Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Madness

No, not basketball. I'm talking about my crazy life, and it's starting to take a toll. This month has been particularly rough.

My life is super busy right now, and I'm starting to feel the effects. I got the lowest grade I've received thus far in seminary: a B-. AHH! I'm such a freak. In high school, I championed the "a C is average, and that's good enough for me," mentality (much to the shagrin of my parents, I might add). But I was really bummed when I got my Christian Heritage mid-term exam back with a score of 81/100. Partly because I thought I did better than that, partly because it was the first time I'd received such a low grade in seminary, and partly because it's a class that I really like! I'm eating up the reading like Garfield on lasagna. I'm one of those nerds that finds the reformation and its repercussions to be fascinating.

I started to take school a lot more seriously when I went back to college (after my freshman year, mind you - it took some growing up before I started studying like I needed to). I pretty much got straight A's through my sophomore, junior, and senior years of college. In fact, I found my undergraduate schooling to be so easy that I actually approached a prof one time and asked him if he was going easy on me (I wasn't used to getting such good grades!). He assured me he wasn't. That trend has carried over into my graduate schooling - until now.

I can only guess that my extremely busy and hectic lifestyle at the moment are the culprits for my poor performance. Things should lighten up a bit after Easter, though, and will certainly lighten up a lot, come this summer. I just need to make it two more months...and no more B minuses (boy, I sound like a stuck up jerk)!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mark Driscoll Has A Very Round Face

I just finished watching the "Nightline Face Off" regarding the existence of Satan, and I came to this conclusion: Mark Driscoll's face is very round. Almost like a basketball. Not his whole head, necessarily - just his face.

Seriously though, it was interesting, although I wish they could have found someone better to team up with Driscoll other than Annie Lobert, founder of "Hookers for Jesus." She's not a good debater (most of her arguments are based upon her own experience, which aren't debatable, and her saying that the historicity of the BIble isn't important doesn't help either), and she's also got some serious theological and practical issues that I disagree with. Deepak Chopra was on the other side, as well as Bishop Carlton Pearson, in his clerical collar and all, which is kind of ridiculous, considering he's essentially an agnostic. Chopra is just ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that anybody gives him any time anymore - he's just that goofy.

Props need to be given to Driscoll in this debate. Personally, I think a debate about the existence of Satan is a bit misleading. You can't really talk about Satan without talking about God (which Chopra and Pearson would like to do), and Driscoll did a fantastic job, considering what I just explained: he came straight out of the gate with the gospel, talking about sin, righteousness, and the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross. Plus you can always count on Driscoll for a few good shots:

Chopra: "What makes you think that God is a 'He?'"
Driscol: "Jesus. You may have heard of him. He's a pretty big deal."

Pearson (speaking to Lobert): "If you want to get real strict, the Bible says you're not supposed to wear expensive clothes or jewelry."
Driscoll: "She might have shopped on sale. You're judging."

Driscol (to Pearson): "Do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?"
Pearson: "Yes."
Driscoll: "So you have a problem with the devil, but not the resurrection?"

Chopra: "If you really believe in the resurrection and the virgin birth, then good for you."
Driscoll: "And bad for you."
Chopra: "Thank you for caring enough to want to save me."
Driscoll: "I love ya, man, and I want good for you!"

Driscoll is seriously witty and quick. It was fun to watch him.

If anything though, this debate just reminded me how important it is to know that evil exists, and that good exists, and that the two cannot intermix. It was also impressed upon me how badly Chopra and Pearson and others like them want there to be no devil, because if there is no devil then there is no God. And if there is no God, there is no one to hold them accountable, and they can sin until their heart's content.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Going To Vote Against The Earth

I just heard about this new initiative called "Earth Hour" that's taking place on March 28 from 8:30 - 9:30 PM, local time. During this hour, everyone on the planet is encouraged to shut off all their lights. Apparently 84 countries, more than 2,000 cities and towns, and more than 20,000 business are taking part in Earth Hour, including the great pyramids, the Eifel Tower, Notre Dame, and several other well known cities and buildings around the globe.

