Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dream On

I just returned this weekend from a week's stay at a place called the Dream Center in downtown Los Angeles. I took four teens to volunteer our services in their ministries to those living in the inner city. It was an eye-opening experience.
The week was designed to give us an idea of the various ministries that operate out of the Dream Center, so each day was different. We unloaded some of the skids of corporate donations of food and repacked them for distribution to some of the poorer neighborhoods. We made sandwiches and took lunch and water to Santa Monica Beach and conducted an outreach to homeless youth. Some of our team worked in the kitchen for a morning, preparing for one of the three meals each day served from the cafeteria which feeds hundreds daily.
We went on a special mission one day to deliver and assemble bunk-beds and other furniture for a family whose children were sleeping on the floor. Family services were going to put the children in foster care if they couldn't get beds. We traveled to skid row, where thousands sleep on the street each night. We brought a hot meal and served 80-100 people.
We went to visit people who were living under a bridge. It was my most memorable experience. I had the chance to talk with a middle-aged woman named Cecilia. She welcomed me and introduced me to her friends who shared the shelter. She invited me to sit in a broken office chair she had picked up somewhere, while her puppy wagged its tail contentedly. We brought her a blanket and some water for which she was very grateful. I asked how long she had lived here, she smiled and said that this had been her home for five years. It was much better than skid row, her previous home. Later I found out that drug addiction had brought her down to skid row, but now she was clean and trying to stay that way. The Center will offer her a new start when she's ready. Before we left she called her friends over and we joined hands and prayed for God's protection on her. Our friend Matt promised to visit her soon with some more water and canned goods. By the way, while we were there a freight train came through her front yard and dropped some medical supplies, a regular occurrence. I appreciate my home so much more now than before.
On Saturday some of us gathered on buses which we had previously loaded with supplies for the Adopt-A-Block program. The buses carried food and other necessities to neighborhoods which were a part of the regular rotation. The buses were filled with volunteers who piled off and gathered up the neighborhood kids to play at a local park while food was distributed to the parents. Then teams went out door-to-door to see what was needed. Sometimes it may be a specific practical need, often it was just advice, prayer or a listening ear. But you could tell that the regular volunteers had become family to these people. As the buses rolled up, people would come out of their homes and welcome the workers they knew by name. Afterwards many of the area youth returned on the bus to the Dream Center for basketball and to hang out until the youth service - a high-energy inspirational event at nearby Angelus Temple.
My son, Levi, had the opportunity to play to a different type of crowd than he was used to at the weekly coffee house for Hope For Homeless Youth. Another of our team spent that night working with a local chef who was preparing for the next day's outreach and baptism at Venice Beach. He worked from 10 PM until 2 AM and was back at it the next day for another 8 hours.
We also had the chance to travel with Metro Kids into the neighborhoods to do outreach to children. Our team leader was a man who had been reached through a program just like this. It aims to provide positive adult role models to kids who are constantly bombarded by gang violence, crime, poverty and the effects of family disintegration. You have to see the expression on the children's faces to realize just how much of a difference is being made.
The scope of this largely volunteer outreach was staggering. Literally hundreds of volunteers each week make this "church that never sleeps" effective. In the dorms are scores of people who are working their way through rehab programs. Many of the staff and volunteer leaders are graduates of the program. Joining them are interns from all over the world who have come to learn, work and make a difference.
There are too many stories to tell and many memories, sights and smells which words cannot describe, but I wanted to try. When I imagine the type of church that Jesus intended when He established it, this is what it looks like. I'm glad for the experience. Thanks from a small town in Ontario, Canada. Pictures will follow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Issue That Just Won't Go Away
I'm not a Catholic, but I thought the information given below was such a good snapshot of the division in our culture that it needed to be shared. I highly encourage you to check out Lifesite's web-site for related stories. There are many which you will rarely, if ever hear covered in the national media.
For example, in Canada we have the Conservative government making fools of themselves by trying to submit another bill in place of Jake Epp's "Unborn Victims of Crime" Act. Epp is a Conservative who refuses to bend to political correctness and his own party is trying to pull the carpet out from under him. We also have numerous winners of the Order of Canada who are turning in their medals in protest over the naming of abortionist Henry Morgantaler to their ranks.
This issue is the elephant in the room that the media will not deal with rationally. Science has now clearly proven that a new life is formed from the moment of conception. Doctors are now doing surgery on babies in the womb at early gestation to save their lives while doctors in another part of the hospital are killing babies who are older. How do we rationalize this? We just don't talk about it and hope it all goes away.
Let me know what you think of the article.

Cardinals, Bishops and Congressmen Slam Pelosi on Abortion

By Tim WaggonerWASHINGTON, August 26, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com)

"Catholic" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's blatantly fallacious remarks on August 24 regarding the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion have triggered a tidal wave of criticisms from clergymen, congressmen and Catholics nationwide.Responding to a question from NBC's Meet the Press moderator Tom Brokaw about when human life begins, Pelsosi appealed to her extensive research on the issue as well as her "ardent" Catholic faith to claim that, "I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins." She asserted that "over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition," in attempt to support her pro-abortion and pro-contraception stance. Watch the full interview here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwUSt7dfj5I)
The response to Pelosi's statements has been intense as Catholic leaders across America are wondering how a "Catholic" with a self-proclaimed broad understanding of the Catholic Church's position on human life could have overseen the straightforward teaching contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl quoted this teaching (section 2270-2271 of the CCC) in a letter responding to Pelosi's comments: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable." (Catechism, 2270-2271)
Rebuking her, Archbishop Wuerl said that, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion." For the full letter see: (http://www.adw.org/news/news.asp?ID=569&Year=2008)
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, also issued a release on Pelosi's remarks, explaining that Pelosi's belief that a woman has the "right to choose" to end her baby's life contradicts Catholic teaching and addressing her comments suggesting the Catholic Church has been polarized on the issue over the course of history.None of the early Fathers "diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong," said Archbishop Chaput. "Catholics who make excuses for it - whether they're famous or not - fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith," he added.
Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine also wrote a response letter.After mentioning the fact that scientists are certain that "a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization," the bishops wrote, "In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church teaches that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life." For the full letter see: (http://www.usccb.org/)
Edward Cardinal Egan of the Archdiocese of New York is another Church leader that has stepped up to defend the faith of his people. Please see upcoming separate LifeSiteNews.com coverage on his comments.It was not only the leaders of the Church that felt the need to correct Pelosi. Ten congressmen have sent Pelosi a letter asking her to publicly rectify her misrepresentation of Catholic teachings.
"As fellow Catholics and legislators, we wish you (Pelosi) would have made a more honest effort to lay out the authentic position of the Church on this core moral issue before attempting to address it with authority," said the congressmen. "Your subsequent remarks mangle Catholic Church doctrine regarding the inherent sanctity and dignity of human life; therefore, we are compelled to refute your error." "To reduce the scandal and consternation caused amongst the faithful by your remarks, we necessarily write you to correct the public record and affirm the Church's actual and historical teaching that defends the sanctity of human life," concluded their letter, which contained the following signatures.
Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI)
Hon. Steve Chabot (OH)
Hon. Virginia Foxx (NC)
Hon. Phil Gingrey (GA)
Hon. Peter King (NY)
Hon. Steve King (IA)
Hon. Daniel Lungren (CA)
Hon. Devin Nunes (CA)
Hon. John Sullivan (OK)
Hon. Patrick Tiberi (OH)
See the full letter from the congressmen here: (http://www.americanpapist.com/Pelosi%20Letter.pdf)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Oh Canada!

