Archive for November, 2007

Stem Cell Vindication

November 30th, 2007 6 comments

By Charles Krauthammer  November 30,

"If human embryonic stem cell
research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not
thought about it enough."

– James A.

A decade ago, Thomson was the first
to isolate human embryonic stem cells. Last week, he (and Japan’s Shinya
Yamanaka) announced one of the great scientific breakthroughs since the
discovery of DNA: an embryo-free way to produce genetically matched stem

Even a scientist who cares not a
whit about the morality of embryo destruction will adopt this technique because
it is so simple and powerful. The embryonic stem cell debate is

Which allows a bit of reflection on
the storm that has raged ever since the August 2001 announcement of President
Bush’s stem cell policy. The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president — so
vilified for a moral stance — been so thoroughly vindicated.

Why? Precisely because he took a
moral stance. Precisely because, to borrow Thomson’s phrase, Bush was made "a
little bit uncomfortable" by the implications of embryonic experimentation.
Precisely because he therefore decided that some moral line had to be

In doing so, he invited unrelenting
demagoguery by an unholy trinity of Democratic politicians, research scientists
and patient advocates who insisted that anyone who would put any restriction on
the destruction of human embryos could be acting only for reasons of cynical
politics rooted in dogmatic religiosity — a "moral ayatollah," as Sen. Tom
Harkin so scornfully put it.

Bush got it right. Not because he
necessarily drew the line in the right place. I have long argued that a better
line might have been drawn — between using doomed and discarded
fertility-clinic embryos created originally for reproduction (permitted) and
using embryos created solely to be disassembled for their parts, as in research
cloning (prohibited). But what Bush got right was to insist, in the face of
enormous popular and scientific opposition, on drawing a line at all, on
requiring that scientific imperative be balanced by moral

History will look at Bush’s 2001
speech and be surprised how balanced and measured it was, how much respect it
gave to the other side. Read it. Here was a presidential policy pronouncement
that so finely and fairly drew out the case for both sides that until the final
few minutes of his speech, you had no idea where the policy would end

Bush finally ended up doing nothing
to hamper private research into embryonic stem cells and pledging federal monies
to support the study of existing stem cell lines — but refusing federal monies
for research on stem cell lines produced by newly destroyed

The president’s policy recognized
that this might cause problems. The existing lines might dry up, prove
inadequate or become corrupted. Bush therefore appointed a President’s Council
on Bioethics to oversee ongoing stem cell research and evaluate how his
restrictions were affecting research and what means might be found to circumvent
ethical obstacles.

More vilification. The mainstream
media and the scientific establishment saw this as a smoke screen to cover his
fundamentalist, obscurantist, anti-scientific — the list of adjectives was
endless — tracks. "Some observers," wrote The Post’s Rick Weiss, "say the
president’s council is politically stacked."

I sat on the council for five years.
It was one of the most ideologically balanced bioethics commissions in the
history of this country. It consisted of scientists, ethicists, theologians,
philosophers, physicians — and others (James Q. Wilson, Francis Fukuyama and me
among them) of a secular bent not committed to one school or the

That balance of composition was
reflected in the balance in the reports issued by the council — documents of
sophistication and nuance that reflected the divisions both within the council
and within the nation in a way that respectfully presented the views of all
sides. One recommendation was to support research that might produce stem cells
through "de-differentiation" of adult cells, thus bypassing the creation of
human embryos.

That Holy Grail has now been
achieved. Largely because of the genius of Thomson and Yamanaka. And also
because of the astonishing good fortune that nature requires only four injected
genes to turn an ordinary adult skin cell into a magical stem cell that can
become bone or brain or heart or liver.

But for one more reason as well.
Because the moral disquiet that James Thomson always felt — and that George
Bush forced the country to confront — helped lead him and others to find some
ethically neutral way to produce stem cells. Providence then saw to it that the
technique be so elegant and beautiful that scientific reasons alone will now
incline even the most willful researchers to leave the human embryo

Categories: Sanctity of Life

Punctuation Matters

November 29th, 2007 3 comments

Amazing what a little missing comma can do.

NAIROBI, Kenya/GENEVA, 29 November 2007 (LWI) – In her evening
prayer, Rev. Dr Gloria Rojas Vargas, president of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH) led others in floating in a
clear bowl of water flowers representing the world’s continents.

Categories: Humor

Acclamation: Free Downloadable Samples Available

November 29th, 2007 1 comment

Concordia Publishing House through Acclamation provides
fresh musical settings of the Propers (Introit, Psalm of the Day,
Gospel Acclamation, Gradual, and Hymn of the Day stanza) for choirs and
congregations. These settings will be available electronically through
the Web for purchase on weekly, quarterly, or annual subscription. Acclamation supports both the three-year and the one-year lectionaries.

