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February 2007

February 28, 2007

Yesterday Bob Kauflin posted some random thoughts on MP3 downloads and copies (link). I assume my readers are familiar with Bob who serves as director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, and as a pastor and worship leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Having just finished reading The Future of Music by David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard, Bob decided to reflect a bit on the book. The authors “think that increased access to music and freedom to distribute it legally will benefit consumers, companies, and artists alike.”

He provides a brief summary of the current copyright laws governing music:

Copyright laws still exist. Basically, the Copyright Office says:

Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.

… The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) site makes exceptions for personal copies:

Owning a CD means you own one copy of the music, and the U.S. record industry believes you should be able to make whatever personal use you choose. For example, you may make a compilation recording (on tape or on a CD) to use in the car or while exercising. But it’s a very different matter - and clearly neither legal nor fair - to make a copy of that CD or even one song available on the Internet for others to take.

Despite the clarity of the law, many people continue to ignore it. This is true both within the church and without. Bob links to a Barna report (link) from 2004 showing that only 1 in 10 Christian teenagers believe that music piracy is morally wrong. This varied very little from the percentage of non-Christian teenagers who believe the same. The report is well worth reading as a commentary on young Christians.

But then, as Bob says, “Christians have a higher standard than ‘everyone’s doing it.’ Romans 13:1, Deut. 5:19, and Eph. 4:28 come to mind. While file sharing, copying CD’s for friends, and downloading music illegally is easy and attractive, it’s still wrong, despite our rationalizations.” I have been amazed in talking to friends, and young people in particular, just how little they care for copyright laws. Excuses abound: “Everyone is doing it. The music companies don’t really care. The artists say they don’t care if we download their music.” I am even more amazed when I hear young people talk about pirating Christian music (I recently spoke to a young man who had pretty well the complete Sovereign Grace music collection but it was all illegally copied). I’ve even spoken to people who laugh, saying, “You don’t want to lend me your music. I’ll just copy it.” I have become careful with my music, lending it only to people who promise not to rip the CD’s.

Now I tend to agree that the music industry is going to have to change. I also agree that, by and large, pirated music has benefited many artists and many record companies since people are able to listen to a much wider variety of music than they ever could if they had to purchase it all. Sooner or later people who copy music tend to buy it as well. Derek Webb proved as much when he offered his CD Mockingbird free in its entirety and found that, while the album was downloaded some 80,000 times, not only did CD sales increase, but so did attendance at his concerts. I suspect other artists would find the same.

So the times are changing and will change. The music companies are going to have to stop swimming against the current and are going to have to figure out a way of surviving and thriving in this new world. They can do both, but will need to be willing to adapt and let go of some long-held but outdated ways of doing business. To this point they have been stubborn, but they will change. They will have to.

Until then, we are bound by the law. We are bound by both God’s law and the law of the land to respect the copyright rules. As Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” What disturbs me far more than the actual individual acts of piracy is the mindset and worldview that allows Christians to do such a thing. It is only a secularized worldview that would allow a Christian to do something that so clearly violates the law. It shows clear evidence of the moral relativism that is so prominent in our culture and so foreign to Scripture.

In her book Total Truth Nancy Pearcey discusses a woman she met who professed to be a Christian and yet worked at Planned Parenthood. Clearly there was something wrong with this woman’s mindset that she could work at a place that was so unbiblical and even antibiblical. It seems to me that those who pirate music are doing something much the same. They are ignoring God’s laws and are doing something that directly conflicts with their statement of faith. People who commit music piracy are, at some place in their lives, forsaking a Christian view of the world, a Christian way of seeing life. They are thinking like the world rather than thinking like Christ. Most of them know this, but continually violate their consciences and continually thumb their noses at what they know to be right. This concerns me (and ought to concern them) because a mindset that allows music piracy is one that will undoubtedly allow other violations of both law and conscience. The first sin is usually the most difficult one. Subsequent sin becomes easier as the conscience is hardened and as the heart is polluted.

The fact is that laws are objective and are not ours to tamper with and interpret as we see fit. The ruling is clear: according to the laws of the land and the copyright of those who own the music, we have no right to copy or distribute it. Period. It makes no difference how much money the record companies make, how rich the artists are, how poor we are or how annoying and outdated the laws may be. It makes no difference how much we despise the militancy of the record companies and their irrationalities.

Interestingly, the first comment at Bob’s site begins with “I personally don’t believe in committing music piracy…” And perhaps this is the problem. This should not be a personal decision. Some things are fully, objectively right and others are really, objectively wrong. Music piracy is wrong. Period. This is not an issue of conscience or an issue of sorting better from best. There is nothing to ponder, nothing to wrestle with, and nothing to fret about. There is nothing that calls for some kind of a personal reflection or decision (just as there is no reason to worry about whether or not we should march into record stores, pull CD’s from the shelves, and walk out of the store without paying for them). Just don’t do it. It’s really that easy.