I found this article and felt it needed to be shared. I have spoken to this issue numerous times myself, but he says it much better. Just a note. I had occasion to meet with former MP Perrin Beatty a few years after the Charter was introduced. Beatty, a small 'c' Conservative, had been a part of the all-party committee who had worked on the Charter. I asked him what his thought process was in supporting a Charter which, within a few years, radically altered the social climate in Canada. His response was that they did not anticipate the judicial activism of the Supreme Court justices. It was his belief that the Charter would guarantee that the rights currently in existence in Canada would be protected. He did not foresee the Charter being used as an instrument for social engineering. When I asked what could be done to correct such a monumental error he said that the only answer was to repeal the Charter but that it would never happen. I hope you enjoy the article... and say a prayer for Canada.
FEATURED ARTICLE
The Decline of Common Law Constitutionalism in Canada


The following is a feature article in the current edition of Modern Age (50:01, Winter 2008).

Canada provides a case study in the precipitous decline and fall of common law constitutionalism in the face of modern, and especially postmodern, political thought and practice. In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (or “the Charter,” as it is commonly called) was introduced. It provided the means whereby what might loosely be termed an “American-style” rights-oriented jurisprudence could play a major role in Canadian courts.

For its first 115 years as a unified nation, Canada had followed English common law doctrines, including, critically, the notion of parliamentary supremacy. Unlike England, Canada from the beginning had a federal system that raised questions of separation of powers between the national and provincial governments. As in the case of U.S. states, Canadian provinces retained sovereignty in certain areas. In Canada, to the extent courts held forth on constitutional matters, it was most often on questions limited to the relationship between the national and provincial governments.

Under the new jurisprudence, Canadian courts, unlike the English courts on which they were are modeled, no longer confine themselves to a relatively limited range of disputes, or to the careful application of existing legislation. Rather, they act as all-purpose social engineers, often declaring unconstitutional, for all times and purposes, legislation duly passed by Parliament or the provincial legislatures—and occasionally, in effect, re-writing that legislation. Such a jurisprudence, prior to 1982, simply did not exist in Canada.

The Charter changed all this, but it did not do it alone. The rights-based liberalism inherent in the Charter was aided by the postmodern politics of Canada. This heady combination has had a devastating effect on common law constitutionalism. Reflecting on it discloses vital lessons for the United States and other common law countries.

The Charter purports to guarantee various fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, and equality rights, among other things. But, in a bow to the notion of consent expressed through parliamentary institutions, section one of the Charter makes all of the rights and freedoms therein subject to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” In a further bow to parliamentary supremacy, section thirty-three of the Charter—the so-called “notwithstanding clause”—provides that federal or provincial acts may operate “notwithstanding” the fundamental freedoms or legal rights guaranteed by the Charter as interpreted by the courts, if Parliament or a provincial legislature expressly so declare.

In sum, the Charter can be seen as a liberal rights framework imposed on what the Canadian philosopher George Parkin Grant saw as a “Tory” nation, not traditionally comfortable with, or responsive to, the rhetoric of liberal rights. The document contains within it express provisions that were designed as an escape hatch for the judicial and popular branches of government should the liberal claims to right, and to rule, become too oppressive to the practice of parliamentary government, or to a more modest and limited sense of the proper role of a common law court.

Armed with this information, one might well expect the Charter’s practical impact to be minimal. But this has not proved to be the case. Judges interpret the meaning of section one to suit their purposes, and the notwithstanding clause is rarely if ever used, for fear of contradicting the notion of judicial independence. As a result, a new philosophy of judicial supremacy, in aid of a late modern or postmodern rights-based liberalism, guides Canadian jurisprudence.

It is a philosophy under which the balancing of interests—nominally undertaken by Canadian courts—tends to result fairly consistently in the triumph of individual or group autonomy. But this is an autonomy that is divorced from the limitations of early modern liberalism, particularly the limitation of political consent. In this sense, it is a postmodern, self-expressive liberalism. As such, it threatens the right of people to exercise a traditional kind of liberal-democratic prerogative—the freedom of self-government, not to mention the realization of rights through the slow, steady accretion of common law wisdom, rather than the insistent demand for immediate results, handed down from the philosopher kings of the courtroom.

Post-Common Law Jurisprudence
The change in Canada has been marked. At its most straightforward, the new philosophy was captured by a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Bertha Wilson, in her ruling in the 1988 case of R. v. Morgentaler, which overturned Canada’s penal statute governing abortion. In that case, she exalted individual autonomy and the right to unconstrained private choice as a means to dignity and self-worth. She agreed with the claim that the “liberty” mentioned in section seven of the Charter includes the full control of one’s life and individual autonomy. Relying on Roe v. Wade, Wilson held that “the respect for individual decision-making in matters of fundamental personal importance reflected in the American jurisprudence also informs the Canadian Charter.” Further, as to the fundamental “choice” that is abortion, she said “It is probably impossible for a man to respond, even imaginatively, to such a dilemma not just because it is outside the realm of his personal experience (although this is, of course, the case) but because he can relate to it only by objectifying it, thereby eliminating the subjective elements of the female psyche which are at the heart of the dilemma.” And this was conjoined with a lamentation that “women’s needs and aspirations are only now being translated into protected rights.”

To appreciate the general nature of this type of legal reasoning, one need only compare Wilson’s words with those of the plurality opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

In the Morgentaler case, the then Chief Justice of Canada, Brian Dickson, chose to rely on a purported breach of the Charter guarantee of security of the person to strike down the impugned Canadian Criminal Code provision restricting abortion. At stake, in the view of the Chief Justice, was a woman’s “bodily integrity,” which included integrity in both a “physical and emotional” sense. As one observer of Canadian constitutionalism has noted, he thus concealed the court’s policy-making role “by converting indeterminate substantive issues into procedural questions.” This, of course, is a trick that has been well-honed in American courts, beginning in earnest in the mid twentieth century.

The Morgentaler case therefore captures in a nutshell two phenomena critical to understanding the contemporary Canadian judiciary. First, it illustrates the obsessive concern with the self that is at the heart of late modern philosophy and which, despite its democratic veneer, actually prevents the people from acting in a political sense. Second, it shows how the Charter encourages a kind of reasoning that is legal, or legalistic, in the most technical sense of the term, and that does not take full account of competing moral-political arguments.

These phenomena have already manifested themselves in many Charter cases, and one can safely predict that they will mutually reinforce themselves and continue to dominate much constitutional litigation in Canada. There is really nothing to stand in their way, regardless of the explicit Charter language that was designed to reassure those who were concerned with consensual and customary politics.

Canadian courts are now among the most activist in the world, promiscuously minting new rights having to do with everything from criminal punishment to same-sex marriage. Despite the fact that the Charter never mentions either, Canadian courts have declared capital punishment to be unconstitutional, and same sex “marriage” to be constitutionally guaranteed. They have not only struck down laws on rights-based grounds, they have rewritten existing laws on those grounds.