When I first heard about Earth Hour, my initial response was that anyone who thinks that turning their lights off for an hour will actually help the earth is insane and lacks any sufficient brain power. It would be akin to saying that me taking my foot off the gas pedal and coasting for five seconds is helping the environment. It just isn't going to make a notable (any, actually) difference in the climate/global warming/environment.

It turns out, though, that the intention isn't to help the climate - it's more like an election - turning out your lights is a vote for the earth. According to the earth hour website, "Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming. For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming."

Considering how I feel about this issue, "Global Warming" can count on my vote.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don't Blame AIG

So there's obviously been quite the hullabaloo about AIG giving several of their employees bonuses with the government bailout money, and now I think it's reached a fever pitch since I just heard on the radio that AIG employees are being encouraged to travel in pairs, and not to go anywhere at night for fear of some kind of mob justice. If you're asking me, the public is outraged at the wrong people.

I'm certainly no economist, and I haven't the first clue about how to run a successful business, but I think I know spin control when I sees it. If you're asking me (and no one is), the real culprit here is the government. If the public should be mad at anyone it should be them; AIG was doing business as usual. But that's the problem: business as usual becomes business as the government wants it done when you've got public money on the table.

Don't get me wrong. I think it was foolish and stupid for AIG to give out those bonuses, but that actually proves my point. We should never given ANY business public money. If we hadn't given them any money, there would have been zero chance that they could misuse it. We should have never allowed things to get to the point where we have to get mad at a company for its poor use of public money, and that's the point: businesses and companies shouldn't be using public money in the first place.

The government wants you to believe that this whole mess is AIG's fault, but we have to admit that they're at least a little bit involved too, don't we (see above)? In my opinion, they're the primary culprit, and the government should be the ones to shoulder this blame.

Now the government's spin on this whole issue is that there wasn't enough regulation, enough control, enough oversight. In other words, this fiasco occurred because the government supposedly wasn't involved enough a lot of people would say, "Yeah, that's right. If the government is going to give away my money to private businesses, then they SHOULD be watching what happens to it." If that's your opinion, you're still one step behind the thought process: no, the government shouldn't be regulating business, because the government has no place in business. The government shouldn't be regulating businesses because the government shouldn't be doling out money to businesses.

It all comes back to them. Follow the money. If you want to be mad about this, be mad at them, and hold them accountable.

Friday, March 20, 2009

One Of Those Days

Today has been about the busiest, weirdest, craziest day I've experienced in a long time. Check it out:

7:15 AM - I wake up, get dressed, change Fergie's nasty diaper, and get him dressed as well.

8:15 AM - Ferg and I pick up my dad at Saturn of Inver Grove Heights after he drops his van off to get some work done. We bring my dad back to his house.

9:00 AM - Fergie and I arrive at the church. He proceeds to tear my office apart and I can't get any work done.

9:45 AM - I am scheduled to run the video projector during a funeral at the church this morning. The family arrives just in time for me to test everything before the viewing.

10:15 AM - I leave Fergie with Gail (the church secretary) so I can go pick my dad back up and bring him back to Saturn so he can get his van back.

11:00 AM - I arrive back at the church, grab the Fergeson and head to the nursery where we will meet my dad so he can watch Fergie while I'm doing my thing at the funeral. The funeral begins.

12:20 PM - I sneak out of the funeral to go check on Fergie and my dad in the nursery to find Ferg passed out in my dad's arms. Cute, but nap time isn't till 1:00! I abandon hope of Fergie taking a normal nap.

12:45 PM - The funeral finally ends, and Fergie and I eat some lunch and head home for nap time. Much to my surprise (and delight), Fergie falls asleep pretty quickly and sleeps for a solid two hours, starting at about 1:20 PM. The next two hours are pretty peaceful, and I manage to squeeze some Wii time in.

2:50 PM - Betsy gets home from work, and has brought a pretty significant headache home with her as well. She doesn't feel good. She had plans to for her and The Fergeson to go to the adaptive (special ed.) sports tournament tonight so she could see her former students, but since she's not feeling well, she canceled.

4:30 PM - Knowing I have to get at least some work done today, I decide to head back into the office. On my way in, I get a call from Kerry Kern, asking me to help him reset the platform for tomorrow's Good Friday rehearsal. I agree.