If you have a hard drive or MP3 player filled with pirated music, you owe it to yourself, to the rightful owners, to the copyright holders and to God to erase it. I might venture so far as to suggest that you ought to purchase that music yourself since you have already benefited from the enjoyment of it. At the very least, repent of your sin, ask for forgiveness, and commit to obeying the laws of our land. Commit to obeying God.

February 28, 2007

Wednesday February 28, 2007

Book: John Piper’s recent book “God is the Gospel” is now available as a free download.

Technology: If you are looking to dress up Firefox, this site has a preview of many of the available themes. If you’re still using Internet Explorer, it’s time to convert!

Web: To clarify any confusion about the link I posted yesterday, I had nothing to do with the redesign for Bethlehem Baptist Church. Additionally, here is a note from John Piper explaining the new site and logo.

Politics: Hugh Hewitt answers four questions about Mitt Romney.

February 27, 2007

I typically only tune in to Larry King when Al Mohler or John MacArthur are featured guests. Since Mohler was a guest yesterday (transcript here) I thought I would watch and was glad that I did. He always does a great job of representing Christians before the show’s audience. He does so far better than the vast majority of Christians (and “so-called Christians”) that appear. Last night’s topic of discussion was, of course, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” a documentary that will appear on the Discovery Channel this weekend. It has become a hot topic of discussion for two reasons. First, the Executive Producer is James Cameron of Titanic fame. He lends credence to the project in many people’s eyes simply by being involved in it. Second, the documentary claims that archaeologists have found uncovered a tomb containing ossuaries labeled with the names of Jesus son of Joseph, two Marys, a Joseph, a Matthew and a Judah. And so they concluded that this represents the family of Jesus Christ. Jesus married Mary Magdalene and together they had a son named Judah. The entire family was laid to rest in this tomb which was subsequently discovered in 1980.

Have we heard this before? It seems to me we have. Last year we saw the publication of The Gospel of Judas. Before that it was The God Who Wasn’t There, Misquoting Jesus, The Jesus Papers, The Da Vinci Code, The Jesus Seminar and on and on and on. The French have a great little phrase that goes “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” (though they put neat little accents on some of those characters). The phrase translates to “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Here we find yet another attack on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is only barely different from the ones that have come along in the past.

Sure the producers of this documentary claim to have uncovered some DNA evidence, but all this evidence shows is that the man in the coffin labeled “Jesus” is not a blood relative of the person in the coffin of the supposed Mary Magdalene. This is hardly startling. I suspect they did DNA testing on the other boxes and likely came up with either no evidence or evidence that contradicted the conclusion they wanted to make in the film. Their story would have been far more compelling had they been able to link “Jesus” to his mother “Mary” and then “Judah” to his mother, father and/or grandparents. We have to assume that they attempted to do this but failed. Beyond this fragmentary evidence, this documentary offers nothing new and nothing that hasn’t been discussed and refuted countless times in the past.

Here are a few winning quotes by Dr. Mohler:

Well, it is only startling in terms of the sensationalism, I think, of public relations here. You are talking about a tomb that was discovered, as you said, well over two decades ago. The archaeologists there in Israel, who are the closest to this, have the greatest expertise, are not only looking at this with skepticism, but basically dismissing its claims.

You are talking about frankly trying to dress up an old documentary, the BBC did something like this over a decade ago, with this kind of supposed statistical research and DNA testing. The DNA testing is to me the most laughable aspect of all of this. I mean, frankly, there could be a thousand, thousand different explanations for whatever DNA pattern they could find.

No one has the DNA of Mary. You know, trying to bring this into a modern crime investigation is like trying to go back and figure out who exactly put the first dagger into Julius Caesar. It’s impossible.

I’m going to base my beliefs on the scriptures which hold together far better than the kind of farcical documentary we are talking about here, throwing in a little bit of statistics. I mean, you’re talking about the most common names, especially the most common male names, also frankly, female with the name Mary, you’re talking about anything that could be found just about anywhere.

And this next one, a personal favorite, came after Dr. James Tabor, Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies and the University of North Carolina expressed great interest in this story saying “But from what I know of the historical records, both in the New Testament and other early Christian records, do these names fit what we know of the family of Jesus?” Mohler replied:

And frankly, I’m a bit surprised by Dr. Tabor’s, at least, qualified endorsement of this, given the fact that this appears to me to be at least very inconsistent what he’s arguing in his own book about Jesus not being the son of Joseph, which, by the way, we Christians don’t hold either. But he’s never known as the son of Joseph in terms of early Christian witness, he is never mentioned that way.