For example, in the 1998 case of Vriend v. Alberta, the Court held that the human rights code of the province Alberta, which specifically excluded “sexual orientation” as a protected category, must be read as if sexual orientation were a protected category. The facts were as follows: an individual was fired by a Christian college on the basis that he was a practicing homosexual. He attempted to file a discrimination complaint with the relevant government human rights commission, but was told he could not do so because the act that gave the commission its mandate did not include sexual orientation as a protected category. Instead, it protected individuals from discrimination on the basis of “race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, age, ancestry or place of origin.”

The relevant Charter provision, according to the Court, reads as follows:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

In interpreting this clause—in a decision unanimous in the result—the Court brought together a number of strains of its new constitutional reasoning. It held that the “underinclusiveness” of the Alberta human rights act denied the equal benefit and protection of the law on the basis of a personal characteristic—sexual orientation—that is “analagous” to those which the Charter specifically enumerates (but does not actually enumerate).

In Vriend, the Supreme Court of Canada undoubtedly delivered one of the more notable judgments yet rendered by a supreme judicial tribunal in the common law world. A government in Canada now need not pass a specific law that infringes on an alleged constitutional right in order to be challenged in court. Indeed, it may be challenged if it does not pass legislation that furthers a sweepingly egalitarian human rights agenda; and its failure may be rectified by a judicial “reading in” of the absent provision.

Further, the Supreme Court does not find itself bound to interpret, even broadly, the actual words of the Charter. Rather, where a preferred clause is absent (such as a guarantee of nondiscrimination against homosexuals) it too may be “read in” if the Court deems it to be “analogous” to any clause that actually is written in the document. In Stalinist Russia, people were famously air-brushed out of official photographs; in Canada, clauses are openly air-brushed in to legal documents. In this continuing magic show, the role of Merlin is played by the Supreme Court of Canada. In a practice completely alien to common law constitutionalism, Parliament and the provincial legislatures have, in important respects, been reduced to mere errand boys for the judicial branch. Judges have become prophets and priests of the new Holy Writ.

In Canada, we have witnessed the effective destruction of parliamentary supremacy through the assertion of a stunningly broad power of courts to strike down and read in as they please. But this new attitude of judicial omnipotence has also displaced an allied, if more subtle, aspect of the traditional common law understanding: that the primary judicial responsibility is to decide matters of dispute between specific parties. Not only would courts not strike down legislation on constitutional grounds, other branches of government could posit, through action and argument, their interpretation of what adherence to the timeless (and, in the case of England and largely of Canada—unwritten) constitution requires, even if this interpretation were at odds with the judicial interpretation as expounded in a particular case. The legislative branch could, for example, pass another law to clarify the language of the existing statute, or to deal differently with similar cases in the future. Or the executive branch, without affecting the rights of the parties as adjudicated in the particular instance, could act on its contrary view in other cases and in general (as did Abraham Lincoln in arguing and acting contrary to the principles of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the infamous Dred Scott decision, which held slaves to be property). But the view that other branches of government—and especially Parliament—might assert themselves against the judicial branch has been almost entirely overridden in Canada. And this happened in less than a single generation.

Propitiously for the advocates of the new legalism, the Charter was introduced at a time when postmodern thinking was extending its reach among the intelligentsia, including those in the legal academy. Such thinking proved to be the perfect intellectual vehicle for the client groups of the Charter as they sought to build a post-common law Canada. Postmodernism is an amalgamation of philosophical, literary, and linguistic theories that begin with skepticism of the power of reason to tell us anything about the nature of the cosmos or our obligations in it. As such, it gives modernist, rights-based liberalism a nihilist edge. For many postmodernists, “knowledge” of moral-political things is nothing more than what can be defined by the powers that be in any given society. “Knowledge” accumulates in proportion to the degree of the individual’s internalization of the norms laid down by those powers, unless that person can somehow successfully resist the powers that be. Recognition of the primacy of will or self-assertion, rather than reason or objective inquiry, comes to be the dominant modus operandi of a legal establishment enamored of postmodernism. Creative activity becomes the essence of the political: here a power discourse to be deconstructed or imposed, there an opportunity for self-creation, everywhere an assertion of will. Such self-assertive claims on behalf of allegedly marginalized individuals or groups find their natural home in courts of law, where the consent of fellow citizens need not be sought, and due regard for ancient understandings need not be exhibited in order to achieve substantial cultural change.

Canada, as it turned out, provided a particularly fertile ground for such power games, and such a separation from common law constitutionalism. One could not visit a law school classroom in Canada in the 1980s or 1990s without finding rooms full of 20-somethings excited by these prospects, as postmodern ideas and their implement—in the form of the Charter—came to coexist. Legal education in Canada began to reflect the triumph of a set of interpretations of the modern project as that project unfolded in the formerly “British” part of North America: that the individual, and certain preferred groups of individuals, were paramount. Each was, in its own unique ways, to be protected from the overreaching and unjust intrusions of all levels of government or society—or even, in the case of same-sex “marriage,” from the definitions contained within established dictionaries. This protection would be guaranteed by a new class within Canadian society. It would be a class of young lawyers trained in the intricacies and potential of the Charter. The new class would be educated by a group of legal academics already broadly sympathetic to the idea of increased judicial involvement in Canadian life. Given time, this new class would first convince the existing members of the judiciary of the rectitude of a new Canada in which judges, rather than citizens or their elected legislatures, made final determinations on matters of great moral-political import. And, given even more time, this new class would itself come to dominate the Canadian bench and legal academy.

If one were to scour the course syllabi of Canadian law schools over the past twenty to twenty five years, one would search in vain for two things: a sense that anything might have been lost with the introduction of the Charter, and an account of rights rooted in anything other than the fashions of the current generation. With respect to the former, one Canadian observer has noted that “not one public voice was raised in opposition to the end of British North America.” Furthermore, the “Charter has also played its part in encouraging us to forget our own history. Law students are unshakeably convinced of two things about the Canada that existed before the Charter. First, Canadians simply had no rights until we adopted the Charter and, second, until it got a constitutional guarantee of rights, Canada was just not a proper, respectable country.”

One would perhaps not expect to find a lament for loss within the corridors of the legal academy, whose interests were furthered by converting formerly political claims into legalistic ones. Neither would one expect to find much recognition that the Canada that existed prior to 1982 was, after all, a tolerable parliamentary democracy. In the new dispensation, this label can, ironically, only be worn by a nation wherein all manner of moral and political disputes are, along American lines, constitutionalized.

Bills of Rights and Judicial Power
And here we would do well to remind ourselves of the great debate over the U.S. Bill of Rights—and the nature of judicial power in general—that took place during the 1787–1789 struggle for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 84, warned Americans of the founding generation of the dangers of a written enumeration of rights. In arguing against a bill of rights, Hamilton—to most Americans of today—might seem a bit of a crank. But contemporary Canada demonstrates the wisdom of Hamilton’s political theory and prognostications.

Hamilton first claimed that a bill of rights would, in important senses, be redundant. In addition to the overall structure of government created by the proposed federal Constitution—including its republican character along with its separation of powers doctrine and its extended sphere—the Constitution contains within it a number of specific provisions, many derived directly from English constitutional norms and practices, that in effect guarantee the rights of citizens. Such provisions include the guarantees of habeas corpus and trial by jury, the prohibition on bills of attainder and ex post facto laws, and the precise and limited definition and punishment of the high crime of treason. Hamilton notes Blackstone’s claim that habeas corpus—“The Great Writ”—is the bulwark of the British Constitution. Common law constitutional principles and practices, built up over many centuries of English experience, are far greater protections for liberty than parchment barriers in the form of rights declarations.

