Author: Harold O.J. Brown (Harold O.J. Brown)

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The Conversion of a Culture: Crisis and Resolution
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The Conversion of a Culture: Crisis and Resolution

Can an entire culture “be converted”—i.e., turn away from entrenched patterns of selfishness and self-indulgence and replace them with patterns of altruism?  Can an entire society begin to act in accordance with the Second Great Commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39 KJV)?  So fundamental a change in orientation cannot be commanded...

Protestantism, America, and Divine Law
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Protestantism, America, and Divine Law

Since the time of the Founding Fathers, Protestantism appeared to be the default religion in the United States.  At the end of World War II, when the United States began to enjoy superpower status, Mainline Protestantism (comprising the older denominations that sprang from the Reformation) began to drift away from its moorings.  Then, in the...

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Judge Roberts

As the U.S. Senate prepares to consider President George W. Bush’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, there seems to be a certain ambiguity about Judge Roberts’ position on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion-on-demand the “law of the land.”  On the one hand, he is on record as saying...

Powers, Principalities, Spiritual Forces
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Powers, Principalities, Spiritual Forces

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul writes, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (6:12).  Political scientist and lay theologian Jacques Ellul went beyond the usual interpretation of these “spiritual forces” as demons to see...

No Graven Images
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No Graven Images

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them . . . —Exodus 20:4,5 In the fourth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Satan tempts Jesus with the offer of “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.”  This...

Honor to Whom Honor
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Honor to Whom Honor

“Render to all what is due them,” writes Saint Paul, “Tax to whom tax is due, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7, NASB).  When a zealous Christian offered to help Mark Twain understand the difficult things in the Bible, Twain said something like this: “It is not...

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Civil Unions

Civil unions, which offer same-sex couples the privileges that presently accrue to those who have been united in normal marriages, have been discussed by several legislators since the MassachusettsSupreme Judiciary Court ordered the state legislature to establish “homosexual marriage.”  The Massachusetts high court, under the dynamic (demonic?) leadership of Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, decreed that...

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Remembering the Covenant

During his term as president, Jimmy Carter, then a Southern Baptist, called for a White House Conference on Families in order to redefine family as any group of humans living together—so general a definition that college roommates or even a military platoon could be considered a family.  Even the French Foreign Legion, whose motto is...

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God, Man, and Family

The first chapter of the Bible forms the basis of the Christian understanding of the nature and dignity of man—and woman: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).  The next verse contains the first command given to the...

Two Trails of Blood
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Two Trails of Blood

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” —Tertullian The spread of Christianity was marked by a trail of blood, shed by myriad martyrs during the first three centuries of the Christian era.  Another trail of blood followed: that of the Christian defenders of the Roman Empire, shed by Arabian Muslims in...

New Skins, Old Wine
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New Skins, Old Wine

For almost 2,000 years, Christians have been confessing Jesus Christ as God and Savior in the assurance that they knew enough about Him to justify making this confession. From the earliest days of Christianity, its adversaries have repeatedly challenged the facts and doctrines recorded about Christ in the four canonical Gospels and in the great...

Sic et Non?
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Sic et Non?

A number of years ago, when I was teaching a ninth-grade religion class (in Switzerland, where religion is taught in public schools), one of the boys said to me, “All religions teach the same thing.” Although only 15, he was, without knowing it, a witness for multiculturalism—not in the descriptive sense, in which one recognizes...

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Not Absolutely Evil

Human beings cannot be absolutely evil, according to Christian theology, because they are made in the image of God; though fallen, they always retain an awareness of good and evil. Recent reports in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo (February 26) reveal that some of the high priests of French existentialism and postmodernity are making the...

Come, Sweet Death
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Come, Sweet Death

In the spring of 1975, C. Everett Koop, M.D., addressed a conference of Christian laymen in New Orleans on the topic of abortion—more specifically, on the implications of Roe V. Wade. Among the changes he foresaw were a growing acceptance of infanticide as the “treatment of choice” for defective newborns and an increasing resort to...

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A Functioning Foreign Policy

The United States always seem to need someone to demonize in order to have a functioning foreign policy. Now that Hitler, Stalin, and the “Evil Empire” are dead and gone, we have to make do with such lesser devils as Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin-Laden. The French have no such problem. They do not base...

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Christianity and the Legitimacy of Government

The late Paul J. Tillich (1886-1965)—not exactly a hero to conservative Christians, Protestant or Catholic—spoke of the rival impulses that cause agony in personal and community decisionmaking, which he defined as the clash between autonomy and heteronomy. In autonomy—literally, “self-law”—individuals think of themselves as a law unto themselves; in heteronomy, “other-law,” they see themselves as...

Tradition, Old and New
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Tradition, Old and New

“Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). Jesus had many negative things to say about the dangers of placing excessive emphasis on tradition; in the passage quoted above, he goes on to cite the prophet Isaiah, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of...

