[2-2011 POSTS] CHURCH HISTORY/PHILOSOPHY-
 ANOTHER SHAKESPEARE? As I continue to read thru some of the arguments against Christianity- the pros and cons- one of the common threads that run thru the critics minds is the entire field of what is called ‘the historical method- higher criticism’. I have written extensively on it in the past- and will just hit a few points for today. This method of study developed in the German universities during the late 19th- early 20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultmann would popularize it- and before him thinkers like Hegel would play their role in setting the field for a new way of thinking about the bible and Christian truth. During this time many professors/scholars began studying the bible in the original languages [Old testament- Hebrew. New Testament- Greek] and they noticed something interesting- the first 5 books of the bible- commonly attributed to Moses [meaning he wrote them] were found to have used different Hebrew words for God. You also noticed different ways things were phrased in different sections- this lead some thinkers to espouse an idea called ‘the documentary hypothesis’ when I recently critiqued the atheist- Christopher Hitchens- he used this argument in his book- but you could tell he simply read the theory from someone else [a teacher- Bart Erhman] and that he was really not familiar with the entire field. This theory is usually attributed to a thinker named Wellhausen, and it gained popularity among the school of teachers often referred to as liberal theologians [liberal- not politically- but in theology]. Eventually the idea arose that Moses could not have been the writer of the Torah [first 5 books of the bible] but the Torah must have been written after the captivity of Israel [around the 6th century B.C.E.] and the returning Jews to their homeland basically made up the whole thing in order to give a sense of community and purpose to the down trodden Jews. The same idea was developed about the New Testament and the gospels- these same critics said the gospels were really written by later authors- who made up most of the stories in order to give a sense of continuity to the developing nascent church- though these critics thought the New Testament still had ‘religious value’ yet the historical truth is absent [thus the name historical critical method]. Now- what about this John? First- over the years both of these theories- as interesting as they are- were in fact proven to have been not true. How? Well- the story s a little too long for this post- but basically as the field of archaeology and historical studies developed- the critics had less ground to stand on- not more. When I recently read the Popes book- he deals with this subject a lot- and he skillfully and accurately refutes it- I mentioned how at times the Pope was even funny. The Pope outlines the theory [about the gospels being a fabrication- written by some unknown men at a later date] and the Pope asks Bultmann ‘and just how do you explain the idea that these unknown authors wrote the most valuable writings of the day- books that have influenced the entire world- written at a real time with other real historical people living at the time- and yet they were able to carry out this elaborate hoax- while never being detected by anyone who also lived during that time’ in essence [I’m paraphrasing Benedict] the theory actually has no proof- if your going to challenge the historicity of the gospels- writings that do claim historical accuracy- written by men who we know did indeed live in the 1st century- whose historical accuracy has never been seriously challenged for centuries- if you come up with a theory 1900 years after the fact- then you can’t attribute your theory to a bunch of anonymous men- who supposedly lived at the same time- and brilliantly carried out the most elaborate hoax in the history of the world- and no one knows who these geniuses are! Benedict is correct in his critique of the critics. Basically these theories- while adding something to the whole debate- as a whole do not stand the same test of historical examination that they want to apply to the bible. And if the gospels are accurate [which they have been proven to be] Jesus himself speaks about the Torah [the first 5 books] quite a lot- he speaks saying ‘Moses said this’ and attributes the books to Mosaic authorship- talks of ‘Noah’s day’ speaks of God creating man in the beginning [Genesis]- Jesus himself testifies to the historical accuracy of the Old Testament- so if we have proof that the gospels are historically accurate- then according to Jesus- the history of the Old Testament is also historically true- See? When I read Hitchens- he has no depth at all in this debate- he seems to have simply read one side- and dished it out to his readers- giving them old arguments against the faith that have been disproven for years. It’s like the guy who said ‘hey- did you hear the news? We have found out that Shakespeare really didn’t write the tremendous works that are attributed to him’ O really- then who wrote them ‘another guy named Shakespeare’.
 HITCHENS-PIRATES AND M THEORY- Let’s talk a little more about Christopher Hitchens book- God is not great. As I’m reading thru the book- and also doing some studying on Modernity- it’s obvious for me to see the errors in the arguments Hitchens is making in trying to refute the existence of God. Instead of attempting to refute each argument he makes [and to be honest- he does make many classic mistakes- things that are not really hard to show as false]. Let me give you just a few points- Hitchens comes at you from all angles- history, science, historical criticism [a view of the bible that tries to undermine the historical accuracy of the faith] politics- he basically covers all the angles that I too like to engage in. He is smart- no doubt about it- and he mocks Christians, Jews, Muslims- and he does it in a way that says ‘you are all idiots’. So that’s why when attempting to refute him- when I see him doing something stupid- I try and bring that out. Okay- one of the major mistakes Hitchens makes [a common mistake in the field of apologists versus atheists] is he appeals to the basic idea ‘we- as intellectual people do not accept things based on faith- we only believe things that can be scientifically proven to be true’ now- how many times have you heard this? This argument is only made by those who are ‘novices’ in this debate. Why? Because at face value it is very easy to refute. Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris- and all the other famous atheists believe in all types of historical events- things that happened in the past- without a single shred of ‘scientific proof’. Let’s see- Do you believe Lincoln was shot? Have you personally done DNA tests on the remains? Have you even seen the remains? Let’s see- what about Aristotle and Socrates and Plato- surely as refined as these men are- they most certainly believe that these great Greek philosophers lived 4 centuries before Christ. Again- what scientific proof can you show me- you know- the standard that you’re using to judge whether or not Jesus ever lived? Basically the argument that says ‘faith and Jesus and God are not real truth- not like science’ is a totally illogical argument- unless these men would have us believe that they reject all of the above historical figures I just mentioned. So how does the bible- Jesus- God- hold up to the historical test [not the scientific test!]? Point of fact- there is no other historical person- in the history of the world- with more historical proofs of his existence. There are no other ancient documents- dating back to the time of Christ- that have the historical accuracy that we find in the New Testament- Luke- the writer of both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts- from a purely historical point of view- is considered the best- most accurate- first century historian to have ever lived [I explained it all before under the Evolution/Cosmology section- I think it’s in the 8-2010 posts]. Basically the argument Hitchens is making is dishonest at its core. Then- he gets into M Theory [geez- didn’t really want to go there] Okay- I love studying science, history, Physics. And to be honest- Physics is really not my ‘field’ that is I prefer to show you the mistakes Hitchens is making when he pretends to be a bible student [he makes statements that he is a regular reader of the bible- who goes thru it often- I seriously doubt that claim- he seems to be familiar with certain critical scholars of scripture- theories that have long been rejected- documentary theory by Wellhausen- and you can kinda tell he simply reads the critics and incorporates their ideas into his own- heck- if there is no God- then what’s wrong with plagiarism?] Okay- Hitchens seems to be enamored with Stephen Hawking- I wrote about Hawking a month or so ago- in his recent book- Grand Design- he made some ‘Grand mistakes’ and I refuted these errors. Now Hitchens seems fascinated by certain theories of Hawking- and his worship of the man’s theories goes to the extreme. Hitchens speaks of the famous idea in theoretical physics called M Theory- modern physics [standard theory] says our universe is made up of Pixels- fine points of matter that are unseen by the naked eye- but exist as the basic fabric of the universe. Now- we all accept this- Atoms- Neutrons- etc. all little ‘dots’ if you will, that make up our universe. So M theory [a theory that expands upon String theory] says ‘no- maybe the universe is made up of these strings- these vibrating strings that form into circles- and under these hoops- there are buckets that make up the matter of the universe’ Okay- just think in your head of a piece of string- make a loop- under the loop stick a basketball net. Walla- that’s the theory. Now- does this sound stupid to you? Well you’re in good company- it also sounds stupid to a growing number of very able physicists! Yes- many brilliant- non religious scientists- will tell you that doing science like this- just making stuff up- is loony. So to be honest- as interesting as theoretical physics is- there are many things that simply do not meet the standard of ‘solid science’. So- why mention this. Hitchens uses this theory as proof against the existence of God [in a weird- tortured way] and at the same time says ‘I don’t accept things that can’t be scientifically proven’ yet the whole M theory field is very doubtful- some think the whole thing is simply not true. So it’s stuff like this- obvious mistakes- that are sprinkled all thru out his book. I mean he even makes mistakes that novices make- he mistakenly refers to the establishing of the state of Israel as having occurred in the 19th century- I mean I can’t believe he doesn’t know the actual date- 1948- I have to think that he simply made the common mistake of thinking the years 1900-1999 are the ‘19th century- a common mistake made by people who are just beginning the journey of learning [obviously the 1900’s are the 20th century]. But at the same time he lambasts Christians as idiots and does stuff like this. It reminds me of the time I was watching MSNBC- now this cable channel is filled with nonstop mocking of the political right- one morning the host [Scarborough] was doing his show- and he reads the upcoming story to come on after the commercial- but you can see he’s confused- he asks someone off screen ‘does that say Pirates’? And they tell him yes- he then says ‘folks- your not gonna believe this- but when we get back- yes- we will cover the developing story of Pirates- yes I know it sounds unbelievable- Pirates attacked a ship off the coast of Somalia’. Now- no one ever said anything- he came back and simply reported the story. What’s wrong? He obviously thought Pirates meant ‘Pirates’ you know- Johnny Depp and the Caribbean. I’m sure someone informed him during the commercial ‘Piracy is the official term for robbery on the high seas- you dummy’! Can you imagine the mocking they would have done if Sarah Palin had done this? So I see in Hitchens a mocking of religion and at the same time a conceited view of his own intellect- and the intellect of other atheists- he engages in a sort of debate that says ‘look- you religionists are idiots- we are not’ and he makes such obvious mistakes- things that ‘uneducated’ people do all the time- not bad people- just common mistakes like the ‘19th century’ thing. And if people make mistakes like this [Pirates- etc.] fine- we don’t want to beat people up- but if the entire premise of your book [or cable channel] is ‘look at all the Christian idiots’ and then you make the same mistakes your criticizing the Christians for- well then yes- you look as silly as Joe Scarborough thinking Johnny Depp and his crew were out robbing ships!
 Okay- I wasn’t going to post today- but figured I’ll go ahead and finish these brief thoughts on the doctrine of Justification by Faith [by the way- Justification is a legal term that means the judge declares you righteous- just- there are lots of technical terms that apply to what Christians mean when they say ‘saved’ and to be honest- many Christians fight over these various differences- but for this short overview I can’t get into the whole debate]. Those of you who have read the studies I’ve posted at the end of these posts- I do get into some of the debate- and I want to be honest about the ‘official’ differences between Catholic and Protestant [Reformed] views. But first- the bible clearly teaches the doctrine [teaching] that those who believe in Jesus are saved- so you might have some Christians who say ‘I don’t care what the official teaching of my church is- I believe it because the bible says it’ that’s fine- I have no problem with that- accept- to be honest- the Protestant world is plagued with preachers, televangelists, radio preachers [yes I’m in this camp] and book writers who mean well- but they for the most part are teaching snippets of truth [sometimes outright falsehoods] and most of them use the ‘I believe it because the bible says it’ line- so even though it’s good for all of us to read and believe the bible- it’s also important to not be ‘seeing stuff’ that no one else has ‘seen’ for 2 thousand years of church history! [by the way- comments like this don’t get me in good standing with most other Protestants] The main point I want you guys to see is as I have shared with you this teaching- I’ve also shown you that yes- this teaching is not something that you find in a single obscure verse taken out of context- but it is a major theme of the apostle Paul- who just happens to be the most prolific writer of the New Testament [his letters make up the majority of the New Testament]. Now- during the official schism between Catholics and Protestants in the 1500’s, the Protestant position became the classic doctrine of Justification by Faith- that is the Protestant church [mainly what today is called Reformed theology- ever since the 16th century schism there are so many divisions of Protestants it is impossible to say what ‘Protestants believe’ in the broad sense] said the mechanism- actual way- people become justified by God is when they believe- have faith in Christ. The Catholic position said a person becomes legally justified in Gods sight at Baptism- Baptism is seen as the actual act a person does in order to become justified. Now- wars have been fought over this- Protestants call other Protestants heretics over this- there are many groups of Protestants who also teach that a person ‘becomes saved’ at baptism- and the strong ‘anti baptism’ crowd often refers to the ‘we get saved at baptism’ crowd as cults! This is pretty sad in my view- I can go thru all the verses that each side uses to ‘justify’ their belief- and suffice it to say that there are enough ‘you get saved at baptism’ verses to not see that belief as heresy. So I personally have no problem with Catholic Christians- or Church of Christ believers- or the multitude of other Pentecostals, Baptists [certain sects] who see their ‘I got saved’ day as the day they were baptized. I don’t want to get into the whole debate on infant baptism- I’ve written about it under my Statement of faith section- and once again the churches that practice it have their reasons- it’s not as ‘crazy’ as many Protestants portray it- there are many fine Christians who were baptized as babies. But what I want to end this brief study with is this- the basic teaching of the New Testament is that we are accepted with God because of what his Son did for us- Jesus- the Son of God- God in the flesh- died for all mankind’s sins, he was buried and rose again according to the scriptures [1st Corinthians 15]. The mindset that thinks ‘if I go to church- do my best to keep the 10 commandments- and try and avoid killing somebody thru out my life- heck who knows- maybe I’ll make it thru the pearly gates?’ Well that’s the mindset I want to challenge- lots of good, well meaning Christians walk thru life thinking this way- and it’s to those brothers/sisters that I have been talking too- even though the Catholics and Protestants have differences- yet we all teach that we are saved by Grace- not by keeping the 10 commandments or ‘going to church’ yes- this is clearly taught in the bible- and the Christian churches all teach it- even if this truth never ‘trickled down’ to the people in the pews. So as I post the last study in this short series of posts [Romans] if you can- read the whole study- I did it a while ago- by the way- all these studies and books on the blog are written by me- so what you read in the studies is a longer version of these short posts- but if you can, read the whole study- if not then try and read chapters 2-5- these chapters cover the heart of what we have been talking about- and to all my readers- Jews, Hindu’s, Atheists, Muslims- whoever- these promises are given to all of us- if we would only believe. John
 Okay- how bout this- before I get into politics I promise to do a teaching thing. The other day I wrote a short, simple [basic] post on the teaching in the New Testament about believing in Jesus, and on the promises in the bible that say ‘if you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life’. Now- for all you preachers/Christians who read the site, yes this is basic stuff- but for many Christians who are nominal church attendee’s, maybe they have grown up in a good Christian church- but never really got into reading the bible, or seriously studying the faith- for these Christians I want to cover some more of the basics. Okay- why is the doctrine of ‘believing in Jesus and being saved’ such an important thing? I mean don’t all Christians know this John? In a way yes- and in a way- no. That is the teaching is not just a simple ‘believe in God’ thing- it is one of the foundational teachings in the bible- and the apostle Paul was the New Testament apostle who shook up the first century religious community by brilliantly writing his ‘thesis’ on the subject. The apostle was a former teacher of the Jewish religion [Pharisee of the Pharisees- top scholar] and after he got knocked off his high horse [literally! Acts 9 ?] he came to this revelation of seeing how God all along had ‘a plan’ to redeem men [save them] by faith- and not by trying their ‘darndest’ [I get too many rebukes for cursing!] to keep the law and do good. This doctrine [justification by faith] is the major theme of Paul in his letter’s to the Romans [often considered the best scholarly work of the apostle] and the Galatians. Paul does a brilliant job at explaining the Old Testament stories of Abraham and the patriarchs- the well beloved Jewish king- David- and the promise of God to send the Messiah to the Jewish nation [and ultimately all nations] for their deliverance. Paul explains why God chose to save people by faith as opposed to trying to obey the law- he explains why God gave us the 10 commandments [to reveal to man that he is sinful] and he shows us that the reason faith is the mechanism for salvation- is because salvation is a free gift that was earned for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Faith- in itself does not save- it’s simply the mechanism that is the simplest way to get the gift of eternal life to people thru Jesus [Jesus is the actual person doing the saving!]. Thru the ages the church always had this doctrine contained within her bible- but like everything else- the bureaucracy eventually got in the way- and Christians lost the simple reality of the free gift. Now [okay- this is getting long- probably won’t do politics too- I know your sad about that ] during the 16th century [1500’s] we had what is commonly referred to as the Protestant Reformation- as a student of history I probably have studied this period more than any other- there were many church leaders leading up to the 16th century that voiced concerns over what they saw as abuses within the institutional church- many influential teachers and intellectuals who were gaining new influence thru the development of the university system that occurred alongside the rise of the nation states- these universities and their top scholars now had the ability to challenge the institutional church [in Rome] to a much greater degree than previous reformers. So without getting into all the technical reasons why the 16th century reformation took place [The initial challenge was the abuse of the priest, Tetzel, selling indulgences to raise money for the refurbishing of the church at Rome- yes a building fund project was the actual cause of the greatest church split in the history of the world!] what became the rallying cry of the reformation was the restoration of the classic doctrine of Justification by Faith [and the reformers would add the words ‘alone’]. The 3 Sola’s [alones] of the Reformation were -faith, scripture, and grace. But it is interesting to see that the main emphasis that eventually came from the Protestant Reformation was the restoration of the lost doctrine of justification by faith- or to put it simply- being saved by believing in Jesus- and not by trying to do your best to keep the 10 commandments. I believe it was possible for the church to have not split over the doctrine- there were obviously tempers flaring on both sides [Rome and her Papal representatives and Luther and those on his side] they freely referred to one another as ‘the anti Christ’ you know- not the best expression of Christian brotherly love- but I do believe it was possible for the historic Catholic church to have assimilated much of what Luther was saying back into official church doctrine- and as a student of the period, and having read the actual letters and writings that were written by both sides- I do believe the Catholic church had some good scriptural concerns that some might miss read what Luther was saying- and think that Christians could go out and kill- rape- and do whatever they felt like doing- because they were now saved ‘by faith’ and not by keeping the law. The apostle Paul actually dealt with this very accusation in the letters I mentioned above- and he too saw the danger in people misreading what he was saying. Okay- enough for now- I guess I’ll go ahead and post the study I did on the doctrine of Justification by Faith here at the end- for those of you on the various sites that don’t see it- it’s because some sites that I post on daily- they don’t have enough space for the whole post- so you will have to go to the blog and read it [corpuschristioutreachministries]. John
 Let me just give you guys a heads up today. These past few months or so I have been doing a lot of posts on Philosophy. Sometimes I do a bunch of history- or science- or another subject. For those of you who come to the site strictly for bible teaching- yes- there are times where I do an entire book of the bible- or cover a series on a biblical truth [Justification by faith- etc.]. On the blog [corpuschristioutreachministries]- if you go to the February 2010 posts- you can find all these studies. But for today let me just do a brief overview of where we are at- by the way I also wanted to mention the referendum in Sudan [Africa] today- today southern Sudan will vote on whether or not they want to be independent from the North [I’m almost positive they will vote for independence]. Sudan has been in a civil war for over 20 years, around 2 million people have been killed [massacred] in the process. The ruling north is predominantly Muslim- the South Christian [another long story having to do with independence from Britain in the early days]. So why should we pray for Sudan today and in the next few weeks? Because if the South does break away- many Christians who live in the North will be in danger of severe persecution as retaliation for the South’s vote- so let’s pray today [1-9-2011] and in the next few weeks for Sudan. Okay- the brief overview I want to do is to simply remind all our readers that the main truth- or thing we all need to re-focus on is the reality that the Christian message is one of reconciliation- that God, thru Christ- has ‘brought back’ the world to himself as a Divine gift. In essence the Christian message is not ‘turn your life around- be good- and then go to church and you will be saved’. Now- being good- going to church- all of these things are good to do- but many times people get the cart before the horse and the world never really understands the message of the Cross. When the bible says ‘repent and believe the gospel’ it is not saying ‘stop sinning and believe the gospel’ in the sense that your telling a drug addict ‘once you quit the habit then God will accept you’ the word repent in the new Testament does of course carry with it the idea of ‘turn away from sin’ but it mainly means ‘change the way you think’ or basically it means ‘are you finally tired of what you’ve been doing? Then let’s try the God thing’ [of course that’s my spin on it]. In essence the message of Jesus and the church is ‘God forgives and accepts people, not based on how good they are- but on the fact that his Son died for you and rose again’. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul says ‘If God gave his son for us- how much more will he freely give us everything else’. People [Christian’s/ preachers] often make the message confusing- sort of like if you don’t get all the details just right- you aren’t ‘saved’. The fact is if God gave his son for us- paid such a high price to save man- then why would he also go thru all the trouble to make ‘getting saved’ so difficult- that most of mankind will miss out on it! The basic way we are saved is thru faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ- this is what the gospel [meaning good news] is according to the New testament [1st Corinthians 15]. If you read the gospel of John, the letter to the Romans- or the letter to the Galatians [all New Testament books found in the bible] you will read the story of how God chose to save men when they would simply believe in Jesus- yes- the gift of God is eternal life thru Jesus Christ. Now- as a student of theology and history- I certainly am familiar with all the many controversies surrounding the various churches and how they implement the sacraments- or baptism- or ‘the sinner’s prayer’ when encouraging people to accept Christ. The main point I want to make today is the reality that many times in the New Testament the bible speaks about those who believe in Jesus, that these are ‘the sons/daughters of God’ [John chapter 1]. If you just pick up the bible this next week or so and read thru the gospel of John- you will be surprised to see how many times Jesus himself connects simple belief in him with eternal life ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life’ 3:16- ‘he that hears my words and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life’ 5:24- ‘he that believes on me has everlasting life’ chapter 6- the last chapter of John says ‘many other things did Jesus do that are not written in this book [John’s gospel] but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God- and thru believing you might have life thru his name’. I want you to think differently today about ‘Christianity’ or ‘going to church’ or ‘God’. Over these last few months I have engaged in lots of arguments for the truth claims of Christianity- refuting the contemporary atheists- showing the historical proofs for Christianity. For many people they hear things thru out their lives- little bits of info that cause them to doubt certain aspects of the faith- and then they use these arguments- often easily disproved- as excuses to say ‘that whole Christian stuff is a bunch of bull’. So the apologetic arguments for the reality of God are intended to ‘un-do’ many of these excuses- but at the end of the day the message of eternal life is simple- it’s a free gift given to all who will simply believe. I was going to post one of the bible studies here at the end- but just go read one or 2 of the ones I just mentioned from the blog- or pick up a bible and read a chapter or 2 a day- I mean the book of Galatians is only 6 chapters, you could read it in a single sitting. Okay- that’s it for today- remember try and pray for the church in Sudan- that all will go well and there won’t be any violence because of the vote- and do a little bible reading the next day or so. God bless, John.
 HEGEL [modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.
Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.
When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel’s ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.
I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much they differed from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as Protestant Christianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!
I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’s world it is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!
So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christian tradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J. As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.
One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.
 ALEXANDRIA- EGYPT. Last night I was watching the news coverage of the demonstators in the streets of Egypt- they were protesting the government’s response [or lack] to the bombing of the church in Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt [around 4 million people live in the city]. As I watched the sad story- in my mind I recalled all the times I have run across Alexandria in my studies of history. The city was founded by Alexander the great in the 4th century b.c.e. It had the largest library of the ancient world and was Egypt’s capitol for around 900 years. When the Muslims took over in the 7th century Cairo became the new capitol [under another name at the time]. Alexandria was one of the great centers of Christian learning during the first few centuries of the 1st millennium of Christianity. I remember reading about the great church father Origen- he lived in the 3rd century and eventually would head up the school out of Alexandria- one of the first Christian schools of the day. The famous philosopher Plotinus also had a lot of influence in the city. It was sad to see the destruction on the news- so many years later. This morning I read Revelation chapter 13. The apostle John writes about the persecution of ‘the beast’ against the Christians- the apostle says he makes war against Gods people and overcomes them. We often neglect to see this aspect of scripture- I mean how many songs have you heard that say ‘the beast overcame us and killed us’. We like to sing stuff like ‘we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb’ [another verse from Revelation]. Yet the apostle foresees a time of persecution of the church that will include the deaths of many believers. Those who think the book of Revelation was written early [before a.d. 70] see Nero as the one who bares the mark of the beast- yes the popular 666 is in this chapter. Others who date the book later [around a.d. 90] see the emperor Domitian as the beast- either way John was speaking about a future ruler who would severely persecute the saints [and of course the most popular view today among evangelicals is the anti Christ is yet to come]. In verse 10 of the chapter John says those who kill with the sword, must die the same way- this is the patience of the saints. John is communicating to the 7 churches that he is writing to that they should not retaliate against their oppressors- they should patiently endure- knowing that the persecutors will eventually ‘hang themselves’ with their own rope. Of course the great empire of Rome would finally fall- and for those who see Nero as the 666 guy [my view] he eventually dies a shameful death as well [he killed himself].
As I watch the various responses from Muslims and Christians [and Jews] to these types of events- we all have a tendency to view things most favorably to our own particular viewpoint. While some Muslims are of course outraged over the church bombing- yet the Christian community is more enraged. When the recent peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down- many Christians in the west couldn’t care less- many of them view the entire conflict thru the lens of end time dispensationalism [an end time view that sees Gods plan being played out by the displacement of Palestinians from the land]. I grew up in New Jersey [yes- the state of the great governor Christie!]. As a good old Italian boy- I had lots of ethnic friends- Germans, Dutch, Spanish- etc. Many of these families were immigrants to the U.S. whose families had a history of living in the country for a hundred years or more [some less]. Now- if I were to come to your neighborhood, and tell you ‘look, the governments of the world made a deal [league of nations- later called the U.N.] and you have to leave this area and another group is going to move in’ how what this make you feel? Put aside your view of the bible and how you see ‘Gods plan’ being carried out- I mean just as a human being- how would you feel? You would feel terrible- you would think ‘geez- my father and his father settled here a hundred years ago- I’m not an alien!’ Yet the Palestinians were living in their land for 2 thousand years! Okay- just see the other point of view. Some of the Palestinians are Christians [small %- 2-5]. How do you think they feel when they have been praying for justice- many lost their homes and family estates during the displacement- and then they see the parade of American Christians trod thru the land like their on some Holy Land adventure- taking the kids to Disney world type thing- and yet in the real world lives are being lost on both sides of the conflict.
Most American Christians who hold to these end time scenarios that play into the geopolitical situation on the ground- they don’t realize that many Jews- and even many in the Israeli govt. do not completely embrace their enthusiasm for Israel. The Israeli leaders also know that most of these scenarios see a bloody conflict that will take place in the Holy Land [does Armageddon ring a bell?] and that many Jews will be slain- only a small remnant will escape [does the number 144,000 ring another one?]. The Israeli security forces in the city of Jerusalem actually have a specific profile for a group/persons that they see as dangerous to the city. Do you know who these ‘dangerous persons’ are? They are the tourists that enter the city every so often- and they have this wild look in their eyes- they are there to await the return of Jesus and they believe that they will be a part of the end time army that will spill much blood and defeat the forces of the enemy- yes- these types are deemed dangerous to the Israeli’s.
Lets pray for the peace of all people- let’s do our best to reject all forms of violence as being totally unacceptable- whether it be the bombing of a church in Egypt- the destruction of the Buddha statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan [they destroyed these ancient pieces of art when they rose to power in the early years]. Even the bombing of abortion clinics- or the shooting of doctors- we need to see what the apostle John saw- those who take up the sword must in this manner be killed. I think too many of us have signed our own death warrant.
 DRUNK WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS- Wasn’t sure which way to go today? It’s strange that I have been thinking about covering the sad story of the Christians in Iraq; since the war they have been persecuted severely- a few months back one of their main churches was attacked, many have fled to the northern region of the country [Kurdish area] and many are seeking asylum in our country. Saddam Hussein protected the Christian church in Iraq- he was not considered to be a radical Muslim leader- like the Mullahs in Iran. So it’s sad to see the Christian church possibly being eliminated from this ancient country. The church in Iraq dates back to the 1st century- they still speak Aramaic [some of them] which was the actual language Jesus spoke. Anyway- the thing that seems strange is I felt like I should read Revelation chapter 17 this morning- and in the chapter the apostle John has this vision of Babylon [which is Iraq- geographically. In the chapter it’s a symbol of the Roman Empire] and as he sees Babylon he says ‘she is drunk with the blood of the saints’- yes indeed, much Christian blood has been spilt in Iraq.
Okay- the other day I was watching some show about a group of people picked from all over the world who were chosen to participate in a sort of round table discussion where each person would spend so many months just sharing in conversation with these other people. Some were from the U.S., others from Muslim/Arab countries- some were from Israel. The conversation they had was really revealing- they were not scholars, but they showed you the point of view from other perspectives. One of the questions they asked was what should happen to Iran? Should the U.S. intervene in their desire to obtain nuclear weapons? One of the Americans said we should- because they might be a danger to world peace [a common ideology among many Americans] then one of the students from a Muslim country said ‘then why do you not feel it is also wrong for the U.S. to have nuclear weapons’ and the American gave some type of simple answer. Why does the Muslim world have a problem with the U.S. seeming to play the role of arbiter- who can have- or not have a nuclear arsenal?
Are there any Muslim/Arab countries that have them today? What about other countries who are also unstable? Let’s see- Pakistan [the most unstable of the bunch right now] India [Pakistan’s rival, also a major reason why Pakistan will not eliminate the Taliban from the mountainous region of her nation- they see the Taliban as playing a major role in the future govt. of Afghanistan and they need some ties to the Taliban in order to balance out any power play between India and Afghanistan] Egypt, Israel, North Korea, Saudi Arabia- well as you can see there are a bunch of nations who already posses nuclear weapons- or are on the road to getting them. So when the average Muslim sees our attempt to intervene in who gets nukes, they see it as a hypocritical game.
What is the world history on nuclear attacks? How many countries have actually used nukes to attack/respond to other attacks? One. Who dropped the first Atomic bomb in the history of the world on another country? We did. Okay- let’s give this another shot. Who dropped the second Atomic bomb? Okay- us again. One more time- who dropped number 3? No one. So let’s see this from the perspective of the Muslim student who questioned the reasoning of why the U.S. has nukes- but doesn’t want other nations to have them. The student was told that if other nations [Iran] has them- they might use them. Yet they see us as the only country that has ever actually used them. Look- I know why we used them- and many have questioned the morality of what we did in WW2. Were we just in dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We killed around 200 thousand people- civilians- not military [not counting the many who died in the following years from radiation sickness]. One of the definitions of terrorism is the purposeful targeting of civilians for a political/military goal. To the Muslim world- we targeted these civilian cites [they were not collateral damage- the civilians were the target] for a political/military goal- to end the war. The point is we [Americans] have a tendency to view things from one perspective- we rarely see the end result of our actions. Who would have thought that our war in ancient Babylon [Iraq] would have contributed to one of the fulfillments of John’s prophecy ‘Babylon- you are drunk with the blood of the saints’.
 POPE’S BOOK- FINAL COMMENTS- Let me try and make my last comments on the Pope’s book [almost done with it- a few pages left] which I have been reading on and off for about a month [I’m in the middle of a study on the Western intellectual tradition- making radio programs- and have been too scattered to do a complete book review]. Let me hit a few high points of the last few chapters that I felt were really insightful. Benedict gives an overview of a Rabbi’s perspective on Jesus [a book the Pope read from the Rabbi]. The Rabbi does not accept Jesus as the Messiah- but is respectful in his approach and the Pope shares the common reason why the Jewish nation rejected Jesus as their Messiah in the 1st century. Being faithful to a theme that runs throughout the book- Benedict shows how Jesus presented himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy about Moses/Jesus ‘that God would raise up a prophet like Moses’- Benedict shows that Jesus presented himself as the ‘New Moses’ and took the position of God himself in the statements he was making concerning his authority. In the Rabbi’s book- that the Pope is explaining- the rabbi covers the sayings of Jesus and comes to the conclusion that faithful Jews could not/ did not receive Jesus as their Messiah because his call to them was for Israel to accept his authority over and above what they knew to be true- their attachment to the Torah [the first 5 books of the bible- the law] and for Israel- as a nation- to accept Jesus- they would be saying ‘we accept a new Moses- and place his authority and words over and above the very foundation of our existence’. Now- these insights are deep- they are coming from a Jewish rabbi who has come to the conclusion that Jesus was presenting himself ‘as God’ to the nation of Israel- and Benedict says he learned a lot from reading this perspective from the Rabbi. I just felt that this section of the book was real valuable. The Pope goes on to explain that Jesus was not repudiating the law- but fulfilling it- and in his explanation he also does a very good job [secretly!] at putting out a hand to the Protestant churches and attempting to reconcile the teachings of Paul on justification by faith [and Paul’s neglect of the law] and the biblical view of Jesus fulfilling the law. Benedict even shares very good insights into the apostolic calling of Peter- and the separate calling of the apostle Paul- his insights are excellent and you can see that he is really making an attempt to bridge the theological gap between Protestants and Catholics. Overall this book [Jesus of Nazareth] is the most Cross/Christ centered book I have read in the past 5 years! [We call this Christology- for those of you who want to learn the terms]. Over these last few years I have made an attempt to read some of the top Protestant writers of the day [Men like N.T. Wright- former Bishop of the church of Durham- England. Not talking about the top best sellers that are basically filled with pop psychology and void of any real learning] and I must confess that no other book has come close to the insights that the Pope has on the Cross and the necessity of believers to identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection- the Pope has done an excellent job at presenting Jesus and the Cross in their proper light. For all you theologians/preachers- the Pope also comes down on the conservative side of historical criticism. That is he certainly is familiar with the whole debate over Liberal/Conservative approaches to scripture [not talking politics here!] and he does another excellent job at dissecting the critics [Bultmann] and challenging many of the false assumptions that the higher critics made while rejecting the historical content of the gospels. The church went thru a century or so debating how reliably accurate the gospels were- many challenged their accuracy in a way that was not fair- that is they began holding the bible up to critical methods of historicity that no other documents were ever held to. These critics came up with methods- called historical criticism- that were quite frankly ‘loony’. And then they used this new criterion to say that the Historical Jesus was a different person than the Jesus from the bible. The Pope does a thoroughly scholarly ‘dissection’ of these faulty approaches- and quite frankly takes them apart in a ‘nice’ way. Yet Benedict also respects the historical studies of the church and handles very well the ‘contradictions’ that some find in the gospels. Many critics have shown how the various gospel writers [especially John’s gospel compared to the 3 others] do show differing accounts on certain aspects of Jesus and his life. To be honest- some of these differences can be problematic- many preachers/believers are generally not aware of some of these differences. The Pope knows them well- and deals with them well. So he does not simply reject the ‘higher critics’ by saying they are wrong, but he shows his familiarity with the subject, and makes a scholarly attempt at representing the ‘conservative’ side of the argument; which basically says ‘the gospels contained in the new testament do very much present to us the historical Jesus’. Needless to say- I agree. So anyway as you can see the book is chock full of excellent insights that would benefit all Christians- I recommend everyone pick up a copy and read it.
 PIETISM/ROMANTICISM- As we already covered, the Enlightenment thinkers struggled with the idea that religion and reason/rationalism can go together. The pure Empiricists [David Hume] would reject the idea that religion could be rational- Descartes claimed it could- and Kant drew a middle line; he taught that we cannot know God thru the sense realm, but it was rational to ‘Postulate’ the idea of God [John Locke said reason can accept Revelation- Divine truths that have no Empirical evidence to back them up- Kant simply taught that it was rational for the mind to accept the idea that a first cause must exist, even if we can’t ‘prove’ him thru sense evidence]. Okay- as you can see much of Enlightenment thinking was infused with religion, reason, rationality- etc. Did all thinkers ‘think’ that these ways of approaching religion and reason were profitable? No- many thinkers/philosophers saw too much ‘head knowledge’ in the whole endeavor to make faith reasonable. Many religious leaders rejected the over emphasis on rational religion. Romanticism was a cultural/religious movement that primarily affected the Arts and Literature- but also had strains of religious thinking within it. The Romantics said we do and should experience life and God thru a real-felt type of living. There is much more to life than the rational proofs of things- in fact they felt the very essence of life was about experiencing the beauty of things thru the Arts and the creativity of man- some felt that God himself was revealing who he was thru the artistic creativity of man- the great Christian pieces of music [Bach- etc.] were not these beautiful works of music that transcended the ‘rationality’ of man and caused him to experience the beauty of God/religion thru this form of Art? The same for great literature. Pietism had her roots in the early modern period- and in the 19th century also pushed back against the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment thinkers. Pietism- much like Romanticism- said there was much more to religion than simply knowledge- Pietism challenged the ‘dead faith’ of Orthodoxy and focused on the religious experience of Regeneration- they spent much time answering the question ‘how do we know we are saved’. Romanticism had strains of religious thinkers within her- Pietism was mainly focused on the religious question. Pietism had a major impact on 19-20th century Protestant Christianity- and most Evangelicals today can trace their roots to Pietism’s influence on religious thought. In the 18th century revivals that took place in the American colonies- men like Jonathan Edwards would play a major role in shaping the religious thought of early Protestantism in America. John Wesley- the great Methodist preacher- would also challenge the ‘dead religion’ of the Church of England and eventually launch the Methodist church [though Wesley originally never meant to separate from the Anglican Communion]. So the 19th century saw a strong reaction against the reason/rationalism of Enlightenment thinking- they felt like much true religious experience was indeed meant to be ‘an experience’ that is something much more than simple knowledge. In Romanticism this challenge was primarily based in the cultural landscape of the day- in Pietism it was religious in nature. You had both Romantic atheists and Pietistic preachers agree on one thing- there is much more to life than the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment period.
 BUT THOU BETHLEHEM, THOUGH THOU BE LITTLE AMONG THE THOUSANDS OF JUDAH- YET OUT OF THEE SHALL HE COME FORTH UNTO ME THAT IS TO BE RULER IN ISRAEL. Micah 5:2. In the gospel of Luke we read the story of Jesus being born in a real place- at a real time. Chapter 2 says that Caesar put out a decree that ‘all the world should be taxed’ that is they did a kind of census where you had to go to your native town and register. It just so happned that Mary, Jesus mother, was living in Nazareth [Galilee] at the time and Joseph- Jesus’ step dad- was from the lineage of Judah [King David’s tribe]. So at this very inconvenient time- at the hour of child birth- they make the trek to Bethlehem of Judea- just in time for the census- and for the baby! Hundreds of years before this event there was this obscure Jewish prophet named Micah- he blurted out one day ‘out of you Bethlehem- the least of all places- shall one come forth- a great ruler of all men’ [my paraphrase]. The Jewish nation was waiting for centuries for this ‘sent one’ this messiah who would come to them in the midst of their oppression- and he would fulfill the promise that God made to father Abraham millennia before ‘we will serve him without fear and in holiness all the days of our lives’. As a matter of fact- jump back to Luke chapter 1 and you can read this promise being uttered from the lips of John the Baptist’s father when he praises God over the pregnancy of his wife Elisabeth- you see John the Baptist was also spoken about centuries before his birth- he would come on the scene as a forerunner- a precursor to the messiah. Yes, John’s father had reason to rejoice. And when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary- he told how that she was chosen for this great task- possibly the greatest task that any human was ever given- she would give birth to this promised messiah. She asks the angel ‘how can this be- I know not a man’ he tells her the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive a child from God- none before could claim the title ‘the only begotten of God’. Read Mary’s prayer in chapter 1- it too is a cry for social justice ‘the high and mighty will be brought low- the poor will be lifted up’ we call her prayer ‘The Magnificat’. Both Zacharias and Mary spoke/prophesied of social justice- that thru these seemingly strange miracles- God put in place a plan that would bring justice to all those who were being oppressed. So the day came for Mary to bear the child- but he was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem- so God preordained that the great Caesar Augustus would make a decree that ‘all the world would be taxed’. Caesar came from the beginning line of Rome’s great Caesars. Octavian- Rome’s first- would be a devastating military leader who would strike fear into the hearts of Rome’s enemies- the kingdom [Roman Empire] would take her initial form under his rule. Of course most of us our familiar with Julius Caesar- he’s made it into the Hollywood hall of fame- and Augustus- he would be the third in a line of 12 Caesars who would rule Rome. He ruled at a time when Rome was the center of the world- all roads truly did lead to Rome- the great eternal city. Rome had her religious adherents- Rome practiced a type of pluralism- when they conquered an enemy- they would allow the people to continue to have some form of self rule- believe in whatever religion suits you- but you were still under Roman rule. The Pantheon [a sort of pedestal for the various god’s of the day] represented this religious openness of Rome. Yet the Jews had a different type of belief- they held to what we describe as Monotheism- a belief that there was only one true God. Her prophets spoke the words ‘hear O Israel the Lord our God is one’ and they held to their peculiar belief while Rome overlooked it. In the midst of all these developments, Caesar makes the decree ‘everyone go back to your towns for the census’ and Mary and Joseph hit the road. Sure enough the time came for her to deliver the child- he was born in a stable- laid in a manger and the world would receive her king. 2 Thousand years have passed- where are the great Caesars? Have you ever even heard of the name Octavian before today? Yet all over the world- in every nation- on the radio- over the internet- being shouted from the speakers at the mall- yes, all over the world we sing that Jesus Christ is king- the one born in Bethlehem of Judea- the one for whom the whole world was a stage- even the mighty Caesars of the day bowed the knee unto this eternal purpose of God- they would be puppets in the hand of God- used of God to make decrees that would fulfill the obscure prophecy of some Jewish prophet named Micah- yes- the Virgin had it right ‘God brought down the mighty- used them for his purposes- and exalted those who were struggling’. Rejoice- for in this day- 2 thousand years ago- was born a great ruler- a ruler of all men- his hometown is now famous because of this birth.
