Friday, November 20, 2009


At its 837th stated meeting on Thursday, November 19, 2009, the Baltimore Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to forward an overture to the denomination’s General Assembly seeking to redefine marriage as between “two people” rather than “one man and one woman.” This is an identical overture to what the Presbytery sent to the General Assembly two years ago and will be considered by the General Assembly at its meeting in 2010. The overture passed by a vote of 75 in favor and 62 opposed.

The overture seeks to amend four different sections of the PC(USA)’s Book of Order under the Directory for Worship. Six different passages in those sections refer to a “man” and a “woman,” all of which would be changed to either “two people” or “couple.” Prior to the meeting, the sessions from 13 churches in the Presbytery submitted an “Affirmation” stating their reasons for opposing the overture and affirming their theological position that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. At the beginning of the meeting, a delegate from the floor asked Stated Clerk Vaughn Brown whether the Affirmation would be included in the minutes. Brown responded that because the Affirmation did not require any action to be taken, it would not be included. Opponents of the overture may have felt some degree of optimism when a motion to compel the Clerk to include the Affirmation in the minutes was passed by a voice vote. However, this vote did not foreshadow things to come.

When the time came to debate the overture, delegates on both sides of the issue made their points over a cacophony of rumbles of thunder as the heavens opened up from above. At times it appeared that the power could cut out at any moment.

When the debate was over, Jim Horn, pastor of Havre de Grace Presbyterian Church, raised a point of order. Specifically, he asked moderator Millie Krieder to declare the overture to be out of order, in part because the proposed changes could expose ministers to civil penalties by authorizing marriages that were illegal in most states (the Book of Order applies to all churches in the denomination, regardless of where they are located). Krieder cut Horn off before he could finish his comments, apparently misunderstanding that he was raising a point of order as to whether the overture should even be permitted to proceed to a vote in the first place, not debating its merits (the Presbytery had previously voted to limit comments during the debate to 2 minutes per participant, but no such limitation applied to points of order).

In the end, the vote was taken by ballot, but the results were not disclosed until approximately two hours later. In an outcome that surprised no one, the body voted to send the overture to the General Assembly.

I was present at this meeting as a voting delegate from Grove Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen, and am truly saddened by the outcome. My grief does not come so much from my theological disagreement (for anyone who has been around TMM long enough, you know that I am opposed to same-sex marriage). Rather, the total lack of love for the denomination upset me. I have grown up in this denomination. I have great love for it. I was one of the speakers given two minutes in the spotlight to express my position on the overture at this meeting. But instead of presenting my theological position (many others had already expressed those views admirably), I spoke to the timing.

The PC(USA) is a wounded denomination. Churches are leaving in profound numbers. Disputes are arising in the courts over who has the right to churches’ property. Even in the churches that remain it seems like battle lines are being drawn. If you come across a wounded soldier on a battlefield, your response to him will demonstrate how you feel about him. If you regard him as your enemy, his wounded condition will give you an opportunity to attack. You will pounce on him while he is weak. This approach makes perfect sense if your goal is to kill this soldier. But if you love him, you will nurture him. You will bandage his wounds and give him time to heal.

The PC(USA) needs healing. Literally, we have just come out of a nationwide vote of all the Presbyteries over very similar issues to what the Baltimore Presbytery is seeking to raise now (in that case it dealt with the ability to ordain practicing homosexuals as opposed to perform same-sex marriages, but the theological divide is the same). There are countless opportunities for our denomination to do God’s work. If we truly love our denomination, then we would take this opportunity to come together in mission and service. Maybe we could minister to people in Fort Hood. Maybe we could jump in to assist victims of Ida. But instead of looking for these opportunities, the majority in our Presbytery chose to pounce.

These issues are not going away. The time will come to discuss them. There will be another General Assembly in 2012. Bring it up then. Why insist on bringing it up now unless your goal is to kill our denomination?

Perhaps what disturbed me most was the speaker who immediately followed me who said she was “tired of being told the time is not right.” She then went on and on about how unfair the current Book of Order is to her. I understand and I sympathize that you feel wronged. But the point I was making is that there are more people involved in this debate than just you. Sometimes we are called to endure hardships for the greater good of others. If you truly love this denomination and believe that even those who disagree with you are still your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you would react in love. The fact that you refuse to even wait a little while to allow for people to heal shows a total lack of commitment to keeping this denomination unified. Your message, simply put, is that you will insist to continue to push your agenda regardless of the consequences it has on this denomination and on the body of Christ of which you claim to be a part.

I never argued that people could not raise this issue. I simply asked why it had to be raised again now, so soon after we just survived an incredibly divisive debate which caused our denomination to bleed. If you love us, let us heal. Then bring it up when we are all in a better position to withstand the coming storm and come out the other side together. A vote to press forward on this issue immediately was a vote to pounce on the wounded soldier. That vote simply makes no sense to me unless your goal is to kill us. If you voted in favor of this overture, congratulations, you may just get your wish. And it will spell the end of the PC(USA).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

2009 Holiday Craft Fair

WHAT? Come meet and greet TMM President Ken Coughlan at the 2009 Holiday Craft Fair to benefit the Havre de Grace High School Music Department

WHEN? Saturday, November 21, 2009 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

WHERE? Havre de Grace High School gymnasium, 700 Congress Avenue, Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Love is Worth Fighting For

“Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It’s a house we enter in
And then commit to never leave

If we try to leave, may God send His angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for”
Love is Not a Fight by Warren Barfield

Some people think it is unreasonable of Christians to ask couples to honor their marital vows and stay together not only “for better,” but also “for worse.” Nobody is saying that you should stay in an abusive relationship, but people today give up far too easily. They convince themselves that because they don’t feel butterflies anymore every time they see their partner, they have “fallen out of love” and that gives them license to leave or start having an affair. When children are involved it is particularly troublesome and sometimes selfish.

But in reality God is not asking anything of you that He has not been willing to commit to Himself. After all, His salvation is the ultimate act of love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. When you come to faith in Jesus, you enter into a loving relationship with Him. Once that relationship begins, God makes a commitment to stand by you “for better or for worse.” “My sheep listen to my voice; … no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.” John 10:27-29.

