New York Times: In the tank for Obama

From a story by the Philadelphia Bulletin:

A lawyer involved with legal action against Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) told a House Judiciary subcommittee on March 19 The New York Times had killed a story in October that would have shown a close link between ACORN, Project Vote and the Obama campaign because it would have been a “a game changer.”

It’s no surprise, really, but you can read the story here.

Don’t put your faith in science

To me, it is deeply disturbing when the president puts his faith in scientists, saying things like “promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it is also about protecting free and open inquiry.  It is about letting scientists like those here today [on March 9] do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.  It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

To divorce any kind of ideology from science is to give science a free rein that leads to frightening results. In a review of Pamela Winnick’s book “A Jealous God: Science’s Crusade Against Religion,” Wesley Smith points out what kind of work scientists are capable of when human life is disregarded. From his review published in the Discovery Institute’s First Things:

Early on, Winnick wrenchingly demonstrates the potential antihuman consequences of pursuing scientism’s view of scientific research. During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, scientists conducted human experiments on living fetuses, justified by the philosophical assertion that fetuses are only “potential” human life. 

One such experiment, which won the Foundation Prize Award from the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is described by Winnick in sickening detail: “In a 1968 study called the ‘Artificial Placenta,’ a twenty-six-week-old fetus, weighing more than a pound, was obtained from a fourteen-year-old girl, presumably from a therapeutic abortion. Along with fourteen other fetuses, it was immersed in a liquid containing oxygen and kept alive a full five hours.” The study itself explains that the fetus made”irregular gaspmg movements, twice a minute, … but there was not proper respiration.” Once the pumping of oxygenated blood was stopped, however, “the gasping respiratory efforts increased to 8 to 10 times a minute …. The fetus died 21 minutes after leaving the circuit.”

So, for those of you who feel squeamish or think I’m overstating it when I mention Nazi doctors in regard to therapeutic stem cell research, I’d ask you to read that last paragraph again and remember that we’re talking about 1960s America and not 1940s Nazi Germany. Smith notes that the experiments were stopped when an outraged public and Congress — led by Ted Kennedy — demanded they be stopped. But we live in a different age where the drumbeat call for cures has drowned out any thought of human exceptionalism. In other words, it matters not that embryos are human, it only matters what cures can (possibly) be found.

The idea that science is somehow benign and trustworthy left untethered from any kind of ideological guidelines is naive and will lead to situations like the one described above. Smith, in his review of Winnock’s book, says science of is not the target in “A Jealous God” but rather a belief (scientism she calls it) that “promotes a stark materialistic utilitarianism as the way to achieve progress.” Science is not our savior, and we can never forget that.

Is God our lover? Our daddy? How should we love Him?

John Piper considers the question “Should our love for God be more like the love between a child and a father or the lover between two lovers?”:

What you look for for health—in a soul and in a church—is biblical proportion. So when it comes to intensity, it is high level intensity on each of the kinds of relationships. When it comes to which relationship is emphasized, let’s read the whole Bible and try to shape our hearts and our minds around the kinds of relationships that are highlighted in the Scriptures.

See his whole answer here.

What’s a few billion dollars? A lot for charities

At his press conference on Tuesday, President Obama seemed willing to dig in his heels on a proposal to cut deductions for charitable giving. While seen from the prism of making the wealthy suffer more, what the consequences of the move are is that charities will feel the pain when donations drop. Here is what the president said about that at the press conference when asked whether he’s convinced that charities are wrong in their thinking:

Yes, I am. I mean, if you look at the evidence, there’s very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving.

I’ll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving is a financial crisis and an economy that’s contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy, to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine.

However, a study conducted by Bank of America and Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy found that curtailing the charitable tax deduction would “somewhat” or “dramatically” decrease the contributions of 47 percent of affluent donors. The study also reckoned that Obama’s budget would cut donations nationally by $10 billion to $20 billion per year. That’s a lot of money to charities and, in a time when people are struggling due to the economy, it puts the groups most willing to help in a bad position.

And how much does it help the government to bring in that extra revenue from decreased deductions? Michael Rosen, writing in National Review Online, says that estimates from Office of Management and Budget say that the government will see a yield of only $7 billion in revenue in the 2011 fiscal year. Considering how the government gets things done compared to charitable organizations, that’s not a lot.

So, respectfully, we must disagree with the president on this one. There will be a significant impact on charities. And, it will go beyond just what they can bring in each year. It will affect the services they can offer and how people will look at the work of charities. Instead, the president’s decision will place the government in the role of the charitable organization. It’s a poor replacement and that’s a mistake.

Nightline debate: Does Satan exist?

Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, will be one of the participants on tonight’s program. If you can’t stay up to watch, the program is also online. Here is how ABC promoted the event:

The devil — also known as Satan, Lucifer and Beelzebub — has become the primary antagonist in almost every major religion. He is seen as the rebel, a serpent and a fallen angel who tempts mortals into committing sin, and preys upon their despair. But does Satan really exist?

That question will be debated Friday, March 20, when “Nightline” tackles the controversial and sensitive issue in the third installment of the “Face-Off” series.

The “Nightline Face-Off” launched two years ago by asking the question “Does God Exist?” The Face-Off aired on and more than 15,000 comments were posted on the Web site as viewers engaged in the debate.

The conversation will pick up with a debate on the devil in Seattle at the Mars Hill Church, moderated by Dan Harris, who covers faith issues for the network.

