Sunday, March 01, 2015

For the truth be not dismayed

Last evening was a hymn sing at our home. One of the children chose the hymn "The Banner of the Cross," which I don't believe we've sung very often. Here are the words to the first two verses and the chorus:

1. There’s a royal banner given for display
To the soldiers of the King;
As an ensign fair we lift it up today,
While as ransomed ones we sing.
Marching on, marching on,
For Christ count everything but loss!
And to crown Him king, we’ll toil and sing,
’Neath the banner of the cross!
2. Though the foe may rage and gather as the flood,
Let the standard be displayed;
And beneath its folds, as soldiers of the Lord,
For the truth be not dismayed!
The lyrics were written in 1884 by Daniel W. Whittle. They are timely today. When we were singing I immediately thought of Barronelle Stutzman . I also thought of her when we sang "Dare to Be a Daniel."

Why did people write those songs? They wrote them because they realized that Christians need encouragement, and the hymns were supposed to offer that encouragement, that spine stiffening.

What struck me was that in our own time it is less likely that such lyrics would be written because too many Christians are afraid of sounding too sure that we know what God wants us to do. To apply a song like "The Banner of the Cross" to a concrete situation like that of Barronelle Stutzman requires confidence that she is displaying the banner of the cross, that she is fighting the good fight, and, most controversial of all, that her opponents represent "the foe." In short, such songs come from an era when we were not worried about identifying the foe and the fight. I really don't imagine that anybody wrote to Daniel W. Whittle and told him that he was being presumptuous and "demonizing" his opponents. Yet that's exactly the sort of advice Christians give Christians now--don't think in us-them terms, don't think of those who are on the other side (of the abortion issue, of the homosexual rights issue, of any issue) as "the Other."

It is a breath of fresh air to open a hymnal and sing a song that tells us that all will be well, that heartens us, that says, "Though the foe may rage, display the standard! Wave the banner! For the truth be not dismayed! We are fighting the good fight, and the Lord is with us. Stand up for what is right."

And in the meanwhile, for Christ count everything but loss. That line is in there too. Barronelle Stutzman may lose all her worldly goods. She counts it all but loss, as the Apostle Paul wrote,
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; Philippians 3:7-10
Stutzman wrote the following to Bob Ferguson, the State Attorney General who has tried to induce her to promise "not to discriminate" in the future in return for his dropping the case in return for a small fine:

You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.
She knew when the moment came, she heard the call, she has answered the call. May God grant us grace to follow her example and not to be dismayed for the truth.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Creation doesn't have to be different

In discussing creationism, intelligent design theory, and related issues on blog threads and also in some of my scholarly reading (I think I caught a whiff of it in Paul Helm's otherwise very good book on God and time), I have come to the surprising conclusion that too many people think that anything that God does that goes by the name of "creation" has to be different from all other miracles. In particular, there seems to be a pervasive, though sometimes vague, idea that anything called "creation" is subject to some sort of special restrictions, that God always will do it in a certain way or a certain restricted set of ways. (This article, though I haven't read it all, looks like a pretty classic example of the problem.)

For example, sometimes creation is restricted to ex nihilo creation, with the implication being that God creates only ex nihilo and never uses pre-existing materials. Why? Call me naive, but I don't find anywhere in Scripture that this is asserted. To the contrary, Scripture expressly states that God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and formed Eve from Adam's rib.

Maybe that isn't intended to be literal; maybe it is. But prima facie it would seem to argue against any hard and fast prohibition on God's making things in the physical world using pre-existing materials. Scripture, at least, is not at the slightest pains to guard against the alleged mistake of thinking that God would ever create something using pre-existing materials.

Sometimes "creation" is connected with Providence or the continual sustaining of the world plus ex nihilo creation. Nothing else. So, using this set, we can refer to God's making the cosmos out of nothing at the first moment as "creation," and we can refer to God's continual (but invisible), intimate providential connection with the world (whether we are concurrentists, occasionalists, preservationists, or what-not) as "creation."

But the one sort of thing we can't call "creation" is God's forming man out of the dust of the ground! In fact, we have to express a lot of puzzlement about what in the world Scripture could possibly mean by such expressions. Maybe they mean God's invisibly guiding evolution so it looks like man came into existence by natural processes from ape-like ancestors, and then God's silently "ensouling" a pair of ape-like ancestors. Maybe that's what the passage is referring to. But not a situation in which first there's no man there, and then suddenly a man there, sleeping on the ground. That would be so...crude. So the one thing, on this view, that we aren't supposed to think creation could ever look like is what all those Christians through all those centuries very likely thought creation looked like--creatures appearing suddenly on the earth that weren't there before, by miracle, by the word of the Lord.