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Dare to Be a Daniela

In early July, the United States Supreme Court, acting on a plea brought by two unidentified families, one Mormon and one Roman Catholic, ruled the practice of prayer at high-school football games unconstitutional (Santa Fe School District v. Jane Doe). Although the prayer was delivered by a girl designated by her fellow students, Justice John...

Shifting Ground
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Shifting Ground

Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Boston University, has produced a beautifully written work. His book is intended to refute every objection to the more or less universally accepted doctrine of evolution, to discredit its opponents, and to assert the compatibility of strict evolutionary doctrine with religion. Ever since Darwin—and especially since the rise...

Our Heads Cut Off
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Our Heads Cut Off

        “Language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge This remarkable French mathematician has written extensively on what he considers the fundamental spiritual problem of our day, the perversion of language, which he...

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The Goddess and the Bride

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. . . . And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam” (Genesis 2:18, 21). In between the Lord’s observation that it is not good for man to...

Emerging Majority?
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Emerging Majority?

It is reported that when British General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, thus effectively ending the War of Independence, his regimental band played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down.” As we approach the end of the second Christian millennium, one begins to wonder if the band was not just a bit...

The Coining of the Third Age
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The Coining of the Third Age

In the early winter of 1999, much of the world is looking forward with eager anticipation or uneasy apprehension to the dawning of the Third Millennium. It is the third millennium A.D., of course, the beginning of the third thousand of the Years of the Lord, and thus directly relevant only to those of us...

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The American (Not Christian) Century

In the late 1980’s, I predicted that by the end of the century, which is also the end of the millennium, “The Soviet Union, or perhaps by that time, Russia, would be Christian, and the United States would be pagan.” The first, hesitant part of that prophecy, Russia, has already been fulfilled. And while Russia...

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Pitirim Sorokin: A Prophet of Our Present

The desire to know what tomorrow will bring, to know the future, is as old as the human race itself But how? Who among us has the “gift of prophecy”? The book of history might seem to offer guidance, but human expectations and prognostications often mislead. When the most brilliant generals, industrialists, scientists, and politicians...

A Quiet, Little Jihad?
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A Quiet, Little Jihad?

In late summer last year, two United States embassies in East Africa were the target of murderous bomb attacks by Islamic terrorist groups. After ordering two retaliatory missile attacks on installations presumed to be connected with militant Islamic extremism, President Clinton hastened to assure the American people that he has nothing against Islam, which he...

That They May Be One
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That They May Be One

On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed what is known as the Great High Priestly Prayer. It is recorded for us in John 17. In that short chapter, addressing the Father in the presence of His disciples, He prayed four times “that they may be one.” This petition extended not merely to those disciples...

Fighting Words: Abortion and Civility
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Fighting Words: Abortion and Civility

Austrian sociologist Hans Millendorfer claims to have discovered, at least in his native Austria, a perplexing correspondence: his statistics show a rise in abortions paralleled by a rise in civility. To those of us who consider abortion a violent and evil act, it seems strange that such violence should be accompanied by an increase in...

A Good Report
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A Good Report

Writing to Timothy, his younger brother in the faith, the Apostle Paul listed a number of attributes desirable in a bishop. His final admonition is this: “Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without [outside]: lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (I Timothy 3:7). In the...

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The Subject of a Conference

An ecumenical jihad was the subject of a conference, “Not of This World,” held at Rose Hill College in Aiken, South Carolina, last May. Here Eastern Orthodox Christians hosted Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants in an effort to discover common ground and build on it. In a surprising demarche, Boston College professor of philosophy Peter...

Not Ours to Give
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Not Ours to Give

Gary David Comstock is Protestant chaplain and visiting assistant professor of sociology at Wesleyan University. The author cites his “lover/partner Ted” in the acknowledgments, and thus manifestly belongs to the group he describes in uniformly favorable terms. The book is interesting, and in many respects challenging to the traditionally minded reader. A jacket blurb by...

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Partial Birth Abortion

Partial birth abortion—a procedure which its practitioners call D&E, dilatation and extraction—is once again the subject of congressional legislation that would ban the grisly act. President Clinton would appear to be in a bind with this bill, because he can hardly veto it a second time without appearing to be totally committed to feticide, or...

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Defining Relationships

The “Defense of Marriage Act” was making its way through Congress as these lines were being written. Having passed the House, the debate was turned, by the “good” offices of Senator Edward Kennedy, into a joint defense of marriage and homosexual rights bill. Gay activists were exultant that their concerns were getting a hearing in...

Sacraments of Death
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Sacraments of Death

Among the sacraments of the Christian churches, the one most frequently received is the Lord’s Supper, also known as the Eucharist or Holy Communion. In the classic English language liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, the ministrant offering the consecrated bread will say, “The Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, broken for thee, preserve...

