Archived Posts August 2006 » Page 6 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

This Sunday’s sermon at the church I visited was on Joshua 5:13-15:

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

The point basically was that we have to be sure that we are on God’s side before we can even legitimately ask, much less be sure, whether or not he is on our side. It was an excellent sermon, and one that brings into sharp relief how often Christians do what they will themselves and then attribute it to God.

If anyone had a claim on God, it would have been Israel, his chosen nation. This passage seems to me, among other things, to be a pretty strong indictment of any form of nationalism that baptizes a political agenda as God’s will. It brings to mind Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, in which he noted that both the North and South “read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.” He later observes, “The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

It is helpful to note, I think, that once Joshua, representing Israel, had put himself on God’s side, in this case by obeying the command to “take off your sandals,” the commander of the army of the Lord goes on to give him some rather specific battle instructions. And when Joshua was faithful to God and followed these instructions, God was faithful to Joshua. So in the end, “the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” Only when we are sure that we are on God’s side can we be sure that he is on our side.

See also: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” Mark 9:40, “for whoever is not against us is for us.”

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Friday, August 4, 2006

I’ve noted the recent rash of books roughly on the theme of the danger of theocracy. As though in (indirect) response, several books celebrating Christianity’s impact on Western civilization (and democracy) have appeared. There was Thomas Woods’ How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Then there was Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason, about which others have commented in this venue. Now there is Robert Royal’s The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West.

The Green Wifi Prototype

One of the concerns with the “little green machine” (discussed previously here and here) has been the issue of Internet connectivity. Little enclaves of mini-networks just won’t cut it…these computers need access to the global web.

Word out of the tech world is now that a couple of innovators, Bruce Baikie andMarc Pomerleau, who are “veterans” of Sun Microsystems, working on a solar-powered wi-fi access nodes, “which consist of a small solar panel, a heavy-duty battery, and a router, can be linked together to extend one internet connection into a larger network.” The progam is an undetertaking of a new non-profit, “Green Wifi.”

HT: Slashdot

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 4, 2006

I just completed an interview that will air this Sunday on the Michigan Talk Network about state-run lotteries and Christian views on gambling for the “Michigan Gaming and Casino Show,” hosted by Ron Pritchard.

The occasion was this piece I wrote awhile back, “Perpetuating Poverty: Lotteries Prey on the Poor.” For more, see also “Betting on Gambling is a Risky Wager” and “Gambling Hypocrisy.”

You can check out the show live on the MLive talk radio feed here (click on “News radio”) at 3 pm on Sunday, August 6. The show will also re-air at 7 pm that same day, and we’ll try to post audio of the interview when it becomes available.

Update: Audio is available here.

Let me lead in here by saying I’m not by nature an overly emotional or "pentecostal" guy (lowercase ‘p’), though I have known personally the transforming movement of God’s Holy Spirit in my life and the lives of others at particular times.

Let me also say that I’ve been to dozens of environmental conferences over the past 15 years or so, and while I have usually learned a lot and developed some great relationships with others in this business, I almost always leave with not much more than a couple of logo’d pencils, a pocket full of business cards from people I don’t know, some hazmat tracking software demos on CD-ROM, and if I’m lucky, a shiny golf ball or yo-yo or something entertaining.

I flew out for two days (1-2 August) to take part in Let’s Tend the Garden, an environmental conference hosted by Vineyard Church in Boise, not knowing what to expect; l left there 12 hours ago with a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, and a realization that God’s doing something very big here.

Very. Big.

I know you all hail from many different denominations and various places in your faith and perspectives on ecology. But please take about 10 minutes to scan through my blog post of the conference. You may get a sense why it is clear that God is calling Christians to restore the ethic of environmental stewardship within the local church, something many have longed for in our generation, but have never really seen.

This is not a new thing – clearly there is scripture from the beginning of time that demonstrates God’s interest in our stewardship of Creation. Perhaps this is something like the way Dobson and Swindoll and Smalley brough the ethic of family values back to the Church over the past decade or so. Each generation needs to be revitalized in particular areas.

Take it from Tri Robinson, the senior pastor at Vineyard Boise:

All great movements of God begin with brokeness and conviction over the failure to follow Christ. We are in a repentance process still, that we’ve bought into politics and fear and set aside something that we have passion about. The significant thing about Boise is that we did it and survived it. The evangelical church wants to see authentic discipleship, biblical teaching, and yet want to watch environmental ministry thriving in action first.

When’s the last time you heard talk of discipleship, missions, repentence and biblical teaching in the context of ecology?

And this, in a response he had to a lambasting he was getting in an interview by a conservative radio talk show host:

I know what you’re saying, but I also know that guys like you and conservatives like you are the very reason that bible-believing pastors are afraid to do what is biblical and right. You’re making us afraid to do the right thing, and so we have given the liberals the program to do, and they have blown it. So if you like that, and you think that’s ok, then keep it up.

The Godless, liberal environmental agenda has given the world nothing but angst and anger and hopelessness and fear and false worship and man-centeredness (or misanthropy). The instrument Christ uses to effect change in the world is through the Church, the Body of Christ, in a spirit of love, joy, peace, compassion, and action. Not just caring, but thoughtful and wise doing. God is clearly now linking the efforts of Christian ecology organizations with pastors and lay ministry to give the Church back her permission to love all that God loves, people and all that He has made and called very good.

We need larger hands, and smaller feet.

Please, go read the post. Send it to your friends. When I get the audio links up, listen to the lectures. Dig out your Bibles and look up the scriptures and see for yourself. Drop me a line or a comment on this post if you want to engage on a particular aspect of this. Buy a copy of Saving God’s Green Earth.

