Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tell a big enough lie often enough. . .

This week - although the dates for the week vary a little from country to country - is Israeli Apartheid Week. If you are not familiar with the term, perhaps a little explanation is called for.

This is the week when film shows, lectures and public meetings are held in towns and cities, above all on university campuses, to demonstrate that Israel is an apartheid state.

Except that Israel isn't an apartheid state.

The word apartheid was used to describe the situation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, when blacks there couldn't vote, hold political office or mix with whites, and had to live in segregated areas.

By contrast, the one-and-a-half million Arabs who live in Israel - 20 per cent of the population - can vote, like any other Israeli, own businesses, work in the professions, practise as lawyers and judges, work in the diplomatic service, serve in Israel's parliament and become ministers in the Israeli Government.

Because Israel is a democracy, Arabs in Israel have rights Arabs in Arab countries don't have. In fact, 82 per cent of Arabs living in Israel say they would rather live in Israel than in an Arab country.

So why do we see Palestinian Arabs from the so-called occupied territories queueing at Israeli checkpoints? Because they are not Israeli citizens and Israel has to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

What about the security fence that Israel built? It was built to prevent terrorists entering Israel at a time when  bombers were blowing up Israeli citizens in buses, on the streets, and in restaurants. And it worked, reducing terrorism inside Israel almost to nil.

The Palestinians have made it clear that if ever they are granted their own state, no Jew will be allowed to live there. So are they castigated as supporters of apartheid? Dear me, no.

So why is Israel called an apartheid state?

Because those who hate Israel want to convince people who don't know any better that Israel has no right to exist.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

'Waiting for Jesus'

Frances Ridley Havergal was born in Worcestershire in 1836. She was the youngest of six children of an evangelical Anglican clergyman, himself the author of about a hundred hymns.

Frances could read at three years old, and wrote her first poetry at seven. From six years old, she longed to find forgiveness in Christ, but it was only at 14 that she found peace in Him. "I committed my soul to the Saviour," she said, "and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment."

Although not able to go to school for long periods, she was proficient in several modern languages, as well as Latin, Hebrew and Greek. She was a sweet singer and a gifted pianist, playing Handel, Mendelssohn and Beethoven, often from memory.

By the time she was 22, she had learned the Psalms, the book of Isaiah and almost all the New Testament off by heart. She went on to memorise the Minor Prophets. (Do they make Christians like that any more?)

Whilst in Germany, she saw a picture of Christ during His passion, bearing the inscription "I did this for thee; what hast thou done for Me?" It appears to have made a considerable impression.

Despite long periods of illness, Frances wrote books, articles, poetry, a considerable number of hymns - some of them well known - and a number of hymn tunes.

She died of peritonitis at 42 years old.

At the beginning of her last illness, she asked her doctor "Do you think I have a chance of going? If I am going, it is too good to be true!"

Towards the end of that last illness, although in agonising pain, "It is all perfect peace," she said. "I am only waiting for Jesus to take me in."

Clearly, though faintly, she sang the whole verse of one of her hymns. She looked up steadfastly, her face radiant, as though she saw the Lord. For 10 minutes, said her sister, the family watched her almost visible meeting with her King.

She tried to sing again, but after one sweet high note, her voice failed and she was gone.

Her favourite bit of Scripture, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," was inscribed on her coffin and on her gravestone.

May I be allowed to ask you a question? It's the same question she was faced with. He died for you. What have you done for Him?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Is atheism reasonable?

Atheists will find it difficult to convince other people that there is no God. For two very good reasons.

First, the Bible says (in Psa 19:1): "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows his handiwork." The best evidence for the existence of a Creator is His creation. And the evidence of His creation is all around us.

Atheists see the structure and beauty and the order and influence of the heavenly bodies, says Matthew Henry, but say "There is no God." They see the effect, yet say "There is no cause." The heavenly bodies could not exist from eternity, he says, because succession and motion must have had a beginning; they could not make themselves, which is a contradiction; they could not be produced by a random hit of atoms, which is an absurdity. Therefore they must have a Creator.

If you stand at the back of your house on a clear night and look up at the millions of stars shining above you, you might have difficulty supposing that God doesn't exist.

Second, the Bible says "Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Rom 1:20).

Deep down in every man there is an awareness of God. Atheists might deceive themselves into thinking it is not so; but deep down in every man that awareness is there.