Watch the “Nightline Face-Off” Thursday, March 26, 2009, on and at 11:35 p.m. on “Nightline”


Click on the image to go the Nightline site to see the program.
Click on the image to go the Nightline site to see the program.

When all hope fails, God stands

Keep the people of Fargo in your prayers these next days, as they face disaster:

North Dakota’s largest city moved to the brink of potentially disastrous flooding Thursday, with earlier optimism fading as officials predicted the Red River would reach a record-high crest of 41 feet by the weekend.

Thousands of volunteers who have been piling sandbags for days scrambled to add another foot to Fargo’s dike protection, and official briefings lost the jokes and quips that had broken the tension earlier in the week. Instead, Thursday’s meeting opened with a prayer.

“We need all the help we can get,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

The city of 92,000 unveiled a contingency evacuation plan Thursday afternoon, but at least four nursing homes already had begun moving residents by then.

And here is some place you can help if you can’t fill sandbags:

American Red Cross

One little problem for Obama: Dickey Amendment

The other day I posted about President Obama’s executive order on March 9 overturning restrictions on embryonic stem cell research put in place by former President Bush. In it, I said that Obama had carefully constructed his words to allow for the scientific destruction of embyos (killing of humans) for research.

A reader pointed out that, two days later, Obama signed an omnibus spending bill containing a clause which seemed in direct contradiction with his executive order. Like others, I wondered what this meant since the president’s words on March 9 were explicit about where he stood.

After his press conference last night, when he was asked about stem cell research he seemed ready to leave the issue to scientists — that is, those who are strongly in the embryonic stem cell research corner. What is clear is that, despite his words, the only thing he’s wrestled with is on this issue is with what political constituency he wants to keep his allegiances .

The complicating part is the Dickey amendment, which was part of the Omnibus bill. Found of page 280 of the bill, its says:

SEC. 509. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for—

(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or

(2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 CFR 46.204(b) and section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 289g(b)).

(b) For purposes of this section, the term ‘‘human embryo or embryos’’ includes any organism, not protected as a human subject under 45 CFR 46 as of the date of the enactment of this Act, that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells.

The White House said the  amendment, which has been in appropriations bills since 1996, only means that federal funds can’t be used for the killing of embryos, it can still be used for research on embryos that are killed with private funds. Others, however, say that it’s not that simple. Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, told the White House is too narrowly defining the amendment:

It does not merely say you can’t use federal funds to kill an embryo, it’s much broader than that. It says the federal government can’t fund research in which embryos are harmed. We should interpret that to mean the federal government can’t fund any research project if that project involves or requires harm to human embryos.

It is not consistent with the Dickey amendment for NIH to say, ‘OK, we’re going to approve this study, which involves taking 100 embryos out of the freezer in some in vitro lab and killing them and taking their stem cells, and using their stem cells in the federally funded study, and by the way, we’re going to pay for all of that, and we approve it in advance. The only part we’re not going to pay for is the part where you kill the embryo.’ That’s not what the Dickey amendment says.

And, because there is this doubt out there and actual law is at stake, Congress has already started acting on the possibility of repealing Dickey. Already this month, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said lawmakers may look at passing a stem cell research bill before the April 4 recess. You can bet that getting rid of Dickey will be part of that measure, as Colorado Democrat Diana Degette told the N.Y. Times that they will look at how Dickey restricts research. In other words, it would mean the government could once and for all pour money into research that kills humans for the sake of science. Again, Josef Mengele would approve.

ESV Online Study Bible to be sold by itself

As a followup to yesterday’s post, Crossway Books has announced that it will be selling the ESV Online Study Bible as a standalone for $19.99. As you may recall, you can access the ESV Online Study Bible this month free of charge. It is also offered for free for those who purchased an ESV Study Bible in print. This standalone option is good way for those who would want to try it out without necessarily purchasing the print study Bible.

Why consider this? Here is what the Crossway Web site says:

ESV Online Study Bible provides additional unique features, including the ability to create personal online notes; to search and follow interactive links between notes, maps, articles, charts, timelines, illustrations, and cross-references; to listen to audio recordings of the ESV; and to access additional resources not available in the print edition.

How the ESV Online Study Bible helps daily devotions

ESV Study BibleI use the ESV daily reading plan as I do my devotions. In many of the versions you get from Crossway these days, those plans are often printed right in the Bible, so it’s a great way to keep track of where you should should be for that day. Lately, as I’ve done more Bible study online, I’ve come to appreciate the tools the ESV and other groups have to aid in devotions.

As you well may know, this month the ESV is offering a free tryout of its ESV Online Study Bible. I can’t tell you how much this is a great way to study the Bible. One advantage of using the study Bible online over the print version is having the audio Bible available. I love this feature. It is good to have the capable voice of David Cochran Heath when you are going through Old Testament passages where unfamiliar names can often cause you to stumble.

Another great way the online study Bible aids devotions — and especially daily reading as you go through the Bible — is its ability to group diverse passages on one Web page. So, for instance, today I was able to take the four passages I was reading in my daily reading plan — Psalm 83; Exodus 27:20-28:43; Nehemiah 9; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 — and have them (and all the accompanying notes!) on the same page. The key to doing this is to make sure you put the semicolon between passages to separate them. This is a great way to go through them without having to flip from section to section. Plus you can also listen to each of them this way to.

God’s word is a treasure, and I am so thankful that I can have it and read it and listen to it and memorize it and share it with others. There are so many ways you can have it, especially in our culture, that there should be no excuse to not read it.