The first Word is impressive, and we can write theological treatises about it. Light coming out of darkness has all sorts of symbolic meaning. Divine Providence is mysterious and theological. God's just making critters pop into existence is...something we don't want to be associated with anymore. Because reasons.

Funny. Jesus doesn't seem to have been bothered by that sort of worry. He made bread and fish pop into existence out of his hands to feed five thousand people. For real. He made wine (from pre-existing water, no less) where there was no wine before. Poof, voila! Bam! And God made manna appear all over the sands of the desert for His people, morning after morning. (But not on Saturdays.) How crude. Did God make the manna? Should we not even say that God created the manna in some important sense? Why not?

Do I know absolutely and for a fact that no species emerged on this earth by some kind of subtly God-guided semi-evolutionary process? No, I don't know that absolutely for a fact, though I have my layman's scientific doubts as to how widespread any such evolutionary origin of species was.

But there is a gigantic difference between saying that God could have brought species into existence by subtly guided processes and saying that God had to or definitely would have done so only by such subtle processes. Those pushing against Intelligent Design theory constantly conflate these two. One will get a little lecture on how theistic evolution is "compatible" with Christian doctrine, when the real question at issue is whether it is required by some theological considerations, as though all Christians should have believed in naturalistic-looking theistic evolution for almost two thousand years before Darwin was born!

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever, theologically speaking, to think that God wouldn't create creatures on this earth in a sudden way, at different times, miraculously, just like any other miracle, sometimes using some pre-existing matter, sometimes not. There is precisely zero theological restriction that militates against the "crudest" sort of creationism. God could have had this beautiful world all put together as a habitat, with fish in the sea, birds in the air, and other critters wandering about, and then a bunch of dust could have started agitating and bubbling and, when it settled, Adam could have been lying there, miraculously brought into being. And some of the very same atoms that were previously part of the dust could have been incorporated into Adam's physical body by this sudden miracle. And that might have been how God made man. Why not? Theologically speaking, no reason whatsoever. None.

Let me add that this has absolutely nothing to do with a belief in Divine timelessness. That doesn't constrain our options here. A Boethian (one who believes that God is timeless) nonetheless believes that. in terms of human history, there are miracles that happen at particular times. The parting of the Red Sea occurred long after the near-sacrifice of Isaac but long before David's reign, etc. Any view of Divine timelessness that can accommodate all the jillion miracles at different times in the Bible has no extra problem accommodating biological special creation!

The same is true of the doctrine of divine simplicity. If you believe in divine simplicity, this cannot exclude the performance of particular miracles at particular points in time, or you cannot be an orthodox Christian. But if the doctrine of divine simplicity can accommodate manna in the wilderness, water from the rock, and the burning bush (and it'd better be able to), then there is no reason in the world why it cannot accommodate God's making Adam, or hippos, or any other new species, suddenly and miraculously. It is also fairly ridiculous to refuse to call such making "creation," but if you have some sort of weird terminological scruples about calling anything "creation" after the Big Bang, then call it "making." So maybe God made hippos, Adam, and many other things subsequent to the Big Bang. If your doctrine of divine simplicity can't handle that possibility, then you have much bigger problems than intelligent design theory! Much, much bigger. In fact, you've locked yourself into a kind of deism.

I cannot help thinking that everything I have said here would have been perfectly obvious to any educated priest, orthodox clergyman, or layman in the year 1799. I think such Christians would have been completely puzzled at the suggestion that the appearance of the species had to be or had to appear non-miraculous. They would have been astonished at restrictions on divine methods of creation and by confusion over what it could or might mean for God to create man and animals.

So I submit that such confusion is self-evidently the product of a post-Darwinian sensibility. Because people think that Science has told us that all the creatures, including man, appeared to come into existence by natural processes, theology has tagged along and muddied the waters by setting "creation" aside from all the other special, powerful acts of God with which we are familiar from our Bible stories.

Now that neo-Darwinism is coming unraveled at the seams, scientifically speaking, it is sad to see Christians stranded on a theological island and unable to find their way back, finding it incredibly hard even to consider that the creation of creatures and man might just have looked like lots of other miracles look.

