Looking to the Rock
Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 11:16 AM

Al Deir Petra Looking to the RockI have had the privilege of serving on the board of the Davenant Trust, whose “aim is to revitalize contemporary Reformed and evangelical discourse by sponsoring scholarly endeavors at the intersection of the church and academy: the proliferation of the digital archive, the retrieval and translation of classic texts, the development and support of Christian study centers, and the sponsorship of individual scholars engaged in historical work for the sake of the contemporary church.”

One of the efforts the Trust has undertaken in service of historical and theological ressourcement is the Davenant Latin Institute, which is set to offer three different levels of courses in instruction in Latin. The courses will focus on introducing and deepening Latin language skills in an online environment. Many seminaries and graduate schools, particularly Protestant ones, do not offer much in the way of Latin training. DLI hopes to provide a much-needed service to those who otherwise would go without access to such instruction.

As the project indicates, “Latin was for seventeen centuries the language of the Western Church, and many of its greatest treasures — not merely of the Church Fathers and medieval theologians, but of the Protestant Reformers and their heirs — still lie locked up in this forgotten tongue.” As a Reformed theologian with interests in church history and particularly the Reformation, one of the great contemporary needs I have seen is a better understanding of church history in general, and the teachings and traditions of respective Christian denominations, churches, and families of churches in particular. For those called to leadership in the church today, familiarity with and immersion in the texts of the Christian church are indispensable.

The motto of the Davenant Trust is, fittingly, in Latin: “Adtendite ad petram unde excisi estis.” Those who take courses from the DLI will be able to recognize such passages, in this case a reference to Isaiah 51:1, which reads in our vernacular, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn.” In the theology of the Christian West, that rock was predominantly Latin, or petram. The Davenant Latin Institute promises to help us better look to that rock and through such work come to a better understanding of Christ and his church. For those of you who might benefit from such instruction, I am happy to commend the program to your consideration.

Has Pastor Abedini Been Forgotten?
Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 10:37 AM

IMG 2995 300x182 Has Pastor Abedini Been Forgotten?On these pages, I have written a number of articles about Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American pastor being held in a notorious Iranian prison for his Christian activities. My readers will recall that Pastor Abedini was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison for “undermining national security” in Iran because he was holding private religious gathering in Christian homes. Since his sentence, he has not seen his wife and two young children. Numerous analysts have underscored how the global talks over Iran’s nuclear program have confirmed Iranian hegemony over the Middle East, as well as provided a military and economic victory for the Iranian mullahs. Iran’s diplomatic and economic isolation wanes as governments and businesses rush to exploit Iran’s return to global respectability. The New York Times recently reported the following:

American companies are barred from doing business in Iran, which remains under a regimen of sanctions aimed at pressuring the country to curtail its nuclear program. The sanctions, which cover financial transactions as well as a host of industries like petroleum and shipping, have put a stranglehold on the Iranian economy, which is struggling with inflation and shortages of food and consumer goods. With the United States and Iran currently negotiating a nuclear deal under which those sanctions would eventually be lifted, some American companies are now hoping for new business opportunities in a country that has long been off limits.

Thus, led by Mr. Obama’s schizophrenic foreign policy (allied with Iran against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, while supporting Saudi and Egyptian military forces fighting Iranian-backed militias in Yemen), sanctions relief against Iran is coming, and American and international firms will increasingly do business with Iran. With these new financial investments into Iran, the murderous mullahs of Teheran will obtain added financial resources to pursue their aggression across the Middle East, as Mr. Obama and the international community (except for Israel, of course) have now accepted a nuclear Iran. How much will Iran get under Obama’s rapprochement? Obama administration officials have reportedly told Congress that Iran could receive $30 to $50 billion of funds presently frozen in foreign accounts upon signing an agreement. And further, according to Mark Dubowitz, a sanctions expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran could gain access to $118 billion in new oil revenue in the first year alone after a signed agreement. Beyond oil, European firms are excited at the prospect of new business with Iran. As one example, following the interim nuclear deal of late 2013, German exports to Iran grew by 30 percent, and Germany’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry foresees exports rising significantly in the coming years. With nary a protest from Mr. Obama, Russia recently announced that it will deliver advanced missile defense systems to Iran, which it had refused to do since 2009, making any Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites far more difficult. Moreover, Russia and China have agreed to help Iran build five new nuclear reactors.