I am no scientist, but the people who claim to know these things tell me, as evidence of the existence of a Creator, that there are more than 120 anthropic constants in the universe. (An anthropic constant is something that has to exist to allow life to be possible on the earth, like an exact quantity of oxygen in the atmosphere; an exact amount of atmospheric transparency to allow the correct amount of solar radiation to reach the earth; the exact degree of tilt at which the earth rotates; the exact force of gravity on the moon compared with the force of gravity on earth; an exact amount of water vapour in the atmosphere; etc.) The lack of any one of these constants would be expected to make life on earth impossible: but every one of the 120-plus constants is in place.

Donald Page, of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, has calculated that the odds against the universe randomly taking a form suitable for life are 10124 to one. The figure of 10124 is a figure so large it is practically impossible to imagine.

Atheists would say it all happened by chance. They would argue that there might be an infinite number of universes, and this one might be the only one where conditions for life were right. There's one thing wrong with that argument: there is no evidence of any other universe.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, took part in a debate with Britain's best known atheist, Dr Richard Dawkins, at Cambridge University two weeks ago. Dawkins sought to prove that "religion has no place in the 21st century." He described religion as "a cop-out."

"It is a betrayal of the intellect, a betrayal of all that's best about what makes us human," he said. "It's a phony substitute for an explanation, which seems to answer the question until you examine it and realise that it does no such thing. . . it peddles false explanations where real explanations could have been offered."

He failed to convince his audience. The motion was defeated by 324 votes to 136.

You can see a report of the debate here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fried chicken, anyone?

Col Harland David Sanders opened a service station and started to serve ham and steaks cooked in his home nearby. (This is the man with the glasses and goatee beard. Kentucky Fried Chicken. That Col Sanders.)

The first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise opened in 1952. The company grew until the colonel was unable to manage its growth. He sold it for £1.5 million in 1964.

Now his face appears in 17,000 towns and cities in 105 countries. The company sells 114 million hot wings each year in Britain alone.

One night an American preacher knelt beside the colonel and asked: "Would you like to get born again?" "I really would," said the colonel. "Do you think that Jesus could save me to the point where He would take away my cussing?" "God is going to save you tonight," said the preacher, "and you'll never cuss again."

Col Sanders accepted Christ that night and never again took the Lord's name in vain. He was baptised in the River Jordan.

According to a biography written by Bob Rodgers, the preacher's son, the colonel was once needing surgery for a growth in the colon. The same preacher went to the hospital and prayed for him. When the surgeon operated, there was no growth there.

"God has been so good to me," said Col Sanders.

He died in 1980, aged 90.

Monday, February 11, 2013

'Ten times error' in abortion figures

You may remember the brouhaha there was 11 years ago when Joanna Jepson, later a Church of England minister. went to court to challenge the legality of an abortion that had been carried out at 28 weeks because the baby had a cleft palate.

European researchers now say that more than 10 times as many abortions take place for cleft lip in the UK than are recorded in Department of Health statistics.

According to the Telegraph, Eurocat, which was set up to register congenital abnormalities in 23 countries, claims 157 unborn babies were aborted for cleft lip and palate in England and Wales between 2006 and 2010. The Department of Health records only 14.

In the same period, according to Eurocat, there were 205 abortions for club foot, another problem that can normally be corrected by surgery. Department of Health records put the figure much lower.

Eurocat also claims that the number of babies aborted in 2010 for Down's syndrome was almost double the number officially recorded - 886 compared to 482.

The difference is believed to be because of sources of data. The European group tracks what happens when the unborn baby has been identified as having an abnormality, obtaining the information from foetal medicine specialists, ultrasonographers and genetic testing laboratories. The Department of Health figures come from forms filled in by doctors carrying out abortions.

Doctors are said not to be recording the true reason for the abortion, either to spare the woman's feelings or avoid controversy.

Dr Joan Morris, national co-ordinator for Eurocat and professor of medical statistics at Queen Mary, University of London, said "Babies are aborted for Down's and they still don't put that on the abortion form, so if they can't do it for Down's, why would they put cleft lip?"

A Department of Health spokesman said "We are aware that there is a potential discrepancy in figures and are looking into this in further detail."

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Eighty years married

Whatever you think about it and whatever the cause, there is a move to destroy  marriage. (Dr Dave Landrum of the Evangelical Alliance said yesterday the Government wants to "reduce marriage to a lifestyle choice - like fashion or joining a club," with minority groups defining marriage for themselves.)

So time to mention a few positive things about marriage.

