1. Christian Post: “Empty Buildings: NYC Kicks Churches Out of Schools

NYC schools evict churches.

Since the days of frontier America, churches and schools have had a tradition of sharing building space. After all, school’s out on Sunday. Thousands of churches all over the country rent—that is, pay money for—space in public schools on Sundays. But now, in New York City, that will change. The city’s Department of Education sued to end the practice, and, since the Supreme Court opted not to hear the case, a ruling by Judge Pierre Leval in the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals stands, effectively evicting over 50 churches from the rental space. A temporary restraining order later delayed the eviction for the Bronx Household of Faith—the church named in the suit—but the rest of the churches have to go.1

Leval said allowing churches to rent unused school space showed an “unintended bias in favor of Christian religions” because most Christians worship on Sunday. “Jews and Muslims generally cannot use school facilities for their services because the facilities are often unavailable on the days that their religions principally prescribe for services,”2 Leval explained, saying such rentals made public schools look like “state-sponsored Christian churches . . . but not synagogues or mosques.”

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Jordan Lorence said, “Churches and other religious groups should be allowed to meet in public buildings on the same terms as other community groups and they’re being denied that in New York City.”2 The Supreme Court has previously ruled, after all, that public schools allowing groups to use their facilities may not exclude religious ones.1

The decision will have economic consequences, as the city’s schools already struggle to pay their bills. Many of the churches have purchased furniture for teachers’ lounges, video equipment for schools, and a variety of gifts of appreciation. Not only will those niceties for the schools now end, but the rent money will also end, creating even tighter budgets for the already strapped school system. (Of course, a considerable sum has likely already been expended by the Department of Education to pursue this legal crusade against churches for the past 17 years.)

New York City is the only place in the country where this action has been taken, but churches meeting in schools around the nation are concerned about the precedent. New York’s legislature may step in to settle the matter, as the State Senate has just passed a bill specifically allowing churches equal access.1 If the bill becomes law, of course, new legal challenges could surface.

People advocating elaborate measures to expunge religion from government often point to Thomas Jefferson’s letter assuring Danbury Baptists the First Amendment built “a wall of separation between church and state.”3 James Madison was instrumental in writing the First Amendment’s “establishment clause” guaranteeing Congress would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”3 Yet Presidents Jefferson and Madison attended church services meeting regularly in the House of Representatives. Participation was voluntary, not established by the government, and that action on their part demonstrated their understanding of the establishment clause. Jefferson’s letter is the banner of “separation” extremists, and Madison authored the “establishment clause.” Perhaps New York City’s Department of Education and the judicial powers involved should look more closely at the true intent of these Founding Fathers and the clear precedent they set for acceptable use of public buildings.

2. World Magazine: “The battle for accurate Bible translation in Asia

. . . the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:14–15).

A battle is raging in the world of Bible translation, and the issues are more complex than they at first appear. The questions involve fundamental issues of vocabulary and culture, linguistic accuracy and doctrinal purity, the integrity and availability of God’s Word.

The problem involves translation of Father and Son, in reference to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is co-eternal with the Father, as indicated in the opening verses of John’s Gospel. And in John 10:30 we learn the Son is also one with the Father. The theological concepts of the Trinity and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ—fully man yet fully God—as well as the willingness of God the Father to give His only begotten Son for the sins of mankind (John 3:16) are key Christian doctrines—and no one involved in this controversy disputes them.

In some languages, including many used by Muslims, the common words for father necessarily imply a sexual relationship with a mother. To imply a sexual union between God the Father and the virgin Mary is blasphemous. So how can Bible translators accurately provide a Bible in languages where available vocabulary suggests an outrageous falsehood?

Some Bible translators, believing Muslims are slow to accept Christ because of this misunderstanding, have begun substituting non-familial words for Father and Son. They resort at times to words with meanings like “great protector” and “representative of God.” Bob Blincoe, U.S. director of Frontiers, asserts, “There is no cause for anyone to be alarmed by the accuracy of this translation,” adding “These are paraphrases that help a conservative Sunni Muslim know what the Bible really says.”