Largely forgotten in the euphoria of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy “success” with Iran is the plight of Pastor Abedini. As Iranian leaders realize that they have nothing to fear from Mr. Obama’s America, Pastor Abedini faces new and more horrible forms of torture in Iranian prison. Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, recently posted on her Facebook page:

Today Saeed’s father was able to visit Saeed in prison. Saeed was encouraged to be able to have an in person visitation with his father after 5 weeks of no visitations. He wanted to thank you all for your continued prayers. Knowing that he is not forgotten and believers around the world continue to remember him in prayer and advocate for him has encouraged him to continue in this difficult journey and to hold on to hope. Last week had been quite difficult for Saeed. He has been under a lot of pressure and attack from the hardliners. The guards have also been threatening Saeed that he will never go free and additional charges (and years) will be added to his sentence (which they have done to other Christians and fellow inmates). They continually threaten Saeed that the only key to his freedom is denying Christ and returning to Islam. Saeed refuses to deny Christ and continues to be a light and witness in that dark prison. These threats coupled with the fact that there have been mass executions during the last week in Rajayee Shahr prison, have really taken their toll on Saeed. He asks for prayer for continued strength. He wants you all to know that the Lord continues to move in that prison and lives are being transformed! That they had a great Easter in prison celebration our Savior’s resurrection. Saeed desperately missed being with our family on Easter, but new Easter traditions were created in prison! Over the years this Journey has truly become more difficult and painful for Saeed and for the kids and me. Our family appreciates your continued prayers. God Bless you all!

Emphasis added. My question to Mr. Obama is whether he is fulfilling his commitment, made publicly at the National Prayer Breakfast, to do “everything we can to bring [Pastor Abedini] home?” Frankly, I am not so convinced that he is. What I do see is that Mr. Obama eagerly wants to sign a “deal” with Iran to establish his foreign policy “legacy.” What I also see is that Mr. Obama was willing to release the high-ranking “Taliban Five” for one Army deserter in violation of American law, but he doesn’t want to lift a finger to free this imprisoned American pastor and father. Please continue to pray for Pastor Abedini and the fellow Christians in prison with him, and for Pastor Abedini’s family in accordance with Hebrews 13:3. And please pray for the peace of Jerusalem in accordance with Psalm 122:6. Maranatha!

Mere Links. April 21, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 2:39 PM

Notable & Quotable: George Will
Wall Street Journal
Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more dangerously threatened than it is now.

The shunning of Ryan T. Anderson: When support for gay marriage gets ugly
by Damon Linker, The Week
In his longer apology, Micciche expressed “sincere regret” for his “lack of sensitivity” and the “anguish and confusion” and “pain” the link inflicted on members of the school community who thought the link implied that the school was standing behind Anderson’s views. Of course this could have been rectified with the addition of a simple, one-sentence note clarifying that a link does not imply an endorsement. But Micciche obviously thought this was insufficient for someone whose beliefs “begin from an assumption of inequality and that argue for the denial of rights to an entire segment of the population based on their identity.” The only acceptable thing to do with such a person is to cut ties completely.

Ashamed of the Gospel? The End of Comfortable Christianity
by Robert P. George, Touchstone
“Now, if one does not believe what the Church teaches, or, for now at least, even if one does believe those teachings but is prepared to be completely silent about them, one is safe—one can still be a comfortable Christian. In other words, a tame Christian, a Christian who is ashamed of the gospel—or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed—is still socially acceptable. But a Christian who makes it clear that he or she is not ashamed must be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices.”

