Friday, August 16, 2013

+ Paul A. Bartz +

Paul Bartz was born on May 1, 1948.  The Lord called him home to glory on August 15, 2013 after an extended battle with cancer of the tongue and jaw.

I met Paul while I was a student at Concordia College in St. Paul Minnesota.  I can no longer recall if it was my first year or my second year there.  There are too many memories and it was too long ago, back in 1969, I believe.  We met because his dormitory roommate at the time was struck by how our senses of humor were so alike.  We were introduced at the campus coffee shop's informal "Laugh-In" evening of improvisational humor.  We went on to make quite a hit of our improvised skits and jokes.  We were fast friends ever after, discovering that we shared the same love for theology as well.  I met Paul the day after he had met the woman who became the love of his life, and eventually his wife, Bonnie Bruhn.  I was always a third wheel for that first year.

Paul loved Luther.  He was the first person I knew who subscribed to the Luther's Works subscription program, buying every volume of the American Edition as soon as it came out.  His other great interest was the Creation/Evolution debate. When it came time to write his Master's Thesis, it included those two interests.  It was entitled, "Luther on Evolution".  It was great stuff.

This is not an authorized obituary, but a remembrance of a friend.  We saw each other through very difficult times.  He was my friend when my first wife chose another man and divorced me.  I was his friend, and hopefully of some comfort, when he was driven out of his parish in Garrison, Minnesota, by the sort of unjustified abuse and unconscionable attacks that have become all too common in the Lutheran Church today.

We were there for one another in good times too.  He was best man when I married my second (and still) wife, some twenty-seven years ago, and he is God-father to my first-born son.  I was his close friend when the Lord surprised Paul and Bonnie with a daughter in their mid-forties, and he honored me by asking my wife and me to be god-parents for their only child, a daughter, now 17 years old.

Paul was an amazing man in so many ways.  He was the editor of the Bible Science Newsletter for many years.  He created the one minute radio spots called "Creation Moments" that continue yet today.  He spoke widely on Creation and the issues surrounding the debate in our society, and not just in Lutheran circles.  It is little known that Paul was, briefly, an independent publisher, co-founder of Onesimus Publishing, which published several tracks and pamphlets and one good book.  Paul served faithfully as a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a vacancy pastor for different congregations, and did pulpit supply after he left the parish ministry many years ago.  He was a member of the ministerium of the LC-MS to the day of his death. He was also a sinner, one that rejoiced in the forgiveness Christ poured out on Him in Word and Sacrament.  That, too, was part of what marked Paul as special.

One character trait that struck me as marking Paul was consistency.  He was a faithful Christian.  He was a consistent and thorough theologian.  He was a meticulous researcher and and excellent teacher.  When Paul settled on something, he did not change.  For example, I knew Paul before he had a mustache.  I always liked to grow a beard every winter and cut it off in the spring.  Paul asked me about it and I suggested that he should try it.  He did.  He grew a beard and then he wore it for it for years.  Eventually he shaved the beard, but after that day, I never saw Paul without his mustache.

Mostly, to me he was a good and faithful friend.  In our final conversation just a couple of weeks before his passing, he reaffirmed his friendship, confessed his faith, and joked about having Martin Luther pour a beer for me, too, to be ready for the day I would be joining him at the heavenly table for that meeting with brother Martin we have been waiting for anxiously for so long.  His sense of humor was the primary impetus in our meeting, and it was still active in our final conversation, during which we spoke of death.  I said it was weird for me to be talking to him about his death as such an immanent thing, and he said, "Yeah, it's kind of weird for me, too."

Now He has finished the race, passed through that dread door, and is with the Lord he served for most of his life.  I thank God for Paul.  My life would have been much poorer, and certainly a great deal different without Bartz in it.  It is at times precisely like this that the message of Christ and the salvation He has wrought for us is so precious.  I shall see him again, because of Jesus Christ and His great grace.  I take comfort there, and pray for Paul's family, that God will strengthen and comfort them through the Gospel.  Meanwhile, the tears are appropriate.  Paul Bartz is man to be missed.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Humanism is a Fraud

While searching for specific information about the court stating that Secular Humanism is a religion (Torcaso v. Watkins – 1961) for another topic, I came across the following, numbered “1" at the top of the webpage:

Humanism is the approach to life based on rational thinking and includes ethics based on our shared human values and on human compassion. If you live life without religion and strive to do good within society just for the sake of doing good, then, you are a natural humanist. Humanism’s core belief is that everything has a natural cause rather than a supernatural cause, therefore it falls under the banner of philosophical naturalism and the vast majority of humanists are atheists although there are some agnostics too. Science and reason continue to be major positive influences on Humanism. Humanist activists typically battle for human rights and for secular politics. Secularism, promoted by secularists, is the belief that religion should be a private, personal, voluntary affair that does not impose upon other people. Public spaces and officialdom should therefore be religion-neutral. Secularism ensures that religions are treated fairly and that no bias exists for a particular religion, and also that non-religious folk such as Humanists are treated with equal respect.”   (

The webpage goes on to assert that humanism is no religion – as other humanist pages also assert.  They decry the abuse of the footnote reference in the Supreme Court decision that lumps secular humanism in with other religions that do not hold to the existence of a deity (such as Buddhism and Taoism).  It is not right or fair to lump them together, or to use this footnote as any sort of indication that, before the law, secular humanism is a religion.