Each component will be based on the ESV translation of Scripture as used in LSB. The music will be easy to learn for both the choir/cantor and the congregation. The ease of use is what distinguishes this item from any other like it out there now presently. I encourage you to look into this resource in order to enhance the Divine Service in your parish.

The Divine Service consists of two main elements: the Ordinary and
the Propers. The Ordinary consists of those parts that do not change
but become the framework for the congregation, such as the Kyrie, Hymn
of Praise, Creed, Preface, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Those items that
change from week to week or by season are known as the Propers of the
day, such as the Scripture readings, the Collect, Introit, Psalm of the
Day, Gradual, Gospel Acclamation (Verse), Proper Preface, hymns, and
even the sermon. Because these elements change on a weekly basis, the
church choir or cantors is often assigned the responsibility of
preparation and presentation.

Truth and Puppies

November 28th, 2007 3 comments

"The truth is not like a bunch of puppies, running around and you pick the one you like. There’s only one truth, and it just came knocking."

– From the ABS television show Pushing Daisies

(One of the most creatively well written shows I’ve seen on television in a very, very long time)

Categories: Uncategorized

Punctuation Matters

November 28th, 2007 Comments off

I’m reading Eats Shoots and Leaves, a hilarious and powerful appeal to give attention to proper punctuation. Case in point? See the banner below. Note what a difference a missing apostrophe makes?


Categories: Humor

Luther on Good Works

November 26th, 2007 2 comments
"Because you have taken hold of Christ by faith, through whom you
are righteous, you should now go and love God and your neighbor. Call
upon God, give thanks to Him, preach Him, praise Him, confess Him. Do
good to your neighbor, and serve him; do your duty. These are truly
good works, which flow from this faith and joy conceived in the heart
because we have the forgiveness of sins freely through Christ."

Luther, Luther’s Works, 26: 133
Categories: Christian Life

November 25th, 2007 4 comments


Categories: Uncategorized

“Preoccupied” with the Distinction Between Law and Gospel?

November 25th, 2007 5 comments

I would like to express a fraternal concern with a comment made in the latest issue of Concordia Journal about the Lutheran distinction between two kinds of righteousness. It is said to be a "distinction which has sometimes been neglected or overshadowed by our preoccupation with the distinction between Law and Gospel." (CJ, Vol. 33, No. 4, p. 342).

I’m entirely in favor of a much more thorough exploration of, and appreciation for, the distinction between two kinds of righteousness. That is well and good, but, I’m not in favor of doing this at the expense of the distinction between Law and Gospel.

The Formula of Concord asserts that the distinction between Law and Gospel is a: "particularly brilliant light. It serves the purpose of rightly dividing God’s Word and properly explaining and understanding the Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles. We must guard this distinction with special care, to that these two doctrines may not be mixed with each other, or a law be made out of the Gospel. When that happens Christ’s merit is hidden and troubled consciences are robbed of comfort, which they otherwise have in the Holy Gospel when it is preached genuinely and purely." (Article VI.1).

And again:

"These two doctrines, we believe and confess, should always be diligently taught in God’s Church forever, even to the end of the world." (VI.24)


"The true and proper distinction between the Law and Gospel must be taught and preserved with all diligence." (VI.27).

Note also what Melanchthon states in the Apology, Article IV.5-6:

"All Scripture ought to be distributed into these two principal topics, the Law and the promises [the Gospel]. For in some places it presents the Law, and in others the promise concerning Christ, namely, either when [in the Old Testament] it promises that Christ will come, and offers, for His sake, the remission of sins justification, 
and life eternal, or when, in the Gospel [in the New Testament], Christ Himself, since He has appeared, promises the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal. Moreover,in this discussion, by Law we designate the Ten Commandments, wherever they are read in the Scriptures."

I would respectfully submit that those who want to rouse interest in the distinction between two kinds of righteousness should avoid speaking in ways about the distinction between Law and Gospel that sound disparaging. I could not agree more with those who have rightly identified a problem in the way the distinction between Law and Gospel has come to be regarded: not as distinction, but apposition in which any and all talk about works is labeled as works righteousness; therefore, all the more reason to make clear what all these distinctions are all about. Here is one of the best articles I’ve read on the distinction between two kinds of righteousness.

Are we "preoccupied" with the distinction between Law and Gospel? If we aren’t, we certainly should be. And this does not in any way preclude us from learning more about, and deepening our appreciation for, the distinction between two kinds of righteousness.The distinction between Law and Gospel is the key to properly understanding the Sacred Scriptures; and therefore the key to understanding the two kinds of righteousness.