Let’s face it. You are far from perfect. But even though you mess up again and again, God stands by you. He doesn’t abandon you. He refuses to let you go. So if you ever find yourself wishing you could get out of your marriage for anything less than infidelity or abuse, remember the words of Warren Barfield. “If we try to leave, may God send His angels to guard the door. No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

God's Fight Song

"While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being." Psalm 146:2

I am sure you've heard of the six days of God's creation. He made the heavens and earth, calling each thing he made "good." When he got around to making mankind he called it "very good." On the seventh day, God rested.

I sometimes joke that sometime after that God created football (the American variety, that is), and it was "awesome." I am a huge football fan. I set myself up for disappointment every weekend, though, by rooting for so many different teams. In the college ranks I cheer for my alma mater Delaware, the University of Nebraska (where I spent much of my childhood) and the University of Virginia (where one of my brothers went to school; my other brother went to William & Mary, but since they are in the same conference as Delaware, they don't get my loyalty even though I went there myself for law school).

In the NFL I've been a Dallas Cowboy fan since I was a young child, but I recently also started cheering for the Baltimore Ravens since they drafted Delaware QB Joe Flacco. The end result is that it is almost inevitable that at least one of my teams is going to lose each weekend. As I said, I'm setting myself up for disappointment.

Most football teams have a fight song. Its a song that's used to cheer for your team. I could still recite the Delaware fight song on demand (but for the sake of your own ears, I don't suggest you ask me to sing it). No matter what my abilities are to carry a tune, though, when Delaware scores a touchdown, I will belt out that fight song along with the band as loudly as you can imagine.

Well, God doesn't really have a fight song (although when I recently delivered this message in church, a friend proposed that "Onward Christian Soldiers" could be His fight song). But we do sing for Him in very much the same way as we sing for our sports teams; at least we are supposed to. You see, when we sing hymns in church, or when the choir sings an anthem, we aren't just singing for our own benefit. This isn't like singing in the shower because we think our voices sound better with the bathroom acoustics. We are singing to our Maker. It is like a prayer set to music. We use hymns to praise Him, to thank Him, to petition Him, or just to express our love for Him.

But in many churches you can hear the crickets singing louder than the congregants. People bury their noses in their hymnals and mutter the words to themselves if they are even singing at all. Some people just mouth the words thinking that with everyone else around them singing, no one will notice that there isn't actually any sound coming out of their mouths.

I'm sure that there are many reasons for this. One could be that people are self-conscious. They don't think they can carry a tune and don't want the person next to them to hear out of fear of embarrassment. But I wonder, will those same people belt out a fight song with reckless abandon when their team scores a touchdown, regardless of who hears it?

Who do you cheer for more loudly, God or your team? The irony of it all is that you are the one on the team and God is the captain. Be thankful that He picked you when God and Satan were "picking teams."

So sing loud. Sing proud. Boldly declare what God has done for you. It doesn't have to sound melodic. Simon Cowell will not be judging you. Sing praises to the only judge that matters. The beauty of it all is that He's not judging your singing either. In fact, thanks to His grace, you won't be facing the inevitable condemning judgment at all. So the next time you find yourself cheering loudly for your sports team, take a moment and ask if you were that enthusiastic for God on Sunday morning.

God bless.

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Season of "Preparing Your Answer"

The first podcast in our new season of "Preparing Your Answer" is now on the website. We are starting this year with a "Christianity 101" series. So if you want a reminder of the foundations of your faith, or if you are a seeker looking for answers to the basic questions of what Christians believe, visit the TMM site (; see the link at the top of the page) and download the podcasts free of charge! The first lesson is titled "Getting to Know Your Textbook."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat

In my job I spend a lot of time in the car, so I listen to Christian radio to pass the time. Lately, with all the hubub over health care reform, I've felt more like I am listening to political radio than religious radio. For some of these shows, it seems that the only thing they talk about is how "wrong" the President's proposals are.

First of all, I've been somehwat disturbed by the lack of repect sometimes shown to our President. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established … Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” In the interest of full disclosure I am an independent. But as you can probably guess by the content of Ten Minas' website, my political views run a bit more toward the conservative spectrum, at least on many social issues. However, that does not mean that I do not take my obligation to be respectful to our President very seriously. We are free to disagree with him, but not by utilizing the type of ridicule and irresponsible fact-twisting we all have likely come across from time to time. And please don't think I am "calling out" only Republicans on this. Democrats and other political parties are just as guilty sometimes.

Leaving that aside for the moment, though, it bothers me a bit that the message many of these radio shows seem to be sending is, "If you are a Christian, you should be opposed to the Democratic proposals for health care reform." I am pretty sure there is nothing in the Bible about what kind of coverage Blue Cross Blue Shield should be providing or whether or not there should be a "public option."

Yes, it is very important to have an open and honest discussion of these issues. Yes, there are many political issues that also have theological implications (abortion, homosexual marriage, etc.). But I fear that sometimes we take this too far and act as if everything on the politically conservative agenda is also on Jesus' agenda. Don't we as Christians understand that when we do this we only put up one more obstacle between us and non-Christians that gets in the way of sharing the gospel? Do we really want people thinking, "I like Obama's health care plan, so I guess I can't be a Christian"? That may not be what we intend to say, but it is what many people are hearing (see, e.g., the chapter in the book "UnChristian" about how Christianity is perceived by outsiders as being "Too Political").

There is (and should be) a forum for discussing political issues like health care reform, and I certainly have no problem with anyone in that forum being forthright about their love for Christ. But when a program that is purportedly dedicated to teaching and advancing Christian principles spends day after day talking about health care reform, I am left wondering if they have lost sight of their true mission.

Don't assume that everything you believe is what Jesus believes. If you do, you are in danger of creating Jesus in your image. Instead, evaluate what you believe based upon what the Bible says. Then we can allow the Holy Spirit to mold us in Jesus' image. And always remember that there are many areas in life where we can disagree and still belong to the same body of Christ. That's the beauty of Christianity. It can bring unity in diversity. Yes, there still are some foundational beliefs that define what it is to be a "Christian" (as there must be if we are not to slip into universalism). But sometimes I fear that we define those foundational beliefs far too broadly and pick and choose them so that we can exclude anyone who is not "like us." Please be careful. Jesus spent His time on Earth with sinners, and they were definitely not "like Him" in that regard.

God bless you all, and God bless America.

Thursday, July 23, 2009



"I know not who sent me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am. I am terribly ignorant of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul and that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects upon itself as well as upon all external things, and has no more knowledge of itself than of them.