Fikret Böcek, a long-term Turkish pastor and church planter, disagrees. He says he and his fellow pastors deal with this problem by explaining what the terms really mean. He is operating on the principle illustrated in Acts 8:30–31 in which Phillip asks the Ethiopian man reading from Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” and the man replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Then Philip, we learn in Acts 8:35, “beginning at this Scripture [the confusing one], preached Jesus to him.” Böcek writes that the new translation “does not help Muslims see that Jesus is the only way to God.”4 He adds, “God’s Word is mighty and powerful to save. We do not need to be ashamed of the claims of Christ.”4 When Caiaphas demanded, “Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus affirmed, “It is as you said” (Matthew 26:63–64).

Böcek and others fear doctrinal truths vital to Christianity will be lost in these new translations. The late Thomas Cosmades, himself a Turkish translator, acknowledged these translators “have given much of their valuable time, probably meaning well,” but wrote, “This translation is not seeking to emphasize the value of the incarnation.”

Furthermore, attempts at clarification may actually reinforce the Muslim belief that Christians are “manipulating” the Word of God, which “is exactly what the Qur’an accuses People of the Book [Christians] of doing.”5 Thus, attempts to fix one problem magnify another.

The Bible itself, read by a person under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, may be the only “missionary” many people ever see. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Fearing the slippery slope of creating culturally modified, politically correct Bibles, Biblical Missiology—which is circulating a petition to call attention to the problem—maintains, “We simply do not have the authority to make such significant changes to God’s revelation of himself,” adding, “Any possible misunderstanding of ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ should be cleared up in the footnotes, with an accurate, orthodox, biblical explanation. The text must not be changed.”6 For over 1,300 years, Muslims have heard the gospel of Jesus as the Son of God preached and, according to a native speaker, understood that responding to the gospel involved “a decision to follow THE SON” (emphasis his).6He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

The linguists, theologians, missionaries, and pastors working on this complex problem share the goal of making the gospel available to people in every tongue. And Biblical Missiology praises Wycliffe and the other translation groups for their many “faithful translations.”4 Let us pray for God to give all involved the wisdom to communicate His Word clearly while they “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).

For more information:

3. Space.com: “Moon’s Scarred Crust Hints at Recent Activity, Scientists Say” and Space-travel.com: “NASA Spacecraft Reveals Recent Geological Activity on the Moon

Moon story stretches to accommodate unexpectedly recent activity.

Surprising evidence of recent tectonic activity on the moon may prompt a re-evaluation of scientific ideas about the moon’s origins and geologic history. Images collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) reveal grabens—linear valleys formed “when the moon’s crust stretches, breaks, and drops down” between the faults. Evidence of recent stretching is unexpected enough, since other evidence has shown the moon to be contracting. But these grabens give evidence of their recent origin in that they are “pristine,” relatively unmarred by craters suggestive of meteor impact over time.

“We think they're less than 50 million years old, but they could be 10 million years old, could be 1 million years old, could have happened 40 years ago,” says Thomas Watters, lead author of the report just published in Nature Geoscience. Seismic sensors placed by the Apollo missions have also detected moonquakes. “The intriguing picture that's emerging of the moon is that there is recent geological activity going on. The moon may not only have been tectonically active recently, but may still be tectonically active today.”

LRO images from August 2010 were consistent with predominant current secular opinion suggesting the moon’s crust is contracting. “We think the moon is in a general state of global contraction because of cooling of a still hot interior,” says Watters. “The graben tell us forces acting to shrink the moon were overcome in places by forces acting to pull it apart. This means the contractional forces shrinking the moon cannot be large, or the small graben might never form.”

Meteor impacts cause craters. Micrometeoroids may scour and erode previously formed geological features on the airless moon. The more cratered the moon’s surface, or the more its craters have been eroded, the older the features are likely to be. Therefore, these pristine grabens are thought to be relatively young. But how young is a mystery even for secular scientists.