But Hamilton goes beyond this in reflecting on the implications of a bill of rights for the question of the civic education and acculturation of citizens. A written enumeration of rights is a poor exercise in civic education insofar as it implies that rights are privileges given by the sovereign unless specifically reserved to the people. In other words, such an enumeration will confuse citizens as to the origins of their rights, which exist in nature and the design of nature’s God, and have been revealed and protected in time through the slow accretion of common law wisdom. A proper understanding of the dignity and station of human beings, which can never be “enumerated,” is at issue. Such things ought not to be subject to infinite redefinition, expansion, or contraction at the whim of positive law, especially national positive law. In America, the people have not surrendered to the national government the rights that would be enumerated, and therefore nothing needs to be reserved. In Hamilton’s words, “a minute detail of particular rights is certainly far less applicable to a Constitution like that under consideration, which is merely intended to regulate the general political interests of the nation, than to a constitution which has the regulation of every species of personal and private concerns.”

And herein lies the danger that goes well beyond redundancy. Bills of rights “would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” Such bills “furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power. They might urge with a semblance of reason that the Constitution ought not to be charged with the absurdity of providing against the abuse of an authority which was not given.” The proper interpretation of citizen rights, which undoubtedly exist and have existed for centuries within the English tradition, always depends upon proper “public opinion, and on the general spirit of the people and of the government.” It is precisely this public opinion and spirit that are likely to be corrupted by an “injudicious zeal for bills of rights” that at once inflame the soul and provide ambitious men the tools to further their ambition. The mere “aphorisms” that tend to appear in bills of rights are, for Hamilton, things that “would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government.” They are, in short, invitations to political scheming.

And nowhere is this scheming of ambitious men more likely to be found than in the judicial branch—whether among the judges themselves, or the lawyers and litigants who appear before them. The Anti-Federalists feared the dangers of federal judicial power, even as they demanded the inclusion of a bill of rights in the American constitutional plan. The eventual inclusion of the Bill of Rights can be considered one of their great victories and contributions to American constitutionalism, but in winning this victory they provided what would prove to be a useful tool for judicial usurpation. Still, Anti-Federalist analysis of the essential characteristics of the judicial power that was created at least in potential by the Constitution remains commanding. Such power can only be understood by setting it into relief against what it is not: an outgrowth of common law constitutionalism.

As the New York Anti-Federalist “Brutus” wrote in 1788:
the supreme court under this constitution would be exalted above all other power in the government, and subject to no controul . . . I question whether the world ever saw, in any period of it, a court of justice invested with such immense powers, and yet placed in a situation so little responsible. . . . The judges in England, it is true, hold their offices during their good behaviour, but then their determinations are subject to correction by the house of lords; and their power is by no means so extensive as that of the proposed supreme court of the union. . . . they in no instance assume the authority to set aside an act of parliament under the idea that it is inconsistent with their constitution. They consider themselves bound to decide according to the existing laws of the land.

Brutus’s elucidation of the limits of judicial power in English common-law constitutionalism contrasts markedly with what he sees, presciently, as the inevitability of the U.S. Supreme Court’s deciding cases according to its loose sense of the spirit rather than the letter of the document:

There is no power above them, to controul any of their decisions. There is no authority that can remove them, and they cannot be controuled by the laws of the legislature. In short, they are independent of the people, of the legislature, and of every power under heaven. Men placed in this situation will generally soon feel themselves independent of heaven itself.

For the Anti-Federalists as well as the Federalists, the political art was largely defined by the fact that there will always be “men disposed to usurp.” In one of the many ironies of history, the Anti-Federalists feared the dangers of unchecked judicial power, but not the Bill of Rights, while Hamilton and other Federalists downplayed the dangers of the federal judiciary while emphasizing the dangers of a bill of rights. As it has turned out, both sides were half right.

It took a great deal of time for U.S. courts to feel themselves independent of every power under heaven—essentially from the Founding to the middle part of the twentieth century. It took Canadian courts only a few years, once they were given the green light of the Charter, to upend the great tradition of common law constitutionalism. The difference is accounted for by the fact that the modern language of rights had to become more virulent, to the point of merging with the nihilism of postmodern assertion. The Charter added the practical tools to an already impressive array of intellectual tools in the kit of those usurpers of all parties who made war on the earlier constitutional wisdom. By itself, neither the Charter nor postmodern thinking could have so thoroughly and rapidly transformed Canada—a “Tory” nation steeped in a common law constitutionalism that existed within the memory of so many living Canadians. These Canadians, having borne witness to the destruction of their organic constitution, such that it was, can offer with George Grant a lament that is “not based on philosophy but on tradition. If one cannot be sure about the answers to the most important questions, then tradition is the best basis for the practical life. Those who loved the older traditions of Canada may be allowed to lament what has been lost, even though they do not know whether or not that loss will lead to some greater political good.”

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Only The Black Keys

I thought that you would enjoy this video - I know I did. It's the story the negro spirituals and features Wintley Phipps of the U.S. Dream Academy. Click on the link above.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ORIGINS 101

The following is another article I saved in my files a while ago. This was written by Rusty Benson and gives a primer on the debate about origins which is taking place in the U.S. This is for those of you who want to know what all the fuss is about and what the differences are. Enjoy.
Origins 101: Worldviews Begin With Beginnings
Rusty Benson
AgapePress

Nearly a century-and-a-half after Darwin's Origins of the Species was published, and 75 years after the Scopes trial, the argument over life's origins still inflames contentious debate.

Today three distinct theories of origins compete for public affirmation. Darwinian Evolution remains entrenched as the orthodox position of the cultural ruling class. Once challenged by Creationism, Evolution's latest contender is a theory known as Intelligent Design (ID).

As in the past, the debate regularly surfaces in the context of which theory or theories should be taught in public schools.

In El Tejon, California, Americans United for Separation of Church and State bullied a school district into promising that it would never again offer a "course that promoted or endorses creationism, creation science or intelligent design." However, in Kansas the State Board of Education recently approved a set of science standards that question evolution.

Even President Bush has weighed in on the issue saying, "Both sides should be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about."

So far that hasn't happened. The result is a largely confused public.

The following is offered as a synopsis of Creationism, Darwinian Evolution and Intelligent Design. For a more in-depth study of these theories and the implications of each, see the suggested resources listed at the conclusion of this article.

Creationism - Also called Creation Science, this theory attempts to defend the biblical account of the origins of the universe. Creationists freely admit that their presuppositions are different than evolutionists', and thus, their interpretation of the archeological evidence is often different.

In addition, creationists frequently use independent data from the fossil record and from radiometric and carbon-14 dating to make their case.

Variations of Creationism include the Young Earth Theory (closest to the literal Genesis account), the Gap Theory and the Day-age Theory.

Darwinian Evolution - Charles Darwin was a 19th century British naturalist who first offered a plausible naturalistic theory for the origin of life in his book On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

According to Darwin's theory, the universe is without a beginning and life on earth evolved over a span of three to four billion years by the process of natural selection. Natural selection, according to Understanding the Times by David Noebel, is "the process that through competition and other factors such as mutations, predators, geography, and time naturally and randomly allows only those life forms best suited to survive to live and reproduce."

Concerning the status of man in the evolutionary process, George Gaylord Simpson, paleontologist and evolutionist, bluntly stated: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material."

