Friday, 30 April 2010

Ultrasound before abortion

Oklahoma has passed laws to ensure that women about to have an abortion must see an ultrasound of their baby an hour before the operation.

Here's the New York Times report.

The arguments against include the idea that such a move is unconstitutional because it infringes the physician's right to free speech if he is required to describe the foetus. Which seems a bit desperate, to say the least.

Seems to me the mother is being forced to confront the human identity of the one about to die by her decision, which is no bad thing.

The best thing would be to outlaw abortion altogether, but the current view of the US Supreme Court is that this can't be done.

Marriage license revoked?

Belinda Luscombe wrote a great article for Time magazine on marriage, and taking away people's license to marry for multiple infractions:

In no other area of life can grown people flame out so often and so badly and still get official permission to go ahead and do the same thing again. If your driving is hazardous to those around you, your license is suspended. Fail too many courses at college, and you'll get kicked out. You can lose your medical or law license for a single infraction. Stock analyst Henry Blodgett was prohibited from trading securities forever for publicly saying things he knew weren't true. So why do people who are committed vows abusers keep getting handed marriage licenses at city hall? If batters and violent offenders get only three strikes, why should bad spouses get more?

Of course, a lot of people will say this is nobody's business but the bride and groom's. Plus, it's natural. Evolution favors the alpha-male serial monogamist who bonds with a mate until she gets old and is replaced by a more fertile one. Other primates change partners all the time. But other primates also practice infanticide and poop throwing, and we're not about to sanction either of those. So why are we complicit in allowing people to make big public promises they have demonstrated a chronic inability to keep?

The whole article is here.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Man lies dying, ignored.

Awful story:

People ignored the dying man for nearly two hours as he lay in a street in Queens after saving a woman from being mugged.

CCTV footage showed Hugo Tale-Yax, a homeless man, collapsing with stab wounds on a pavement shortly after stopping the mugger, who had been armed with a knife.

From SMH.

Friday, 23 April 2010

God's gonna cut you down (Cash)

Johnny Cash. True it is.


Quoting the friend of a friend: "With so many gorgeous women about, you'd have to be nuts to be a homosexual."

I don't think it was meant to be anti-gay so much as pro-women.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

God's impassibility and your pain

Does God feel your pain?

Does Jesus retreat to impassibility when he ascends to heaven?

If you want to see how brainiac theology of the first order issues forth in deep pastoral comfort, read Mark Baddeley's extraordinary post at the Sola Panel, right here.

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

All my lovin'

Arranged for ukulele.

The Pope versus Polanski

I'm no great fan of popes, but here is a fascinating (because true) article by Dominic Lawson comparing the treatment of the Pope over assumed knowledge of sex abuse, with the treatment of Roman Polanski over actual rape.

From the article:

Last weekend I went to see a new film by a child-abuser. Very good it was, too. Roman Polanski's The Ghost shows no diminution in the artistic powers of one of cinema's most enduring talents: I can understand why the reviewers have been unstinting in their praise. Yet Polanski has not been doing the usual TV interviews that accompany critical acclaim. He is under house arrest in his Swiss chalet, fighting the attempts of a California court to extradite him for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in 1977.

The world of film – indeed, of art in general – regards this (Polanski's arrest, that is, not his abuse of a 13-year-old girl) as a scandal. This attitude was most clearly evident in the remark of the Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg, who last year defended him with the observation, "I know it wasn't rape-rape". With this remarkable neologism, Goldberg gave a new gloss to the old line (usually uttered by men) of "she said no, but she meant yes".

Richard Dawkins gets (dis)honourable mention too.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Too much Cross of Christ?

I originally posted this on The Sola Panel.

Is it possible to be too focused on the cross of Christ?

The answer has to be no. In fact, the nastiest pieces of theological misguidance that I've come across have lost any sense that the cross of Christ is where we find everything—our sin, God's love, his judgement, our salvation, and the mystery of Trinitarian theology working itself out in a place beyond our comprehension.