5:10 PM - Betsy calls my cell phone to tell me that Fergie just puked up his supper all over himself and the couch (did I mention that he has been running a 101 fever since last night?). Considering her sensitivity to certain smells during her pregnancy, she can't even enter the room where the event occurred without gagging. She asks if I would come home from church to clean it up. I agree.

5:30 PM - I'm cleaning up half chewed chunks of hot dog and crescent rolls off my couch. I take Fergie's pants outside and hose the puke off of them.

6:00 PM - I finally get back to church, and start working.

6:15 PM - I find myself blogging about how busy I am, and how I don't have any time to get my work done.

We'll see what the rest of the night holds...

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Green Bible

Much to my disgust, I stumbled upon the Green Bible over at CBD. Before I go any further, let me clarify that I don't have a problem with the word of God - my issue comes with the ideology that insists that global warming / climate change / environmentalism is of the utmost importance, and then to tack that ideology onto a BIble is, in my opinion, disgusting and maybe even blasphemous.

CBD's product description of the Green Bible is as follows:

The Green Bible equips and encourages you to see God's vision for creation and helps you engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth. This Green-Letter edition of the Bible highlights scriptures in green ink that teach about God's care for creation and how God interacts with creation, in an effort to bring greater awareness to how this message is woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. Essays from leading conservationists and theologians on how to read the Bible through a "green lens" as well as a green topical index and Green Bible Trail Guide for personal study will be paired with teachings throughout the ages to show people how caring for God's creation is not only a calling, but a lifestyle.

I find it amusing that the reasoning put forth for the publication of the Green Bible is that the Bible talks about the earth so often. The description states, "With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth," as if to imply that because the earth is mentioned so frequently in scripture, it trumps those other issues like heaven and love. Did you know that Jesus talked more about money than he did about heaven and hell combined? Should we likewise then start printing the "Money Bible?"

I also find the fact that specific "earth verses" are printed in green lettering absolutely ludicrous and shameful. I've talked before about my issues with global warming / environmentalism so I won't rehash that, but from the beginning of this whole "Christian Environmentalism" movement that has become so trendy the past few years, my main objection has been twofold: 1) if God is sovereign over the earth, are we really so arrogant as to assume that he would let it be destroyed by man's doing? and 2) wouldn't it be wiser (and more productive - see number 1) to put our time and energy as Christians into saving souls, rather than the earth (a mandate which is NOT given in scripture, mind you)? It literally angers me that Christians would expend so much energy in earth care while countless millions are on their way into eternity. Perhaps it would be more productive to read through the Bible and highlight all of the verses that describe the fate of the lost, and also the verses that command us to preach the gospel to them. According to the description of the Green Bible, "...caring for God's creation is not only a calling, but a lifestyle." What then, is the rest of the Christian life? Are we to elevate earth care above evangelism? Above preaching? Above fellowship? Above doctrine and theology (which, in my opinion, the Green Bible does because the premise that created it rejects the notion of God's sovereignty over creation).

Also, the encouragement is made to read scripture through "green lenses." Let me assure you: if you read scripture through "green lenses," you are completely missing the point of scripture.

One good way to filter out all of the new, trendy Bibles that come out these days is to ask ourselves how these renditions of scripture would play out in persecuted nations. Think about this for a minute: would a persecuted Christian want to read this Bible and take note of the "green verses?" Or maybe an even more pointed question: does a persecuted Christian care about earth care, or is he or she only concerned about truth and the gospel, because that is what their very lives depend on? It's shameful to think that we have reduced God's word and the glorious truth of his gospel to helpful steps for taking care of the planet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Wounds Of A Friend

Ecclesiastes 7.5 says: "It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools."

This verse was played out, almost literally, in my life this past week. I was planning on attending a concert in the near future, when a friend (and brother in Christ) told me I needed to re-examine whether or not that was something I should be doing as a follower of Jesus. The issue comes in that this was not a Christian band, and the band has a bit of a reputation for being kind of harsh and foul-mouthed. So then, his "rebuke" for me (I consider it to be an encouragement) was that I should think seriously about whether or not this was the kind of activity that I should take part in, both as a Christian, and as an example to those around me. After a bit of thought I concluded that he was right, and I thanked him for looking out for me as a brother. So in this case, his wise rebuke literally kept me from hearing the song of fools.