Intelligent Design (ID) - The heart of the theory of ID, according to Nancy Pearcey, author of the landmark book Total Truth, is that design in nature can be empirically detected.

She writes that ID "formalizes ordinary intuition." For example, we instantly recognize the difference in a landscape formed by wind, rain and erosion and one that includes Mt. Rushmore. That difference is the clear evidence of a designer. It's the same kind of observable science that enables an archeologist to distinguish between a rock and an arrowhead.

In presenting their case, proponents of ID often point to recent scientific research in three areas:

(1) The inner working of cells: Scientists are learning that living cells are like a complex assembly line in which each part serves a perfectly timed, specific purpose. If the whole system is not complete and functioning flawlessly, it cannot perform at all. ID proponents argue that this kind of irreducible complexity is clear evidence of a designer.

(2) The origin of the universe: ID proponents say that life is only possible when thousands of variants such as gravitational, nuclear and electromagnetic forces are meticulously set and balanced. Again, they claim this is the perfect working of a designer's plan.

(3) The architecture of DNA: DNA is seen as the most convincing evidence of the work of design. It is often described as remarkably computer-like, with the DNA code analogous to software that directs the DNA molecule (hardware). This information is embedded in the DNA molecule, but is separate from the matter that makes up the molecule itself. The question becomes: "Where did the information come from?" Answer: an intelligent designer.

Winner Take AllWhat's at stake in the debate? In short, everything. "Whatever a culture adopts as its creation story shapes everything else," Pearcey writes.

If evolution continues as our culture's official orthodoxy, Christians can only expect the complete secularization in all areas from education to entertainment, from philosophy to politics. And with the natural implications that human beings are neither accountable nor responsible, the future is likely to be one in which raw power rules.

But don't give up too quickly. Although it faces an uphill battle, acceptance of ID as a viable theory of origins is growing. At a minimum that could result in the re-establishment of the discarded idea that human life has inherent meaning and purpose. And that could change everything.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

SCIENTISM

Here's another article I pulled from my files written by Charles Colson. This speaks about what he calls "scientism," a strident anti-Christian worldview which many scientists now practice. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind.
Brooking No Debate
Scientism, Crowbars, and Bats
January 2, 2007 - Breakpoint - by Charles Colson

The late Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard used to describe religion and science as occupying "non-overlapping magisterial authority," or what he called NOMA. That is, science and religion occupied different "domains," or areas of life, in which each held "the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution."

There were many problems with Gould's approach, but at least a lack of respect for religion and religious people wasn't one of them. Not so with some of today's scientists.

The New York Times reported on a conference recently held in Costa Mesa, California, that turned into the secular materialist equivalent of a revival meeting.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg told attendees that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief." According to Weinberg, "anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

Another Nobel laureate, chemist Sir Harold Kroto, suggested that the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion be given to Richard Dawkins for his new book The God Delusion.

Continuing the theme, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute called for teaching "our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty."

In case you were in doubt about which worldview would inform this "catechesis," she then added: "It is already so much more glorious and awesome—and even comforting—than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know."

Attempts at a Gould-like d├ętente between religion and science didn't sit well with this crowd. A presentation by Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden on how to make evolution more acceptable to Christians was disrupted by Dawkins himself who called it "bad poetry."

After a while, the rancor and stridency got to be too much for some of the attendees. One scientist called it a "den of vipers" where the only debate is "should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

Another, physicist Lawrence Krauss, chided them, saying "science does not make it impossible to believe in God . . . [and] we should recognize that fact . . . and stop being so pompous about it."

Fat chance. What's behind all of this animosity? It is a worldview known as "scientism," the belief that there is no supernatural, only a material world. And it will not countenance any rivals. It is a "jealous god."

As Weinberg's comments illustrate, it regards any other belief system other than scientism as irrational and the enemy of progress. Given the chance, as in the former Soviet Union, it wants to eliminate its rivals. It is no respecter of pluralism.

But this really exposes the difference between the worldviews of these scientists and Christians. We welcome science; it's the healthy exploration of God's world. The greatest scientists in history have been Christians who believe science was possible only in a world that was orderly and created by God. We don't rule out any natural phenomenon.

The naturalists, on the other hand, rule out even science that tends to show intelligence, because that might lead to a God. Now, who is narrow-minded?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Doubts About Darwin


This is an older article that I had in my files. I wanted to share it because it sheds some light on how some things have changed and some things haven't. On the one hand, many more scientists have found the courage to question Darwinism. On the other hand, the climate for this kind of admission has gotten a great deal more difficult. It seems the more we learn the more questions are raised. I hope this will cause you to think.


DOUBTS ABOUT DARWIN
In the face of mounting evidence, more scientists are abandoning evolution.
by Thomas E. Woodward (Moody Monthly, 1991)

"For the last 18 months or so I've been kicking around non-evolutionary or even anti-evolutionary ideas. For over 20 years I had thought I was working on evolution in some way.

"One morning I woke up and something had happened in the night, and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for more than 20 years, and there was not one thing I knew about it. It's quite a shock to learn that one can be misled for so long.

"For the last few weeks I've tried putting a simple question to various people and groups: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution? Any one thing --- that is true?"

Colin PattersonSenior Paleontologist
British Museum of Natural History

IN JUNE 1987, the Supreme Court battle lines were drawn again: evolutionists on one side, creationists on the other. The battle was over Louisiana's "Act for Balanced Treatment of Creation-Science and Evolution," which required the teaching of both theories in public school biology classes.

Once again the creationists were soundly defeated, prompting Steve Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union to call the decision "a legal end to the creationism movement."
But what the creationists have not accomplished in courts and classrooms, they are now winning in universities and science labs around the world. You probably won't read about it in Time, Discover, or National Geographic, but a growing number of scientists and intellectuals are abandoning Darwin and their faith in evolution.
Recent advances in biology and other sciences have dealt such heavy blows to evolution that one scientist said, "This whole thing is coming apart at the seams."

In 1981, British paleontologist Colin Patterson started asking other scientists to tell him one thing they knew about evolution. Lecturing to biologists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, he said, "I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, `I do know one thing - it ought not to be taught in high school.'"

Patterson says modern science assumes that "a rationalist view of nature [evolution] has replaced an irrational one [creation]." He made that same assumption until 1980. "Then I woke up and realized that all my life I had been duped into taking evolutionism as revealed truth in some way." He said he had experienced "a shift from evolution as knowledge to evolution as faith."

Patterson says one of the main reasons for his skepticism is that there are no real transitional forms anywhere in the fossil record. (Transitional fossils would be in-between forms, such as fish gradually developing arms and legs and turning into land animals.)

"I don't think we shall ever have any access to any form of [evolutionary] tree which we can call factual," he says. Although Patterson still believes that evolution has occurred, he emphasizes that belief in creation or belief in evolution is equally a faith-commitment. This is the heart of his Darwinian "heresy."

Reasons for Doubt

Actually, Patterson is far from being the most extreme of evolution's new intellectual skeptics. Some researchers have completely abandoned Darwinism as a credible theory.

Because of recent findings in genetics, molecular biology, and information science, a growing number of these skeptics are also embracing the concept of an intelligent creator as the most plausible explanation of the origin of life.

Still, they have developed their views independently of the Genesis creation account. Most assume the earth is billions of years old. And because their critiques are directed to a scholarly audience, their methods differ from those of traditional scientific creationists. Through careful research and quiet reasoning, these creationists have calmly presented their case to evolutionary scientists and earned a hearing.