Today is the first day of National Marriage Week - seven days leading up to Valentine's Day. It will be launched with a meeting at Westminster today, with local events, like marriage courses and Valentine's Day meals, during the week.

In Canada, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2005, and strange things happen there. In one primary school, I'm told, eight-year-olds "married" their (same-sex) best friends, with cake and ice cream to follow.

But Canada's Supreme Court has decided that couples who live together outside of marriage should not have the same privileges as married couples. Couples who choose to marry, it said, choose the responsibilities and the protections associated with it. Couples who choose not to marry avoid the responsibilities and the protections.

In the United States, this week is a special time for John and Ann Betar, who have been married for 80 years.

They lived across the street from each other, and John used to drive Ann to school in his Ford Roadster. Ann was supposed to marry someone in a wedding arranged by her father, but John and Ann eloped to New York State and were married on November 25, 1932. "Some people said it would never last," John is reported to have said. "We showed them."

Ron and Judy Pekny, of an organisation called Worldwide Marriage Encounter, are travelling to John and Ann's home town of Fairfield, Connecticut, for a ceremony in their honour this week.

Nice to honour people who have been faithful to each other for so long. Don't you think?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Truth stood on its head

David Cameron's bill to redefine marriage and legalise same-sex marriage passed its second reading in the House of Commons last night with 400 voting for and 175 voting against.

Some 135 Conservative MPs voted against the bill, with 126 voting for and many more abstaining. It has been described as the biggest Tory rebellion in history.

The most common word among proponents of same-sex marriage in the six-hour debate appeared to be "equality."

Marriage between a man and a woman and a homosexual relationship cannot be equal because they are different. According to the bill, homosexuals would have a choice between marriage and civil partnership while a man and a woman would have the choice of marriage only; adultery would be grounds for divorce in a heterosexual marriage but not in exclusively same-sex relationships; and it would certainly not be equal for the children of the two types of relationship.

Truth has been stood on its head. Unfortunately, supporters of same-sex marriage have presented themselves as champions of equality and fairness, while people with Christian principles are portrayed as haters of homosexuals, bigots and religious fanatics.

 Cranmer described it the other day: "Everyone knows that the Bill is a dog's breakfast of 'quadruple locks,' random exemptions, religious straitjackets and false assertions of equality. Anyone with half a brain will understand that its religious assurances are provisional and its locks are eminently pickable. Equality is the new state orthodoxy: there can be no lasting exemptions, no conscience considerations and no organisational opt-outs. All must conform, or face the consequences of inquisition and suffer the same historic fate of heretics."

The bill will now be considered by a committee and have its third reading before going to the House of Lords.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

No 'slippery slope'? Don't you believe it

This week Lord Falconer announced that he is going to introduce another bill in the House of Lords seeking to legalise assisted suicide.

While such things are in the news, it is perhaps appropriate to mention (in case you didn't see it in the newspapers) the case of Marc and Eddy Verbessem.

The Verbessem brothers were 45-year-old identical twins living in the village of Putte, not too far from Brussels, in Belgium. They were born deaf. They were unmarried; they had lived together all their lives, and worked as cobblers. When they discovered they were suffering from a form of glaucoma that was expected to leave them blind, they feared losing their independence, and asked for euthanasia.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium "if the patient is in a medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident."

The Verbessems were not terminally ill, and were not in physical pain. Doctors refused them euthanasia because they did not accept the brothers were suffering unbearable pain. Needless to say the Verbessems were able to find doctors who disagreed, and the twins' lives were ended by lethal injection.

Now Belgium's ruling Socialists have announced plans to amend the law to allow euthanasia for children and people suffering from Alzheimer's.

Once the door to legalised killing is opened, it will remain open - and the conditions required to qualify for legalised killing will become wider and wider.

Peter Saunders says that in Belgium half the cases of euthanasia go unreported, half of Belgian euthanasia nurses have killed people without request, one third of euthanasia cases in at least one region are involuntary, and euthanasia cases are now being used as organ donors.

"A report published late last year," he says, "by the Brussels-based European Institute of Bioethics claimed that euthanasia was being 'trivialized' and that the law was being monitored by a toothless watchdog. After 10 years of legalised euthanasia and about 5,500 cases, not one case has ever been referred to the police. . . 

"These latest developments are a chilling reminder of how incremental extension will happen inevitably once the law changes and the public conscience is eroded."

Legislators in Britain would do well to bear this in mind as pressure from proponents of euthanasia continues.