 RATIONALISTS- EMPIRICISTS [Western intellectual tradition] – Okay- for those of you who are following my sporadic teaching on modernity [philosophical period between the 17th 20th centuries] let me overview a little of what we have covered so far. We discussed the Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- and how in the 17th century he challenged the faculty at the university of Paris [the leading university of the day] to argue for the reasonableness of Christianity thru rational means- he said we can prove the existence of God without having to appeal to church tradition or the bible. The Empiricists [those who challenged the ‘rationalists’] argued that all knowledge comes to us from the senses- so we can never prove God’s existence from reasonable/natural means. In fact they argued that religion in itself is irrational and any attempts to make it rational/reasonable were futile. David Hume and Denis Diderot [one of the first openly professed atheists of the time] would argue from this position. Then in the late 18th century the very influential German thinker- Immanuel Kant- would respond to Hume’s pure skeptical Empiricism and ‘awake out of his dogmatic slumber’ [a term he himself used to describe his reaction to reading Hume] and challenge the skeptics. Kant did accept the Empiricist’s idea that we can’t ‘prove God’ by rational means- thru knowledge obtained thru the 5 senses- yet he taught that it was perfectly ‘reasonable’ to come to the conclusion that God exists. Just because you can’t prove God like Descartes’ said [according to Kant- I personally believe Descartes’ was right] it is still rational to ‘purport’ the necessity of God- in essence we ‘need God’ and natural religion for man to function in society- and it is logical to conclude that there must be an initial cause to all creation-even though we can’t discover him thru natural means. Okay- just a brief overview of what we already covered. I guess at this point I better go ahead and start a separate study under the title ‘The Western Intellectual Tradition’ [on the blog]. Why should Christians [especially preachers/pastors] even be concerned with stuff like this? While I agree it is not necessary for all Christians to study all subjects about all things- yet these historical/cultural movements play a major role in the debate going on today between believers and those who reject God. Just like in the scientific field- if Christians simply give up the fight- that is if we come to the table of ideas- trying to engage society in a coherent way- then we need to have some ability to argue intelligently for our position. To have even a ‘surface’ understanding of some of these cultural movements that have shaped the way we think and know is important when we get into debates with unbelievers who have appealed to the skeptics [Hume] to argue against the existence of God.
 REALISTS-NOMINALISTS- Let me do a little more on the development of philosophy and how Christians played a major role in new ways of thinking and ‘knowing’ [epistemology]. I mentioned Rene Descartes the other day- Descartes challenged the Christina thinkers of his day to approach apologetics [arguments for God’s existence] from rational grounds; instead of saying ‘God exists because the bible/tradition teach it’ he showed we can argue from the ground of reason. Descartes was a ‘realist’ that is a thinker who believed in Universal principles- the ancient philosophers [Aristotle, Plato- etc.] taught that there were universal ideas that existed- the example was if you think of a Horse- or a Chair- that in the mind of people we all have this concept of what these things are- but the reality of the universal idea of horse/chair exist outside of us- they are not only thoughts in our minds. The Nominalists rejected this idea- they taught that we interact with our 5 senses with things in the world- and thru this interaction our minds passively receive this knowledge and we come up with ideas- not because these ideas are universal ideas that already exist- but because our minds have ‘discovered’ them thru the senses. These thinkers were also called Empiricists. Men like David Hume would take this approach. Then in the 18th century you had the German philosopher Immanuel Kant challenge the skepticism of the Empiricists and he would become one of the most influential thinkers for our time. You would be hard pressed to find another philosopher who has had more influence on western thought than Kant. Kant too believed that man could not prove God absolutely thru natural means- but he did teach that it was rational/reasonable for man to believe in the existence of God- though he said you can’t totally prove him thru natural means. This was a different approach from the pure Empiricists- they taught that God/religion were irrational. Kant put a twist on Empiricism- he said that man does interact with the world thru his 5 senses, but instead of ideas/knowledge being a product of the mind of man passively receiving this knowledge- mans mind categorizes these interactions and it is thru this function of mans mind that we have knowledge. He carried the idea a little further than Hume. In the end of the day Immanuel Kant believed that not only is it rational to believe in God- but it is necessary. For society to ever function properly man needed to believe that his soul was immortal, that an eternal being existed that would some day judge man [or reward him] for his actions in this life. Though Kant did not accept the Realists view that we could prove God by rational means- yet he did believe in the necessity of man to believe in God. It has been said that Kant kicked God out the front door- but snuck him in thru the back. Okay- know some of this gets dry at times, but I think it is important for Christians to have some idea of the development of thought and philosophy thru the ages- many atheistic philosophers have argued against the existence of God- but many Christian thinkers have made just as strong [if not stronger] arguments on the other side- we need to know both sides.
 I really want to cover a little more Philosophy/history- but let me mention a few recent news/political developments. This past week Richard Holbrook died. He was our special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I actually wrote a post about him a week or so ago. The Wikileaks revealed him to be less than truthful in his dealings with the public. The reason I want to mention him is because after he died the media [both left and right] praised him as a wonderful man- a great humanitarian- on and on. Holbrook was said to have been the highest diplomat in his area of foreign policy who never became secretary of state. If you remember during the presidential campaign many thought he would be picked to take the position if a Democrat won. He was also said to have had a ‘big’ image of himself- he saw himself as a very important figure. I saw an interview he did with Rachel Maddow one day- he simply gave the same justifications for the war in Afghanistan as Bush and Cheney gave- no difference. Holbrook was involved with our actions in East Timor in the late 70’s [Carter administration] and also played a role in our ‘war’ in Yugoslavia. During the 90’s under the Clinton administration we ‘sided’ with the Muslim’s who were fighting the ‘Christians’. Slobodan Milosevic was the president and we backed the Muslims because we claimed the Serbs were practicing Genocide. So the Muslims did the same against the Serbs when it was their turn. Holbrook had a hand in those killings as well. So whatever a persons political leanings are- we should also be truthful about the history of people. If someone has leaned more heavily towards the justification for U.S. action- and has pushed for the more aggressive role- than let the record show that. When Cheney or Rumsfeld die- I’m sure you will have some who will praise them- and others who won’t. In Holbrook’s case there seemed to be no one telling the other side.
Okay- let me quickly cover a few more things. I’m doing a study right now on the Western Intellectual tradition- covering the period between 1600-2000. Some if it gets a little dry- but it’s important for believers to have a basic grasp on this period. Many thinkers went thru a transformation during this time- in the pre-modern era philosophy and theology went hand in hand. But during the enlightenment and scientific revolution many new ideas arose. In the midst of the 17th century  the famous Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- sent a letter [called the Meditations- it would be released in book form later] to the university of Paris [the leading university of the day- theology and philosophy were the main fields of study] and he challenged the thinkers of the day to ground their arguments for God in Reason as opposed to Revelation [meaning tradition and what God has ‘revealed’ to us thru the bible]. Descartes’ believed that the Christian thinker could argue his case in a more powerful way if he based his argument on reason. Now to be sure this idea was not new- you had men like Thomas Aquinas advocate this in the 13th century- and as far back as 400 years before Christ the philosopher Aristotle used this line when speaking of the ‘prime mover’ [God]. But Descartes is credited with challenging the church of his day to do philosophy on this new ground. John Lock, Immanuel Kant and others would take certain aspects of Descartes ideas and develop them more fully. Some were more skeptical than others- and some rejected the idea that any reason/rationality could ever be combined with religious belief. Later on in the 19th century you had many openly advocate a type of reasoning that would totally exclude God from the picture. But for the most part the earlier thinkers did not go down that road- they thought it foolish to deny the existence of God- all things coming into existence from nothing seemed be a non starter for them- yet many of today’s most famous atheists seem to have no problem espousing a view that is absolutely proven to be false [you can never- ever- ever get something from nothing- which is the most popular view of the big bang theory among many atheists today]. So I think Christians today should be more aware of making the argument for the existence of God through rational/reasonable means- the other day I heard a radio preacher trying to debunk the theory of Evolution- he argued that it can’t be true because the bible says God made everything. Well this argument doesn’t cut it with people who don’t believe the bible! Likewise we need to be able to give a defense for the faith- without always appealing to the articles of the faith while doing it.
(1554) MODERNISM- okay- need to take a break from politics [current!] and news! Let’s do some history/philosophy. Modernism [modernity] refers to the time period between the mid 17th century to the mid 20th century [loosely]. During the scientific revolution, coming off the heels of the Reformation- there were many challenges to past ways of thinking about religion, knowledge, politics and existence in general. Many new thinkers felt the old forms of thought were outdated- and as man advances he needs to ground his existence in rationality as opposed to religion [Descartes’]. Not all thinkers rejected religion- John Locke and Immanuel Kant tried to show that religion could be rational- not all religion had to be ‘blind faith’. Others rejected that idea [David Hume] and said if you wanted society to be rational- you had to reject religion as a foundation for thought. Modern atheists- like Sam Harris- would say the same thing. In Harris’ 2004 book- The End of Faith- he teaches that all true religion is radical in nature- that those who believe you can be moderate in religion are wrong- that the religious texts themselves [Koran- Bible] call for radicalism and violence and therefore the only hope for peace in the world is to eliminate religion. Basically I think Harris should stick to atheism and not delve too deep into Christian philosophy. The Christian ‘religion/ethic’, while possessing scriptures [Old testament] that certainty do advocate violence- yet the central historical event in Christianity is the event of the Cross and the person of Christ- whose message said ‘Moses said- but I say’. Christianity contains within her texts the mandate to reject the old forms of violence and to embrace a new way of love- so Harris missed the boat on this one. But you have had thinkers [past and present] who have said ‘we need to eradicate the world of all traces of religion in order for man to reach his highest good’. The thinker Nietzsche would pronounce ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book called The Gay Science [I’ll leave it alone]. Both Marx and Freud would join him in their rejection of God in the last half of the 19th century. So many felt the rise of modernism- along with the descent of religion was mans ultimate goal- as man advances he would mature from this ‘psychological’ weakness and accept a world without God. Than in the 20th century you had some major events that questioned whether or not modern man could survive without true religious morality. We had the world wars and the most violent century in our history as ‘moderns’. The election of Jimmy Carter- the first self professed ‘Born Again’ Christian to become president- and the Iranian revolution in 1979- the rise of an Islamic state based on radical interpretations of Islam. These events challenged the ‘hope ‘of those who felt like religion was waning and mans rationality was winning the day. So that’s why you had the rise of the new atheists who began a campaign to revive the ‘death of God’ movement and to advocate for what they felt was necessary for man to advance along the modern path. Today we are actually living in what’s called ‘the Postmodern Era’ but for the purpose of this short note we don’t want to go down that road at this time. Has man advanced- ‘modernized’ to the point where he does not need ‘God’ anymore? Can man simply build a Utopian society without God? All those who advocated for a society without God- ultimately failed in coming up with a rational basis for law and order- for who has the right to ‘make the rules’ in this new society- in essence those who tried the Freudian way could never come up with a system of govt. and law without having to borrow from the Christian world view- man cannot simply govern himself based on some atheistic principle of ‘reason’ apart from God [who decides whose reason is right?]. The atheist’s charge that all religion at its core is radical and dangerous- without reason- has been proven false. True religion can very much be reasonable- that is being rational and religious can go hand in hand- all religious adherents do not have to be ‘Fundamentalists’ as Harris claims- and the Modern experiment has not shown us that mans ultimate destiny is to rise above religious belief and attain some type of society without God and faith- that experiment has been tried- and found wanting.
 HAPPY THANSGIVING! ‘In Jesus Christ, God has revealed himself in descending- we ascend to God by accompanying him on this descending path- as we witness the abuse of economic power, as we witness the cruelties of capitalism that degrades man to the level of merchandise, we have also realized the perils of wealth- the man destroying divinity- Mammon- which grips large parts of the world in a cruel stranglehold.’ Pope Benedict.
‘What has been the greatest sin on earth so far? Surely the words of the man who said ‘Woe to those who laugh now’” Friedrich Nietzsche.
In Matthews gospel we read that Jesus came from ‘Galilee, of the Gentiles’- strange. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, Luke’s gospel was targeting the Gentiles. Yet Matthew describes Jesus home turf in terms that would offend his target audience- the Jews of Jesus day honored Jerusalem, Judea- but Galilee? Right from the start Jesus entered the scene in a way and style that offended the religious mind of his day. The prophet Isaiah says Jesus was this Rod- this branch that would grow from the ‘root’ of Jesse. Jesus came from the lineage of Jesse, King David’s forefather- royal blood indeed. Yet the prophet says he will be set up as a sign- an ‘ensign’ that the people will look to- they will see things they never saw before. In the gospels we see Jesus as a highly unusual preacher/teacher- he simply does not fit the mold. Isaiah also says he will judge the poor of the earth with equity- he will defend them in anger! The prophets tell us ‘The zeal of thine house has eaten me up’. This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered the temple courts and saw the merchandisers selling their stuff- he had it- in a rage he grabbed the tables and turned them upside down ‘My father’s house was supposed to be a place of prayer- look what you have done to it! You’ve made it a Den of Thieves’. Yes, anger was a part of his persona- at times it would eat him up- in a sense. Yet as he flustered the religious aristocracy- he was a breath of fresh air to the out casts, to those who society drew the ‘black line’ on. Dylan’s son would sing ‘the same black line that was drawn on you was drawn on me’ surely Jesus would ‘allow’ the black line to be drawn on him too. The common people heard him gladly. Again- Isaiah says ‘blessed are the women who are barren, who have not been able to have kids- for more are the children of the desolate than of the married wife’. In the Old Testament [and Jesus day] not being able to have kids was seen as a mark ‘the black line’ if you will. The poor wife would be stigmatized, looked at as someone who didn’t have what it took to fulfill her ‘womanhood’. Again, in a sense an outcast. Yet Jesus said ‘blessed are those who mourn now, who cry- who are empty’ for theirs is the kingdom. In the above quote, that’s what Nietzsche was decrying- he saw the words of the Master as contrary to mans inner greatness- his humanistic abilities to achieve- to fulfill all of his desires- to live for the full! Much like the gospel of our day. Yet Jesus emptied himself, he was ‘a man of sorrow- constant grief’ [Isaiah]. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself, he did not see his divinity as something to be used for self gain- some type of quest to reach this stage of religious Nirvana- no he emptied himself- he too became ‘barren’. Yes Jesus was quite a character, he simply was not what the people expected- he seemed to break the rules. Yet at the end of the day- this unorthodox preacher- this man from Galilee- yes he would change the world.
 Jesus of Nazareth [pope’s book] chapters 3-4. Okay- I’m having a hard time ‘dummying down’ the Pope’s book- trying to explain it in simple terms- so those of you who don’t get into it- just skip these posts and read another part of my blog. Okay, Benedict covers three different ways of looking at the central message of Jesus –The Kingdom of God. He borrows heavily from the church father Origen [form the Alexandrian school- Origen is very influential on early Christian thought- he also was a Universalist- in the end everyone gets saved- even Satan!]. The Pope shows how Origen viewed the kingdom as the person of Jesus himself- that is when you see Christ- you’re seeing the kingdom. Origen also spoke of the ‘interior kingdom’ a spiritual reality of the kingdom ruling over people’s hearts. Then the Pope speaks about the 19th- 20th century emphasis as the Church as the Kingdom- he shows how the church began seeing the kingdom as present in the world thru her- that is the church herself is a divine presence of God in the earth- and the kingdom is here right now thru the church. I agree with all 3 of the above views of the kingdom- I would only disagree a little with the Popes perspective that the 3rd view is primarily a late development [probably just reads that way because the book is an English translation form the German- I can’t imagine a Pope as learned as Benedict [one of the most intellectual ones in many years!] would miss this]. Right from the early days of Saint Augustine [City of God- 4th century] the idea of the kingdom being present thru the church has been around. The Pope also gets into those who saw the kingdom message of Jesus- and teach that Jesus true Kingdom message was never grasped- and instead we messed up and started ‘the church’. Liberal thinkers like Albert Schweitzer and Adolph Von Harnack all played a role in this type of thinking, and early 20th century ideas about re-thinking the kingdom in general- as well as the philosopher Heidegger. In chapter 4 Benedict does an excellent job at portraying Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who delivers the New Law thru the sermon on the mount- contrasting Moses receiving of the law at Mount Sinai. Jesus goes up on a mountain and ‘sits’ [showing the plenary authority of the teacher- being seated]. In the New Testament [Hebrews and the gospels] the religious leaders are said to ‘sit in Moses seat’- or Hebrews says ‘Jesus sat down at Gods right hand’. In Catholic theology the ‘seat’ [chair- cathedra] denotes the place of authority. I live in a ‘cathedral city’- Corpus Christi. New York’s Saint Patrick’s church is the cathedral for that area. That means the authority over the regional diocese is ‘seated’ at the cathedral- where the regional Bishop resides. So Benedict does a good job showing us Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who sits on the new mount and takes the plenary authority- he also says that Jesus authority did not rest in the religious institutions of the day- like the priests and Pharisees- that Jesus authority was real. The religious leaders was too- but they were not sincere. Once again I find these types of observations consistent with my own thought [and Protestants thought in general] and I find it very surprising to see the Pope thinking along the same lines.
 Was just reading a debate on the doctrine of Transubstantiation [the actual Body and Blood of Christ present in the Eucharist- I have studied the development of the doctrine thru the centuries, eventually Thomas Aquinas would come up with the final wording- very technical indeed- he tried to harmonize ‘Aristotelian thought’ and sort of did his best- it gets a little too deep for the present post!] What I was thinking about, was Jesus sitting at the last meal with his friends- he knows he will be leaving them soon- yet they don’t fully comprehend the mission he needs to accomplish- there lost in a way. He sits down with them and takes the bread and wine and tells them ‘SEE-LOOK- this is ME! I HAVE TO BREAK. This is the plan- all along my Father planned it like this’ and he says ‘look- I’m going to break for you- I will soon be broken on the Cross- and the result will be life for you and many others- all who will eventually hear the story’. So he breaks the bread, he pours the wine- and he knows what’s coming next. The prophet Isaiah said ‘God will see the TRAVAIL of his soul, and be satisfied’. He struggles with the reality of the whole thing- he sweats blood in the garden- he says ‘God, if there’s another way to make this thing happen- let’s do it’! He resigns himself to the reality that he always knew awaited him. I just thought it strange to have read the debate over the Eucharist- while we don’t really see the broken man. This was all done for us- he had to ‘break’.
 MORE ON THE POPE’S BOOK- Let me cover a little more Catholic history, being I’m still reading the Pope’s book [Jesus of Nazareth]. The last 2 chapters I read dealt with the temptations of Jesus by the devil- and the concept of the ‘Kingdom of God’. I like Benedict’s interpretation of the temptations- how he applies them to today. He sees the temptation of turning stones into bread as saying ‘God- if you’re really there- then why are there so many starving people in the world- why don’t you provide! Just ‘turn the stones into bread’’ if you will. The Pope develops this thought as a general cause of doubt that occurs in the world; how many people seem to question the existence of God because of the many injustices we see in the world [in theology we call this Theodicy- the Pope I’m sure knows the term- but he’s trying to write for the common reader so he doesn’t use the term]. All in all I liked the argument. He also [surprisingly!] equates the temptation of the devil to Jesus- when the devil says ‘fall down and worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world’. Interestingly the Pope applies this to the ongoing temptation that the church has always had to deal with- the temptation of the church ‘bowing down’ in order to exert control over the kingdoms of the world. He compares the church’s ‘marriage’ to Roman govt. [4ht century Constantine] as a weakness of the church- that she in essence opted for outward political control and in a way rejected the kingdom of Jesus- the meek kingdom that would inherit the earth. Now, this observation has been made many times before- but mostly from Protestants! It’s surprising to see a Pope make the same observation! Also liberal Catholic theologian Hans Kung has made this argument- he’s not a theologian in good standing with his own church- a few years ago he openly made the argument that the church should reject Papal infallibility [the doctrine] and got an official censure from the Vatican. So any way I found the observations of Benedict enlightening and surprising- over the next few weeks I’ll probably hit a few more notes from the book [probably should have done a complete book review now that I think about it- but I’m in the middle of making some new radio programs and didn’t want to focus too much on a book review]. Anyway- if you get a chance pick up the book [published in 2006- but any Catholic bookshop will have it] it’s a worthwhile read.
 I AM THE TRADITION!- Just started reading the Pope’s book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ it came out in 2006, but never had a chance to read it. I recommend all our Pastor/Preacher friends to read it- especially those of you who are familiar with the Historical Critical method of scholarship, and those involved in the Prophetic movement. Benedict critiques the historical method very well; he’s even funny at times! [In a scholarly way]. Just the preface and intro give enough meat that if you’re not a ‘full book’ reader, these would be enough! The critique for the modern prophetic movement is that Benedict shows the real purpose of Prophets, as pictured thru Moses- he does a superb job at explaining how Jesus fulfilled the ‘prophet like Moses’ prophecy spoken by Peter in the book of Acts- excellent insights! Okay- let me cover a little more Catholic history- at the risk of losing my Protestant readers- but hoping to gain some Catholic ones. Being I’m talking about Popes and all, let me cover some 19th century history. In France you had the French Revolution [right at the end of the 18th century] and the feeling at the time was to throw off all outside control- many of the nation states rejected the Roman church for that simple reason, it was Roman! That is the states were flexing their new felt independence and the spirit of enlightenment and reformation that was running thru the land. In France you had 2 groups who were at opposite sides; The Gaulincansist’s versus the Ultramontanists. The first group represented the feeling of ‘lets break from the Roman church and be free’ the latter group wanted to maintain ties with Rome- the term meant ‘beyond the mountains/alps’. Meaning from Frances geographic perspective, they wanted to keep looking towards Rome. It was in this environment that the Catholic Church would convene the first Vatican Council [called Vatican 1]. Pope Pius the 9th started his pontificate as a liberal type Pope- open to new ideas and all, but as time progressed he took a more conservative stance. The council- starting in 1870- would take a very hard line stance against all the new ‘ism’s’ that arose over the last few centuries. Communism, Democratic spirit, Protestantism- the church took a hard line and seemed to come off as arrogant and unwilling to change with the times. The council would affirm for the first time the doctrine of Papal infallibility and the Immaculate conception of Mary- 2 doctrines that would make it much more difficult to bridge the Protestant/Catholic gap. It’s important to note that the church had a tradition of Papal infallibility for years- but it did not become official Catholic doctrine until Vatican 1. All Catholics at the council did not agree to the doctrine- a famous Priest by the name of Guidi would dissent and challenge the Pope, he asked ‘what about the tradition’? Meaning what about the authority of tradition that has come from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation among the Bishops- if you push a strong doctrine of Papal infallibility- the tradition will lose its power. Pius famously responded ‘I AM THE TRADITION’. The council would never officially close- Victor Emmanuel would sack Rome- The Vatican would lose most of the Papal states and there would arise a sympathetic attitude towards the Roman church! Many felt bad that she lost her standing in the world, this caused many Catholic states to rise up in Support of the Vatican, and she actually gained more good will than before! I would also note that when the council broke up, the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Durlinger- did not accept the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Others broke away with him and these Catholics survive till this day-primarily in Western Europe [Holland, Switzerland, etc.] they are called The Old Catholic Church and are Catholic in every way except for the doctrine of the Papacy. Some view Pope Pius as a stubborn man who was not willing to change with the times, but if you look at the overall political reality of the day- you can see why he took such a tough stance, the church was feeling threatened from the outside by many new movements and she felt that Christianity was under attack- Pius felt it necessary to exert Papal authority, so he did. Vatican 2 [1962-65] would ‘un-do’ the harsh spirit of Vatican 1 and be seen at a much more open and ‘liberal’ council- Pope John the 23rd [Pope during the council] would shape the mood of the council with the saying ‘let the windows be open’ implying a new freshness and openness for the church. Vatican 2 would refer to the Protestants as ‘separated brothers’ Vatican 1- heretics. Okay lets end for now, I encourage all of our readers to try and know the various Christian positions- don’t just allow rumor or gossip to form your opinions of others- strive for an honest conversation with other Christian groups- give others the benefit of the doubt- and if you still have sincere differences of belief, at least they’ll be informed differences- not simply hearsay.
 CATHOLIC/PROTESTANT POSITIONS ON THE BIBLE. Let’s do a little teaching today. To all my Catholic/Protestant readers- when I teach on our respective faiths- understand that for the most part I’m giving you the official position of our churches. Now ‘official’ is a lot harder to say among Protestants- but the ‘best’ statements on Protestant doctrine probably come from the Reformed positions as stated by the creeds and statements of faith that came out of the 16th century Reformation- and yes, there other good statements as well [Baptist confessions, etc.]. When I talk ‘Catholic position’ I’m giving you the official position as stated thru the Catechism of the church- as well as the Encyclicals and decisions that have come from the councils. The Catholic Church does actually have official positions on stuff! [They call this the Magisterium- the church’s official teaching office]. It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant churches have ‘dissenters’ within their ranks- Priests, Preachers, Scholars- who break ranks with the actual teaching of their own churches [Hans Kung- Catholic. Rudolph Bultman- Protestant. Just to name a few]. In some situations where the clergy are ‘less educated’ [I’ll be nice] sometimes they don’t know what the position of their church really is. So that makes stuff a little harder. Okay- what do Catholics and Protestants believe about the bible? Both groups believe the bible is the inspired word of God, infallible- with no errors. Both groups also have notable teachers within their ranks who dispute this- but remember- for the most part this is the official position. The Catholic church’s most ‘meaty’ statement on faith and doctrine still dates back to the 16th century Council that took place in Trent. Though there have been other important councils [Vatican 1 and 2] yet the council of Trent is the most definitive. That council was for the most part a clear restating of the historic position of the church, especially reaffirming the 7 sacraments. The council also produced a document on the church’s position on the bible- the church used stronger wording than most Protestants, they said the bible came to us by the ‘Holy Spirit DICATING’ the words! In fairness, the Catholic Church does not hold to a mechanical type dictation- that God actually said the words to the writers, but never the less, that’s the statement. The Protestants are known for the famous 3 ‘Sola’s’ of the Reformation [Sola= alone] Faith alone, Grace alone, Bible alone- basically ‘alone’ meant the bible was the final authority on the matter- though creeds and councils were helpful, yet they can ‘err’. The able Catholic scholar, John Eck [maybe Cajetan?] forced Luther to admit that the Pope and Councils could make mistakes, and this was a fatal blow to any agreement between the warring sides. Now, many Protestants also seem to be confused on the statement ‘the bible alone’. The Reformers did not mean that we were to cast off all the good things that came down to us from the church fathers- Calvin quotes Saint Augustine a lot in his writings- the Reformers just meant that when deciding on final matters, the bible has the last say. The Catholics held that both Tradition [oral tradition passed down thru the church] as well as scripture had a say. The main point today is both Catholics and Protestants agree that the bible is ‘the word of God’. Catholics have a few more books in their bibles, but we all agree that it is God’s word. [Just a side note- The Catholics say the bible is ‘an infallible collection of infallible books’. The Protestants would not accept this statement- they said ‘we have a fallible collection of infallible books’. Most Protestants are not aware of this. The main reason the Protestant side would not agree to ‘infallible collection’ is because that would side with the position that the church did indeed possess infallible authority, given by God, to make certain decisions that were binding- obviously the Reformers would not go that far.]
- LENNY BRUCE- Last night I caught the movie ‘Lenny’, it’s the true story of the shock comic Lenny Bruce. Rose to fame in the 50’s for his vulgar comedy and social commentary. His story is much more than some George Carlin rebel comic- in a real sense he tapped into his Jewish Messianic roots and was fulfilling a prophetic type role; he spoke on issues that were hot [war] and he had an audience who were ready to hear. He would go thru lots of legal and personal problems- he would get hooked on heroin and die. The other day I mentioned Obama’s strain of Christianity- Liberal [reverend Wrights church is what you would call a social justice congregation]. In the late 19th, early 20th century liberation theology was in her hey-day. Men like Walter Rauschenbauch [spelling?] introduced a form of Christianity that was less focused on personal conversion- but tried to expand the churches thinking on social issues. The fundamentalist movement of the 20th century pushed back and labeled the liberals as heretics. Now, theologically speaking many were- some rejected the resurrection of Christ and the vital doctrine of reconciliation thru the Cross of Christ. But they were mostly right on the need for the church to engage in social justice issues, to deal with things like world hunger/poverty. To speak out against oppressive regimes [which the Catholic Church was doing all along]. The church should play a role in these areas- things that Bruce was talking about at the time. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, prophesies of John the Baptist future coming- it says ‘God will raise up one like Elijah’ John would come 400 years later and challenge the corruption that he saw. He was this radical loner who seemed to be unhinged at times- I mean who tells the king ‘your sleeping with your brother’s wife- your in sin’. He told it the way he saw it, and it would eventually lead to his death. There is a verse that speaks of John, it says ‘the law and the prophets were until John, but now the kingdom of God is preached and everyone is pushing their way to hear what he has to say’. John changed the atmosphere of his day, he was a kind of Lenny Bruce- he began speaking openly about issues that no one else would touch, sure- the regular ‘church folk’ had their preachers [rabbis, synagogue] but John was different- he wasn’t out to make a name for himself [though that would happen] nor was he trying to make a living [or get rich!] from ‘my ministry’. No he was a different breed, he could spot hypocrisy a mile away- but when he saw Jesus, he knew he was seeing the real thing ‘I am not worthy to tie your shoes’ he would say. Jesus himself would have his run in’s with the religious crowd- showed up at the temple and told them ‘what are you doing, merchandizing in Gods house!’ he made a whip and beat them, he turned over their tables and thru them out. Yes, Jesus made John proud. I think we as God’s people need to be willing to speak out about the social justice issues of our day- not enough voices are speaking out against things that need to be dealt with. A heroin addicted shock comic would be used to speak out against things that he saw were wrong, sure- he was definitely an imperfect vessel, but people never heard it like that before.
 BARNABUS- This last week I have been doing some reading in the non canonical book of the epistle of Barnabus; the early church debated over a few books, whether some should be in the bible and others out. The few that some thought should be in were the epistle Barnabus, Shepherd of Hermes [vision, dream type thing] and the Didache. Those that made it and were debated were letters like 2nd Peter, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation. As a believer I do accept what the church finally settled on, but it’s good to be aware of the other writings that never made it. Now, the Dan Brown books go way overboard in the idea that the Gnostic writings were also included in this debate- that’s not true. The early church unanimously rejected those works. But for today let me share a few things that I felt the Lord speak to me thru the letter of Barnabus. The letter quotes freely from the old testament- in chapter 12 I read ‘there are 2 nations in thy womb, and 2 people shall come from thee- the greater shall serve the lesser’ and ‘the Lord hath not deprived me of seeing thy face; bring me thy sons that I may bless them’. This last month or so has unexpectedly brought in a lot of old friends from New Jersey; they are now ‘sitting at the table’ so to speak. These friends are from an original group that I have prayed for, for 30 years! Though I have spent many years working with another ‘nation’ [Texas] yet these friends were there from the beginning, people I always wanted to be able to speak to, share with them things about the kingdom and stuff like that. I also had a few dream experiences where some of the ‘Texas crowd’ [lesser nation- in the sense that all of the guys I have worked with over the years are not in the same ‘upper class’ as many of my old friends] appeared to me, friends who have died- and I felt like I needed to post their stories on the blog/facebook site. What I did not realize was happening was in a sense God was using the ‘lesser nation’ as a witness to the greater one. God finally allowed me to re-connect with many old friends and thru the testimonies of my Texas friends the ‘greater has served the lesser’.
 WEEK [OR 2] IN REVIEW- Okay, I haven’t been commenting as much these past few weeks, basically doing a lot of posting of old stuff. But these last few weeks have been important so let’s do a little. First; the Pope made an historic visit to the U.K. – he went first to Scotland, than England. It was the first official visit- where the titular head [Queen Elisabeth] officially greeted the Pope, the first time since the official split in the 16th century! I kinda covered the history of it in the past and don’t want to do it all over again here- suffice it to say that Henry the 8th wanted his divorce, the Pope said no and England split off- the church of England [Anglican church] became the official church of England. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. is part of this communion. Now, the visit was historic for these reasons, the Pope surprised some church historians by making a speech where he invited the Anglican Church back into the Catholic fold-many thought he would not do this. Actually, it just seemed to be the right thing to do, being it’s the first official visit since the historic split [never mind all the theological issues involved]. So I was glad to see the very good reception he got. Europe in general has suffered from a severe case of rationalism/skepticism that has left many of the great church buildings either empty or they have been converted into Mosques! The Pope challenged them to have both faith and reason, a theme that Pope John Paul emphasized a lot during his pontificate. Overall I think the visit went very well, and all Christians should be happy about it. We also had Newt Gingrich write an article [or comment?] on Obama being an ‘anti colonialist Kenyan’ [Yikes!]. Basically Newt read an article from Dinesh Desouza, a fine Catholic writer/intellectual, who espoused the idea that President Obama is the first U.S. president who has a socialist mindset- that when most European nations went the way of socialism in the last few decades, that the only real holdout was the U.S. But in the economic world all the smart money fled the socialist type economies and would find its way into the U.S., leaving the socialist economies to suffer. So when Obama became president, as a believer in big govt. [a form of socialism] he would eventually bring the U.S. into alignment with the ‘enlightened’ world and that would balance out the scales. In Desouza’s mind [and Gingrich] this is why Obama is so loved in the rest of the world, while his ratings are not so great at home. Okay, it’s an interesting idea, but a little too ‘Beckish’ for me. But it shows you where the country is at right now, that some serious thinkers are making this case. I like Desouza, he is a fine Catholic Christian, he wrote ‘God is great’ in response to Christopher Hitchens [the atheist] ‘God is not great’ but I have read a few articles from Desouza and I thought he was a little ‘lacking’ in the field of theology [like he really didn’t know his stuff as well as he should have].The liberal columnist Eugene Robinson has basically said the same thing. So any way these last few weeks have had some notable events happen and we should be grateful that no bad incidents took place when the Pope was in England. I was happy to see the good response he got, though I’m not Catholic- as a fellow Christian I respect the effort that the Pope made to defend the Christian faith and to challenge a secular society to return to her Christian roots.
 ‘Guilt is the loss of the integrity of the soul, and the soul’s recognition of that loss’ Thomas Aquinas. I heard this a while ago and liked it. It has been said that man is the only creature with the ability to self evaluate; we can look back on our lives and make course corrections by Gods grace. I have been reading in the gospel of John a little- Jesus is talking to the disciples [John 14] and he’s getting ready to ‘go away’ he has spent time with them and tells them ‘the words that I have spoken unto you are not my own, but the Father that dwells in me- he does the works’. Notice, his revealing of God to his men was not so much an intellectual pursuit, but a thing he lived out among them. ‘The father is doing these works’ they ask him to show them the father and he tells them ‘I have BEEN with you for a while now, why do you ask me to show you the father’? His incarnation was the only way that God could reveal himself to man, there was nothing more that Jesus could say or teach that would trump the revelation of God to them by Jesus simply being with them for 3 years. He tells them that after he leaves he will send the Spirit and the Spirit will more fully reveal to them what’s going on, he will bring to their remembrance the things Jesus taught them- in essence they will have many ‘aha’ moments- times where they will say ‘now we see what he was talking about’. Saint Thomas taught that there will be times in life when we experience real guilt, not condemnation, but honest to goodness guilt. That thing the world thinks is bad, the therapists try to ‘soothe’ by saying ‘it’s not your fault’ but sometimes things are our fault! We have the ability to look back and say ‘now I see some of the mistakes I have made, things that I didn’t fully understand until now’ and this process is a good thing, something that we should expect to happen. Many believers practice a daily examination of their souls. At the end of the day they look back on their day and ask the Lord to show them any faults and they pray for forgiveness ‘I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters- that I have sinned thru my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words- in what I have done and in what I have failed to do’ trust the Lord today to lead you in right paths, and at the end of the day allow him to reveal to you the things that you don’t fully see right now, and if at the end of the day you realize you have gone off course, then yes- you have experienced guilt- the soul recognized some loss of integrity. That’s a good thing, not bad.
 ‘children, honor your parents…fathers, raise your children in the fear of the Lord- don’t provoke them…slaves, obey your masters, and masters- treat your slaves [servants] well, knowing that you too have a master in heaven’ Ephesians 6:1-9. Let’s deal with the issue of reading the bible in its cultural context. When the church was birthed in the 1st century, she was born into a Roman society that dominated the known world- yet Rome was not stupid, they had a policy of conquering people and allowing these groups to self govern as much as possible. The Jewish nation actually lived in her own cultural world while at the same time being ruled over by ‘the oppressors’. Rome allowed for a degree of religious freedom. They had their Pantheon of various gods and also did not interfere with the ‘other gods’ of their conquered foes. The problem with the Christians arose because the believers would only acknowledge one God [like the Jews] they would not say ‘Caesar is Lord’ but only Jesus. This drew a strange accusation from Rome; the Christians would be seen as atheists! Yes, atheists in the sense that they would not accept the Roman gods. Now, into this mix the church had to deal with the problem of not being seen as insurgents who were trying to overthrow the ‘God ordained’ govt. of Rome [book of Romans]. They did their best to not be seen as a rebellious movement. This, in my opinion, is why we do not read statements in the New Testament that encourage the overthrowing of slavery. Instead you find admonitions like the one in the above passage that exhort both slaves and masters to live together as much as possible in peace and harmony. I do not see the New Testament [taken in this cultural context!] condoning slavery for all time; but what I see is an early effort by the fledging church to live in peace and order at a time when the ruling authority watched closely over her people. It is true that during the struggle to free the Black salves, many southern preachers read these verses in a way that said ‘the bible tells us not to overthrow slavery, but to treat each other as fellow believers while allowing the institution to survive’. Yet you had men like Charles Finney, well known for his role in the 2nd great awakening that took place in the 19th century, Finney was an outspoken opponent of slavery and did all he could to stop it. So the church has had people on both sides of the issue. As we read the new Testament, one of the main themes is that Christ has come to set men free from bondage [slavery] the apostle himself will teach that in Jesus ‘there is neither slave nor free- we are all one in Christ’ the overall teaching from scripture is that Christ died to set men free, so as the church would grow over time we would get to a place where God would raise up voices [in due season] that would speak out against the oppression of the slave trade. To appeal to the immediate concern of Paul in the first century as expressed thru these passages [the concern of believers not being viewed as rebels who overthrow order in society] and to read these same passages centuries later in order to justify slavery is reading the bible out of its cultural context. We should also be aware that there are other issues that the church in our day struggles with, many appeal to this line of reasoning while dealing with homosexual relationships, ordaining gay people to the pulpit and other stuff like that. It’s not my purpose to deal with everything right now, suffice it to say that I do not personally see these 2 issues as civil rights issues that fall into the same category- undoing slavery and accepting homosexual marriage are not the same thing in my book- but to be aware of the way believers have approached these issues is important for our day. There were many well meaning believers/preachers who read these passages and took them literally to mean that it was wrong for slaves to rise up against ‘their masters’ and rebel, these preachers appealed to the direct words of scripture while making their point- it’s just they were not reading the scripture in its true cultural context.
