[STUDY] CHURCH HISTORY/PHILOSOPHY [recent]
I read a statement from the French President- Nicholas Sarkozy. He was speaking about the dire situation in Syria [Syria has been fighting rebels in a city called Homs- they have been using deadly heavy artillery to bomb buildings and homes- many civilians have died].
Sarkozy said a military response [Like what he- and we- did in Libya] was no longer a legitimate solution.
I found this insightful- France was thee number one supporter of the ‘no fly zone’ in Libya. France had their planes bombing many spots- they were more ‘pro war’ than the U.S. and the Brits.
Many in the political scene in France have accused Sarkozy of wanting to develop the image of a mini Bush- that is a leader who is willing to engage in violence in order to defend ‘just causes’ in the world.
Right after the Libyan action began- some in the Arab/Muslim world began saying that France and NATO should be seen as the enemy- not Gadhaffi.
In Afghanistan- where France has troops like us under the NATO banner- they just had an Afghan soldier- one who is supposedly on our side- gun down a bunch of French troops in cold blood.
The French president then called for a quicker withdrawal of forces than the U.S. wanted [2013- instead of 2014].
Sarkozy realized- that no matter how just your cause might seem- there are never any situations where one side is 100 % right- while the other 100% wrong [let's say rarely].
In Egypt- Libya- and now Syria- you do not have [did not] complete agreement on the protests. Many who had stable lives and lived for many years in these countries- they felt like the rebels were wrong about the way to have their ‘revolution’.
Many in the Christian minority saw the revolutions as dangerous to their own survival. Our actions in Iraq have decimated the Christian population there.
Though we did not mean to do this- the result is we have installed a more anti Christian regime in the country.
The same has now happened in Egypt- the original Tahrir square protestors might have been a majority of simple pro- democracy groups- but after the recent parliamentary elections- the Muslim Brotherhood took over about 50 % of the parliament.
Though this group has rejected violence and terrorism as a means to gain power- yet they still advocate for an extreme religious view if they gain power.
They want Shariah law as the law of the land- and this type of ‘democratic govt.’ is really not good- even if it is voted in by a majority.
We in the West have different values than some in other parts of the world.
We tend to side with those who want to ‘throw off the shackles of dictators- free the voice of the people’.
Yet we underestimate the very real danger of sounding this mantra every time a nation has rebels rise up in the streets.
Say if all you saw on the news every night was the Occupy Wall street protests. And say if there rose up a few hundred thousand that marched nightly on Washington [which we never want to happen!]
But say if that’s all you saw every night- and it got so dangerous that troops- or cops- had to actually shoot some protestors.
We would understand why we had to do this- we would not be calling for the president to step down- or for his family to be submitted to a trial by ‘right wing’ conservatives who just might execute you and your kids.
Now- I am not saying all these leaders in these nations are equal to the American system- but it’s foolish for us to look at all these situations thru the lens of Western style Democracy.
We [the West] seem to think that when we side publicly with the rebels [whoever they be- Libya- Syria- etc.] that we are on the ‘right side of history’ that we are a part of a true democratic movement that will spread thru the world and in a few years down the road we will be living n a world with many truly just democracies.
That picture- that hope- as just as it might seem to those who keep using this type of language [like John McCain- who I like!] is simply not a realistic view.
Where did the idea of Democracy come from? Did world governments have democratic style govts for thousands of years?
No- the idea rose up during the Enlighten period [17th- 18th century] and was promoted by men like John Locke.
If you remember- we studied the philosophy of Locke this past year.
Locke played a key role in the transition of popular philosophy from Rationalism to Empiricism.
We covered that in the posts- don’t want to do it again.
But Locke- like other thinkers of the time- began writing on a new idea of govt- a govt ‘by the people- and for the people’.
Many people living at the time resented the rule of kings- and the role religion [Catholic countries] played in society as a whole.
One of the first experiments with people saying ‘we will throw off the church and king’ was what we call the French Revolution.
It took place right at the end of the 18th century- right before the Napoleonic wars.
It was a Secular [non religious] effort to depose the rule of govt we call Monarchy [King and Queen] and it resulted in the Guillotine and beheading of many Catholic priests and leaders.
It was truly a rebellion that got way out of hand.
Yesterday- one of the current Repub candidates for president made headlines when he compared Obama’s recent ‘anti religious’ actions to the French Revolution.
One commentator [CNN] said the rebels were all Catholics and that to say the revolution hurt the church was wrong.
This man [Paul Begala] had no idea what he was saying- its sad that they say misinformed statements like this to such a wide audience.
Some of our founding fathers were fans of John Locke [Jefferson] and our country drew up the founding documents during a time when these ideas were ripe and were seen as a new type of govt. for the people.
Thus- we have our Democracy today- for which I am grateful- do indeed think it’s the best in the world today- but it is not inherently ‘more just’ than all other styles.
The govt. we see in the bible is Monarchy [mostly- Rome was Imperial- did have a senate and all- but in no way was it a democracy like we think of].
When we try to help these countries- when people rise up and protest- we must not simply jump to the conclusion that all of these rebellions are seeking- or will end up like the U.S.
We must not condemn all ‘monarchies’ as evil- the bible says there are just ones.
Kings can rule justly- be fair- and do good.
We should not assume that all ‘non western style democracies’ are evil- they are not.
Most of these present uprisings are in countries where you have what’s called Autocratic rule- not full ‘kingdoms’ with kings in the way we think.
Yes- I do think our experiment- based on the Enlightenment idea of govt. by and for the people is the best- but we must not assume all other types are inherently evil- nor should we be so quick to side- militarily will all rebels- like some already calling to arm the rebels in Syria.
The end result of these protests are not secure at all- it is highly doubtful that any of them will become ‘little U.S. of A’s’.
So we should call for non violence on all sides- we should stand on the side of innocent victims- be against all regimes that use military force on their people- but be realistic about the situation- violence [on all sides] is very rarely the answer- Sarkozy learned this lesson the hard way.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1783- THE BISHOP
Kinda wanted to cover some contemporary issues going on in the ‘church world’ being we just spent a few weeks in the ancient history stuff.
But it might take too long- some current debates in Evangelical circles concern a recent round table discussion with T.D. Jakes- a man I like- but he got in some hot water, again- because of his background as a Pentecostal Oneness minister.
This group has disagreed with historic Christianity on the Trinity- and over the years some of the Reformed brothers [Protestants] have hit him hard on the issue.
So in the recent discussion it happened again- basically Jakes says he holds to the Trinitarian view today [One God- 3 Persons] though his background stated it by saying ‘One God- 3 manifestations’.
You say ‘gee John- doesn’t sound like something to kill each other over’- well- we do- trust me- we do.
I have known and been friends with Pentecostal Oneness brothers before- and I personally accept them as Christians.
No- I don’t use the words they use when defining the Trinity- but I don’t completely out and out reject them a total heretics.
I used to listen to Jakes- and for the most part I felt comfortable with him- the main reason I do not tune in to these guys anymore is the whole persona thing- ministries- ‘churches’ huge organizations- who for the most part are clearing houses for the well intended Pastors- but the entire image of the ministry becomes the persona of a man.
This type of atmosphere actually violates the principles we find in the bible- that the churches in the bible did not have the image/gifts of a person- no matter how good that person is- as the central organizing principle of the group.
Basically- in the bible- the churches were truly centered around the person of Christ.
And in many contemporary situations- well- everything [especially the ‘tithes’] usually goes to the promoting of the image of a person [TV- teaching materials- etc.].
And very often millions are spent promoting a person- which is a violation of the principles of leadership we find in the New Testament.
So anyway- I said that to simply say I always liked Jakes- and yes- as somewhat of a history buff- sure- I know the difficulty with his past connections [the actual term for the ‘heresy’ is called Modalism- which describes the belief that God is one who manifests in 3- they don’t say ‘3 persons’].
So I know the scoop- but the reason I don t watch/hear these men anymore is because I just get turned off by the whole ‘dial 1-800- Bishop’ type thing- I mean I like reading/studying from ‘real’ Bishops.
Men like N.T. Wright- former Bishop in the Church of England- or Bishop Sheen- a popular Catholic Bishop who you can catch on the tube every so often- yes- ‘real’ bishops in the sense that they are well versed in a wide field of learning- Philosophy- scholarship- church history- yeah- I like hearing Bishops.
But in today’s world- you have Bishops ‘ordaining’ Bishops by the boat loads- and when the way you contact them is thru a 1-800 number- well then I think we have a problem.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1782- PROTESTANT REFORMATION CONCLUSION
Today let’s finish up the study on the Protestant Reformation. We left off on Luther disputing with the church over the doctrine of how a person becomes just in the sight of God- is it by works or faith?
Now- to the surprise of many Protestants [and Catholics!] both sides agreed that a person cannot be justified by works.
Yes- the Catholic Church rejected what was known as Pelagianism. In the early centuries of the church there was a Catholic priest- named Pelagius- who taught that people had the ability within themselves to obey Gods law and become saved that way.
He rejected the doctrine of original sin and another famous bishop- Saint Augustine- would refute Pelagius and teach salvation comes by the Grace of God. The official Catholic position was to reject Pelagius and accept Augustine.
Okay- then where’s the difference?
The church council that spells it out is the Council of Trent [named after the Italian city where the council took place in the 1500’s- Trento].
This council is often referred to as the Counter Reformation. The church rejected the Protestant line- but also acknowledged the need for reform and made some changes.
This is the council where the church rejects Pelagianism- and also says the position of Luther [Justification by Faith ALONE] was flawed.
The church appealed to the New Testament letter of Saint James- where James uses an example from the life of Abraham [found in Genesis 22] where Abraham obeys God and is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar.
Of course this never happens- God was simply testing Abraham- but James says this act of obedience justified him in Gods sight.
