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August 23, 2010

A couple of years ago Paul (my pastor and co-elder at Grace Fellowship Church) wrote about an article in the Canadian media which stated that “The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada will recommend next month that all expectant mothers undergo screening for fetal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome—not just those over the age of 35, as is the practice.”

Dr. Andre Lalonde, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and the executive vice president of the SOGC, said the society decided to issue the recommendation so that a greater number of women would have the option to terminate their pregnancies should fetal abnormalities be detected.

“Yes, it’s going to lead to more termination, but it’s going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, ‘How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn’t have to?’” Dr. Lalonde said. “We have to be fair to give women a choice.”

“The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada will recommend that all expectant women younger than 40 be given nuchal translucency screening, followed by genetic counselling and amniocentesis if their risk for Down’s syndrome appears high.” Based on this article, Paul wrote:

I reject this proposal from personal experience. Although we rejected amniocentesis as an option in our son’s pregnancy (for the simple reason it might have killed him), we were given indicators through non-invasive testing that there might be a genetic problem. Readers of my blog will know that my son was born with a genetic defect labelled Williams Syndrome—a full-orbed physical and mental disability.

Is my son an accident? A faltering of the progressive cycle of evolution? A drain on society and its money? A thing not as valuable as a fully-functioning “normal” person?

My son is my flesh and blood and his worth is bound up in the fact he was made in the image and likeness of God, knit together in his mother’s womb and held together by the grace and power of Jesus Christ right now. If he never moved a muscle, never spoke a word, never made my life happier at any point, he would be no less valuable to the One who made Him. And no less valuable to me.

One does not have to be at our church for long, or to be with Paul and his family for long, to see how much joy this  boy brings to his parents, his sisters, and his church family. He is greatly valued and treasured because he is a treasure of great value. But in a sense this is largely irrelevant when it comes to this innate value and worth; the value of life is in the fact that it comes from God and is not affected by our desires, whims or preferences. Paul and his wife had no right to interfere with that life (and, thankfully, had no desire to interfere with it).

August 23, 2010

A Letter - “While exploring King’s College, we found this old letter under a trap door in a closet on the fourth floor of the main building…” Read the letter and you’ll wish you knew how this story ended. (HT:Phil Johnson)

In the Footsteps of Luther - Here’s an interesting idea: commemorating Luther’s walk from Germany to Rome by following in his footsteps.

Knockoff Tennis Shoes - This is an interesting article about the knockoff tennis shoe industry. Kind of niche, I know, but still interesting.

One Thing Needful? - Another good article by Carl Trueman in which he asks what is most fundamental to evangelicals today.

How Can God Be Loving and Send People to Hell? - D.A. Carson explains.

August 22, 2010

Andrew Keen is a bit of a curmudgeon. It’s hard to know how much of his own words he actually believes and how much of it he writes simply because it has become his niche, what people expect of him. But he’s still a lot of fun to read. Here’s a brief excerpt from his book The Cult of the Amateur. While it’s a little bit one-sided in its attack on bloggers and musicians and YouTubers and everyone else who creates content on the web today, I think we can all identify to some extent, with his frustrations. It begins with a conversation he had with a San Francisco software producer who was describing his new product.

“It’s MySpace meets YouTube meets Wikipedia meets Google,” he said. “On steroids.”

In reply, I explained I was working on a polemic about the destructive impact of the digital revolution on our culture, economy, and values.

“It’s ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule,” I said, unable to resist a smile. “On steroids.”

He smiled uneasily in return. “So it’s Huxley meets the digital age,” he said. “You’re rewriting Huxley for the twenty first century.” He raised his wine glass in my honor. “To Brave New World 2.0!”

We clinked wine glasses. But I knew we were toasting the wrong Huxley. Rather than Aldous, the inspiration behind this book comes from his grandfather, T.H. Huxley, the nineteenth-century evolutionary biologist and author of the “infinite monkey theorem.” Huxley’s theory says that if you provide infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, some monkey somewhere will eventually create a masterpiece—a play by Shakespeare [An editorial addition I can’t resist—“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times!? You stupid money!”], a Platonic dialogue, or an economics treatise by Adam Smith.

