Work continues apace, meaning that I’m extremely limited in the time that I can even think about blogging, let alone working up full posts. In lieu of some genuinely new and original content, I’d instead like to offer up links to a few new sites that I’ve come across in recent days and have enjoyed thoroughly.
Via Dan Cameron (whose site is well worth checking regularly), I stumbled across the Godbit Project, an extremely interesting site that sits athwart the confluence of God and Web 2.0, looking to help churches and Christian organizations in getting their web presences up to snuff. Good stuff. Next up is the Redneck MBA, discovered via a comment here. His site is entertaining and just getting off the ground – be sure to check out his statistical analysis of sitcom joke archetypes.

Taking A Stand Against Islamism

The Danish paper at the center of the Mohammed Cartoons controversy, the Jyllands-Posten, has printed a
manifesto signed by twelve Westernized Muslims and experts on Islam. The prose of the letter is moving and an excellent summation of the issues we, as a global society, face:

MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism
After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.
We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.
The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.
We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.
We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.
We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.
12 signatures
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

Bravo. We need far, far more intellectual pushback against Islamism, the totalitarian political ideology that attempts to disguise itself as a world religion.
UPDATE: By way of Michelle Malkin, I see that Paul Belien of Brussels Journal has posted a critique of the Manifesto, which takes the Manifesto’s authors to task for conflating secular -isms with a theocratic one. To wit:

The above paragraphs clearly display the manifesto’s defects. While Islamism can be considered the perversion of religion, the three scourges of the 20th century – Fascism, Nazism (National-Socialism) and Stalinism – were secular ideologies. Neither Adolf Hitler nor Joseph Stalin were theocrats. It takes “French intellectuals” to use mankind’s experience with National-Socialism and Stalinism as motivation for a rallying cry to oppose “religious totalitarianism” and a call for “secular values,” which they hold to be “universal values.”
There is no doubt that Islamism is a threat to freedom and human dignity. However, as we have warned before, some people – undoubtedly brave, but nevertheless mistaken – are prepared to destroy certain basic freedoms, such as freedom of education, in their fight against Islam and religion in general.
I cannot state this any better than Dr. Jos Verhulst, in his contribution to our Dutch-language section yesterday:

The great public secret behind the whole issue of the Danish cartoons is the following. Nowhere does the core text of the New Testament argue for censorship. There is not a single instance where the New Testament states that a non-Christian should be persecuted for his convictions or statements. With regard to those with whom it is not possible for Christians to co-exist, Christ simply preached secession: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew, 10:14). On the other hand, Christ did not allow himself to be censored: He said what He had to say, He “insulted” and “offended” the pharisees, and for this He was persecuted and finally murdered. The core text of Islam is different. It explicitly calls for the persecution and submission through violence of all who hold other beliefs.
It is true that throughout history there have been Christians and Christian churches who, in contradiction with the Christian core text, have engaged in persecution and censorship, and that there have been Muslims who have pleaded for freedom of expression and thought. Even today there are instances where the Vatican calls for censorship (see the Osservatore Romano of 5 February) while Dyab Abu Jahjah calls for freedom. But the dynamics of the core texts that have shaped both civilisations through the centuries, are diametrically opposed. Freedom lovers had the support of the one core text but not of the other.

Interesting stuff. Go ye and read the whole thing.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein is of the opinion that Belien most likely misread the intent of the Manifesto’s authors, in that they were specifically speaking out against totalitarianism, be it of the secular or religious variety, and that the fact that the authors are all of a “Leftist” bent is an encouraging sign for the West’s eventual ability to overcome this present scourge as well.

Presbyterian Church (USA) – The Denomination With No Shame

Some days I’m more than a little sad to have ever been a part of a PC-USA church; today, unfortunately, is one of those days.
Please don’t read this as an indictment of Presbyterians in general. The vast majority of my family is Presbyterian and my father pastors a PC-USA church over on the Main Line and I am well aware that most of the people in the Church either vehemently disagree with their national organization or are blissfully unaware of the disgusting acts that go on in their name. The problem is thus: the upper echelons of the PC-USA have been overridden by hard-Left elements bound and determined to “reform” the church. These reforms have previously included divestment from the State of Israel, an ongoing push to ordain practicing homosexuals as Presbyterian clergy and a continual campaign to alter the Church’s stance on abortion to be decidedly of the “pro-” variety. Now, they’ve decided to actively oppose anti-illegal immigration legislation currently wending its way through the Senate, with PC-USA spokeswoman Elenora Giddings-Ivory being credited with one of the stupidest misuses of Scripture I’ve seen since Howard Dean ran for President: “Joseph and Mary had to flee persecution. Jesus was not born in his home community.” Dave Kopel takes down this idiocy in a vicious fashion over at the Volokh Conspiracy, for those of you that haven’t already retched at Ms. Giddings-Ivory’s smarmy misappropriation of Jesus’ birth.
It saddens and disgusts me to see a once-great denomination’s name consistently run through the mud by the meddling liberals and leftover Marxists that have made their way to the top of the General Assembly. Here’s to hoping the split that has been predicted for the last 20 years comes to pass, and soon. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to pray for the PC-USA, that God might give them wisdom and insight and a sense of genuine Godly purpose.