Proverbs 27.6 says: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."

This verse inspires an interesting and accurate picture: nobody ever likes to be rebuked or told they are wrong - it's just not a pleasant experience - it hurts one's pride. But that's kind of the point: the realization that it is indeed your pride that is wounded makes you change the way you think or act and realign yourself to a more Christ-like way of life. And so, the rebuke of a friend - while difficult - ultimately leads to a more disciplined, godly life. And for that, I am thankful.

Monday, March 9, 2009

No Religion

More Americans say that they have no religion. Read the results of the study. I guess there's no reason to be surprised.

Atheist Conspiracy Thwarted!

About a week ago I posted this article about Ray Comfort's new book, "You Can Lead An Atheist To Evidence But You Can't Make Him Think," and also about his offer to debate Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most prominent atheist alive today. Well, it turns out that online atheists took it upon themselves to try to, at the very least, diminish the sale of Comfort's book by spamming his website, and writing terrible reviews on Amazon (even when they had not read the book). Check out the whole article below, from worldnetdaily.com:

Atheists strategize against book on God
Online plot reveals plan to give Christian writing low rating

The Christian author whose book "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think" bumped atheist Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" on Amazon.com's best-seller list says he's uncovered a conspiracy to attack his work.

Ray Comfort, who works with Living Waters ministry and has argued against atheism at Yale University, debated the issue on ABC's Nightline and has authored some 60 other books, including "God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists," "How to Know God Exists" and "Evolution: the Fairy Tale for Grownups," noticed an unusually large number of negative reviews on the book sale website.

"If you look at the reviews on Amazon.com," he said, "you could come away thinking that this is worst book ever written. It has masses of one 'stars' with scathing reviews, saying things like 'Comfort is a charlatan' and 'Dreadful piece of drivel.'"

But he said he also found five-star ratings with comments such as "Great logical thinking" and "a must read."

When he got to one that said, "You can tell how good this book is by how many atheists are claiming to have read it and then give it a one-star review," he got to thinking and looking around.

On the Reddit.com website he found the answer: a conspiracy among atheists to drag his book down through their responses on the Amazon website.

A participant identified as "The Milkman" wrote, "Let's all vote one star on this piece of s---."

"Mithridates" also commented, "Pro-tip for people reviewing the book: giving it one or five stars makes it painfully obvious that you're just giving it that number because you feel the author to be on or against your side. To actually make it look like a real review you're going to want to go with two or four stars."

"Atheists spammed my blog, spammed our website and sent abusive e-mails about our new billboard, so I suspected some sort of atheist conspiracy on Amazon, and fortunately I found it," Comfort said.

The best-selling author said it was no big deal when spammers attacked his website, because it is so big it just didn't make much difference.

But he said he's sure his book sales have been affected because of the negative reviews, "because people purchase upon other people's opinions."

Still, he said, the book can't be too bad.

"The atheist who wrote the foreword backslid," Comfort said. "I sent him a copy, and a week later he wrote to me and said that he was no longer an atheist."

Amazon, which had featured dozens of single-star ratings and comments before this article was published, later apparently edited its content to provide only two reviews, one positive and one negative.

"There are interesting theological books out there, but this isn't one of them," the mild negative review said. The positive one said, "This book will receive hate-filled reviews, but the points will not be refuted."

Comfort said the strong opposition easily is explained.

"I simply expose atheistic evolution for the unscientific fairy tale that it is, and I do it with common logic. I ask questions about where the female came from for each species. Every male dog, cat, horse, elephant, giraffe, fish and bird had to have coincidentally evolved with a female alongside it (over billions of years) with fully evolved compatible reproductive parts and a desire to mate, otherwise the species couldn't keep going. Evolution has no explanation for the female for every species in creation," he said.

"I also show that the 'God' issue is moral rather than intellectual. No one needs to prove that God exists. Creation is clear evidence for any sane person that there's a Creator. But if I can convince myself that there is no God, it means I am not morally accountable, and evolution opens the door to a whole lot of sinful delicacies such as pornography, fornication, lying, theft, and of course writing bad reviews for a book I haven't read," he continued.