In the pre-Internet age, T.H. Huxley’s scenario of infinite monkeys empowered with infinite technology seemed more like a mathematical jest than a dystopian vision. But what had once appeared as a joke now seems to foretell the consequences of a flattening of culture that is blurring the lines between traditional audience and author, creator and consumer, expert and amateur. This is no laughing matter.

Today’s technology hooks all those monkeys up to all those typewriters. Except in our Web 2.0 world, the typewriters aren’t quite typewriters, but rather networked personal computers, and the monkeys aren’t quite monkeys, but rather Internet users. And instead of creating masterpieces, these millions and millions of exuberant monkeys—many with no more talent in the creative arts than our primate cousins—are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity. For today’s amateur monkeys can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays and novels.

August 21, 2010

MalatyaIs it estimated that in all of Turkey, a nation of almost 74 million, there are only a few thousand Christians. From their infancy Turks are taught that to be a Turk is to be a Muslim and to be anything else is treason. The few Christians who stand firm in their faith are viewed as terrorists, as insurgents who wish to overthrow the government. They are harrassed and slandered and sometimes fear for their lives.

On April 18, 2007, three Turkish Christians were murdered inside a Bible publishing office in the city of Malatya. The men who killed them were barely men at all; they were Muslim teenagers who had posed as seekers interested in learning more about the Christian faith. Each was found and arrested with a note in his pocket reading, “We did this for our country. They were attacking our religion.”

The three men who had been killed had first been bound at the wrists and ankles, they had been tortured, they had been stabbed with butcher knives. Finally, with the police at the door of the office, the teens had sliced the throats of these Christians, killing two immediately and fatally wounding the third.

Malatya is a DVD that tells the story of these men, these martyrs: Necati Aydin, a husband and father and pastor of the Malatya church; Tilmann Geske, a German citizen, a husband and father who had served the Turkish church for 10 years; and Ugur Yuksel, a young Christian, soon to be married, who was being discipled by Necati. It looks to their families, their widows, to learn about the aftermath of these attacks in which the wives chose to extend unilateral forgiveness to the attackers; it looks to the colleagues, the fellow pastors and the men they discipled, to see the impact of these attacks on the church in Turkey. And it looks to the lives of the men themselves to show that even today Christians are martyred, killed for their faith.

Malatya tells this story well, it tells it artistically, it tells it faithfully. It is a sad tale and yet it is the kind of tale we, as Christians, must expect to hear. It serves to prove that the message of the gospel, the good news, remains bad news to those who resist it. So often it is only through trials, tribulations and martyrdom that the gospel advances.

Here is the trailer:

You can learn more at malatyafilm.com or purchase it through Amazon.

August 20, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

Whenever it comes to putting together a new Free Stuff Fridays post, I find myself skimming back over the other things I’ve written during the week that was. This week I wrote a lot about technology and reading. I suppose that shows what has been on my mind over the past few days.

Speaking of reading, today’s Free Stuff Fridays gives you the opportunity to win a few new books. It is sponsored by Zondervan, a publisher you know well (and will know better once you buy my book The Next Story, set for release next April!). They are offering 5 prize packages, each of which contains the following 3 books:

  • Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem. “A basic guide to twenty Christian beliefs that is solid, yet readable, and not intimidating for new believers and Christians in general. Includes chapter review questions.”
  • Introducing the New Testament, Abridged Edition by Andy Naselli, D.A. Carson & Douglas Moo. “Abridgement of An Introduction to the New Testament. This abridged edition of an established major textbook brings the best of New Testament scholarship to the church and makes it accessible to the average reader. Focusing on historical questions dealing with authorship, date, sources, purpose, and destination of the New Testament books, this book will help a new generation of students and church leaders better grasp the message of the New Testament.”
  • A Place for Weakness by Michael Horton. “The good news that God’s Word proclaims is a recipe to use in times of disaster. That is to say, it comes as a relevant announcement only to those who are in trouble for one reason or another. A Place for Weakness, formerly titled Too Good to Be True, by award-winning Michael Horton, calls for more realism in facing life’s challenges and a richer view of God and his purposes to match them.”

I have read all or part of all three of these books and recommend each one of them.