Onward, Christian Soldier?
Monday, April 20, 2015, 9:42 AM

iStock 000018357769 Small 300x199 Onward, Christian Soldier?In the coming weeks, millions of young people will be graduating from either high school or college. A number may be contemplating entering into our nation’s military, and some may have felt such a calling to national military service since childhood. Over the past few years, on these pages, I have written a number of articles about the numerous growing dangers that face conservative and Christian young people who contemplate careers in the military, and I have counseled young people against enlistment into our nation’s armed forces at this time. One of those articles is available here. Since that article’s publication, the U.S. military has become an even more intolerant and an unwelcome place for not only Christian and more conservative, patriotic soldiers, but for many others as well. In addition to its foreign policy incompetence that has squandered the blood and sacrifice of so many American fighting men and women and their families, coupled with on-going scandalous care at our nation’s Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics, the Obama administration has sought to remake our nation’s military into his utopian vision of a modern marvel of social engineering with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the 2010 lame duck session of Congress, the placement of women on the front lines of combat, and serious consideration of military service for transgendered soldiers. Mr. Obama continues today with a full-scale war on Christian religious expression. There have even been a number of high-profile cases of military chaplains facing punishment for private counseling sessions that reflected their Christian faith. In another recent case, a chaplain for an Army Ranger training battalion was punished after one soldier complained that the chaplain “advocated Christianity” and, horror of horrors, used the Holy Bible during a training session. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (yes, there is apparently such an organization) said that the Ranger chaplain “used his official position to force his personal religious beliefs on a captive military audience.” (I suppose that Commander-in-Chief Obama will not be held to the same standard. But I digress.) Moreover, The Daily Caller recently published information about a Department of Defense training course prepared by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (“DEOMI”) that branded the Holy Bible (along with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution) as “sexist” documents. Following publication of this article, DEOMI abruptly took down information about this and other related courses stating that they were supposedly “under revision.” But here is one video that Mr. Obama, and his sycophantic senior civilian and high-ranking military leaders at the Pentagon, just hate to watch.

Over the past six years, the Pentagon has used $287 million of your tax dollars for an “optimism program” meant to make soldiers more contented despite what they readily see going on around them. But this “optimism” propaganda has not attained its desired result and, in fact, is a dismal failure. Today’s soldiers do not feel happy in their work, and certainly are not optimistic. A recently reported Department of Defense survey indicates that, among the Army’s 770,000 soldiers, more than one half (52 percent) are unhappy, or even worse, “rarely count on good things happening” to them. Almost as many (48 percent) explain that their military service is anything but rewarding. Today, only 28 percent of the Army and National Guard feel good about their military service, a low point for one of our nation’s proudest traditions. A recent USA Today article available here, citing survey results, stated, “Two-thirds [of soldiers] were borderline or worse for an area called ‘catastrophic thinking,’ where poor scores mean the soldier has trouble adapting to change or dwells on the worst possible things happening.” Emphasis added. Very sad, isn’t it? Now it is a truism that feeling dissatisfied and being disrespected at one’s job or career is de-motivating, but today’s soldiers find their commitment waning as well. In addition to deep morale problems and dissatisfaction, the increasing numbers of sexual assaults, suicides, and recruitment problems have resulted in a stunning 40 percent of soldiers not trusting their fellow soldiers or superiors. (Could open homosexuality in the ranks affect unit cohesion and morale? Say it ain’t so, Barack!) And speaking of Mr. Obama, today’s soldiers have only 15 percent confidence in Mr. Obama as Commander-in-Chief. The long and great traditions of our nation’s military are being torn root and branch by Mr. Obama’s administration. Thus, it appears that today’s soldiers did not sign up for this social engineering, are not happy at all about it, and many are leaving as soon as they can. And based upon current serious enlistment problems, future soldiers aren’t signing up for Mr. Obama’s social experimentation either. So if you, soon-to-be new graduate, are thinking about military service, you just might want to defer your decision for two more years. In the toxic and hostile work environment created by Mr. Obama’s attacks on the Christian faith, traditional values, and military brotherhood, you may not want to enlist until you are respected and made to feel welcome. Christian young people, you don’t deserve to be Mr. Obama’s guinea pig. You deserve nothing less than the deep appreciation and respect of your nation for your service.

Mere Links. April 15, 2015
Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 2:01 PM

Redefining Marriage Would Put Kids of Heterosexuals At Risk
by Gene Schaerr, Public Discourse
The metamorphosis of marriage from a gendered to a genderless institution would send the message that society no longer needs men to bond to women to form well-functioning families or to raise happy, well-adjusted children. That would be bad news for children of heterosexuals on the margins: the poor, the relatively uneducated, the irreligious, and others who are susceptible to cultural messages promoting casual or uncommitted sex.

Darwin’s Problem: The Origin of Language
by Dr. Fazale Rana, Reasons to Believe
As a Christian, I view our language ability as a manifestation of God’s image in us. The scientific community, on the other hand, largely turns to evolutionary scenarios to account for the emergence of language. Yet, as a recently published essay attests, explaining the origin of language from within the evolutionary paradigm is a struggle.

War of the sexes: Gender theory is the problem, not solution, pope says
Catholic News Service
“For example, I wonder if so-called gender theory may not also be an expression of frustration and resignation that aims to erase sexual differentiation because it no longer knows how to come to terms with it,” the pope said.