“We can determine relative dates of lunar features by using principles of stratigraphy and morphology,” explains creationist astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner of the University of South Carolina–Lancaster. “Stratigraphy refers to overlap of geological features —if one feature, say a crater, lies on top of another feature, then we say that the feature on top has modified the feature underneath, and clearly the feature on top happened more recently and hence is younger. Morphology relates to the shapes of lunar features. On the earth, erosion (mostly from water, wind, and vegetation) rapidly alters and wears down geological features. Lacking an atmosphere, erosion on the moon appears much slower, but there are erosion processes on the moon. The most important erosion process on the moon is impacts, be they from large bodies or from very small bodies called micrometeoroids. Micrometeoroids make microscopic craters, but they are very numerous, so they tend to wear down sharp edges on lunar features. Generally, if one lunar feature appears very sharp but another appears more worn, the more worn feature is judged older. Using these principles of stratigraphy and morphology, the density of craters in a region on the moon can be used to determine the region’s relative age. If a region has a high crater density, presumably that region has been subjected to more impacts, most likely because of greater time since that region formed. That is, the greater the crater density, the greater the relative age. We use this principle to establish lunar highlands are older than lunar maria.”

But determining absolute ages of the moon’s features depends on assumptions about the age of the universe. Dr. Faulkner explains, “Recent creationists and evolutionists agree on these principles to establish relative ages. Where we disagree is how to convert those relative ages to absolute ages, for other assumptions or information must be brought in to do that. Evolutionists are committed to billions of years, so they stretch impact events over that great time, and they interpret lunar history accordingly. On the other hand, recent creationists believe the world is only thousands of years old, so we understand lunar craters formed in a relatively short time, and we interpret lunar history in light of that. As in so many other cases, we use the same data, but we come to different conclusions, because our assumptions are different.”

Secular cosmologists have changed their thoughts about the moon’s origins over the years, but they consistently develop models based on the underlying assumption that the universe is billions of years old. Yet their long-age model is based on a number of unverifiable and untestable assumptions and has scientific problems of its own.

Biblical creationists understand the Bible contains God’s eyewitness account of His creation of the universe about 6,000 years ago. He made the sun, moon, and stars on the Fourth Day of Creation Week. Craters on the moon—and the moon itself—must be no more than 6,000 years old.

4. Physorg: “Deadly bird parasite evolves at exceptionally fast rate

Bird parasite said to “evolve” rapidly while losing information.

A bacterial infection common to poultry has, according to a study published in PLoS Genetics, changed hosts through “ultrafast evolution”7 and loss of a “chunk of its genome.” Mycoplasma gallisepticum causes respiratory disease in chickens and turkeys. In 1994, it began devastating the North American wild house finch population by causing a deadly eye-infection. The disease spread rapidly between 1994 and 2007, killing “hundreds of millions of birds.”

By sequencing genomes of the present bacteria as well as those known to cause infection in the past, scientists hoped to discover how the bacteria “gained the ability to spread to house finches—which diverged from chickens and turkeys some 80-90 million years ago” as well as how it became so virulent so quickly. ”It's evolving anywhere from ten to 100 times faster than previous estimates for any other bacterium,” says first author Nigel Delaney.

The new form of the bacteria has not acquired any new information. The researchers report, “we failed to find a single novel gene in House Finch MG that was not also found in the poultry MG strains.”7 Instead, the bacteria has lost over 50 genes. Mycoplasma gallisepticum only has about 1,000 genes in its genome. “One of the main functions [of the genes that were lost] is to help guard Mycoplasma against the attacks of bacteriophages,” according to co-author Scott Edwards. Bacteriophages are viruses that invade bacteria.

The researchers have not yet determined how this bacteria became more contagious, but they do express surprise at the “short evolutionary time scales”7 of this change, noting new techniques are allowing them to “measure evolution on very short time scales,” tracking it in “real time.”