Okay, let us look at what humanists assert and go from there. A caveat: in the course of the article, “humanism” is used to refer not to the general philosophical category, but to the political and religious movement, whether formal or informal.  The Humanist Manifestoes (one and two) both make assertions of a clearly religious nature, denying explicitly the existence of a God, rejecting as unreal and irrational any talk of a savior or salvation coming from outside of ourselves, and decrying specific religious texts.  The original Humanist Manifesto referred, in point of fact, to the humanism it espoused as “religious humanism”.  Their goal was, “To establish such a religion”.

The second Humanist Manifesto reflected the forty years of experience following the writing of the first, and attempted to shed the explicitly religious image of the original, but failed.  The opening assertions were boldly religious, and they identified themselves again in religious terms.  “We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or  authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species.”  A statement of belief, making theological points, does not mark one as non-religious.  They even take a position that must be marked as religious: “As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.

I quote these ancient resources to make the point simply that modern humanism is distinctively religious from its foundations.  The courts acknowledgment of that fact does not establish humanism as a religion, it simply acknowledges the obvious.  So, our modern resource, above, is being disingenuous when it asserts that humanists are non-religious, “non-religious folk such as Humanists”.  In number 2 on the same website, the authors say, “Humanism as a religion in its own right, rather than a philosophy or outlook, has been proposed occasionally, although it has never gained much support.

The truth is that humanism may not be identified with any single specific religious organization, (although the recent news of the establishment of “the Atheist Church” challenges that notion) but that does not exempt it from being a religion.  If that were the identifying feature of something not being a religion, Christianity would fail the same test.  There are hundreds of bodies that claim Christian doctrines, but distance themselves in their teachings from others.  Humanism is a religion, with very specific doctrines, which the Humanist Manifestoes go to great lengths to detail.

The vast majority of humanists are atheists, according to the author of this web-article.  Others could make counter-claims, I am sure, although many humanist sites would agree with this author’s assessment, and, as pointed out previously, doctrinal variety does not remove one from the sphere of religion.  The notion offered above that “Secularists” are a separate and autonomous group fighting to create a religion neutral space is simply another fraud of humanism.  When one makes it necessary to ignore the existence of a deity, in specific or in general, they are making a theological statement, and establishing (in the sense of the Constitution) a religious viewpoint or doctrine in public policy.  Such a policy is contrary to the Constitution, and making atheism the standard of public discourse is a distinctively religious action.

Even the now common restriction on naming a specific God is an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of anyone praying in public.  That is true even if the Courts might rule otherwise.  The Courts have erred egregiously before!  Just as certainly as one might invoke the right not to hear another deity appealed to in prayer, it would be as rightly said that the rights of the offended not to hear another’s prayer extend only as far as the right of the next man to freely exercise his religion.  You may have the right not to listen to my prayers, but your right not to listen does not extend so far as to limit my right to pray.  Surely the religious garb of a Muslim forces the confession of his or her faith upon everyone who can see them.  The yarmulke of the observant Jew confesses his faith.  The cross or prayer of the Christian is no more offensive.

Banning, restricting, or limiting any of these observances is wrong.  Restricting one particular confession while ignoring the others is to establish their faith in preference to the discriminated-against one.  Barring them all from public would be tantamount to establishing those faiths which do not acknowledge a god, and suppressing and abusing those who would otherwise mark their faith by sign, attire, or audible prayer.  Regulating prayer, as in the case of forbidding a public prayer before a football game, violates the free exercise clause of the first amendment, and gives priority (thereby establishing, in the reasoning of the court in recent years) the faith of those who would plead offense.  They have the right to not listen.  They do not have the right to regulate the rights of others to pray.

Humanists have stated the goal of establishing a world free from religions which contradict theirs.  They are surely free to set such goals and pursue them.  The rest of us do not need, and dare not attempt, to pretend that those goals are religiously neutral.  They advance the religion of Humanism.  These are not morally or ethically neutral activities.  They are the establishment and advancement, by the courts and any participating legislatures, of a specific creed.  The rest of us have no duty to respect that activity.  We have our rights, too.  The plea of the humanist for our sensitivity is, like the rest of Humanism (as a political and religious movement) a fraud.