He said the logical problem that follows atheists, though, is that once they convince themselves God doesn't exist, they are left with the "insane" philosophy that nothing created everything.

"They will deny that through gritted teeth because it is intellectually embarrassing, but if I say that I have no belief that my Ford Truck had a maker, it means I think that nothing made it, and that's a scientific impossibility," Comfort said.

"When we said this on a billboard on a major Los Angeles freeway, Dan Barker, the President of Freedom From Religion, Inc., happened to be in California and happened to be on that freeway. He saw the billboard and wrote a scathing e-mail to me, calling me a liar. They hate their beliefs being exposed, and this book does just that."

One online review predicted such attacks.

Comfort "disproves every dumb atheistic assertion very simply with both scientific fact and common sense. This book is sure to enrage the atheistic and seculars of the world; but, their anger and 1-star reviews are only proof that they are not only losing the argument, but, have already lost," the reviewer said.

One of the critics went beyond attacking Comfort to cover all Christians in his opinion: "Ray Comfort appeals to the kind of people who would believe in Christianity. People who can't think themselves out of a box," the forum participant said.

WND has reported Comfort recently challenged atheist Richard Dawkins to a debate over God's existence, but Dawkins snubbed offers of both $10,000 and $20,000.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Finding God In U2

The Christian Post reports that Samford University's Professor of divinity, Steven R. Harmon, dubbed U2's latest album as their "most thoroughly Christian" project to date. U2's newest album, "No Line On The Horizon" was just released this week.

For some reason U2 has kind of become the heros of 21st century liberal pop-evangelicalism. All of the hippest ministers, it seems nowadays, can't say enough good things about U2. They love the quasi-Christian messages in some of the songs, and they've made Bono the poster boy for humanitarian aid and social justice. Whatever. Fine. U2 has certainly had a big impact on the music industry, and I like a lot of their songs.

My issue comes in when we start trying to "find God" in their songs and messages, and we use them as a means of spirituality. But it isn't just U2 we're talking about. I hate (a strong word, I know, but it accurately describes my feelings) all of the new books that come out that encourage you to "find God" in the latest movie that has been released, or in some band, music, or artwork. For example, we had "Finding God in Lord of the Rings," and "Finding God in the DaVinci Code" (yes, I really did see that one). I even just saw a book entitled "Finding God in Harry Potter." Maybe this is oversimplifying the issue, but wouldn't it be far more productive to "find God" in the Bible, the only place where he has truly revealed himself? I suppose you could "find God" in Lord of the Rings, but I think it would take quite a bit of work - at least a heck of a lot more work than cracking open a Bible. The same is true with U2: although it's a lot easier to pop in a U2 CD than it is to actually study the Bible, the "thoroughly Christian" message you receive is nothing compared to scripture (it's sad that this point even needs to be made).

There's also a serious problem (in my opinion, anyway) in "finding God" in places where you also find evil, sin, and perversion. In fact, quantifying U2's latest release as their "most thoroughly Christian" album should tell you something right there: if someone/something is indeed Christian, and adheres to biblical principles, shouldn't all of their work be "thoroughly Christian"? That's certainly not the case with U2. You don't have to read too many lyrics or listen to too many interviews with Bono to realize that the man (and presumably the rest of the band) do not adhere to scripture, and are most likely not born again. Would you take a preacher seriously who's messages were sometimes "Christian" and sometimes not? Would that be someone that you would go to for spiritual insight? I think not. Why then do so many Christians do so with U2? Also, if some of your pastor's messages weren't "thoroughly Christian," what was it about them that made them so? Did they contain cursing? Heresy? False teaching? You'd be a fool to sit under the spiritual authority of a man who didn't preach "thoroughly Christian" messages week in and week out. But apparently for some Christians, U2 gets a pass. I think, at least to some extent, Christians gravitate towards U2's music because they've got at least some messages that seem Christian, so it's a good enough excuse for Christians to engage pop culture.

This is not to say, however, that we can't appreciate Christian messages in art, books, and music. It is to say that we need not go searching for God in obscure places and try to force him into our view of artwork, because he has already readily revealed us to himself in scripture. If it ain't broke, why try to fix it with U2?