"I see the terrifying immensity of the universe which surrounds me, and find myself limited to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am set down here rather than elsewhere, nor why the brief period appointed for my life is assigned to me at this moment rather than another in all the eternity that has gone before and will come after me. On all sides I behold nothing but infinity, in which I am a mere atom, a mere passing shadow that returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I understand least of all is this very death which I cannot escape.

"As I know not whence I come, so I know not whither I go. I only know that on leaving this world I fall for ever into nothingness or into the hands of a wrathful God, without knowing to which of these two states I shall be everlastingly consigned. Such is my condition, full of weakness and uncertainty. From all this I conclude that I ought to spend every day of my life without seeking to know my fate. I might perhaps be able to find a solution to my doubts; but I cannot be bothered to do so, I will not take one step towards its discovery."

Blaise Pascal, Pensees 29.

"So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless."

Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 (NIV)


"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: 'I seek God! I seek God!'---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed.

"The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. 'Whither is God?' he cried; 'I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"'How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.'

"Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. 'I have come too early,' he said then; 'my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.'

"It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: 'What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?'

Friedrich Nietzsche, Parable of the Madman


"Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

"Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

"I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours"

Casting Crowns, Who Am I?

"Therefore Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'"

John 10:7-10 (NIV)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

John 3:16 (NIV)


Does any of this prove the existence of God? No. But it does lay out for us the consequences of our beliefs. Bear that in mind when you look at this issue.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The "Safe" Abortion Pill


I just read an article on the abortion pill on Yahoo! News. It said that between 2005 and mid-2008, 228,000 abortions were performed at Planned Parenthood Centers. But I thought one particular comment would be humorous if it wasn't so sad. When discussing a new study on the risk of infection from using the pill, the article stated as follows:

"'This is the first really huge documentation of how safe and effective medical abortion is,' said Dr. Beverly Winikoff, a professor of family health and population at Columbia University."

Safe? I guess for the pregnant woman that is good news. But I'd venture to say the abortion pill still is not so "safe" for the child being aborted. It just goes to show you how far our culture has devalued life inside the womb. Now when discussing the "safety" of a pill, we only look to the pregnant woman and completely ignore the fact that the child inside is being murdered as a direct result of this so-called "safe" pill, all because the mother doesn't want to be inconvenienced with a child.

To me the solution is simple. If you aren't willing to take the risk of having a child, don't have sex. News flash: the purpose of sexual intercourse is procreation. But somewhere, somehow, our society has decided that we have some absolute "right" to engage in sexual intercourse and completely disregard the potential consequences.

I personally don't mind the use of contraceptives that act before conception when used by married couples as long as people realize that they don't always work. But if they fail, don't act like you are a victim who has had some undesirable affliction thrust upon you. You knew what you were doing. You knew the risk. You made a conscious choice to take that risk. You just don't like the fact that you gambled and lost.

You don't have a God given right to have sex. If you aren't willing to accept the risk, don't have sex. This goes for men and women. Guys, if you have sex with a woman and she has a child, where are you? This is your child. Act like a real man and help raise that child. You knew the potential consequences before you had sex. Don't run away scared when things don't go as you planned.

Calling a pill "safe" when it kills off a conceived child and helps us avoid the consequences of our actions only further perpetuates the problem. We all need to learn to accept consequences, both in this arena and in every other aspect of our lives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Imagine for a moment a hospital patient with a severe heart condition is being treated at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. His treating doctor decides that the facilities are better at the local outpatient speedy clinic and discharges him from Hopkins. Needless to say, the clinic is woefully ill prepared to handle such a severely ill patient and he promptly passes away. The patient's family sues the doctor for malpractice. During the course of that litigation the doctor says that when the patient was at Hopkins, he wasn't really alive anyway and we could only really know if he was alive by whether or not the speedy clinic was able to keep him alive. Since the clinic couldn't do it, obviously the patient was not really alive in the first place, and if he wasn't alive, then the doctor didn't really kill anybody.

Are you going to buy this argument? It seems to me that the whole abortion argument based upon viability (made, among other places, in the pivotal case of Roe v. Wade) is just as preposterous. Nobody denies that the fetus (or whatever else you want to call it) is being sustained perfectly well in the mother's womb. God has designed a brilliant life support system for it. By any standard, man-made life support systems outside the womb are far inferior. Basically, the viability argument gives a doctor permission to rip this entity out of a far superior life-support system (like the facilities at Hopkins in my example), place it in a far inferior one (like the clinic), then declare that it wasn't really a life to begin with since our inferior system couldn't keep it alive. It was doing just fine in God's system. It seems to be the pinnacle of human arrogance to set the measuring rod only so high as our human technology can achieve when God's technology could accomplish far more if only we hadn't torn the fetus out of that system. Why should our life support abilities set the standard instead of God's (or nature's if you want to take a purely naturalistic perspective)?

While in the womb, that child was just as much alive as the patient at Hopkins. It was perfectly viable. The only reason it died was because some person made the decision to take it out of that system. I don't claim that this answers all questions about abortion (or even the viability argument, for that matter). But it does tend to raise the question of why we ignore the life support system inside the womb in favor if man's inferior system when deciding whether a baby is "alive."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obeying God in the “small matters”

In the parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27), a man of noble birth gave a mina (i.e., money) to ten servants with instructions to “Put this money to work until I come back.” Upon his return the first servant said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more,” to which the master replied, “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”

Are you trustworthy in the small matters? We all like to think we are good people. After all, most of us have not murdered, raped or robbed someone. So we hold ourselves to that standard and believe that we are living up to God’s expectations. Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (in their ministry “The Way of the Master”) do a pretty good job of illustrating the fallacy of this belief. They ask people, “Have you ever told a lie?” “Have you ever stolen something, no matter how small (even a paper clip from the office)?” “Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word?” “Have you ever looked at another person with lust?” Most people will admit to having done all four of these at some point during their life. These are all part of the Ten Commandments just like “Thou shalt not murder,” but we tend to overlook them as “small matters.”

Allow me to give another example. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established … Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” Do you submit to the governing authorities? Even in the “small matters”? Again, most of us have not committed a murder. We haven’t embezzled funds from our employer. We haven’t spent time in jail so we think that we are submitting to the authorities. But are you really? Have you ever been pulled over for speeding? How did you react? Did you try to talk your way out of it even though you knew you were in the wrong? If the officer decided not to give you a ticket, did you brag to your friends about how you put on the “pouty” face and it worked so that you got off with only a warning, as if this “accomplishment” was something to be proud of?