 ‘submitting to each other in the fear of God, wives submit unto your husband’s as unto the Lord…husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it…this is a great mystery, Christ and the church’ Ephesians 5. The apostle tells us that in marriage the 2 become one, just like our ‘marriage’ to Christ. In 1st Corinthians Paul rebukes them for a specific sin; incest, fornication. He tells them that when they sleep with a person outside of marriage that the 2 become one- he then says ‘shall I take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot’. The point he makes is as Christ’s body we are actually parts of him. The various debates that the church has had over the communion table have centered around whether or not the elements become the actual physical body and blood of Jesus. One of the sad things that has happened is while we have had this debate [centuries old] we have missed the agreed reality that yes, our bodies are actually considered parts of Christ. These verses have also come under fire over the years because they speak of the wife submitting to the husband- the reality is this submission is not some type of bigoted thing, it’s a willing submission done in love as the husband expresses Christ like love to the wife. Paul said the great ordinance of marriage points to the great reality of us being joined to Christ in a very real way- if you will, it can be said without contradiction that the Real Presence of Christ is in the world today thru the church, the people of God.
 ‘Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love as Christ also has loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour’. Ephesians 5:1-2. The early church had a tag stuck on them- they were called ‘followers of the way’. Paul exhorts the believers to be followers of God; he goes thru the first half of the chapter and speaks about ‘not sinning’ yes- those who commit adultery, lie, cheat, use bad language, these do not inherit Gods kingdom. Strong stuff indeed. The early church saw Christianity more along the lines of being a follower of a person [Jesus] than embracing a set of doctrines. Now, there was a core set of beliefs that the early church did hold to, the New Testament defines it as ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’. Many believe that the statement of Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ many believe that this portion of scripture was first an oral tradition among the early believers; that is they might have used this as an early creed. And the church did have what was called a ‘krygma’ a compact set of beliefs that was considered to be the core beliefs of the Christian faith. The point being we had a concise set of beliefs, but we also had a strict moral code, one that was to be lived by the power of the Spirit, but yet strict as compared with today’s standards. Paul tells the church ‘be followers of God’ we are told to imitate Christ, to be like him. As Christianity progressed down thru the ages many came to define authentic faith as embracing the more orthodox set of beliefs that were being hammered out thru the creeds and councils of the church- some came to see Christianity strictly along these lines. I think it would do us all some good if we began seeing ourselves once again as followers of ‘the way’ that is people who call Jesus Lord and ‘follow God’. Yes, we appreciate and hold to the historic Christian faith, that’s important- but we also ‘follow God’.
 ARIUS- a priest from Egypt who would challenge the deity of Jesus in the 4th century. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternally the Son. He said Jesus was a created being whom the father ‘bestowed’ son ship upon. He taught that Jesus was ‘like God’ but not God. The emperor Constantine would call the famous council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. and the council would agree with Athanasius and say that the Son and the Father were of ‘the same substance’ [homoousios] and Arius’s belief would be rejected. The debate would still rage on thru out the century as Constantine would die and the new emperor from the east would hold to ‘Arian’ views. Eventually Orthodoxy would win out and Arianism would be rejected by the majority of believers. I should note that many of the oriental churches would go the way of Arianism till this day; some of these churches are not like the modern cults that we would automatically reject, but they do hold to beliefs that Orthodox Christianity has rejected. As I have written about before, it’s easy to see how various believers have struggled with these issues over the years, some of the ways people express things can be deemed heresy a little too quickly in my view. There are believers who express the deity of Jesus in ways that some Arians express it, and they are not full Arians! The point being, yes- Arian went too far in his belief that Jesus was a created being, Johns gospel refutes this belief strongly [as well as many other portions of scripture] but too say that Jesus was/is the full expression of the father, because he ‘came out from God’ is also in keeping with scripture. Today we should be familiar with the issues and also use much grace when labeling different groups of believers; and we should strive for a unity in the Spirit as much as possible. As believers we accept the full deity of Christ, one who is of the ‘same substance’ of the father- true God from true God. He who has seen the Son has seen the father- Jesus said to Phillip ‘I have been with you a long time, if you see and know me, you have seen and known my father’ Jesus is God come down in the flesh to dwell among men, the true Immanuel, God with us.
[Just a comment I left on a C.T. book review of Phillip Jenkins book ‘the Jesus wars’] I read the book review a week or so ago [in the hard copy of C.T.] great review. One thing; You seemed to indicate that Jenkins might have missed it by thinking the statement ‘God died on the Cross’ was out of line with historic orthodoxy- Actually I think he probably was right on this. I believe historic orthodoxy would not accept the ‘God died on the Cross’ theme. I know these debates get confusing at times [the dual nature of Christ, etc.] but just thought I should mention it. God bless
 ‘How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the father of our master Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, and settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family by Jesus Christ. He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift giving by the hand of his beloved son.’ Ephesians 1, Message bible. Over the next few weeks I think I will hit some key verses from this letter to the church at Ephesus. This letter [as well as Colossians] strike a different tone from Paul’s other letters. Many see the letter to the Romans as Paul’s greatest theological work [and it very well might be] and as you read Galatians [and Hebrews- to those who think Paul wrote it] you find lots of good stuff on the law versus grace. Though this letter also deals with that [the middle wall of partition broken down in Christ] yet you see more of an emphasis on the eternal purpose of God for the church. In the above passage Paul teaches us that God pre planned our conversion before the world began! He is showing us that he chose us, not the other way around. He not only destined us to ‘be saved’ but to be made ‘whole and holy’ in him in love. This divine work is both an individual and corporate experience. The church fathers would teach us that he ‘who has God as his father, also has the church for his mother’, this meaning that as you enter into the Christian life, you are entering a community of people in whom God has great designs. The scriptures refer to us as The Bride, a Temple, the Body of Christ- all these references point to the corporate identity that we have in Christ. God wants us to ‘enter into this lavish gift giving by the hand of his beloved Son’. God is in the process of bringing all things together in Christ, Jesus is the all in all, and as his people we are the vehicle thru which he will accomplish this great purpose- all things in heaven and on earth will glorify his son, and God makes manifest this knowledge of Christ thru the church; the bible says even the angels are looking at this mysterious work of Christ and his bride and are seeing things that they never saw before. Rejoice in the fact that you and I are part of the greatest building program of all time; God is building us into a holy temple, a bride that will be spotless, totally accepted in Jesus- all this thru grace. Yes, we have great reason to rejoice.
 WHOSOEVER BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST IS BORN OF GOD- 1st John. I am almost finished reading the Jesus Manifesto, by Viola/Sweet. About a month or so ago I read an article by Scot McKnight on Historical Jesus studies; these are the men who approach the study of Jesus while trying to not be ‘biased’ by the gospels and the church’s traditional teachings about Christ. McKnight spoke as an insider who spent many years engaging in the study. He basically concluded that the system itself was flawed; they tried to use certain ‘historical’ criteria and ended up in this hopeless process of never being able to agree on who Jesus really was! The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis spent many years rejecting the faith, but as somewhat of an intellectual he said he could not escape the deep roots of Christianity that he would find while reading the classics, studying the history of society; no matter where he went the testimony of the church was this unified declaration of who Jesus was and what his life and death and resurrection meant to humankind. The apostle John told us that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, these are of God. Our bibles, as well as Christian orthodoxy declare to us who Jesus is; we do not need the testimony of those who are trying to examine him while being removed from the person, historically, by two thousand years. This is not to say that all historical study is wrong, but the flawed attempt at trying to restructure the Jesus of the gospels by embracing some historical method, a method that actually goes against all reliable historical studies, we surely don’t need this. There are 2 groups that reject the tradition of the church; those from the ultra liberal historical approach [Jesus seminar types] and the rigid fundamentalist camp. Now, in some ways I too am a fundamentalist, but I am speaking of the more extreme groups that reject the historic church and approach Christianity and the bible from a virgin perspective; that is these believers ‘believe’ that each new generation of Christians should read the bible without any historical context, both of these approaches can become hotbeds of heresy. I thank God that both the bible and the church have declared to us who Jesus is, the apostle John says ‘we have declared to you that which we have seen, and that which we have handled’ John and his companions spent time with the Lord, these original apostles are called ‘the foundation stones of the church’ [being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets] we today are part of a corporate temple that spans 2 thousand years; our forefathers have left us a great legacy, let’s not squander it by trying to reconstruct that which has been faithfully passed down to us- whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.
 JESUS MANIFESTO, 2nd post. Okay I read some more from Frank Viola/Leonard Sweet’s book. I really like the emphasis that they place on the importance of Jesus and on self sacrifice as major themes of the Christian life; a good quote would be ‘Jesus is in the self transcending business, not self fulfilling one’. This book is a change of pace from the normal fare of self help books that rank high on the Christian book lists of our day. A few problems; at one point you can hear the sound of the post modern emergent voice, they admit that the bible contains ‘logical contradictions’ [ouch!] and they also challenge the ‘modern’ [as opposed to post modern] view of absolute truth. Descartes name is thrown out and they use a strange reference to the 13th century theologian/thinker John Duns Scotus. They rightly trace the famous nick name ‘Dunce cap’ to Scotus, but then they say that the famous teacher earned the name by resisting ‘mystery’ as a legitimate means of knowledge , while embracing pure logic. My understanding of how Scotus got the nickname is actually the opposite of this. Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas, during their day there was a rediscovery of the writings of the famous philosopher Aristotle; Aquinas became popular among the Dominicans for his embracing of Aristotle and his scholastic approach to learning [pure logic]. Scotus resisted Aristotle’s view that all learning comes to man thru the ‘5 senses’ and he taught there was a sort of 6th sense that man needs while approaching God. The point being it seems to me that Scotus got the nick name ‘Dunce’ not because he rejected mystery, but because he favored it! Anyway that’s just a technical historical point, as Will Farrell says in the movie ‘Anchorman’ let’s just agree to disagree. In the argument against the modern view of absolute truth, a few pages over they defend it! They explain that the reason the schools shy away from teaching character is because they won’t allow for ‘universals’ or ‘morals’. To be honest its trendy now a days to challenge the system, and most emergent’s will say stuff like this; I don’t think this to be a major problem with the book, just thought I should mention it. All in all the authors do a good job at re directing us back to Christ as being the center of the Christian experience; lots of excellent quotes from many historical figures, even one or two from the Pope! [Frank doing some penance over Pagan Christianity?] I am not sure if I’ll do another post on the book, I have a few pages left and I will certainly finish the book; but overall I do recommend the book, it is a must read for the ‘modern’ believer, we do need to be challenged in our day and this book does a good job of it. You will not find this book on the self help shelf of modern Christianity, and I think that’s a good thing.
 AQUINAS, THOMAS- Thomas is considered to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. Born in Naples around 1225, he studied in Cologne under the Dominican order. During Thomas lifetime there was a rediscovery of the ancient writings of the philosopher Aristotle. Thomas would write commentaries on the philosophy of Aristotle and he would attempt to introduce reason into the arguments to prove the existence of God. He was a follower of that form of Christian teaching called ‘scholasticism’ this method used reason and logical debate to arrive at truth. Other scholars would reject this method [Bonaventure] they felt that using these rationale methods was a contradiction to faith. Thomas would become famous for his ‘five ways’ also referred to as Natural Theology. Thomas taught that there were 5 basic ways man could examine the natural created order and come to a rational belief in the existence of God; Thomas taught that the first cause of all things had to be God, you logically needed a first ‘causer’ to start the ball rolling [prime mover]. John Duns Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas and he disagreed with the scholastic method. Scotus would become famous among the Franciscans; Aquinas would be famous among the Dominicans. Today many Catholic scholars pride themselves in being ‘Thomistic’ in their thought. Thomas also spoke much about ‘just war’ theory, originally introduced by Augustine. He taught that the means of war had to be just in order for the war itself to be ‘justified’; in today’s wars [Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan] I believe the use of unmanned drone attacks that kill civilians can be considered an unjust method. Thomas’ great works are Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae, Thomas is called the ‘angelic doctor’ of the Catholic faith.
 JESUS MANIFESTO, Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet. The other day I received an interesting email, Thomas Nelson book publishers offered me a free advanced copy of the above book, they are giving away 200 advanced copies and they offered one to me. They simply said they would appreciate it if I mentioned the book on my blog. So here I am; I’ve read a few chapters and ‘Frank-Len’ make a good case for restoring the church back to a strong Christology [I think I would have said ‘Christ centric model’ instead]. The point they argue is that the people of God and Christianity itself has lost the matchless vision of a magnificent Lord and has replaced it with all types of other stuff. They give a list of some of the stuff; it includes end time things, prosperity, leadership…theology, evolution versus creation- well you get the hint. While it’s difficult to argue against the authors main point [who can argue against returning the church to Christ?] the danger is in thinking that ‘theology’ or any other attempt at clarifying the orthodox Jesus is a substitute for Jesus himself, that is we as believers do need to be aware of the many rabbit trails we often get sidetracked on but at the same time we need to understand the need for good Christian doctrine [theology]. I noticed that the authors did not include ‘organic church’ on the list. I do like the many quotes from historic church figures; Tertullian, Aquinas, Barth, etc. and I like the ‘folksy-popular’ style the book is written in, sounds like reading Eugene Peterson’s Message version. All in all the first few chapters are well worth reading, they do center you back on Jesus Christ, and the devotional style restores the soul. To be fair the authors do answer the charge that the bible itself teaches lots of subjects, so why be against all the other things on their list? They explain well that although we as believers will learn and teach various subjects, yet according to the apostolic pattern, these things are like ‘spokes on a wheel’ they are needed at times, but Jesus is the center of the wheel. All in all it’s hard to disagree with the main point of the book. I have found the argument ‘we focus on Jesus only’ to be at times an excuse for ‘unlearned preaching’ sometimes preachers have used this as an excuse to not delve into good Christian ‘theology’ but I don’t sense this with this book. Over the next few days I will finish the book [it’s not big, I’m just busy!] and hopefully will comment a few more times. I’m not sure how I got on the list to receive an advanced copy, but I’m grateful for the copy- as a book collector its cool to have a copy that says ‘advanced copy- uncorrected proof- not for resale’. I guess Frank must have recommended me for the book; I have blogged on a mutual site in the past. I have heard of Leonard Sweet before, but am not familiar with him at all. I should note that I have taught many of the same themes found in this book, and I think it would benefit all of us to re focus on the early church’s emphasis on knowing the Lord, not just doctrinally, but in a real way- this is the main point of the book.
 BE OF GOOD CHEER, MASTER RIDLEY, PLAY THE MAN; WE SHALL THIS DAY LIGHT SUCH A CANDLE, BY GOD’S GRACE, IN ENGLAND, AS I TRUST SHALL NEVER BE PUT OUT’ Hugh Latimer, 16th century Bishop of the church of England. Many years ago when I first read this quote, it struck me. I recently came across it again, and it struck me again! Over the years of reading the lives of the saints there are certain words that were spoken at the point of martyrdom that for some reason have a lasting effect. One of the church fathers attributed this to the fact that the words that are spoken at this point are actually the words of God, not of men. Latimer was around 80 when he was burnt at the stake, under ‘bloody Mary’s’ reign. These words were to a fellow martyr, Ridley, who was also an influential Christian during the time of back and forth between Protestant and Catholic debates. During the reign of Henry the 8th he had various key influential figures that advocated for the Protestant position; many argued the Protestant position for the political expediency of not having to answer to the Papacy, or to continue to ‘pay tithes’ to Rome. Henry the 8th is usually known for his penchant for executing his wives, but a careful study of history shows us that at a younger time in his reign he was a great king. He informed himself about the debates surrounding the reformation; he knew both sides and at one point wrote a rebuke to Luther and defended the 7 sacraments of the church. For this noble effort he would be given the title ‘defender of the faith’ by the Pope. But as time went on Henry would break from Rome and launch the English church. In many respects the Church of England was simply a Catholic church without a Pope; or to put it another way, the king became the new Pope. The reformation happened at a time in history that was politically ripe for it. The rise of the nation states and the yearning for national identity played a major role as the individual nation states sought to break away from Rome. Luther would receive special protection by the political leaders in Germany because they liked the idea of independence. The same would happen in England, many around the King [and queens] were jockeying for position and trying to influence the leader in ways that they thought were the most advantageous for their own cause. But you also had some committed believers from both sides of the aisle that gave their lives for their strong convictions of their faith. Thomas More would die for his unwillingness to reject the Pope and accept the king as the new head of the church. And Latimer and others would die for their rejection of Catholic teachings. Though the king had many wives, he would only have 3 children to ascend to the throne. Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. Edward would die young [15 years of age] and Mary and Elizabeth would take turns at the helm. Mary was known for her ‘bloody reign’ and Elisabeth would turn out to be an exceptionally great leader, the greatest one sided naval victory in history took place under her realm while Spain suffered a great defeat. They too would be influenced by those insiders who had personal axes to grind. At first Mary wasn’t ‘bloody’, but she would eventually be convinced to execute those who were deemed a threat to the realm. The poor folks of England were at times dumfounded by those who were being killed; under Henry you could die if you rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation [the bread and wine being the literal body of Christ] but you could also be put to death if you believed the Mass to be a sacrifice of Christ. So you weren’t always sure what would get you killed! But those who died for their faith and refused to recant gave at rue testimony of their convictions; at the age of 80 Bishop Latimer encouraged a fellow martyr to ‘play the man’ he knew if they died well their testimony would light a candle that would burn on; he was right.
 ANSELM- Over the next few months I will do some brief overviews on important historical figures from church history. They will be under a separate section after the same name. Anselm was born in Italy in the year 1033, he eventually became a very influential church teacher and is famous for a few things; he came up with an argument for the existence of God called ‘the Ontological argument’ ontology is a word that means the nature of being. His idea went like this ‘Because there is no other greater conceivable being than God, that means God must exist’ in so many words he said because humans have this conscious belief in God as the greatest being, that therefore he must be that being. I’ll admit when I first read this argument I had some difficulties with it, I think you can find problems with it. But he nevertheless introduced it and it has become one of the classical apologetic arguments for God’s existence. The second major teaching that Anselm gave us was the teaching on the Atonement; Anselm taught that Jesus died to ransom man back to God, the penalty of death was a penalty paid to God. You say ‘what’s so new about that’? Many other church teachers taught that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil, that at the fall of man satan gained dominion over man and that Jesus death purchased us back from satan. Though there is some truth to man being under the dominion of satan after the fall, yet Anselm was ‘more right’ in the way he approached it. As a matter of fact His teaching eventually became the norm for the church. Anselm introduced Reason into the argument for the existence of God. Many teachers used scripture and appealed to the church fathers to prove the reality of God, Anselm was one of the first to lean heavily on logic when arguing for Gods existence. He is considered one of the greats of church history and we still benefit from the influence of Anselm to this day.
 CONTACT! The other night I caught the movie Contact; I have seen it before but figured I’d re-watch it. The movie pits science against religion; the religious figure [Mathew Mconaughy] is talking to the scientific atheist [Jodie Foster] as she makes her case against God she asks the religious figure ‘are you familiar with Ockham’s Razor’ [wow, isn’t she smart!] and the ex-priest says ‘no, is it some sort of porno movie?’ and of course the atheist goes on to quote the famous saying. Ockham’s razor is the principle developed by William of Ockham that says when you have multiple solutions to a problem that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. Sounds good, what’s the problem? The problem is William of Ockham was indeed a Christian philosopher; he was a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus. They all lived in the high middle ages [13th-14th centuries]. So for Jodie Foster to have appealed to him while trying to make the point that religion and science don’t mix, well it would be like me debating someone on Halloween. I say it never existed as a pagan holiday; you insist it did! As we debate, I say ‘have you ever heard of the term trick or treat’ and you say ‘no, what’s that’. I then changed the channel to the news and they were doing a story on some scientist who supposedly invented synthetic DNA, they then gave the various statements from religious groups who were against it and thought it violated ethics. It was a replay of the same themes of the movie, pitting science against religion. Science and religion are not enemies, the scientific method was invented by the church, most of the greatest minds in science have been Christian [or religious] and even till this very day many of the great men of science are believers. At the end of the movie they gave a short dedication to Carl [Sagan]. Sagan was the famous atheist who said the universe is all there ever was and all there ever would be. The apostle Paul said ‘men chose to worship and serve the creation rather than the creator, therefore God gave them up to reprobate minds’. The other night I watched the special called ‘Hawking’s universe’ I don’t know why they called it Hawking’s, it was a simple rehash of the idea of cosmological evolution, nothing new at all. Let’s make something clear, those who espouse the idea that because we have discovered that most all of the base elements of creation and man are also found in the stars, this in no way proves that men and creation all evolved from stars! This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have ever heard, and yet many learned men are making this case. Some are saying that when stars explode [novas] that these base elements then form planets and people and monkeys and elephants and- well you get the idea. What mechanism are they giving us that shows us that something like this is even possible? Absolutely none. They are simply making the claim that because we share most of the same matter, that therefore the stars themselves created everything. This is not only not true science, but it doesn’t pass the smell test of elementary school! It would be like me stumbling across some computer disk, and then finding a computer to pop it into. Lo and behold I have found the complete works of Shakespeare on the disk. How did they get there? Sure enough some analyst figures out a way to examine the matter that makes up the disk [not the intelligence on it!] and lo and behold he identifies the makeup of the disk. He then proclaims ‘aha, I have figured out where the works of Shakespeare came from’ and he then goes on to give us the elements that make up the disk. What’s the problem? He simply identified the matter of the disk, he did not identify where the actual intelligence on the disk came from. So when people espouse the idea that the stars ‘made everything’ they are talking absolute nonsense. The only true explanation for the contents on the disk [or the intelligence found in the universe] is the reality that an intelligent agent put the contents there. There is no other rational explanation. Jodie Foster was right- when you have multiple solutions to a problem, the simplest is usually correct. Either the stars made everything [impossible], or God. I’ll go with God.
 THEY HAVE SAID COME AND LET US CUT THEM OFF FROM BEING A NATION- Psalms 83:4. During the time of the reformation in the 16th century you had various groups of Christians who felt the church lost her original purpose and purity, these believers sparked reform, that is they did not abandon all the previous creeds and councils of the church; they simply tried to bring God’s people back into shape. Because of this, most of the Christian denominations today have the same basic creeds and statements of faith that have come down to us from the early days. That is we have been able to maintain some sense of ‘national’ unity/cohesiveness even though we have many divisions. The enemies of Israel were not so much trying to wipe them all out; they were upset that Israel had achieved a national identity. When Gods people existed in Egypt, sure they were a thorn in the side of society at times, but they were still citizens of another people. In the New Testament Peter says we are a holy nation, a special people; that is the people of God right now belong to a kingdom made up of priests and kings [Revelation]. It is the enemy’s tactic to cause us to view ourselves as independent churches all doing good things for God, but still seeing each congregation as existing separately from the whole. In a sense the enemy has caused us to ‘stop seeing ourselves as a nation’ sure we still exist, and to be honest there are lots of us! But Like Israel in Egypt we too often are looked upon as a bunch of illegal aliens that the nation doesn’t know what in the heck to do with! Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating a theocracy [a govt. run by God] that is not a worldly/earthly one; but I am advocating that as believers, we should strive for a ‘national’ identity, that is we should appreciate all the great things that have happened and come down to us from the fathers of the past. We have sort of been given the baton and we need to run with it. But too often we don’t recognize that the baton is something that gets passed off to us, we are a living tapestry of people who together form this beautiful Joseph’s garment, the enemy would be happy if we simply lost this unifying identity. He doesn’t seem to care too much when we live in our own identities, when we lose the identity of a holy nation.
 ON INFANT BAPTISM- I have been listening to an interesting debate on infant baptism; it’s being held between two good scholars. I have said before that I do not believe in infant baptism, but I also understand the case made for it. Basically those who practice it believe that baptism is a sign of the new covenant, and like circumcision in the old covenant, it’s alright to baptize new borns under the new. The minister presenting the adult baptism only side did a good job, as did the one who advocated for infant baptism. The only problem with the argument from the ‘adult baptism’ advocate was at the end of his message he appealed to the great 16th century reformers [Luther, Calvin, etc.] and made the case that those who practice infant baptism are not in keeping with the reformers character in rejecting the ‘old papal heresies’. In fact the reformers accepted infant baptism and fought against those who rejected it. The most famous example being that of the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli; he famously drowned the ‘Anabaptists’ [re-baptizers] for their unwillingness to baptize their new borns. The Anabaptists are sometimes called ‘the radical reformers’ they were a strain of believers who felt the reformers were still too bound by tradition, and they wanted a total return to the early practices of the church. And the centuries following would give rise to a whole host of various groups staking their claim on being the most accurate New Testament church. The point being that even though the minister who defended adult baptism only was standing on good biblical grounds, yet he used an example that was not totally accurate. It benefits all believers to be familiar with these arguments, if they are done in a spirit of friendship [which the above debate was done in] then they can help us progress along the lines of Christian unity. That is we still may hold to our peculiar position, and at the same time see the other point of view. Too often we are only familiar with our own position.
(1452) IMPUTATION- Okay, I am going to get a little technical today. Being we just came off of both a study of Galatians and a series on justification by faith, I want to hit a little on the doctrine of imputation. During the time of the reformation one of the areas of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics was the doctrine of justification by faith. Those of you who have read my studies realize that in this area I am Protestant, but my explanation on James chapter 2 [read the Justification by Faith study] leaves room for more agreement between Catholics and Protestants than we have had in the past. One of the other points of contention is the reformed position on God imputing the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Some Protestants teach it in a way that is not fully defined in scripture. Some teach that the righteous life of Christ, as a separate transaction from the sin bearing work of the Cross, is ‘imputed’ to the believer and this righteous account from Jesus is now counted towards us. I am not totally in disagreement with this doctrine, but some seem to teach it in a way that misreads some of the passages used to defend it. In my Romans study [chapter 5] I explained it somewhat. In Romans, Corinthians and Philippians we read verses that say ‘we are now saved by his life’ ‘we are made the righteousness of God thru Christ’ ‘thru the obedience of one man [Jesus] many are made righteous’- these verses teach us that the obedient life of Jesus qualified him to be the sin bearer of the sins of the world; he took our sins because he was sinless. He also lives at the right hand of God and is continually ‘saving’ us by his life. His obedience ‘unto death’ is also referred to in some of these passages- that is he obeyed the Father and went to the Cross for us- ‘thru one man’s obedience many are made righteous’ ‘he was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross’ [Philippians]. Some seem to have confused some of these verses by teaching that they are saying ‘the obedient life of Jesus is now credited to us’. In actuality these few examples are really not saying it in this way. To be fair we do have the verses that say we are made the righteousness of God in Jesus- that Jesus is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification, and of course my last study showed all the verses that speak of us being justified by faith. But technically it is not a clearly taught doctrine that the positive account of Christ’s righteousness is taken and put on our account. At least it isn’t as taught as clearly as the actual doctrine of justification by faith, and as I just showed you some of the verses that are used to teach it are being read in a particular way that might not be in keeping with the text. Why wade into this discussion, isn’t it true that we are made just in God’s eyes because Jesus lived a holy life and died for us? Yes. It’s just some areas that are not clearly defined in scripture should be left open for further discussion and thought. As of the time of this writing this area is one of contention between some reformed theologians and other Orthodox/Catholic/Anglican believers [Anglican scholar Tom Wright being one]. I do not totally reject the doctrine; I believe the righteous life of Christ was a requirement for him going to the Cross for us. And I do believe God makes us righteous as a free gift of God, as Luther said ‘an alien righteousness’ it’s just not taught as clearly as some reformed teachers have developed the doctrine, and we want to be honest when dealing with these issues. I know for some of you guys these types of posts are a little ivory tower, but for others these things are important as we strive for greater unity among the Christian faiths.
(1451) CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM BELIEFS- As I did the study on Justification by faith I hit a few verses that I felt were vital for our day; things that said Gods kingdom is not based on ethnic/racial lines, but it is based on faith in Jesus Christ. One of the major divisions between Christians and Muslims is Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet from God, but they reject his deity. They claim that the Christian church fell into apostasy and over the centuries heresy was introduced thru the councils and creeds of the church. They believe that in the 7th century God restored true monotheism [belief in one God] thru the prophet Muhammad and that Jesus [Isa] agreed with this. In the 19th century you had the rise of religious liberalism and many theologians espoused a belief that ran along these same lines; many taught that the early message of Jesus became distorted thru the over intellectualizing of the faith, and that Greek philosophy and Latin legal minds [Tertullian] ‘extended’ the faith to parameters that went far beyond the teachings of Christ. The Muslim scholars saw this as proof that they were right all along, after all these Christian scholars were basically saying the same thing! And then within the past 30 years or so you had the rise of historical Jesus studies, and men like John Dominic Crossan [Jesus seminar] would basically deny much of the gospels. They used a skewed method of determining what was real or fake, and when all was said and done you basically had a few verses from Johns gospel that were deemed true as well as a host of other ‘questionable’ sayings of Jesus from the other gospels. Why was this an important development for the rejecters of Christ’s deity? John’s gospel is the strongest teaching in the New Testament on the deity of Christ. We call this ‘Logos Christology’ John’s gospel teaches us that in the beginning was the word [Logos in Greek] and the word was with God and the word was God. So you have a distinction between the word [Jesus] and God, and at the same time the word is described as God. So to be fair about it, the deity of Jesus was not a latter development that was spawned out of the Greek/Latin mind, but was a part of Christianity right from the start. Grant it that the later creeds and councils [4th century Nicene, 5th century Chalcedon] did use some technical language to distinguish between the nature of God and Jesus, but the teaching of Christ’s deity is found within the body of the New Testament. Islam teaches that Jesus was born from a virgin, and that he was a prophet sent from God- isn’t that enough? No, they also teach that at the Cross another person died in Jesus place and that Jesus never died and rose again, this my friends can never be accepted by true Christianity. I believe we as believers should respect Muslim people, we should not denigrate them or their religion- but to have an honest conversation we need to tell the truth. Jesus was given for the sins of the whole world, he was God in the flesh dwelling among man- he died, was buried and rose from the grave. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
(1448) ‘Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no person become just in God’s sight: for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all that believe’ Romans 3:19-22. Once again Paul makes clear that people become right in God’s eyes when they believe in his son, the attempt at becoming right with God by obeying the law is futile. Why? Because that was never the intended purpose of the law. God gave the law to reveal to man his sin; when men would try to live up to the standard, they would fall short and realize their need for a savior and then would turn to Christ. Paul says before the law came [before he personally became aware of it] he was without guilt, but once he realized the statutes of God and saw Gods holy standard; he said that sin in him revived and he died. Or the law caused a reaction in him that made his sinful nature appear to be much worse than he originally thought. Paul said in Galatians that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but after faith has come we are no longer under a schoolmaster. He said ‘wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come [Jesus=seed, offspring] to whom the promise was made’. Paul taught that the purpose of the law was to reveal to man his own sin, that there never was a law given that a man could obey in order to become saved. The other day I googled the ministry name and was glad to see that some Catholic friends have been posting our site on Catholic sites. Great! My goal is not to convince fellow Christians to change churches, or become Protestant; my goal is to accurately teach the truth to all who want to hear. To some of our Catholic friends these verses seem unbelievable, that is they might seem too good to be true. I want to assure you that the Catholic church believes the things that I just taught! But like all Christian churches, sometimes we don’t effectively communicate these truths to the people. Many people do not realize that the current Pope, Benedict, is one of the most able theologians that the church has had in this office. John Paul the 2nd was a great man, don’t get me wrong. But he was more of a philosopher/humanist charismatic figure; Benedict is more of a teacher. Why mention this? Because you will notice that the last year or so the Pope has made an extra effort to teach Paul’s epistles and to focus more on a strong Christology than in past years. This Pope has made efforts to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics; he also has come closer to the Protestant view of certain passages that speak of justification by faith. A few years ago a joint statement was made that many Protestants saw as a major breakthrough in this very area. I want to assure my Catholic readers, yes- it sounds too good to be true, but it is! Even your church believes it! That is we all believe that we are freely saved by Gods grace that comes to us thru the Cross of Christ. I would be dishonest to say there are no more difficult doctrinal issues between the great Christian confessions, but I can say for a surety ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’. Note- I am not saying the Catholic church does not believe in the importance of keeping the 10 commandments, they believe that all Christians should keep the commandments.
(1447) THE BARNES AND NOBLE JESUS? WAS B.P. A GOD CAUSED DISASTER? Yesterday I saw my recent issue of Christianity Today had arrived, I planned on reading some news papers and catching up on the weeks past events; but instead I spent about an hour going thru the mag. Found it interesting to see many of the ruffled feathers among the elites of the day. Brian McLaren finally responded to Scot McKnight’s criticism of his most recent work; Brian defended himself as not being anti evangelical. Tom Wright had a book review done by Michael Horton [that could be trouble!] but Horton was pretty fair, and pointed out how Wright pictures the Reformers as neglecting virtue and morality on the altar of faith. Horton exposes this weakness in Wright, surely many of the reformers [particularly the Puritan strain] emphasized virtue and morality. Found it interesting that some of these authors responded to recent critiques in a way that seemed to indicate that the critics served a good purpose; it caused the authors to have to defend themselves and make statements saying they were closer to the evangelical faith than their critics indicated. As I read the back and forth between these fine men, I couldn’t help but wonder what practical effect all this is having on the church at large. Are they simply hashing things out amongst the book store crowd [of which I am one] and in the end the church at large is preaching/believing in a Jesus who would probably be uncomfortable hanging out at the Barnes and Noble? Okay, this week my governor said the B.P. oil spill in the gulf was an act of God; the critics got on him and he had to defend himself. It does seem strange that a failed oil rig can be blamed on the Most High. The broader question being, how do we explain the real natural disasters of the world? In the 18th century [1755 to be exact] believers from all over the world were in church celebrating All Saints Day, just off the coast of Portugal a major earthquake struck, thousands of believers who were attending services in the capital city of Lisbon were crushed under the collapsing buildings. Many fled to the coast and were swept up in the tsunami; it was a major disaster for the time. One of Christianities critics, Voltaire, used this event to refute the popular notion that God was sovereign over all things and good as well. Voltaire, who is often accused of being an atheist [in actuality he was a theist- believed in a God but rejected Christianity] found evil in the world as proof of God being absent from the daily affairs of men, a common accusation from atheists/agnostics. How do believers explain these types of events? Did God purposely cause the earthquake to happen on that day, knowing that all the worshippers would be in church that morning? God of course knows all things, and nothing happens outside of his sovereignty. But we also live in a world that is a result of mans choice to sin and plunge the creation into a cursed situation [Genesis, Romans] so things happen in the world that are a result of the curse that came upon creation when man sinned. Things like the B.P. spill are obviously not God caused disasters, but we also can’t blame every natural disaster upon God. True, sometimes they can be a divine act of judgment [Noah’s flood] and there certainly are scriptures that speak about God revealing himself and his wrath thru these types of events, but we also should not discount the reality that some events happen as a result of mans failure to properly take care of the creation that God put under his dominion. The fact that God is not directly involved in all these types of events does not mean that he is removed from the scene, but we also need to be careful when we blame God for things that are clearly not his fault.
(1445) WAS NOT ABRAHAM OUR FATHER JUSTIFED BY WORKS WHEN HE OFFERED ISAAC HIS SON UPON THE ALTAR- YE SEE THEN HOW THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFED AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY- WAS NOT RAHAB THE HARLOT JUSTFIED BY WORKS? James 2:22-26. Okay, in Genesis chapter 22 we read the story of God telling Abraham to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar. Abraham obeys God and at the last minute the Lord stops him; but the angel of the Lord says because he did this, that now God knows he can be trusted and God will fulfill his promise to him. James uses this story to define what he means when he speaks of ‘being justified’ in Gods sight. I believe there have been many noble attempts at trying to reconcile this passage with the passages in Romans and Galatians where Paul specifically says ‘a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith’. Paul clearly teaches us that men cannot be justified by the works of the law; James says ‘see how men are justified by works’. The explanations I have heard go like this ‘James was simply saying the faith that saves is an active living faith’ ‘James is simply saying men are justified in the sight of other men by their works’ ‘James is simply saying true faith has works along with it’ while all of these things are true, they seem to not adequately deal with the 3 passages I quoted at the top. James says that when Abraham offered up his son on the altar that the scripture was fulfilled that said ‘he believed in God and he counted it to him for righteousness’. James is fully aware of the Genesis 15 promise to Abraham, the key verse Paul uses to define justification by faith; it’s just James is speaking about the process thru out life where men actually become righteous in practice, which is a result of being legally made righteous by faith. In essence when James says ‘see how men are justified by works’ he is describing the act of God being pleased with us, God having the right to say ‘yes, you obeyed me son, and I call you righteous in my eyes because you did obey me’. This process can be defined as being ‘justified by works’ while not contradicting Paul use of the term ‘justification by faith’. To me it is quite clear that James is saying more than just ‘real faith has works’ no, he is saying that the legal/forensic act of justification by faith [Gen. 15] leads to a life of actually doing just things [obeying God- Gen. 22] and when the legally justified believer obeys God, in a sense he is justified in Gods sight [not men’s!] by these works. Now, this does not mean men are ‘saved’ by doing good works, in the sense that Paul uses ‘saved’ but James is saying that when believers do good works, these works cause a response from God that can be defined as ‘being justified in Gods sight by our good works’ a totally different theme than Paul. This passage has been a difficult one for many years, Luther battled with it and at one point called James epistle a ‘straw epistle’ he doubted its canonicity. The Catholic Church used this very passage in their council at Trent to refute what they saw as Luther’s neglect of good works. I have had Mormons and other various Christian groups use this passage in defending certain aspects of their churches; this passage is well worn in the annals of Christian apologetics, I think the explanation that I just gave is the best one; the other efforts that have been made to explain this passage have some truth to them, but at the end of the day they don’t fully explain the clear text of the above passages. I think this explanation explains them.
(1443) NOW THE LORD HAD SAID UNTO ABRAM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY AND FROM THY KINDRED AND FROM THY FATHERS HOUSE, UNTO A LAND THAT I WILL SHOW THEE. AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION AND I WILL BLESS THEE AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT AND YOU WILL BE A BLESSING- Gen 12:1-2. I think for the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in both the old and new testaments that deal with the doctrine of justification by faith. I covered this subject in my Romans, Galatians, Hebrews [chapter 11] studies; and of course the doctrine of believing in Jesus and ‘being saved’ is found in the gospel of John study and the Acts study. But for the most part the main verses on the subject are these few in Genesis and the key chapters from Romans [3-4] and Galatians [2-4]. The doctrine simply means that God has chosen to justify [declare legally righteous] all those who have faith in Christ. There are many varied ways that Christian communions deal with the whole process of salvation, some churches are what you would call Sacramental [they believe in the process of God using the sacraments to administer grace to the soul of the believer, and that thru these sacraments, mixed with faith, believers become justified] and others hold more closely to the Pauline idea of faith being the actual mechanism that God uses to justify [which is my personal view]. Many modern Protestants who strongly disagree with the sacramental churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican] fail to see that most of the reformers embraced some form of sacramentalism along with their belief in justification by faith. Luther being the strongest example; his embracing of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist [body, blood, soul and divinity] caused him to split from the great Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, and Luther believed Zwingli to be damned because he rejected the body of Christ! So for today’s ‘neo-reformed’ [the resurgence among Calvinism in our day] to be so quick to condemn many other types of Christians [Like those who follow Tom Wright] these are not ‘being fair’ to the broad system of belief that many of the great reformers held to. Okay, the above verse begins the journey between God and Abraham, thru a series of events thru out Abraham’s life God will reveal himself to Abraham, and at those times Abraham has a choice to either believe the promises of God to him- or reject them. These promises center around God telling Abraham that he will have a future dynasty of children that will bless the whole earth. In this dynasty there will be a special son that comes out of the tribe of Judah [Jesus] and he will be the promised seed to whom the promises were made [Galatians 3,4]. Paul the apostle will use the great father of the faith, Abraham, to convince the Jewish people that God justifies people by faith, and not by the works of the law. Paul goes to these past historic events [Gen 12, 15] and shows his fellow Jews that God did indeed justify Abraham [count him righteous] when he believed in the promise made to him by God [Gen 15]. Paul says ‘see, God justified Abraham before he was circumcised, therefore justification [being legally made right with God] is by faith and not by the keeping of the law’. This argument from Paul is simple, yet masterful. His Jewish audience knew these stories well, they just never ‘saw’ what Paul was seeing; once he broke thru ‘the veil’ [Corinthians] that blinded their hearts from the truth, then they could not escape the reality of what he taught them- these cultural stories of father Abraham would never be the same again. As I progress over the next few days I want to note that when we get to the book of James, we will be looking at a different type of justification than what Paul focused on. James will use the great event from Abraham’s life, the offering up of his son Isaac on the altar [Gen 22] as the event to define justification from his view. Many reformed do not fully see what James is saying, in my view. This type of ‘bible study’ [the type where we try and make everything fit our view] is common among many good men, but it fails to see that the scriptures come to us more in the sense of a portable library of books that cover the various perspectives of the time. Now, I am not advocating the view that the scriptures err, or that the bible has ‘competing theologies’ what I am saying is James use of the word ‘justification’ is actually a different use than what Paul means when he uses the Genesis 15 example to explain justification. Instead of trying to reconcile James with Paul by saying ‘all James means is the faith that saves has works’, which is limited indeed, we should leave room for seeing how James is coming to the table from a different point of view. James being one of the lead apostles at the Jerusalem council from Acts 15, and his defense of the importance of works from the strong Jewish background. I think Hebrews 11 actually deals with this subject [go read my commentary on the chapter to see where I’m coming from]. Okay, let’s leave off for now- go read the studies I just mentioned, familiarize yourself with the key chapters and will do some more tomorrow.