James says ‘see how a man is justified by works- and not by faith ALONE’.
The argument from Rome was Faith played THE major role in justification- but was not sufficient by itself- there had to be righteous works eventually associated with it in order for God to say ‘you are just’ [saved].
Luther disagreed and said God justified Abraham before he had good works- we find this in Genesis 15. God says to Abraham ‘look- count all the stars- so shall your offspring be’ and Walla- the bible also says Abraham was justified in God's eyes the moment he believed the promise.
Actually they both are.
I have taught this a few times over the years- and it would take too much time to re-do right now.
But I believe James and Paul [the 2 who debate this in the bible] are simply looking at different aspects of salvation/justification.
Paul emphasized faith- and James showed us how true faith always has works with it.
When you read the statements that came out from the council of Trent- some of them do seem to indicate that both sides might have been talking past each other at some points.
In the heat of the day they were too quick to condemn the other side- without really trying hard to achieve unity [like politics!].
The 6th session of Trent was the one where the church dealt with justification [how we become saved in Gods sight].
Rome made a distinction between mortal and Venial sin in the council- the church said that Baptism is the INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE of justification. Yet faith is the Root- Foundation and Initial act that justifies.
Rome also taught that Mortal sin kills the grace in the soul that brings justification- and when a person commits a mortal sin- they need the ‘2nd plank of justification’ in order to be brought back into a state of Grace.
This 2nd Plank is the Sacrament of Penance [confession]. Catholic Moral Theologians use an example to show the difference between Mortal and Venial sin.
Drinking- if you take a drink [alcohol] not a sin. If you get tipsy- Venial- and if you get flat drunk- mortal.
This is a true teaching by the way- not making this up.
Catholic scholars are not in total agreement on all the Mortal/Venial sins.
Some teach that missing Mass on Sunday is a Mortal sin.
I just threw this in to show you the debates that take place.
The teachings from Trent are referred to as Tridentine.
The Protestants [early on] rejected the belief that a person can lose Gods grace once he has it- later on the Protestants would divide- severely- over this teaching- Predestination and the Perseverance of the Saints.
But early on all the major Reformers did indeed teach this.
Luther believed in the doctrine of Predestination just as much- if not more- than John Calvin.
But sometimes in these history shows they get this wrong and say Luther and Calvin disagreed on it- that’s a common mistake that you hear every so often.
Luther actually wrote a book dedicated to the subject [The Bondage of the Will] Calvin never wrote a book solely on the subject.
Okay- as we end this brief study of the Protestant Reformation- you could also call it a primer on Catholic doctrine [short one].
Why is it important that we study this?
In John chapter 17 Jesus said that he desired unity for all of Gods people- and many of these divisions- which date back 500 years- are commonly misunderstood on both sides.
It is common in our day to run across an ex Catholic who might say ‘you know- I left the church because I don’t believe I need to confess to a priest’ or ‘the Catholic church teaches you are saved by works’.
The original Reformers did not have a problem with confession- the Lutherans carried the practice over into their communion.
And like I just showed you- the Catholic church rejected the doctrine of being saved ‘by works’ [Pelagianism] and simply emphasized the teaching found in the bible- the book of James- and focused more on James than Paul [who the protestants focus on].
So yes- there are still differences- but if we are not informed- then it makes it harder to strive for unity- and at the end of the day God does desire unity for all his people.
The other day I quoted the great Civil rights leader- MLK. In one of his famous speeches that’s played when we celebrate his life- you hear Martin say that not only was he seeking unity among the races- but also in the church.
He said he wanted to see Catholics and Protestants- as well as Blacks and Whites- sit down together- he referred to us all as Gods kids.
I think we should strive to achieve the desire of Martin- and Jesus.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1777- SHIP WRECK
By now I’m sure you have all heard the audio conversation between the captain of the Italian cruise ship and the Coast guard.
As a news watcher- when I first heard the tragic story- I thought ‘geez- let me give the Italian brother a break’ you know- as an Italian myself- yeah- I want to root as much as possible for the home land.
I’m still mad that I don’t have a Churchill or FDR figure in my past history.
Sure- I’ve read the history- and for a short time as a kid I tried to convince myself that El Duce had some honorable qualities- but heck- who was I kidding.
So as the story broke- I heard Captain Schettino’s side of it. He insisted he acted heroically- that he was the last man off the ship and he struck something in the water that no one knew was there [Italian Loch Ness?]
But the audio recording told the whole thing. Yes- I sat in anticipation- hoping for the best- maybe hearing the Captain saying ‘I refuse to abandon ship- for the love of homeland and country’ heck- you never know.
But as I heard the Coast guard telling the captain ‘get back on the ship- what are you doing’.
Schettino said it was dark and they had no lights.
The guard says ‘you have people stuck on the ship- some are dying’.
Captain ‘how many are on the ship’?
Guard ‘I don’t know Schettino- you are supposed to be telling me’!
Damn it Schettino- damn it.
Okay- don’t want to make fun- yes- it’s tragic- and people have died. But obviously we need to have some better policing of these cruise ship guys- it seems as if they have gone off course before- doing a favor for a fellow crew member- and these guys messed up big time.
Are there any famous ship wreck stories in the bible? Sure- Acts chapter 27.
The apostle Paul is on his way to Rome- he is a prisoner at the time.
The ship they are on gets caught up in a storm- things look bad.
Paul prays and tells his shipmates ‘don’t worry- an angel appeared to me and assured me that we will all survive’.
They try to last the storm out by staying afloat from shore- then after a few days they try to make it for land- to beach the ship.
But some of the crew try a daring stunt- they pretend they are going to lower some anchors but instead they are lowering their little get away lifeboats [yes- they were pulling a Schettino!]
And Paul tells the Roman soldier ‘look- the angel said we will all make it- but the deal will only work if everyone stays on the ship’.
They cut the ropes to the lifeboat and head for shore.
On the way they hit a reef and the ship gets stuck and starts to break up.
They abandon ship- and swim to shore.
Okay- good story.
By the way- this chapter gives lots of historical events and places.
A few years ago an archeologist read this story form the bible and traced down the exact spot where the wreck might be- 2 thousand years later.
He found the actual anchors to the boat.
So this week hasn’t been the best for the reputation of my homeland- I mean the S and P just can’t wait to downgrade the debt- and then we have to hear old brother Schettino being rebuked by the Coast Guard ‘Schettino- okay- get on our boat- but your gonna be in big trouble’.
Yes Schettino- you sure are.
1775- WHAT DID HE SAY?
Let’s do a little review today. I know the history posts go a little long sometimes- and many Christians do not see the value in studying church history.
But I have found over the years that a lot of independent type churches- good men- good people- but cut off from the broader church- well these churches have a tendency to get off in a rut- a particular doctrine or style of teaching- and after a while it becomes impossible to get these good church folk back on the balanced course.
A few examples. Many years ago- as a young Pastor- I had lots of good Pastor friends who too were doing their best to do what they felt God wanted.
At the time- I began having difficulty with many of the most popular interpretations of the bible that these good men were using.
After a while I realized that some of the stuff was so off course- that if they didn’t make some major course corrections at the time- that they were going to end up spending their entire Pastorate teaching stuff that is out right false.
I have talked a lot about this over the years- and the examples are too numerous to cover them all- but a good example is the ‘Camel going thru the eye of a Needle’ verse.
One time Jesus and his men were going thru town and a young rich guy asks Jesus what he must do to be saved.
A pretty straight forward question- right to the point.
Jesus tells the guy to keep the law- the guy asks which ones.
Ah- now you’re digging yourself in brother.
So Jesus says to love God and his neighbor- these are the top ones.
He asks ‘and who is my neighbor’?
Jesus goes on and gives an explanation- and he also tells the guy to go and sell all he has and give it to the poor- and follow him.
The guy goes away sad because he was rich.
Then Jesus says ‘it’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a Camel to go thru the Eye of a Needle’.
The disciples [I think Peter?] say ‘then who can be saved’?
Jesus says with men it is impossible- but not with God- with God all things are possible.
[just a quick side note- I haven’t read all these stories in a while- trust me- they are all in the bible- but I might have mixed a few together- but the main point stays the same]
Okay- in context- what could Jesus be saying about the camel and the needle?
It sure seems like he’s using a figure of speech that would mean ‘look- the guy is too attached to his money to fully give himself over to being a follower of me- maybe down the road he will change- but he’s not ready yet’.
Seems reasonable to me- don’t you think?
But wait- in the group of pastors/teachers that were popular at the time- one of the main teachings was how to get rich- and they saw financial increase as the main thing- I mean that’s what they focused on all the time.
So what do you do with verses like these?
You simply change them- you make them say what you want.
So the ‘true’ explanation for the Camel and the Needle became ‘the Eye of the Needle is the name of a low passage way thru the wall into the city- and the merchants- if they have lots of stuff- well the Camel has to stoop low to get thru’.
Aha- so what seems to mean ‘rich folk will have a hard time making the kingdom’ really means something else- as a matter of fact- it means the opposite- because the Camels that have to ‘scooch’ belong to the owners who have a lot of goods- thus the Camel has to get low.
Okay- maybe as rank amateurs this stuff was not the unpardonable sin- but many of these men are still teaching this type of stuff- and this one example is the tip of the iceberg- I could go on for a long time quoting all them but that’s not the point for now.
The main point is- if Christians separate themselves from the broader church- not just talking about ‘going to church’ but talking about the broad understanding that the people of God have- the books and teachings of those who have gone before us- not just one small group- but the whole community- then we will avoid these kinds of pitfalls.
As we do a few more posts in the coming weeks on church history- we will see this was one of the things restored by the Protestants Reformers during the 16th century.
Luther restored what’s referred to as the Literal Sense- that when you read the bible- you should be able to take it at face value- as much as possible.