As Christians, we have all come to terms with the simple truth that we have violated God’s law and we deserve punishment. But for some reason many of us have trouble carrying this over to the civil law, even though Paul explicitly told us to submit to the governing authorities. If you have done something wrong, the appropriate response is to own up to it and accept your punishment, not to try to get out of it, however tempting that may be.

How fast do you drive? Do you obey the speed limit or convince yourself, “They won’t pull me over if I’m only doing 5 mph over, so I guess that’s okay”? I recently came to terms with my own hypocrisy (if we are honest with ourselves we are all hypocrites in one way or another) in that I was preaching submission to the governing authorities but routinely traveling 5, 10 or even 15 mph over the speed limit. I now try to travel the speed limit wherever I go, and let me tell you it has been an eye-opening experience.

First, it was a disappointing surprise to see how many cars with the “Christian fish” logo on the back went flying by me like they were in a NASCAR race. But it also has served as a powerful lesson in temptation. Even though I drive in the right lane with plenty of room to pass me on the left, I still find myself feeling guilty when a car pulls up behind me and has to slow down. I find myself worrying about what other people are thinking of me, or the curse words that are flying out of their mouths because I am “holding them up” (for the incredible inconvenience of having to wait perhaps 10 or 15 seconds for an opening so they can change lanes). A semi-truck may pull up behind me. Due to its sheer size it has a harder time changing lanes and often tailgates me right behind my bumper. Sometimes I wonder if I should speed up to make these peoples’ lives easier. But then I remember that I am the one obeying the law, they are the ones defying it, and I leave my cruise control right where it is.

Obeying God’s Word is not always easy, even in the little things. It is amazing how even in the small day to day activities of our lives, modern culture can be steering us away from God. I have made a commitment to try to follow Christ’s examples even in the “small matters.” Will you join me? Your driving is an easy place to start. Make a pledge to start obeying the speed limit then see where the Holy Spirit guides you from there. God bless you all.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Thank You God for Another Day

In the movie “Star Trek: Generations” there is a character named “Data,” an android whose life long wish is to become more human. Data has never felt emotions, a limitation in his programming. But at the beginning of this movie he has an “emotion chip” installed. The first thing Data does with his new emotions is to go to the bar and have a drink. With his first sip his entire face contorts into something resembling a prune as he announces he is “feeling” something. His friend Geordi points out that it looks like Data hates the drink, to which Data responds enthusiastically, “Yes! That’s it! I hate this! It is revolting!” Yet when he is offered another cup, Data eagerly responds, “Please!”

Data was excited to be having any emotions, even the sensation of loathing the taste of a beverage. To him it was a new experience, an experience he had been searching for all his life. He was ecstatic and grateful to be feeling anything and he was willing to take the good with the bad.

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to our sense of gratitude. After all, our very existence is a gift from God. How often do you sit back and thank God for even being here in the first place? Oh, we all may send up a prayer from time to time thanking God for the food on our table or the roof over our head, and I don’t mean to diminish that. After all, in America today even many people living below the poverty level still live like kings compared to some of the slums in India or South America. Those of us living comfortably by the standards of our prosperous nation certainly have nothing to complain about. So thanking God for these blessings is definitely a good thing.

But we owe God more than that. According to the Bible God did not just create the universe but through Jesus He is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). In other words, God did not just make you, but the entire creation continues to exist from moment to moment only because God is actively involved in holding it all together. God made you, but He also keeps you in existence every second of every day.

Not only should we be thanking God for creating us, but every morning we should thank Him for giving us and everybody else in the universe the chance to exist one more day. Looking at life this way gives us a bit of perspective. Bad things will come our way. Maybe we’ll lose our job or have some other financial setback. In those circumstances we certainly aren’t thanking God for our financial blessings. But there is still something far more fundamental to thank Him for.

Data touched on this. He understood that some things are so fundamental that they deserve our gratitude, whether we are currently facing good or bad. I don’t know yet what today has in store for me. It is just getting started. But I will take the opportunity right now to thank God for sustaining me one more day. Will you join me in doing the same? God bless you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Over

At least for the time being, the battle in the PC(USA) over the fidelity and chastity clause in its ordination requirements has ended. For anyone unaware, the PC(USA) requires any candidate for ordination, whether it be as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, an Elder or a Deacon to either live in fidelity within marriage or in chastity in singleness. Obviously, as long as the PC(USA) does not recognize homosexual marriage (which it does not), this would preclude anyone engaging in an active homosexual relationship from being ordained to office. This has not stopped some ordaining bodies from doing it anyway (my own presbytery, the Baltimore Presbytery, has knowingly ordained an openly gay man as a minister). However, these bodies are acting in defiance of the denomination's constitution.

Over the past year, the 173 presbyteries in the PC(USA) have been voting on whether or not to adopt an amendment to the constitution that was proposed by the General Assembly last year. The General Assembly is the highest legislative body in the PC(USA). The proposed amendment called for the fidelity and chastity requirement to be eliminated from the constitution altogether, substituting language about a candidate's sincere efforts to follow where they feel Christ to be leading them. If passed, this amendment would have permitted the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

A simple majority (i.e., 87) of the presbyteries would have to vote in favor of the amendment for it to pass. As of yesterday, however, 89 presbyteries have voted to keep things the way they are. The current vote is 89 against the amendment, 69 in favor of it, with 15 still having to vote. Of those 15, 4 are expected to vote against the amendment, 3 are expected to vote for it, and the remaining 8 are "up for grabs." Even if all 8 of those presbyteries vote as they did in 2001, however, the final margin for this vote (101-72) would still be far closer than the 2001 vote when this same issue previously arose (127-46). This has proponents of the amendment claiming victory and arguing that a change in the ordination requirements is only a matter of time.

Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians, an organization that was supporting the proposed amendment, has told the Presbyterian periodical The Layman that More Light's (and similarly minded groups') next mission will be to get denominational approval for same-sex marriages and other similar rights for same-sex couples ("‘Fidelity/chastity’ affirmed but both sides claim victory" by John H. Adams).

Below is a list of the presbyteries that will still be holding their votes between now and May 18, along with the result of their 2001 vote on a similar amendment. An "(S)" next to a presbytery means that the vote in 2001 was close enough that they realistically could switch their vote this time around. Even if all 15 remaining presbyteries voted in favor of the amendment, though, it still cannot pass.