(1429) ‘There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth’ Psalms 72:16. Most of the time there is a portion of good truth available to believers from various sources; as believers we need to be picky at times, because if we simply consume everything from the buffet, we will get sick. The bible says honey is good, but too much will make you vomit! Years ago there was a preacher that I liked to listen to, he was from another city and I had heard him speak before and ordered some of his teaching materials. I noticed over time that though he associated with many famous prosperity preachers, yet he would make statements that showed he was not in total agreement with their doctrine. I then read a news story on a problem the church was having; the minister came under fire for putting pressure on people to give for the new building fund and yet was kind of frivolous in the ministries spending of money. One of the leaders in the church sought to expose the minister as a false prophet, they went to the courts and eventually the courts sided with the church. One of the complaints that was made was the preacher had bought a 4 thousand dollar suit for one of the church board members as a gift of appreciation. The disgruntled member thought this was wrong to do at a time when the church was putting pressure on people to give. The minister defended this act by saying Jesus wore an expensive coat, and that a woman also poured expensive perfume on Jesus [I’m not sure if he used one or both of these examples]. I have heard this defense made many times in the past by prosperity preachers, it is a lame excuse to be honest; I have explained this before and don’t want to do it again here. Let’s just say that these examples do not excuse ministries from financial indiscretions. The main point is even though this well meaning preacher, who I liked to listen to, tried to separate himself from the more extreme teaching of the prosperity movement; yet when all was said and done he resorted to the same miss use of scripture in defending himself; he could not avoid the traps of those who surrounded him. He spent time inviting these ministers to ‘the church’ went to do conferences in their churches and was doing lots of ministry things with them. In the above verse we read that there is a handful of corn in the earth, a quality supply of good meat [teaching] that God has made available to us, if we associate too much with teachers that are not really giving us the good corn, then no matter how hard we try, we will become like them. I want to encourage you today, what are the streams you feed from? Do you read the latest pop culture Christian best sellers? Things on how to get what you want out of life, or how you can succeed in some venture; or are you reading scholarly stuff, the Christian classics, the church fathers. If you spend most of your time surrounded by unbalanced teaching, it will affect you in the end, even if you think it won’t.
(1427) THE LORD GAVE THE WORD; GREAT WAS THE COMPANY OF THOSE THAT PUBLISHED IT- Psalms 68:11 In the 14th century you had the Oxford scholar, John Wycliffe, challenge the church and publish an English bible that would be understood by the common man. His view of the true church was that all those who believed in Christ comprised the mystical Body of Christ thru out the ages; he held to the same view that many believers would later embrace. His works would eventually influence John Huss, the great Bohemian priest, and Huss too would preach a doctrine of the universal church which transcended institutional boundaries. In the 16th century William Tyndale would take up the charge to get the bible into the hands of the common man; he longed for the day that the simple plowman would know the scriptures as well as the trained clergy; Tyndale would die for the faith [as Huss] but would pray/prophesy that God would touch the heart of the king of England and make his word known. Henry the 8th would eventually place an English bible into every church building thru out his realm. The history of God getting his word into the hands of the common man is great, many divine interventions [or inventions!] came along just at the right time to aid in the efforts. Guttenberg would invent the printing press in the 15th century and Luther’s reformation would take off as his books and tracts would get published by the boat loads [as well as many other great teachers’ stuff- like Erasmus Greek New Testament bible]. The institutional church would resist the free flow of these writings, they feared that the people might teach wrong doctrine, or that the masses might interpret the bible in a wrong way. Were these fears groundless? Not really. Many did mess up in their reading of the bible, and others would start their own sects based on faulty interpretations. But for the most part God was in the business of getting his word out to as many people as possible. I have found over the years that believers have a sort of blind spot when it comes to the ‘sacred’ modes of transmitting the bible. For instance many well meaning men believe that the process of meeting in a building on Sunday, and the bible being preached to as many as you can get to come to the meeting; many feel that this expression [being only one of many] is the actual God ordained way of getting the bible taught to the people. Many who hold to this singular idea, to the point where they feel the doing of this is actually called ‘the local church’ will look down upon other means of getting the word out. The explosion of the internet has truly been the printing press of modern times. Many average believers now have the ability to reach the world from their computers; are their dangers with this process? Sure. Will some teach wrong stuff? As Sarah Palin would say ‘you betcha’. But all in all people should embrace the reality that we live in a day where once again the average saint has the ability to get the word out to the masses with little, or no cost. I don’t want people to get me wrong, going to ‘church’ to hear the sermon is fine [most of the times!] but the bible does not teach the concept that the meeting of believers in buildings on Sunday is actually called ‘the local church’. For sure this is an expression of ‘local church’ it is a way that many believers have come to practice their faith; but it would be wrong to exalt this view of church to the point where we hinder others who are getting the word out in many different ways. In the New Testament, the ‘local churches’ referred to communities of believers who lived in your city/region- the term does not refer exclusively to meeting in a lecture hall environment to hear a lecture! Psalms says God gave the word and great was the company of those that published it; lets rejoice in the fact that we live in a time where a great company of people can ‘publish it’.
[Comment on Ben Witherington’s site on his recent historical Jesus book] I like it Ben. Went to the first post and read the intro; good and balanced. I have been critical of ‘historical criticism’ and recently made some comments on Scot McKnight’s article on rethinking Jesus studies. Overall I think its okay to do historical research and harmonies like this; as long as we add the warning that these studies are not meant to challenge the canonical accounts [which warning you gave in the intro!] God bless Ben thanks for sharing excellent scholarship like this in a free format. John
(1424) AVOIDING THE ECHO CHAMBER- A week or so ago the president was asked his opinion about the cable news shows and the talk radio community; he wisely answered that he felt there was a sort of dynamic like an echo chamber with these shows, that people need to be careful that they are not simply spending all their time and effort bouncing their own ideas off of the walls of others who only think in the same framework. In Christianity this is a problem that we all regularly deal with. I remember listening to a tape by an ‘organic church’ brother one time, he was trying to explain where the idea of elders arose in the writings of the apostle Paul. Now he was speaking from/to a community of people that at the time were writing and teaching against the New Testament idea of leadership, many felt like leaders in the New Testament were forbidden based on verses like ‘the gentiles exercise lordship over each other, it will not be like this with you’ and other verses that speak of servant leadership. The well meaning brother went on to espouse his theory that when the Jewish Diaspora took place in the first century, many were sent to the Christian churches and they told the leaders of the churches ‘here are our people, who are your elders that they need to report to’ and that in response Paul and the others said ‘Oh yeah, here they are’ sort of like they were ad libbing just to appease the Jewish converts. Now, this idea is interesting, but there is no foundation for it to rest on. The New Testament had elders, leaders, etc. for this brother to have thought this deeply about the matter was simply a symptom of living in the echo chamber of others who also rejected elders/leaders as a normative role of the New Testament churches. But many of these brothers have brought out the fact that none of the churches in the New Testament had the singular office of ‘the pastor’ that functioned as the weekly speaking office that the believers would gather around and hear, week after week, month after month, year after year. The development of this office [often referred to as the pastor] took place over time; some ascribe its development to 4th century pagan sources, others see it as arising out of the synagogue to church model [it should be noted that in the synagogues you had a person overseeing the meeting, but anyone could take the scrolls and read as the lord led- that’s why Jesus could read from the scrolls, even thought the Pharisees did not think he was ‘ordained’ by God]. The point being we all have blind spots that we need to be aware of. Most bible schools, universities teach courses on ‘pastoral counseling, finances, budgets, speaking, etc.’ and to be honest they too usually are approaching things from the echo chamber of ‘church’ as the corporate model, the actual meeting place of believers, as opposed to a community of people. Many of these courses never really question the validity of this singular role that we define as pastor, they just teach around it as a given office that existed in this way. The other night I was watching the Huckabee show on Fox news, they had on the actor Jon Voight. I liked Voight in the movie The Deliverance and of course George from Seinfeld was elated when he thought he bought Jon’s used car [though Jerry doubted it was authentic, being the name was spelled differently] as Voight was being interviewed he read a prepared letter that he had brought with him. Voight expressed many of the key talking points of Beck, Rush and Hannity; he mentioned the Olinsky method, hit a few more ideas on Obama being a socialist, you know the whole deal. When he was thru Huckabee graciously defended Obama in saying that he disagreed with his policies, but felt like the president means well. Voight is a victim of the echo chamber, seeing and hearing things on a regular basis, without a regular inflow of contrary data. As believers we need to be willing to hear both sides of the issues, maybe the critics are right about one thing, and wrong about another. That’s fine, just be willing to hear. Living in the echo chamber can be deafening at times.
[just a comment on an article critiquing Scot McKnight’s recent CT article] Good response- Just a note or 2; Scot doesn’t seem to be saying that all historical studies of Jesus are wrong, but that the actual process called ‘historical criticism’ is actually flawed. Also the example in this article ‘how can we know the meaning behind the act of Jesus and the money changers without 2nd temple context’ most believers have a good grasp of the prophetic challenge of Jesus to the religious leaders of the day by simply reading this gospel account in context ‘my father’s house was to be a house of prayer. You have made it a den of thieves’. Simply reading this account from the gospels gives us enough context to glean the truth of the passage. Good response anyway. God bless, John
(1422) THE APOSTLE, THE PROPHETESS AND FIRST DEGREE MURDER- Last night I watched a dateline special on a church that made the headlines because of a series of actions that led to the murder of the youth pastor’s wife, by the youth pastor. The church started out as a nice independent church in a good community, the original pastor moved on and a new pastor came in. He felt his calling was that of an apostle and he instituted the casting out of demons and new concepts on spiritual warfare. They also had the charismatic gifts of the Spirit operating. One of the ladies was a ‘prophetess’, if I remember right I used to see some of her stuff on a fairly popular prophetic web site. Either way she functioned in what she felt was a prophetic gift and she eventually gave a prophecy to the youth pastor that his wife was going to die and she would marry him after the death. The youth pastor wound up giving his wife an overdose of Benadryl and started an ‘accidental’ house fire and she died. The youth pastor had a few affairs with some of the other church members and eventually the sister who functioned in the prophetic gift confessed. Okay, how does stuff like this happen? It is easy to come away from this story with a negative view of all charismatic expressions of the church; that would be unfair. Purely as a doctrinal issue you do find the gifts of the Spirit as a legitimate part of Christianity. The church’s emphasis on spiritual warfare techniques and the normative act of identifying demon spirits in its members, well I do have a problem with that. Christians go thru fads/phases as the years roll by, one of the popular ideas was the whole spiritual warfare thing that involved strategic level prayers and identifying territorial spirits and stuff like that. Most fads have some type of doctrinal truth; for instance you do read in the prophetic book of Daniel how his prayers were being resisted by a ‘prince’ which more than likely was referring to a demon spirit, and how God used an angel to break thru the heavens and bring the answer to Daniel. So we see glimpses behind the scenes at times. But the normative teaching on prayer does not carry with it a regular process of identifying and engaging with these demons. So you have some truth, but usually associated with error. Many who appeal to the Daniel example fail to see that Daniels prayer eventually was answered, not because Daniel did some strategic prayer thing, but because he simply prayed to God in faith. At no time did Daniel cast the prince down thru his own techniques. So basically this independent church got into the whole thing. Many years ago when I was pastoring my own independent church, I had a lady [she was a good friend and Christian] who too felt like she functioned at times as a prophetess. She was ordained by Joel Osteen’s church out of Houston and I worked with family members who were involved [married to] some of the drug addict guys I was helping at the time. She did become a member of our church and she was an able person. But at times I had to warn her off of beliefs that she felt were from God. Her previous church [a word of faith church] had a good pastor whose wife was not helping the minister; she felt like the Lord told her that some day she would be married to the pastor, that either the wife would die or the pastor would get a divorce, but that she felt God had told her this. She gave me examples from the bible that seemed to justify in her mind how God can tell people things that seem out of the ordinary [like God telling one of his prophets to marry a prostitute] but I always tried to steer her into the direction that the gift of prophecy never contradicts the known revealed will of God as found in the bible. The point today is as believers we need to be careful that our expression of Christianity does not become isolated from the broader Body of Christ, we should be reading the Christian classics, should have a basic view of the people of God as a worldwide community that we can all glean guidance from. Many independent type churches get a hold of some doctrine [even if it’s true] and make the error of exalting the teaching to a point where they get out of balance with the historic church, then they focus all their teaching and reading around a small group of authors and preachers who also hold to the same limited ideas. This reinforces in the minds of the adherents that they surely must be in a balanced group, after all look at all the other good people who follow the same path! I would advise all believers [pastors especially] build up a good library of the Christian classics, pick up Augustine’s confessions, collect some writings from the early church fathers; develop a library that spans the ages- you can read and study the current movements and all, don’t reject all movements and fads, some movements do have historic implications to them, but only time will tell. And avoid the idea that God is telling people stuff like ‘your husband/wife will die and I will marry you’ these ideas are way off the mark and should be rejected outright without any second thoughts.
(1420) THE DOCTRINE ON WHICH THE CHURCH STANDS OR FALLS- In keeping with the last post lets overview some stuff. One of the main themes in the New Testament is the theme of justification by faith; the great reformer Martin Luther called this the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. If you go thru this blog and read the Galatians, Romans and Acts studies you will see what a major subject this is in the bible. Read Acts chapter 15 and you will see 3 specific statements made about what exactly the Jewish teachers out of Jerusalem were trying to put on the believers at Antioch; the chapter says they were trying to make them become circumcised, then it says to become circumcised and KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES, and then James will say the same in the final decree that was sent out to the gentile believers at Antioch. The point being the question very much was whether or not the gentile churches were to submit themselves under the ‘law of Moses’. In Galatians Paul says ‘if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘I am crucified with Christ… and the life which I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God’ this theme runs thru out the corpus of Paul’s writings and there is absolutely no doubt that the apostle is saying the believer becomes right with God, by faith apart from the law. And that ‘the law’ in context means the whole law [ceremonial, sacrificial and the moral code- 10 commandments]. Paul himself told the Galatians ‘if you become circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing, for he that is circumcised has become a debtor to the whole law’ all of these statements in context would be meaningless if they simply meant the gentiles were not under the ceremonial law, but still bound by the moral law. When the decree made it back to the church at Antioch they rejoiced in the fact they they were not bound under the law, not so they could go on sinning, but because the New Covenant of grace frees us from the legalistic approach to Gods kingdom. Remember, Paul associated the ceremonial law [circumcision] with the moral law- if he were just speaking of believers not being under one aspect, but another, then this distinction would be meaningless. James said the church at Antioch were troubled by those who went to them and told them they needed to become circumcised AND keep the law of Moses, it is clear from these passages that the message of the New testament is believers are under grace and are not under the old law; once again we are told ‘does this mean we keep on sinning’? Paul’s response is always no, not based on the fact that we are still bound to the law, but based on the fact that we have been risen with Christ, we are ‘new creatures in Christ, the old has passed away’- I do not frustrate the grace of Christ, if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain!
(1418) IS COLSON A MODERN DAY ERASMUS? I have been re-reading volume 6 of the Story of Civilization by Will Durant; this volume covers the Reformation period. It resounds with the warnings of the Catholic humanist Erasmus to his fellow critic of the church, Martin Luther. Many good men challenged what they saw as the corruption of the church, they wrote and spoke out against her abuses, Erasmus was one of her strongest critics. He was a true renaissance man who traveled a lot during his career. At one point he settled down in Basel, Switzerland and would thoroughly enjoy the metropolitan character of the region. He loved being in a community where the classics were widely read, as well as the modern ideas on theology. Calvin himself would eventually wind up in Basel for part of his education and he too would be influenced by Erasmus’s works. One of the fears that Erasmus and others had was they felt like Luther’s protest was going too far, they feared the toppling of order in society if the nation states would throw off all ecclesiastical control. They were afraid of anarchy [the same fears that the Ultramontanists in France would feel a couple of centuries later]. In my recent Christianity Today magazine I read an interesting column by Chuck Colson [the famous brother of water gate fame- he went to prison and converted to Christ] Colson seemed to strike a tone much like Erasmus, he was speaking about the current Tea Party movement. Colson warned that a popular uprising in and of itself can be dangerous, that Christians have every right to be upset and protest against what they feel is unjust, but believers need to heed the teachings of the new testament in being good citizens who submit to earthly authorities [a theme found thru out the New testament, especially in Paul’s letter to the Romans]. Colson warned that believers need to counter what they see as bad government with positive ideas and other options; we should not simply be a party of rebels! I sensed a sort of fear in Colson, sort of like he sees a danger in the country which can lead to bad things. Luther would eventually reject the warnings of his less rebellious contemporaries and follow thru with his rebellion; Germany would divide as a nation state between catholic and protestant churches, other nations would soon follow. The actual term Protestant speaks of a technical protest over a proposed rule that would allow the catholic churches/regions to remain catholic without any interference from the protestants; this was protested by the ‘protestants’ and thus the name stuck. The point being the reformation moved forward with a viable alternative to what they saw as a corrupt system, Luther himself rejected others who did advocate for what he saw as leading to anarchy. The famous Munster prophets believed they were to cast off all control of human government and establish their own New Jerusalem as an earthly city that would be governed directly by God. Luther eventually would sound like Erasmus in warning against a total rejection of human government and would appeal to Paul’s writings as well, showing us that good Christians submit to human authorities as much as possible, this warning fell on deaf ears- they read some of the caustic language that Luther himself used against the church and they saw him as a hypocrite. All in all we as believers should voice our protests and displeasure with human government when we see its failings, but we also need to understand that the changes that we want to be made will be done thru prayer and the ballot box, not thru any actions that can lead to the things that former ‘reformers’ warned against. Let our voices be heard, but let our non violent action be a witness to the kingdom from which we derive our beliefs.
(1415) BENNY HINN VERSUS JOHN PIPER- Yesterday I was reading some Christian news on line, I was surprised to see that the famed author/pastor, John Piper, was stepping down from his pastorate to take an 8 month sabbatical. As I read the story there was no scandal, he just simply examined his soul and felt like he saw pride creeping in and thought it good to re focus. I also read the latest from Benny Hinn, the famous healing evangelist, his wife recently filed for divorce and his web statement said ‘I will keep going, and not slow down one bit’. I would note that Benny and his wife also have no sexual scandal to deal with, it must have been the pressure and all, it caught the family by surprise when Susanne filed for the divorce. Now, many view Benny as a false prophet and an outright huckster- I don’t. I have major problems with the entire character of ‘ministry’ that platforms the Holy Spirits gifts in such a public way that draws great attention to the gifted person, the New Testament warns against various gifted people becoming the center of attention in the community of believers. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for centering their spiritual lives around the persona of any man [this would even include prominent well meaning pastors, who often don’t see this dynamic in our day-many feel it’s scriptural to have the life of the community centered around the weekly speaking gift of an individual, there really is no mandate in scripture for this. It’s okay for gifted leaders to teach, prophesy, function in some spiritual gift, but the New Testament does not show us a pattern of local churches centered around the office of any individuals gifts. One of the common mistakes church historians make is we read some of the 1st, 2nd century writings of the church fathers [Clement of Rome, Iraneus, etc.] and we see how the able bishop rebuked the Corinthians for not submitting to the ecclesiastical office of Bishop, the letter portrays the Corinthian church as a bunch of rebels who are rising up against the authority of the Bishop and other leaders. It’s usually assumed that the Corinthian church was at it again, ‘there goes those darn troublemakers’ type of a thing. But it’s very possible that the Corinthian community was heeding the admonition from their founding apostle [Paul] and were actually resisting the idea of allowing any singular authority to take a position that was contrary to what Paul wrote to them in his epistles!]. The main point is you can have legitimate gifts being expressed thru a person [prophecy, healing, or even the pastor/teacher gift of speaking] but if these gifts are being used in a way that draws undo attention to the individual; then it is a violation of the character of New Testament ministry, although the gift itself might be legitimate. I was watching an ‘apostle’ out of Newark one day on Christian TV; they are a Pentecostal group that are heavy into spiritual warfare. The main leader was dressed in military type garb [corporal, cornel stripes and all] and they were doing the best they could. An interesting thing was they were doing a teaching on Paul’s words ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty thru God to the pulling down of strongholds’ [Corinthians] and they actually taught it right! The apostle shared how many people mistake the meaning of the verse and apply it to strategic spiritual warfare prayer directed at territorial spirits and stuff like that. But the apostle explained how it was really speaking about apologetic type arguments that Christians make against the false ideas and strongholds of false doctrine. But then they went on to say that they arrived at this true understanding thru the apostolic gift of ‘revelation knowledge’ sort of like if it weren’t for the gift of the ‘apostle’ they would never have known this truth. I would venture to say that the majority of scholarly works that deal with this verse probably have it right; in the world of ‘intellectual Christianity’ [which is usually disdained by these independent type churches] most teachers knew this all along; we did not need the ‘gift of apostolic revelation knowledge’ to know this. Okay, the point being we have good people, who operate at times in true gifts, but also have a long way to go in growth and maturity. In the above example of Piper versus Hinn, I believe both of these men are good men, Piper comes from the baptist [reformed] tradition, Hinn from the charismatic wing. Maybe the Lord directed Benny to ‘keep on going, don’t slow down a bit’ and maybe Piper felt the Lord saying ‘slow down, take time off’ I just felt it striking that Piper was doing this because of what he sensed was the hidden sin of pride, no big scandal, just time to examine his soul. While Benny felt like ‘slowing down’ was not an option. These 2 examples give us a glimpse into the present day expression of church/ministry, and how we have all been affected by the times we live in.
(1412) IN DEFENSE OF JEREMIAH WRIGHT- Last night an interesting thing happened; as I was channel surfing the news shows I saw that Larry King had on a few ‘ex’ conservatives who are now under fire for their left wing leanings. These are traditional white guys basking in their new found social justice beliefs. I could only watch for a minute or so, it just came off as inauthentic. Then as I scrolled thru Fox, MSNBC, and a few of the CSPAN channels I came across a Tavis Smiley forum that was being held in Chicago. I was fixated for 2 hours [or more!] The panel included many of the famous Black progressives- Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Michael Eric Dyson, just to name a few [Rev. Wright was not there by the way] and in the center of the roundtable discussion there was a simple sign that said ‘love’. The amazing thing was though these men were espousing many of the same ideas as the white liberals on the Larry King show, yet I was not offended in the least. I listened intently to Farrakhan freely quoting scripture along with the Quran, he actually only quoted from the Quran one time, and he quoted the bible more than all the others. But the bible was also quoted freely thru out the discussion; many of the questioners from the audience also were pastors and Christians. Now, I have written on the Nation of Islam before [under the cults section] and I do not accept that religion as even a legitimate expression of Islam, so don’t take me wrong on this. It was the simple reality that these Black leaders would freely see their cause for racial justice tied in with scripture. Some did express the belief that the older Black church did hinder the Black people because of their ‘wait on the Lord’ attitude; but all in all they were up front and willing to speak what they felt was the truth in an open way. Tavis Smiley also brought out the fact that many Black leaders felt like doing a public forum discussing the short comings of the president would be wrong; many on the panel challenged the presidents ‘bi-racial’ stance in political matters. Many in the Black community feel like the president has let them down because he does not hold to the more radical ideas of Black justice. Overall it was an excellent discussion that I was glued to, and to repeat, there was absolutely no feeling of offense or animosity with any of the speakers. I found it odd that I couldn’t stomach a few minutes of the white guys on Larry King, but was enthralled for 2 hours with this forum. When Reverend Wright came under fire during the Obama campaign, he obviously was demonized by the media and the repeated showing of his statements that were wrong and offensive to many people [including Blacks]. Yet Wright comes from a Black liberation theological background, it’s in his DNA to challenge the current system of government and to see strains of the gospel in communistic type systems; he isn’t the first to embrace these beliefs. Many Catholic theologians in Latin American countries hold to the same ideas; the Catholic Church officially rejects this idea. One of the tragedies of the Black people is the fact that so many young Black kids make bad choices that land them in prison, many of these young men become effected with the Black Muslim leanings in the prison system; they are sold a bill of goods that simply is not true; if we really believe as Christians that Jesus is the only way, then how can we sit idly by and not be concerned over the Black exodus into Islam? Though I disagree with many of Rev. Wright’s ideas and beliefs, yet if I had the choice between sending my Black brother to the Nation of Islam or to Rev Wright’s church, I would choose Wright 7 days out of the week.
(1410) ‘But the Jews were so exasperated by HIS TEACHING, by which their rulers and chiefs were convicted by the truth…that at last they brought him before Pontius Pilate, at the time Roman governor of Syria, and, by the violence of their outcries against him, exhorting a sentence giving him up to them to be crucified’ Tertullian, [160-220 a.d.] church father from Carthage- North Africa. Proverbs tells us that wisdom was dwelling with God before the earth and hills were brought forth, that this wisdom from God rejoices with the father in the ‘habitable parts of the earth’. Jesus told the disciples that they were clean [set apart] by the words he had spoken unto them, that he chose them before the world was made to use them to bring forth fruit. In a sense God has pre-ordained a skill set of wisdom and understanding that he foresaw us communicating in time. He pre-planned this wisdom before the actual land/earth even existed! In each generation God has ‘set people’ whose job is to deposit these words/truths from God into a set area [city, nation, world]. It is thru the depositing of these words that others will be ‘set apart’-be made clean thru the words that we have spoken unto them. Be clean- how? The word also means being sanctified, that is God setting you apart in a specific way in order to carry out his purpose. When Nehemiah started out he had a burden for the city of his father’s that was broken down and destroyed, he then embarked on a special mission to a set pace to build, yes he had lots of resistance and opposition, but God called him to finish the task for a set season at a set time. Leaders, have you learned and heard things these past few years that have caused you to make course corrections? Were there things that you never saw until now that have affected the way you see God’s kingdom? These things are for the purpose of God to be fulfilled, he wants you to impact large ‘open spaces’ he has pre-planned areas for you to speak into, but he had to first set you apart, make you clean thru these words that he has spoken unto you.
(1406) ‘Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him man. For he was a doer of wonderful works…this man was the Christ, and when Pilate had condemned him to the Cross, upon his impeachment by the principle man among us, those who had loved him from the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day, the divine prophets haven spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him. And even now, the race of Christians, so named from him, has not died out’- Josephus, Antiquities, 18.3.3 [1st century historian] A few months ago while surfing the internet, I stumbled across an interesting apologetic ministry, I forget the brothers name but he had a well developed radio and on line ministry. They had lots of great tools for people who wanted to learn good teaching, historic stuff and all. But I also noticed that they were very anti charismatic, to the point where I felt they weren’t being honest with both scripture and church history in their view of non charismatic stuff, it was also the time of the Todd Bentley situation in Lakeland Fla. I mean they left him no room at all, he was branded an unbelieving heretic thru and thru [I personally had lots of problems with the Lakeland thing, but still pray for Todd and his situation]. Within a week or so of finding the site, the ministry folded and the main teacher got divorced, I thought it odd that they were up and running for many years, and I just happened to stumble across them at the end of their career. One of the things that I have found troubling over the years is the inability of certain believers to ‘judge righteous judgment’ the bible says of Jesus that he will not judge by outward appearances, but he sees the true motives. Often times the charismatic expression of Christianity will write off all reproof as ‘those unbelieving intellectuals’ they see that their critics willfully reject the portions of scripture that speak of supernatural stuff, and they simply think that all the critics are blind; they don’t ‘see’ the truth. Then at the same time when trying to deal with other real problems [like the unbalanced prosperity gospel] they too think the critics just don’t ‘see’ the truth about prosperity, so they write the critics off. In general this type of thing happens all the time in the Body of Christ. Josephus gave us an historical account of the reality of Jesus and his movement; he based his account on factual evidence, not fairy tales! Josephus was a true historian who had little gain from making up a story that could be proven false; it would damage his reputation among the Roman elites if he did that. But he, like many others, looked at the evidence and was open minded, he came to the conclusion that the historical resurrection did actually take place in time, though it was a supernatural event, yet it passed the smell test of historical inquiry. The above apologist seemed to be a good man, he left no room open for the possibility of certain charismatic gifts as being legitimate for our day, he rejected the supernatural aspect of the gifts of the Spirit. And many who hold to the reality of the gifts, these often have little education in the other areas that they are not focused on, they too leave the door wide open to much unbalanced stuff. As the historical people of God, a true worldwide movement that the historians look at, they will know we are Christians by our love; as we correct and reprove each other, we need to make sure that we are doing it in love.
(1405) THE APOSTLES CREED
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
HE SHALL SEE OF THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL AND SHALL BE SATISFIED; BY HIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFY MANY- Isaiah. This past year I have been doing some reading on the Emergent movement as well as always reading some book on the ancient church; there are many moderns who long for the old days, sometimes referred to as ‘the smells and bells’ liturgy. Then you have some who are drawn to 19th/20th century liberalism- the social gospel stuff. One thing that all these groups need to keep in mind is the classic message of the Cross, that God was ‘pleased to bruise his Son’ on the Cross [Isaiah 53]. Some in their efforts to make Christianity more acceptable to modern man began to reject this doctrine, the Atonement. Many are surprised to find out that one of the great evangelists of the first great awakening, Charles Finney, embraced some of these views in his writings. Today these views are deemed heretical [the denial of the Atonement] but at the time progressive thinking believers were affected by the charge of ‘how can a holy, loving God punish an innocent person on the behalf of other criminals’? So after hearing the charge for so long, some adjusted their belief to fit the times. There are some things that the church has said ‘I believe’ about; these things are the non negotiables; it’s not that we can’t discuss them, or should be afraid of others who do question them, but to say ‘yeah brother, I hear what you’re saying about these classic doctrines and I believe you are placing yourself outside of the borders of classic Christianity, I love you and like dialoging with you, but this is where I stand, along with the ancient church’. Many Protestants disdain the creeds of the church; they feel that they are simply tradition and that all we need is the bible. This attitude neglects the importance of listening to the council of our fathers and those who have gone on before us, a rule that scripture itself testifies about [Proverbs]. As the Evangelical movement struggles in our day for a unifying voice, I think the creeds are a good place to start.
(1404) UNLESS I AM CONVICTED BY THE TESTIMONY OF SACRED SCRIPTURE OR BY EVIDENT REASON [I DONOT ACCEPT THE AUTHORITY OF POPES AND COUNCILS, FOR THEY HAVE CONTRADICTED EACH OTHER], MY CONSCIENCE IS CAPTIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD. I CANNOT AND I WILL NOT RECANT ANYTHING, FOR TO GO AGAINST MY CONSCIENCE IS NEITHER RIGHT NOR SAFE. GOD HELP ME. AMEN- Martin Luther. This was the statement from Luther after previously questioning himself over his revolt in the church. The day before he was brought before the council and given the chance to recant his books. He acknowledged the books were his and said he needed time to think about recanting; Luther seriously questioned whether or not his revolt was going too far. The humanist Erasmus would write scathing criticisms against the Catholic Church, but would not join Luther in what he thought was a rebellious schism. It’s interesting to note that the pope of Luther’s day was actually quite a good pope [Leo] in Luther’s correspondence with him Luther regrets that the reform is happening under such a good pope. Luther will eventually call him the anti Christ! The interesting thing to note is in the midst of all the action and debate, Luther himself had questions. There were times when he thought other reformers were going too far. At one point Luther left the safety of a secluded castle hideout to return to the university at Wittenberg and reign in the radical teachings from the self proclaimed prophets who were teaching a total rebellion against the entire government of Germany; Luther said if the reformers do this, they will be siding with those who oppose law and government, things ordained by God. When the famous Peasant’s Revolt took place, Luther sided with the state and used harsh language in putting down the revolt. Many rebels saw Luther as the leader of their cause; they were shocked and disappointed when Luther would not join in their revolt. In all Christian controversies and debates there is always the danger of certain groups going too far in their view of things. While teaching on the true nature of the church [community of people] I have noticed that some mistake this teaching and embrace a radical anti clericalism and ‘anti church building’ mindset to the point where they are going to extremes at certain times. I admire Luther for his stance, after giving serious thought to whether or not he should recant and go the route of Erasmus, he chose to stay true to his conscience and lead the German reform movement till the end. In the current day, both Protestants and Catholics need to look at the past reasons for the protests, and allow room for unity where room exists. But to also acknowledge that there still exist official doctrines/statements from both sides that are quite difficult to reconcile; it is possible for Christian communions to work things out and truly achieve a greater degree of unity than what we have had in the past, but it’s also important for all sides to have a working knowledge of the differences. At the end of the day Luther sided with his conscience and what he felt to be true, the other side felt the same way- when working towards unity as believers we need to keep this in mind.
(1400) IF I HADN’T DONE WHAT I HAVE DONE AMONG THEM, WORKS NO ONE HAS EVER DONE, THEY WOULDN’T BE TO BLAME. BUT THEY SAW THE GOD SIGNS AND HATED ANYWAY… THEY HATED ME FOR NO GOOD REASON- John 15, message bible.
This is the chapter where Jesus tells us he is the vine and we are the branches; the father is the main gardener. If we remain-abide in him we will bring forth fruit, if we do not ‘remain in him’ we are cut off and burned. In Johns other writings [1st John] he speaks about those who did not remain in the doctrine of Christ, they went out ‘from us, but were really not with us’. John was speaking of the Gnostic/Docetist groups that would reject the incarnation of Jesus; these did not ‘remain in him’. Also what about the immediate circle of disciples that Jesus was speaking to, did any of them ‘not remain’? Judas would also reject Christ, and Jesus said he too was not really a part of them from the start. In the above quote Jesus challenges the religious leaders of the day by doing the works that he did. The religion of the day viewed God’s will as religious performance, public praying on the street corners, fasting ‘to be seen’, their mindset was one of public performance. Jesus put priority on doing acts of justice, reaching out to the poor, spending time with the down and out, and also rejecting the ‘crowd pleasing’ mentality of the day. In John’s gospel his brothers tell him ‘go up to the public feast and show thyself, no man who does these things secretly will not eventually go public’ they thought there was something strange about his unwillingness to ‘go public’. I have often found it strange that we as believers put such a high priority on ‘public meetings-ministry’ to the point where we really believe that this is the main part of Christianity. A few years back I visited/stayed with some brothers in Europe, they ran a Christian community where they all lived and helped each other out [addicts and stuff]. I spent about a week with them and it was great, I immediately saw the work as a legitimate expression of ‘local church’ [Ecclesia] I even defended them to others who were saying ‘they are not church’. During the week I spent with them, the main leader of the group was just beginning to rent another building so they could ‘do church’. I went to a few of the meetings and it was okay. The point being they kind of felt like the public meetings were ‘really church’ and the actual community was ‘Para church’ a very limited view indeed. The same thing has happened with many well meaning churches/ministries thru out the years. Jesus put a priority on things that the religious crowd deemed ‘non legitimate’ they would ask him ‘where are you getting your authority from, who gave you this authority’? In today’s jargon it might be said ‘who’s covering are you under, what ‘local church’ has legitimized you’. We often err, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God. Jesus put such a high priority on social justice, reaching out to the poor and needy, speaking out for the widow and oppressed. This same theme runs thru out the entire teaching of the New Testament. Very little time is spent on the idea of public meetings/ministry. Yet we have exalted the idea of church and ministry to the point where we see public performance as the main thing, that’s what we usually regulate our lives around. Jesus told the religious crowd that he came and did all the things that Gods kingdom was really about [helped the poor, raised the dead, etc.] Yet they found fault with him, they fulfilled the scriptures that said ‘they hated me for no good reason’ do the things we do have good reasons, or are we just following the crowd?
(1394) THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY? In John 12 the Greeks come to Jesus disciples and want a meeting with Jesus, the Greeks are those who prided themselves in their wisdom. Jesus basically brushes them off and refuses to cow tow to the elites. He responds ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone’ in essence- you guys ‘abide alone’ [no meeting with me] until you take up the Cross and follow me. This week [yesterday] the news has been reporting the Texas school book story. Basically every few years Texas school board members go thru the process of what the books for the state should include; basic guidelines and stuff. Texas is the nation’s number one purchaser of textbooks, so the theory is if Texas ‘conservatives’ get their way, then the rest of the nation gets stuck having to buy books that are tainted with backwoods idiots who imposed their views on the rest of the ‘Greek’ [intellectual world]. Do our schoolbooks in general steer away from the religious history and statements of many of the founding fathers? Yes. Do our schoolbooks in general avoid/edit out religious statements from their coverage of the founding documents. Yes. Why? There is a basic mistake made by many of the publishers of schoolbooks that say ‘if we show religious content, then we are violating the separation of church and state idea’. The problem with this approach is they have left out a large portion of history while trying to produce a product that will be accepted in both ‘liberal’ and conservative states. If you read the founding documents in their entirety [Mayflower Compact, etc.] they read like a ‘church covenant’ that any Christian community could adopt. Yet when the history books show quotes and portions of the documents, they never quote these sections, why? Because of what I just showed you. This has happened time and time again over many years until we have gotten to the point where many public school children are really not learning an accurate history of the country. The well meaning [but grossly misinformed] opponents simply do not know this. They see the struggle as one between ‘those darn Christian ignoramuses’ versus the enlightened crowd, they are really the ones who have no idea what they are talking about. Now, are we- quote ‘a Christian nation’? Not really. At least not in the way that some Protestant preachers claim. During the founding of our country you had the mindset of the European enlightenment affecting much of western society. Lines were being drawn that pitted a humanist form of belief in God [Deism] against the classical Christian view. Some of our founding fathers did adhere to a Deistic view. Deism said ‘we do not need tradition or religion to inform us of human value and dignity, we can hold to these principles by virtue of our human nobility and intelligence’ that is they believed these truths to be self evident, sort of like the current theme from some of the more popular atheists ‘do good for goodness sake’ [which by the way, fails in the long run- too much to explain right now]. Now, with this background, when our founding documents say ‘we hold these truths to be SELF EVIDENT’ this term smacks of the fact that some of our fathers did indeed reject the classical Christian view. So what does this show us? That some of the founders purposefully included language that would veer away from the Christian view. But you will never understand or learn this simple thing that I just showed you, if we continue to expunge from the record all the religious statements and views of the fathers! So the point is, when these so called enlightened ones try and approach teaching from a biased view, a view that they often don’t realize is biased, they do more harm than good to their cause. The Greeks said ‘we are willing to hear Jesus, let’s set up an appointment’ they went further than most of the liberals on the Texas school board.