While the researchers call this change in the virulent pathogen “evolution” and marvel at its rapidity, we must point out that the bacteria, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, was a bacteria when it infected only poultry and is still the same “kind” of bacteria now that it infects finches. Not only has it not obtained information to become a new kind of organism, it has lost some of the genetic information it had. Microorganisms frequently transfer genetic information horizontally. That is one of the ways they vary and adjust to their environment. This genetic variation allows the bacteria to infect a wider range of hosts—good for the bacteria, bad for the hosts.

Furthermore, the notion that finches and poultry diverged from a common ancestor millions of years ago is based on molecular clock calculations. Read more about the unverifiable assumptions and the statistical manipulation involved in genetically “clocking evolution” at News to Note, December 3, 2011 and News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review.

It will be interesting to discover more about the functions of M. gallisepticum’s lost genetic material, but we should not consider this discovery evidence for molecules-to-man evolution, either fast or slow. The study does track observational changes in bacteria in “real time,” but these changes have nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution or evolution over millions of years. Giberson and Collins echo many evolutionists when they write, “Macroevolution is simply microevolution writ large: add up enough small changes and we get a large change.”8 But there is a fundamental difference between acquiring genetic information to become a new kind of organism and just varying within the created kind. What did these bacteria rapidly evolve into? Just more of the same kind of bacteria—“mutant bacteria with a loss of pre-existing genetic information.”9

God provided the ability to vary when He created living things to reproduce after their kinds. Thus, in this sin-cursed world, we should not be surprised to see bacteria change hosts and increase their ability to cause disease because the genetic tools God gave microbes in order to survive in the original good world get perverted to cause harm.

Read more about the changes that occur in microbes and in DNA at: Observation of evolution in bacteria (which discusses the so-called “evolution” of another bacteria in only a few days), Georgia Purdom’s blog: I don’t believe in mutations, Observation of evolution in bacteria, The Role of Genomic Islands, Mutation, and Displacement in the Origin of Bacterial Pathogenicity, A Creationist Perspective of Beneficial Mutations in Bacteria, Toward an Accurate Model of Variation in DNA.

5. Scientific American: “Did Life's First Cells Evolve in Geothermal Pools?

Was primordial soup a warm pond or a hot salty ocean? Evolutionists debate.

Though no mechanism exists by which life could randomly emerge from nonliving chemicals, evolutionary scientists have long debated—not “if” it happened, since they’re sure it did—but “where.” Darwin suggested it could have started “in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etcetera present.” Modern evolutionary scientists lean strongly toward a marine origin, however, possibly near hydrothermal vents. A controversial paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges the marine origin, suggesting inland geothermal pools were a more likely location for the leap to life.

Although the composition of animal body fluids like lymph and blood bears some resemblance to seawater, the ionic composition inside cells is quite different. “In all living cells,” lead author Mulkidjanian says, “the cytoplasm is rich in potassium, zinc, manganese, and phosphate ions, which are not widespread in marine environments, and has lower amounts of sodium ions than outside.”10

Only the constant activity of ion-pumping proteins in cell membranes maintains ionic concentrations necessary for cellular function. Protocells, the researchers contend, would not have been able to create this unique intracellular milieu. “If the very first membranes were leaky for small molecules and ions, then the interior of the first cells should have been in equilibrium with their surroundings,”11 Mulkidjanian explains. “By reconstructing the inorganic chemistry of the cytoplasm, it might be possible to reconstruct the habitats where the first cells could dwell.”11

Other evolutionists maintain ion-pumping proteins evolved first and created a unique intracellular environment as life emerged. Mulkidjanian says the way to determine the right answer is examine the proteins “shared by (nearly) all cellular organisms,”12 which “by inference originate from the so-called last universal cellular (or common) ancestor.”12 Those proteins, it turns out, all incorporate potassium ions and phosphorus as well as magnesium, zinc, and manganese ions, none of which are prominent components of seawater. And these proteins neither incorporate nor tolerate lots of sodium, the dominant ion in seawater.