Call me old fashioned, but I still think the best place to find God is in his word.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Belief Vs. Understanding

This past week in my message from Luke 9.37-45 I made a few statements about how not believing God's word is essentially calling him a liar, and so then, not believing God as he has revealed himself through his word is a sin. I still stand on by those statements, based upon 1 John 5.10: "Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son." I've been thinking about this for the past few days, and I believe there are a few important distinctions that need to be made.

I recently read this article by Chuck Swindoll, in which he does not fault the father of the demon-possessed boy for his unbelief. Swindoll goes on to tell about how he preached at his own father's funeral, and gave his family the hope of the resurrection, and several other biblical encouragements. He was later confronted by his sister, who asked him if he really believed all of the things that he said at his father's funeral, to which Swindoll replied something to the effect of, "No, I guess not. I can't really wrap my mind around a lot of those things." Swindoll then goes on to say how it's liberating to not know everything, and that Christians must be careful about having all the answers when in fact they really don't, all of which I agree with.

There is, I believe however, a difference between faith and understanding. The two are not necessarily linked. For example, I don't understand the mystery of the incarnation. I can't wrap my mind around how the infinite became finite. I don't understand how the invisible became visible. But, just because I don't understand it, it doesn't mean I don't believe it. Another good example would be the act of creation: I can't comprehend the kind of power it takes to create with a word, but I believe that it happened. Or take the Trinity: three equal persons, yet one. It doesn't make sense, but I believe it. In other words, you don't necessarily have to understand in order to believe.

There is a difference between those things and the lapses of faith evidenced by the father of the demon-possessed boy and the disciples in Luke 9.37-45. Those folks KNEW what Jesus was capable of and saw it with their own eyes, and still did not believe. There is biblical evidence to support the fact that the father of the boy was actually a regular follower of Jesus, and yet he approaches him by saying, "If you can...." The disciples were specifically given power over all demons, and yet they cannot cast this one out.

In this sense, it would be sin for me to know about the mystery of the incarnation, and NOT believe it, even if I can't understand it. Why? Because scripture makes it pretty clear: God became a man who was the same in every way to all other men except that he did not sin. To not believe that is sin because it is what scripture testifies to.

So then, in conclusion, we shouldn't be concerned about sinning because we can't understand something; there are limits to our powers of reason and understanding. But even if we do not understand, we must still believe.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Banana Man Vs. Alien Man

Ray Comfort is the man - Banana Man, that is. I just read this article on worldnetdaily.com and I thought it was hilarious. It's especially sweet, knowing that Comfort's new book "You Can Lead An Atheist To Evidence But You Can't Make Him Think" just pushed Richard Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion" out of the #1 spot on Amazon's Atheist book list. Read the article for yourself:

Atheist wants debate to cost Christian author $100,000
Dawkins snubs offer of $10,000 for hour-long event

Atheist Richard Dawkins says he isn't as much concerned with what he would get if he accepts a challenge to debate Ray Comfort as with what it would cost the Christian author.

As WND reported, Dawkins snubbed an offer of $10,000 for a debate, which would amount to an hour's work. Now Comfort, author of "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think," has suggested raising the offer to $20,000, but Dawkins still isn't impressed.

"Twenty thousand dollars is closer to the fees that I am customarily offered," Dawkins told WND in an e-mail. "However, I am not in this for the money.

"My interest is in getting the Banana Man to PART with $100,000 of his money so that that money will NOT be available for buying animatronic dinosaurs with saddles, or other similar nonsense," Dawkins wrote.

"The fact that he would be making a substantial donation to a charity dedicated to Reason and Science adds to the humour of the situation," he wrote.

Comfort explained the "Banana Man" reference.

"For years I have held a Coke can in one hand and a banana in the other, and compared the two. Both have a tab at the top. The banana has a wrapper with perforations, is biodegradable, etc. It was a parody – the point being, if someone designed the Coke can then obviously Someone designed the banana. In the mid 1990's I published the parody in booklet form called 'The Atheist Test' and sold over a million copies. When we put it into our TV program, atheists removed the Coke can, and sent the clip all over the Internet, saying 'Ray Comfort believes that the banana is proof of God's existence.' I guess atheists don't appreciate parody."