(1387) FOR THE FATHER HAS LIFE IN HIMSELF, AND HAS GIVEN TO THE SON TO HAVE LIFE IN HIMSELF; AND HAS GIVEN HIM AUTHORITIY TO EXECUTE JUDGMENT ALSO- In John chapter 5 one of the statements that irks the religious leaders is Jesus calling God his father- thus making himself equal with God. Those who doubt the deity of Christ should look at the way the religious leaders viewed him, they knew that he claimed equality with God. In some of the recent musings on the liberal ideas of ‘the evolution of God’ [those who see the church evolving in her view of God as time goes by] I want to say a few things. First, the incarnation is Gods way of saying ‘yes, your view of me was limited, the very fact that the incarnation is the full revealing of myself to man, shows that man never had the complete [full] view of me yet’. So in a sense, yes, our view of God ‘evolved’ [so to speak] from the wrathful God of the Old Testament to the merciful God of the New Testament. Now, are these contrary views of God? No. Are they views like some in the early days of the church taught- that the God of the Old Testament was a different God than the God of the New [Marcion and other Gnostic cults]? No. But our view of God from the Old Testament is a view of Gods holiness and judgment apart from the grace of the New Covenant. He is the same God, seen absent the Cross [for the most part, yet we do see Gods attribute of mercy even in the Old Testament]. Now, without getting off track too much, in the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the complete picture of God to us; Colossians says that ALL the fullness of the God head dwelt in Jesus bodily. We never had this fleshly reality of God before- the apostle John will say ‘we handled the word of life’ [1st Jn]. A few weeks back while watching an apologetic show I mentioned how some of the staunch apologists were labeling the UPC [united Pentecostal churches] as a cult because of their unique view of the oneness of God. The apologists at one point quoted the verse ‘all things were made by him’ referring to Jesus, and said ‘therefore Jesus is God’ true. But they were trying to combat the UPC brothers by using this verse, the apologists were using it in a way that said ‘see, Jesus created everything too, just like it says about God’ sort of in a disconnected way. In John 1 we read that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. In Genesis we read that God ‘spoke’ all things into existence. Jesus in the New Testament is called ‘the word of God’ to try and simplify it, when Colossians says ‘all things were made by him’ it does not mean that Jesus created things separately from God, it means God spoke and that ‘the vehicle’ of creation was the Son. The act of God’s word [also called Jesus] going forth created all things. God did not create separately from the Son, or the Son from the father. I really loathe teaching this stuff because church history is filled with names that get tagged on all the various views of explaining the oneness of God while at the same time upholding the reality of the Trinity. The main point today is mans view of God did ‘evolve’ in a sense, it became fully revealed in Jesus. Now the liberal view of the evolution of God is something different than this, but I wanted to make clear that if the only view of God is seen thru the Old Testament, than yes we are not ‘fully’ seeing God, the full view comes thru Jesus. We reject the Marcion idea of 2 different Gods, the Gnostic belief that the God of the Old Testament was the God of matter and thus an evil God, while the God of the new testament is the spirit God- this is true heresy, but as Christians we accept the incarnation as the complete picture and revelation of God to man. This in no way negates the wrath of God [eternal judgment] but it tempers it with mercy.
(1383) WHEN PEOPLE REALIZE IT IS THE LIVING GOD YOU ARE PRESENTING AND NOT SOME IDOL THAT MAKES THEM FEEL GOOD, THEY ARE GOING TO TURN ON YOU- Jesus, message bible. In keeping with the above comment [those reading from the ‘most recent- teaching section’] let’s talk a little. Some authors have reintroduced some of the more liberal versions of Christianity and it’s good for people to be aware of the pros and cons. Recently I received a teaching catalog from an excellent company called ‘the teaching company’ as I perused the courses they had some really good stuff; I ordered and have already started on a course on Einstein and Quantum theory [Physics] I love the course and these teachings http://and%20book are really at the university level. But I have noticed an area where the able professor is mistaken; he says ‘the universe is ruled-governed BY CHANCE’. Now, I know what he means, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is violating the laws of logic and reasoning by making this assumption [by the way this professor is also a philosopher, he should know better!]. Basically you can say ‘there are causes, things happening in the material realm that we are unaware of, as of now we have no definite identified cause’ but to say that ‘chance’ itself is the ruling agency is nonsense. The point being we should all have some background before accepting anyone’s teaching 100%. So in some of the recent Christian teaching some have resurrected the older liberal theories that arose in the 19th century out of the universities in Germany. Some teachers taught that the first 5 books of the bible couldn’t have been written by Moses because at the time of Moses writing was unpopular, and that the concept of ‘codified law’ was foreign, and that the commandment against idols was ‘too advanced’ for Moses to have written down around 14-1500 BC. So these liberal theories espoused a sort of view of God and religion that was ‘evolving’ over time. Von Harnack, Wellhausen, the philosopher Hegel all advanced this view [sometimes referred to as the documentary theory]. Well as time rolled on and we became more proficient in archaeology, low and behold we found out that 3-500 years before Moses societies were advanced enough to write down laws. The famous code of Hammurabi was discovered, it was a law code with 282 specific laws written down; something that supposedly was never done at the time. So how did the liberal theologians respond? ‘You are right, Moses very well could have written down the 10 commandments around 1500 BC, as a matter of fact we now think he copied it from Hammurabi’! Yikes! You see when people exalt their view-theory above the actual evidence, then you have problems. It’s not to say that we should blackball their ideas, it’s just we need to know that some of these ideas have been around for a while and they have been fairly well debunked by other able theologians. Just because a ‘new’ theory sounds interesting, doesn’t mean it’s correct. In the teaching course catalog that the teaching company sent me, they also have stuff on the bible and early Christianity and theology. I did not order those courses because I am familiar with the theology of the professor [Bart Erhman] and though I’m sure he is a good man, I know he espouses views that are really not in keeping with mainstream thought. Now, if I had the teachings already, sure I would work the course, but I won’t spend a few hundred dollars on stuff that I already am aware of and have rejected. The point today is historic orthodox Christianity has answered many of the critics questions over the years, it’s not ‘wicked’ for a teacher/writer to reintroduce some of these ideas all over again, but people need to be aware that these things have been floating around for a while and the historic orthodox view is really the better [more historically reliable] view. Yes, momma and daddy’s church, old fashioned as it may be, probably had it right all along!
(1382) IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD; AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD- John 1:1 Jesus is called ‘The Word’, the Greek word for ‘word’ is Logos. In the first century this word was common among the philosophers, it stood for a sort of overriding principle that would explain and bring together all the fields of science and learning, the same obsession of Einstein in his search for a unified theory. The philosophers believed that there had to be some type of base principle of truth that would bring together all the other fields of wisdom and learning. In essence John was saying ‘This is it, we have found the Logos- the answer to everything- his name is Jesus!’ It’s always difficult to teach these types of verses, they are fraught with only seeing one aspect of what God is saying, and then dividing lines are drawn between the Christian camps. I was having a conversation yesterday with a person who was asking questions about a Muslim friend who used to be a Christian. The Muslim said that he wanted a religion that he could understand, that God is the only God and Jesus is not God. I explained the best I could and shared this verse and a few others, but I also explained that various ‘Christian’ groups have argued over the way to express the deity of Jesus for centuries. There are groups that say ‘Yes, Jesus is the redeemer, he is Gods Son, but only God is God’. From the catholic bishop Arius in the 4th century all the way up to the Unitarians in Boston in the 20th century, people have debated the language we use. I explained to my friend that the bible clearly does teach us that Jesus is God, but I do see how people have problems with the language. But I told my friend that for a person to use the difficulty over the Trinity to embrace Islam is going way too far in my view. I mean the fact that someone has a problem with the wording of the Trinity should not mean you abandon all the realities of redemption and Christianity and embrace a movement that was started by a ‘prophet’ who killed and murdered and had ‘many women’, I mean no other prophets ever had a track record like that! As we read the rest of John chapter 1 we see how John the Baptist says he came to bear witness, to give a record of Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’. The religious leaders come to John and ask him ‘who are you, we need an answer to bring back to the authorities, the movers and shakers of our day’ John says ‘I am the voice of one man crying in the wilderness, get ready, the lord is on his way’. John quoted Isaiah 40, he is also said to be the prophetic voice that Malachi spoke about- the Elijah that was to come. Johns only significance was in the fact that he was chosen by God to trumpet the reality of the Messiah, his purpose was not about him or his prophetic gifts, his purpose was to proclaim the last true prophet [in the sense of Hebrew messengers who came down the line- see Hebrews chapter 1] and John the Baptist said ‘this is the one, the one whom the Spirit descended on- he’s going to baptize you guys with the Spirit’ [and fire!]. John testified that Jesus was the end of the line for promised Messiahs, he was the ONE. Why look we for another?
(1379) HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO UNJUST GOVERNMENTS? One of the most famous dissidents of the soviet era was Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Alexander was a simple school teacher who would serve in the military when Stalin was in power. He had written some critical things about Stalin in a letter to a friend and was put in the communist prison camps. While doing time he met believers and returned to his early faith as a Christian. In the year I was born  he wrote the famous ‘A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich’ it was a fictional account of a man in the prison camps and how he dealt with his captors. The main character would meet a Baptist believer while doing time and sort of represented Alexander’s own plight. Alexander came to fame when Khrushchev would permit him to publish his book, Khrushchev was advancing his own program of Destalinization and he underestimated Alexander’s criticism of all communist type systems, not just Stalin. He would also expose the evils of the prison camps in his other work titled ‘The Gulag Archipelago’. Eventually he was exiled to the U.S. [Vermont was his home] and received much notoriety as a prophetic voice who spoke out for justice. He gave a controversial speech at Harvard [1978?] and the western media came to dislike him; he was critical of loose morality and the evils of western society as well, he was not the sort of liberal crusader that they mistook him to be. Eventually he would return home to Russia and live to see the fall of the system he despised. History is filled with people who stood for what was right against all odds and impacted society for the better, Alexander was a school teacher whose life took a turn of events that he simply followed; he was not ashamed of the gospel and did not tailor his message to please the audience. I like that style; it reminds me of another revolutionary who gave his life to save the world.
(1377) Last night I caught a good program on Christian apologetics. Apologetics is the term used to describe the ministry of those who contend for ‘the faith’. In the early church you had men like Justin Martyr who defended the nascent church from those who would accuse her of wicked things [like cannibalism! A misreading of the Lords supper]. The show last night had a bunch of apologists that dealt with cults; they included the main ones as well as some Christian branches of Pentecostalism. They critiqued the UPC [untied Pentecostal churches] as a cult because of her unique view of the ‘oneness’ of God as seen thru Jesus. Now, I have written on this before [under the Trinity section] and don’t want to explain it again, but I do want to examine the way believers view other churches. During the program the able apologists used lots of wording from the early creeds and councils; Subordinationism, Monarchianism, Modalism, etc. These are all words I am familiar with and have used on this site, as a believer who loves to study church history I understand where these men are coming from. But at one point it seemed as if they were critiquing certain aspects of other churches, sincere believers who have certain views that they have developed thru their reading of the bible, and that these apologists were really not giving a fair shake to these other groups. You also had both the cults and some of the more extreme restorationist groups [restorationism refers to those Christian groups who reject the Protestant Reformation as being ‘the offspring’ of the Catholic church and view their faith thru the idea that we should return to the original sources, primarily the book of Acts, and start from scratch] share the view that the historic Orthodox churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed] were basically pagan expressions of Christianity and their creeds and councils usurped the word of God. I believe there are real expressions of Christianity found in all of the above [excluding the actual cults] and that the Christian church should know the historic creeds and councils, but also be willing to see how these other Christian groups have come to form their opinions thru actual scripture. I mean at one point there were so many categories being quoted by the apologists to refute the Pentecostal view, that they weren’t really allowing the scriptures to be the final authority on the matter [I agreed more with the apologists, being I am one myself, but at the same time sensed too mush rigidness]. I also believe it’s dangerous for any Christian group to leave the impression that most other historic expressions of Christianity are out right pagan. Overall we all need grace when dealing with others that we disagree with, yes there are times when we need to take a strong stand on stuff and let the chips fall where they may, but at the end of the day we should be striving for unity as much as possible.
(1374) let’s talk a little about the current church scene in certain evangelical circles. I read a news article about a church in Texas, Fellowship church- pastored by Ed Young [the son of the able senior Ed Young] the article showed how brother Young came under criticism for possibly leasing a private jet and mixing the selling of his teachings too much with the non profit ‘church ministry’. Overall it seems like brother Young is a well intentioned pastor, not in the category of ‘the prosperity gospel’ [which some seem to think] and he is a good man, who has been affected by mixing in 21st century corporate models with the biblical idea of Ecclesia [church]. All things I have written about before. Also Pastor Rick Warren [the good pastor from the west coast- Saddleback church] made the statement that the church at Jerusalem was a Mega Church, because some historians tell us that the ‘church’ grew to around 100 thousand believers. Now, I consider both of these men good men, I do not put them in the category of some who truly have lost a biblical message and traded it in for a wealth gospel. But these recent examples show us how we need to re-evaluate the way we think and function. For instance if I were to say ‘the church at Corpus Christi numbers 50 thousand’ you would take that statement to mean there are around 50 thousand believers who reside in the city. To then justify an environment [building] being built to house 50 thousand people, because after all the Jerusalem church had 100 thousand ‘members’- this would be silly. The church at Jerusalem met at Solomon’s Porch, an open space outside the temple. You did not have 100 thousand people ‘showing up for church on Sunday’ [ouch!] but some historians estimate that the ‘church at Jerusalem’ [the believers residing in the city] eventually numbered a high number. Also how should we approach the sale of teaching materials that Christians produce? First we should look at the overall view of scripture, both the basic teachings from Jesus and how the early church operated. Jesus did teach his men ‘freely you have received, freely give’ in context he was talking spiritual gifts [casting out demons, healing, etc.] Both Paul and Peter would give instructions/warnings to younger leaders [elder’s- pastors] to be very careful about mixing in money with ministry. And even though it was possible to make a good living through the profession of preaching in the 1st century [Rhetoric] yet we know that none of the early apostles/pastors did this. One time Larry King was interviewing a prosperity preacher, King asked him ‘how can you believe that Jesus was a very wealthy man, doesn’t the bible show us that he was a humble man’ and the preacher, who obviously knows much more about the bible than King, responded by quoting a few proof texts [Jesus wore an expensive coat] and dismissed Kings criticism. Now, who was right? The image that King [and most people] have of Jesus and his humble life [carpenter] is actually the correct image. The image that the well meaning prosperity preacher had was actually wrong. Now it would take way too much time for me to explain the whole thing [go read my prosperity section] but this example shows us how we can sincerely believe the views we hold are in keeping with scripture, while the whole time they are violating scripture. The purpose of this post is not to condemn Rick Warren or Ed Young, I believe these are good men who I can recommend, I would not tell people ‘don’t give to their ministries’ but I do think we need to function in the 21st century, with all the benefits of modern technology and contemporary conveniences, while also keeping our motives in line with scripture.
(1368) FOR HE LOOKED FOR A CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD- Hebrews. In keeping with the last post, let’s talk some more on the debate between Evolution and Design. When the able Stephen Barr shot the round that was heard around the world [at least the world of IDer’s] he made some good points, even though I disagree strongly with the way he represented the other able scientists in the field. One day I had a talk with a geologist, it was a happenstance meeting [friend of my daughter] and during a normal friendly conversation I brought up many of the opposing views to ‘uniformitarianism’ and the challenges to a ‘deep time’ geology. While not a young earther myself, I found it amazing that this scientist was totally unaware of any opposing viewpoints to the standard theories. In the halls of academia the majority opinion is without a doubt that of Darwinian Evolution, it is also true that many people [even scientists!] are really not familiar with all the data [lots of data!] that challenge the standard view; many have come to challenge the basic Darwinian timeline [thus punctuated equilibrium] and have admitted that the tremendous ‘gap’ in the fossil record, along with the discovery of high complexity in the most simple cell, that these scientific discoveries have made it difficult to accept the Darwinian idea. Now the adherents of Evolutionary theory accuse the IDer’s of resorting to a ‘God of the gaps’ excuse. That is they claim that all the IDer’s are doing is finding places in the record that have no explanations [information, complex machines, etc.] and are inserting ‘God’ into these gaps. The Evolutionists say ‘given enough time, maybe we will find naturalistic explanations to fit the gaps’. And they claim that any ‘gap theory’ actually hinders scientific discovery, because it has a tendency to say ‘well, might as well stop looking for a naturalistic cause, God just filled the gap’. First, the IDer’s are not saying that because we have run across unanswered difficulties, lets stick God in there. What they are saying [for the most part] is that observable data [science] show us, in every case, that when you have complex systems that are ‘irreducible’ and stored data/info at the most simple level; that these facts point to an intelligent mind having been the cause of these things. Now, Stephen Barr and Francis Beckwith [two of the main scientists/philosophers in the debate] do not reject the idea that yes, an intelligent mind is behind the design/info, what they are saying is it’s still possible that science will discover a ‘naturalistic’ explanation/mechanism to it. That is God might have created some other unknown mechanism that is simple [or complex] that can be credited with bringing into existence the design/info. They are simply arguing that it’s possible, and not in contradiction with historic Christianity, to embrace this view. Barr also seems to be saying ‘yes, it is very possible that we will never find a reasonable, naturalistic explanation for this, and at that point the IDer’s might be right, but then you jump out of the field of science [observable data] and carry the argument into another classroom’. I believe the ‘God of the gaps’ accusation is erroneous, I also believe that far too many adherents to Evolutionary theory are not giving the proper weight to the gaps, some are not even aware of them! Thomas Aquinas is sometimes misunderstood and is said to have advocated a secular/religious division in apologetics; that is some say he taught that the natural sciences and religious truth were 2 totally different fields, sort of like the thought of Emanuel Kant [Physical/Metaphysical division] but Thomas taught that science could show us many truths about God, just because you have naturalistic explanations to things, this does not discount the Divine hand- but he also taught that science could only go so far down that road- for instance it would take many years to arrive at a naturalistic proof of Gods being, while revelation [thru tradition and scripture] could get you there quicker. Also science can prove that God exists [prime mover] but for truths on the nature of God [Trinity] you need revelation. So Aquinas leaves room for science to go so far, and if it ‘hits a gap’ then yes, you have every right to carry the argument into ‘another classroom’ so to speak. It is not wrong to say ‘yes, we are searching for a city, one that has been built by God’ but to also recognize that the city has foundations [whether discovered thru naturalistic or religious truth]; both seekers can be on the right track, arriving at different times/ways.
(1365) THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT- I was reading Mark’s account of the last supper. The disciples realize the importance of keeping the ancient feast day and they ask Jesus ‘where do you want us to prepare the meal’? Just a chapter earlier they were glorying in all the ‘holy buildings’ of the temple and Jesus told them ‘see all these wonderful places- there shall not be one stone left upon another when all is said and done’- ouch! But now he seems to need a building, or at least a place to sit down and eat. He tells his men ‘go into town and you will meet some guy carrying a water container, follow him into the house and ask the master where the room is, he will show you a large upper room, all furnished- that’s the spot’. Jesus didn’t need to spend any money on building his own temple; he knew the voluntary community would provide places to meet. They sit down and he tells them ‘understand, this is the New Testament, the new ‘oath’ the scroll of redemption that John will write about in Revelation, it is being purchased with my Blood’ they seemed to not comprehend what he was saying. He often made statements that went right over their heads- then he quotes another one of those obscure prophetic scriptures that nobody seemed to focus on ‘the chief one will be smitten and the sheep will be scattered’ [Zechariah] he tells them ‘see, the prophets said you guys are going to be scattered, be offended and deny me’. Peter says ‘what! No way Jesus, maybe these other guys but not me’. Poor old peter, Jesus says ‘buddy, you will be one of the worst’. Man things don’t seem to be going good at this point, I mean when the leader of a community is about to face his toughest test yet, the last thing he needs is a bunch of offended staff! Nevertheless he takes with him Peter, James and John and they head off to the garden, you know the place where they crush olives to get the precious oil, very prophetic indeed. Jesus tells the guys ‘stay here while I go and pray’. He walks a little further and falls down and is in agony ‘Father, all things are possible with thee, I know I have come for this purpose in my life, but please, if there is another way to accomplish this, then let’s go the other route’. Who knows, maybe the father will do something that no one expects? He goes back to his men, hey maybe they will say ‘wow Jesus, as you were praying Moses and Elijah appeared to us, like before- and they told us ‘the father said there’s another way’. But instead Jesus finds them sleeping! What, you guys couldn’t even pray with me for an hour? I’m here pouring out my life for you, giving it all I got, and I was hoping that the 3 years I invested in training you might have had better results, you guys are letting me down. This happens 2 more times and Jesus says ‘enough, go ahead and sleep, I’m going to have to die and seal this scroll in my Blood- after 3 days I will be back and go before you into Galilee, but these will be the longest 3 days in the history of man’. Of course we know the rest of the story. As the church worldwide enters into Lent, let’s remember the price that Jesus paid for the New Testament signed in his Blood, as Protestants and Catholics let’s celebrate the historic churches 40 day season of fasting and prayer, you don’t have to do a ‘full fast’ maybe just a Vegan type fast, which was what the early church practiced, but let’s try and be a little more appreciative of the price that was paid so the ‘table’ could be set. Jesus said ‘this is my Blood, the whole thing rides on me’ he met the challenge and redeemed the world, may the world be grateful for it.
(1364) MANY SHALL COME IN MY NAME SAYING ‘I AM CHRIST’ AND SHALL DECIEVE MANY- Jesus, Marks gospel. Many years ago while reading thru this portion of scripture I saw this verse from a different angle; instead of seeing it like a false prophet claiming himself to be Christ [Sun Yung Moon] I saw it applying to many well meaning preachers who come in Jesus name and confess him as Christ, but yet are prone to propagating errors in an unconscious way. They say ‘Yes, we believe Jesus is Christ’ and yet mess up in other areas. I remember hearing a ‘revelation word’ [EKK!] on God’s creation of Woman. It went like this- Wo-Man means ‘wombed man’ and that after God made man, he then made woman [another man] and put a womb on him, thus the term ‘wombed man’. You might be laughing right now, but this silly way of interpreting the bible has been repeated over and over again on national TV networks where the network leaders agreed with the teacher and saw it as some deep truth, then the poor audience of millions is encouraged to give more millions so the word can be sent out into all the world. Basically well meaning people teaching fake stuff to the world, over and over again. Now, does ‘woman’ mean ‘wombed man’? No. Our bibles were primarily written in Hebrew and Greek, when these words are translated into English, the way the English word sounds has nothing at all to do with the actual meaning of the word. I mean this is very basic hermeneutics [way of interpreting scripture] so how can it be that a very ‘uneducated’ way of teaching would be broadcast to the whole world when even the most basic bible student knows it’s wrong? One of the great benefits of the 16th century Reformation was the return of interpreting the bible in a ‘literal sense’- now, many Protestants are confused by this term. Literal sense means the bible should be read as actual literature, like if you were reading history or poetry or any other book. So when you are reading portions of the bible that are historical narrative, you take it as history. When reading portions of poetry, you read it like you would read any poetry- in a literal sense, not taking the actual poetry as history! Like when the Psalms speaks of the hills skipping or the trees clapping their hands, you don’t take it literally in the sense that the trees have actual hands. This hermeneutic was not new, but it was a minority way of viewing scripture during the middle ages. Many teachers at the time were influenced strongly by the early Greek idea of scripture having 4 different ways it could be understood. Each passage having a moral, symbolic, literal meaning. In the third century you had the famous school in Alexandria, Egypt. This was the first ‘Christian school’ where you could learn theology and philosophy. One of the famous teachers was Origen, he was heavily influenced by a man by the name of Plotinus- a philosopher credited with the founding of a philosophy called ‘Neo Platonism’. This Greek philosophical way of seeing things impacted not only Origen [and many other Greek fathers] but also the highly influential Saint Augustine. So for many centuries you had very respected church teachers hold to this highly symbolic way of reading the bible. It’s important to note that when reading Augustine, if you are reading his earlier works they are more heavily influenced by Greek philosophy than his later works. Near the end of his life Augustine re-evaluated all of his former works and wrote a paper called ‘retractions’ in which he cleared up some of his earlier stuff. Anyway the Protestant Reformation returned the church to a more solid way of reading scripture. But ‘literal sense’ does not mean you take the portions of scripture that are poetic or symbolic and turn them into history! During the rise of ‘liberalism’ in the 19th century you had many holding to a view of scripture that rejected all the supernatural portions of the bible as ‘myth’. The story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale was considered a ‘well meaning’ story, but just a story. Was it only the ‘liberal’ theologians that rejected the historical truth of Jonah? No, you also have well grounded teachers that too take Jonah in a non historical way. Why? The book of Jonah starts out as historical narrative, but then you have portions [Jonahs prayer in the belly of the whale] that are a very high from of poetry. Does this mean the story didn’t really happen? No, but some good theologians would doubt the history of Jonah based on this [I don’t]. The whole point being when we read the bible, we should have some basic historical framework when reading it, that is how did other believers thru the centuries view these things. Be aware of the various different approaches to the bible, and for heaven’s sake, if a word sounds like it means something in English [woman= wombed man] do a little background study before proclaiming it to the whole world, for many ‘shall come in my name, believing that I am Christ, and shall deceive many’.
(1362) SPANDEX! The other night my daughter called my wife and invited her to go workout at the gym, I told her ‘tell her dad wants to go too, he’s changing into his spandex right now’ she replied she can only take one guest per day. Now, were her words accurate? Yes. Was that the primary reason I wasn’t going? Highly doubtful. In the Christian world there are times when the things we say might be ‘orthodox’ but the motives might be questionable. The other night I caught Hank Hanegraaff’s [bible answer man] show. I at one time was accused of being like him [heresy hunter] but it’s only been the last few months that I’ve ever really heard him. We don’t get his radio show in Corpus and his TV show just started airing on the religious networks. But I did read his groundbreaking book ‘Christianity in Crisis’ and some thought my stand against the prosperity gospel came from that, they were wrong. I did not agree with all the arguments and style of the book. But this month’s magazine from Hank [which I also don’t subscribe to] deals with the ‘Local Church’ movement started by the great apostle/missionary Watchmen Nee. I have written on Nee before [under the cults section- not because I think their one!] and have read on the movement before. Nee started an indigenous Chinese church that has been persecuted for years by the communist govt., he died for the faith in prison and his house church movement is considered one of the most influential in the world today. Back in the 70’s during the Jesus movement on the west coast they had some influence in the area, this was at the same time the ‘counter cult’ movement sprung up. Many of the statements from Nee and his successor ‘Witness Lee’ were scrutinized and labeled as cultic, a war raged between the apologists and has even gone to the courts. The Local Church sued Harvest house [Christian book publisher] and claimed they were defamed by the cult books that included their church in them, and the Texas Supreme court eventually sided with harvest house, the Local Church is appealing. Enter Hank H., the original research done against the movement was by Hank Hanegraaff and CRI, others followed. The reason they were labeled as a cult was primarily because of their statements on the Trinity and the ‘deification’ of the believer. Some of their official statements said ‘Jesus is the Holy Spirit’ and ‘Jesus is also the Father’. These statements were deemed ‘Modalistic’ [an ancient heresy condemned by the early church that described God as having different modes as opposed to being One in 3] and thus the title cult was stuck on them. But after many years of research and fellowship with the group, Hank changed his mind and came to their defense. This made him a target for the other apologetic groups and they strongly disagreed with his change of mind. Hank said that even though many of the statements sounded questionable, that as you read further into their materials and personally interview members of the group that they for the most part accept the Trinity and do not fall into the cult category. Some of the on line stuff against them states ‘they believe that Jesus is the Spirit, this is heresy’ yet the movement quotes Paul in Corinthians ‘The Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty’. This verse actually says ‘the Lord is that same Holy Spirit’ does this mean that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ‘the same person’? No, but it does use language that is in keeping with what the Local Church movement has said. The other verse in Isaiah speaks of Jesus as ‘the mighty God, everlasting Father’ so this also is language that the movement has used ‘Jesus is the Father’. Though these statements from the movement cause some concern, overall Hank believed that they did not finally fall into the cult category. When reading some of their statements on line last night I still had some problems with the way they said stuff [that after Jesus rose from the dead he became the Spirit] but I also see how difficult it is to explain both the Triune nature of God and also declare his Unity. When Jesus was asked what the great commandment was, in Marks gospel he begins the famous answer with ‘hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one’ he is quoting Deuteronomy. So those who focus on the Oneness of God can see these verses as saying ‘yes God is Father, Son and Spirit- yet they are also one’. So as you can see we need to be careful when parsing words like this. All in all I always accepted the Local Church movement [which is not a name they have given to their movement, but it is how they are labeled when reading about them] as fellow believers in Christ, while at the same time having problems with some of the official statements that the church has made [and still holds to] but wanted to give Hanegraaff credit for his change of mind, while I have not read the article in their magazine [Christian Research Journal] I have been familiar with this debate for a few years. I appreciate Hanks willingness to say ‘we were wrong’.
(1361) EUTOPIA OR BUST- Thomas More, the Catholic churchman who was martyred for his faith by Henry the 8th because he would not assent to the newly formed doctrine of the king of England being the head of the church, wrote the Latin book ‘Utopia’ in the year 1516. Utopia was this fictional island, ruled by ‘king Utopas’ and was the ideal society where wealth and power were not the characteristics of success. They lived a communal life where each person would take yearly turns of working on the farms where the people’s needs were met. No private ownership of property- just everybody living in this ideal world. Marxists would later lay claim to this idea and prove the futility of man in attempting to create this world. Scholars disagree over what More was trying to say; but for sure he was challenging materialistic worldviews and longing for some type of communal society as seen in the book of Acts [everyone sharing in the common purse type of thing]. Yesterday I watched Judd Greg rip thru Peter Orzag. Greg is the top Republican for finances and Orzag was defending the president’s new budget. The budget includes 30 billion for ‘jobs stimulus’ basically another tarp thing for business. The reason Greg was furious is because the tarp law said that any money eventually paid back, by law would have to go to reducing the debt. Instead the president wants to use this money as an open account that could be spent on a regular basis. Why? There are various ways any president can try and boost jobs/economy, you can implement serious fiscal discipline and make it easier for small business to operate [part of the 30 billion for small business] or you could say ‘lets spend tons of federal money on all types of things- 1st time home buyers, cash for clunkers, new billions every year for the next few years until my term runs out’ you can engage in simply digging the country deeper into debt for the next few years and this would initially make things look better. Walla, Utopia is here! When the administration makes the defense ‘we inherited these problems from Bush’ it is usually presented in a way that says the failed economic policies of the past president caused us to be dealt a hand that was bad. Okay, got it. But every president has been dealt some type of hand. Bush did inherit a recession from Clinton, grant it, it wasn’t near as bad as what Obama got, but it was real. Then 911 happened and this tragic event froze the global economy in just as dangerous a way as the banking crisis. And of course we had 2 wars. The point is all these things [except the wars] were also things out of the control of the former president; he inherited things that Obama too would ‘inherit’. But the administration does not include this when they make their case; they simply say it was the failed Bush presidency that led to where we are today. That’s why the blame game doesn’t work too well. We all want Utopia [in a sense] but we live in the real world and we can’t resort to tricks and schemes to make things look better, just for now. These policies often cause the disease to linger on longer than if we let it run its course. Many real estate experts are fearing another big drop [10 %] in home prices for this year. Why? They believe that the delaying of foreclosures and giving low % money and an extra 8 thousand dollar tax credit to buyers, that all these things prevented the market from reaching a real floor in prices, and so the market will still have to balance out and finally reach its low. It would have been better to have swallowed the medicine the first time around. For any president to have a ‘slush fund’ of billions of dollars that the govt. can dole out on a rotating basis is really not playing by the rules. Politically it can make it look like ‘see, we have improved things’ but not only is this fund limited by law from being used in this way, it often delays the real pain for another year- say in a non election one.
(1360) Lets do a little Catholic/Protestant stuff. First, those of you who have read this site for any period of time know that as a Protestant I am ‘pro Catholic’ that is I read and study Catholic scholars, believe in the ECT statement [Evangelicals and Catholics together] and for the most part am pro Catholic in that sense. I have offended more Protestants because of this stance than Catholics. But sometimes I need to state the differences and be honest about them, true ecumenical unity should never be achieved on the altar of doctrine, we should not sacrifice sincerely held beliefs while seeking unity for Christ’s church. Last night I caught the journey home show with Marcus Grodi as well as Catholic scholar Scott Hahn [EWTN- the Catholic network]. Scott was doing a teaching on the sacraments of the church and shared a common belief in the ‘incarnational’ aspect of matter. Some theologians believe [both Catholic and Protestant] that since God became man in Jesus, that this united/sanctified matter in a way that never occurred before. They will carry this thought into sacramental theology and teach a kind of ‘connection’ with God thru material things; both Baptism and the Eucharist would be major examples. I believe the historic church was well intended when they developed this idea, they were combating the popular Greek/Gnostic belief that matter is inherently evil, not a biblical doctrine. As Scott Hahn made the argument I simply felt that he gave too much weight to the idea that because of the incarnation [God becoming man] that now there is a special ‘sanctity’ to material things when connected with the sacraments. Does the bible teach that there are actual physical things in this world that carry out the truth of the incarnation in a material way? Actually it does, the bible teaches that the bodies of believers have this special aspect because Gods Spirit lives in us. In essence the idea of ‘special matter’ that is often taught by well meaning scholars can be applied to the physical church in the earth, all who believe. I do not totally dismiss sacramental theology, many Protestants who dismiss it out of hand are not aware of the strong beliefs that the reformers held too in these areas. Luther is often misunderstood when it comes to his disagreement with Calvin, many teach and think that he split with Calvin over the doctrine of Predestination, he did not- Luther’s written views on the doctrine were just as strong [if not stronger] on the subject. Calvin never wrote a book dedicated solely to the doctrine, Luther did [bondage of the will]. But they did split on the sacrament of the Eucharist, Luther’s view [consubstantiation] was much closer to the Catholic view than Calvin, and Zwingli [the Swiss reformer] was further away than both Calvin and Luther. Lutheranism would eventually be developed by a protégé of Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and the Lutheran church would bear the image of Melanchthon more than Luther. The point being many good men have held to very strong views on these matters. I believe the biblical doctrine leans more heavily on the ‘material body’ of the believer as being the major material change since the incarnation, I do not hold to the idea that ‘God becoming man’ fundamentally changed the nature of matter when dealing with the sacraments. Matter is not [nor ever was] intrinsically evil, Greek dualism got it wrong from the start- we do not need a strong sacramental theology to refute this, scripture itself will do.
-(1359) ‘Now go, write it before them on a tablet [in a table] and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever’ Isaiah 30:8 ‘Take a large scroll and write on it with the pen of a man’ ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables [tablets] that he may run that reads it’ ‘all these sayings were noised abroad, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts’ [Jesus in the gospels]. Last night I caught an interesting movie ‘the book of Eli’ with Denzel Washington. If you haven’t seen it yet then don’t read the rest of this post. Eli lives in this future apocalyptic world [Mad Max] and is on this mission to travel west, he encounters all types of obstacles on the way [lots of blood and guts] and finally arrives at his destination, it’s a publishing house stuck on Alcatraz where these survivors spend all their time copying any books they can get their hands on for the future world; Eli announces ‘I have a King James Bible’ and he gets in. The book of Eli was the bible. In the above verses God shows us how important it is in the history of Salvation for people to write and record his words. In the middle ages you had the Monastic movement [Monks, monasteries] and these Catholic brothers separated themselves from the corruption of the world and became spiritual hermits. They were experts at 2 things; farming and the copying of important manuscripts. In the middle ages secular society learned farming thru the monks. The art of copying ancient books not only preserved theological works, but also secular ones. It was their dedication to saving these works that led to the Renaissance and rediscovery of the ancient works of philosophy and Greek thought. They were like the scribes of Jesus day. Do you value the ability to have and access great treasures? Even the bible, as history, is incredibly valuable. I mean how many other First century [and earlier] documents are lying all over the place and are being read and quoted by 1st graders as well as professors? With the great library system of our day [which I used extensively over a 15 year period] as well as the internet we have the ability to truly learn stuff that past generations would have given anything to have learned. Proverbs says wisdom is lying in the streets, at the crossroads of every city- yet fools have no appetite for it. I want to challenge you guys today, especially all our Pastors and leaders, take time to acquaint yourself with the great classics of western literature, read the great Christian [and non Christian] works of the centuries, don’t spend all your time reading/learning from one group or movement [especially if it’s one of these isolated Christian denominations] God [and men] have gone to too much trouble to get these valuable words copied and distributed to the world, take some time to read them.
(1357) I WILL UNCOVER THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN HIDDEN SINCE THE WORLDS FIRST DAY- [Jesus]. Yesterday I read an article in the paper that talked about an amazing dinosaur find in China; they found around 15 thousand fossils in a cave area. The amazing thing was the fact that so many dinosaurs would have been in one place right when they died. I immediately saw this as proof that would back up the creationist cataclysmic view of a worldwide flood destroying all life on the planet. As I read thru the article they explained how much of ‘fossil science’ has been done thru finds in the U.S., but over the last few years China [and the eastern world in general] have undergone their own industrial revolution and this has led to the unearthing of new ground for the purpose of construction and these new projects are unearthing these fossils. Much like what took place in the 19th century when many archaeologists were discovering ‘hidden things’ that seemed to be buried ‘since the foundation of the world’. In the 19th century it was popular for the intellectuals in theology to embrace the ‘historical/critical’ method of bible learning. Many began to reject the early dating of the New Testament [early- a.d. 50-70] and began accepting a theory that said much of the New Testament was written in the 2nd century. These ideas were promoted by men like Rudolph Bultman and were made popular at the German university which he taught at [in Marburg]. So it became ‘intellectually fashionable’ to accept this new way of critiquing scripture. One problem- as the industrial revolution took off in the west archeology rose as a new science and we now had the ability to historically search for clues. A famous historian by the name of Sir Ramsey went on this exhibition to see whether or not the bible was accurate when it spoke about ‘so called’ first century things. Our bibles do have lots of names of political characters and certain historical events that can be measured for accuracy. Ramsey found to his dismay that all the evidence leaned towards the ‘less enlightened’ view of an early dating of the New Testament. This was a tough pill to swallow by the intellectuals who had already formed their opinions on the subject, but in due time most trustworthy scholars would come to accept [for the most part] the earlier dating. So now back to the dinosaurs, as the article went on they admitted that it’s possible that a Tsunami might have caused the dinosaurs to gather in one place before their deaths- A FLOOD! It’s funny because some in the modern scientific community have argued, very convincingly, that the Geologic table and the extinction of the dinosaurs can be attributed to a world wide flood. Others have vehemently opposed this idea [most evolutionists]. And now the new evidence seems to be backing up a flood theory, they simply don’t want to admit it. Like the intellectuals of Sir Ramsey’s day, the smart thing to do is to go where the evidence leads. The facts don’t lie; these are ‘facts’ that are being now uncovered, things hidden ‘since the world’s first day’.
(1356) LET THE NATIONS BE GATHERED TOGETHER AND THE PEOPLE BE ASSEMBLED- In the gospels Jesus uses the imagery of a table to describe the kingdom ‘They shall come from the north and south and east and west and sit at my table in my kingdom’. Psalms says ‘thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ God has a way of ‘setting the table’ if you will. Now the church has been divided over the use of the gospels versus the epistles [letters of Paul]. Historically Protestants have focused more on the epistles, specifically Galatians, Romans- and the Catholic/Orthodox include much of the gospels in their services. When we leave out either we get into trouble. A strong focus on the gospels without the epistles can lead to a legalistic righteousness- trying to simply live up to the moral law type of a thing, without a good understanding of the Spirit empowered life. But too much of a focus on the epistles without a high regard for the gospels can lead to a view of Christianity that sees ‘right doctrine’ as being more important than ‘right acting’ [orthopraxy]. So for sure we need both. One of the other interesting things we see in the gospels is the ‘kingdom’ in action versus an ecclesiology focused on ‘church meetings’. For instance we read of Jesus sending out the disciples and telling them ‘go, preach, heal, do good- and whatever city/place rejects you then wipe off the dust of that place when you leave’ Ouch! Yet at the same time you find the crowds drawn to Jesus everywhere he goes. Sort of like a message/lifestyle that goes out into society to impact it, but not a whole lotta ‘come to my church’ type stuff. In American Christianity we see too much focus on ‘come to/support this ministry’ type of a thing, and not enough ‘shaking the dust off our ‘- that is doing the will of God and then being able to walk away. In John’s gospel John the Baptist [not the author] says ‘he must increase and I MUST decrease’ there really isn’t much of a choice. I want to challenge you today, are you [especially Pastors/ministers] spending too much time trying to raise support for ‘the church’? Do you primarily see your responsibility as filling up a meeting room? Reorient your life around the action seen in the gospels, impact people and give them leadership, but then be able to decrease, to let them see you ‘less and less’ as time goes by- and be willing to walk away from some things, not walk away from responsible leadership, but from things that center too much on our individual personas. Just because people want to hear us speak in person, or just because the crowds get bigger, this is not automatically a signal for building a bigger building! We need to re-look at lots of things, let the people be gathered together and the nations be assembled [i.e. be available to impact groups] but don’t be obsessed with forcing people to gather [come to church type of a focus].