I submit that, ironically, we are going to close ourselves to scientific evidence if we take such a pointlessly restrictive theological approach. Christians should not be greeting evidence for God's direct working in creation in the past to bring new types of creatures into being with theological suspicion on the grounds that we wouldn't want to think of God as "a magician with a magic wand" (translation--a God who intervenes). You never know; maybe intervention is pretty much what it looked like. It's what a lot of other miracles looked like. So I suggest that we should eliminate any a priori theological dichotomy between creation and miracles more generally considered and then see, with an unbiased eye, what the evidence points to.

Update: I almost forgot to include this. V.J. Torley has an extensive take-down of Tkacz (whose article I have linked in the first paragraph of this post). If you like take-downs so extensive that there is nothing left but dust at the end (out of which God could create a man), you will love this material by Torley. I couldn't possibly have read it all, but what I have read is devastating. Here is a link to part of it. My favorite part, though, so beautiful that it almost brought tears to my eyes (yes, I have written a fan note to Torley telling him this) was this section, where Torley shows fifteen (!!) places where Tkacz contradicts St. Thomas Aquinas while claiming to speak for Aquinas.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How can I fail when I am nothing?

She was indeed troubled just now. The blessing she had always wanted was to be herself a blessing, but [her patient] Joe Diggar had died. It was true he had died peacefully, with no distress,...but still he had died, and she was disturbed by her own failure to heal him. Was her power to bless leaving her? Parson Hawthyn, when she had sympathized with the failure of his [prayer] vigil in the church [for Joe], had replied tartly, "Failure? How can I fail when I am nothing? There is but one power that is our own, Froniga, the power to offer the emptiness that we are, and we make idols of ourselves if we think we are the only instruments of salvation ready to God's hand."
Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch, pp. 160-161.

Occasionally Goudge makes, through her characters, the most astonishing pronouncements, all the more shocking because she means them literally. Here she is saying that the only way we can be used by God is if we offer ourselves to God as empty, to be filled and then used by God, This is very difficult to understand, because at the same time, if we are honest, we usually believe that we have at least some natural gifts. Given to us by God, to be sure, but still there, still real, part of ourselves. Are we not offering God those powers? Are not those powers, those talents, those gifts, our own to use in God's service? How then can it be true that the only power that is our own is to offer our emptiness?

I think both are true. It is true that God has given most of us some visible gifts and abilities that can be used for Him. To some He seems to have given more than to others. But the Bible repeatedly warns us of the danger of taking pride in these: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and tinkling symbol." "My speech...was not with enticing words of man's wisdom...that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ."

So we must constantly be making a double movement. On the one hand, we are bound to hone our skills, whatever they might be, and thus to offer them as the best possible instruments to be used for God's glory. But on the other hand, we are bound constantly to turn away from selfish pride and to recognize that God can and often does use ministries that appear unworthy to accomplish His ends.

Is there someone for whose salvation you are praying? It may be that God will bring that person to Himself through someone else, someone whose arguments seem less than ideal, someone who has not striven in prayer for that soul's salvation as you have. But in the end, what matters is the soul's salvation.

"There is but one power that is our own,...the power to offer the emptiness that we are, and we make idols of ourselves if we think we are the only instruments of salvation ready to God's hand."

Monday, February 02, 2015

Remarkable comments from Christian-Jewish Holocaust survivor

Anita Dittman was born to a Jewish mother and a Gentile father in pre-Hitler Germany. It appears that her parents divorced when she was young. Her mother, sister, and she converted to Christianity when she was a child under the influence of a local (I surmise Lutheran) pastor. Her sister escaped Germany before the Holocaust, but when Anita was a teenager she and her mother were rounded up for their Jewish ethnicity and sent to the camps separately. Anita has a story which sounds quite remarkable (as Holocaust survivor stories tend to be) about how she and her mother survived and were eventually reunited.

For many years Anita Dittman has told her story in U.S. public schools, but recently the schools are refusing to let her speak because she insists on discussing her Christianity, which helped her through the horrors of what she experienced and helped her to forgive her captors.

One school administrator at a high school in northern Minnesota contacted her with an invitation to speak, saying she came highly recommended by some students who had heard her speak previously.
"I called him back and left a message and said I would be honored. Just let me know the date and time, and I will be there,” Dittman said.
"I said, I have to tell you, though, that Christ is in my message.”
“Well can’t you leave Christ out of it?” the man asked.
“He is the one who kept me safe. I can’t keep Him out,” Dittman responded.
“Well, I’m sorry then. You can’t come,” he said.
Many other doors have closed at the mention of the “C” word.
Says Dittman, “It’s getting worse, I tell you....It’s so dictating to the parents now. This is how it started in Russia and Germany.”