Comfort cited Dawkins' response to Ben Stein, in the documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," when the atheist was asked, "What do you think is the possibility that … intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics ... or in evolution?"

Dawkins said: "It could come about in the following way: it could be that, at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved by probably by some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet . . . and that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe."

"So let's call the debate 'Banana Man Debates Alien Man' and let the audience decide who is the 'ignorant fool,'" Comfort said.

Dawkins had told WND he would participate in the argument only on a list of conditions, including a $100,000 donation to his foundation.

Dawkins also demanded a staff member for his website be allowed to film the event and then distribute it as a DVD, "if he thinks it is funny enough."

A spokeswoman for Dawkins' website also told WND Dawkins doesn't debate people from "the flat-earth society."

The original offer of $10,000 from Comfort, who also is co-host with actor Kirk Cameron of the award-winning TV show "The Way of the Master," wasn't taken seriously by Dawkins.

"Ten thousand dollars is less than the typical fee that I am ordinarily offered for lecturing to a serious audience (I often don't accept it, especially in the case of a student audience, because I am a dedicated teacher)," he said.

"It is not, therefore, a worthwhile inducement for me to travel all the way across the Atlantic to debate with an ignorant fool," he wrote. "You can tell him that if he donates $100,000 to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (it's a charitable donation, tax deductible) I'll do it."

Comfort said the offer was good whether Dawkins finished the debate with a win, lose or draw.

"Richard Dawkins is arguably the most famous living atheist, now that Anthony Flew doubted his doubts and backslid as an atheist," said Comfort. "Flew said that he simply followed the evidence. I would like to see Richard Dawkins follow his example."

The invitation from Comfort, who has spoken at Yale University on atheism and in 2001 addressed American Atheists, Inc., wasn't well received by the spokeswoman for Dawkins' official website either.

A respondent who identified herself only as "Liz" wrote:

"We know nothing about this – and it is a rather silly publicity stunt," the message said. "Richard has always made it known that he does not debate people from the flat-earth society, those who promote the stork-theory of conception and birth, or young-earth creationists."

Comfort debated atheistic evolution on ABC's Nightline in 2007 and earlier this year debated on the BBC. He is the author of some 60 other books including "God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists," "How to Know God Exists," and "Evolution: the Fairy Tale for Grownups." He is the publisher of "The Evidence Bible" and more recently, "The Atheist Bible (Unauthorized Version)" and, "The Charles Darwin Bible." His booklet, "The Atheist Test" has sold over a million copies.

On Darwin Day (Charles Darwin's 200th birthday – Feb. 12), Comfort's latest, "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think," published by WND Books, pushed Dawkins' "The God Delusion" out of the No. 1 spot in the atheist category on Amazon.com.

"One of Dawkins' major gripes is against religion," said Comfort. "I am in total agreement on that one. I abhor religion. It is the opiate of the masses. It has left a bloody trail of destruction and human misery throughout history. Hitler even used it for his own ends. His other big beef is that he believes that the God of the Old Testament is a tyrant. If I had the image of God Dawkins has created in his mind, I, too, would be an atheist. The problem is that the god Mr. Dawkins doesn't believe in, doesn't exist."

Before The Throne Of God Above

A few days ago I learned that PW Gopal had just released a set of worship recordings. If you don't know who PW Gopal is, check him out. He's a native Sri Lankan (sp?) who sings folk-style music. He has an absolutely unique and amazing voice, and he sings with incredible power.

Anyway, like I said, PW just released a worship album called "Everyone Loves Sammy" (I don't know what that means). On the disk, PW sings a hymn that I was heretofore unfamiliar with, and after I asked around a bit, I couldn't find anyone else who had heard it either. It's called "Before The Throne Of God Above." It's an amazing hymn, and P-Dub's arrangement of it is fantastic: very simple, just his acoustic guitar and his voice. The song itself doesn't need anymore than that, considering the power of the lyrics:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Ok, I've got a new favorite hymn. And to hear it sung by P-Dub is awesome.