(1354) O FOOLS AND SLOW OF HEART TO BELIEVE ALL THAT THE PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN; WAS IT NOT NECESSARY THAT THE SON OF MAN SHOULD SUFFER THESE THINGS AND ENTER INTO HIS GLORY? Jesus said this to his men after he rose from the dead, they were doubting and wondering about his crucifixion and he told them that all these things were written in ‘the prophets’. Jesus also said ‘Moses said this, but I say this’. Moses said- was a reference to the first 5 books of the bible [Torah, Pentateuch] and the ‘prophets’ is referring to the rest of the old testament, apart from the wisdom books [Psalms, Proverbs, etc.] The rebuke was the fact that they had the truth all the time, they were ‘slow to believe’ all of it. As I was finishing up the Galatians study a few days ago I showed how Paul was always making his case from the Old Testament, he used the stories in scripture to prove his points. When teaching on this site, I try and share a broad range of church history, from many various perspectives. In essence I try and include ‘the whole thing, all that has been taught by the church fathers’ it’s important to read and learn from a broad perspective, it keeps you out of trouble. Today’s word is simply ‘are you listening to all that the prophets have spoken’ are you hearing all the sides of the issues your church/denomination teaches? This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have convictions about your own beliefs [I do] but it does mean that we are all part of a broad community of believers, many various ‘camps’ and perspectives. In order for us to fulfill our mandate to be ‘one in Christ’ it is our responsibility to be challenged in our views and to also have the love and concern for other believers to challenge them too. This should always be done in love and for the benefit of the whole body, take some time to hear what ‘all the prophets have spoken’ it will do you [and me] some good.
(1352) ARE YOU A POLITICAL ‘DONATIST’ [what?] – In an effort to mix in a little ‘religion’ with politics, let’s do some church history. In the 4th century you had a debate raging in the church that was called ‘the Donatist controversy’ some taught that the efficacy of the sacraments were dependent on the ‘holiness’ of the Bishops/Priests, that is if your church leaders were really not regenerated then you also suffered spiritually as a result of their lack of integrity. The very influential bishop of Hippo, a city in north Africa, would refute this doctrine and argue that the sacraments and rites of the church did not depend on the spirituality of the leaders, that if you were baptized and believed in the Lord that the sacrament counted even if the Priest was an unbeliever. The famous bishop who argued against the heresy was Saint Augustine. In today’s world we often practice a form of political Donatism, we label our leaders as either liberal or conservative [or any other number of things] and we believe that depending on the tag, that they can either do no wrong or nothing good. I believe good [and bad] can come from all groups whether or not they hold to my political slant. Now, ideas do have consequences and if you are unwilling to change course and run against your own biases, then yes you will get into trouble. But like the argument Augustine made, everything does not depend on the holiness [political bent] of the leader, he might be wrong/hold different views than you and still be able to ‘carry out an effective baptism’ if you will. We need to have enough ‘faith’ in the institution of Democracy and free govt. that we can still believe it to work, even if a less than perfect bishop is running the show.
(1350) THE ANTICHRIST IS HERE! Okay, probably not a good heading for following the last few political posts. But I’ve been reading in the gospels and wanted to share a few thoughts. The apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation [a popular book in today’s prophecy teaching] also wrote the epistles of John, in 1st John chapter 2 he says ‘it is the last [end] time, as you heard that antichrist will come, even now are there many antichrists and this is how we know it is the last time’. Most prophecy teachers are aware of this verse and it’s usually chalked up to the fact that ‘yes John is speaking of ‘the spirit of antichrist’ and the Gnostic cults who rejected Christ’s humanity’ while this is true, it’s also important to see that there is language in the New Testament that places antichrist/antichrists as a possible 1st century figure. I have hit on this before and just wanted to cover this concept a little. Many believers saw Nero as the antichrist, others see various Roman Emperors as fitting the title, and of course the most popular teaching in America is he is a future person [usually said to ‘be living somewhere in the world today’-even if today ranges over hundreds of years!] So we have had our speculation on the fella. I certainly believe that the apostle Paul was writing about a real man who would be a rejecter of Christ and persecute the church fiercely, and Jesus did speak about the ‘desolation of Daniel’ so I don’t want to spiritualize the man, I just wanted us to be challenged when we read John saying stuff like ‘even now there are many, this is how we know we are living in the end times’. I mean he is saying this a few years before writing the book of Revelation, it should cause us to re-think some of the ‘end times’ scenarios that we espouse today. John was exiled to the island of Patmos by the emperor Nero. Nero died a couple years before AD 70, it is possible that Johns Revelation was written before Nero died [being Nero was the one who put him on the island] and this would leave room for an early dating of Revelation and possibly a still living Nero to have been Johns target. Regardless of all the dating questions, it is striking to read the language of the 1st century apostles and see how they believed the key transition time of an ‘old age’ passing away and a new era coming, they saw it as the time of Christ and his death, burial and resurrection; they used ‘end time’ language as a description of their own day, not a bunch of geopolitical speculation of world events that would take place thousands of years in the future. Surely we are also considered to be ‘in the end times’ and I do believe in a literal future return of Jesus to the earth, I just wanted us to be open to the actual language that the bible uses when speaking about ‘the end times’ and allow our thinking to be shaped more by the scripture and not so much by the popular end times teaching of our day.
(1343) One of the other themes that spoke to me from Galatians was the idea that Israel and the world were under a ‘schoolmaster phase’ until the fullness of times arrived. This phase was the whole economy of Old Testament law and rule. I felt like the Lord was saying that many of us have been led, and actually have arrived, at places and purposes the hard way; i.e. – the ‘tutor’ phase. That is God allowed the process of trial and error and discipline to work in us until we arrived at the purpose and goal. Isaiah says that ‘I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction’ yes, this way of ‘arriving’ is much more painful, but it still gets you there. Now the entire discipline phase for the world was the time period before the Cross. The law and the Old Covenant were the only way to ‘get there’ so to speak. If people wanted to have a relationship with God, they were either born Jews, or converted to Judaism. Today of course we have access thru the Cross. One of the earliest ‘cults’ of Christianity was a sect call ‘Gnosticism’ these early adherents mixed Greek dualism [material world bad, spirit world good type of a thing] in with Christianity, they taught that the God of the Old Testament was the evil God who created the material world, and that thru Jesus we can come to know the true God of the New Testament, the God who gives us salvation by delivering us from the material world. Though it seems like there are verses in the New Testament that teach that the ‘world’ is evil and that God wants to ‘deliver us from this present evil world’ [Galatians] yet in these contexts ‘the world’ is simply speaking of the lost system of man and the ‘way of the world’. In Christian theology matter is not inherently evil. The Apostle John would deal with the Gnostics in his first epistle by saying ‘whoever denies that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God- they are anti-Christ’. Because the Gnostics believed all matter to be evil they would reject the humanity of Jesus, John was targeting them in his letter. As I mentioned before the controversy over the Trinity was settled at the council of Nicaea [a.d.325] but the church still battled with the nature of Jesus. Nicaea said ‘God is one essence/substance and 3 persons’. But this did not fully deal with the nature of Jesus, various ideas rose up [Monarchianism, Dynamic Monarchianism] that challenged the nature of Christ. In 451 a.d. the church settled on the language that ‘Jesus is one person with 2 substances/essences [natures]’, though to some this looks like a contradiction to the earlier language of Nicaea, this council in 451 [Chalcedon] was simply saying Jesus was ‘fully God and fully man’ so anyway we were all under the discipline phase until the ‘fullness of times’. I am believing God to get us to the destination with less ‘tutoring’ if you will, less trial and error. Sure, we will never fully get to the point of not making a few mistakes and stumbling along the way, but as we get older hopefully we will ‘stumble less’.
(1342) WHEN THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE- As I was teaching thru Galatians this verse ‘spoke to me’ in a personal way [will explain it in a second]. I felt like the Lord was saying that there are long term promises/destinies that he has planted within us, both as individuals and communities, and that often times he is waiting for the ‘seed to come to whom the promise was made’. In the parables of Jesus the seed speaks of a few things. Most of us are familiar with ‘the seed as the word’ imagery- ‘the sower sows the word’. But Jesus also speaks of ‘the seed’ as the children of the kingdom that his father has planted in the world. And of course in Galatians Paul is specifically referring to the singular seed, who is Christ. Every few years I go thru our radio messages and will adjust the programs I air. I often find that the messages that I marked as ‘o.k.’ are not o.k. anymore, it’s not that they are bad, it’s just I notice a tone/level of ‘seed’ [spoken word] that is not mature enough, it seems like as the years roll by the later messages just sound better. God has all of us in a maturing process; things that we thought were ‘deep revelation’ at one time, now sound quite silly. As I was marking off the programs that sounded too immature, I felt like the Lord was saying ‘the seed has come to whom the promise was made’ sort of like the lord was saying ‘son, I was waiting for your level of maturity to catch up to the promise’. Also in Romans it says ‘the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now’ I also felt like the Lord was saying the seed, as it pertains to all the people groups we relate to, were also in a ‘birthing process’ that too had to mature to a point where the promises could be inherited- ‘when the fullness of times was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law’ [Galatians] God has ‘fullness seasons’ times [Kairos] when he says ‘okay, the promises I made to you at the beginning of the journey are now ready to be experienced’ in essence the seed has come to whom the promise was made. Now, this sort of spiritual/symbolic way of hearing God, is it a good way to develop doctrine? No! Never, ever! Pope Benedict critiqued the ‘historical, critical’ method of liberal theology in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ the method developed out of the liberal universities in Germany in the 19th- 20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultman would popularize it. It was a way of reading scripture thru an historical/archeological lens. Some of the ideas are good and profitable, but some are not. Many would reject the supernatural aspects of scripture and come to deny the resurrection. Not good. The Pope also warned against this way of ‘dissecting’ Jesus and Christianity to a point where you really don’t see the true Jesus anymore. The real Jesus of Christianity and history, the Jesus that we all have a relationship with by faith. The point being we want to go to scripture with an open heart and expectancy to ‘hear God’. While doing this, we also want to recognize that the scripture had the SAME MEANING to the first century church as to us today, the meaning never changes, the applications do. That’s the main point I want to make, so today the Lord might be speaking to you about certain ‘seeds’ coming to maturity in your own life, things that you have been waiting for and maybe the lord was saying he needed a maturing process to take place, both in you and the people you relate to. The ‘whole creation’ if you will.
(1340) GALATIANS AFTER-THOUGHTS: As I said the other day I will try and go back over a few verses and share a few more things on Galatians. One of the things I wanted to mention was the fact that I purposefully chose to teach the letter in the classic Protestant way [mostly] I avoided getting into the ‘New Perspective’ ideas on Paul and ‘what he really meant’. So let’s talk a little on it; as of the date of this writing there is a theological debate going on [mostly in the ivory towers, but seeping somewhat into mainstream thought] that re-looks at Paul and what the context of his day was. For instance when the Reformers of the 16th century spoke about being Justified by Faith and not by works, many of them were speaking about the works of tradition and the things they felt were wrong in the Catholic faith. Were they wrong in applying Paul this way? No. In context was Paul talking about the works of ‘Catholic tradition’ when saying men are not justified by works? No. So it’s good to point stuff like this out. The problem I see with some of the New Perspective theologians is they can explain stuff and when you’re done listening [reading] it’s possible to miss the heart of the New Testament doctrine on Justification by faith, we don’t want to lose people in the weeds when trying to peel the layers of the onion. So I purposefully chose to teach this letter in the plain way that most Protestants would understand it, but I do think that N.T. Wright [Bishop of Durham, Church of England] has good things to add to the debate [as well as John Piper- the Reformed Baptist preacher who has taken the New Perspective group and rebuked them]. It’s good and profitable to engage in these types of theological discussions, but we need to once again ‘keep the main thing the main thing’. I also avoided getting into the debate on exactly what ‘works of the law’ meant. Some think Paul was only referring to the rite of circumcision. In some verses [both here and in Romans] this is true. But some [N.T. Wright] apply this in a way that says the act itself was simply an ‘identifying badge’ that brought you into the community of God, while this is true, they get a little off track by not fully seeing that in Paul’s writings these things go hand in hand. Paul mixes in the ‘work of circumcision’ with the idea of keeping the moral law/10 commandments. When saying ‘we are not under the law’ Paul includes all of it, not just the ceremonial law. How do we know this? Because whenever Paul makes this argument he always adds ‘does this mean we go out and sin’? And his answer is always no, but instead of saying ‘no, don’t sin because we are still constrained by the 10 commandments’ he says ‘no, how can we who died to sin still live in it’. To be frank about it, many of the Reformed guys have problems with this as well, they teach a kind of theology that says the N.T. believer is under the law, I disagree. So as you can see this debate can go on for a while, that’s why I chose to avoid it in this study. I want all of our readers to be grounded in the basic truths of the letter before launching into a deeper level. Okay enough for now, tune in the next week or so and I’ll try and do some practical stuff from Galatians.
(1339) In Johns’ gospel, chapter 3, John the Baptist’s disciples tell him ‘look- Jesus is baptizing more converts than you and you are losing the crowd’. John tells them that he is fine with losing the limelight, he says his joy is in the fact that the bride [believers] is heading towards the bridegroom [Jesus] and he is glad that he can at least hear the interaction. I find it interesting that John did not find his identity in how many people he was personally ministering to, he did not need a large audience [or any!] in order to feel fulfilled. But he did need to hear the voice of Jesus; he had to at least have that. Over the years of ‘doing ministry’ I have always found it troubling that so many men in ministry seem to be in a race to get people to show up at some meeting environment, if you can ‘pack the parking lot’ you feel fulfilled. Now, God is concerned about numbers, don’t get me wrong, if you ‘pack the parking lot’ fine. The point is we should be able to ‘feel fulfilled’ by simply hearing the voice of the bridegroom. When the church gives in to the pressure of class and status, she loses her prophetic voice to society. In 14th century England you had a general distaste for the church, the people resented the wealth and class that the church achieved, many voices [John Wycliffe] spoke out against these abuses, even the great English poet Geoffrey Chaucer would write about it in his famous ‘Canterbury tales’ [how many of you still remember English Lit?] The church achieved numbers and wealth and fame, but lost her prophetic voice and influence to the world. To all you Pastors/leaders, are you more focused on big numbers and how many need to attend in order to bring in enough tithes to accomplish certain goals? If so then re-focus, don’t let your emotions go up and down based on stuff like this, one things is needful, John said that’s what made him happy, his ‘joy was fulfilled’ in hearing the voice of Jesus, how about you?
(1338) GALATIANS 6- Paul closes this short theological treatise with some practical stuff; help each other out with their burdens, if you see a brother struggling, restore him in the spirit of meekness. Those who are teaching you Gods word, ‘communicate’ to them in all good things [share with them financially and materially]. Good advice that Paul gives to all of the churches he writes to. As we close our study of this letter, I want to emphasize that the majority of what Paul is teaching [over 90%] is great theological truth, it would be silly for preachers/teachers to grasp hold of any single verse and to exalt that above the main body of truths that we have discussed. It isn’t hard for any preacher/teacher to go thru this letter on a few Sundays and teach the main truths of the letter. We desperately need to get back to doing it this way in many Pentecostal/Protestant/Evangelical churches- and yes, the ‘organic church’ guys too! We all have a tendency to pick out pet doctrines out of the New Testament and then to make the side issues the main thing. I think the main thing [justification by faith, the blessing of Abraham in context, etc.] is good enough without us having to try and find some type of ‘Rhema word’ that is not the main word of God. Recently a good man died, Oral Roberts. A few weeks have passed and I think it is okay to mention a few things. The media reported how many preachers showed up to the funeral in Cadillac’s and expensive cars, there have been various articles written about the legacy he will leave behind. Some wrongly said he was the father of the ‘Word of Faith/prosperity movement’ [E.W. Kenyon was the real father, and Kenneth Hagin and others lay claim to the title]. The point I want to make is Brother Roberts was a good man who did good things, but his way of doing doctrine is not my cup of tea. He was famous for popularizing the ‘seed-faith’ teaching. It comes from Paul’s letters when he does tell believers that if they give in faith God will bless them, true enough. But when we read the New Testament there are many warnings against greed and materialism, and when we take a simple practical truth from Paul, even though it’s true, and when this truth becomes our main message, then we err. In this last chapter of Galatians Paul gives practical advice about giving financially to those who are teaching you, good. But this is one verse in a letter filled with other main teachings, the important stuff if you will. For believers in our day to have built ministries/churches and to have as the foundation of these ministries the few practical side verses, is wrong. We need to focus on the main thing, and keep the main thing the main thing! [Redemption thru Christ’s Blood, eternal life to those who believe, etc.] I don’t want to speak bad about brother Roberts, he was a good man who went home to be with the Lord, it’s just the discussion that has happened after his passing shows us how easy it is for good men to get sidetracked with a verse or 2 and then to exalt it out of context. As I conclude this brief study on Galatians, I think I will go back over a few main verses in the next week or so and give you some ‘practical’ things that I have gleaned these last few weeks. In a sense I will show you how God can speak to us in a personal way thru these letters, yet at the same time not losing the original meaning of the letters. One of the distinctions of the early church fathers was this Christ centered approach to the scripture, they looked for Jesus on every page. I’ll end with an example form Saint Augustine; he shared a thought on the story of Jesus walking on the water to the land, and that the disciples needed a wooden boat to ‘cross over’ he then applied the wood of the boat to the wood of the Cross and said how the Cross allows us to cross over to God, just like the boat let them cross over to the land. Now this is a simple example of applying scripture in a sort of symbolic way that is not in context, but nevertheless it’s okay to do. So I will do a few things like this in the next few posts. But while doing this, we want to not forget the main meaning of the letter, a good ‘side example’ should never negate the main body of truth.
(1335) GALATIANS 5- Paul’s main theme is if we possess the Spirit as believers [being indwelt by God’s Spirit] then let us also walk in/by the Spirit, as opposed to trying to please God by the law and being circumcised. Paul will use the somewhat controversial term ‘ye are fallen from grace’ which simply means that these Gentile believers started by faith and went back to the old Jewish system, much like the themes in the book of Hebrews. Paul says when you go back to the law you have left grace. Christ has ‘become of no effect to you, you who are justified by the law’. This is a good example of how words and certain phrases can develop over the centuries of church history and develop a different meaning over time. In essence the bible does teach that a person can ‘fall from grace’ but this does not describe what the modern reader might think. The first church father who attempted to formulate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was a man named Tertullian, he lived in the second century and was what theologians refer to as one of the Latin fathers [as opposed to the Greek ones- Origen, etc.] Tertullian was famous for the sayings ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ and ‘I believe because it is absurd’ he was resisting the influence of Greek philosophy on the church, he felt that Greek wisdom was influencing the church too much. He was trained in law before becoming a theologian [like Luther and Calvin of 16th century Reformation fame] and he used the words ‘God is one substance/essence and also three persons’ later church councils would agree with this language. But the word ‘person’ at Tertullian’s time was the Latin word ‘personi’ which was taken from the theater and meant a person/actor who would put on different masks during the play; the word had a little different meaning then what we think of today as ‘person’. Later centuries would come to condemn certain Christian groups who seem to have formulated language on the Trinity that expresses the same thing as what the original developer of the doctrine meant to say, but because words and their meanings change over time we get ourselves into disputes that might be getting us off track. Paul also tells the Galatians that if they become circumcised that they are obligating themselves to keep all the law. Of course the medical procedure that many have done in our day is not what he is speaking about, but in Paul’s day getting circumcised was the religious rite that placed you into the religion of Judaism, and this is what Paul is refuting among the Galatians, he tells them not to go down that road. This chapter has lots of good ‘memory verses’, the famous lists of the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit are found here, and it seems pretty clear to me that Paul identified circumcision with the moral law of the 10 commandments, that is he saw being circumcised as an act that obligated you to ‘keep all the law’ some theologians are discussing whether or not Paul meant the law of Moses when speaking about going ‘back under the law’ some think Paul was speaking only of the ceremonial law and the system of animal sacrifices when he was telling the gentiles that they should not go under the law, I believe if you read Paul in context both in this letter and the book of Romans, that he is speaking of the moral law too, not just the ceremonial law. All in all Paul exhorts these believers to fight for their right to be free from the past restraints of religion and bondage, he tells them to not desire to go back under a system of bondage, that Christ has made us free from that legalistic way of life and he has liberated us by giving us the Holy Spirit- if we ‘walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would’ amen to that.
(1334) One of the most important finds of the 20th century was a little book called ‘the Didache’, it is either a first or 2nd century document that encapsulates a short instruction for new comers who wanted to be a part of the church. It is important because it gives us a glimpse of how the early Christians viewed the faith. For instance it puts much importance on caring for the poor and doing works of charity, it goes so far to speak about fasting for the purpose of saving up some extra money to feed the poor. It warns strenuously against greed, it calls people false prophets if they stick around town too long and ask for money. I mean it’s strong. It also shows us how disconnected we have become from what the early believers valued. Yesterday I had a good day with my homeless buddies; I ‘heard’ that Buck had died. Buck was a good friend who struggled with alcoholism, many of the guys drink, but Buck was what you would call a ‘falling down in the street’ drunk. But when he was sober he was a good guy. I guess he was around 60 or so. I remember one time he showed up at the homeless hangout and he was all beat up, black eyes and stuff. The story was he went thru an ‘initiation’ at the camp, 2 of the other guys ‘initiated’ him by beating the hell out of him and taking his wallet, Buck said it was a voluntary thing that he agreed to go thru for ‘protection’. I said that’s funny, we used to call that ceremony ‘getting mugged’. All in all Buck was an all right friend, with many struggles. He did attend the local street ‘church meetings’ and made attempts to go to some of the retreats they hold for the guys. I spent some time with Henry; he is a very knowledgeable brother who always asks great questions. I mean he knows the bible by heart, studies the original Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words, he is a real pro. He has been living in an old run down RV for a few months. The people let him stay in it and he does some work around the property. They have a beautiful horse and a bunch of fruit trees; I filled up a bag with lemons and had a good time fellowshipping with Henry. My friend John David has been clean for 6 months now and is living up in Austin, that was great to hear. John was addicted to Cocaine, I told you his story around 6 months ago [in the homeless section]. His other brother Andy went to Mexico, he’s the brother I lent one of my good study books to, O well. All in all the guys are doing as well as can be expected, it’s pretty cold right now, that’s why some of them come south for the winter. My good friend Dirk is back, I have known Dirk for 20 years, he lives in an old beat up van and survives on a disability check, he’s legally deaf. He is a good friend, he comes for the winters and heads back to Michigan in the summer, he really is homeless but tries to pass himself off [to the cops] as a retired tourist, it is funny. And old Roger has been in jail since last Christmas, he walked into HEB [grocery store] and saw Tommy Nichols [a cop who the locals hate] Roger has been arrested many times by Nichols and Roger was drunk and told him ‘I’ll kill all you cops’ they arrested him and charged him with making a terroristic threat, he’s still got some time to do. I want to encourage you guys; do you spend any time reaching out to the hurting? Maybe fast a day or 2 and send the money to the feed the children groups? I just renewed my own effort in sending money to the kids, I was reading Christianity today on line and the screen kept asking if I would send some money, I kept clicking it off and then realized I need to send some. So I started sending $22 a month, not much, but it helps. I just want to challenge all of us to become involved in some way, maybe you won’t make as many homeless friends as I have, that’s fine- but try and make at least one! Make an effort and see what the Lord will do, it will be well worth trying.
-(1332) Been doing some reading on church history/philosophy, it’s interesting to see the role that theology/Christianity played in the universities. Theology is referred to as ‘the queen of the sciences’ and philosophy was her ‘handmaid’. They saw the root of all learning as originating with the study ‘of God’. Many modern universities have dropped the term ‘theology’ and call it ‘the study of religion’. The study of religion is really the study of how man relates to God, his view of God; this would fit under anthropology/sociology, not under theology. Modern learning has lost the importance of the study of God and the role it plays in all the other sciences. The classic work of Homer [8th century BC] called the Iliad, has Achilles debating whether or not he should ‘stay and fight along the city of the Trojans’ and attain the legacy of a warrior; or to go ‘back to my homeland and live a long life’. He chooses to fight and lay his life on the line. The themes of the classics [courage, heroism, etc.] are biblical themes, even if God is not directly mentioned. The point being to try and exclude God from learning is silly, you can’t do it. Around the 17-18th century you had the philosophy of Existentialism rise up, as an ‘ism’ it really is a misnomer; ‘ism’ is a suffix that you add to the end of a word that makes it a system- ‘humanism’ ‘secularism’ etc. but existentialism is a word that means ‘anti-system’. Nevertheless the person who popularized this belief was a Christian, Soren Kierkegaard. The system he was rebelling against was the dead institutionalism of the Danish church, he felt that Christianity devolved into dead orthodoxy and lost all of its passion for true living and experiencing God. Nietzsche would pick up on this philosophy and apply it to atheism, and in the 20th century men like Albert Camou and John Paul Sartre would also embrace it from an atheistic worldview. They would say things like ‘man is a useless passion’ or write books titled ‘Nausea’ summing up the human condition. Though the 19th century atheistic humanists tried to give value and exalt the state of man, in their rejection of God and Christianity they were taking away the foundation for mans value. If you tell society that they arrived on the scene by some cosmic accident of evolution, and when you die you dissipate into nothingness, then how do you at the same time glory in his natural abilities to reach some point of Utopia? As the late Frances Schaeffer said ‘they were philosophers who had both feet planted firmly in mid air’. The point being when you neglect the reality and role that God and Christianity play in every sphere of life, you are then removing the foundation that these spheres were built on, true science and learning derive their basis from God. The greatest scientific minds of the past were either Christians or Deists, they were too smart to try and reject the reality of an eternal being.
(1327) GALATIANS; INTRO- Okay, finally made it, been wanting to teach this letter for a while. Let me overview some church history that I feel would be helpful in understanding the book. During the 16th century Reformation you had an explosion take place within Christianity, though the official ‘schism’ dates back to the year 1054 between the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] expressions of the church, yet in reality it was the 16th century upheaval that really split the church. A few centuries before [14-15th century] you had rumblings within the church that had well taught Catholic men challenging many of the institutional concepts of the church; men like John Huss, Wycliffe and others. These men were extremely influential and had an effect on the church. Then in the 16th century you had Catholic writers who remained within the Catholic Church, but they too challenged the status quoi. Men like Erasmus of Rotterdam, these intellectuals would call for the idea of going back to the original sources of study [Greek New Testament and also other renaissance ideas] and this too would lead to the historic Reformation. But without a doubt Martin Luther [the Catholic monk out of Wittenberg, Germany] would be the firebrand of the movement. Martin was a well trained Augustinian monk who struggled with the guilt of sin for many years. Not normal guilt, but extreme. A fellow Catholic leader would encourage Luther to trust in the grace of God for his forgiveness. While reading the book of Romans [whose themes relate strongly to Galatians] he would come along the famous passage ‘the just shall live by faith’ and in Luther’s mind this was a total release from the bondage of trying to appease God thru all the religious works that he was going thru. In essence Luther discovered the historic gospel of grace thru the reading of Romans and was set free. Now Luther had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, but as a very influential teacher/scholar out of the university city in Germany, he had lots of influence. The Catholic church at the time was worldwide and you had differing views of the church in various states. Many saw the state of the church in Rome as having given in to materialism and become too worldly. Rome was at the time trying to raise money for the restoring of the religious buildings at Rome and one of the priests going around selling indulgences was named Tetzel. The abuse of selling these ‘get out of purgatory early’ things was offensive to many Catholics, and Luther had ‘no small stir’ when Tetzel reached his area. These things would lead to the famous nailing of the 95 questions on the door of Catholic academia and would be the beginnings of the historic split. While it would take way too much time to go into all the theological differences between the Protestants and the Catholics, one of the main issues deals with how we as Christians view ‘being saved’. The historic Protestant position is called ‘justification by faith alone’ [Sola Fide] the Catholics counter with ‘the only time ‘faith alone’ is mentioned is in the book of James, where it says a man is not saved/justified by ‘faith alone’. Ouch! The main point I want to make is this letter deals with the early church’s belief that man is accepted with God based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Paul will challenge the ‘Judaisers’ [those who believed you needed to keep the law in order to be saved] and will argue that the law itself [Old Testament books] teaches that men are justified/accepted with God based on believing in the free gift of God thru Christ. Make no mistake about it, the New Testament clearly teaches this doctrine. Catholic and Protestant theologians BOTH agree that man is freely saved by the grace of God in Christ. But at the time of Luther’s day these glorious truths were lost in the morass of religious tradition and works. As we read thru this letter in the next few days, I want all of our readers to see the argument Paul is making from this basic theological view point. Is man saved by works [keeping Gods law] or grace? The bible teaches grace. Now I don’t have the time to also introduce the modern controversy between the ‘new view of Paul between Protestants [called new perspective]. There is an ongoing debate over whether or not the historic Reformation view of Paul is correct [men like N.T. Wright and John Piper are hashing it out] and I do think there are some merits to this discussion, but before we can delve into that aspect, we first need to see the historic question of works versus faith, and this letter is one of the best to deal with the issue.
(1326) FOR AS THE NEW HEAVENS AND EARTH, WHICH I WILL MAKE, SHALL REMAIN, SO SHALL YOUR SEED AND NAME REMAIN- Isaiah 66:22 Well the senate finally passed health care reform; they still have some hurdles ahead, but they got the 60 votes needed to move forward. I do find it utterly corrupt that any single party would actually pass something that took away benefits from Republican states and not take them away from Democratic ones. And then have the audacity to make the ‘losing states’ underwrite the ‘winning states’. I can’t imagine the uproar in the country if Bush did this. Nebraska [Ben Nelson] cut a deal where they will never pay for the extended costs of Medicaid, ever. The ‘Federal govt.’ will forever cover their new costs. They are the only state that gets this deal. The Federal govt. pays stuff by taxing other states; in essence the rest of the country will be underwriting Nebraska, simply because they needed the Democratic vote. Florida, under Bill Nelson, another Democrat, will be the only state that will not lose Medicare Advance. This is a very popular program with senior citizens and every other state will lose this program. Why not Florida? Florida has lots of retired seniors, they need to keep the senate seat Democratic, so to get the seniors votes they did this deal. These deals are fundamentally corrupt, we are doing this at a time in the nation where we will be forcing families to pay a yearly 750 dollar fine if they don’t get insurance [or a 2% fine of their income, whichever is higher!] and many average income earners are really going to be in a bind. Much of the money will pay the profits and salaries of multi millionaires; this is wrong. In the 1960’s Harvey Cox [professor at Harvard] penned the book ‘the secular city’ it was a play on words from saint Augustine’s ‘city of God’. Augustine, as a true Amillennialist, wrote about the influence of the church/kingdom of God on the nations of the world, and how you could not separate virtue from public/political life. Cox would challenge this idea and teach that you could have a separation; you could run a nation apart from the morality of the church. Harvard would also produce the philosophy of ‘Pragmatism’ you govern by what is expedient, do what it takes to get the job done- don’t worry about what’s right or wrong type of a thing. God says his word/standards don’t go away, the things he states/creates are there for good. The Democratic Party ran rough shod over some very basic principles of right and wrong, when Harry Reid was asked about these insider deals, he said that’s the way they do business. In essence he said if your state didn’t get to do some under the table deal, then that’s your senator’s fault. The senate leader was being very pragmatic, doing what he needed to do to get the votes. I think they might have traded for a few votes today, at the expense of a bunch of them tomorrow.
-(1318) PROTESTANT/CATHOLIC RELATIONS? Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know that as a Protestant believer [though I prefer simply Christian] I write often on the Catholic tradition and I also see them as fellow believers in the Lord. I do realize that I have lost readers over the years because of this. Recently there has been another effort among Catholics and Evangelicals to join together in common cause; the name of this effort is ‘the Manhattan Declaration’ it’s a simple statement amongst Catholics and Protestants stating our common belief in areas of life and morality. It’s a good statement that I signed. Since the 16th century Reformation [the beginning of Protestantism] you have had varying approaches to these things. Some see the Catholic Church as a ‘non church’ they see her as a false religion who might have some Christians within her but for the most part it would be like saying Mormonism might have some believes in it despite the false beliefs. Others see the Catholic Church as a good church that has certain beliefs that Protestants don’t accept, but never the less she is part of the Body of Christ [this is my view]. So for the sake of unity amongst the various groups of Christians in the world today, I write on both traditions. Okay, during the Reformation the Catholic church had what some refer to as a ‘counter reformation’ the 16th century council was held at Trent and the church for the most part came down strong on retaining most of the Catholic tradition that existed for centuries; they reaffirmed the 7 sacraments, stuck with papal authority [though the doctrine of Papal infallibility would not become official doctrine until Vatican 1 in the 1800’s] and history tells us that the Catholics came down on the side of very little change in the area of doctrine. They even retained the doctrine of indulgences that is very questionable indeed. But they also dealt with corruption in their ranks to some degree and this was noble. They also had some good points to make in refuting what they felt was not enough emphasis on ‘good works’ amongst the reformers [Luther]. So the church in no uncertain terms rejected any idea that the Reformation was a move of God, they saw it as a rebellious split. Now in the 19th century you had Vatican 1 [the name of the council] and once again the church affirmed her stand on coming down strong for the traditional Catholic position; this council officially recognized the infallibility of the Pope [only when speaking ‘Ex Cathedra’ which means ‘from the chair’]. The church does not teach the infallibility of the Pope unless he is making a doctrinal statement in his official capacity as Pope. This teaching has a special importance for today’s Catholics. Pope Benedict was a prolific writer/theologian before becoming Pope and he has written extensively on doctrinal issues and it would not be difficult to find some of his teachings coming down more in favor of a strong Christology than previous Popes- a good thing in my view. So anyway it wasn’t until the last few centuries that some very difficult doctrines would become official; Immaculate Conception, the assumption of Mary and the infallibility of the Pope. These are all fairly recent developments that would make it more difficult for outward unity. But in the 20th century you had somewhat of a change in attitude from the Vatican [at least from Pope John the 23rd]. From 1962-65 Vatican 2 was convened and you had somewhat of a division between the conservative Catholic Bishops and the more progressive types. There were a couple hundred Bishops from the U.S. alone that would attend; it was really a worldwide council. The more liberal minded wanted less of a hard line position in some areas while the more conservative stuck with the old hard line position. When all was said and done there was a more open spirit towards change and acceptance of other Christian churches at the end. Many of the changes were seen to be too much from the conservative Catholic view; things like saying the mass in the common language, moving the altar forward in the ‘church building’ and the Priest facing the people during the mass [the old mass had the Priest facing the altar along with the people] so anyway lots of Catholics did not like the change and there was a dispute among many conservative Catholics. Then in 1968 Pope Paul issued an encyclical [official paper] called’ Humanae Vitae’, which rejected the use of contraceptives and it was a step back towards the old hard line church. Some Protestants go a little too far in praising Vatican 2, they might refer to it as a revolution in the Catholic Church, this might be going a little too far. I recognize and appreciate the new attitude of Vatican 2, and I believe some of the more hard line Protestants [Reformed] should show a little more tolerance because of it [some of the older reformers still hold to ALL the beliefs of the Westminster confession, which officially teaches the Pope is the Antichrist! Ouch] But as a realist myself I still see some real doctrinal differences that I still have major problems with. But in some areas I am in more agreement with the Catholics than with Protestants- especially on some of the end time teachings that American Fundamentalists hold to. So all in all I appreciate some of the changes, I think some Protestants need to be more willing to come to the table, and I personally would not go so far as to actually become Catholic [which many good men have done, and I do not reject their convictions at all, they did have personal reasons for doing so]. All in all I agree with the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states ‘Christ is the unique word of God in scripture’ this is something we should all be able to agree with.
(1312) THE INCARNATION- The most influential philosopher on Western thought is probably the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant wrote the influential work ‘In critique of pure reason’ at the close of the 18th century in response to the pure rationalists [David Hume] of the Enlightenment. Kant read Hume’s works and was said to have been ‘aroused out of his dogmatic slumber’ and dispatched his response. Kant espoused that you had the physical and metaphysical worlds, and the 2 are completely separate. He refuted the argument for God made by the apologists and said it was impossible for man to ‘know God’ thru rational/physical means. Kant did not totally reject ‘the idea’ of God; he simply said the efforts of the Christian philosophers to prove God were futile. Was Kant right? Yes and no. In the 13th century you had another great Christian thinker by the name of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas is considered one of the greatest [if not greatest] thinkers of the Catholic tradition, Thomas wrote extensively and re-introduced the Greek philosophers back into Christian theology. Sometimes referred to as ‘Aristotelianism’ [Aristotle]. Thomas taught that it was possible to obtain true knowledge of the existence of God from the natural world, but that to have particular revelation from God you needed the church and tradition [revelation]. Some feel that Thomas was teaching a ‘secular/sacred’ division that hurt the work of the church. But if you read Aquinas in the context of his time he really was not doing this. Thomas ‘rescued’ apologetics [proof for God] from the philosophers of Islam who were teaching that you could have 2 types of truth- religious and scientific. They taught that religious truth could ‘be true’ by faith, but that it could be false by science, and vice versa. Thomas was refuting this idea and was showing us that real truth, whether from the natural sciences or from ‘revelation’ never contradict, it’s just science can only go so far in arguing for the existence of God. But the influence of Immanuel Kant on western thinking has many believing that God and ‘religion’ are okay things for people to believe, but that ‘real truth’ is found in the natural sciences and God is excluded from this ‘secular’ realm. This is a false view. God can be ‘proved’ by studying the natural sciences, like Aquinas said. Now this doesn’t get you all the way to the God of Christian theology, but it can take you up to the point where God’s existence is proven to be reality. The main point is it is wrong to think Christianity is relegated to the realm of faith while ‘real truth’ is in the realm of science. The Incarnation was God’s divine act of breaking into the physical world thru the birth of his Son. God became man and dwelt among us, you can study all the history of the time and find many historical proofs of the reality of Jesus and the fact that he died and rose again, these ‘truths’ are not only religious in nature, they are factual in history. So while I appreciate the work that Kant put into his book, I will stick with the other ‘Emanuel’ the God who is with us.
(1307) CHRISTMAS- being I mentioned Christmas the other day, let’s talk a little. First, does the bible give us [in the New Testament] any special memorials to celebrate? Yes, the New Testament teaches us that when believers celebrate the Lords supper that we ‘show the Lords death’ until he comes back. This is the only explicit memorial given to New Testament believers. Does this mean it’s wrong to celebrate other days? Not really. The early church, contrary to popular opinion, did celebrate ‘Christmas’ before the days of Constantine in the 4th century. They celebrated Christ’s ‘birthday’ on January 6th. But they also celebrated ‘Easter’ as well, and Easter played a more significant role in the church. But in the 4th century the church was grappling with different issues, one of the main ones was the nature of Christ [Christology] some questioned his true humanity. So as a result the celebration of the Incarnation [Jesus being born and taking on real human flesh] took on special importance, the church wanted to stress the ‘birthday’ of Jesus as a theological event. Now the story of Constantine and his conversion to Christianity is famous and many different groups see it in different ways. Many see him as the enemy of true Christianity and as a Roman Emperor who paganized the church. Many associate Catholic Christianity as the false religion set up by Constantine in the 4th century- I do not hold to this view myself. But the fact is that Constantine did legalize Christianity and he did ‘change’ the celebration of Christmas day from January 6 to December 25. Everyone knew that 12-25 was the official pagan holiday of a pagan god. Rome had Sun worship going on and December 25th was a pagan celebration day. So why did the church allow for the change? In reality Constantine was trying to bring a degree of stability to his empire and the fact was that many of his citizens [and soldiers] did practice the pagan holiday of 12-25. So as a compromise move, with the churches new found emphasis on the humanity of Christ [new found in that they willingly wanted to emphasize Christ’s birth in a greater way because of the theological controversies going on] they changed 12-25 into the celebration of Christ’s birth. It really was not some type of secret pagan takeover of Christianity. It was more along the lines of how in our day many believers celebrate ‘Halloween’ by calling it ‘fall festival’ and simply are redeeming the season for God. If in a thousand years Christians are all celebrating ‘fall festival’ instead of Halloween, I think that would be a good thing. But if you went back and found out that it started as a pagan thing, then would you consider all the ‘fall festival’ folks as pagan? So that’s the dilemma. Many serious minded believers do not celebrate Christmas and that’s fine, the scriptures don’t mandate it. But many serious believers do, I think it’s wrong to simply make the connection of the pagan roots of the day and to see this as a reason to reject it. Like I just showed you, you can look at it in a way that sees it as the church ‘taking over’ the pagan day and redeeming it back unto God.