Free Stuff Zondervan

Again, Zondervan is offering 5 prize packages, each of which will contain all 3 books.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

August 20, 2010

On Tuesday I offered you 5 Reasons Books are Better Than E-Books and on Wednesday 5 Reasons E-Books Are Better Than Books. Today I want to tie up those two posts with a few thoughts on why we need to be very, very careful about moving from the book to the e-book.

Media and Messages

Anyone who studies media or technology must run into Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman. These two men were leaders in the field with McLuhan being the teacher and Postman the disciple. If there is anything we have learned from these men it is summed up in McLuhan’s little phrase, “the medium is the message.” What McLuhan sought to show people is that every medium, whether book or television or computer, carries within it some kind of ideology, some kind of idea. He wanted people to see that this, this ideology, is often as important or perhaps even more important than the message the media conveys. Such ideologies predispose us to see and understand the world in one way rather than another. So the content of a news program may be less important than the subtle messages fed to us by the medium of television (which might be that pictures convey truth better than words or that immediacy is virtuous or that information itself, without context or analysis, is inherently good).

While I do not fully follow either McLuhan or Postman, I do think they were correct in this point. There is more to a book than the words it contains; the medium itself is important since it coveys certain truths, certain messages of its own. There is more to a television, more to a computer than the content it carries; the device itself is important. One device or one technology may not be better than another, but certainly they are different because they convey different messages to us.

So the first thing we need to understand is that we cannot neatly separate the medium and the message. In many ways the medium is the message or, at the very least, it contributes to the message.

Goodbye to the Book

For centuries now people have prophesied about the end of the book but such prophets have always proven wrong. They have seen that one media or another would displace the book and have wrongly assumed that these media would replace it. The television drew society away from the book, but it could never carry content like a book and thus never stood a chance of replacing it. It displaced it so that in many cases people gave up books in order to watch television, but it couldn’t ever replace it. Today, though, we have digital devices that can carry text in a digital format and do so with some degree of excellence. Amazon’s Kindle, first released in 2007, very quickly rose to prominence and it has been followed by a host of similar devices, selling in the millions. Though the printed book will remain with us for some time, it seems likely that its days are now, finally, numbered.

August 20, 2010

Olasky vs Wallis - Denny Burk is covering an interesting story: “Marvin Olasky reports for World Magazine that Jim Wallis’ Sojourners  group has been receiving funding from George Soros—the billionaire leftist who has financed groups promoting abortion, atheism, and same-sex marriage. Anyone who has paid any attention at all to Wallis’ leftward commitments shouldn’t be surprised that Soros might be interested in beefing up Sojourner’s bottom-line.”

Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. - I enjoyed this brief, illustrated guide to a Ph.D. (HT:TW)

The Clash of Civilizations - I think Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets a lot right in this article when she says “What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ particularly the clash between Islam and the West.”

How to Turn Off Facebook Places - Facebook Places is a new feature that allows you (or your friends) to track your current location. In some cases that is not a good thing. So if you’d like to disable it, here’s how.

August 19, 2010

I’m a little bit bleary-eyed this morning. Let me explain. Yesterday I got up early and hit the road before 6 AM. I made my way to Hudson, Ohio, about 5 hours away, where I met up with Bob Bevington and Kevin Meath who, along with me, are co-founders of Cruciform Press. I then spent several hours recording the audio version of Sexual Detox, had dinner and then drove 5 hours back home. It was a really long day!

As I suppose you know, I released Sexual Detox as a free e-book about a year ago. However, since then it has been improved and expanded and edited and will be the first title we release through Cruciform Press. Stay tuned in September for that! We’ve got one book releasing each month after that (some written by authors you know, some by authors you don’t know) and they are looking really, really good.

But I digress. I am going to just jot down a very few thoughts about this week’s reading in Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography. I think that’s about all my tired brain will be able to handle. I’ll leave those who have read along to fill in the gaps (there are a few of you left, right?).

This week’s chapters looked to the daily life of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, focused on ten especially important years of Spurgeon’s ministry and then sought to introduce the man in a slightly more intimate way by looking to some of his personal characteristics.

One thing I enjoyed reading was the interaction between Spurgeon and Moody. Here was one of history’s greatest evangelists expressing his love and admiration for one of history’s greatest preachers (and vice versa). The two men had great respect for one another and did not feel the least bit of jealousy or competition. Their ministries seemed to complement one another very well.