1 Dakota-No
2 Detroit-No (S)
3 East Iowa-Yes
4 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
5 Lehigh-No (S)
6 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
7 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
8 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
9 Noroeste-No
10 Northern Waters-Yes
11 Pacific-No (S)
12 Savannah-No
13 Southern New England-Yes
14 Suroeste-No
15 Utah-No (S)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fidelity and Chastity is Likely to be Upheld

It's been far closer than it should be, but with 24 presbyteries still needing to vote, those in favor of keeping the PC(USA) ordination requirements as they are only need 3 more votes. Both the Alaska Presbytery and the Atlantic Korean Presbytery voted against amending the PC(USA) Constitution. But the impact on those seeking amendment is bigger than just these two votes. Alaska was one of the "key" presbyteries; i.e., one whose vote on this same issue in 2001 was close enough that they foreseeably could have changed their vote this time around. The amendment backers needed every single one of these presbyteries to go their way in order to have a chance to win the day. Even if they got every one of these close presbyteries, they still would have needed at least one "upset" vote; i.e., a presbytery which had a wide enough margin in 2001 that a switch really would have been a surprise. Now they would need all the close votes plus two upset votes.

Needing only 3 of 24 presbyteries to keep the Constitution intact, it is not looking likely that anything will change this time around. But, of course, it isn't over yet, and we all know that the issue will probably rear its head again at the 2010 General Assembly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Be There

Here's the question of the day. Who spoke the following profound words?

"There is no need to say you love me, It would be better left unsaid ...
all that I want from you is a promise you will be there."

(a) Emily Dickinson
(b) Nora Roberts
(c) Mark Twain
(d) Oscar Wilde
(e) The Spice Girls

Believe it or not, the correct answer is "(e) The Spice Girls." These are lyrics from their hit song "Say You'll Be There."

There is a powerful lesson in those words. In our society the word "love" is bantered about far too easily. We "fall in love." But we also "fall out of love." Your boyfriend or girlfriend may say they "love" you today, but that is no guarantee they will "love" you 10 years from now. You see, we have boiled love down to nothing more than a feeling. We often confuse it with infatuation, and once that higher-than-a-kite, giddy-as-a-schoolboy feeling inevitably exits, we too make our way for the exit, right out of the relationship.

The really sad thing is that this is not just true for couples who are dating. It also applies all too often in marriages. People get married because they are in "love," but their definition of love is this fleeting emotional state. They are quick to look for a way out when that feeling subsides and divorce is the inevitable result.

This is not to say you cannot feel a strong emotional attachment to your spouse. Of course you can. But a lasting love is far different from the infatuation on which relationships often begin. Shakespeare depicted this brilliantly in Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo and Juliet first meet, they are like two high school kids passing notes in class. But by the unfortunate end of the play, their relationship has grown to something far deeper.

The Spice Girls picked up on this truth. Don't say that you "love" me. What does that even mean any more? Telling me that you "love" me doesn't provide security. I want a commitment. It will mean far more if you would tell me that you'll "be there." At least that way I'll know that 20 years down the line when I need your shoulder it will be there for me to rest my head.

This is one of the problems I have with people moving in together before marriage. It's an illusion. People behave as if they are really committed to each other, but they cling on to that "escape hatch" just in case they "fall out of love" later on. Marriage is certainly not something to be taken lightly. We have to take the time to really get to know our prospective mate and prayerfully consider the commitment we are undertaking. But once you decide to make that commitment, don't beat around the bush. If you are willing to make the commitment, make it. If not, fess up to your partner and move on. To me moving in together just seems like a cop out.

Once you make a commitment, be true to your word. Don't say you'll "be there" unless you really mean it. But if you say it, do it. When the going gets tough, don't make a break for the exits. Remember your promise to "be there" and honor it. Nowadays, that promise means far more than how we have defined "love." God bless.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Do You Define Morality?

I’m curious how people out there ontologically define morality. By “ontologically” I mean what morality actually is, not simply how we come to our personal moral beliefs (unless you believe subjective belief is all there is). The latter would be speaking epistemologically, and we all may agree that there are certain cultural influences, etc., that influence what a person comes to morally believe. My question is not about what is believed, but rather what is true.

I had a discussion recently on another board with someone who was basically advancing a similar notion to Sam Harris; i.e., a form of utilitarianism based upon harm. The morally correct action is the one that does the least harm, or in which the harm is most outweighed by the benefit. I pose the classic response to this of a homeless person with no family or friends to speak of, doesn’t have a job, isn’t giving anything to anyone or doing any service for anybody, but he is actually expending resources by way of food, volunteer time, etc. being given to him. Suppose I could euthanize this person painlessly while he slept (unbeknownst to him and without his consent). Should I do it? I believe an argument could be made under utilitarianism that I should.

If someone responds, “But there is great harm in the act of ending his life” I would simply ask, “Why?” At least if you hold to a purely naturalistic framework, I see no difference between killing this man and shooting a deer during hunting season. They are both simply biological machines that result from blind undirected evolution. Why is it acceptable to kill one but not the other? If anything, we could argue that the homeless man is more of a draw against society than the deer, who wanders quietly in the back forests of our country where few humans will ever see him.

Is it because blind evolution has bestowed greater intelligence upon the human? If so, does this mean that people with higher IQs have superior moral rights to those with lower IQs?

A few years ago I was engaged in a discussion with another gentleman who favored ethical nihilism. The problem I find with these views, however, is that inevitably the so-called evidence always ends up detailing how we arrive at moral beliefs. But that is a matter of epistemology, not necessarily ontology. In other words, we may sincerely believe that the moon is made of green cheese, and I can offer all the evidence in the world showing how we came to that belief. But this does not mean that the moon is actually made of green cheese. Not only that, but the particular viewpoint on moral origins being advocated by this individual (and by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion) was based upon so-called “reciprocal altruism”; i.e., where members of a society realize that it is to their benefit to help others because they may get something in return. But this is not true altruism. This is selfishness. So those theories fail to explain the moral origin of truly self-sacrificing acts.