Their greatest inroads have been through critiques of the widely accepted chemical evolution theory (which says the first cell evolved from a "chemical soup" rich in amino adds and other organic substances).

As scientists have studied in detail the intricacies of the cell --with its chemical factories and spiral-ladder molecules of DNA that record millions of bits of genetic information-- many have started wondering how all this could have happened by chance, through natural processes.

One prominent skeptic is British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, famous for his research on the origins of the universe. Hoyle claims that believing the first cell originated by chance is like believing a tornado could sweep through a junkyard filled with airplane parts and form a Boeing 747. Instead, through a theory of "genes raining down from space," Hoyle theorizes that where there are major gaps in the fossil record, new genetic material was incorporated into existing species to produce more complex structures. He believes the creator of these genes from space is not God, but some superintelligent extraterrestrial life.

Reassessing the Mystery

In 1984, three former evolutionists, with doctorates in chemistry, materials science, and geochemistry wrote the first comprehensive critique of chemical evolution, The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (see "Books About Origins," page 24). With pages of mathematical equations and chemical formulas, it dealt serious blows to the theory that life started by chance.

Despite the book's creationist content, evolutionists have widely praised it. The most surprising endorsement came from Dean Kenyon of San Francisco State University, co-author of Biochemical Predestination, a key work on the evolution of the first cell.

After he read Mystery, Kenyon offered to write the book's foreword. In it, he says the book is so full of fresh and original critiques of chemical evolution that he is puzzled that other scientists have not voiced similar criticism

According to Kenyon, many scientists hesitate to admit or study the theory's problems because they "would open the door to the possibility (or the necessity) of a supernatural origin of life." So they continue looking for naturalistic solutions.

Others, recognizing chemical evolution's problems, have adopted a theory called "directed panspermia," or that life was sent here from another part of the universe. The problem is, they still haven't answered how life originated. They have just moved the question outside our solar system. In the epilogue of Mystery, the authors explain how philosophical biases have prevented many scientists from considering the possibility of creation. Then with scientific precision, they argue that a "Creator Beyond the Cosmos" is the most plausible explanation of life's origin.

That does not mean that science has discovered the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. According to one of the book's authors, chemist Charles Thaxton, science cannot affirm a supernatural origin of life. This is because science is limited to what can be known through man's senses, and God cannot be known by our senses alone.

But science can distinguish natural causes from intelligent causes, Thaxton says. For example, through our senses we can conclude that the faces on Mount Rushmore had an intelligent cause and that the ripple marks on the seashore had a natural cause. Similarly, science can conclude that the vast store house of information recorded along the DNA molecule of even the simplest cell must have an intelligent cause (see "Signature of Intelligence," page 27).

What science cannot do is show what kind of intelligence caused it, whether a Creator-God, extraterrestrials, or something else. That must be shown through apologetics, Thaxton says, not science.

Twenty years ago, evolutionists would not have seriously considered any book criticizing chemical evolution and advocating creation. Yet even the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine and the Journal of College Science Teaching have given Mystery high marks.

"The volume as a whole," the Yale Journal said, "is devastating to the relaxed acceptance of current theories of abiogenesis [chemical evolution]."

And Yale biophysicist Harold Morowitz, no friend of creationism, called the book "an interesting start with considerable scientific thrust." Several of the world's authorities on chemical evolution have described the book as a "brilliant critique" and an "important contribution."

A Theory in Crises

On another front, Michael Denton, an Australian biologist and self-described agnostic, has also challenged Darwinian faith. His book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis shows that evolution's intellectual foundations have been steadily eroding and that only a philosophical "will to believe" in Darwin remains. New findings of biology are bringing us very near to a "formal, logical disproof of Darwinian claims," Denton says.

Citing evidence from fossils, embryology, taxonomy, and molecular biology, Denton shows that Darwin's "grand claim" -- that all life forms are interrelated and evolved from a single cell -- has not been supported by one empirical discovery since 1859, when Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

Murray Eden, professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Denton's book "should be made required reading for everyone who believes what he was taught in college about evolution."

Even the renowned British anthropologist Ashley Montagu has praised Denton: "I found him to be a writer of the most astonishing range of knowledge in the natural sciences, and a scientist whose criticisms are, for the most part, just and telling." Still, he says Denton's critique does not destroy the "fact" of evolution; it only questions how it happened.

On this point, Montagu seems to have missed Denton's summary of Darwin's theory as the "great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century." Denton shows not only that there is no fossil evidence of any major changes between different kinds of animals, but also that it is impossible to imagine how these radical changes could have happened step by step through natural selection.

Denton carefully probes, for example, the absurdity of a land mammal gradually evolving into a whale and the implausibility of a reptilian scale transforming into a feather or a crude amphibian egg becoming a vastly more complicated reptilian egg.

He points out that birds, which supposedly evolved from reptiles, have a completely different "flow-through" lung. What, Denton asks, are the possible intermediate stages between a reptile's branching, dead-end lung and a bird's flow-through lung?

More important, Denton shows how molecular biology is posing even greater problems for evolution. Since scientists have started probing the structure of proteins and DNA, they have been able to compare the "chemical spelling" of these structures in different species. In the 197Os, some scientists claimed this new data would be the final blow to creationism. Instead, the sequences of chemical units in proteins and DNA seem to show no trace of the family tree that evolution teaches.

Denton traces the striking pattern of "equidistant isolation" of every group, as shown in the variations in Cytochrome C, a protein found in species as diverse as yeast, carp, and man. "Thousands of different sequences, protein and nucleic acid, have now been compared in hundreds of different species," he says, "but never has any sequence been found to be in any sense the lineal descendant or ancestor of any other sequence."

Later, Denton adds, "There is little doubt that if this molecular evidence had been available one century ago, it would have been seized upon with devastating effect by the opponents of evolution theory like Agassiz [a Harvard biologist who opposed Darwin], and the idea of organic evolution might never have been accepted."

According to Denton, science has so thoroughly discredited Darwinian evolution that it should be discarded. Yet because he is agnostic and does not accept biblical creationism, he offers nothing to take its place. Instead, he suggests that science may find some other natural explanation in the future.

He appears to be open, however, to the general concept of intelligent cause."Is it really credible," he asks, "that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which -- a functional protein or gene -- is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man?"

Pointing to God

Paul said, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made" (Rom. 1:20).

Despite the evidence against evolution, most biologists will probably not abandon Darwin. Many will continue to belittle creationism as the equivalent to believing in a flat earth and will continue to teach evolution as a basic fact of biology just as gravity is a fact of physics.

But because of scientists like Patterson, Thaxton, and Denton, the scientific community is no longer ridiculing those who doubt evolution and believe there is an intelligence behind DNA and the beginnings of life. Several researchers have admitted that reading The Mystery of Life's Origin has made them think positive thoughts about God for the first time in years.

In fact, as the evidence pointing to a "creative intelligence" at work in the universe accumulates, and the number of Darwinian skeptics grows, more scientists are openly considering the possibility that this intelligence has already communicated with man.

Christians now have the opportunity to show them the wealth of apologetic evidence that identifies that intelligence as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then the historical evidence of Christianity can be presented in the "courtroom of the intellect" without it being thrown out on the technicality that God does not exist.

Thomas Woodward, an associate professor at Trinity College of Florida, formerly served with UFM International in the Dominican Republic.