Sure- you also want to ‘hear God’ speak in a personal way- but if what your hearing is the exact opposite of what the text is saying- well then we do have a problem.
 LUTHER CLASHES WITH ROME
Let’s do another post on the Protestant Reformation. I’ll probably only do a few more before I transition into another study.
By the way- all the studies I do thru out the year are posted in the February posts of the following year.
Okay- last we left off Luther was just beginning to butt heads with the church [Tetzel] over the abuse of the sale of indulgences that was going on in Germany.
In a previous post I mentioned how the priest- Tetzel- was selling these ‘get out of Purgatory’ type coupons in the area where Luther operated out- Saxony.
Actually- Tetzel never entered Saxony itself- but was selling these out of a bordering city- and many of Luther’s students/parishioners were being hoodwinked into spending their money to rescue a loved one out of Purgatory.
Tetzel is known for a jingle he started in connection with the sale of the indulgence- it goes ‘as soon as a coin in the coffer rings- a soul in Purgatory springs’- ouch!
Like I said before- the church never taught this- they did teach the Treasury of Merit [previous post] but the way Tetzel used it was a real abuse of the teaching of the church at the time.
Now- Luther responds to the abuse by writing the famous 95 thesis. This is the act that is often associated with the launching of the Reformation- the act that got the ball rolling.
The 95 thesis were simply 95 questions challenging the whole practice of the sale of indulgences- there was no mention of the doctrine of Justification by Faith- which will become the trumpet sound that springs out of the Protestant Reformation.
Luther takes these questions- written in Latin- and nails them to the university church door at Wittenberg. Sometimes while reading church history this ‘nailing to the door’ is seen as a sort of vandalism - you know- ‘he nailed them to the door!’
In actuality Luther was simply using the system of the day that one scholar would use in order to bring up an official point of contention with the church- Luther wrote the Thesis in Latin- which was the scholars language- not the language of the common man.
But Luther’s students quickly translated the Thesis into the vernacular [German] and it was said that in 2 weeks the paper made it into every village of Germany.
The challenge was a spark in the lives of many Christians who also believed the church was off track and that someone needed to rebuke her- and they picked Luther as the man for the job.
Now- the Catholic church wanted Luther to go to Rome and discuss the situation there- Luther’s friends warned him not to go- so they agreed to meet- a few times- in Germany.
The first meeting was in 1518 at Heidelberg- Luther actually gave a great defense of his argument and convinced some other top Catholic scholars that he was right [as a side note- the church had already scheduled this meeting because of a controversy that rose up between the Augustinian order of monks and the Dominicans. They were debating over which philosophy was more consistent with church teaching- Nominalism or Realism- for those of you who have read the posts this past year- I taught this when doing our posts on philosophy].
One man- Martin Bucer- wrote a stirring account of Luther- Bucer would later influence another young Swiss priest with Reformation teachings- his name is John Calvin.
As a side not Calvin will become one of the 3 big heavy hitters of the 16th century Reformation [Ulrich Zwingli is the 3rd].
Luther will meet again in Augsburg- and debate the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Cardinal Cajetan.
Then he goes to the city of Leipzig- and debates the leading German scholar- Johann Eck.
And his last meeting with the church will be at the famous Diet of Worms [pronounced- Vurmtz] and it will be here that Luther makes his last stand and officially will break with the church and launch the Protestant Reformation.
It should be noted that Luther held what we call a High Church position for most of this time- he still saw the church at Rome- and the Pope- as a legitimate expression of true Christianity- his beef was what he saw as an abuse of the system- by the priest Tetzel.
As time progressed- the other beliefs of Luther- founded upon the bible- did come into contention with Rome.
The main disagreement eventually became the teaching in the bible called Justification by faith. I have written a study on the topic on the blog- I have also written a bible study on the book of Romans and Galatians.
For those of you who can- try and read Romans chapters 2-4 and Galatians 2-3- these are the key chapters that cover the teaching.
Down the road I will cover the official teaching of both the Protestants and the Catholics on the doctrine of justification- the Catholic Council of Trent- referred to as the Counter Reformation- spells out the official teaching of Rome- and there are a few papers put out by the Reformers that explain their belief.
Since the 16th century Reformation there have been efforts made by Protestants and Catholics to bridge the gap as much as possible- to try to come to some common language since the historic split.
I like some of the efforts that have been made- and recently both groups put out a statement that jointly said we all believe that we are saved by Gods grace thru Christ- that’s good.
But as we get into some of the actual discussion- you will see the points at which the 2 sides disagreed- and the main one was on the act- the actual thing that happens- when a person is declared just- the Reformers said it takes place when a person has faith- believes- the Catholic church said it takes place at baptism- water baptism.
This- as well as a few other things- will be a defining distinction between the 2.
 TREASURY OF MERIT
Let’s pick up where we left off 2 posts back. We were talking about Martin Luther and the events that led up to the Protestant Reformation.
In order to understand the key act that caused the protest- we will have to teach some Catholic history/doctrine.
In the 16th century Pope Julius began the effort to build St. Peters basilica in Rome. He got as far as laying the foundation and died. Pope Leo the 10th would pick up after him.
The church needed to raise money for the project- and the German prince- Albert- would play a major role.
It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant scholars agree that the Popes of the day were pretty corrupt. They came from what we call the Medici line of Popes.
If you remember last month I wrote a post on the Renaissance- I talked about the Medici family and how they played a major role in supporting the Renaissance that took place in the 13th century in Florence Italy that would spread to the region.
Well this very influential family also played a big role in who would get top positions in the church.
At the time of Luther and prince Albert- if you had the right connections and the money- you could literally buy a position in the church.
Albert already held 2 Bishop seats- and there was an opening for an Archbishops seat in Mainz [Germany] and he wanted that one too.
It should be noted that official Canon law [church law] said you could only hold one seat at a time- Albert was bidding on his 3rd one! And he was too young for all of them.
So even the Pope and the officials held little respect for what the church actually taught at the time.
So Albert opens up negotiations with Leo- and the bidding starts AT 12,000 Duckets [money] Albert counters with 7,000- and they agree on 10,000. How did they justify the numbers? 12- The number of Apostles. 7- The 7 deadly sins. 10- The 10 commandments.
Yes- the church was pretty corrupt at the time.
So Albert works out a plan with Leo- he will borrow the money from the German banks- and pay the banks off by the Pope giving Albert the right to sell Indulgences.
What’s an Indulgence?
Okay- this is where it gets tricky.
The ancient church taught a system called The Treasury of Merit. This was a sort of spiritual bank account that ‘stored up’ the good deeds of others over the years.
You had the good deeds of Jesus at the top- but you also had Mary and Joseph- the 12 Apostles- and other various saints thru out time.
The way the ‘bank’ worked was you could tap into the account by getting a Papal indulgence- a sort of I.O.U. that had the Popes guarantee that it would get so much time out of Purgatory for a loved one.
The actual sacrament that accesses the account is called Penance [confession].
When a penitent does penance- he confesses his sin to the priest- and he is absolved by the authority of the church that the priest has. The priest usually tells the person ‘say so many Hail Mary’s- Our Father’s’ and that’s a form of penance.
One of the other things the church practiced was called Alms Deeds. This term is found in the bible and it means giving your money to the poor- it is a noble act that Jesus himself taught.
In theory- part of the sacrament of penance was tied into Alms Deeds- you can access the account thru the practice of giving to the poor- which also meant giving to the church that helps the poor- and in the hands of the Medici line of Popes- meant outright giving money to the Pope.
So now you see how the abuse worked its way into the pockets of the faithful.
Albert now had the permission from Leo to sell these indulgences in Germany- and he would pick a certain corrupt priest to sell them in a place called Saxony- the region where Luther operated out of.
It should be noted that the Catholic Church never taught the crass act of ‘buying your way out of Purgatory’. The practice of including giving money as a part of the sacrament of penance was tied into the biblical principle of giving to the poor- a good thing.
But Tetzel and others abused the official meaning of the indulgence- and did make it sound like you could by your way out of Purgatory [in theory- a loved one might be in Purgatory for so many years- and through the indulgence you are actually getting time off for them- because the good deeds of others are now applied to the account].
The money Albert would raise- half would go to Rome for the building of St. peters- and half would go to pay off the banks in Germany- it was a sad system- and a sad time for the church as a whole.
It would be wrong to judge the entire church at the time as being corrupt- you did have many sincere Priests and Catholic men and women who saw the abuses and did not take part in them.
But there was corruption at the top- and this would eventually lead to the breakup of the church- and the launching of what we now call the Protestant Movement.
As a side note- it should be said that many Catholics and Protestants are not aware of the whole treasury of merit system- and the church never officially changed her position on the doctrine.
There were 3 Church councils since the time [Trent- 1500’s, Vatican 1- 1800’s and Vatican 2- 1962-65]. The Treasury of Merit never came up for change.
Obviously Protestants don’t believe in Purgatory- and it’s not my purpose in these posts to change Catholics into Protestants or vice versa- but to give all sides a clear view of the issues that divided us- and to try and be honest- and respectful during the process.
Does the bible teach anything like a Treasury of Merit? Well actually it does. The bible teaches that the righteousness of Christ is the treasury that people can access- by faith- and become righteous in the sight if God.
The idea- applied to Christ- is good.
But in the hands of the Medici Popes- and the ambitious prince of Germany- it would lead to disaster.
 LUTHER- THE TOWER EXPERIENCE
Let’s start with some church history. In the last post I covered the early years of Martin Luther- probably the most significant figure of the Protestant Reformation.
Luther studied for the priesthood in Erfurt, Germany. He would eventually wind up in Wittenberg- one of the major university cities of the Reformation. Wittenberg was actually a small insignificant town- but the political leader over the region- Frederick the Wise- sought to put it on the map.
