Saturday, October 31, 2009

The problems with global warming (1)

There always seems to have been someone to tell us either that we are about to enter a new ice age and get ourselves frozen to death or that the ice caps are going to melt, the earth is going to become desert and we are all going to be roasted to a frazzle.

I am old enough to remember how around 1970 Americans like Paul Ehrlich were telling us quite clearly that by the year 2000 there wouldn't be enough food to eat or air to breathe on the planet.

The latest scare, of course, has been man-made global warming. Governments appeared to fall for it. Unfortunately for the environmentalists, the arguments in its favour appear to be losing their potency. The BBC now says that for the last 11 years there has not been any increase in global temperatures. Over the past 11 years, in fact, I believe global temperatures have dropped.

More and more people have begun to see that there is no concrete evidence for man-made global warming, to the extent that environmentalists are no longer talking about global warming, but about climate change. Climate change, of course, includes not only global warming, but global cooling.

An attendee at an environmental conference recently complained that in any other sphere, people wanted to see independent verification of scientific findings; but if environmental organisers said something, it was taken as gospel.

What he wanted to see, he said, was journalists treating "big environmentalism" the same way they treated big politics, big government and big business. By asking the same questions. Like where's the money coming from to promote all this about man-made global warming? And who's channelling it?

Now there are some interesting questions. . .

Some atheists are no longer so sure

Chuck Colson points out in Christianity Today that while Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are producing books promoting their atheism, other British atheists are reconsidering the matter and coming to different conclusions.

Anthony Flew has concluded that evolutionary theory has no reasonable explanation for the origin of life and that atheism is not logically sustainable.

A. N. Wilson noticed people who insist we are "simply anthropoid apes" cannot account for things like language, love and music. That and the even stronger argument of how the Christian faith transforms individual lives convinced him that the religion of the incarnation is true.

Colson, who says faith and reason are not enemies, gets students to write four basic questions on a piece of paper: Where did I come from? What's my purpose? Why is there sin and suffering? Is redemption possible?

On the other side of the paper, they list philosophies and religions and examine how each philosophy or religion deals with the four questions and which best conforms to the way things really are. Students quickly see that only Christianity teaches that humans are created in the image of God and it is no coincidence that Christians have waged most of the great human rights campaigns.

People have a caricatured view of Christians, seeing them as followers, often hypocritical and judgmental, of an outdated book. But an explanation of why Christianity is so reasonable, says Colson, will open the mind, if not the heart, of many a doubter.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A hope worth having

Hope is what keeps people going. People in the Holocaust who lost hope died quickly, they tell me. Countless thousands who continued to hope perished too. But some who dared to hope survived, often in incredible circumstances.

People like Ruth Dobschiner, a nurse in Nazi-occupied Holland who lost all her family in the Holocaust but survived herself as a result of what seemed like a series of miracles. She came to faith while hiding in a Dutch attic. After the hostilities she moved to Scotland, and lived and worked in Glasgow for quite some years.

A couple of years ago I came across a bench dedicated to her name in a National Trust sanctuary south of Oban. I never did find out how it came to be there. One day, perhaps, I will.

Christians who have trusted Christ for His salvation have a hope more certain than the ground beneath their feet. One day this old world might be rolled up like an old blanket, but the hope we have who have trusted in Christ extends clean out of this world into the next.

The book of Hebrews speaks of those

. . . who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the inner part behind the veil,

where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus. . .

This hope, both sure and steadfast, goes beyond the veil into the very presence of God. Jesus is the forerunner. He has entered for us. His presence there is proof that those who own Him will be there with Him.

Whenever I read those words in Hebrews (and sometimes when I don't) I have a picture in my mind. The details may sound a little ridiculous, but the picture as a whole so clearly illustrates the point.

With me is a rope, perhaps of the sort that mountaineers use, but absolutely unbreakable. The rope goes from me up into heaven and over the windowsill of God's throne room (I told you the details of the picture were somewhat unbiblical). At the end of the rope is an anchor, and one arm of the anchor is caught around one of the legs of God's throne.