Dittman is concerned about the direction things are going in the West. She was asked

what, if anything, Christians should be doing to prepare for the day when the “soft” persecution becomes hard, like it did in Germany.
"The importance of faith in God would be the one thing, and the courage to speak up,” she said. “I tell some of my students I speak to, even in secular schools, keep the faith. You can lose your homes, your schools, everything, but if you have your faith, you have everything.”
“Pray to God that when the times come, He will be with you and will see you through. Also memorize scripture because you may not always have a Bible,” she said. “I lost my Bible during the Russian occupation, but God will remind you of the verses you need when you are in a situation where you are totally dependent on Him and your life is in danger.”
This is important to think about. It may seem unlikely that Christians will literally be herded into camps, but think about a child like Domenic Johannson, who was seized from his parents in Sweden and may well remain separated from them until he is an adult. (Will Sweden allow him to be reunited with his parents then?) Children in the West can be taken from their parents for ideological reasons and placed into the care of foster parents and other state social agents who are deliberately trying to counteract the worldview with which they were raised. In this context, having Scripture memorized could be extremely important.

I would like to read Dittman's whole story. For now, I am just digesting the sobering fact that America has changed so drastically that she cannot tell it in many schools because of the aggressive anti-Christianity of those schools. And people wonder why parents wouldn't want to send their children to public schools. Sometimes, it's hard to know where to start to answer the question.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Martyrdom--Angel Band

The audio of this recording of the song "Angel Band" is one of my favorite music tracks, probably one of my favorites of all time. (Lyrics here, though they are slightly different on the second verse. It looks to me like everybody does the second verse a little differently.)

If you know that you really, really hate southern gospel music and/or country music, and that your opinion will never change, don't even bother trying to appreciate this song, because it's pretty much "that" style. But if your musical tastes are somewhat more open, I suggest that you don't watch the video I just linked (minimize it or something) but that instead you crank the volume and just listen to the music.

I have had this track on a Gaither hymns CD for four years now and only just now watched the video, so I've always known it through the medium of hearing rather than sight.

To my mind this has the interesting effect of making the cheering and enthusiasm of the audience and of the homecoming group more a part of the song. When I hear all the cheering and clapping break out before the encore, what I don't primarily think is, "Okay, there are all those pretty homecoming folks cheering for Vestal Goodman and hugging on each other. How sweet." I mean, I know that's going on at some level, and that's not a bad thing in itself, but at another level it sounds more to me like rejoicing in heaven, like the saints and angels cheering someone on in the race as he crosses the finish line.

For some reason, every time I listen to this song I think of martyrdom, even though it's really about death more generally. I think of someone actually about to be martyred, even being martyred, and believing that he is beginning his "triumph." All the indecision is behind him. I think of someone like Thomas Cranmer who was so afraid of death and allowed his fear of the flames to warp his integrity, but who then repented of that and thrust his hand into the fire. Was his burning at the stake a horrible death? Certainly it was. But it seems that Cranmer had achieved a kind of mental equilibrium there and knew that what he was doing was right. What lay behind him were his "strongest trials," all the confusion and temptation.

I myself am a great coward about pain and don't even want to think of dying a painful death for the sake of Christ. But together with my vivid imagination for horror I have a vivid imagination for the varieties of human response. And I can, just barely, imagine a kind of saint who, through all the pain, feels that he is triumphing, that he has moved past the danger point and the fear, and that he now knows that the angels are coming for him. His spirit loudly sings. He cries out in his agony and his triumph, "Come, angel band. Come and around me stand. Bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home!" And his soul goes up, rises up to God, borne by the angels who have sustained him in his hour of trial and who now take him to where the cheering of those on the other side joins the singing of his spirit.

We certainly should not glorify horror and pain for their own sake. They are evils. Soberly speaking, many have been corrupted and led away by the mere possibility, the mere fear of suffering. Moreover, much persecution goes on and on rather than ending in death for the martyr. No doubt many who suffer for Christ do not experience any rush of confidence, any sense of joy, but must merely endure through it with no sensible consolation from God and no merciful death that takes them to His presence.

But this other possibility exists as well and is good to think of, and this song allows us to imagine it--the triumph over death by means of death. O death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The light that lightens all men

This morning, it being a Sunday in the season of Epiphany, we sang a couple of hymns that should be more widely known by Christians of all denominations. One of these is "Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning," which has a lovely tune. Here is a choir singing it, and here are the words.