Geothermal pools, such as Yellowstone’s hot spots, are relatively sodium-free but rich in potassium and the other necessary elements. Biogenesis, the team proposes, took place in inland ponds containing mineral-rich fluid brought up to the surface by geothermal activity. “Conceptually, this scenario of early evolution resembles Darwin’s ‘warm little pond.’”12 There under a blanket of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide—since evolutionists know organic molecules would deteriorate if exposed to oxygen—Mulkidjanian says, the first cells evolved and “their progeny carried the affinity for such an environment from mother cell to daughter cell through the past three billion years,” eventually invading marine environments.

Evidence? The authors admit the chance of “finding any geological traces of the first life forms is unlikely.”12 Primordial “hatcheries” would have been too acidic to preserve evidence. The only available evidence, they write, is “the biological record which, given the evolutionary continuity, is as old as life itself.”12

Other evolutionists disagree that today’s cells mirror primordial protocells or ancient evolutionary habitats, saying the acidity of geothermal pools would be deadly to the process of biogenesis. Biochemist Nick Lane of University College London considers Mulkidjanian’s proposal untenable saying, “There was almost certainly very little land 4 billion years ago and terrestrial systems would have been unstable, short-lived, and severely limited in distribution.”10 He adds, “To suggest that the ionic composition of primordial cells should reflect the composition of the oceans is to suggest that cells are in equilibrium with their medium, which is close to saying that they are not alive. Cells require dynamic disequilibrium — that is what being alive is all about.”10 Harvard molecular biologist Jack Szostak also thinks ion-pumping proteins evolved first, saying, “It could still be that cells evolved the ability to generate and maintain a high potassium-to-sodium ratio in their cytoplasm for functional reasons, independent of the nature of their initial or early environment.”10 Geochemist Jim Cleaves agrees and says the intracellular composition evolved a variety of compositions. As a result, he says, “Any modern environment which matches this composition would then be purely coincidental” as “there might be no vestigial remains of the intervening stages of biological evolution.”

As another evolutionary scientist recently remarked, “For life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become living—everything up to that point is chemistry. We are trying to understand the chemical origins of life.”13 Yet neither group can offer any way nonliving chemicals could transform themselves into functional proteins in functional cells.

The “biological record” exists in the present and cannot prove what happened in the past. “Evolutionary continuity” is nothing more than imaginary connections between observable living things and organisms—both real and imagined—from the past. The biological evidence to which the authors refer is an imaginary extrapolation to deep time, the existence of which is based on the unverifiable assumptions of molecular clocks14 and radiometric dating methods.15

Biologically, life can only come from life. The living God created all biological life 6,000 years ago over the course of a few days. In the Bible He gave us His eyewitness account. He created plants, animals, and humans fully functional and able to reproduce in a world prepared to receive them. No evolution from inanimate chemicals was involved. Christians cannot compromise and accept the idea of molecules-to-man evolution without denying the truth of God’s Word.