(1298) THEY ARE GREEDY DOGS WHICH CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH AND THEY ARE SHEPHERDS THAT CANNOT UNDERSTAND: THEY ALL LOOK TO THEIR OWN WAY, EVERY ONE FOR HIS GAIN… THEY SAY TOMORROW SHALL BE MUCH MORE ABUNDANT- Isaiah 56:11-12 In the mid 18th century we had what is commonly called ‘the industrial revolution’. In Europe there arose a new class of people that never existed before, these were the capitalists that were making lots of wealth and the laborer was drawn from an agrarian type lifestyle [country/hamlet living] into the strong industrial cities like London. These poor workers were thrust into a system of profit that consumed their days and surrounded them with a new atmosphere of industry/factory. The invention of the steam engine by James Watt was one of the catalysts of this new era. Men like William Booth [founder of the Salvation Army] would see the hopelessness of these Londoners and start a ministry to help them. Even in our day the effects of the industrial revolution still impact us, as a boy growing up I listened to Black Sabbath, Ozzy came from an area like this. Contrast his songs with Kiss and you can see the difference! There was an observer of this scene who would write a document and launch a revolution as a result of what he saw as the encroachment of capitalism on the common person- His name was Karl Marx, his document was called ‘the communist manifesto’. Many people resent the western mindset because of its seeming inability to never be satisfied with finally having enough, we are a consumerist nation. I caught a quick few minutes of religious channel surfing the other day and of course I heard the normal preaching on ‘this year is the year of more abundance than any other year’. Have we ever asked ourselves when we will have enough? Seriously Isaiah is pronouncing a judgment on ‘greedy dogs- those who are never satisfied’ one of the condemnations in Revelation is to believers who say ‘I am rich and increased with goods’ yet they were spiritually poor. Jesus challenged his followers on many occasions to forsake all to follow him. Now I am not advocating irresponsibility, but I am challenging our western mindset and our inability to say ‘that’s enough’. We preach a message that never seems to leave this option open; we create an insatiable desire within the church to live each day with an obsession to gain more. The bible condemns this attitude over and over again, yet we as westerners never seem to get it, if we ever want to truly have peaceful relationships with the rest of the world, then we will have to change our mindset in these areas. Many Muslim countries see our materialist arrogance and use this as an excuse to reject ‘the Jesus of the west’ [though he was technically from the east!] We as the people of God need to return to our own ‘manifesto’ [the gospels] and live them out in reality, if not there will always be a Marx waiting in the wings with his own.
(1295) FOR AS THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE MY THOUGHTS HIGHER THAN YOUR THOUGHTS; AND MY WAYS HIGHER THAN YOURS Isaiah 55:9 the other night I caught an interview of Frances Schaffer on the Rachel Maddow show. Frances is the son of the famous Frances Schaffer senior, the prolific author/speaker of the 20th century who dealt with Christian worldviews. He wrote Christian Manifesto and How shall we then live, among other titles. Frankie and his dad were key leaders in the rise of the religious right and the moral agenda type groups. Frankie eventually converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and is now a vehement opponent of the religious right. First I want to commend him on his conviction of not being willing to abandon Christianity all together; some children of famous Christian leaders have taken that route, but Frankie [he calls himself Frances now, but for this entry I’m using the old title] has chosen a great Christian tradition to place himself in and for this he should be commended. But he is so vehement against the religious right that he equates it with the Muslim extremists. Now I believe that there are dangerous ideas that the religious right holds to, and that there are extreme elements that shoot abortion doctors and stuff like that. But to lump all the religious right with the radical Muslims is going too far in my view. Just like it would be wrong to lump all Muslims with the few who commit acts of terror. There have been Muslim Americans who have died on the battlefield defending the American side, we should not forget this. But Frankie just tore into all the religious right in a way that does more harm than good in my view. One of the reasons his father was so popular was because he dealt with Christian worldview issues, he was filling a void in the Evangelical world. After the Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century many Protestant believers were lacking a stable diet of ‘higher learning’ [to be nice about it]. There was this religious angst against many types of higher learning. The history of Protestantism in America shows a period where many of the great Protestant theologians [Edwards, etc.] accepted the idea that the mind and faith went hand in hand, but Protestantism for the most part would walk away from this heritage and begin seeing higher forms of learning as bad. The one bright light in the migration from Europe to the Americas was the teaching of the Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kyper; he wrote extensively on the Christian worldview and gave Protestants a good foundation to build upon. Well anyway Frances Schaffer also labored in this field. Isaiah said Gods ways are on a higher plane than ours, we often think and function for years at a certain level, and then God comes in and causes us to rethink the whole platform. It’s not so much more information at the current level, but it’s an overall paradigm shift from a previous way of seeing things to a whole new view of things. The philosopher William James describes it like this- He has a study much like my own, with maps and globes and books all over the place. He says when his dog comes into his study the dog sees everything that James sees, but the dog has no ability to understand what these things mean. Even though he ‘sees’ the stuff, he really doesn’t ‘see it’. Sometimes God opens our eyes to the things we have been staring at for years, when this happens we then see more fully what it means when Isaiah says ‘Gods ways/thoughts are higher than hours’ it’s like seeing stuff again for the first time.
(658)OVERVIEW OF AMERICAN CHURCH HISTORY- Let’s do a little overview of my story. When first coming to Texas I had a catholic upbringing but was pretty well ‘lost’. After truly coming to know the Lord I had the privilege of meeting believers from various backgrounds. I knew good Baptists, Assembly of God, Church of Christ and other good Christians. It didn’t take long to see how the more legalistic believers from all the above groups [some more than others] would view the ‘church down the block’ as either a cult or heretical. They would develop these views from sincere differences they saw from scripture over water Baptism, Gifts of the Spirit, Eternal Security and other important doctrines[I had a friend who would point to the statue of Mary in front of a catholic church. It showed other statues of kids kneeling and praying around Mary. He would say ‘Look, Idols worshipping Idols’!] The infighting from some of these brothers was really detrimental to unity in the Church. Many, like myself, would eventually move on in the Christian experience and continue to hold to the historic doctrines of Christianity while rejecting the strong sectarian mindset that can exist in many of these groups. I still see all of the above groups as Christian. I still actually hold to some of the basic tenets of the Baptist church, as well as the assemblies of God. You would even find me agreeing with my Church of Christ brothers on stuff. But for the most part I see many of these differences as divisive. Some ideas are important to discuss, some basic historic truths are worth dieing for! But not necessarily the ones these brothers have argued over. Other believers who have left the more independent churches will eventually become ‘anti Christian faith’ some will view all Christianity from a negative standpoint because of being burned by one of the above expressions of Christianity. As you study Church history along with the Bible you will begin to see the great revolution of the people of God and the reality of Christianity as the major hinge factor in world events for the past 2 thousand years. You can not trivialize the impact that Christianity has had on world affairs. Some recent books written by Atheists have tried to blame Christianity for all the ills of society, while at the same time others atheists will try to say that Jesus and his movement are a farce and have had little impact historically. Hey, you really cant espouse both of these views at once. The simple fact is Christianity has had a major impact on the world. To refute Christopher Hitchens recent book ‘God is not Great’ he tries to prove that Christianity and religion have done no good whatsoever and the world would be a better place without it. He is not honest about the facts. The truth [historically] is that Christianity has been the major force behind the most noble institutions in our country. The hospital system in the United States as well as the University system was founded by the Church. The major scientific thinkers of history have been Christian [or deist]. The majority of the founding fathers of our country were without a doubt Christian. It is common today for our Public schools to focus on Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington when teaching on the founding Fathers. And because you will find certain non Christian statements from Franklin, yet he himself still embraced religion. But more from a Deist standpoint [belief in God while not being a Christian]. This small focus on a few of the fathers [there were at least 50 historic figures who would fall under the category of founding Fathers. Some actually started bible societies. Wrote their own version of the Bible and stuff like that] seems to leave the impression that the founding of our country was by men who were ‘fleeing Christianity’. To start a new world free from religious expression. This is in no way true. Most of the early settlers of our country were called ‘Puritans/Pilgrims’. ‘Pure’ from what? From religious expression? They got the name from being ‘Non Conformists’ under Queen Elisabeth’s rule in England. During the reign of Elisabeth England was dealing with the problem of the ‘Non Conformists’. These were the Christians in her realm who were Protestant, and they didn’t feel the ‘Protestantism of England’ went far enough in her reform. The Church of England was ‘too catholic’ for these brothers. So Elisabeth actually persecuted Protestant brothers under her reign, though she herself was considered to be the ‘Protestant Queen’ after her sister Mary, the infamous ‘bloody Mary’ martyred Protestants. You would think the Protestants under Elisabeth were happy, but they weren’t. Eventually Elisabeth would pass a law that told all the Protestant Pastors to keep wearing the catholic Collar on their vestments during ‘church services’. Eventually these ‘non conformists’ would get their name for not wanting to conform to these regulations. So these eventually would flee England. Some to Holland and other areas. Eventually to the Americas. This is the basic moral underpinning of the religious Puritans [pure form of Christianity as they saw it] who founded our country. In this background you will find the idea of ‘Separation of Church and state’ seen. Though our founding documents reference Christ and God many times, yet this phrase comes from a letter during this time. The phrase itself has been used in the hands of strict separatists as meaning something different from the original ideas of the fathers. Our constitution does have what is called ‘the establishment clause’ ‘Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise’ but if you read this in the context of all I just showed you, it is quite easy to see that they didn’t mean society should be free from all religious/Christian expression. But they used this language to protect the church from the intrusion of government interference. These fathers were fleeing England and a Queen who kept telling them to ‘conform to the states standards’. They wanted to make sure no state, not even the new one being founded, would ever tell the church how to run her affairs again. I know the other side [the strict separatists] have a different belief about the founding of the country. But this is simple history, you don’t have the option of changing the facts! This is also why Congress still opens in Prayer. Why the Ten Commandments are still found on the walls of government buildings. Why they still ‘have the gall to have our Senators sworn in on the Bible’! It is quite obvious that the majority of the founding Fathers were not atheists who were founding some new world that would be free from religion! Now, this new religious freedom allowed for the ‘starting of many churches/religions’. You would have the rise of many types of religious movements. The breakaway groups from both the catholic church as well as the protestant church would find new freedom in America. Many of these expressions are the churches that I mentioned at the beginning of this entry! But you would also see the rise of ‘cults’. The first major wave of ‘anti cultism’ seen in this country was the strong resistance in the early 20th century against the metaphysical cults. These are the groups known as ‘unity’ ‘Christian science’ or ‘theosophy’. These groups were seen as THE major threat to Christianity in the first part of the 20th century. You would have scholars from the universities, that were founded by Christians, writing against these movements. Princeton, the university from my home state, was one of the Universities that had these scholars. You would also have a strong anti catholic spirit among some of the writings of these Reformed scholars. These were good men who held faithful to what they still saw [and see!] as the major errors of Catholicism. This backlash and anti catholic spirit was seen in the real fear that Many had when John Kennedy ran for President. Kennedy would have to make it clear that his religion would not interfere with his allegiance to our country. The Pope would have no control over him in matters pertaining to state and government. Some feel this is what was behind his assassination, a strong anti catholic spirit. Of course we know this not to be true, Oliver stone [movie maker] has shown us the truth behind his assassination! [of course I had to put this in!] So this leaves us with a good country, with much religious freedom. This also has led to the freedom for one type of Christian church to bash another type. Even to view them as heretics! So the Christian church of our country is not forced to ‘love our brother in Christ’ by human law, but I think we could find another law in scripture that supersedes human law! Note- There is a ‘curse’ or judgment that believers bring upon themselves when they view other Christian faiths as in total error or apostasy simply because they are catholic, or traditional. I know and believe there are important differences that still need to be dealt with in love. I believe heresy should be dealt with. But I have seen on too many occasions how Christians ‘use’ their judgment on the traditional church in a way that blinds them to truth. How many times have I tried to show someone that Jesus was not about materialistic living. Though he told his followers he would meet their needs, yet he walked above the pursuits of this life. I would get responses like ‘Oh that’s that old tradition/religious teaching the Catholics teach. Vows of poverty and stuff like that.’ These believers sincerely cant see the major body of truth in scripture dealing with the warnings of money because they grasped an idea that all the Catholics or traditional churches are simply wrong. Proverbs says ‘don’t move the ancient landmarks that your fathers put down’ we need to be careful that our view of ‘those deceived Catholics’ is not a blind spot [or should I say log!] in our own eye! NOTE- If you think about it, the effect of the founding fathers writings, our constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Who would have thought these ‘documents from a revolution’ would have had such a major impact? Even today it is considered ‘heresy’ to question the Constitution. Is it a ‘living document’ that changes and grows with the times? Some conservatives will burn you at the stake for saying this! I believe a reason for the influence of these writings can be attributed to the same ‘idea’ as Paul’s letters. Paul wrote most of the New testament. These letters were not ‘university papers’ that Paul spent hours pouring over in some library. These were ‘documents from a Revolution’. Things written during a time of major world upheaval. The instituting of Gods rule thru this new King called Jesus! Writings produced from a Revolutionary mindset. I think we need to get back to laying everything down for this cause once again. We are living and writing from a ‘safe’ harbor. This explains the tremendous lack of authority in the things we are communicating!
(649) Let me pick up a little on the history/purpose of the church and kingdom. As the fledgling movement of Jesus followers were launched out after Pentecost, they went everywhere ‘preaching the word with signs following’. Gods ‘plan of salvation’ if you will included more than simple evangelism. Now, simple evangelism is very important! Some liberal trends of the social gospel of the early 20th century saw the importance of social action and would neglect the need for redemption on an individual basis. As the early church ‘preached the Word’ people in these areas of hearing would believe and thru baptism become outwardly marked as Christ followers. They were literally called followers of ‘the way’. Early believers were not setting up separate Christian social clubs that they called ‘local church’. They were the actual tabernacle that God would dwell in! As Paul will address the letters to ‘the churches’ he was addressing ‘the actual believers’ in these communities, not some separate ‘group’ that were defined by having a Pastor/Priest who was functioning as the ‘under shepherd’ in a way that each city had ‘the church I belong to’. You ‘belonged to’ the believers and the lord Jesus that were present in the community in which you lived. They were all ‘local church’. The Kingdom would be an outward reality of Jesus manifesting his works thru them as his body. The work of evangelism [making new citizens of this Kingdom] and the sending out of these new citizens [ambassadors] would go hand in hand. The church was present in society to impact and affect it for change. Social justice was a major part of the ‘prophetic voice’ of these ‘new people’ who were inhabiting the planet! They weren’t ‘starting churches’ in the sense of setting up ‘lecture halls’ so people could come and ‘do church on Sunday’. As time progressed [lots of time!] Christians in our country would begin seeing the need to ‘preach the gospel of the Kingdom’ and emphasize the importance of the church having a voice in society. You would find a funny dynamic taking place. Many of the strong independent church movements would get a hold of a ‘Kingdom message’ and without realizing it begin imitating both the ecclesiastical structures and programs of the ancient church! In essence many of these Protestants were rejecting the historic expressions of Christianity as seen in the Catholic Church, and then adopting the name ‘Bishop’ and building cathedrals [Atlanta] and begin impacting society in a way that Catholics have been doing for centuries. In essence they were seeing the need for a kingdom message and then mixing it in with their ‘501 c 3 Christian organization’. This would lead to the appeal for money from all the ‘rebellious Christians who are not tithing’ so the ‘church’ could fulfill her mandate to impact society thru ‘the church’. The better perspective [in my view] is to see the great reality of all of Gods people, under the headship of our high priest Jesus, to go forth and be the actual vessels whom God is using to touch the world. The simple strategy of Jesus to empower and entrust the Kingdom message with all who believe. To a degree the Catholic Church had the most influential ‘Kingdom church’ ever! In the sense of ‘institutional church’. After the fall of the Roman Empire [loss of power and influence] the Catholic Church would at one point in history become the sole arbiter in all things pertaining to religion and human govt. The ‘Kings of the earth’ would appeal to her to speak into the ongoing conflicts in the history of man. So in a strange way the 20th century ‘reconstructionists’ [Protestant ideas on the church being very involved in human govt.] were just babies in the sense that our catholic brothers ‘have been there and done that’.
(644) OVERVIEW OF NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY AND THE CHURCH. Pretty tall order! As I finish our study on John’s gospel, I am debating on how much New Testament study to plunge into. I know we will cover the letters and all, but don’t want to finish the whole New Testament in a year or two. I heard a few ideas these last few weeks that I want to cover. One was that we are called to be the ‘21st century church, not the 1st century one!’ Good point, needs to be clarified. People will say this to counteract the strong ‘organic church movement’ to which I am a part of. The best way to understand the ‘21st century church’ is to understand ‘church’. If you have the biblical view of church, as found in the ‘1st century bible’ you see church as a community of people. As she grows thru the centuries she will form and interact with each generation as a real ‘person’ changes with the times. She shouldn’t lose her fundamental message [reconciliation of God and man thru Christ] nor her fundamental nature! She is and always will be the people of God! So any development or ‘seeing her in the 21st century’ has to keep in mind the basic nature of community. If you lose this idea of her, and begin to define her as ‘mega church’ or huge Christian corporation, then you are not really sticking with the actual ‘person’ [Ecclesia] that she is. So any growth has to stick with this basic idea of the church as the corporate people of God. The expressions of mega church or ‘Sunday church’ are fine, just don’t lose the fundamental 1st century idea. It’ not so much a following of a model in as much as it is sticking to the organic person we see as defined by community, got it? Now as we proceed from the Gospel into the book of acts and the letters we do find the basic nature of church. Some have made it harder than it needs to be. For example, the whole area of giving. By now you guys should know my position on ‘tithing’. I believe its fine to give 10% of your money, it’s just the whole New Testament is filled with direct instruction on giving. It is always seen in the community context. The later ‘idea’ of tithing into ‘the church basket on Sunday’ as being ‘the local church storehouse’ is really a silly development and digressing away from the idea of community. Not so much ‘those wicked Sunday churches’ an idea seen in George Foxe’s preaching. He was the founder of the Quakers, he would call the ‘churches’ ‘steeple houses’ as he was challenging the mindset of ‘church’ as the building. You would also see the ‘Church of Christ’ emphasize ‘the church of Christ meets here’ as opposed to the word ‘church’ on their buildings. All good people seeing real truth. So as you read into Acts and the epistles you will see Gods people adapting to society around them while not losing the fundamental nature of being the corporate people of God. We must keep this ‘1st century revelation of Christ’s body’ just as much as keeping the ‘1st century revelation of Christ’. The ways we present the message can change, we don’t have to avoid modern technology or using corporate innovation as a means to advance the gospel. But we cant begin defining ‘church’ as the actual corporation itself! This seems to be the mistake of some who espouse ‘the 21st century church as opposed to the first century one’. So as we begin our way into the New Testament lets keep this in mind. We are going to learn about the great story of redemption, how God chose us and saved us by his grace. Being called the ‘people of God’ and partaking of all the blessings that were once limited to the commonwealth of Israel. Christ destroying racial barriers and ‘making in himself one new man’ from all races of men. Jesus himself being the preeminent ‘stone’ of this building. The singular ‘test’ of whether or not you are ‘one of the stones’ in this building will be defined by Jesus himself who said to Peter ‘upon this rock [your confession of me as Christ] I will build my church’. Jesus himself will be seen as the criterion of whether you are a believer or not. Yes, the message can be seen as ‘narrow minded’, some will challenge this idea ‘who do you think you are telling us we all need Jesus’? But the fact will remain that we all do! You will see thru out history that some will emphasize the teachings of Jesus more than the letters of Paul [Catholics and more orthodox churches] and the Protestants will become focused on Paul’s revelation as seen in justification by faith. While some see these as opposing views, I see them as 2 strains of truth that are destined to merge as Christ becomes more preeminent at the close of the present age. He will truly ‘bring all things together in him’ in ways that we don’t fully understand yet. So as we move ahead, lets fix our eyes on the ‘Captain of our Salvation’ and let him steer this ship the way he wants.
(635) Yesterday morning I got up early and prayed a weekly prayer that includes the nations. Part of this time goes like this ‘Lord I pray for all religions outside of the covenant of your Son. All Jewish people, that they would see Jesus their messiah. All Muslim people, that you would give them signs and prophetic visions and dreams to show them Jesus is the way’. Then this morning I had a dream that family members were converting to Islam. That they were being ‘attacked’ or influenced by the ‘spirit of Islam’. In the dream I felt helpless against this force. We went to sleep [in the dream!] and I awoke [still dreaming this] with a radical spirit of intercession. I began praying and breaking the power of Islam off of the family members that just a few hours earlier seemed to be fully lost to Islam. I felt this dream spoke to the effectiveness we have been having recently with Muslims. These last few weeks have given opportunity to share with a homeless Muslim Iraq war veteran. Good friend. Then a Muslim friend from England started conversing with me and asking how to become Christian. He is reading this site! It never dawned on me that these were fruits from the prayer time! Like I said before, I can be dense at times. Let me cover some church history. I have had someone argue with me about the history of Islam. Not a Muslim, but a Christian who was saying ‘why do you say Islam started in the 7th century, it started around the 11th’. My answer was ‘Muhammad lived in the 7th century’. Not to hard to see this. So I thought I should cover some history. During the time of the rise of Islam, the Christian church was already dividing from east and west. After Constantine [4th century Roman emperor] consolidated the Roman Empire in the 4th century he set up the capital city of the eastern empire, Constantinople [named after him]. As time progressed the western church would take on the form of Roman Catholicism, the eastern [Constantinople area. Modern day Turkey-Istanbul] would be known as ‘Orthodox’. Though the official split of eastern and western [Catholic-Rome!] churches occurred in 1054 AD, yet the division started years before. The official split is called ‘the great schism’ of the 11th century; it would not be until 500 years later that the church would have her ‘reformation’. The official reason for this split was over a rather silly thing. For centuries the Catholic church had an expression that said ‘the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father’ than they included ‘he proceeds from the father and the Son’. Well the eastern brothers didn’t like Rome telling them what to believe and used this as the official reason to ‘have the schism’. To be honest the divisions were coming for years. After the Roman Empire consolidated under Constantine, he tried to strengthen the eastern territories of his empire and for centuries you had the struggle for which region would be the most influential. At first you had 5 major areas that were divided under 5 main Bishops. As time went on the argument would be ‘which bishop has the most say so’ and it was really a power struggle. Finally Rome said ‘the bishop of Rome is the FIRST AMONG EQUALS [a term that many in the Protestant strain of the discipling movement would later embrace] he holds Peters seat’ and this is really where the divisions started. Eventually Muhammad would rise and Islam would take control of the eastern capital. This later became the reason for the crusades. The Catholic church wanted to regain the territories that she lost in the east. The eastern churches are very much Catholic in many ways. They also hold to a view of Christianity that sees man being ‘joined’ with God and becoming pleasing to God thru Christ’s grace uniting with us and making us like him. A perfectly scriptural view, but a different emphasis from the strong intellectual power that you read about from the western fathers of the church. The Catholic church is noted for her social action in ways that the eastern church is not. So both of these communions have good things to bring to the table. The Orthodox [eastern] churches would not be affected by the major social and political upheavals that took place in the west. The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment had major impacts on western Christianity, while not affecting the eastern church in the same way. During the 13th—15th centuries you would have ‘pre reformers’ rise up in the western church. John Wycliffe, the great Catholic Priest who was at the center of learning in France would become known for his translating the scriptures into the common language. Then you have John Huss and John Knox [3 Johns, scripture says 3 fold cords are not easily broken!] who would have their own influence in western Christianity. At this time you had whole movements of believers who would be seen as neither ‘western or eastern’ but restorationist [the restoring of the early practices and beliefs of the church] Peter Waldo would be the Father of the Waldensians and in the 12th century you would have the Albigenses in the south of France. These groups would be looked upon as ‘cults’ [though the term was not used yet] by the traditional church. So you can see how the church has been growing and reforming ever since the first century. Even though we see many divisions that exist till this day, there are strides being made for unity. The eastern and western church are very close to‘re uniting’ once again. While I do not personally hold to the doctrine of the Pope being the occupier of Peter’s seat, I also see him as a Christian man who is striving for unity in Christ’s church. Some believe the whole attempt for outward unity is futile. The more ardent Protestants see it as ‘the one world church of the anti christ’ I reject that language out of hand. Well I hope you got something out of this short overview of world history [real short!].
(785)Let’s end this little excursion from our study in Judges and finish our look into the 20th century as one of ‘the Spirit of Pentecost’. During the 60’s you had what was known as the Charismatic Movement. On the west coast there was an Episcopal Priest who announced to his congregation that he experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. The area Bishop forbid the Priest to introduce his experience as one accepted by the denomination. Some of his congregants disagreed with this decision and took it upon themselves to contact the media. Soon word spread like wildfire. You also had an outpouring of the Spirit at Duquesne University. Some see this as the historic beginning point of the Charismatic movement. Basically the movement speaks of the gifts of the Spirit, specifically Tongues, breaking into and across denominational lines. Eventually the Catholic Church would put her stamp of approval on the movement. Which after all would be in keeping with their official doctrine. They have always believed the gifts of the Spirit to be available to believers in all ages. During the late 60’s early 70’s the Jesus Movement would spring up on the west coast and many hippies and flower children would ‘turn on to Jesus’. Chuck Smith and John Wimber [initially Ken Guliksen] would lead 2 of the most successful church movements of the late 20th century. Smith would head up Calvary Chapel and Wimber would take the lead in the Vineyard churches. You had Keith Green [musician] room mating with Randy Stonehill at the time. Keith was searching for answers, Randy would recommend him to attend a Vineyard bible study led by Ken Guliksen. Keith would finally accept the Lord at the study and become this on fire musician for the Lord. Though the music industry saw him as ‘a prize’ Keith would start ‘Last Days Ministries’ and relocate to Lyndale Texas [across the road from Youth with a Mission- YWAM]. He would sadly die in a plane crash with 2 of his children on board. In 1989 you had the mixing of the Vineyard with some of the Prophets known as ‘the Kansas City Prophets’. These were the brothers out of Kansas City who were part of Mike Bickles church. Now Metro fellowship in Kansas City. Mike is no longer the lead Pastor, he heads up ‘I.H.O.P’ International House of Prayer, a great group of young people who take turns praying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now Paul Cain would meet Wimber and declare that Wimber was the Apostle that the Lord was going to use for the ‘great end time revival’. Paul Cain was so accurate in his ability to know the details of people’s lives, and to predict earthquakes and supernatural signs, that many were convinced that what Paul said was 100% accurate. The ‘marriage’ between the Vineyard and the modern prophetic movement [which is usually seen to have started out of Kansas City with Mike Bickle and Bob Jones, Paul Cain and a few other Prophetic brothers] was debatable. Some Pastors in the Vineyard churches [Tom Stipe among others] would eventually feel their churches were suffering from a lack of true biblical Christianity. Many new believers were looking too much to dreams, visions and personal prophecies as the normal guides for their lives. These believers were straying from the more sure path of prayer, bible study and simple trust in God. Chuck Smith would early on disassociate from the more flamboyant signs of the movement. He would take charge and let his churches know that they were to stick with the verse by verse exposition of the word at the normal church meetings. The Vineyard would run with the ‘go with the Spirit’ type mentality. Eventually the split between the movement known as the ‘Toronto blessing’ ‘Laughing revival’ would occur when John Arnott, Pastor of Toronto airport Vineyard church [in Toronto Canada] would break away from the Vineyard oversight. John Wimber would sadly pass away and the leadership of the Vineyard would return back to a more scripture oriented church [note- John Wimber himself was going this direction before his death, it seems as if he saw too much into the words that were being spoken to him from Paul Cain. Paul is a very humble man, who has fallen on some very hard times these past few years. It was easy for Wimber to believe all the wonderful words given to him from Paul, Paul was operating at a level of gifting that was unheard of for the time. Paul was the only ‘throwback’ from the mid century latter rain movement. He was a student under William Branham and sometimes would fill in for him at his meetings. By all accounts Paul received much of the anointing that Branham operated in]. The century will close out with the Toronto movement, as well as the Brownsville revival [Florida] having a fairly large impact on the church at large, as well as having many critics of the more extreme manifestations of the revivals [Toronto- people barking like dogs and stuff]. I do find it interesting that the century began with a movement that was for the most part associated with crying and repentance and would end with one of laughter and revival. In the restoration books of the Old Testament you have a seen where the foundation is being laid for the rebuilding of the temple. You have the younger generation happy and excited over the prospects of a new temple, but the older generation is standing there and weeping because to them it doesn’t seem to live up to their memories of ‘the good old days’. You had weeping and laughing as legitimate reactions to a real work of God. I think the ‘new’ moves need to be careful that they don’t read too much into the historic aspects of their movements until history itself writes the final chapter. But the ‘old timers’ also need to be open to the possibility of God ‘rebuilding the temple’ [spiritually speaking here!] and allowing the ‘latter house to receive more glory than the former’.
(784)Let’s stick with a little contemporary church history. In the last century you had what many believe to be one of the missing ‘planks’ of restoration of truth. The renewed emphasis on spiritual gifts, the idea that Apostles and Prophets were still gifts that people walked in. During the middle of the century you had the ‘Latter Rain movement’ and the rise of platform healing evangelists. The popular T.V. movie Elmer Gantry showed how the various church communions reacted to some of these evangelists. Many ‘old time’ churches were shocked at the persona and public display of these men [and women!] Some were shown to be outright hucksters! But others did have quite extraordinary gifts. The ‘most gifted’ brother was William Branham. William was a simple uneducated man who grew up in squalor conditions. The story of his birth and the supernatural signs surrounding his life are pretty interesting [look it up on Google, you will find tons of stuff on him]. Branham was gifted with the supernatural ability to know things about people, he had the singular ability to read the exact details of peoples lives. While many brand him as a false Prophet, he did seem to be a humble man that was doing his best to serve the Lord. This does not mean that I agree with all of Branham’s teachings or gifts! Other Christians who worked with Branham at the time would eventually leave his ministry out of a concern that his gifts might have been ‘mixed’ with other spiritual means of obtaining knowledge [like fortune telling and soothsaying]. Things that scripture forbids. I personally don’t know whether or not these accusations have merit to them, but it is important to see that these concerns were not coming from those who simply oppose all supernatural gifts. These concerns were voiced by some of Branham’s friends. During this time you had a few famous traveling ministers. A.A. Allen, Jack Coe and a few others became famous on the circuit. Many today testify of how the Lord used them in their lives. There were also many rumors [some true] that these men struggled with Alcohol and other vices. The Assemblies of God denomination would eventually openly rebuke a few of them who had credentials from their denomination. Brother Branham [he did believe in Jesus!] would embrace some weird doctrines. He had questions about the Trinity [well, he actually denied the doctrine] and would be impacted by the ‘Jesus only’ Pentecostal movement. He eventually felt like the death of his wife and child was a result of him not being more willing to minister among the oneness groups. As the century progressed you had the waning influence of the platform preachers. Some would still function from this paradigm, but for the most part the men and their movements passed on. You do still find a sort of cultic following of believers who remain loyal to brother Branham. Some believe he is one of the 2 witnesses spoken about in the book of Revelation. How come Branham had such influence over people’s lives? There is no doubt that this can be attributed to the actual real manifestations that took place under his ministry. Even the critics agree that there was some very unexplainable stuff going on. Some of the teachings of this period still influence believers today. The ‘Manifest Sons of God’ doctrine taught that there was coming a generation of saints who would walk in the fullness of all that God has promised, some believed that this group would even attain immortality in this life. The book of Romans does say that the whole creation is groaning and waiting for the day the Sons of God would fully manifest, but in context this is speaking of the resurrection. So the Lord used some of these brothers in a limited way. For the most part they suffered from a lack of a good education [don’t want to be demeaning] but were avid students of the Word. But as you can see this combination of knowing bible verses outside of the historic context of Church history [how others viewed these verses before them] can lead to dangerous conclusions. I for the most part do not condemn these brothers as outright fakes [some were, but not all] but I see in them a willingness to do their best in serving the Lord, but to a degree became victims of the fame and style of public platform ministry. Jesus taught the danger of our own personalities becoming too central to the people we are ministering to. Some of these brothers fell into this ditch!
(783)Let me interrupt our Judges study a little. Right now  there is another renewal/revival movement taking place in Florida [Lakeland]. The brother who was used as the ‘fire starter’ is Todd Bentley. I have tried to catch the services on T.V. and appreciate the presence of the Lord. Of course you can go on line and read terrible stuff about the revival. Once again some are 100 % against it, others are a little too exaggerated in their language in defense of it. What I mean is it’s easy to see a move of God and believe ‘this is the final move that will out do all other moves in the history of the church’ the ‘latter glory’ if you will. Let’s do a little history on moves of God. The present Pentecostal movement started at the beginning of the last century [for the most part]. You had a brother by the name of Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas who had this little bible school. One day they experienced an unusual event. Gods Spirit fell on the students and they all ‘began to speak in other languages’. Now, to those who reject the modern gift of tongues as ‘gibberish’, I want you to see something. The ‘tongues’ [languages] of this experience were actually real foreign languages that the speakers never learned. They were very much like the ‘tongues’ at Pentecost! Parham took this as a modern day Pentecost and began sending these students to foreign countries, believing that they would be able to evangelize the world without having to teach the students/missionaries the foreign language of their field. Well this experiment flopped! Even the accurate Pentecostal historians will tell you this. But we are still left with the supernatural account of the kids having spoken in languages that they never learned. Parham was a strange type of fellow. He believed in the ‘seed of the serpent’ doctrine and a few other weird things. He was also very racist! He allowed a black student by the name of William Seymour to sit out in the hall and hear his teaching. He could not ‘intermingle’ with the white students in class. Seymour was a humble uneducated man who had a heart for God. Seymour would eventually find his ‘harvest field’ in Los Angeles. He began preaching at different churches and would experience strange manifestations equal to the things that Parham experienced. The churches did not appreciate this unlearned, one eyed black preacher introducing these strange ‘manifestations’ into their congregations and eventually Seymour rented a building on Azusa street. In 1906 this Azusa street mission would become ground zero for the outpouring of the modern day Pentecostal movement. Seymour was a very humble man by all accounts. He was known for sticking his head inside a box on the pulpit so the people wouldn’t see him instead of the Lord. The L.A. papers would run front page stories on ‘the strange tongues of Babel’ and stuff like that. Though Seymour was young and inexperienced at ‘running a revival’ he tried to the best of his ability to follow the Lord. He would contact Parham and ask him to come and check out the move. Parham came and totally denounced the wild meetings as spiritists run amok! Even though Parham had himself experienced the gift of tongues at his bible school, he saw the unrestrained nature of Azusa and condemned it. Seymour would never invite him back. The little mission building at Azusa would become the place of pilgrimage for 20th century Pentecostalism. Some were adamantly opposed to the outpouring, others 100 % supporters. After 100 years of seeing what the outcome would be, the historical significance is hard to refute. Some still see the worldwide spread of Pentecostalism as error. Others see it as a fulfillment of the scriptures that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh. I see Pentecostals as part of the Body of Christ and in no way reject them as heretics. This doesn’t mean I agree with them in every doctrine! [As you can see when you read this site]. I feel we need to keep things in perspective when we feel God is moving in a new way. Is it possible that ‘this move’[any move that you happen to be in at the time] will have worldwide historic results? Sure. But because the Body of Christ is so wide and diverse in our day, it is harder for a single move to have the same type of impact as the original Pentecost. Should we judge the initial outpouring at Parham’s school as demonic? I don’t think so. The fact that they mistakenly took the gift as being missionary in nature does not disqualify the gift. In Act’s chapter 2 the gift of being able to speak in a language never learned did allow the immediate hearers to hear the gospel in their distinct languages. But the actual ‘missionaries’ [the hearers who went back to their towns] spread the message in their own known language. So in all types of moves you can find real fault, as well as real truth [most of the time]. We as the people of God should ‘test the spirits, because every spirit is not of God’ [1st John] while at the same time keeping an open mind like the head leader of religion in the book of Act’s, Gamaliel. He said ‘let’s leave the disciples alone for now, if this work is of God you will not be able to stop it. If it’s not of God it will fall by itself’. I personally believe in most of the renewal and revival movements of our day. I try not to get over excited by some of the language that tends to see these moves as ‘the last and greatest move of all time’. But I also avoid the constant attacks by the apologists who seem to never find a move they can agree with.
(1284) FOR A LAW SHALL PROCEED FROM ME AND I WILL MAKE MY JUDGMENT TO REST FOR A LIGHT OF THE PEOPLE Isaiah 51:5 I found out last week that one of my friends converted to Islam, he spent some time in New Jersey jails and rehabs and the Muslim influence is strong in Jersey. He explained to a friend how ‘God doesn’t share his glory’ and that he was taught that the Christian view of Jesus violates this truth. First, it would take too much time to overview the entire history of various beliefs and questions on different expressions of the Trinity, suffice it to say that there have been Christian groups from the first century up until today who have had difficulties with the Orthodox expression of the Trinity. I am Trinitarian, but understand how these various groups have had difficulty. Just to name a few; the Ethiopian Orthodox churches reject Trinitarian language. The Oriental Christian churches in general reject the language. The invading barbarians who attacked the Roman Empire were eventually converted to a form of Christianity that would reject Trinitarian language. The great Blasé Pascal thought it to have been a false teaching. I could go on and on with many groups who believed in God and Jesus but did not accept strong Trinitarian language. The point being, if someone thinks that all Christians hold the same views on the language, they are mistaken. I wrote a letter to my friend who converted to Islam, I simply shared the main difference between Christianity and Islam [and all religions], that Christianity teaches forgiveness and acceptance with God as a gift that comes thru the Atonement of Christ. Jesus died for men’s sins and rose again as a sacrificial atonement for man, Islam has some well meaning teachings in it but at the end of the day it is a religion that is legalistic. People attempt to gain Gods favor thru their own efforts; this is opposed to the Christian view of grace. I basically think it to be a red herring to use the language of the Trinity as a reason to reject Christianity and become Muslim, as I already stated there are many Christian groups who would agree with some of the issues that Muslims raise; this does not deal with the fact that man cannot atone for his own sins, man is unable thru any religious works to make himself right with God. The ‘law that proceeds from God’ to the nations is a law based on grace, not works. Paul calls it ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ [Romans] he contrasts it with the law of works. Now the whole history of Justification by faith and how different Christian groups see it is another intramural war that rages within the church, N.T. Wright recently put out a book on it, John Piper wrote one in defense of the historic Reformation view- Wright’s view has some excellent points, but would be considered New Perspective. So there are differences in the way Justification by Faith is seen, but all groups agree that man is accepted by God based on the free gift of Grace that comes thru the Cross. Yes, Catholics and Protestants agree with this language, though there are other differences. The point today is I believe we as believers need to make clear the differences between law based religions and Christianity, Jesus offers free forgiveness based on his death burial and resurrection. Law based religions might seem noble at the start, but at the end of the day they lead to condemnation and frustration, they are a vain attempt by man to make himself pleasing to God- an impossible task.