What about Kant’s categorical imperative that we should always act in such a way that our actions could be taken as a universal rule? This sounds good on the surface. We should not murder anyone we wish because our society would not survive long if we allowed willful murder to be universally permissible. Swiss philosopher Benjamin Constant provided a rebuttal to this point, however. Under Kant’s rule, lying is immoral because we cannot wish that lying be universally allowed. But what if a murderer is chasing his prey and asks us which way his prey ran? Are we allowed to lie to that murderer in order to keep him from consummating his intended crime? Kant says no. Lying is always wrong because we would not wish for it to be a universal rule. Some people respond by saying that we could simply refuse to answer and therefore not break Kant’s categorical imperative. But that is small consolation to someone with a gun held to their face and a murderer demanding an answer. Are we not allowed to defend our own lives and the other person’s by a simple deception, or must we accept our own end simply so as not to deceive a killer? By making everything universal, Kant fails to provide an adequate resolution when two ethical mandates come into conflict with one another.

The Christian worldview answers some of these questions by placing an inherent value on human life (to quote a certain famous American document, “All men are created equal”). All humankind is created in the image of God, and certain moral value is bestowed upon them as a result. It is wrong to kill the homeless man, regardless of what benefit society may see as a result, because there is value in his human life and it would be wrong to erase that value when the man has done nothing to warrant it. It would be okay to lie to the murderer because by doing so we are defending the value of the lives of both the innocent victim and ourselves.

The point of this post is not to provide a detailed defense of the Christian moral view. Instead I am asking for your opinions. If you do not accept the Christian worldview, how do you ontologically define morality? What (or who) determines what is right and what is wrong? God bless.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

New Facebook Page

Ten Minas Ministries now has a Facebook page. It contains updates on any events we have coming up as well as a discussion board where we will post some devotional-type thoughts from time to time. It also has the ability (unlike this blog) for people other than me to start posts. Just keep it clean please. We are all for honest intellectual discussion, but abusive or obscene posts will be deleted.

Visit our Facebook page here. Become a "fan" of Ten Minas on Facebook and tell your friends about us!

Monday, April 06, 2009

One Step Closer

We came one vote closer to ending the dispute over the PC(USA)’s ordination requirements when the South Louisiana Presbytery voted “no” on April 4, 2009, bringing the total number of “no” votes to 82, just 5 shy of the number needed to defeat the amendment. In the meantime, three more presbyteries voted in favor of the amendment: Long Island, Northern New York and San Jose. All three voted to amend the constitution when the issue arose in 2001 as well. The current vote count is 82 against the amendment and 65 for it.

Of the four presbyteries who have voted since my last blog post, none of them were surprises, except perhaps for the margin in San Jose. On April 4, 2009, the San Jose Presbytery voted 84-81 in favor of the amendment, a difference of only three votes. Bucking the trend that has been seen throughout the denomination, San Jose came very close to moving from a “yes” vote in 2001 to a “no” vote in 2008/09. Quite a few presbyteries have switched from a “no” to a “yes”, but San Jose would have been the first to flip/flop the other way around. In 2001 San Jose voted 86-75 in favor of removing the fidelity and chastity requirement. Unlike most other presbyteries voting for the amendment, San Jose’s “margin of victory” has actually shrunk over the past 8 years (from an 11 vote difference to only 3 and from 53.4% in favor of the amendment to only 50.9%).

26 presbyteries still need to hold their votes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

6 more down, 30 to go

6 more presbyteries have voted with no particular surprises. All six voted in favor of amending the Constitution and removing the fidelity and chastity requirement. The presbyteries were:

Genessee Valley
New York City
Susquehanna Valley
Western New York

Of the six, three voted for removing fidelity and chastity in 2001. The other three switched their votes from 2001, but all three were among the list of presbyteries whose 2001 votes were close enough that they reasonably could have been expected to switch. Opponents of fidelity and chastity would need all of the close votes from 2001 to change their minds this time around, plus they would need at least one more presbytery that nobody really sees going their way to come over to their side as well. The total vote is now 81 against the amendment and 62 in favor of it. 87 presbyteries are needed to prevail.

The remaining presbyteries (along with their 2001 votes and whether they are amongst the presbyteries who foreseeably could switch (S)) are as follows:

1 Alaska-No (S)
2 Atlantic Korean-No
3 Boise-No (S)
4 Dakota-No
5 de Cristo-Yes
6 Detroit-No (S)
7 East Iowa-Yes
8 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
9 Lehigh-No (S)
10 Long Island-Yes
11 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
12 MW Hanmi-No
13 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
14 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
15 National Capital-Yes
16 Noroeste-No
17 Northern New York-Yes
18 North. Plains-No (S)
19 Northern Waters-Yes
20 Pacific-No (S)
21 Salem-No (S)
22 San Francisco-Yes
23 San Jose-Yes
24 Savannah-No
25 Sierra Blanca-Yes
26 South Louisiana-No (S)
27 Southern New England-Yes
28 Suroeste-No
29 Utah-No (S)
30 Wabash Valley-No (S)

God bless.

Friday, March 27, 2009

5 more votes, no more surprises.

5 more presbyteries have held their votes on removing fidelity and chastity from the PC(USA) Constitution. None of the 5 were among the presbyteries whose "no" votes in 2001 were close enough that they could possibly change their minds this time. All 5 went as expected. They were as follows:



The tally is now 56 presbyteries in favor of the amendment and 81 against it. 87 votes are needed to "win" (although the mere fact that this vote even has to be held takes away any feelings of "victory"). The remaining presbyteries are as follows:

1 Alaska-No (S)
2 Atlantic Korean-No
3 Boise-No (S)
4 Dakota-No
5 de Cristo-Yes
6 Detroit-No (S)
7 East Iowa-Yes
8 Genessee Valley-Yes
9 Grace-No (S)
10 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
11 Lehigh-No (S)
12 Long Island-Yes
13 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
14 MW Hanmi-No
15 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
16 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
17 National Capital-Yes
18 New York City-Yes
19 Noroeste-No
20 Northern New York-Yes
21 North. Plains-No (S)
22 Northern Waters-Yes
23 Pacific-No (S)
24 Philadelphia-No (S)
25 Salem-No (S)
26 San Francisco-Yes
27 San Jose-Yes
28 Savannah-No
29 Sierra Blanca-Yes
30 South Louisiana-No (S)
31 Southern New England-Yes
32 Suroeste-No
33 Susquehanna Valley-Yes
34 Utah-No (S)
35 Wabash Valley-No (S)
36 Western New York-No action (S)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two More Presbyteries

Two more presbyteries have voted in favor of amending the PC(USA) Constitution and removing the fidelity and chastity requirement for ordination, Boston Presbytery and Western Reserve Presbytery. Both of them voted for the similar measure in 2001, so neither vote was a surprise. The current tally is 79 against the amendment and 53 in favor of it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My math was a little off

I may have called this thing a little too early in my last post about the vote to amend the PC(USA) constitution to remove the fidelity and chastity requirement. Part of this was my fault due to my poor math skills. It was also partly due to the fact that a couple of presbyteries who voted in favor of fidelity and chastity in 2001 (by wide enough margins that nobody really expected them to change their minds) changed their votes.

