Houston, we have a problem

Adopted in 1791, the purpose of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, was to protect the liberties of individual citizens in America from the power of the newly formed federal government. The First Amendment was considered the cornerstone of the other nine.

Fast forward to 1954. Then Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson proposed a change to the U.S. Tax Code that would strip charitable organizations such as churches of their tax-exempt status if they endorsed or opposed any political candidate for public office. Johnson was taking some heat from these quarters in a closely contested race for reelection. Since the enactment of the Johnson Amendment the IRS has broadened its application to any endorsement or opposition to any issue in the political arena such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

This is what prompted Houston mayor Annise Parker, an avowed lesbian, to subpoena the sermons of area pastors who supported a petition to overturn the recently adopted Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Nicknamed the “bathroom ordinance” Houston pastors and parents fear the ordinance permits anyone to use the male or female restroom of their choice. What parent would not be concerned if a forty-year-old male transvestite followed their ten-year-old daughter into a public restroom? In a tweet Parker initially defended the subpoenas by applying the principle of the Johnson Amendment, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?-A.”

Houston, we have a problem. The first words of the First Amendment read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” I think it is significant that when our founding fathers sought to protect individual freedoms the first freedom they secured was the freedom of religion. I think the HERO ordinance and Johnson Amendment are on a collision course with the Constitution.

I do not think it is wise to support any political candidate for public office, so I don’t as a matter of principle. But there are a number of political issues that overlap into biblical territory. And when it comes to public issues of morality, justice and the welfare of society, as pastors we are conscience bound to follow the example of Peter and the apostles, “We must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29.

I will continue to exercise my right to address those issues of scriptural significance granted me by the First Amendment to the Constitution with little regard for the Johnson Amendment. No one needs to subpoena my sermons; they are delivered publicly every Sunday morning to those in attendance. Anyone who wants a transcript can come and write down everything they hear.


Promoting a Culture of Life and Health

He died on February 25, 2013, at the age of 96. As the Surgeon General, the top medical officer of the United States, he served form 1982 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. Surgeon Generals are known for two things, they are quickly confirmed and forgotten just as quickly. Yet the Associated Press said he “was the only Surgeon General to become a household name.” His name was C. Everett Koop.

He took a strong stand against the tobacco industry and the health problems caused by smoking. His policies to address the burgeoning AIDS epidemic raised Republican eyebrows. And though he was a staunch conservative Presbyterian, he opposed abortion on demand not merely for religious reasons, but on strict medical grounds and his allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath.

Koop saw a subtle shift in the abortion issue few recognized. There is a significant difference in aborting a pregnancy and aborting a baby. He said, “In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.” When “toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health” the doctor “will take the child by inducing labor or performing a Caesarian section” in an effort to save both. Koop emphatically stated, “The baby is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

This is the testimony of a seasoned surgeon. The mother is literally the life-support system for her child; if the pregnancy is a threat to her it is also a threat to the child. Abortions were performed to save the life of the mother and the child when there was a troubled pregnancy, because the lives of both were threatened.

God told Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah 1:5. King David wrote, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them,” Psalm 139:16. From God’s perspective there is no such thing as an unplanned pregnancy or unwanted child.

The tide is turning; abortions are on the decline. Not because of the sage advice of surgeons like Koop, or sermons preached, but because of sonograms. When an expectant mother sees the infant in her womb, its small but very human silhouette, and its tiny beating heart, few decide to end their child’s life.

Our church counts it a privilege to stand with other local churches in supporting the life saving work of the Pregnancy Care Center here in Lake City and Live Oak that offer free ultrasounds and counseling services to expectant mothers. Join us in promoting a culture of life and health.

It’s a matter of perspective

Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Of course “it” refers to whatever you are trying to explain. I think there is confusion about matters of faith and science on the part of believers and unbelievers alike, and I think it boils down to a matter of perspective. I hope to give a simple explanation.