He wanted to turn Wittenberg into a German ‘Rome’. He wanted it to become a major Pilgrimage city where Christians would see Wittenberg as a destination- just like they saw Rome.
So Frederick embarked on this plan and he searched thru all the Catholic learning centers of the time and finally recruited 3 top scholars to teach out of the university at Wittenberg- Luther was one of the 3.
Just as a side note- Frederick would succeed at making Wittenberg a major catholic center. He would eventually obtain over 19,000 Relics for the Cathedral church there [Relics were used in the ancient system of buying indulgences and making special pilgrimage trips to important Churches. If the church/city that your making the Pilgrimage to has a lot of Relics- bones or other famous material objects from church history- then the value of the Pilgrimage was high. In theory Frederick collected so many that if you added up all the ‘time off’ from Purgatory- you would get 1 million, 900 thousand years off! Some of the famous relics at Wittenberg were a hair from the beard of Jesus- straw from the manger Jesus was born in- and even a branch from the famous burning bush of Moses! As you can see- there was a lot of commercializing going on- even back then].
When Luther arrived in Wittenberg- he made a name for himself as a top scholar. Many protestants- who revere Luther- usually are not aware that he was a master Linguist [sort of like Rick Perry!]
Yes Luther mastered language- and he showed it in his teaching on the book of Psalms.
In 1515 he began his famous study on the book of Romans and as he went thru the very first chapter- something shook him. He came across the passage that says the Just shall live by faith. This verse first appears in the O.T. book of Habakkuk- and is quoted 3 more times in the N.T.
Luther was very aware of the concept of the righteousness of God- he struggled for many years trying to reconcile his own sinful nature with Gods holiness- but he never really ‘saw’ the biblical concept of righteousness as a free gift that God ‘imputes’ to the sinner.
Yes- for the 1st time in Luther’s life- after his years training for the priesthood- the pilgrimage he made to Rome- the thousands of hours he spent confessing his sins while a monk in Erfurt- he never really understood that the righteousness of God was a free gift given to those who have faith.
It was a giant weight lifted from his shoulders- Luther did not need to try any more to live up to the standards of God- in a way that would earn for him forgiveness- but he would simply believe- and the righteousness of God would be counted to him as a gift.
Luther would go on to call this an Alien Righteousness- that is it is not found within the person who tries to do all the church works he can- or buying all the indulgences- or any other of the many religious actions he was practicing- but this free gift of being right with God- it came to those who had faith- the Just shall live by Faith- this was indeed good news for the scholar.
As time went on- Germany would get embroiled in the political machinations of the day- Luther’s top political cover was Frederick the Wise- hardly a Protestant Reformer! He spent lots of time trying to make Wittenberg the major Catholic center in Germany.
But at the time there was a political fight raging between Rome and some of the other nation/states. There was a figure head office called the Holy Roman Emperor. This office was really in name only- but it rose up during the first Millennium of Christian history and sought to replace the influence that Rome was losing.
So you had France, Spain and England all vying for the title. Eventually it would go to King Charles of Spain- but the Pope- who played a major role in nominating the person- he did not want any of these top 3 to get the position. Henry the Eighth was the king of England at the time- and these ‘3 kings’ were sort of in competition with Rome- so the Pope tried to get Fredrick the Wise to throw his hat into the ring.
Frederick just happened to be one of the Electors of this position.
His actual title was The Elector of Saxony.
So Fredrick had lots of influence- and as Rome would eventually but heads with the stubborn bull of Wittenberg [Luther] Frederick would become the major protector of Luther.
Okay- I think we’ll stop here for today. The experience that Luther had- the enlightenment that came to him while teaching the book of Romans- this is often called The Tower experience of Luther- it took place in the year 1515.
 ‘LIL’ KIM- LUTHER AND HITCHENS
Okay- we had the passing of some famous folk these last few days. Havel [former Czech President] - a great man indeed.
Then we had ‘lil’ Kim die [not the singer- the leader of North Korea. Though there was an on line rumor it was Lil Kim- yeah the fans cried- until they realized it was the crazed leader of one of the world’s most dangerous countries- you know- the hair trigger Nuke. Well when the fans found out it was him- not the singer- they relaxed]
Actually- the surreal video of the North Korean people crying in the streets- the look of shock and despair on their faces- I mean I haven’t seen the followers of any political leader act this way in a long time- not since the Perry debates.
Then old Hitchen's kicked the bucket- yeah- he was a famous atheist.
I really do not hate atheists- some are nice people- most don’t know the real case for the existence of God. But Hitchen's- well when I reviewed his book- ‘God is not great’ I did get into the many distortions and misrepresentations that he made.
He simply lied- and often. He was mean and arrogant and insulted people often- he has referred to princess Diana as a ‘land mine’ [she had a charity that worked for the abolition of these weapons] he said she was like a land mine ‘she was laid all over the country- and when you stepped on her everything blew up’.
No- many Christians and leaders have come out and done the ‘we respected him for his views’ type thing- not me- I’m not gad he died- but won’t make him sound like he was a ‘good’ man- he was not.
I read a piece form the N.Y. Times- they went into Libya and investigated the reports of the deaths of many civilians caused by NATO and the U.S. during the ‘no fly zone’ debacle.
They found evidence of many civilians that were killed. They presented the report to the new leaders of Libya- they could care less.
In Benghazi- the main city in the eastern half of Libya- they were openly flying the Al-Qaida flag. We just spent 10 years and many lives fighting in Afghanistan. Why? Because they gave territory to Al-Qaida- they gave them a place to work out of.
We fought the Taliban for 10 years over this. Yet in a few months NATO and the U.S. gave Al-Qaida their own capitol to fly their flag- I mean the terrorists must be thinking ‘if we knew these guys were this stupid- we would have never bombed the towers’.
In Tripoli- the real capitol of Libya- the various militia groups [terrorists] are all claiming they are the security/armed forces of Libya. I heard a doctor- on N.P.R. - not a right wing radio show- he said in his hospital these various militias are all trying to take charge- they walk around with guns- sometimes walk into a room and shoot a patient who they think is not on their side- and the doctors say they have no security at all.
Under Gadhaffi things ran well- like a normal society- now their country is a terrorist haven- run by these guys.
I could go on and say the same for Egypt- and tell the stories of how the military have been killing protestors in the street. All these things are being done under people that the West [we- NATO- France] have enabled by removing their former leaders.
And France this week passed a law making it a crime to deny the genocide that took place in Turkey in the early part of the last century.
Yes- the Ottoman Turks did slaughter many Armenians- Christians- at the time. And getting Turkey to officially admit this has been a problem for years. But France passing a law to make it a crime to deny it- while they just finished committing ‘crimes against humanity’ themselves- by killing all the Libyan civilians- it’s just too much.
Okay- let’s start a brief overview of some church history. Over the next few weeks I want to hit on the 16th century Protestant reformation and try and cover some of the key figures of the movement.
Martin Luther- the German reformer who had the most influence in the movement was born and raised in Germany.
As a boy his parents were peasant farmers and eventually his dad became a miner and became a very successful businessman- he would go on and eventually own 6 foundries.
He sent his son to law school- and young Luther excelled. At the age of 21 he accomplished more than many of his peers. One day on his way home from the university a thunderstorm broke out and Luther was almost struck by a bolt of lightning.
In fear he cried out to Saint Ann [the mother of Mary] and said ‘Saint Ann- if you save me I will become a monk’ [Ann was the patron Saint for miners- thus Luther was familiar with her].
He was spared and off to the monastery he went. Luther eventually became an ordained priest and even though his dad initially was upset that his son became a priest- yet he was proud of his boy later on.
Luther would eventually make a Pilgrimage to Rome- on foot [a few month walk from Germany to Rome!] and what he saw devastated him. Rome- and the Vatican- were in bad shape. Many of the priests lived in open sin- and the city that he saw as his headquarters for the faith- well it was a mess.
Luther made the famous penitent walk/crawl up the stairs of the Lateran church [this church was the most famous church before the construction of St. Peters. The actual stairs of the church are the same stairs that Christ walked up during his trial under Pontius Pilate. Yes- you hear many ‘stories’ while studying church history- things like the relics or left over pieces of the Cross- well these stories are usually fake. But the stairs of the Lateran church are indeed the same stairs that Christ walked on- the early ‘church’ builders dismantled the stairs at Pilate’s court in Jerusalem and installed them at this church building in Rome].
When Luther got to the top of the stairs- it is reported that he questioned the faith- he had a crisis of faith and thought that maybe the whole thing was a sham.
Okay- as we do a few more posts over the coming weeks- I want you guys to see that the main players of the Reformation were sincere Catholic men who had many questions about what they saw as corrupt in their own church. These men did not want to start a breakaway church- they simply wanted to reform the church they loved.
Keep in mind that Luther excelled during his legal studies- he had a keen legal mind- this will be important later on when we see the debates he has with Rome over the doctrine of Justification by faith- the letters of the apostle Paul [Romans- Galatians] use lots of legal language- and his early education will help him in these debates.
Okay- that’s it for today. Maybe do a Google search on Luther and familiarize yourself a little with the history.
The ‘readings’ for this week are 2nd Samuel 6-7 and Psalms 89. See what they have in common.
 E.U. and John the Baptist.
Okay- let’s start with last week’s meeting in Brussels. The European Union met to hack out a deal on their debt problems. All 27 European nations met- 26 signed on to an agreement- sort of.
Britain was the only nation that did not sign on. Why? Cameron [the Prime Minister] said they did not want to give up any control over their sovereign nation. Basically the agreement says that the E.U. nations that refuse to deal with their debt problems- they will face fines/penalties if they let things get out of hand.
‘So John- how does a promise like this fix anything’? Actually- it doesn’t. In the U.S. we just came off a year of various panels/groups who were put together to deal with our nation’s debt crisis.