Who I Am Makes A Difference http://www.makeadifference.com

Great idea. Go change your world!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Great Debate

In light of the uproar surrounding the release of Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," and in response to requests I'm printing a series of articles I've collected over the years dealing with the ongoing debate between Darwinists and the Intelligence Design scientists.
By way of definition, 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 assertion has been vehemently opposed by the scientific establishment who claim that this is simply the creationist's method of bringing religion in the back door. This ignores the fact that many intelligent design theorists are not Christians nor religious. They simply have come to these conclusions through their scientific research.
The argument that intelligent design is a religious argument is, I think, answered well by Phillip E. Johnson, author of Darwin On Trial. He wrote: "..The very persons who insist upon keeping religion and science separate are eager to use their science as a basis for pronouncements about religion. The literature of Darwinism is full of anti-theistic conclusions, such as that the universe was not designed and has no purpose, and that we humans are the product of blind natural processes that care nothing about us. What is more, these statements are not presented as personal opinions but as the logical implications of evolutionary science."
That being said, the first article is from Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and an author of numerous books.

A Passion for Truth: Darwin Strikes Back
(Originally published February 6, 2007 on Breakpoint by Charles Colson)

A couple of years ago on this program, I had this to say of the book Doubts about Darwin by my friend Thomas Woodward: "The motivation for [the] . . . founders of the [intelligent] design movement to instigate this 'reformation within science' is a passion for intellectual truth-telling."

Woodward displays this passion for truth-telling yet again in his marvelous new book, Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design. What Woodward wrote about just a few years ago is even truer today. Amid a firestorm of criticism and abuse from committed Darwinists, the intelligent design movement continues to press forward, gaining scientific credibility and even grudging respect from some evolutionists. But as Woodward shows, there's still a long way to go.

Because the more respect intelligent design gains, the more alarmed the Darwinists become. Their thinking goes something like this: It's one thing for those religious people to talk about a creator God—that's religion; but now they are talking about science—so, they figure, "Let's label it religion." Woodward writes, "These sentiments were echoed in public declarations, verbally and in print, by Darwinian defenders, warning . . . that Intelligent Design is religion, not science . . . This statement," Woodward continues, "emerged as the number-one talking point for Intelligent Design opponents [over the last few years]."

The idea makes for a great sound bite, as the popular press is well aware. But it has no ground to stand on, and that's becoming increasingly obvious if you spend any amount of time researching the issue. Intelligent design theorists come from all backgrounds and creeds; some of them aren't "religious" at all. What they have in common is what Woodward calls a "scientific paradigm" that allows for design in any natural mechanism that can't be explained simply by chance or purely natural causes. His meticulously researched book clearly explains the scientific reasoning behind this paradigm.

Ironically, it's the anti-intelligent design forces that are fully committed to a religious dogma—a dogma whose foundation is starting to show dangerous cracks. Their religion is materialism, and some of them even admit it, like Harvard geneticist Richard Lowentin. Woodward quotes him as saying: "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs . . . because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism."

Well, he's being honest, at least. But who is it now who's confusing science and religion?

Suggest the presence of something outside of and greater than the universe we know, and Darwinists get all but hysterical. Take the case of researcher Richard Sternberg. He isn't even an intelligent design advocate himself, but when he dared to publish a peer-reviewed article on intelligent design in his scientific journal, the Darwinists acted more like Grand Inquisitors than scientists, cutting off his access to research and trying to limit his academic freedom.

In light of such nonsense, the continuing quest of intelligent design theorists is all the more intriguing and admirable. As Woodward points out, this criticism is even cause for gratitude, because it is leading many intelligent design theorists to be more thorough in their research and to sharpen their arguments.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

EXPELLED - The Movie

I don't usually do this, but I'm making an exception in this case. This is from Charles Colson's "Breakpoint." I had the chance to do some research about some of the cases that Ben Stein speaks of in his movie. I hope you have an open mind and watch it.
Myths about Expelled
Don't Believe Everything You Hear

If you have heard of the new documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opening April 18, chances are you have heard all kinds of distortions and myths about it. So let me set the record straight about some of the most common myths.
Myth #1: Darwinists interviewed for this film were tricked into participating.
Not so. Each scientist interviewed for Expelled, on both sides of the evolution debate, knew who would do the interview and what it was for. Each of them signed a release, allowing the producers to use the footage of their interviews.
Myth #2: The film is anti-science.
Wrong again. Many distinguished scientists were interviewed for this film and given the chance to express their views. Just like their Darwinist counterparts, the advocates of intelligent design and their supporters who are interviewed are there to talk about science, not to dismiss it. These are people like Cambridge physicist John Polkinghorne; Oxford mathematician and philosopher John Lennox; journalist Pamela Winnick, who has received hate mail for covering the issue; and biologist Caroline Crocker, who was fired from George Mason University for discussing intelligent design in the classroom. Some of them are religious believers; some are not. But what they share is a commitment to science and the unfettered pursuit of truth. Expelled is not anti-science; it is anti-censorship.
Myth #3: Ben Stein, the actor and writer who hosts the movie, has lost his mind.
Bringing up this very issue in a conference call, Stein quipped that he probably has, "but it was a long time ago . . . probably sometime around 1958." Well, I have known Stein well for years, and he is as bright as a button and anything but out of his mind. On a serious note, Stein and his film's producers explained that the mud that people are flinging at him is just one small example of what happens to people who question Darwinian orthodoxy. The original idea for Expelled, said co-producer and software engineer Walt Ruloff, came to him when he was working on a project with a group of biotechnologists and learned "that there was a whole series of questions that could not be asked."
The prevailing ideology among many scientists—it turned out—he concluded, was keep your mouth shut, take the research money, and publish only the data that fits with "the party line." The issue that concerns Ruloff and the others behind Expelled is whether the scientific establishment in this country is going to allow genuine "freedom of inquiry," or simply shut up—and slander—those who do not toe the line.
Given all this, Ben Stein states, "As long as the cause is right, I'm happy to be in an uphill struggle."
Myth #4: Popular author and atheist, Richard Dawkins tells Ben Stein in this film that there could have been a designer of life on earth, but it would have had to have been "a higher intelligence" that had itself evolved "to a very high level . . . and seeded some form of life on this planet."
Well, actually . . . that one is not a myth. He really did say it—striking admission, though it is.
So, I urge you to go see Expelled when it opens at a theater near you. Believe me, in this case the truth really is stranger—and more compelling—than any fiction the film's detractors could possibly dream up.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Unborn Victims of Crime Act