All I can say is that from God’s perspective on creation care, it was very apparent this week that that ship has left the pier. Like Noah, we all had best be on it.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Thursday, August 3, 2006

One of the flashpoints in school choice debates is the performance of public schools as compared to private. A while back a Department of Education study drew attention by claiming that, when certain socio-economic factors were controlled, there wasn’t much of a difference between achievement by public and private school students. Those findings are now under fire from Harvard researchers Paul Petersen and Elena Llaudet, who use the same data but a different method—and claim that the Department of Education’s method was flawed.

HT: John Hood at Phi Beta Cons.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 3, 2006

This story makes me think of an old joke. Stafford, TX has a population of 19,227 people and 51 churches. The city council is making noise about preventing any more churches from opening up because, as tax-exempt organizations, they are threatening the viability of the local government.

My initial reaction: In one sense this is nothing new. Ever since the days of the Holy Roman Empire, church estates have been free from the taxes of civil government, and as monastic and ecclesiastical property holdings grew larger, the civil magistrate grew more and more covetous…after all, there is no tax exemption from the tithe.

I do, by the way, support the idea that the church should be free from paying taxes to the civil government, and not simply because the government deems churches to be of positive social value. The Church and the State are different institutions with different orders of authority. You might say that the State has no authority or right to tax the Church.

And this might even true even if churches want to make political statements (although I have my own view about the prudence of doing so). In this sense, churches perhaps aren’t like other nonprofits, and so perhaps these IRS warnings are based on a misplaced view of the authority civil government.

But I digress. Living in West Michigan, which I believe has to have one of the largest proportions of church space per capita in the country, this hits home. You’ve probably all heard it in some form or another:

A man was shipwrecked and he was able to find his way to an island. He lived there alone for 10 years.

Finally a ship came to his rescue. His rescuers saw three huts that he had constructed and they were puzzled by that. They asked him if he were alone on the island and he answered that he was.

Then, “What was this hut used for?” they asked.

“I live there.” he replied.

“What was the second hut used for?” they asked.

“Oh, that’s where I go to church.” was his answer.

“And the third?” they queried.

“Hmmph! That’s where I used to go to church.”

HT: WorldMagBlog

To conclude this series, let’s recap what is meant by natural law by parsing the term.

The “nature” referred to in natural law can mean different things, but I mean by it the divinely engrafted knowledge of morality in human reason and conscience, that which all human beings share by virtue of their creation in God’s image. Theologically speaking, I think this understanding of nature points back to our original creation in God’s image, but it also anticipates the fall into sin, where the divine image was corrupted but not destroyed.

“Law,” too, can vary in meaning, but we have used it here as shorthand for the universal moral law written into the human heart by God. Law as a representation of God’s will can be known through a variety of means such as the Ten Commandments, the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, the pangs of conscience, or the rational intuition of good and evil. When “nature” and “law” are understood in these ways, the claim that natural law is a forgotten legacy of the Reformation is certainly an understatement.

Natural law holds great promise as a bridge to connect the Christian faith to culture, although from the fuller perspective of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, natural law has limited but significant value. Natural law is not merely the quest for order on the part of the state and non-Christians as Karl Barth held, it is also a profound source of truth revealed to every person — according to their capacities — through creation, conscience, and reason. When natural law is understood properly, only so much should be expected from it as a source of revelation. God does not save the world through natural law, nor does he reconcile the world through the pursuit of justice; but he does provide a public record of his eternal power and divinity through the law written on the heart.

This has been cross-posted to my blog on natural law, Common Notions.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 3, 2006

Might these be the new “Cuisinarts of the sea”? This story, “Energy from the Restless Sea,” in today’s NYT examines the efforts of experimental inventors to find machines that excel in “harnessing the perpetual motion of the ocean and turning it into a commodity in high demand: energy.” There are a variety of designs and types of machines, so of course not all of them are a danger to chop up hapless fish.

Watermill of Braine-le-Château, Belgium (12th century). Photograph taken by Pierre 79.

These innovators are facing huge bureaucratic and regulatory burdens. Verdant Power, for example, “embarked on a new East River turbine project in 2003, but it has taken two and a half years to get regulatory approval for the project from environmental agencies and the United States Army Corp of Engineers.”

To comply with the concerns of regulators and environmental groups, Verdant “is installing $1.5 million in underwater sonar to watch for fish around the turbines ’24 hours a day, 7 days a week,’ and the data will be shown online.”

In some sense, these are just twenty-first century versions of innovations that are, shall we say, somewhat older. Watermills have been found at Cistercian abbeys dating from the twelfth century. See, for example, the Fountains Abbey Mill, opened in June 2001 at the Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Wednesday, August 2, 2006
vs.

Almost everyone has been critical of the government’s methods when it comes to disaster preparedness and response.

We here at Acton also tend to be very focused on the importance of private enterprise when it comes to dealing with local problems.

And so I present an interesting case study for your analysis: The Department of Homeland Security has created a website, www.ready.gov, that promises to be a resource for those facing an imminent natural disaster. The Federation of American Scientists has released their own version (suprisingly, they’ve copied the layout and general structure of the ready.gov website, so the Department of Homeland Security must have done something right), www.fas.org/reallyready/, claiming that there were several problems with the government’s version that they hoped to correct in their own version.

The homepage of ReallyReady also contains a link that explains some of the problems that they found with the government’s website and also includes a 38 page report explaining these problems.

So, take a look and tell us what you think. Which version is better? Which one would help you be more prepared in the face of a large-scale disaster?

One more thing – the FAS page, ReallyReady, was created by a single intern in the space of about nine weeks.