(1273) 2ND KINGS 17 in some ways this is a transitional chapter; up until now foreign countries attacked and suppressed Israel, but in this chapter we see the first real captivity of the people as a whole. Hoshea the king over the northern tribes [Israel] rebels against the king of Assyria who had them under tribute. So the king of Assyria puts Hoshea in jail and besieges Israel for 3 years, they take the city [Samaria] and they remove the majority of the people out of the land. He also places foreigners in the land to repopulate it. These foreign nations eventually mix in with the remnant that remained and these descendants are what we read about in John’s gospel, they were considered ‘half breed’ Samaritans. Now after the new inhabitants settle in the ‘Lord sent lions among them’. The people see this as judgment from God and request the Assyrian king to send them a priest so they could learn the ways of the God of the land and not die. This priest arrives and to some degree teaches these pagans the true worship of God, they of course kept their pagan beliefs as well, but it is interesting to see how the Lord even used a judgment scenario to redeem people. Okay, last night I was reading some of the history of the 18th-19th centuries and how after the French Revolution and the era of Napoleon many Europeans began to fear the idea of total and free Democracy, there was a sort of romantic musing upon the good old days of the Monarch. Many Frenchmen longed for the stability of the old Catholic church, these were called ‘Ultramontanists’ which meant ‘beyond the mountains- Alps’ and stood for their desire to re attach with the old Roman church in a way that allowed the church to reassert a global oversight over France as it used to have before the Revolution and Reformation. Part of the fear had to do with the nation states being their own sovereign, that whatever the nations wanted to now do they could do without any outside oversight; in essence part of the role of the Roman church was to provide a type of ‘united nations’ oversight over the individual states. Ultimately Democracy would eventually prevail and the new world of the Americas would be the first nation to adopt Democratic principles right from the start. When reading the history of the world, often time’s revisionists put their own spin on stuff. For instance we often read the history of Darwin in the latter half of the 19th century and see him as some enlightened figure who stood up against the bigotry of the church. But a generation or 2 before Darwin you had many ‘enlightened’ Evangelicals who fought for human rights and the dignity of man. William Wilberforce and the ‘Clapham community’ were men who used their political and social status as a means of freeing the Black man from the horrendous slave trade in Britain. Clapham was a small town around 3 miles outside of London; the town was sort of an elite place for the higher ups of society. Sort of like the Hamptons. Yet it was from this area in the late 18th century that many of the modern programs of the Evangelical movement were launched. The wealth and influence of these men launched the first bible societies, they started mission organizations for the poor; and even tried to instill a schema of social justice in their business dealings [the head of the East India trading company was part of the group]. These men wrought good social change and fought for the rights of the Black man, for him to be treated as a human and not some type of lower class chattel property. Darwin’s ideas would put into print the racist ideas of those who opposed the outlawing of slavery as a legitimate trade. Those who resisted freeing the slaves [both in Britain and the colonies] believed that the Black man was an inferior race to the White man. Darwin taught these beliefs openly in his books; he believed the Black race was proof of Evolutionary theory, that the Blacks proved to us that there were intellectually inferior races of men that did not advance along the more educated road of White men. The point being that a full 70 years before Darwin you had very influential Christian men who fought for the rights and freedom of Black men, and yet history normally portrays Darwin as the person who fought the bigotry of the church in his noble journey for truth. Okay, God allowed his people to be taken captive, they rebelled against him and they lost their freedom as a people, yet they still had a history of great and noble deeds, they accepted proselytes into their nation and treated the poor in their land with respect. It would be wrong to view the entire history of Gods people [both now and then] from the lens of the sins and wrongs that occurred, yes the church has made her mistakes and it sounds noble to say ‘lets cast off all the restraints of religion’ but in the end you might wind up looking past the Alps for some help.
(1270) CONC. 2ND KINGS 15- Azariah the king had a long reign and also was a leper. We read earlier how Naaman the leper was a great military leader. A few weeks ago as I was channel surfing I caught a biography on Father Damien, a Belgian Priest who went to Hawaiian in the 1800’s to serve Gods people. Hawaii had a problem with Leprosy at the time and they eventually quarantined the lepers to an island named Molokai [sp?]. Father Damien used to visit the island and eventually requested permission to stay on the island and serve the people. He eventually caught leprosy himself and wrote how he so identified with the people that it was only fitting that he should die from the common disease of the people he loved. The next week I read an article or 2 on Father Damien, it just so happened that he was up for being canonized as a Saint by the Pope. So a few stories covered some of the controversy that surrounded him; some accused him of sleeping with some of the women on the island and they said that’s how he got sick. Other critics said he wasn’t really as dedicated as the stories portrayed; that he actually traveled to a part of the island where normal people lived and then he would later go back to the side where the lepers were. So the critics had their reasons, some of the critics were sincere in their beliefs and did not intend for their critiques to be made public. So to be honest reading these stories did cause me to doubt some of the heroic things I saw in the biography. All in all Father Damien was made a ‘Saint’ and in order for this to have happened under Catholic teaching the stories about father Damien’s infidelities had to be considered untrue. I actually found it fitting in a way that a man could still be recognized and honored even if he had these failings. Officially the church said these stories were false, but they might very well have been true and yet the good work Father Damien did was still honored. Now I in no way want to leave the impression that this would be some sort of accuse for sin, I just thought it fitting that the man was still honored even with the question out there about his faults. King Azariah ruled a long time [52 years] and yet he had a disease that was considered like having aids. There was a stigma to it. The people on Molokai were quarantined there because they were actually following the rules given in the Old Testament on how to deal with leprosy. In Jesus day you saw the same thing apply, people had to be separated from the population and there were cleansing rules for the houses they lived in and stuff like that. So in a primitive way the Hawaiians did their best to deal with the problem. Yet God shows us that some of his great leaders, men he used to do good things, also suffered from physical ailments that were considered tragic. In Isaiah 53 the bible says ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him, thru his suffering my righteous servant shall justify many’. Jesus of course suffered by the will of God and God saw the things he was going thru, these things were the very acts that bought our redemption! Father Damien saw his affliction and eventual death as some type of redemptive price that he would pay for his efforts to redeem the people of Molokai, in essence ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and thru his suffering he justified many’.
(1266) 2ND KINGS 13- Israel is under oppression from Syria, they cry out to God and he delivers them. But they have a diminished army when all is said and done. In the New Testament Jesus said wise kings take inventory of their forces; when one army comes up against another, wise kings look at the match up and if they think they can’t win they make arrangements for some type of peace. Strength isn’t always about how much force you have or can display, sometimes it’s realizing your limits and having the wisdom of not letting a bunch of your soldiers die for a lost cause. In this chapter we also see the death of Elisha, it’s been over 40 years since his last true public appearance, here at the end of his life the king comes and feels overwhelmed. Elisha was a true stabilizing force for the nation; the king knew he had an experienced prophet who could lend support when the time called for it. But now he realizes he will have to go it on his own, sure he had other prophets around; but they were young guys, still dealing with inexperience and stuff. It’s not that they were of no value, but you could tell that they were going to go thru some learning curves in the years ahead and Elisha had already been thru all that. So Elisha encourages the king and says ‘take your bow and shoot thru the east window’ so he does this prophetic act and Elisha tells him he will overcome the enemy from the east [Syria]. Then he tells him to stomp the ground with the arrows, so he does it 3 times. Elisha says he should have done it 5 or 6 times! But because you were a little lackluster you will only have a partial victory over your enemy. And last but not least Elisha dies and is buried and some brothers bury one of their dead in the same grave and as soon as the body touches Elisha the guy comes back to life. Elisha was raising brothers from the dead after he died! What do we make from this? Various Christian churches put different emphasis on what the dead can do; relics, praying to those who have passed on. I want only to stress the biblical importance of the body. In scripture the body is a holy thing, God himself dwells inside the bodies of believers. The New Testament doctrine of the resurrection speaks to the importance of the body. In Greek thought the body was seen as evil, a temporary ‘prison’ that the soul/mind was captive in until death. Some of these beliefs [Greek Dualism] did affect the thinking of the church over the centuries. Many good theologians have corrected these mistakes over the years [Augustine, Reformers, Etc.] They showed us that the body itself is not evil, but that when the bible speaks about ‘the flesh having no good thing in it’ it is speaking about ‘the fleshly/carnal nature’ not the physical body. But some who embraced Greek Dualism interpreted these verses as saying the actual body is evil. In Romans Paul says to give our bodies up to God as living sacrifices, HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE to God, which is our reasonable service [worship]. So the body is actually referred to as holy in this passage. Elisha obviously had some ‘residual’ anointing going on, as soon as death touched his body there was enough of Gods Spirit present to raise a guy from the dead, how much more so for those of us who are still alive.
(1258) WHAT LASTS? – These past few weeks while praying early in the mornings, I have been meditating on verses like ‘the steps/paths of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way’. David said he desired to always dwell in Gods ‘tabernacle’, while thinking on these verses I felt like the Lord was speaking to me about the effects we have, the planting of his word in regions. I even began thinking about the fact that we will die, and the people we minister to will pass away, but in some sense the words we taught will remain. In essence the thing that will last is the gospel and truth that is sown, not the institutions, or even the people, but the word. Now John says because we have the word in us we will abide forever, that is the word of God will raise the dead up some day and they will endure forever; but it’s the word of truth that is lasting. So anyway I felt like the Lord was directing me to read Isaiah, I read the first 10 verses of chapter 40 and the theme goes like this ‘all flesh is like grass, it will pass away; but the word of God endures forever’ basically exactly what God was speaking to me. This section also speaks of John the Baptist ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make a straight highway/path for him in the desert’ this was along the lines of ‘creating a path/ place for God’s word to flow’. Isaiah also has the famous verse ‘you will be called the restorer of paths to dwell in’. I felt like God was telling us to lay down some paths, have consistent areas where you faithfully teach and speak truth and these areas will ‘abide forever’ that is your impact will affect many generations to come. Right after the 16th century Reformation you had what is referred to as the Enlightenment, or the ‘age of reason’. Many thinkers began to challenge the institutional church [and institutions in general] and believed that reason and rationality would lead the way. In France [1700’s] Paris became a center of thinking for these Deists. These men were smart enough to realize that the total denial of God was too ridiculous to accept, they instead embraced Deism. Deism is a type of belief that said God started the ball rolling, but he left the rest on auto pilot; the same belief that the Greek philosophers embraced. Now, one of the famous ‘Philosphes’ [sic] was a man by the name of Voltaire, he is well-known as an infamous atheist today, but he did not totally reject God. These men did have tremendous influence and they produced the French Encyclopedias which backed up their cause. Eventually they would overthrow the Catholic Church and kill the king in their mad rush towards ‘reason’. They were wrong on their basic understanding of reason and rationality as they applied it to the church. They believed that rational thought meant ‘naturalistic thought’ that is in order for things to be rational, they could not be supernatural. They were wrong, in fact those who would later take the next step into full atheism would deny the laws of reason and logic all together. I saw Richard Dawkins do an interview the other day, he is one of the popular atheists of our day. These men who reject God accept a view of creation that violates the laws of logic; they teach/believe that all things came from ‘no-thing’ a scientific impossibility. This idea violates the law of ‘reason’ known as the law of ‘non contradiction’. This law states that a thing cannot be and ‘not be’ at the same time and in the same relationship. For all things to have come from nothing [self creation] would mean that all things created itself. It would have to ‘have been’ before it was. This common system of belief is absolutely irrational, even though the atheist believes it to be rational. To believe that God is a self existent being who created all things does not violate the laws of logic, you might think it does, but it doesn’t. For someone to have existed forever does not violate the classic laws of logic. So these thinkers who thought that their rejection of God was ‘rational’ were in fact wrong. Their ideas led to effects that were horrendous, they in effect ‘planted seed’ [bad doctrines] that would outlast them and their generation, their bad ideas had bad consequences. But the truth of God and his kingdom have also been ‘planted’ in the world, these seeds will last forever. If you want to effect society for good, then plant the seeds that will have an eternal impact, for ‘he that does the will of God will abide forever’ [1st John].
(1255) 2ND KINGS 8:7-29 Elisha goes to Damascus and the king of Syria hears about it, he sends his servant to inquire ‘of the prophet’ whether or not he will get well from some sickness. The servant goes and finds Elisha and Elisha says ‘yes, he would recover. But instead he will die’. What ? Elisha sees that the sickness would not be fatal, but that the king will be assassinated! The servant in front of him will be the killer. So Hazael goes back to the king and says ‘he said you would get well’ true enough, but he left out the part where he was going to kill him! So the next day he does the deed and becomes the king. A few things, I find it interesting that the Syrian king had no problem receiving Gods prophet. They believed in prophets! Now, they did not have a ‘Christian/Judeo’ culture, but they had a religious background that accepted ‘messengers from God’. In today’s world the church needs to take advantage of the willingness of other world religions to listen to prophets. We need to appeal as much as possible to the Muslim world and use any agreement on religious things as a tool to share the gospel. Right after the 16th century reformation the world would embark on a couple hundred year age of exploration and colonization. The Protestants were good at exploring the seas and impacting Europe, but they failed at reaching the Far East. Instead the Catholic Church had great success thru the Jesuits at impacting the Far East. They would make inroads into Japan and China and eventually take the gospel to the influential city of Peking. The problem arose when the Dominicans and Franciscans [Catholic orders] came in after them. They felt that the Jesuits were too accommodating in mixing in the religious beliefs of the east along with Christianity. Many Chinese believers were still practicing a form of worshipping dead ancestors and stuff like that. The Jesuits justified this by seeing these things as cultural beliefs and felt like allowing them to ‘keep their culture’ along with the faith was okay, the Dominicans and Franciscans disagreed and took the argument to Rome. Eventually this disagreement would leave a bad taste with the leaders in China and all Catholic expressions of the faith would be banned. This is called Syncretism, the mixing of religious beliefs. Now, why get into this? Christians should appeal to the willingness of Muslims and other world religions to hear religious voices. Both Jews and Muslims believe in Jesus, now they don’t believe the way Christians believe, but we should take advantage of this basic belief when appealing to them. Muslims reject the doctrine of the Trinity, but a careful study of history shows us that the actual Trinity they are rejecting is not the Christian understanding. Muhammad was actually rejecting a skewed view of the Trinity that saw Jesus and God and Mary as the Trinity. Obviously a pretty big mistake. So we as believers should be willing to correct and give a word to the ‘Muslim messengers’ when they come looking for answers. We should give them credit where credit is due, like their development of apologetical arguments in the Middle Ages [the Kalaam cosmological argument] but at the same time present the uncompromising gospel of Jesus Christ to them. I side with the Franciscans and Dominicans on this one.
(1248) AX HEADS THAT FLOAT!- 2ND KINGS 6:1-7 The prophets tell Elisha that their current ‘dwelling place’ is too small, they request permission to go to the Jordan and build a new dwelling. Jordan in scripture represents more than just a river that John baptized people in. In the history of Israel Jordan has been a type of crossing over from a previous identity and becoming mature and responsible as Gods people. It was a cutting off from the old land and economy and things they trusted, and coming into a new kingdom, one ruled by God. This also played a role in Johns baptism, Israel knew what Jordan meant; John was telling them to leave their old world mindsets and step into a new kingdom. So the prophets go and build a new place by the Jordan. One of the brothers dropped an ax head into the water and panics ‘Oh no, I lost the ax head, it was borrowed’. Elisha brakes off a stick and throws it into the water and the head floats, King James say ‘it swam’. So the brother got the ax head back. How do we relate stories like this and make them applicable to our day? I know, let’s say you were working at a building site and dropped the power saw in the water, and… Well not really. The bible has lots of ‘unorthodox’ stuff in it. I mean Paul sent handkerchiefs to sick people and they were healed. Jesus turns water into wine. Ax heads float. Our Christian experience very much entails supernatural stuff. The other side of the coin is ‘the fake stuff’. Recently the author Dan Brown released another book on supernatural stuff, he wrote the previous best seller ‘The DaVinci code’. These books appeal to mans natural desire for supernatural stuff. The problem with Dan brown is he mixes all types of fairy tale stories in with some valid points. The average reader can’t really tell the difference. I have a book here in my study titled ‘the lost books of the bible’. I bought it years ago for a few dollars at half price books. It really is a treasure; I mean it does have great books from antiquity in it, to get it for a few dollars was a great deal. Now, some of the books were legitimate contenders to have possibly made it into the bible. The epistle of Barnabus, the Didache, possibly the Shepherd of Hermes. There were a few books that the early church debated about including in the canon. But you also had a plethora of obviously fake stuff. The Gnostic writings were well known as cheap imitations of the real thing. These writings are from the late 2nd, 3rd centuries. No legitimate argument was ever made about these writings; all Christians rejected them as being authoritative. But the Dan Brown stories have people thinking that these writings were at one time up for possible inclusion into the canon, that’s just not so. How do we tell the difference between stuff that’s historically reliable and stuff that isn’t? In the field of historiography [looking at ancient writings and weighing their legitimacy] you have scholars who have spent years doing this sort of thing. You look at the actual recording of the events, were they written down fairly closely to the event? Did the authors know the people they were writing about, were they eyewitnesses? How many manuscripts are left? Were they widely accepted? There are real ways to determine stuff like this, the bible stands head and shoulders above all other ancient writings. The Greek New Testament has over 5 thousand original manuscripts. The only other work that comes close is Homer’s Iliad, it has a little over 6oo. Most others have around 10-20. If you include the Latin versions [and other languages besides Greek] you have around 25 thousand copies. The evidence is overwhelming. Now this does not speak to the inspiration of scripture, but it shows us that the bible itself is a highly reliable document when measured by historical standards. What about the Gnostic wrings? They do not stand the test of time in this way. The point being Dan Brown might have piqued the interest of many novice readers of history, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just Christians should be able to give a defense of their faith and appeal to a broad range of actual proofs that defend their position. Hey, if you want interesting stories, come ‘back to the bible’ it has ax heads that can swim for heaven’s sake!
(1246) 2ND KINGS 4:38-44 Elisha has a ministry to the younger prophets; they see him as a father figure in a way. He prepares a ‘great pot’ of food for them, but one of the inexperienced prophets accidently picked a poisonous plant and put it in the pot. Once they start eating they realize that they have all been feeding off of something that is damaging, they panic! Elisha quickly puts another ingredient in the stew to undo the bad effects. Okay, I see a parable here. Often time’s good young men are feeding from sources that have much good in them. These sources believe Gods word, confess it regularly, they have much good in ‘the pot’. But because of inexperience some bad things get into the pot. These bad things have a way of infecting the entire meal. When you first start eating from the pot, you don’t realize it’s bad. When someone tries to tell you there is some bad stuff in the pot, the normal reaction is ‘how dare you tell me that I have been duped! Who do you think you are, there is much good in this pot’? But eventually after the dust settles down, they recognize the experience of the older prophet and allow him to ‘add his meal’ to the pot. I want to encourage all of the ‘younger prophets/leaders’ don’t be too willing to eat everything in the pot, there are many sources of teaching and preaching that are very abundant in today’s church world, I mean it’s a big pot, but it’s takes discernment to know that sometimes bad weeds get into the pot. Let mature leadership add their part, it often neutralizes the bad stuff. And the last miracle in the chapter has Elisha multiplying the loaves and grain for the prophets. He does a multiplication miracle like Jesus did in the New Testament. The church went thru a stage where she rejected the miraculous stories in the bible, this period took place in the late 19th, early 20th century. It was called liberalism/higher criticism and it arose primarily out of the universities in Germany [Marburg being a main one]. Men like Rudolph Bultman reacted to enlightenment thinking and tried to create a view of scripture that still had value, but was not to be taken literally when it came to the miracles. This was called ‘de-mythologizing’ they used the word ‘myth’ to mean stories that had good moral value, but weren’t meant to be taken literally; sort of like a parable. So these brothers would say that Jesus really didn’t multiply the loaves and fish, but that he appealed to mans better instincts and the people all shared their food with everyone else. Or that the parting of the Red Sea was really the ‘Reed Sea’ and stuff like that. Some still hold to these types of things, but for the most part this way of seeing scripture is no longer a popular view. Elisha had some supernatural stuff going on, there was no reason to reject or disbelieve the things that happened, but this does not mean that there is never a time for correction and reproof. Many who operate in these gifts are very limited in their understanding and grasp of scripture. I don’t want to sound condescending, but the history on this stuff is out there; many have gone off the deep end doctrinally while operating in supernatural gifts. Elisha was prophetic, but he also knew when it was time to add ‘some meal’ to the pot, to put some stuff in that would neutralize the poison. I think we need some meal.
(1244) 2ND KINGS 4:1-7 A wife of the prophets whose husband died asks Elisha for help. She is in debt and the creditors have come to take her sons as payment. Elisha asks her what she has in her house; she says a pot of oil. He tells her to go borrow empty pots from her neighbors and go in her house and shut the door and fill the empty pots. She fills them all by a miracle and he tells her to sell the oil and pay off the debt, and use the rest to live off of. This chapter has a few more miraculous things that remind us of the ministry of Jesus, we will do it tomorrow. But this miracle shows us the ability of God to ‘take little’ and make it go far. Jesus does this with the loaves and fish. Some see these miracles as Gods way of telling us he will increase our material wealth, after all he gave this woman a goose that lays golden eggs! I see these stories thru a different light; Jesus was showing us that ‘our little bit’ can go very far. In the stories of Jesus multiplying the bread and fish, the disciples actually tell Jesus ‘how can we feed the multitudes, we don’t have enough money’? He shows them that they don’t ‘need enough money’ all they need is him! When people read the bible with their ‘pair of glasses on’ they naturally see these stories in ways that justify their preconceived ideas, we need to let God change these ideas.
Now to the book ‘Everything must change’ by McLaren. I read a few more chapters and thought I’d talk. Brian compares the conventional view of the gospel with the Emergent view. He seems to be too critical of some of the basic elements of the gospel. He kinda speaks condescendingly about original sin and Jesus death saving us from God’s wrath and how these things apply to God’s chosen. He actually states the gospel fairly well, but he does it in a critical way. He then states the Emergent view and shows how Emergent’s see a global justice picture for all people. I don’t see the need to reject the first view in order to embrace the second. He uses an example from the gospels and Mary’s Magnificat to prove his point. He shows us the expectation of natural Israel when they saw the appearing of the Messiah thru a nationalistic lens; true enough. He then uses this example to show us that the conventional view of Jesus and personal conversion is missing the point, that the true ‘framing story’ is about social justice in the nations. I think you can take the story the other way around; that Jesus actually corrects the immediate expectation of Israel and their nationalistic view and tells them ‘the kingdom of God must first begin in you’. In essence Jesus interjects the ‘conventional view’ and the need to deal with ‘original sin’ before they can expect any outward changes in society. I am not sure why Brian seems to be so against the doctrine of original sin, the only thing I can imagine is he has read a lot of social gospel material and 19th, 20th century liberal theology. These teachings were very much against original sin because they felt it instilled in man a sort of hopelessness to effect society as a whole. The liberal theologians rejected classic expressions of original sin because they felt these doctrines gave to man an excuse to not work for change and social justice in society. Good men like Charles Finney embraced these beliefs. The only problem with this is the bible most definitely teaches the doctrine of original sin! ‘In Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive’ ‘As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so thru the righteousness of one man [Jesus] shall many become holy’ [Romans, Corinthians]. The doctrine of original sin is biblical, and being saved from Gods just wrath thru the atonement of Jesus is the heart of the gospel. I accept McLaren’s call for believers to be more concerned and active on the social justice seen, and he does make some good points about the kingdom of God and how it’s much greater than the reductionist ‘me and Jesus’ view. But I disagree on his approach that the conventional expression of the gospel needs to change. Jesus kingdom does begin with the fundamental doctrines and beliefs of redemption and God restoring man back to God thru the atonement, to discard these truths and to replace them with ‘another framing view’ in my mind is a big mistake.
(1242) Read a few chapters from Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ thought I’d comment. I like Brian’s writing style, I agree with him on believers needing to be challenged to see things differently, but I disagree on some of his ‘everything’s’. He challenges the idea of objective thinking as defined as foundationalism. He explains well the questioning of modern intellectuals after the world wars and Holocaust of the 20th century. He shows how certain thinkers began looking for answers to the problem of society’s failure as seen in these events. He also shows how some blamed the events on ‘foundationalism’ which is a way of ‘seeing things’ [epistemology] as defined by Rene Descartes. These thinkers diagnosed the problem as society’s acceptance of absolutes, they felt that this led to an ‘overconfidence’ in right and wrong and this in turn allowed for these atrocities to happen. Many modern thinkers would disagree with this conclusion. I find it interesting that Brian makes some statements about Evolution that seem to say he accepts the theory, but yet he fails to see the role that Social Darwinism played as a precursor to the Holocaust. You could make the opposite argument that it was the rejection of absolutes, and the rise of liberal theology from the universities in Germany that led to these events. Many scholars began questioning Gods truth and laid a foundation that said ‘we really can’t trust Gods truth’ [or even know it]. To be honest these debates are a little philosophical and I didn’t think Brian would go down this road, but he does so I will deal with it. Many ‘post moderns’ believe that one of the things that must change is the ‘old’ [what is termed modern] way of thinking. These new thinkers assert that truth itself, as an absolute thing that people can know for sure, is out of mans reach. They question the modern way of thinking that teaches there are certain absolutes [preconceived ways of thinking that everyone accepts]. These new thinkers say this ‘foundationalism’ is the problem. Did the enlightenment invent this mode of objectivism? No. Thinkers from Aristotle to Aquinas to Descartes all approached thinking this way. It was defined more clearly during the enlightenment period. But this is a philosophical debate that goes on in these various camps. You have had very smart people disagree on these things. The great theologian Karl Barth would say you are not truly educated until you can ‘affirm both sides of an argument, accept contradictory definitions of the same thing’ many believe this would lead to lunacy! The two greatest theoretical physicists of the last century also disagreed on this. Neils Bohr would say that you can have two contradictory truths about a subject, and they could both be true, Einstein disagreed. So these things have been around for a while, many of the eastern religions teach the same [Zen]. So I would disagree with Brian on this, but do agree with him on the need for believers to expand their concerns from simple ‘going to heaven when I die’ concerns, to social justice concerns in the nations. He does give some good examples along these lines.
(1239) CATHEDRAL OF THE MIND- I came across this phrase the other day while reading some church history, I liked the idea that it expressed. These last few years I have ‘weaned’ myself off of the standard preaching shows. But I have watched/listened/read from theologians, both Catholic and Protestant [primarily from the Reformed tradition]. I include Eastern Orthodoxy under the subtitle of Catholic [though they would see it the other way around]. Now, the Christian church has had a voice of justice to the nations for many centuries. The Catholic Church gets credit for having a system in place that can speak cohesively and with authority to the nations. The Protestant church has yet to achieve this type of unity. But there are many noble scholars and teachers from the Protestant tradition that the average Protestant is unfamiliar with. Most of the preacher friends I know and have fellowshipped with over the years have spent lots of time listening and learning from the popular media channels, the books read and programs watched are for the most part modern success teachings. Much of it is void of the gospel as seen in the New Testament. During the Reformation you had a transition from the ‘church meeting’ that went from sacrament/Eucharist as being the central theme of the meeting, to preaching/pulpit as becoming the center. While this was a noble attempt to get the average church goer back to Gods word, it also produced a passivity in the life of the average believer. He became accustomed to thinking worship primarily consisted of going to a building and hearing a lecture. So even though the ancient Mass had some problems, the New Protestant church service had some of their own. Now, the ‘cathedral of the mind’- the manifold wisdom that exists in the intellectual mind of the church is tremendous. But you really can’t access it unless you read and learn from the classics. There is a verse that says ‘son, cease to listen to the teaching that leads you astray’ the Christian needs to make a conscious effort to ‘cease to listen’ to some stuff. Now I am not advocating the boycotting of any contemporary preachers, but to truly become educated we need to choose wisely. Many of the Catholic voices have tremendous wisdom, but to listen to them you need to acquire a different type of ear. Father Groeschel says listening to the Protestant sermon is often like trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant. He doesn’t mean to offend, but I understand where he is coming from. To listen to certain scholars you need to develop a new intellectual capacity that contrasts the average way Protestants learn [the preaching of the word]. I do believe there are important doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants, that’s why I am still a Protestant. But many times Protestants are misinformed on some of these things. Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say ‘there are 10 thousand people who hate what they think is the Catholic Church, only a few actually hate the church’ while he might be overstating his case, I get his point. For the believer to truly understand why he associates with either the Catholic [Orthodox] or Protestant wing of Christianity, he first needs to develop an appetite for true learning, there are many areas of knowledge and wisdom that the average believer needs to become familiar with. God does not require all believers to become intellectuals, but he does want us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and might. Do you love God with your mind?
(1238) PSLAMS 37- I have been meditating on this Psalm for the past few days, it speaks to our day ‘fret not thyself because of evildoers, for those who seem to prosper in what they are doing’. Recently we have had the political storm over ACORN, the community group who has it’s hands in all types of things. They actually have done some good in helping the poor, but the conservatives finally got them! What do you expect when your people offer help to a fake pimp and prostitute when they are looking for ‘housing’? Oh my, how have we fretted over the wicked. Or ‘a little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked’ last night I was reading the bio’s of John Wycliffe and John Hus, the two great ‘pre-reformers’. Wycliffe preached/taught out of Oxford England and would contrast the riches and wealth of the Pope with the poverty of Jesus and his men. He taught the ‘true church’ were those who knew God and were part of the spiritual community of believers, not limited to any earthly institution. He would send his poor preachers out 2 by 2 and they would infiltrate England [they were called Lollards]. Hus would read the writings of Wycliffe and lead Bohemia down the same road. Hus preached at the influential Bethlehem church in Prague and also had influence at the university. These men believed that ‘the poverty of the righteous would go further than the riches of many wicked’. They truly turned their world upside down while rejecting the idea that we all need to become rich in order to have real influence. This Psalm says the meek will inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked might seem like he’s spreading out like a huge tree, but his efforts are temporary. Jesus said the kingdom of God was like planting a small seed and it becoming a huge tree, are you looking to plant ‘a huge tree’? We often view the kingdom thru God using us to gather great wealth and resources, organizing some corporation, and then this ‘huge tree’ will get the job done. Jesus approach was to gather these outcasts of society, invest his life into them, and his life, death, resurrection and example would become the ‘seed bed’ that would start a worldwide revolution. Don’t fret over what it seems like the ‘wicked’ are getting away with, just simply follow Jesus, your little bit can accomplish much more than the riches of many wicked [geez, ACORN was getting millions, but the church of Jesus has been helping the poor for 2 thousand years. I don’t know why we fret over this stuff!]
(1237) WHAT DOES ‘SOLA SCRIPTURA’ MEAN? During the 16th century Protestant Reformation you had the Reformers [Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.] come down on the side of ‘sola scriptura’ which meant ‘the bible alone’. That is they felt the scriptures should have the final say in deciding the doctrinal matters of the church. Many modern Protestant groups have taken a wrong view of sola scriptura; they seem to think it means ‘solo scriptura’- me and my bible. What’s the difference? The historic Protestants felt the bible had the final say, but they also taught that the scriptures should be understood and read thru the historic framework of the church. That is the ‘sense’ that most believers have had when reading Gods word. Calvin would appeal to the past writings of Augustine and other church fathers when making his case. During the time of the Reformation you also had what came to be called ‘the Radical Reformation’ or the Ana-Baptists [which meant re-baptizers]. They rejected infant baptism and wanted to make a clean break from all traditional Christianity. The Magisterial Reformers thought they went too far, I stood at the spot in Zurich where Zwingli ‘baptized’ them in the river [he drowned them]. So as you can see there are various degrees of ‘sola/solo scriptura’. Is it possible to come to a right conclusion from reading the bible alone? Sure, most of my ideas have come this way. The problem seems to be when preachers/believers read things out of context. When reading any book, if you took a verse/sentence from one chapter and added it to another chapter. And then memorized all these sentences and put together your own meaning, then no matter how ‘well meaning’ the person is, he is going to get the story wrong. The Reformers believed it was important to read and understand the bible in the context of the wider church. Pope Benedict agrees, he said it was important to know how the whole church has viewed a particular truth thru out all time. These insights are important for our day. Is it possible for ‘all the church’ to have missed it on a certain subject? You bet, the point is when ‘the whole church’ begins to rise up and say ‘yeah, we missed it’ then you have true reform. Too often you find separated groups of believers who have grasped onto some truth, maybe it’s a real insight that others don’t see yet, but then they become isolated and their truth becomes a stumbling block. They often use their truth as the criteria to judge all other Christians. They will discount everything the other Christian groups have to say, because they ‘know for sure’ that they are wrong on that one particular doctrine. I think it’s time for the Protestant/Evangelical church to get back to ‘sola scriptura’; that is to read and believe in the bible as the final authority on doctrinal decisions, but to also have a working knowledge on how all other Christian groups see, or have seen these same truths.
(1235) 2ND CORINTHIANS 12- Before I get into a long history discussion with you guys, let’s hit a few verses. Paul says ‘when I was with you, did I gain a profit from you, take advantage of you?’ or ‘when I sent Titus, did he gain a profit from you?’ He then goes on and says the fathers lay up money for the kids, not the other way around. He says he has spent out of his own pocket for them, and he will continue to do so. He says he does all this so people won’t have the excuse ‘he’s just in it for the money’. Notice, Paul himself did not have the common mindset we see in ministry today. Often times financial appeals are made from Paul’s writings in Corinthians, these appeals often say ‘we are not asking for ourselves, but for you’ it is put in a way that says it would be wrong to not take money from people. That in some way not taking an offering would violate scripture. Paul flatly said he did not take money from them for personal use, nor would he. When the modern church uses Paul’s other sayings in this letter to appeal to giving, we need to share ‘the whole counsel of God’ not just a few verses that fit in with what we practice. Now, Paul speaks about being caught up into ‘heaven’ [Gods realm-Paradise] and hearing truths from God that were not lawful for men to speak. He states that God gave him truth that came from Divine revelation. If you skip a few pages over in your bible, you will hit Galatians. In the first chapter he says how after he was converted he did not confer with the other leaders at Jerusalem, but received teaching straight from God. Let’s discuss what revelation is, how we come to know things. The last few centuries of the first millennium of Christian history you had the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ which was a political/religious union of church and state. Under the emperor Charlemagne the territories of the empire were vast. Those who came after him did not have the same control over the regions that were vast. Eventually you had a form of rule arise that was called Feudalism; the sections of the empire that were too far to benefit directly from Rome would simply come under the authority of the local strongman [much like the present dilemma in Afghanistan, I think it’s time to get our boys out of that mess]. People would come under the authority of a ruler and he would lease out land to the citizens and they would benefit from his protection. The citizens were called Vassals and the land was called a Fief. At one point king John of England would do public penance in a disagreement he had with the Pope and all of England would become a Fief under the rule of the Pope. Now, this would eventually lead up to the development of the strong nation states, an independent identifying with your state/region as opposed to being under Rome and the papacy. This type of independence would allow for the 16th century reformation to happen under Luther. If it were not for Frederick the Wise, the regional authority in Germany where Luther lived, he would have never had the protection or freedom to launch his reformation. Luther also had the influence of being a scholar at Wittenberg. Around the 12th-13th centuries you had the first university pop up at the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The word university simply meant a co-operative effort from two or more people. It applied to many things besides learning. It was also during this time that the church began to develop a system of harmonizing Christian doctrine; she began to do systematic theology. The writings of the Greek philosophers [Aristotle] were rediscovered after centuries of them being hidden, and the great intellectual Saint Thomas Aquinas would wed Aristotle’s ideas with Christian truth. This became known as Scholasticism. Aquinas believed that men could arrive at a true knowledge of God from pure reason and logic. But man could not know all the truths about God and his nature without ‘special revelation’ [the bible and church tradition]. All Christians did not agree with Aquinas new approach to Christian truth, the very influential bishop Bernard would initially condemn Aquinas over this. Bernard said ‘the faith that believes unto righteousness, believes! It does not doubt’. The Scholastic school taught that the way you arrive at knowledge was thru the continuous questioning and doubting of things until you come to some basic conclusions. These issues would be debated for centuries, and even in the present hour many argue over the issue of Divine revelation versus natural logical reasoning. Tertullian, an early North Afrcian church father, said ‘I believe because it is preposterous, illogical’ he became famous for his saying ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ meaning he did not believe that Greek philosophy should have any part with Christian truth. Origen, his contemporary, believed the other way. So the debate rages on. Why talk about this here? Some believers ‘believe’ in a type of knowledge called ‘revelation knowledge’ they mean something different than the historic use of the term. Historically ‘revelation’ meant that which God revealed to us THRU THE BIBLE, not something outside of the bible. For instance, the first canon of scripture put together was by a man called Marcion. His ‘bible’ contained the letters of Paul and parts of :Luke. He believed the revelation God gave Paul was for us today, not the Old Testament or the historical gospels. He was condemned by the church as a heretic. The point being some took Paul’s writings about receiving knowledge from God as an indicator that what God showed Paul was different than what the church got thru the other apostles. In point of fact the things that God revealed to Paul, or to you or me; all truth is consistent, it will not contradict any other part of Gods truth. Paul’s letters are consistent with the gospels, not in contradiction. When believers cling to an idea that their teachers are sharing ‘special revelation’ or a Rhema word that is somehow above the scrutiny of scripture, then they are in dangerous territory. Paul did appeal to his experience with God as a defense of his gospel, but he backed up everything he said with Old Testament scripture. God wasn’t ‘revealing’ things to Paul that were outside of the realm of true knowable ‘truth’. You could examine and test the things Paul was saying, he wasn’t saying ‘because God showed it to me, that’s why I’m correct’. So in today’s church world, we want all the things we learn and believe to be consistent with what the church has believed thru out the centuries. Sure there are always things that are going to be questioned and true reform entails this, but beware of teachers who come to you with ‘revelation knowledge’ or a ‘Rhema word’ that goes against the already revealed word of truth.
(1228) 2ND CORINTHIANS 6- Paul tells them to not receive Gods grace ‘in vain’. He quotes a very popular verse among Evangelicals ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. He says the Lord heard their prayer and ‘accepted/saved them’. Paul is referring to salvation in the sense that after his first letter, they repented, asked God for forgiveness and responded in the right way. Now in this letter he’s saying ‘look, God heard your heart. He has received you. Don’t keep repenting over the thing’. Paul also gives another list of his trials. He gave one in chapter 4, will give another one in chapter 11. I like the part where he says ‘we are unknown, yet well known’. In today’s Protestant/Evangelical churches, we are often ‘well know, yet unknown’. Let me explain. In Paul’s day he raised up quite a stir. In the book of Acts we see how when he was at the temple in Jerusalem someone finally recognized him and accused him. He wasn’t’ well recognized/known like we are today. Yet his writings and the communities of believers he was establishing were well known. People knew his message and gospel. Yet today, we have so many Christians who follow a cult of personality. They associate ‘the church they attend’ with the main leader. Often these men are well meaning, in some cases their public persona is known world wide. Yet the average viewing audience has no grasp on what they are teaching. They see our famous images [well known] yet what we are speaking is often irrelevant [unknown]. And last but not least Paul teaches what I like to call ‘an incarnational ecclesiology’- in simple terms, God lives in his people in a real way. The real presence of God in society is manifest thru his actual people. Often times the historic churches will emphasize the Eucharist as the way Gods presence is in the world. Some argue for ‘an incarnational sacramental’ view of Christianity. They teach that because God manifested himself in a material way thru Christ [the incarnation] that this principle continues today thru the sacraments that the churches practice. I respond this way; while this is true that God has/does manifest himself in real ways in the world, the primary method of him dwelling in the world in a real way is thru the people of God. Paul refers to us as Gods temple in the world. While the history of Israel in the Old Testament is somewhat liturgical, I feel to carry sacramental theology too far into the New Covenant misses the point. Jesus did give us the communion meal, and we do ‘show his death’ while celebrating it. But Gods primary means of ‘showing’ himself to the world is thru the charitable deeds of his saints. They will ‘know we are Christians by our love, by our love’. This theme is woven thru out the entire New Testament. Its’ fine for believers to have ‘sacred space’ [church buildings] to celebrate liturgy and traditional forms of Christian worship, but to keep in mind that we are the actual dwelling place of God in the world, we are his temple. During the first millennia of Christian history the church developed an idea that said because Jesus did come in the flesh, therefore it is now permitted to have Icons [special religious paintings that have special meaning in the Greek/Eastern Orthodox churches] and physical ways for Gods presence to manifest. The western church [Catholic] would struggle over this issue. One of the Popes would condemn iconography and some would destroy these religious paintings from the church buildings. Eventually an Orthodox theologian [I think John of Damascus?] would develop the theology that I explained above and the church would accept the practice of God manifesting himself in a special way thru religious objects. I personally enjoy the Catholic/Orthodox and traditional expressions of Christianity, but I think they over did it in this area.