Welcome to Canada - a place where you can be charged for killing a fawn still in its mother's womb, but not with killing a human baby still in its mother's womb. Hard to believe, isn't it? Yet that is precisely the case. In November of 2007 three hunters in British Columbia were charged under the wildlife act after killing two female deer. According to CanWest news, they were charged with four counts because the adult deer were pregnant.
Yet across the country left-wing bloggers are filling the internet with blogs speaking out against the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, a piece of legislation which would allow criminal charges to be laid in the death or injury of an unborn child when the child's mother is the victim of a crime. To look at this bill on its own, it would be hard to find a persuasive argument against it. How could someone be opposed to wanting to protect the unborn child of a mother who is happily awaiting her delivery date?
Here's the rub. This debate gets muddied because pro-abortionists look at this as the thin edge of the wedge. They are of the belief that, if this law is passed, it will open the floodgates and there will be many more bills to follow wanting to protect the rights of the unborn. This may be so - but it doesn't mean this bill doesn't make sense. In fact, I think it brings to the forefront very quickly the shallow arguments of some on the left.
Let's give a scenario. Imagine a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy from a since-broken relationship. She has decided that she wants to keep the baby and is making plans to raise this child herself. However, the man is fuming that she has refused his demands that she abort. He doesn't want to deal with the fact that he will have a child out there somewhere and that he may end up having to pay support. So he goes after her. He beats her, and repeatedly kicks her in her now swelled abdomen. As a result of this attack, she miscarries.
Does it not make obvious sense that this man ought to be charged with murder? What fantasy world are we living in when we blissfully argue (as is the case in Canadian law) that the fetus is not human until fully emerged alive from its mother. This is not only wrongheaded, it also flies in the face of all of the scientific discoveries of the past few decades.
I've also heard the argument that judges are free to take into account, during sentencing, that a mother was pregnant when attacked. But why should a judge have the option of not taking this into consideration. Of course this should be front and center of a case like the one mentioned above. We have granted rights in Canada to everyone else for whatever special interest or fetish they might have. We've even granted rights to unborn fawns. It's time we gave some protection to these unborn victims of violence. An Environics poll released in October 2007 found that 72% of Canadians-75% of women-would support "legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill a foetus during an attack on the mother." Support Member of Parliament Ken Epp as he works to have this bill passed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Is A Christ-follower?

You've seen them, and so have I. They're loud; they're in your face, and they're certain they're right. They picket soldier's funerals because they're convinced that God is judging America by letting its young men die in Iraq. They carry signs that say things like "God hates fags," or "God hates..." whatever they hate. It's all so very sad.
I've been teaching a series lately based on the question what is a Christ-follower? The vast majority of people in North America, surprisingly, call themselves Christians. But there are so many different definitions of that word that it's no wonder there's so much confusion. There are certainly no shortage of people who claim to have a hedge on the truth. But I think if you want to answer that question, the best thing to do is to look at what Jesus actually said and what his first disciples actually did and taught.
An obvious thing we see is a person who was more inclined to relationship than religion. He took great issue with the Pharisees (a sect of Jews who took great pride in their ability to keep all of the rules and regulations and who even expanded them). He called them hypocrites who would be concerned about the smallest detail of the law yet would turn their back on someone in need. Jesus, on the other hand, took pains to step across culture barriers to care for people who were often considered outcasts. Mind you, Jesus did not endorse breaking the law either. He, rather, encouraged us to live out the law by boiling it down to its purest form. He said that all of the law was based on two commandments: (1) Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and (2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
So let's start with what does not make you a Christ-follower. Obeying the rules does not make you a Christ-follower. Otherwise the Pharisees would have qualified. Neither does going to church make you a Christ-follower, or giving money to charity. Those may be good things, but they don't cut it by themselves.
Neither does praying the right prayer, or saying the right words do it for you. In Matthew 15:8 Jesus said, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." He asked a question that anyone calling themself a Christian should look at seriously. He asked, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and don't do the things that I say?" I believe that to be the question of the day for the North American church. Someone said that the church in North America is growing, yes, it's a mile wide but an inch deep.
Jesus called for surrender. He called his disciples and expected them to leave their nets and follow him - and they did. He also called for obedience. When the rich young ruler came to him and asked what he must do to enter the Kingdom of God, Jesus responded that he knew the commandments - do them. The young man was thrilled because, as he said, he had kept them all from his youth. But Jesus looked through his impressive facade into his heart and saw that what ruled his life was money. He told him that for him to enter the kingdom of God he needed to sell all that he had, give to the poor, and come follow him. (Note that he didn't require that of all of his followers). The point was that God will not play second fiddle to anything else in our lives.
So, Jesus also called for obedience - regardless of the cost. The picture we get through the New Testament is that of a community of people who were committed to following Christ, even if it cost them their lives - and for many it did. The world was changed because Jesus' disciples believed with every fiber of their being that Jesus Christ was who said he was and that this world was not their home. They knew that life had meaning because God created each of us for a purpose. And because Christ is with us by his Spirit, there is no challenge too great; no difficulty which can't be overcome.
Society was changed for the good because Christ-followers did just that. They followed Christ. They loved people regardless of who they were or where they were from - or what they'd done. They were a community of sinners saved by grace who lived lives of grateful obedience. Perhaps the greatest leader in the history of the church, apart from Jesus - the Apostle Paul - stated that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
Are you a Christ-follower? I don't know. Who's your boss? Who gets to tell you what to do? My boss is a Jewish carpenter who carried his own cross up a hill to his death and who said to us, "Take up your cross and follow me." Any takers?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Advice From Bill Gates


Bill Gates gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. I thought this was something certainly worth sharing. Maybe I'll follow this up with lessons I've learned over the couple of years I've been out of High School.



Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!


Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.


Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school and you won’t be a vice-president of a company until you earn both.


Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.


Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.


Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.


Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.


Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.


Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.


Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.


Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It's New Years day 2008. Welcome to another new opportunity to make some positive changes in your life. Any New Year's Resolutions this year? You know the drill - quit smoking, be a better person, write a novel, etc... I don't know if you're like me, but I find it's relatively easy to find out what needs to change, it's entirely another matter to make it happen. So, how do we change?
John Maxwell said something like this: "people change when they hurt enough that they have to change, learn enough that they want to change or grow enough that they're able to change." I've found this statement to be true in my own life. Most of the problems that we have in our lives are self-made and must be dealt with by us. So, change starts with a determination that change is necessary.
One of my problems when I first started out in ministry was that I was a chronic avoider. I didn't like to deal with things directly; particularly confrontation. So what I would tend to do was to stay somewhere until the problems got large enough, and then I would find an excuse to move on. After I left a few messes behind me I was convinced that, if I was ever going to reach my potential, I would have to face my problems. It marked a real turning point in my pastoral ministry. I went from having short-term stays with little results to long-term stays and much more impact. But it began with that determination.
Step two is looking for the right tools. Some people need help to change. That help can come in the form of a mentor - someone to walk you through the steps and hold you accountable - or the resources you need. I've found books, CDs, and the internet as great resources to help change. The human mind is like a computer, and a computer is only as good as what is put into it. Too many of us have been feeding our minds garbage for so long that we don't function properly. That's likely why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 that the way to change is to "..be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."
Another helpful tool to make positive change is to use the power of habit. Someone said that first we form habits, and then our habits form us. So, what I've learned is to take some habit that I'm trying to elliminate and replace it with a habit that will move me in a better direction. I then commit myself to do that thing, whatever it is, for the next four weeks - every day. That's generally how long it takes for something to become a habit.
For example, let's say I've been staying up too late and am unable to get up in the morning. My goal then would be to be in bed by 11 each night and up by 6. The first few nights would be a challenge, but by the end of four weeks I would find that my body will automatically wake up at 6. The circadian rhythm - our biological clock - kicks in and starts to work for us. Once we form that habit, it becomes a part of who we are.
Author Charles Swindoll decided a long time ago that, if he was going to write, the only way that he could have the time was to get up one hour earlier in the morning and write then. For many years now that habit has enabled him to write scores of books. It began with a determination to do something different.
Anyway, there's my two-cents worth to start the New Year. I hope that 2008 is the best year you've ever had. Happy New Year and may all of your changes be positive ones.