The hymn I am going to write about here is "From the Eastern Mountains." I'm sorry to say that I can't seem to find an on-line recording of the music. The tune is called "Valour." A view of the hymn page with the tune used in the 1940 hymnal is here.

Here is the text as it appears in the 1940 Anglican hymnal:

From the eastern mountains
Pressing on they come,
Wise men in their wisdom,
To His humble home;
Stirred in deep devotion,
Hasting from afar,
Ever journeying onward,
Guided by a star.
Light of light that shineth
Ere the worlds began,
Draw Thou near, and lighten
Ev'ry heart of man.

There their Lord and Saviour
Meek and lowly lay,
Wondrous Light that led them
Onward on their way,
Ever now to lighten
Nations from afar,
As they journey homeward
By that guiding Star.
Light of light that shineth
Ere the worlds began,
Draw Thou near, and lighten
Ev'ry heart of man.

Thou Who in a manger
Once hast lowly lain,
Who dost now in glory
O'er all kingdoms reign,
Gather in the heathen,
Who in lands afar
Ne'er have seen the brightness
Of Thy guiding Star.
Light of light that shineth
Ere the worlds began,
Draw Thou near, and lighten
Ev'ry heart of man.

Gather in the outcasts,
All who've gone astray,
Throw Thy radiance o'er them,
Guide them on their way,
Those who never knew Thee,
Those who've wandered far,
Lead them by the brightness
Of Thy guiding Star.
Light of light that shineth
Ere the worlds began,
Draw Thou near, and lighten
Ev'ry heart of man.

Guide them through the darkness
Of the lonely night,
Shining still before them
With thy kindly light,
Until every nation,
Whether bond or free,
'Neath thy starlit banner,
Jesus, follows thee.
Light of light that shineth
Ere the worlds began,
Draw Thou near, and lighten
Ev'ry heart of man.

This hymn jumped out at me because I have recently been reading Marilynne Robinson's new novel Lila. As a novel, it is very fine, though not as great as Gilead. As a work of theology, it is completely wrongheaded.

Robinson's character Lila becomes very concerned after marrying John Ames when she hears about hell. She realizes that pretty much everyone she ever knew before coming to Gilead, particularly old Doll, the woman who acted as a mother to her and is now dead, may very well be in hell according to standard Christian doctrine. Lila agonizes over this, and the theological issue provides a focal point for the overwhelming discomfort she feels in her new, respectable life as the wife of a Congregationalist minister. There are plenty of other reasons for that discomfort. Lila is portrayed as having been almost completely ignorant due to the roughness of her past life, to the point that she has never even learned to use a knife and fork. The culture shock of living in Gilead as a middle-class matron is severe, and she feels that she has lost her privacy and is in danger of losing her identity. Robinson portrays all of this extremely well and believably, and she wraps the theological issue of hell into Lila's struggle with great psychological realism.

In the end, Lila is comforted by inventing her own version of universalism. Robinson, being Robinson, writes about this version of universalism beautifully, but it's seriously wrong. It involves no repentance, no new birth, and no desire for God. It does not involve these things even at the moment of death or even after death. In fact, God is very nearly absent from the heaven Lila envisages. Rather, heaven is treated as just a happy place to which God transports everyone because God is loving and because it "wouldn't be fair" to do otherwise.

Our soteriology needs to be deeper than that, and one might think that Robinson means for Lila's soteriology to be regarded as shallow because of her lack of theological knowledge. John Ames himself is something of a crypto-universalist, both in this novel and in Gilead, but he is never quite willing to become a universalist unequivocally, presumably because he really does know his Bible and has some actual understanding of sin, repentance, and grace. On the other hand, the very end of Lila seems to suggest that Lila will be able to comfort Ames by telling him what she now knows on this subject.

What the novel does do well, as does Gilead, is to portray the genuine anguish one feels at the thought that a loved one might be eternally lost. Some of us even feel that anguish regarding people we have never met. Missionaries feel that anguish for whole people groups.

The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that we should pray for the lost. The Apostle Paul says,
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
I take Paul here to be implying that one of the things we are to pray for is that men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Since we are told that Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost, we know we are praying in conformity with the will of God if we pray for someone's salvation.

But as C.S. Lewis pointed out in The Great Divorce, universalism simply erases the human will. God just sweeps people up into heaven (or "heaven") whether they want to be there or not and presumably changes them magically into eternally good people even if they wanted to go on being evil. I question whether this is even a coherent picture.