Mohler pointed out this man’s hypocrisy and elicited from me a joyous “Booyah!” And to me, this hypocrisy was the real story. Dr. Tabor is an intelligent man and must know that this is just utter nonsense. To waive about DNA (and to even refer to the show “CSI” while doing so) is just farcical. The people who produced this show must know that they have no case. As Mohler pointed out, this would never stand up in any court. But it does make an interesting story and did elicit worldwide headlines. To quote Mohler, “Well, we are talking about moving all of the pieces here to make for sensational television. And frankly, that’s why I think most Christians are going to take this without any seriousness at all.” I couldn’t agree more. Christians are growing tired of this. We have defended the resurrection of Jesus countless times. We have affirmed that if Jesus did not rise, our faith is in vain and Christianity is simply a fabrication and a waste of time. But the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is simply too strong and too compelling to discount or ignore. Of all the evidence that has been offered to contradict it, none has come even close to being rational and convicting. There is no question that Jesus rose from the dead. The only question remaining is what you intend to do with this news.

For other responses to this story, read Ben Witherington (who does a thorough analysis and concludes “So my response to this is clear– James Cameron, the producer of the movie Titantic, has now jumped on board another sinking ship full of holes, presumably in order to make a lot of money before the theory sinks into an early watery grave. Man the lifeboats and get out now.) or James White (who looks at the history of these challenges to Scripture and says “Like dominos falling, all these arguments, spanning hundreds of years have failed. They differ in hypothesis, and many with each other, proving they can’t make sense of the evidence they are evaluating.”). You could also pick up a book defending against The Da Vinci Code. You ought to be able to choose from a wide variety in the bargain bin of your local Christian bookstore. That challenge came and went and so will this one. Meanwhile, Jesus lives on and we eagerly await His return.

February 27, 2007

Tuesday February 27, 2007

Web: Bethlehem Baptist Church (i.e. John Piper’s church) has a funky new design for their web site.

Cool: A gallery of work from the world’s best cardstacker.

Politics: This is enough to make you roll your eyes. It turns out that Al Gore, two travels the world telling us to consume less power, pays over $30,000 a year in gas and electrical bills. Planks, needles, eyes and all of that.

Interview: Justin Buzzard has an interview with Graeme Goldsworthy.

Review: Alvin Plantiga has a great review of Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.” “Dawkins seems to have chosen God as his sworn enemy. (Let’s hope for Dawkins’ sake God doesn’t return the compliment.)”

February 26, 2007

From the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is scheduled to appear tonight on CNN’s Larry King Live. Mohler will discuss the alleged discovery of the “tomb” of Jesus and his family by archaeologists and genetic scientists. A documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which is said to present the evidence, is scheduled to air next week on the Discovery Channel. Scheduled to appear with Mohler are James Cameron, executive producer of the documentary; Simcha Jacobovici, the director; and James Tabor, chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Larry King Live airs at 9:00 Eastern Time on CNN. The segment on the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” is scheduled to air tonight following an interview with First Lady Laura Bush.

February 26, 2007

monergism.com

It is not often that I draw attention to work I’ve done, but I am going to make an exception today. Several months ago (more months ago than I care to remember, actually), John Hendryx, the gentleman who runs the site Monergism.com, approached me about helping him upgrade his site. At that time Monergism was a huge site and a hugely popular site. The site is a labor of love that, to that point, had been built and maintained almost entirely by John. The site was beginning to grow to the point that it was getting out of hand. There were hundreds of static pages that had to be individually maintained and at the same time the site’s design was getting a tad dated. And so John and I set out to reinvent Monergism. A few months and countless man hours later, John has finally unveiled the new site.

If you are not familiar with Monergism, you really should be. John has created a massive site with thousands and thousands of links to articles, books, audio files and other resources. The answer to almost any theological disagreement or conundrum lies somewhere within the site. I have often turned to the site in my research and have found myself at the site time and again when performing Google searches. It is a great service to the Christian community (and to the Reformed community in particular).

The main feature of the redesigned site is a completely new directory system (click the Directory button). It allows visitors to search and sort the links and even to rate them. Information is categorized much better and much more logically than in the past, meaning that it is far easier to find great resources through it. There are also now RSS feeds, email updates, better integration with the Monergismbooks bookstore and so on. The benefits go on and on. And what’s more, the new design isn’t too hard on the eyes.

So go, visit the site, and find something there to read about. I guarantee you can find something that interests you!

February 26, 2007

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism)“There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production—with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon. … The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.” The story is from Newsweek. The year was 1975 and the threat was global cooling. A year later the magazine reported that “this trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.” But then global cooling went out of style and Newsweek and other media outlets went on to discuss other topics. Three decades later the same overstatements and hysteria are being broadcast about global warming. I have read a good deal about this topic and even took the time to read Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

February 26, 2007

Monday February 26, 2007

Islam: This is a spooky story. And on the same track, so is this.

Audio: The Resolved audio is now available free online. Download it for yourself or for the college/high school student in your life!

Cool: Now this is just a crazy cool utility. It allows you to search every Calvin and Hobbes cartoon by keywords.

Weird: Here is a story about a way of doing an interactive sermon. You know, in case you want your sermons to be dialogue instead of monologue.