However John Stott brought me up short with this:

… if we dare to call our Judge our Father we must beware of presuming on him. It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won for us only after we have first seen God's inaccessibility to sinners. We can cry ‘Hallelujah’ with authenticity only after we have first cried ‘Woe is me, for I am lost’.

That's from The Cross of Christ (p. 109). After Basic Christianity, it is Stott's most useful book.

Translated into English from the English, Stott is saying, “Preach the cross as much as you like. But it is just a piece of stupidity in a distant historical context unless we understand why it is there. It's as ridiculous as taking a pill the doctor offers, without understanding that I'm sick—no, really sick.”

Until I understand that I am a sinner, that God really hates me for it, and that I really am going to the place where the fire burns without being extinguished and the worm does not die, I can't begin understand the love he showed me when his Son died in my place for my sins, bearing the full weight of his Father's wrath against me.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Reasons to be cheerful, part 3

We all know the song by Ian Dury, of course:

But not everyone understands all the reasons why we should be cheerful, so the BBC has helpfully put out this glossary.

Reasons to be cheerful, 1 2 3.

The Bad Man nails it on impassibility and language

Mark Baddeley absolutely nails it with this deconstruction opposing the non-impossibility of using passible language of an impassible God.

Here is the brilliant insight that unlocks what is going on:

But I'd suggest that this concern plays neatly into the hands of one of the bigger conceptual presuppositions behind a lot of modern atheism: good old Kant. The presupposition is that human language just cannot speak about something that is not part of our space-time system, and human reason can't reason about it either.

I freely admit I am too darn lazy to explain, just at the moment, why this is so astonishingly good. Maybe read a bit of Kant, or at least a potted summary, to start on the road here, and then head to the first post in this subseries.

Please note though that Mark is answering a second-level objection to a first-order point, and exactly what that point is (the impassibility of God) you can start reading here and keep reading here and here.

Spend time on it, folks, I urge you! This is theology as it should be done, and it is worth sweating a few bullets as you get past a little bit of the high falutin' language, enjoy the Star Trek references, to the point where you can enjoy just being thankful that God has granted Mark the ability to cut through dangerous sidetracks and errors with such conciseness (yes! conciseness! they are long posts but with good reason) and leading us back to a scripturally

(of course, for how could it be otherwise)

based understanding of God as he reveals himself to be.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tetris lovers, abandon all hope

This is fully sick, in the older sense of that term.

Thanks Nathan.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Prayer prayed today

In church.

On the roster was confession, sick people, and the 9 am congregation at St Paul's:

Most Merciful God. We humbly admit that we need your help. We confess that we have wandered from your way. We have done wrong and we have failed to do what is right. You alone can save us. Wipe out our sins and teach us to forgive others. Bring forth in us the fruit of the Spirit that we may live as disciples of Christ. This we ask in the name of Jesus our Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father, we pray indeed that you will forgive our sins.

We pray for 9am church - Gary, Evan; those who serve in various ways - welcomers; those who serve morning tea; collectors; prayer; leaders; bible readers.

Please Lord forgive our sins, and guide those who teach us in your word to preach to us as forgiven sinners, desiring to see the coming of your kingdom. We pray for all of us, Father, as we serve in this church, that you will cause us to do so for your glory and in hope of your coming Kingdom, not for our own desire to be recognized. We pray that we will always be ready to explain the hope that we have in you, and that we will do that with love and faithfulness so that those who don’t know you, both in our congregation and in our community, will bring honour to you and serve Jesus as Lord.

We remember and bring before you all those in our congregation who are sick or in sorrow, suffering, need or any other kind of trouble. We remember B— having surgery on 14 April for ligament damage to her right knee. We also remember C—, recovering from surgery, and we also pray for the families of sick people we know. We think of those suffering work and financial pressures, or other family anxieties.

We pray heavenly Father for patience and perseverance in this life, and above all that you will fill us with the hope of your heavenly Kingdom and the joy of seeing you face to face.