Some of these panels- bi-partisan- came up with some okay ideas- but in the end the President and congress did not pass anything.
So the last attempt was the ‘super committee’ as opposed to just any old regular one! Yeah- they even said ‘we are are so serious about getting our fiscal house in order- we even passed a law that said if we don’t agree to the cuts- then automatic cuts will happen- beyond our control- and then the budget will eventually balance out’.
Wow John- you mean they actually passed a real law that said this? Yup.
Okay- what happened? They came down to the wire and passed nothing. Then they started saying ‘look- we know we passed a law- to make it look like this time we mean it- but do you really think we can’t change the darn thing’!
Well John- Obama said he will veto any change. Oh yeah- that threat has lots of weight to it.
So the E.U. said ‘we will allow more oversight of our individual nations budgets’ and that was the deal. They did not fix anything yet- and the real test will be this coming year. All these nations [Italy] will have to raise new revenue [sell bonds] and if the private investors/banks do not want to take the risk and buy these bonds- then things will get bad.
So that’s the story.
Okay- in the last few posts we talked a little about the first century world that Christianity was birthed from. We call this Greco/Roman culture.
Though Rome was the ruling empire at the time of Christ- they were ‘Hellenized’. Hellenization is the word we use to describe the Greek kingdoms efforts- under Alexander the Great- to ‘Cosmopolitanise’ the world.
Whenever Alexander would conquer a people- he would allow them to stay in their land- they could hold on to their customs and habits but at the same time become part of Greek culture.
Alexander even translated the Jewish bible [Torah] into Greek. This version is called the Septuagint [means 70] and comes from the story that 70 scholars put this version together under Divine inspiration.
This Greek ‘bible’ was the bible that the Jewish people who lived outside of Israel would use. These scattered Jews are referred to as the Diaspora.
Okay- during the time of Christ more Jews lived outside of Israel than in the land. And the influence of the Greek world upon all the people under the Roman Empire was very great.
Our New Testaments were originally written in Greek- this is the reason why. Now- the other day I mentioned how the Synagogue rose up during the time of this Diaspora- this scattering of the Jewish people before the time of Christ.
So during Jesus day- you already had a habit of Jews meeting for study and prayer- in these ‘church’ like buildings. These places of worship had no sacrifices or priestly ordinances- they were places of prayer and ‘bible study’. Do you now see how the culture that surrounds a movement does indeed have the potential to shape that movement?
Yes- early Christianity took on a form of Synagogue worship and order of service. The New Testament teaches us that we have no more animal sacrifices- but offer spiritual worship to God.
In the book of Acts we read about a group of people called God Fearers. This designation refereed to gentiles [non Jews] who enjoyed the Synagogue ‘services’ and wanted to attend- but they were not willing to go all the way- so to speak- and make the final ‘cut’.
Yes- if you wanted to completely convert to Judaism as an adult- you could- but you did have to go thru the rite of passage- circumcision.
So for those who liked the ‘bible study’ but also liked to keep all their body parts as well- they became God Fearers.
A while back I read an article [book review?] about a book some scholar put out- and he had an interesting twist on why the early Christian’s had friction with the early Jews. He posited the idea that the Gentile converts to Judaism were the main pool of people that the early Christians were converting- and that simple statistics said if all these former God Fearers became Christians- well the synagogue membership would go down- and the offerings too!
It’s an interesting idea- but we do read in the bible that the friction came because the early Jewish Christians accepted Christ as their final sacrifice and they did indeed ‘leave’ Judaism and identified themselves with Christ and his Church. [I put ‘leave’ in quotes because what actually happened was these Jewish converts to Christianity were simply receiving all that the prophets said- they did not see what they were doing as being unfaithful to their faith- they saw it as simply completing their journey].
But to know the context- the world in which these things took place- that helps us to see a little more into the story.
This past week I read Mark chapter 1 and John chapter 1. These chapters cover the ministry of John the Baptist. John was called ‘the Baptist’ because he was baptizing people in the river Jordan. How come we never read anyone saying ‘hey John- what the heck are you doing- this new rite of dunking people in the water’?
Well no one said it [as far as we know] because it was not a new rite [ritual]. During the rise of synagogue worship- and thus the rise of gentiles who wanted to join the ‘church’ on their block [non Jews who liked the readings and spiritual atmosphere of the synagogue] the Jewish people developed a type of Baptism that was used as a sort of entry rite [along with circumcision] to join their religion.
But the thing about John was he started using this rite as a means to call the Jewish people to repentance- this was a first of its kind.
So Johns Baptism said ‘you religious folk- you Jewish people- yes- you need to repent just like everyone else’. Yeah- John was a unique person- and his baptism was one of a kind.
Okay- that’s it for today- maybe try and read the chapters I mentioned above- do a little study on your own.
In this month’s issue of Christianity Today magazine they started a 5 year study on classic Christianity and it looks like it’s going to be very well done- something Protestants and Catholics would benefit from.
I have been reading this magazine for many years- and the last few years they have really taken a step up in their scholarship- maybe go on line and subscribe? You can also read the articles right from the computer.
I also read the Catholic Magazine called First Things- both of these are on my blog roll. First Things is top rate- but might get a little too ‘intellectual’ for first timers [don’t want to sound condescending here] they cover issues of Philosophy and Science form a Christian perspective- and they too have great stuff.
But I think the C.T. 5 year program that they are just starting might be the way to go for new learners- or ‘old’ learners- who want to brush up on the faith.
 A SHIP CAPTAIN AND A KILLER
Today begins the congressional hearings with Jon Corzine. Corzine- the former governor of N.J.- and a former democrat senator- he ran M.F. global- an investment group- and they went bankrupt a couple of months ago. The reason it made news- besides it being the 8th biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history- was the fact that there is about 1.5 billion dollars missing.
Now- For you to have a former gov, a major Dem player- to be embroiled in a possible criminal scheme on a huge scale- and for this to barely be covered in the media- is another joke.
Imagine another former gov- say Sarah Palin- she’s active in Repub politics- the media hunted down 20,000 pages of personal emails- you know- things to her kids- what she told Todd- the whole thing- the media ‘had a right to know’ and damn it- they will know!
So they finally sued Alaska- got the emails- after 3 years- and then it ran as the top story on the evening news.
Then 2 news papers put out an open request ‘hey citizens- we are making all the emails available for anyone to read on line’ [what- no vetting?] and whoever would like to read them and then ‘email’ us if you find something you think is news worthy- then let us know’.
Yes- the papers made this request. So let’s say Sarah just got busted because she stole about 1.5 billion from her firm. Then say- oh I don’t know- say if Todd [her husband] just happened to work for the president and this same firm was funneling 50,000 a month to the husband- then would that be news?
Well yes- we just found out [primarily in the foreign media- London papers- U.S. papers don’t like covering Dem scandals] that Corzine was paying Bill Clinton 50,000 a month for ‘financial advice’ Clinton requested $200,000- but he settled for the 50.
And of course Hillary is the secretary of state. So you have a former Dem gov- a major player in Dem politics- ripping off people out of over a billion dollars- and ‘paying’ Bill Clinton millions on the side- and this is not news.
Today Corzine will be pleading the 5th- the crook.
So what’s the good news for today?
Okay- got with the homeless bro’s yesterday. Ran into Eddie again. I met Eddie a few weeks back- nice kid [I say kid- guess he’s around 30]. He’s from Michigan- lives in an R.V. [not really ‘homeless’] and seems to be a nice guy.
He’s trying to sell the R.V. and get a car- wants to drive home for Christmas and see his kids [gas too much for the R.V.] The R.V. is pretty nice- he was willing to trade the thing for an old van I have here at the house- I almost did the deal- it would have been a steal- but I felt bad about the thing- the R.V. is worth at least 8 grand- my van around 800.
But these deals happen all the time on the streets- he got the R.V. from some people for a few hundred dollars- some locals who had it for years and gave him the deal so he would have a place to live.
I met Walden- a new Brother. He came up to me at the homeless mission- kind of like he knew me ‘hey John- wanted to talk with you’. I didn’t know him- kinda glad I wasn’t in one of my moods- like ‘who the h—l are you’- yeah that happens every so often.
After a few minutes I kind of realized he was a friend of Eddie- and the last time I got with Edie I gave him my web site card and all- and maybe they ‘checked’ me out- and that might be how Walden knew about me.
Yeah- I have no problem meeting new brothers- giving them a ride- helping them run errands and stuff- but Eddie and Walden- you can tell these are ‘clean’ brothers- not down and dirty street guys- and yeah- they have to be careful- some guy saying ‘hey- I do ministry stuff- sure get in the truck’ [you never know- I might be a Bundy or Sandusky? Or worse- Corzine!]
Sometimes they are more scared they me. So that was kinda the deal yesterday. But all the guys are doing well. Got with Chris- have known him for many years.
He’s funny- used to be a machinist in Ohio for years- wound up on the streets in Texas. I never really found out the whole scoop on Chris- why he’s homeless- but it seems like something happened on the journey.
Maybe like he burned himself out at one time on LSD- or some type of drug like that.
I don’t know- but Chris is harmless- acts tough- but all talk. But you can tell he has some type of mental struggle.
Then I met Lupo- he’s a European merchant marine. The guys a real character- funny. He’s an Eastern Orthodox Christian- and of course when you mention stuff like that to me- geez- I jump into a long theological/historical account of the church. I love the Orthodox brothers.
Lupo tells me ‘well- I don’t think they are a good church’. He’s talking ‘church’ like the building he went to a few years ago. I’m talking 2 thousand years of world history- a little different plane.
But he told me how him and his ex tried to attend the local Orthodox Church a few years ago and they told him he needed a suit. They even gave him one- he put it on and didn’t like it.