Currently, those against amending the Constitution (and therefore in favor of keeping the fidelity and chastity requirement) still have a sizeable lead, 79 to 51. 43 Presbyteries still have to vote. 25 of those voted to keep fidelity and chastity in the Constitution the last time the issue arose in 2001 (one of these actually took no action in 2001, which has the same effect as a "no" vote). The other 18 all voted to take the provision out of the Constitution and are all expected to do the same this time.

Knowing that none of those 18 presbyteries are really in dispute makes the current vote total really 79 No and 69 Yes. It is the 25 presbyteries that voted "no" in 2001 that are up for grabs. According to The Layman, a publication of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, 17 of those 25 presbyteries reasonably could switch their vote this time around. If all 17 switch, the final vote would be 87 No and 86 Yes. The amendment would still fail, but it would be much closer than I previously may have led you to believe. Also, keep in mind that we recently had two presbyteries that nobody thought would change their votes switch over in favor of amendment. If there is even one more surprise, it could effect the outcome of this vote.

Below is a chart showing the remaining Prebyteries, how they voted in 2001, and whether the 2001 votes were close enough that they reasonably could switch this time around. The name of each presbytery is followed by its 2001 vote. An "(S)" indicates it could potentially switch its vote.

1 Alaska-No (S)
2 Atlantic Korean-No
3 Beaver-Butler-No
4 Boise-No (S)
5 Boston-Yes
6 Charleston-Atl.-No
7 Dakota-No
8 de Cristo-Yes
9 Denver-Yes
10 Detroit-No (S)
11 East Iowa-Yes
12 Elizabeth-Yes
13 Genessee Valley-Yes
14 Geneva-Yes
15 Grace-No (S)
16 Kiskiminetas-No (S)
17 Lehigh-No (S)
18 Long Island-Yes
19 Middle Tenn.-No (S)
20 MW Hanmi-No
21 Minnesota Valleys-No (S)
22 Missouri River Valley-No (S)
23 National Capital-Yes
24 New York City-Yes
25 Noroeste-No
26 Northern New York-Yes
27 North. Plains-No (S)
28 Northern Waters-Yes
29 Pacific-No (S)
30 Philadelphia-No (S)
31 Salem-No (S)
32 San Francisco-Yes
33 San Jose-Yes
34 Savannah-No
35 Sierra Blanca-Yes
36 South Louisiana-No (S)
37 Southern New England-Yes
38 Suroeste-No
39 Susquehanna Valley-Yes
40 Utah-No (S)
41 Wabash Valley-No (S)
42 Western New York-No action (S)
43 Western Reserve-Yes

This information comes from The Layman.

Stay tuned. This may go down to the wire.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

For those of you who don't know, "Coughlan" is a good old fashioned Irish name. So to honor my heritage, I am fully decked out in my green suit and tie today. I wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day. Please celebrate it responsibly. God bless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No sooner did I speak...

I finally got around to updating the fidelity and chastity vote in the PC(USA) when ... what should happen but more information comes in within hours of my post. The current vote tally is 74 presbyteries in favor of keeping fidelity/chastity and 46 voting to do away with it. Whichever side is going to prevail needs 87 presbyteries voting their way. That means the "magic number" for fidelity/chastity is 13. Those who want to amend the Constitution have a magic number of 41. It is looking increasingly likely that the PC(USA) Constitution will emerge unfazed, but it isn't over yet.

Of the 53 Presbyteries that still have to vote, 12 voted for a similar measure to do away with fidelity and chastity in 2001 (and all are expected to vote the same way this time around). The other 41 presbyteries all voted to keep fidelity/chastity in 2001. 22 of these were close enough that they realistically could go the other way this year. Even if all 22 switch, though, that would still leave the amendment 7 presbyteries short. All in all, it will be a closer vote than it was in 2001 (which means that this issue is likely to rear its head again in the very near future), but the outcome should still be the same.

Jacqueline Spears new home

You may recall that for some time now the Ten Minas Disaster Relief Project has been raising money to help rebuild the home of Jacqueline Spears in Gulfport, Mississippi. Her home was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Well, thanks to the help of everyone who donated (along with the efforts and donations from many others, including Grove Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Carpenters for Christ and the Presbytery of Mississippi) Jackie's new home is arriving on March 21. There are enough volunteers to have it completely assembled within one month. Thank you for all your help and prayers. We are thrilled to have taken part in this happy ending and look forward to our next project. God bless.

Fidelity and Chastity update

The latest vote tally on the effort to repeal the fidelity and chastity requirement from the PCUSA Constitution is 69 in favor of keeping the requirement and 41 in favor of getting rid of it. 63 Presbyteries still need to vote.

In an only tangentially related note, I have recently been re-elected to serve another three years on the Session of Grove Presbyterian Church, so I will remain "in the trenches."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Richard Dawkins does not exist

"However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable."

This quote comes from page 138 of the paperback edition of Richard Dawkins' bestselling book "The God Delusion." Mr. Dawkins concedes that the existence of the universe is improbable, but he accepts its existence (largely because we live within it). We see the universe all around us, so it somehow must have overcome these odds (for anyone who wants to get hyper-technical, yes, I realize that he goes on to discuss the anthropic principle as a means to overcome the improbability, but it is just that, a way to overcome the improbability; this is still conceding that the universe's fine-tuning is improbable). But Mr. Dawkins rejects the existence of God based upon the even larger improbability. After all, Mr. Dawkins has never seen God as he has seen the universe, so he has no reason to believe that God has overcome the improbabilities.

Mr. Dawkins' argument misses the distinction between entities that exist within time and those that exist outside of time, but that is not the point of this post. Instead I wish to point out a rather humorous implication of the specific sentence I quoted above.

Bearing in mind that I have never seen Mr. Dawkins (just as Mr. Dawkins has allegedly never seen God) let's take Mr. Dawkins' statement again with a few insertions to clarify his meaning:

However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer (i.e., the universe), the designer himself (i.e., God) has got to be at least as improbable.
The conclusion = God does not exist.