Beginning with the Thomas Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, the Christian community has viewed certain theories proposed by scientists as being suspect and rightly so. But the believer has nothing to fear from the factual discoveries of science.

The modern method of scientific inquiry was developed in societies that embraced a Christian worldview. Scientific studies were predicated on the following syllogism: God created the heavens and the earth (id est, the universe), God is a reasonable Creator, therefore, the universe and those things in it can be understood on the basis of reason. Quoting Einstein again, even he defended his research into the unified field theory by saying, “I cannot believe God plays dice with the cosmos.”

The presuppositional view of a created universe operating by divine order was the primary foundation for scientific investigations for such men as Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Faraday and others. If there were no observable order in the universe we could not learn anything about the world we live in. If water did not come to a boil at sea level at the same temperature every time we could say nothing about the boiling temperature of water with certitude.

Even atheist Stephen Hawking recognizes there is inherent order in the universe from his study of physics, and he recognizes that this observed order implies design. But he posits the universe is self-designed rather than accept the idea of an intelligent Designer. An automobile is clearly designed, but it is not self-designed. Hawking’s logic does not match his observations.

Set a partially filled glass in front of a person and he may say it is half filled, another may say it is half empty. Both see the same glass with the same amount of water, but they have two different perspectives. Neither is entirely wrong, nor entirely right. The glass is both half filled and half empty at once. It’s a matter of perspective and there is no logical way to explain the different perspectives than to say its is a personal decision.

One sees the universe as intelligently designed, and another thinks it is merely a cosmic accident. Typically, what one believes about the origin of everything is not predicated on the intellect or logic, it is based on one’s morality. Morality is the deciding factor that determines one’s perspective. As Joshua said, “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve,” Joshua 24:15. Serve God or serve yourself, it’s a mater of perspective.

Beware of Scientists Bearing Theories

I do a lot of reading and research for the articles I write. I have found the debate between creation and evolution to be perennial. Believers in scientific theories do not understand why believers of the Scriptures don’t get it. Christians seem to stubbornly embrace a belief that is in conflict with scientific fact. But the issue is not with scientific fact; the issue is with the theories that arise when there are no facts.

There are a number of subjects that could be addressed regarding evolution. Evolution can be subdivided into two categories, inorgnanic and organic. Organic evolution can be further divided into embryonics, comparative anatomy, beneficial germinal mutations, and more. Time and space will not permit a full consideration of each of these here. So I will address a significant matter, the origin of life.

Science is the gathering of data through observation of natural phenomena or experimentation in a controlled environment such as a laboratory. At its essence, science is observation. Observation reveals facts and speculation on those facts give rise to theories. There is a huge gap between facts and theories.

When it comes to the origin of life, that gap is about 3.5 billion years. Scientists theorize life began 3.5 billion years ago, but the whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observable fact about the beginning of life.

In a publication entitled Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999), on page 7 we read, “Of course, even if a living cell were to be made in the laboratory, it would not prove nature followed the same pathway billions of years ago.” This is a stunningly honest admission by a body of highly respected scientists. They confess they do not know what happened regarding the origin of life that occurred in the unobserved distant past. There are scientific theories about how life began; there just aren’t any scientific facts about how life began.

Theories are speculations about what the facts mean, but theories are not facts. Paleontologists made several evolutionary speculations about the Coelacanth based on numerous fossil remains. But Christmas came early for creationists on December 22, 1938, when a native fisherman caught a supposedly extinct Coelacanth off the southwestern coast of Madagascar. Evolutionary theories about the Coelacanth collapsed faster than a house of cards hit by a leaf blower when that native fisherman hauled up a net full of facts.

Remember it was learned men, the scientists of their day, who gave us the flat earth theory, and when the church excommunicated Galileo it was because the church trusted the theory of another scientist, Ptolemy.

Before I discount the Genesis account in the first chapter that begins with the words, “In the beginning God created,” scientists will have to give me some facts. Beware of scientists bearing theories.