He got pissed and told the Pastor off.
Okay- I know he didn’t handle it well- but it showed me that he at least made the effort [I would have never put the suit on!]
Lupo really has an interesting story- been in Texas since 1980 [as long as me]. Did big boat type jobs for some famous folk. He picked up and delivered a few yachts and ships for some rich and famous people over the years [Trump].
They would pay him to get the ship and sail it back to the U.S.- you know- he has all the papers to do this stuff.
Eventually he made some money- he and his wife started some concession type business- got divorced- lost some money- had some hard times- and wound up on the streets [sort of].
He’s staying with some other local street guys in a trailer a few blocks from where I live- when I dropped Chris off later in the day I saw the concession trailer and another food truck that belonged to Lupo- yeah- he was telling the truth.
All in all it was a good day- helped Eddie run a few errands- gave away around 20 bucks [just a few dollars at a time to a few street people who usually ask].
Oh- almost forgot- at the mission some guy walks up to me- I think he looks exactly like Jeff Bridges in the country music flick he made a few years ago- and then I realize it’s Huey.
I have known Huey for a lot of years. He has the guitar upside down hanging from the strap over his back- you know- the real country street guy look.
Huey did ask for a buck- I gave him 5- he has never asked for money- maybe once about 5 years ago. I hesitated to ask- but I asked how his brother John David was doing.
I wrote about John a few years ago- John was a meth/cocaine addict for many years. John killed his best friend in Dallas many years ago.
John never told me how bad the shooting was- but Andy- his other brother- told me that when the cops came they found John’s friend with buckshot from the top of his head all the way to the bottom of his feet.
John kept shooting- even after his friend was down.
So a couple of years ago- John had an experience with God and got clean. John would talk to me from that point on. I used to hang out with his brothers every so often- but John wanted none of it.
But after he dedicated his life to the Lord- yeah- he wanted to fellowship
Okay- I was afraid that Huey might say ‘Johns back on the stuff’ but to my surprise- Huey swore that he was still clean [Huey wouldn’t lie- these guys fight with each other and if John was back on the stuff he would have told me].
So I was glad to hear John was still clean.
John got off on the murder rap by his mom getting the famed lawyer from Dallas who defended the guy who shot lee Harvey Oswald- a famous lawyer.
He did the job Pro Bono and got John off. John told me a year after he killed his friend he went one night to the grave and ‘pissed’ on the grave. Yeah- John was what you would call an ‘unrepentant sinner’ but glad he repented now.
 JESUS FOR PRESIDENT?
Let’s try and cover a few current events. Obviously the media lost a major ‘player’ [source] of ‘news’ when Cain left the stage. And it only took them a few days before they attached on to Gingrich.
Christianne Amanpour [CNN] asked ‘do you think a twice divorced person can get the support he needs to be president’. This is not the first time I have heard this.
I think Newt is a smart guy- I’m not a big defender of any of these guys- but the hypocrisy of the media to keep asking this- as a major campaign question- is nuts.
Sure- he’s been divorced- we got that. Yet Edwards [John] actually fathered a child with a woman- while his wife was suffering from cancer [the same thing that Newt did] and the media did not think that story was relevant- they indeed knew about the thing.
It was only after the Enquirer actually got pictures of Edwards holding the kid- then the story broke.
So this obsession with Newt’s divorce- please.
Okay- the headline read ‘Woman in prison for being raped is pardoned’. Wow. Yes- this headline ran in a couple of my papers- right next to the name Afghanistan.
So- if you didn’t read the story- you would think that some woman got raped in the country- under those bad Taliban folk- and because we ‘liberated’ them- she's free.
Actually- that’s not the story. The woman was raped during the present regime- our guys [Karzai] and the courts made her a deal ‘if you marry the rapist- you go free’. She refused. She has been raising her daughter in jail- and Karzai made her the offer a 2nd time [how noble of him] and she married the rapist and she’s out.
The title should have been ‘Woman who was raped is forced to marry the S.O.B.’
Biden goes to the ancient city of Constantinople the other day [Modern day Istanbul- Turkey]. He’s having a meeting with a group of business people and young entrepreneurs that the president had launched a few years back.
In the meeting Biden stands up and gives this Joe Paterno like speech ‘way to go boys- we [Turkey and the U.S.] have come far in this liberating project of business- our success and democratic spirit have been a lynchpin for the Arab Spring….’ you know- Biden likes to talk a lot.
Right after he gave the sermon- one of the Turkish guys got up and slammed the West [us and Europe] for being a bunch of inept leaders- nations who spend more than they have like spoiled brats- and have no political courage to change course. Yeah Joe- you sure told them!
As we approach the end of the year- there are so many very serious world events taking place- events that will play a major role in our lives here in the U.S.
For the life of me- I can’t see how investors can be up on the market- even though some numbers are good- these other things are hanging right on the edge.
The Euro Zone is nowhere near being fixed- and the options are terrible. They will either have to jump in 100 % behind the Euro [which Germany and others will never do] or they split up.
The break up looks like it might happen- the odds are higher now than ever. Okay- if that happens- it will affect world markets- and many analysts fear it will cause us to go into another recession.
So- if these scenarios are possible [probable] then how can you have an optimistic overall outlook- economically speaking? Sure- you can hedge your bets and do well- I’m not saying we are all gonna die- but to be acting like we are on some boom market- that’s nuts.
During the time of Jesus you had a divided people. In 1st century Palestine the Jewish people split into 4 basic sects. 2 of them are pretty well known- the Pharisees and Sadducees- they are mentioned often in scripture.
The other 2 are less well known- the Zealots and the Essenes. The Zealots are named in the bible- but only in passing. We have no references to the Essenes.
The Pharisees were sticklers for the Torah [Jewish bible] and the Sadducees centered their life around the Temple- they were more of a political/religious type group.
They stuck to the Torah alone. That is they only received the actual first 5 books of the Old Testament- which is the Torah [also the term is used to speak of the entire Old Testament] and that’s why the Sadducees rejected miracles and angels and stuff. Most of those stories are found in the other O.T. books.
The Zealots were a group of people who hated compromise- they were actually a 1st century ‘terrorist’ group- who carried out assassinations. Not on Rome- but on their own people!
The zealots hated those who compromised with Rome- and if they felt a leader was too chummy- they killed him.
The Essenes were a separatist group who lived in ‘the hills’ [Qumran community] they simply gave up completely on any political solutions for the day- and went and lived in the hills. These are the ones responsible for hiding the Dead Sea scrolls [old bible books found in the last century] in a cave.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus had both a Zealot on his team [Simon- not Peter who also went by that name] and Matthew- a Tax collector. Tax collectors were considered the biggest sell outs of all- they actually worked for Rome and scammed their own people- it must have been hard for Jesus to lead this group [the 12 disciples] who came from such opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Yet Jesus did lead them- he was even offered earthly rule a few times [once from satan- and once from the people who heard him] he rejected it both times. His kingdom was not ‘of this world’.
In the New Testament book of Philippians- the bible says that though Jesus was in the form of God [deity] yet he became a man and humbled himself to the death of the Cross- a shameful way to die.
We have one letter written in the N.T. by a ‘family’ member of Jesus- that’s the epistle of James.
Protestants believe that Mary had other kids after Jesus was born- our Catholic friends teach that she remained a Virgin her whole life. My purpose right now is not to get into that.
James was considered the ‘half brother’ of Jesus [Mary was the mom of both boys- Joseph was the dad of James- Jesus’ father was God]. Okay- James was slow to believe in his brother- but over time as Jesus was declaring himself to be the Messiah- I’m sure James had to wonder- you know- think back ‘gee- come to think of it- I can’t’ remember a time where my brother got in trouble’.
Wait- now I remember- yeah- that time when Jesus was 12- we all went to Jerusalem for the big feast- and Jesus stayed behind while we started the trip home. Yeah- we went 3 days before we realized he was gone. Boy was mom mad that day.
So we went all the way back to get him- and when we found him- he was sitting in the temple- asking these questions- I mean questions that only theologians knew- Jesus was still a kid.
Mom said to him ‘son- why did you stay behind- we were worried’! Yeah- she was mad- if there was ever a time my brother came close to getting in trouble- this was it. But Jesus said ‘why were you worried- didn’t you know I would be doing my Fathers business’ yeah- he sure seemed different- but the Messiah- come on.
So as the ministry years of Jesus role by- there are all these reports of miracles and healings- blind people seeing- dead people coming back from the grave.
Yeah- James has got to be wondering now- but no- he could not accept that his own brother was the promised Son of God- no- too much.
Then the day came- that terrible day where mom had to watch Jesus die on that rugged Cross- on Golgotha- man the hill looked like a skull.
Yeah- it was a strange site- I mean the sky got dark- an earthquake shook the place- and even the Roman soldier who witnessed my brother die said ‘surely this was the son of God’. Wow- too much- my bother has carried this thing too far- even in his death he won’t let this obsession go.
Then James hears some disturbing reports- his friends are saying that Jesus has come back- that he pulled it off- the greatest miracle ever- the one Houdini himself couldn’t do.
But are the reports true? I mean if anyone could tell if this guy walking around is really Jesus- James would know.
We don’t read of the account- but all we know is James became a believer- a believer that his brother was indeed the Messiah- the Son of God.
I guess it went something like this- Jesus sitting there with his men- James shows up and sees his brother- the perfect one- not a spot on his record. Maybe Jesus looked up- maybe he said ‘brother- do you now see’ and yeah- he saw.
James would go on to be one of the leaders/Pastors of the church at Jerusalem- we read about him in Acts chapter 15. Most scholars believe this was the same James who penned the short letter we find in the N.T. that bears his name.
One thing James hits on a lot in his letter- is he defends the poor- the downtrodden- and he rips into the rich- the elite of the day. He warns us not to be biased- not to use ‘uneven scales’ when dealing with people.