Now allow me to use the same logic, but use it to try to explain the existence of the finely-tuned book "The God Delusion" instead of trying to explain the universe. After all, the combination of letters that come together to form the complex thoughts in "The God Delusion" are extremely improbable, so I am proposing that they were designed by Mr. Dawkins. Using Mr. Dawkins' own statement we get:

However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer (i.e., "The God Delusion"), the designer himself (i.e., Richard Dawkins) has got to be at least as improbable.
The conclusion = Richard Dawkins does not exist.

I am sorry to say Mr. Dawkins, that you have apparently disproven your own existence, at least to anyone that has never met you personally. I guess "The God Delusion" came together randomly after all, despite the odds.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What does "love" mean to you?

Little is known about the "Valentine" that is the namesake of the upcoming St. Valentine's Day. In fact, "Valentine" was a relatively popular name in early Christian times, and there are any number of potential candidates for the origin of this holiday.

One thing we all agree upon, though, is that St. Valentine's Day is all about "love." But few people ever really explore what that means.

Ancient Greek actually had at least three different words for "love," each with a subtly different meaning. "Eros" refers to a passionate love, perhaps with physical attraction (hence our modern word "erotic") and a sense of sensual longing. "Philia" was the word for a familial-type of love. This is the love you feel for your family or close friends. We certainly would not confuse this with the sensual love of "eros," even though both concepts could be described by the same English word. Finally, "agape" (in New Testament usage) is the word for a love that is self-sacrificing, all-encompassing and totally committed. It is offered to everyone, friend and enemy alike. This is the love that Jesus felt for John, the beloved disciple, and it is the love that the Father feels for us.

All too often people equate Valentine's Day with the "eros" type of love, especially when you walk by "Victoria's Secret" or some other lingerie store. Rarely, if ever, do you see "philia" love celebrated on February 14. When was the last time you gave a Valentine's Day gift or card to your sibling? I personally think it would be wonderful to honor "philia" love on Valentine's Day by telling our family how much they mean to us.

But most of all I would like to encourage you to reflect upon "agape" love this Valentine's Day. How many people in this world can you truly say you would die for? Your spouse? Your children? How about your co-workers? The stranger on the street corner? Your worst enemy?

God exemplified the highest level of love for us on Good Friday. The example He set should remind us all of what true love really is. I believe we could stand to learn something from grade-schoolers and the way they celebrate Valentine's Day. Each child gives every other child a Valentine. The children are not related to one another, and they are certainly far too young for an erotic love. But they trade Valentines with each other, regardless of whether they get along every other day of the year or not.

This Valentine's Day I encourage you to celebrate by doing something loving for a complete stranger, or better yet for someone who has been unkind to you. Show the world what agape love is really all about. Remember that anything you do would be but a small token compared to the agape love that God has shown for you.

God bless you and happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The race is getting closer

Many more Presbyteries have now chimed in on the question of whether or not to eliminate the "fidelity and chastity" requirement from the PC(USA) constitution, and the latest trends are not good for those in favor of keeping it. Whereas the "early returns" were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the requirement, the latest results have been more even, with a slight edge toward removing it.

19 more Presbyteries have held their votes since my last post and the tally is now 22 Presbyteries in favor of keeping the requirement and 11 wanting to get rid of it (and substitute the new language discussed in an earlier post). This means that since my last update, 10 Presbyteries have voted to do away with fidelity and chastity and 9 have voted to keep it.

Perhaps the biggest piece of news is that the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, which voted in favor of keeping fidelity and chastity when a similar measure came up in 2001, reversed its position on this new vote. 57.1% of the delegates voted to make the change. This is the first Presbytery to "switch sides" from the 2001 vote so far. 140 Presbyteries still have to vote.

My own Presbytery, the Baltimore Presbytery, in a move that shocked no one, voted on January 22, 2009 in favor of removing the fidelity and chastity requirement, 106 to 38.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New look to the website

The main Ten Minas Ministries website has undergone a pretty extensive overhaul. Feel free to stop by and "pop a gander" at our new look. Comments are always welcome.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An Update on the Ordination Amendment

One more Presbytery has chimed in on the proposed amendment to the PC(USA)'s Constitution to remove the fidelity and chastity requirement (see previous posts). On January 11, 2009 Foothills Presbytery voted 131 - 41 against the amendment. This brings the total count of presbyteries to 13 against, 1 for the amendment.

Friday, January 02, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: E=mc2 no longer considered to be true!

After much thought and deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that E=mc2 is simply too dangerous to believe, so I have decided that it is not true. For those of you who are not familiar with exactly what that proposition stands for, it was part of Einstein’s theory of special relativity and it basically means that a large amount of energy can be released from a small amount of matter (energy = mass times the speed of light squared) (see This formula provided the foundation for the invention of the atomic bomb, which as we all know has been used with devastating results. The loss of human life has been unimaginable.

Now I understand that there is nothing inherent in the formula of E= mc2 per se that has caused the atrocious loss of life. But people certainly have taken that formula and used it as a means to exterminate large numbers of humanity. Therefore, because E= mc2 has been abused resulting in such horrible results, I have concluded that it must not be true.

Now, before you start blasting me too harshly, please note that I have some pretty distinguished company in my reasoning. Take Sam Harris, for example, the noted (and vigorously outspoken) atheist. In his book “Letter to a Christian Nation” he spends a good amount of time arguing against the existence of the Christian God based upon things like the crusades. At one point he even claims that early Christian anti-Semitism led to the ethnic cleansing during World War II several hundred years later. Mr. Harris is not alone in this argument. Many atheists repeatedly bring up all the suffering that has occurred under the alleged banner of Christianity to convince us that it is too dangerous to hold on to these types of religious beliefs.

Well, because it is so dangerous to believe that a religious system is true when it (like any other belief) is open to being abused, misinterpreted and misapplied with such dire consequences, I have decided that it is just too darn dangerous to believe in E= mc2 anymore. Why let something like pesky objective truth get in our way? We don’t need to concern ourselves with that. Any belief that is open to being abused should be discarded.

So I am launching my campaign to do away with this horribly dangerous scientific belief. No more Einstein! Holding to this outrageous belief system has a proven track record of being abused, leading to astonishingly deadly results. Let’s all join with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the other new atheists and make a new year’s resolution to rid this world of the hazards of Albert Einstein!

Happy New Year!