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Share Responsibility

John C. Salvi III has been convicted of killing employees at two abortion clinics and sentenced to two consecutive life terms by Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara. The judge refused to let Salvi read a statement about his religious beliefs—or delusions, as his attorney pleaded—and the jury rejected the insanity plea. Yet it really ought to be...

The Unbanable Book
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The Unbanable Book

A recent full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune, which no longer calls itself “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” listed four documents that supposedly are foundational: the Magna Carta, the Treaty of Versailles, the Declaration of Independence, and the Infiniti Retailer Pledge. These four, according to the advertiser, Infiniti, are totally trustworthy, because: “A promise is a...

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The Most Odious Form of Abortion

The partial birth abortion of late-term fetuses is the most odious form of abortion, known as “dilatation and extraction” (D & X). The procedure, fully and gruesomely described in the major media and on the floor of Congress earlier this year, when President Clinton vetoed the bill that would have banned D & X, involves...

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Enough is Enough

The heinous crime that was perpetrated against a 12-year-old girl by three American marines on Okinawa has harmed many people: the young girl and her family; the three men, whose lives will be blighted by the consequences of their crime; the reputation of the American forces overseas; Japanese-American relations; and indeed the American people. But...

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Conflicting Beliefs

When Christians invite Muslims into their homes, it sometimes happens that the guests wish to perform their ritual prayers at the specified “prayer time.” This may be intended as a witness of their Muslim commitment, but it is not a religious obligation as such, as the prayers can be made up later, at home. This...

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Aunt Jemima

Aunt Jemima, the jovial and plump woman who for decades graced the pancake mix cartons, was replaced a few years ago by a younger, slimmer figure, who was nevertheless identifiable as someone who could have been the niece of the original. Now Betty Crocker, the blonde, blue-eyed cook of cake mix fame, is to be...

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A New, “Inclusive” Bible

Oxford University Press, perhaps the most prestigious English language Bible publisher (although far from the largest), brought out The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version on September 11. After “more than five years of steady work,” the editors, according to Oxford University Press Senior Editor for Bibles Donald Kraus, sought “to expand the richness...

America’s Christian Heritage
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America’s Christian Heritage

The phrase “America’s Christian Heritage” might irritate any hearers who do not want to be classed as members of the tribe that first received its name in Antioch (Acts 11:26). But wait: we recognize that one does not have to be a member of the family to be remembered in a will, nor be of...

Politics and Civilization
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Politics and Civilization

William Pfaff, syndicated political columnist for the International Herald Tribune (Paris), is probably the most perceptive writer in the world today on European affairs, particularly as they affect and are affected by American policy. He is not as much of a political philosopher as some others, like Jacques Ellul and the late Bertrand de Jouvenel,...

Games and the Man
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Games and the Man

“Remember thou, that it is better far To pull a poor oar in the third boat Than to be captain of the basketball team.” Spoken by the editor of the Harvard Lampoon at freshman orientation, those words had life-changing impact on a certifiable high-school nerd from the far South. In the Dark Ages, Harvard College...

Arguing With Jesus
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Arguing With Jesus

Professor Neusner, one of the world’s most accomplished scholars in the field of religious studies, begins by proclaiming that as a practicing and believing Jew he says a polite “No” to another practicing and believing Jew—but one who made extraordinary claims for himself —Jesus of Nazareth. Both the “No” and the politeness come out clearly...

Conspiracy in the Caves
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Conspiracy in the Caves

From the time of their discovery in 1947, the “scrolls from the Dead Sea” have been a source of fascination, speculation, consternation, confusion, and, in the view of these two authors, a far-reaching religious conspiracy. Deception reads like a thriller, or the best of the many books on the assassination of President Kennedy. It is...

Regression and Renewal
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Regression and Renewal

In February 1941, the world was at war. Nazism and fascism ruled virtually all of Europe and parts of Africa. Imperial Japan was poised to conquer much of East Asia. Joseph Stalin still controlled the world’s largest land mass, although Hitler was soon to shake Stalin’s throne. That year, Pitirim A. Sorokin, born in 1889,...

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Causing Divisions

AIDS, like abortion, seems to have divided the religious community along conservative and liberal lines. One might suppose, in a reasonably rational society, that the increasing availability of contraceptives would reduce the incidence of abortion. However, in the United States at least, abortion has risen dramatically with the availability of contraceptives. Similarly, one might have...

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The Seventh World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches convened its Seventh Assembly at Canberra, Australia, early in February 1991, just in time to pronounce a verdict on the Persian Gulf War. The W.C.C. opposed the war on two grounds: that all war is wrong, and that it is not permissible to fight war to right an injustice unless...

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Receiving “Moral” Support

Bishop Spong’s agitation for the ordination of practicing homosexuals received “moral” support last February from the Special Task Force on Human Sexuality of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Presbyterian commission recommended the ordination of homosexuals as well as the provision of medical and pension benefits to same-sex couples, and their recommendations will be submitted to...