We pray for the children of our congregation members as well, dear Lord, thanking you for the teachers who remind them of your word each week here at church, and we pray you will grant them a living faith and ground them firmly in the hope of your eternal kingdom and glory. Please give the children also the opportunity to witness to the risen Lord Jesus.

We pray all these things in Jesus name.


After which we prayed for our gospel partners in Kyrgyzstan, where they've just suffered a violent change of government.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Psalm 27

Here in all its glory.

I love the way that so often in Psalms, the end returns you to the beginning.

So the end of Psalm 27:

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

reminds us of the beginning, where the basis for the Psalmist's confidence is stated:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

The basis for our optimism about the future ("Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage") is not just positive thinking, but the very character of God himself, who is both 'light' and 'salvation'.

I'm looking at ways of changing and lightening my load for the next few weeks, partly in response to the wisdom of friends and family who have sensed or seen that I'm sinking more than I'm swimming; struggling with a feeling of depression and its consequences. One of the things that I find so comforting about the hope that the Psalmists offer is that the hope is only and ever in God himself, the one who sustains us when we can't sustain ourselves.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

From Requiem by Anna Akhmatova

A poem about the women waiting outside Stalin's prison in Leningrad. We sang it last night at the Opera House, to music composed by Moya Henderson.

It's the horror of oppression without the hope of resurrection.

Epilogue II

Once more the day of remembrance draws near.

I see, I hear, I feel you:

The one they almost had to drag at the end,

And the one who tramps her native land no more,

And the one who, tossing her beautiful head,

Said, “Coming here’s like coming home.”

I’d like to name them all by name,

But the list has been confiscated and is nowhere to

be found.

I have woven a wide mantle for them

From their meager, overheard words.

I will remember them always and everywhere,

I will never forget them no matter what comes.

And if they gag my exhausted mouth

Through which a hundred million scream,

Then may the people remember me

On the eve of my remembrance day.

And if ever in this country

They decide to erect a monument to me,

I consent to that honor

Under these conditions— that it stand

Neither by the sea, where I was born:

My last tie with the sea is broken,

Nor in the tsar’s garden near the cherished pine stump,

Where an inconsolable shade looks for me,

But here, where I stood for three hundred hours,

And where they never unbolted the doors for me.

This, lest in blissful death

I forget the rumbling of the Black Marias,

Forget how that detested door slammed shut

And an old woman howled like a wounded animal.

And may the melting snow stream like tears

From my motionless lids of bronze,

And a prison dove coo in the distance,

And the ships of the Neva sail calmly on.

March 1940

From here. Trans. Judith Hemschemeyer

What I prayed this morning

(at church)

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that the Lord Jesus rose again from the dead, and that you gave him a new body, restored and glorified.

We confess, dear Father, that we don’t think often enough of the resurrection and that when we do, we don’t realize its great and glorious implications.

We thank you that because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ is Lord; that you raised him from death to be the ruler of all creation. We thank you that because of the resurrection, the end of the world is coming; that the Lord Jesus will certainly return to judge the living and the dead. We thank you that because of the resurrection, we who were dead in our sins can look forward to a glorious awakening; that we will be saved from your terrible judgement by the forgiveness of our sins.

We thank you too, heavenly Father, that by the resurrection, we don’t need to grieve when one of us dies, as the pagans do, who have no hope; but that our grief is surrounded about by the knowledge of the comfort that you give in the giving of new life.

We pray, Heavenly Father, for our dear friends and family who don’t know the power of the resurrection and so live without life or hope, and we pause briefly to remember them now silently, by name.

We thank you so much, Father, that despite our unbelief and in cure of our unbelief, you give us the evidence and power of the resurrection, and we thank you that by the power of the resurrection you’ve given those of us who trust in you the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray that you will change us by the power of the Spirit into the likeness of the risen Lord Jesus, so that when we come at last to heaven we will reflect his glory face to face. We pray that you will return soon to raise and comfort everyone who has trusted in the power of the resurrection.

We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Tom Waits and tramp

Jesus' blood never failed me yet.