So when we pray for a man's salvation, we are not, I believe, praying for something that God can bring about by a mere act of power, for to do so would be to erase the person and to substitute a robot. We are praying, then, that God would reach out and woo the person, that God would bring before that person clearly the evidence of His existence, attributes, and requirements, would give that person every opportunity to accept Him. We are praying that God would shine His light upon them so that they can be guided to the knowledge of the truth.

All of which brings us back to "From the Eastern Mountains." I like the fact that the song connects the Wise Men with God's desire that all men should be saved and God's willingness to use even extraordinary means to that end. The God who could send a star to the Wise Men can send dreams to a Muslim, for example. He can bring a David Wood or a John C. Wright to recognize that He is God, at which point they have to decide what they are going to do about that. This song is a prayer for the salvation of those who know not God. Never give up praying that.

C. H. Spurgeon, on praying for the lost:
Until the gate of hell is shut upon a man we must not cease to pray for him. And if we see him hugging the very doorposts of damnation, we must go to the mercy seat and beseech the arm of grace to pluck him from his dangerous position. While there is life there is hope, and although the soul is almost smothered with despair, we must not despair for it, but rather arouse ourselves to awaken the Almighty arm.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On Marriage and Heaven

Now for something completely different. Several days ago I received some correspondence from a young pastor who has been sending his questions on this topic to a variety of Christian writers and speakers. He had seen my husband speak recently but was more readily able to find my e-mail address and wanted to know if either of us had some insights on his questions. I won't quote his questions here, but their general import was to wonder what Jesus meant when he said that we will neither marry nor be given in marriage in the resurrection. As a happily married man, he was distressed at the thought of being separated from his wife in heaven or "not married" to her anymore and wondered how Jesus' words should be taken.
He also wondered whether Jesus' death and resurrection would not be able to restore us to Adam's prelapsarian state, which clearly was meant to include marriage.
One commentary he had read had even conjectured that we might be completely a-gendered beings in heaven, while another person he had consulted was not entirely closed to the idea that there actually will be sexual intercourse in heaven, though that person nevertheless discouraged speculation along those lines.
What follows is my response, which I admitted up front would be rather a long treatise:
First of all, I want to set what I am going to say later into an overall context so that it won't be misunderstood. I think that the commentaries are wrong when they imply that, in the resurrection, we will not be male and female. Jesus says that we will be "like the angels" in that we will not be married but does not say that we will be like the angels in being neither male nor female. (In fact, we don't even know very much from Scripture about the gender of the angels beyond the fact that they are always portrayed as male when they appear on earth!) So the idea of our being recreated as, in essence, aliens rather than human beings, aliens who have no gender, is not in my opinion supported by that passage nor by any other. The prima facie case is that, if a human being dies and is resurrected, the resurrected being is also human, which means (according to God's plan) either male or female.
Moreover, I don't think that Jesus' words imply that we will not know one another or have close human relationships in heaven. Nor does he say or imply that all of our human relationships in heaven will be identical to one another and that we won't be any closer to any one person than to anyone else. Why should Jesus be taken to mean that? That the relationship we call "married" will not be represented in heaven, at least not as we presently know it, doesn't mean that no important and close human relationships, including presumably relationships with those to whom we were closest on earth, will be represented in heaven. I think C.S. Lewis says somewhere that, since heaven is portrayed as a feast, it would be very strange if the guests didn't know one another! St. Paul says to the Thessalonians that they should be "comforted" by the thought of their loved ones as going to heaven and that they should not sorrow as those who have no hope, and this would seem extremely strange if the true doctrine were that we will never see each other again after death or that we will be separated from those we love forever.
What we don't know is the positive nature of those relationships.
You can read the rest of this entry at What's Wrong With the World. Feel free to comment in either location.

No wonder Jews are leaving Paris

The situation for Jews in France and especially in Paris is dire. The recent terrorist murders at a kosher store come in a long line of daily abuse and beatings from Muslims. This interview has more. I was especially chilled by the picture of this man's mother getting beaten up, going to the police, and being told, "You're lucky to be alive." It's possible that the police were indicating that they take Muslim violence against Jews very seriously, but my impression from the way the story is told is that it indicates just the opposite. Plus, as he says, the atmosphere is so mafia-like that Jews abused by Muslims often don't go to the police because they will be found at their homes and punished if they do so.

This is what comes of Islamicization.