In other words, only if God Himself is overthrown can the hope He has provided fail.

Now there is a hope worth having.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Middle East tensions increase

Israel's situation becomes more difficult as the days go by. This week the United Nations Human Rights Council discussed the Goldstone commission's report into the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The report accused Israel of war crimes.

The council heard wildly antisemitic diatribes from Muslim nations. It also heard testimony that "the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

The council approved the Goldstone report by 25 votes to six.

To give you an idea of the impartiality involved here, the Human Rights Council, in setting up the commission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, had called for "an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip."

In other words, Israel was condemned before the "independent, international fact-finding mission" began.

There has been rioting in Jerusalem in recent days.

In 1996 Israel decided to open an archaeological tunnel near the Western Wall. Palestinians claimed it was an attempt to attack a mosque on the Temple Mount and used it as an excuse for a season of violence, with Palestinian security forces, armed by Israel, opening fire on Israeli soldiers.

In 2000 Palestinians used the excuse of a visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon - a visit that had been agreed in advance with the Palestinian Authority - to start the second intifada, years of terror which left 1,500 Israelis dead.

This time Palestinian authorities claimed, without any evidence, that Israelis were seeking to worship on the Temple Mount and called Palestinians to flood the Temple Mount to protect the mosque there. Masked Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police; 18 policemen and 15 protesters were hurt.

Fatah leaders called on European governments and the US to condemn Israel's imaginary provocations. European governments - it would be funny if it weren't so serious - demanded Israel end its bad behaviour, and the US demanded that Israel explain itself.

There were claims that it was an attempt to start a third intifada. If it was, it doesn't seem quite to have caught on - yet.

The world has discovered that Iran had a further nuclear processing plant it hadn't got round to telling the International Atomic Energy Authority about. This was said to be proof that Iran intends to produce not nuclear energy, as it has always claimed, but nuclear weapons. Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who has promised to destroy Israel, remained defiant and Iran continued to test rockets which can reach Israel.

Israelis have said that if nothing is done to stop Iran producing nuclear weapons Israel will have to attack Iran's nuclear sites by the end of the year. No one seems to be doing anything effective to stop Iran's march to nuclear capability.

Meanwhile, Ray Gano provides more evidence of the Obama administration's pro-Arab sympathies and lack of concern for the Jews.

The Jews recently celebrated some of the most important days in the Jewish calendar - Rosh Hashanah, the 10 Days of Awe and the Day of Atonement. The United States Consulate in Jerusalem - Israel's capital - made no mention on its website of the Jewish festivals, but included greetings from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the US Consul General to the Muslims for the celebration of Eid.

Consulate staff explained that they are the US representative to the Palestinian Authority, while the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv is the US representative to Israel.

There is only one problem with that. The website of the embassy in Tel Aviv didn't mention the Jewish holy days either.

A tragedy 15 times over

According to the Daily Mail, a woman has admitted having had 15 abortions in a period of 17 years. The woman, an academic prodigy in her teens but from a troubled family, said the abortions were "an act of rebellion."

It's interesting that her abortions were punctuated by several attempts at suicide.

An abortion is decided on usually not to save the life of the mother, but for selfish reasons, like "My boyfriend told me I had to get rid of it," or "Having a baby now would ruin my career" or "This really isn't the right time for me to have a baby just now."

The tragedy is that each abortion takes a human life - a life given for a purpose. Each tiny person in the womb is a unique individual with a unique personality and a life never to be repeated.

While we are on the subject, if you would like to hear a magnificent pro-life song beautifully sung, click here. I really would encourage you to listen to this.

If you happen to be reading this and you are hurting or in need of help because abortion has touched your life, click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

There's a reason for it all

People with a "Where did Cain get his wife from?" kind of mindset who like to try to disprove God's word point out that if Eve was the mother of all living, then in order for humankind to continue, one of her sons must have married his sister, which was a sin.

That's where their logic comes unstuck. It wasn't a sin.