Snakes, Stones And The Efficacy Of Paedobaptism

Brad recently pointed out a post on Skippy’s Stack discussing paedobaptism (the baptism of children) which spawned a few comments from Skippy’s readers. Much was said about personal preference and opinion, but there was little Scriptural reference employed in order to back those preferences up. I thought it might be worth delving a bit into what Christian baptism is as defined in the Bible, what it is not and what difference that ultimately makes.
This entire debate would be easily solved if the Bible took a clear stance on the issue of the baptism of children; unfortunately, no unequivocal statements on the subject can be found in the Bible and those which we can find are often open to differing theological interpretations (see Welty’s [a Baptist] A Critical Evaluation of Paedobaptism and Horne’s [a Reformed Presbyterian] response for a good outline of the two primary Protestant schools of thought on the issue).
The baptism we most often associate with the term is one performed by human hands using water, reminscent of the baptism practiced by John (Mark 1:6-8). There is no curative, restorative or salvationary aspect to this baptism; rather, it is intended as an outward symbol of an inward change and commitment. Baptism, as practiced by the modern Church is often compared with the circumcision practiced by the Israelites. There is no salvation accomplished through baptism, just as there is no salvation accomplished through circumcision; rather, they serve as symbols or marks, showing that person to be under a Covenant. As Paul points out in Romans 4:9-16:

9Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

The entirety of the book of Romans is well worth a careful reading, as Paul quite clearly and systematically lays out the case for salvation by faith and no other means.
However, the fact that we are saved by a baptism in the Spirit and not one of water does not remove the impetus for a baptism by human hands – far from it! In fact, we are commanded by none other that Jesus himself to:

go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit[.]

(Matthew 28:19)
While our true baptism in the Spirit occurs supernaturally after our acceptance of Christ (Acts 1:5,8, Joel 2:28-29), it is incumbent upon us to seek the salvation and earthly baptism of those around us. Therefore, I do not think there is any reason to look down upon infant baptism, nor should we look down upon multiple baptisms, as long as we remember that baptism by water in and of itself does not accomplish salvation, otherwise Jesus was a liar and died for nothing. If salvation can be accomplished by human hands (I submit that it cannot), then, as Paul points out, faith is worthless and a lost cause. One cannot be saved by human intervention, be it intervention on your own part or on the part of a pastor, priest or parent. Baptising children is unimportant in an ultimate sense – as long as the children grow up to accept Christ, there is no difference. To pretend otherwise is to distort the Gospel and to ignore stated Biblical truths.
And so, as Christians, I believe that we should all be mindful of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:13 as we discuss baptism:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Ultimately, the power of baptism is in its symbolism – we are all inducted into a single Church body. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and should rejoice for each one of us that is shown, through the sacrament and symbolism of baptism, to be a part of that body. Any disputes that arise over this issue and cause conflict and strife should be held up to the truth of Scripture and then dropped if they are found to be ultimately unimportant.
At least that’s my take on it.

Danish Cartoon Scandals – “Information Warfare”

Austin Bay dropped the folowing comment in an entry pertaining to the Danish Cartoon Controversy:

The Danish “Cartoon War” is an information warfare operation by conducted Islamist terror groups and at least two Middle Eastern dictatorships (Syria and Iran).

Read his StrategyPage column for further observations and be sure to check out the evidence that Michelle Malkin has collected pointing to this whole affair being an organized conspiracy:

The imams reportedly spread lies that the Jyllands-Posten had 120 cartoons, not 12, and that the paper was owned by the government. (There are no state-run newspapers in Denmark.) In addition, the imams reportedly claimed that the Danish government would censor the Koran, burn the Koran, and that Danes were planning to make a blasphemous movie about Mohammed.

Read the whole thing. And, once again, the Philadelphia Inquirer comes through bigtime, with Trudy Rubin penning a piece on the lies the Danish imams were spreading, thus providing some mainstream media attention on the conspiracy.

Go Go Hometown Paper!

I canceled my subscription to the Philadelphia Inquirer a little over a year ago in the wake of a vile, anti-Semitic editorial cartoon by Tony Auth but recent events may cause me to rethink my cancelation. It seems as though the Inqy was the first major city American newspaper (excluding the New York Sun, which doesn’t quite count as a major paper) to publish a single one of the “offensive” Mohammed cartoons. Bravo, editorial board of the Inquirer. Now, please print the other eleven cartoons for all to see, protests or not.
Of course, the fact that the whole affair appears to be an conspiracy organized by radical Danish imams to stir up trouble(!) makes me want to support the Inquirer even further.
Call your local papers and ask them why they’ve chosen to leave you in the dark on such an important issue.

Making A Serious Point Through Satire (Wait, Isn’t That The Definition?)

Frank J. over at IMAO makes a very trenchant observation about the current “Mohammed Cartoon” Saudi/Syria/Iran-organized riots kerfuffle by way of biting satire today: Christians Would Be Mocked Less by the Media If They Stopped Listening to Jesus. To wit:

Christians don’t even have a word for “fatwa”! Know why? Jesus.
Jesus is all peace and love, and, whatever the merits of that message, that won’t frighten the media away from making fun of you. As we’ve seen, believable threats of violence and death tend to make people more sensitive about your feelings. Too many Christians, though, won’t murder an infidel or a blasphemer because it’s not “what Jesus would have wanted.” Well, as long you’re hiding behind that excuse, who is going to be afraid of us?
Remember back when Christians stopped listening to Jesus and murdered whomever they didn’t like? How many people mocked Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition? Not very many people at all.
Frankly, I have little room to complain, as I’ve been listening a bit too much to Jesus too. Last time my Christian sensibilities were offended, know how many embassies I burned?
One or less.

Go ye and read the whole thing.