James hit on social justice issues- he picked them up from his brother.
We need to be concerned about the world- if a raped woman is forced to marry her rapist- then we ought not say ‘she was pardoned’. When we critique one person for past failures- then we must do that to all.
But at the end of the day- Jesus never took the earthly crown- he did not see the solution to be a political one- he brought Simon and Matthew together on the same team- and he showed them what it means to lay your life down for others- to live without the praise of men- the earthly standard of success- he chose another way- and he left that path for us.
 News and Philosophy
I want to try and cover a few subjects today- let’s start with some current world news. Yesterday I read an AP story about some cops who poured gas on the tents of the protestors- they then set them on fire.
13 protestors died- 100’s were burned severely. The doctors set up outside E.R. areas to treat the wounded. The cops walked in to the areas and shot people- right there.
I read a report where one of the doctors said he was shocked- he has never seen this happen before.
‘Now John- you shouldn’t make stuff up like this- even for a point!’
I’m not making it up- this did happen the past 2 days- in Zuccotti Park? In Oakland? No- in Tahrir square- Egypt.
The people who did this- the ruling military generals- are the people we ‘put’ in charge- by demanding the ouster of Mubarak- the former ‘king’.
Let’s head directly west on this northern tip of the African continent. Libya.
On the same news page- they had a story about the capture of Seif- Gadhaffi’s most famous son. They caught him trying to cross the Libyan border into Niger. The same place Gadhaffi’s wife fled to earlier in the conflict.
His wife was about 7 months pregnant and she fled to save her unborn child. The ‘new leaders’ that have our support- they wanted her back in Libya- to stand ‘trial’ for crimes against humanity [they would have killed her!].
So the other day they caught the son. The rebel faction that caught him will not turn him over to the ‘transitional government’ in Tripoli [the capitol] because they want to try him themselves [there is absolutely no order in Libya].
Now- the son- like the dad- has been indicted on ‘crimes against humanity’ by the world Court in The Hague.
These ‘indictments’ are tools the U.S. and other NATO allies use to justify going after one bad guy [and his wife and kids] while installing other bad guys- who are often just as bad- or actually worse!
So this puppet court has the kid indicted. The puppet govt. in the capitol of Tripoli has said ‘the world court is a secondary court- we do not recognize you’!
So the actual leaders- THE ONES WE BACKED- are saying ‘screw you world court- we will try the kid ourselves’. And the faction that caught the kid is saying ‘screw you leaders in Tripoli- we will try him here- in our region’ and the U.S. [and Fahreed Zakariah- a CNN talking head] have said ‘look how wonderful Obama has handled Libya and Egypt- not like Bush’.
Wonderful? Burning protestors to death- ruling Libya like some back water Mexican drug cartel? This thing is sad- and our involvement in it is even sadder.
Okay- let’s try and transition a bit.
In the last Philosophy post I hit on the 10th-14th century development of modern thought- today I want to jump into the 16th-18th centuries. Like I said in a previous post- after the Renaissance and the Reformation and the great scientific revolution- you had the world in somewhat of a tailspin.
What I mean is for hundreds of years people trusted in the old institutions [like the Catholic Church] to tell them what was true or false- then with the development of all these modern movements people began questioning stuff.
Was it good to question things? Sure. But some challenged the very foundations of thought and knowing [called Epistemology] and went a bit too far.
Some thinkers went back to the thought of Plato [400 years BC] and said that the mind is the main source of all knowledge- these were the 17th century Rationalists.
Rationalism- as a philosophy- was an outgrowth of all the great strides that man was making in all these other areas of life. The Scientific Revolution totally challenged the age old beliefs of many in the church.
Math became a sort of new ‘god’. How so? As science invented the Microscope and Telescope- man was able for the first time to peer deeply into the heavens- and to see deeply into the microscopic world.
As the great minds [Copernicus] showed us that the Universe was different than what we thought [Heliocentric versus Geocentric] man was able to do mathematical calculations and to say that a specific planet or star [or Comet] would show up at an exact date- or spot- and Walla- it would happen [you could look thru the Telescope and sure enough the math was right- the object that was calculated to be there- was.]
These calculations were mathematical formulas- so math began to be seen as the new religion in many ways.
There are even some thinkers in the modern day that still say the only ‘real truth’ that exists is mathematical formulas. Yeah- one guy wrote an entire book on the subject- the problem? Well- his book was not written in math- but words.
Yes- even the extreme deniers of Objective truth do make mistakes.
Now- what’s wrong with rationalism? Of course being rational is okay- but the philosophy itself denied real Objective truth. Truth that corresponds to some other ‘outside’ reality.
This form of thinking [rejecting outside reality] is called Relativism/Subjectivism. While there is some truth to all the various fields of thought- yet extreme Relativism denies ‘reality’ as most of us understand the term. There was a strong resistance to the 17th century rationalists- we call this Philosophy Empiricism.
The main thinker in this field was John Locke. Locke lived most of his life in the 17th century- but his thought laid the foundation for the 18th century Empiricist.
This philosophy says that the mind does indeed play a major role in the knowledge of things- but this knowledge does not originate in the mind [Plato] but in the ‘thing’ itself [Aristotle- remember when we covered these men? Plato was an idealist- Ideas were more real than matter. Aristotle was a Realist- closer to the thought of Locke].
Locke developed a theory called the Correspondence theory- that truth that the Mind discovers corresponds to real things that actually exist apart from the mind.
Locke was a practicing doctor- and most of the other thinkers of the day had room to speculate about reality in a way that Locke could not.
He lived in a real world with real patients who had real symptoms- in a nutshell Locke had to diagnose his patients based on his findings- he could not deny that there was a real problem- he had to have his ‘feet on the ground’ [based in reality] while engaging with his head up high.
Okay- I think we’ll end with this. Maybe you can go back and read some of my previous posts on this subject- just to become a little more familiar with it.
As Christians- we are not ‘required’ to know Philosophy- or current events- or science- but it helps us engage the culture when we do educate ourselves in these areas.
Go slow in learning [not too slow!] and try and see how the Christian Worldview agrees with- or rejects certain aspects of these different felids of thought.
Most Christians would reject Rationalism as a Philosophy- because it denies real objective truth- it says truth is relative- whatever the mind can conceive- or think- can be defined as truth [Unicorns?]
Biblical truth is based on real historic events- 1st Corinthians chapter 15 says that if we deny the physical resurrection of Christ- a real event- then our faith is in vain.
Christians base their faith on a real historic event- not simply on a belief system.
 I’M JUST NOT ONE OF THOSE ‘WORD TALKERS’
Caught the debate last night- didn’t go to well for my gov. I mean I still thought he had a fighting chance- not any more. I mean even Cain started looking good compared to Perry.
When Perry could not remember the 3rd govt. dept. that he wanted to shut down- that was it. Even Ron Paul tried to throw him a lifeline ‘the E.P.A.’ Yeah- that’s the one! I even guessed ‘maybe he means the energy dept.’ [you know- that’s always been kind of a joke- like having a ‘sky dept.’].
Sure enough- the next time Perry ‘spoke’ that was the one.
I read a Conan joke the other day- he was mocking Perry because he was going to start skipping the debates- he said Perry’s excuse was he was not a skilled debater- you know- he wasn’t one of those ‘word talkers’ yeah- guess he’s right.
I went thru a few news articles the other day- when I read the papers during the week I cut the articles out that I think are important- and then in the morning before I post I’ll look them over to see what looks relevant.
Out of the 2 I saved- one was on a possible looming crisis in Italy. Sure enough- yesterday everything hit the fan.
The reason the stocks took a big hit was out of fear that the European debt crisis might spread to Italy. Italy has a big economy- not like Greece. The main reason Greece was important- was that many observers feared that if Greece went bankrupt- that the ‘contagion’ might spread to the other Euro Zone nations- like Italy- and that would be bad- very bad.
Well- that looks like what might be happening. Greece’s Debt to GDP ratio is 144 %- not good. Italy is at around 120%- not as bad- but still not good. This coming year they have about half a trillion dollars coming to maturity [bonds they must pay out on] and they owe 2.6 trillion [not like our 14 trillion- but for the size of their nation- it’s a lot].
So the interest rate just went up for Italy- it will now cost more for them to borrow- and when you’re paying a little over 7 % on 2.6 trillion- well that hurts.
Italian bonds are not like Greek bonds- Italian bonds are in all of the big banks that we are familiar with- many of our investments are in the same banks that hold Italian debt- so if Italy goes bust- that’s a huge problem- that will indeed drag the U.S. down.
I mean Greece already seems to be a lost cause- even their own people are pulling all their money out of the Greek banks and putting it in Swiss banks. Geez- if your own citizens don’t trust you- forget the other nations bailing you out.
I find it funny [sad] that a few weeks ago- Fahreed Zakariah [a CNN guy] was mocking the Tea Party crowd- because he said that the Europeans were handling their debt crisis well- like adults- and that even the Europeans were saying ‘geez- cant you be mature like us- you stupid Tea party Repubs’!
He said it in the same mocking way that Martin Bashir [I think they are both Brits? I know they of course are both foreigners] made an on air accusation the other day. I mean- it was bad. Bashir said a certain Repub referred to injured Iraqi war vets as injured ‘dogs’.
Now- for the life of me- I could not imagine this charge to be true. Then I heard the rest of the story. Some Repub said the occupy protestors were leaving a huge mess at the camps- ‘like dogs’.
And Bashir applied this to the Iraqi war vet. who was hit with a gas canister in Oakland- so yes- this Iraq war vet was a wounded protestor. But to then go on national TV and say that Repubs are referring to wounded Iraqi war vets as wounded dogs- I think this network [MSNBC] is very dangerous for the country.