When Adam and Eve were created, their genes were perfect. The genes of their children would be near perfect.

By Moses' time, hundreds of years later, some defective genes would have got into the gene pool. It was then that God decreed that a person was not to marry a near relative.

If I were to marry someone outside my own family, their genes would be different to mine. A defective gene in me would be likely to be overcome by a good gene at the same point in my spouse, so that our children would not be affected.

If I married a close relative, our genes would be similar. A defective gene in me would be likely to be matched by a defective gene at the same point in my partner, so that our children would be genetically defective.

The more you understand about creation, the more you see the wisdom of God.

A nation's children betrayed

You may forget all the splendid words about education from the Government. Britain's children have been betrayed.

I remember with affection some of the teachers I had as a youngster. Like the teacher in my last year of junior school. Not only was she the school's headmistress; she also taught singlehandedly all the subjects to all the pupils in their last two years of junior school all jammed into one class. She had a cane but never used it. Discipline was never a problem. The children in her care were taught, and she had the best exam results in town.

It was in the 1960s that teachers began to introduce ideas and methods of teaching that everyone seemed to know were crazy except the teachers. As a result, examinations had to be downgraded and three-year university courses extended to four.

We have now got to the point where 63 per cent of white boys from low-income families and 54 per cent of black working-class boys can't read or write properly at age 14. English grammar is not considered important. Children are not taught to spell. Schools are now getting young teachers who can't teach children to spell because they can't spell either.

A leading exam board found last year's GCSE candidates didn't know how to write a letter. Undergraduates are arriving at university unable to write an essay. A study of students at Imperial College, London, found the English of British students was worse than the English of overseas students. British students made three times as many grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors as students from Singapore, China and Indonesia.

According to Harriet Sergeant in the Daily Mail, a third of all 14-year-olds have a reading age of 11 or below. One in five has a reading age of nine. Cuba, Estonia, Poland and Barbados have higher literacy rates than Britain.

Education in the UK is based on ideology, not evidence of what works. School inspectors no longer concentrate on the basics, but have to check that schools are complying with educational ideology and the latest Government initiative.

Because there is little incentive to learn, almost 60,000 children in England skip lessons every day. Boys aged between 10 and 16 commit 40 per cent of all street crime, 25 per cent of thefts from properties, 20 per cent of criminal damage and one third of car thefts, and all of them during school hours.

The concept of sitting pupils in rows of desks facing the teacher is widely considered too didactic, Ms Sergeant writes. Now, most primary schoolchildren sit at tables scattered about the classroom, as I saw for myself when I sat in on one class for a week in the East End of London.

On my table, the three children giggled, kicked each other and chatted. Their attention lay on what was in front of them: themselves. Somewhere on the periphery of our vision, the teacher walked about, struggling to keep order. Somewhere else, behind our heads, hung a whiteboard with work upon it, gleefully ignored by my table.

When I blamed the children's poor discipline and concentration on the layout, the teacher looked at me with horror.

'The pupils are working together, directing their own learning,' she said emphatically. . .

Children are now expected, for example, to be 'independent learners' in charge of their own education. ('Why do teachers keep asking me what I want to learn? How am I supposed to know?' one boy asked me in exasperation.)

Something needs to be done before the next generation comes along. Among other things, beginning to teach five-year-olds and six-year-olds to read would be a good thing.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Grace, grace, such wonderful grace

Susan Atkins, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson who confessed to stabbing heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate to death in 1969, has died after almost 40 years in prison. She was 61, and had brain cancer.

Her mother died of cancer when Susan was 15. Her father was said to be an alcoholic. While still in her teens, she was dancing in topless bars and using drugs. Then she met Manson.

Over the years she apologised many times for her actions and claimed to have found forgiveness in Christ. The last words she said in public were "My God is an awesome God."

Many people believe she did not deserve forgiveness. They are right. We are all sinners, and none of us deserve forgiveness. If we are forgiven, it is not because we deserve it, but because of God's wonderful grace.