Should Seeking Asylum Be A Crime?
Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 9:56 AM

On these pages, I have often described the great persecution that afflicts Christians in Pakistan. As one example, I have written about the plight of Asia Bibi, the Christian farm worker who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s notorious criminal code section 295(c), which prescribes the death penalty for “insulting” Mohamed. In June 2009, Asia Bibi, a married mother of five, while working in the fields, was asked to bring water for the other farm workers. Some of the Moslem workers refused to drink the water she brought as they considered water touched by Christians to be “unclean.” Her co-workers then complained to local authorities that she made derogatory comments about Mohamed. And what was the insulting comment she was alleged to have made? The Moslem women claimed that Asia Bibi said, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your prophet Mohamed ever do to save mankind?” Of course, her hearers had no ready answer to her simple question as Islam teaches that one cannot know and experience assurance of eternal salvation. Following a show trial, she has found guilty and has been awaiting her execution since that time.

Thousands of Pakistani Christians have fled Pakistan for Thailand. The Pakistani Christians, like Asia Bibi, have been accused of blasphemy or threatened by the radical Islamists. Many of the Pakistani Christian refugees are converts from Islam. Today I write about the troubles facing at least four thousand Pakistani Christians, who live in refugee camps in Thailand, where they experience harassment and arrest from Thai police. Thailand is not a signatory to a 1951 United Nations treaty regarding the status of asylum seekers and refugees, and as a result, the Pakistani Christians are considered illegal immigrants in Thailand and can, therefore, be deported. Further, their illegal situation prevents the Pakistani Christians from any legal employment. In Thailand, our Pakistani Christian brothers and sisters who are asylum seekers face continuous risks of arrest, detention, and worst of all, a possible forced return to Pakistan where they are already at grave risk. Last month, for example, Thai police arrested more than 400 Pakistani Christian immigrants, including many women and children. Further, some of the Christian asylum seekers have physical and psychological health problems resulting from traumas they experienced in Pakistan, and can neither obtain nor afford appropriate medication. Thus, they live under very difficult conditions in Thailand. A recent report published by the Farrukh Saif Foundation, a Pakistani human rights organization, stated:

“Immigration Police of Thailand, with the military, raided the houses of asylum seekers living in Samrong district [of Bangkok]. Hours before raiding the houses, the area and streets were cordoned off by Thai military; it was like an operation against Criminals. Asylum seekers from inside their homes kept calling around to their other asylum seekers for prayers, calling UNHCR also for protection, but their fate was unavoidable. As soon as the operation started, the Thai military smashed the doors and entered in the rooms of asylum seekers and started arresting the people. Minor kids, women, young and old everyone were treated in an inhuman [sic] way. Loads of people were arrested and shifted to Samrong Police station. Many were crying, begging and requesting, showing their asylum seekers certificates but none paid any heed. We immediately rushed to the Samrong Police station but no one was in the mood to cooperate. All arrested people were held in the car parking area and later on they were seated on the floor inside the police station and Immigration police and other authorities were not ready to listen to any request.”

And so our brothers and sisters in Christ endure these difficult conditions as they await the determination of refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) staff. The refugee determination process by the UNHCR may easily take one year or longer as many fled Pakistan without much documentation. And even then, when and if refugee status is granted, their cases move to the government bureaucracies of different countries for possible resettlement. This adds at least several more years to their plight. Most of the refugees are poor, and since arriving in Thailand, they have relied upon the small amount of food and housing aid provided by Thai churches and others. (Lord, bless those Thai pastors and Christians richly!) At this writing, practically none of the Pakistani Christians have obtained entry visas to another country.

As we all know, the United States is a sieve for illegal immigrants, with some suggesting that our nation holds more than thirty million illegal immigrants with countless more coming across the southern border this summer. If the UNHCR provides refugee status to our brothers and sisters in Christ, then the United States government can act under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (“USRAP”), but only if UNHCR determines that the Pakistani Christians require third-country resettlement for protection reasons. Since most of the Pakistani Christians are at grave risk of serious bodily harm and death, then they are, under normal circumstances, eligible for eventual resettlement in the United States, Canada, or Australia.

