-Life march in Ottawa on May 10. It was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media, but there were a record 7,000 in attendance. The media coverage came a couple of days later when an NDP MP wanted organizers charged because somebody had made up two signs which inadvertently used a copyrighted Canada Flag logo. Aren't we glad our national media are on the job?

2007 March for Life Ottawa Follow-up

Where do we stand in Canada on abortion? Believe it or not, Canada is the only democratic nation in the world without a law governing abortion. Read this article by London Free Press writer Rory Leishman.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What's Your Integrity Worth?

I was watching the season finale of Survivor tonight. It was interesting watching the different scenarios play out. A couple of weeks ago Yao won a truck but surprisingly gave it to Dreamz, in a deal that would have seen Dreamz give Yao immunity into the final three. Dreamz was the only one of the survivors who did not own a vehicle.

Yao followed through on his part of the deal and Dreamz made all of the right noises about doing the right thing. He said that he would follow through because he wanted to show his young son that being a man meant keeping your word.

You could see the tension on Dreamz' face as the moment of truth arrived. He was wrestling with keeping his word and giving up a shot at a million dollars, or breaking his word and losing his integrity. I was genuinely surprised that he chose to betray Yao and go back on his promise.

There was obviously a great deal of inner turmoil going on with Dreamz - it showed on his face. He looked like he was almost in tears. Later that night he continuously tried to justify himself to the group, but it seemed as though he was trying to convince himself that what he did was right.

Sadly, this contest revealed who he really was. Here's the question for all of us - what would we be willing to do for a million dollars? How do you look at your son and try to explain that sometimes it's okay to cheat and lie? One thing about money - as the Bible says, "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

Friday, May 11, 2007

The "A" Word

Today, in Ottawa, thousands of people will March in the annual "March For Life" in a peaceful demonstration against abortion. You likely won't hear about it in the mainstream media because they seem to have a policy of ignoring any pro-life event. This fact was brought up in an article on the front page of the National Post last week.
I bring this up today because I think it says a great deal about us as a society. Many consider it one of our finer qualities as a nation that we have made tolerance the virtue. I'm not one of those.
First of all, we've lost the original meaning of the word. Tolerance has come to mean the blind acceptance and promotion of ideas and opinions. The Webster's dictionary definition for "tolerate" is "To put up with; to suffer to be, or to be practiced or done, without prohibition or hindrance."
In a free society, there was a recognition that there would be disagreements, we would tolerate, or put up with, the differences between ourselves and others, while maintaining the right to respectfully disagree. That is what we have lost in Canada - the right to disagree without being labelled as some kind of nutcase.
A case in point is the abortion debate. Far from being settled, it rather remains a serious point of contention for Canadians, with a large percentage of the population at odds with the current state of affairs. Yet it is rarely covered in the media, unless a pro-abortionist is doing the talking. There is no public debate because we don't want to deal with it, and we somehow think we should applaud ourselves for this?
It's the same with religion in Canada. Secular-humanist thought has a virtual monopoly in our media and in our school systems and we're all fine with that, buying the mantra that religion should be kept private. But we forget that secular humanism is also a religion. Its worldview makes just as many faith claims as any of the more widely recognized religions. It has positions on origins, meaning, morality and destiny, the basic frameworks of any worldview. What we forget is that ideas have consequences. There is a profound, and I believe negative, impact on our children to deprive them of a solid Judeo-Christian foundation, especially given the historical significance in Canada.
What I argue for is a re-opening of the debate in Canada. Let's stop preaching to each other and start talking to each other. The place to start may be with the whole idea of truth itself. If all truth is relative then what are we really talking about? The fact is, some things are true and some things are false. The law of non-contradiction states that "one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time". In other words, two opposite statements about the same thing cannot be true at the same time.
We have a ridiculous belief in Canada that we can all believe different things about the same thing and we can all be right. Or another, similar, fallacy, that as long as we're sincere we can believe anything we want. Sorry, but that's just stupid. Believing you're taking tylenol while you're in fact taking cyanide tablets will not make you feel better, it will kill you - even if you're sincere. It's the same with ideas. The wrong idea will lead you to the wrong conclusion.
Let's re-open the debate.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Modern-day Martyrs in Turkey

This was sent to me by friends in Greece. This story, while well-known, has not been covered much in the mainstream media. It was originally written the last week of April. I hope it gives you something to think about. What would you be willing to risk your life for?
A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna:

This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch.

On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, "Goodbye, son. I love you."

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honour from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord's presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as "seekers." No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts?

Today we only have the beginning of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of "faithful believers" in Islam.

Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it's like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o'clock.

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. Neighbours in workplaces near the print house said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.

Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. "We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there," he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone's background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, "Police, open up!" Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.

Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur's throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targeted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public's attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to "buy their children's souls". Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favour of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, "We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here."

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favour of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, "he will serve time for Allah."

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honoured God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that "it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian." In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.

Necati's funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati's funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati's wife Shemsa told the world, "His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ. Necati was a gift from God. I feel honoured that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honour. I want to be worthy of that honour."

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati's funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. "Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do," she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, "She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do."

The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city.
The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also."(Acts 17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. "Don't pray against persecution, pray for perseverence," urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya .all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.

Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Saviour. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.

We don't know the details. We don't know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.

But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek(24 April 2007)
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
- Matt 5:3-9

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Problem of Pain

I'm going to be speaking on this subject shortly so I thought I'd share a few thoughts in advance. This problem seems to be a "sticking point" for many people in their search for God. The question is often phrased something like this: "If God is so good, why did this happen to me?" It was apparently the question of pain that kept Albert Einstein from believing in the God of Christianity. Is there a good answer?

There's not an easy answer, but let's explore it for a minute. In the first place, let's try to put some boxes around the discussion. When we think of pain, we're not talking about inconvenience; we're speaking of the real bad stuff, like cancer, and child abuse, and mass murder. If there is a God, and if He is all-powerful, why would He allow cancer to invade someone's body; why would He allow a sexual predator to defile a child; why would He allow a serial killer to go on a rampage. The argument of some would be that either God is not good (that He is in fact, evil), or that He is not all-powerful, or that He doesn't exist.

What answers does the Bible give?

It begins with the creation story, which was concluded with God's pronouncement that everything He made was "very good." His final act of creation was humanity, into whom He breathed "the breath of life, and man became a living soul." He created us in His own image, which infers a number of things. One of the characteristics of humans is that we were created with a will. We have been described as "free moral agents." What this means is that, while we were created to love God, we can choose not to; while we were created for relationship with God, we can choose to reject Him.

This is, in fact, what the Bible teaches us occurred with our original parents. Rather than remain in relationship with God they chose to rebel against His authority. The consequences of that action had been spelled out in advance: death and decay entered the world. The fallen angel, Lucifer, usurped man's position and claimed a place of power in the world. Jesus called him "the prince of this world." Succeeding generations would no longer be born into innocence, but inherited a "sin nature" from our first parents.

The world quickly changed, violence has been a part of human civilization ever since. Sin has been a universal bane on our existence. The Biblical teaching is that the origin of sin, pain and death was man's first disobedience. Which leads to the second question: why hasn't God dealt with it?

What this suggestion usually implies is that God somehow separate the good people from the bad people. But, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in ‘One word of truth’, his Nobel address: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart.”

So God chose, rather, the more difficult task of redemption. This culminated in the death of Jesus Christ - God in the flesh - as a sacrifice for our sin. Christ's death on the cross was an identification with the sin of man. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:24: "Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God's approval. His wounds have healed you." (GWT)

Further, God promises that ultimately He will judge evil and will renew this world. So, why does He wait? Again in 2 Peter 3:9 it says: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his word, as he seems to some, but he is waiting in mercy for you, not desiring the destruction of any, but that all may be turned from their evil ways."

So, according to the Bible, God's answer to the suffering brought into the world was to enter into it with us and bear the full weight of it Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffers with the innocent, and He also suffers for the guilty. His desire is reconciliation with the fallen race of man.

Those who respond to His invitation are also invited to become a part of this reclamation project. In return, we receive His promise given in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." The gist of this is that God promises to use even the difficult times of our lives to bring about some good - if we entrust it to Him.

As an example, many of you will remember the famous photograph of the little 10 year old girl fleeing her village in Vietnam which had just been napalmed. Her clothes had been torn off in an effort to stop the burning, yet the chemical fire continued to burn through her skin. This iconic photo was one of the most-recognized of the 20th century. Her name was Kim Phuc, and she is now in her early 40's, and living in Canada.

She is now a Christian, a wife, and a mother and has used her story to make a positive difference in the world. While that event in 1972 was unbelievably painful and was followed by abuse at the hands of the communists, the road is still leading many to find purpose and hope in suffering.

While this is obviously an extreme situation, I've heard many similar stories with similar results. We live in a fallen world - that's a fact. We will experience pain in our lives - also a fact. But Jesus said in John 16:33 "...In the world you will have trouble: but take heart! I have overcome the world." (BBE) We'll likely deal with this subject again later - I'd love your comments.