Read more about the dust from which God made man in From Dust to Dust.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • An Iranian court has issued a final verdict ordering execution of Christian Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. He was arrested in October 2009 and sentenced to death for converting from Islam. His lawyers appealed the decision, maintaining he had never been Muslim in adult life. The appeals court admitted he had never practiced Islam but declared him guilty because his parents were Muslim. The United States, the European Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico, and Germany have all condemned the arrest and called for Nadarkhani’s release. Pennsylvania Representative Joseph Pitts notes Iran’s government “has stepped up persecution of religious minorities. . . . The persecuted are their own citizens, whose only crime is practicing their faith.” Nadarkhani’s case has attracted international attention, and many feel the public outcry has helped keep him alive. “The world needs to stand up16 and say that a man cannot be put to death because of his faith,” says Jordan Sekulow, of The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). “This one case is not just about one execution. We have been able to expose the system instead of just letting one man disappear, like so many other Christians have in the past.”
  • Adult stem cell treatment for heart attack has had another successful clinical trial. Dr. Eduardo Marbán at Cedars–Sinai Heart Institute grew stem cells from patients’ own biopsied heart tissue, thus avoiding the possibility of rejection. Not only was the treatment safe, but a year later patients had a 50% reduction in the amount of non-functional scar tissue. Dr. Marban said, “While the primary goal of our study was to verify safety, we also looked for evidence that the treatment might dissolve scar and regrow lost heart muscle. . . . This discovery challenges the conventional wisdom that, once established, scar is permanent and that, once lost, healthy heart muscle cannot be restored.” Although these patients did not demonstrate a corresponding increase in “ejection fraction”17—a measure of pumping efficiency—a similar study from Louisville in November did report improved ejection fraction as well as a decrease in physical limitations.18 An adult stem cell trial with 3,000 such patients in Europe will soon begin and hopefully confirm the efficacy of this ethical form of stem cell technology.
  • Voting has been intense on a website that asks Americans to select the top 15 U.S. locations for “the definitive family vacation.” An on-line poll called the “15 Places Kids Should See Before 15” has been extended through Tuesday “due to popular demand.” The popularity, however, has more to do with controversy rather than the picking of an idyllic vacation spot. Alarmed that the Creation Museum has consistently been in the top 3 out of more than 400 vacation nominees, several evolutionist bloggers and websites have spurred thousands of people to effectively vote against the Creation Museum by voting for other attractions, in what has become an almost-daily campaign to drop the museum’s high ranking. Creation Museum supporters (there have been over 1.5 million visitors in four years), however, are responding with their votes—and without the museum itself having to organize a massive get-out-the-vote campaign. Meanwhile, evolutionists are skewing the poll’s results by nominating and inserting slightly misspelled names for the Creation Museum, hoping that people would mistakenly vote for an incorrect museum entry. While most attractions in the poll have few if any comments next to their vote tallies, the “Creation Museum KY” listing (with over 6,200 votes) has had an astounding 1,800-plus comments (far more than any of the other 400-plus nominated attractions). We hope the survey will prompt many more families to pay a visit to the Creation Museum and see that the Christian faith is logically defensible.

For more information: Get Answers

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  1. www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/in-new-york-city-does-church-school-separation-go-too-far/2012/02/23/gIQATDBxVR_blog.html Back (1) Back (2) Back (3)
  2. radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/court-nyc-can-ban-churches-from-school-buildings.html Back (1) Back (2)
  3. www.constitution.org/tj/sep_church_state.htm Back (1) Back (2)
  4. biblicalmissiology.org/2012/01/16/fact-check-biblical-missiologys-response-to-wycliffes-comments-on-lost-in-translation/ Back (1) Back (2) Back (3)
  5. Atif Debs, native speaker quoted in “Fact Check: Biblical Missiology’s Response To Wycliffe’s Comments On ‘Lost In Translation’” (PDF), linked from biblicalmissiology.org/2012/01/16/fact-check-biblical-missiologys-response-to-wycliffes-comments-on-lost-in-translation/ Back
  6. “Fact Check: Biblical Missiology’s Response To Wycliffe’s Comments On ‘Lost In Translation’” (PDF), linked from biblicalmissiology.org/2012/01/16/fact-check-biblical-missiologys-response-to-wycliffes-comments-on-lost-in-translation/ Back (1) Back (2)
  7. www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.1002511 Back (1) Back (2) Back (3)
  8. Giberson, K. and F. Collins. 2011. The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions, p. 45. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. Back
  9. Observation of evolution in bacteria Back
  10. www.nature.com/news/debate-bubbles-over-the-origin-of-life-1.10024 Back (1) Back (2) Back (3) Back (4)
  11. www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=did-life-first-evolve-in-geothermal-pools Back (1) Back (2)
  12. www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/08/1117774109.full.pdf+html Back (1) Back (2) Back (3) Back (4) Back (5)
  13. News to Note, January 28, 2012 Back
  14. News to Note, December 3, 2011 Back
  15. Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions Back
  16. aclj.org/iran/save-christian-pastor-nadarkhani-iranian-death-sentence Back
  17. www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17012688 Back
  18. News to Note, December 10, 2011 Back