Besides praying for God’s mercy and protection for Asia Bibi and our other Pakistani Christian brothers and sisters, you might also wish to contact the following agencies to press for faster action on their plight. I can assure you that they love to hear from regular folks. You can reach them at the following email addresses:

The Director of UNHCR Office in New York
Email: usane@unhcr.org

UNHCR Regional Representative in Thailand
Email: thaba@unhcr.org

UNHCR, Washington DC
Email: usawa@unhcr.org

U.S. Bangkok Refugee Section
Embassy of the United States of America
Bangkok, Thailand
E-mail: BnkRefugeeSection@state.gov

And when you do write, please send along a copy to your elected congressional representatives as the United States “donates” a major portion of UNHCR funding and billions of your taxpayer dollars to Pakistan, our nation’s erstwhile ally in what was once known as the war on terror. In Matthew 25:40, we read, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’” Amen.

Mere Links. April 13, 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015, 2:58 PM

Obama administration: Catholic school upholding marriage is “sex discrimination”
by Drew Belsky, lifesitenews.com
“The Obama administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has found ‘reasonable cause’ to rule that a Catholic prep school has unlawfully discriminated against a homosexual band director formerly in the school’s employ.”

The Logic of Economic Discrimination
by Jordan Ballor, Acton Institute
“Why should big businesses like Apple, Angie’s List, or Salesforce be able to discriminate against an entire state like Indiana, while Christian small-business owners cannot likewise decide who they want to do business with? If Apple can boycott Indiana, why can’t evangelicals boycott same-sex weddings?”

Princeton Votes for Academic Freedom
by Robert P. George, First Things
“Yesterday, the Princeton faculty, led by the distinguished mathematician Sergiu Klainerman, who grew up under communist oppression in Romania and knows a thing or two about the importance of freedom of expression, formally adopted the principles of the University of Chicago report. They are now the official policy of Princeton University. I am immensely grateful to Professor Klainerman for his leadership, and I am proud of my colleagues, the vast majority of whom voted in support of his motion. At Chicago and Princeton, at least, academic freedom lives!”

The Homosexualists’ Day of Silence Is Again Upon Us
Monday, April 13, 2015, 10:09 AM

iStock 000025529771 Small 166x300 The Homosexualists’ Day of Silence Is Again Upon UsWell, it’s that time of the year again! This coming Friday, April 17, 2015, is the next scheduled “Day of Silence” (the “DOS”). The DOS is a homosexuality-affirming event mostly in government-run schools. It is organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (“GLSEN”), and on this day, as described on the GLSEN website, “hundreds of thousands of students across the world take a vow of silence.” The ostensible purpose is to raise “awareness of the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination.” So DOS will be in effect in thousands of government-run high schools and middle schools in the United States. The GLSEN website also talks about such an event in elementary schools, starting as early as kindergarten. However, I have not heard about the DOS in elementary schools yet, but I am sure that will be forthcoming.

There are, of course, some limits on free speech in school. While students do not lose their constitutional free speech rights at the schoolhouse door, schools do have some control over students’ speech in the classroom and during supervised, school-sponsored activities. And a teacher may tell a student to answer a question during class, but at which time, the student doesn’t have a constitutional right to refuse to answer. So the GLSEN website counsels students, “Students who want to remain silent during class on the Day of Silence are less likely to encounter problems if they seek permission from their teachers beforehand.” And apparently, many teachers also do not speak during their class time on the DOS.

Of course, the DOS is promoted as an “anti-bullying” campaign. Who would support bullying? If that were the actual case, almost everyone would support the DOS. But rather, the DOS seeks to cleverly advance the notion that all public expressions of moral disapproval of homosexual and lesbian activity is bullying. It is early in the week, and you might want to contact your children’s schools to find out what the school administration is permitting for this year’s DOS. Most government school administrators will be coy to parents about this, at most saying that the final decision about the DOS will rest with each teacher. School administrators may even say that they don’t even know about the DOS. But beware! Fundamentally, the DOS exploits the young and impressionable captive minds and the anti-bullying sentiment to advance non-Christian beliefs and goals. If it were me, and my children’s government-run school participates, then I would keep my children home from school on Friday if students and teachers are allowed to refuse to speak during instructional time. As the Reverend Bill Owens, President of the The Coalition of African-American Pastors, recently said in an interview about the DOS, “I would like to see [the DOS] become a day of silent prayer. Why not make it a day of silent prayer to promote Christianity?  What’s the difference?” A very good question, don’t you think?

Christ is Risen!
Sunday, April 12, 2015, 7:00 AM

He is risen indeed!

Joe is a Coptic Christian
Friday, April 10, 2015, 10:38 PM
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