Categories: Lutheranism

Latest Developments in State Church of Finland

November 23rd, 2007 3 comments

Latest developments from Finland:

Two separate developments were made public yesterday in Finland, creating a wonderful (sic!) irony that accurately describes the state of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland:

(1) Pastor Jari Rankinen, who has been under investigation by the cathedral chapter of the archdiocese of Turku for a good part of this year, on account of his refusal to share an altar with ordained women, has been suspended, both from his position within his congregation and from the pastoral office for three months for that crime, pending any appeal he may launch. He is the second pastor, following Vesa Pöyhtäri of Oulu diocese last month, to face suspension for non-co-operation with female pastors. Pastor Rankinen’s appeal to his Word-bound conscience was not considered a valid defence.

(2) Pastor Leena Huovinen has been named Pastor of the Year by the Pastors’ Union, the professional body for Lutheran pastors in Finland. Earlier this year, Ms. Huovinen came to nationwide prominence by openly admitting that she has blessed same-sex unions on her own initiative. For her, to act thus is a matter of conscience.

Please pray for pastors Rankinen and Pöyhtäri, their congreagations, and for the whole, sorry Church of Finland.

Tapani Simojoki

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Sign of the Times

November 20th, 2007 17 comments

Christmas is the time of the year when peace and brotherhood are celebrated. That’s the whole point, right? Well, a Presbyterian Church, (PCUSA), is hosting an event that is in perfect harmony with this view of Christmas. Is this what plays in Peoria? Must be! To which, I say in my heartiest Scrooge-voice, "Bah! Humbug!"


Categories: Liberal Christianity

Merry Christmas is Everywhere!

November 19th, 2007 2 comments

My colleague, Rev. Robert Baker, has produced a magnificent book for children and their families to help them sort through the thorny issue that is ever increasing: a purposeful choice to ignore Christmas in our society. It is titled, What Happened to Merry Christmas. Please check out his blog site, and … consider purchasing the book for your parish, children, grandchildren. It is a very interesting site with all kinds of news and information on issues related to Christmas. With a keen focus on the Gospel, the book is an encouraging word to help children recognize that in spite of our culture’s increasing attempt to take Christ out of Christmas, the signs and symbols of Christmas remain all around. Here is a screen shot of Pastor Baker’s blog.


Categories: Books

Arcangelo Corelli

November 18th, 2007 3 comments

If you are familiar with the movie Master and Commander you might  recall that the soundtrack is particularly spectacular. It is a mixture of  original score work, with a wonderful mixture of pieces of classical music. I was familiar with most of the pieces, but the one that I found particularly haunting was a piece by a composer of whom I had never heard before: Arcangelo Corelli. The golden-locked gent you see here is he. OK, so "big hair" was popular in his day, among men. His work was foundational for later Baroque composers, including our own J.S. Bach, as well as Handel, Vivaldi and others.

The piece that I find so hauntingly beautiful is this part of his Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 8 in G Minor, "Fatto per la notte di na tale."

There are not many of his works extant, or even known. But I enjoy the ones that are. You might too.

Categories: Music

This is not right

November 17th, 2007 Comments off

It is November 17th and:

1) I just finished doing the summer yardwork, in a t-shirt and shorts, and worked up a good sweat.
2) I have to cut the grass … again … "one more time" … again. [Actually son #1 and #2 do].
3) I broiled myself today trying to wear a sweatshirt.
4) I stupidly wore my jacket in the car and had to turn the AC on.

The leaves are almost gone, and it still feels like summer around here.

Don’t tell me there is no such thing as global warming!!

Here’s what is going to happen. We are going to go from 68 degrees high, to a big high pressure system bringing cold winds down from Canada, plunging us into the teens, and we are going to be slammed with a big ice storm. Just watch. It will happen. Last time it happened people around here had their power knocked out for up to three or four weeks.


Categories: Uncategorized

Firewire Target Disk

November 17th, 2007 3 comments

Mac migration update: Using the fantastic Firewire Target Disk functionality, I just finished tranferring all 40 gigs of music over to the new MacBook Pro. Now, where to back it up?

Categories: Uncategorized

Want to free up 4-5 gigs on your Mac hard drive?

November 16th, 2007 1 comment

Use the free utility “Delocalizer” to erase all the languages that come built into your Mac OS. Just save the ones you know you are going to use. I kept only German. This is the best of these utils I’ve seen since it automatically keeps US English and dumps everything else that you choose.

Categories: Macintosh