We need to hear both sides of all arguments- but this stuff is incendiary.
Being I already mentioned Italy- let me finish with some history/philosophy that might be relevant.
In the last post I mentioned saint Thomas Aquinas- and after Augustine [and Anselm- 11th century] he is the next main character I wanted to cover [in our ongoing philosophy study].
Aquinas is referred to as the Doctor Angelicas [angelic doctor] by the catholic church. Aquinas lived during the time of a cultural/philosophical reawakening that was beginning to take place in the Western world- the Renaissance.
Renaissance means ‘re-birth’. It was a rebirth of the ancient Poets and philosophers of days gone by. Men like Cicero and Aristotle were once again brought to the fore front of many thinkers and lovers of culture.
The catch phrase for the Renaissance was Ad Fontes- which meant ‘back to the sources’ [source- Fountain- Fontes]. In the 14th century a famous and influential Catholic family- the Medici’s- were a catalyst for mixing this cultural movement in with the church.
The Renaissance sort of challenged the historic view of education- up until this time most learning was done thru the prism of the church. In the universities of the day Theology [study of God] was called the Queen of the sciences- and philosophy was referred to as her Handmaiden.
Well the Renaissance thinkers said they wanted to study things for what they are- they did not want to see everything thru the lens of the church.
Eventually the theme of the movement [back to the original sources] would play a major role in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Men like Erasmus [the famous 16th century Catholic Humanist] would re discover the original Greek New testament- and it was thru the study of the Greek text that many of the Reformers made their case to get ‘back to the bible’ and eventually break from Rome.
This was also the beginning period of modern capitalism. Recently when Libya had her ‘civil war’ and the new leaders started talking about a new constitution- one of the interesting things that came up was they wanted to do away with interest on loans.
Why? Well Muslims teach that interest itself is a bad thing. ‘Gee- wonder where they get that idea from John’ Oh- from a little book- called the bible.
Yes- to the surprise of some- this is very much taught in the Old Testament. Now- it was God’s law governing the nation of Israel- but they were forbidden to charge interest.
‘So John- is it wrong for us today to make interest’? Not really- Jesus used interest [usury] as an example in some of his parables- and overall- we as believers are not under the Old Testament laws that govern natural Israel.
But- for many centuries- the world did not see interest on money as a legitimate way to earn a living. So during the Renaissance you also had the rise of exploration- and explorers like Columbus would go on their voyages with the financial backing of investors.
The normal rate for these voyages was a 75/25% cut. When the explorer returned- the investor [Spain- or whoever] got 75% of the goods- and the explorer kept 25.
So there were a lot of changes taking place in the world at the time- and the rise of modern capitalism was one of them- money of course existed way before this time- but as a commodity- this was a new way of viewing the world.
Okay- just thought I would throw in a little history along with the current events of the day. As we see the current turmoil in the Italian markets [the original renaissance started in Florence- Italy] maybe seeing money/interest as a commodity- and ‘usury’ as a major way to increase ones wealth- well maybe that’s not such a smart way to do things after all.
When Jon Corzine's global investment firm went bust the other day- it was a direct result of taking a gamble on the ‘gullibility’ of the common man.
What his firm did was they took a huge risk by investing in European bonds- bonds from Greece that everyone knew was a terrible 'bet’. Then why did he do it?
The risk was so high- that the interest [usury] on the bonds was also high- you would make lots of money- if you got your money back.
But how would you get the money back- if the company [or nation- or bank] is in such bad shape that they might go bust? Your basically betting that the other nations around them [and the 1% crowd] would never let this happen [too big to fail] and when the nation [or company] gets ‘bailed out’ well then you get the money back- at a huge gain- all at the expense of the ‘99’ %.
‘Gee John- that doesn’t seem right to me’. That doesn’t seem right to me either- and to the legitimate ‘occupy Wall st. guys’ that’s not right to them as well.
Basically Corzine did the exact same thing that the big banks did during our 2008 bail out crisis- the banks can’t do that anymore- we did pass regulations that forbid this. But private investment firms can- they take a risk if they do- but that’s their choice.
Corzine took the risk- and lost [besides the fact the there is also about 600 million dollars ‘missing’ from private investors money!].
Okay- that’s it for now. We will keep an eye on Italy for the next few days [Germany is already talking about bailing out of the Euro Zone] and if things keep going downhill like this- well we might all be better off if we moved our money into less interest bearing accounts- safe places to ‘park’ your money- and after the dust settles- then maybe get back into the market.
But right now- I would trust getting a bigger return from a Columbus voyage than the market- yes- maybe ‘usury’ is not all that’s it’s cracked up to be- maybe the Libyans are right [and the Old Testament]. Yeah- maybe they know something we don’t.
 Philosophy and Politics.
This last week the media circus has centered around the Herman Cain ‘sex scandal’. Yes- it does seem like good old brother Herman [Christian ‘brother’ to you racially sensitive types] has a little problem with the ladies.
Yes- I have heard both sides on the thing- the conservatives [Limbaugh] have used Cain as an example of how the ‘left’ castigates Black conservatives- while they cover up for liberal ones.
And the left wing media types- well they sure do like to go thru every detail of the Repub candidates lives [no- the sex harassment issue is a real issue- I’m talking about all the other stuff]. It’s funny [sad?] to see some of the commentary on how Cain’s ‘worst’ mistake was in the way he handled it- that it was his mishandling of the scandal that worries folk.
Look- I like good old Bill Clinton- and for those who remember- Bill also had quite a few dalliances with the ladies. Paula Jones even sued Bill- And won!
Yes- the pres settled for 800 thousand and paid the girl. How did Clinton deal with his sex scandals? Those who say ‘see- Bill knew how to deal with them’ they seem to forget that his defenders- they ridiculed all the women- Kathleen Wiley [he groped her]- Jones- well- he pulled an Antony Weiner one day when Jones walked into the office- and oh yeah- lest we forget [well- actually I do forget the name] one woman had some very credible claims that Clinton did indeed rape her.
And of course- he ‘received’ oral sex from Monica in the oval office- and all these women were described as ‘off balance’ or greedy women seeking a pay day- or these women ‘asked for it’. Yes- this was the way the Clinton defenders went about it- yet these same media savvy folk [Carville] are saying ‘Clinton knew how to deal with scandal- Cain does not’.
Would they be happy if Cain’s people went after all the women? Not only have they not revealed the name of the lady who got a settlement but they have been pretty silent about all the women.
Not Clintons people- you know- the ones who handled it ‘right’ oh yeah- they had his ladies looking like a bunch of trailer park bimbo air heads- even a young intern- who worked for the govt.- even she was demonized at first- for engaging in an act that would have called for the firing of any CEO who was caught doing this with any young female staffer- yet in his case- the women were all at fault.
So it’s just a sad thing to see this play out. Do I think Cain ‘did it’ of course he did!
‘How do you know John’- one statement- from Cain himself. He was asked by Hannity ‘did you ask this girl to come to your hotel room’ his answer ‘I don’t recall’ yeah- if someone says ‘did you string up that Black man in the south 40 years ago’ and if you say ‘I don’t recall’ well that’s a problem.
Okay- enough of that.
I really want to cover a little bit more on the few Philosophy posts we did last month.
If you remember we stopped at the 4th-5th century B.C. and we left off with Aristotle. Now- Aristotle [and Plato and Socrates] ruled the day for hundreds of years- most Western thinkers were shaped by their ideas.
So for that reason- lets skip about 800 years forward- to the time of Saint Augustine. Augustine lived in the 4th/5th century [A.D.]. When studying Philosophy you will study this man. But you run into him in the fields of Theology and church history as well- he’s considered by many to be the ‘best’ theologian of the 1st thousand years of Christianity- and to some- the best ever.
I have covered Augustine before- so let’s go light right now and hit a few high points.
Augustine had early influences that led him to the philosophy of ‘Neo Platonism’ [an offshoot of Plato’s thought] and he dabbled [well more than dabbled] in a sort of early metaphysical cult called Manichaeism [like a 3rd century type of Christian Science- the movement in our day].
As Augustine carried out his traveling teaching ministry [he was a teacher who was skilled in Rhetoric- and these traveling teachers would charge for their services] he eventually converted to Christianity [the Catholic Bishop Ambrose played a major role in Augustine’s conversion] and became the Bishop of Hippo- North Africa.
Augustine came to defend the Christian world view against his former belief in Neo Platonism. Platonism taught a Pantheistic view of God and creation. This view teaches that God and creation are one in the same. Many eastern religions still hold to this view in our day.
Augustine argued that God was the creator of all things- but that he himself was not created- or a part of the created world.
He developed a very sound theology on creation- which most Christian traditions hold to this very day.
He had a few theological battles in his day. With Pelagianism and Donatism- these were early Christian movements that broke away from the standard teaching of the church- they derive their names form the Bishops/priests who espoused these ideas.
Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin- and he taught that men were indeed capable of obeying Gods law- out of their own moral integrity- and thus ‘save themselves’. Augustine rejected this view and taught that men were saved only by the grace of God- that men were indeed sinful and corrupt- and if left to their own designs would end up in hell.
There were various adherents to Pelagius’ view- and his ideas have carried down thru the centuries to varying degrees- sometimes you will hear [read] the term ‘Semi- Pelagian’ this refers to those who have various ideas about man’s ability to save himself through good works.
Some in the Reformed church [the original Protestant belief system that came out from the 16th century Reformation] accuse the Catholic Church of this very thing- yet the Catholic Church has made it clear that they do reject Pelagianism- and they agree with Augustine on the matter.
The Donatists taught that the Sacraments were dependent upon the ‘holiness’ of the Priest who ministers them. That if you were in a Parish where the priests were bad- lived in sin- rejected a holy life- then if you were Baptized by these men- that the Baptism didn’t ‘stick’.
The Donatists formed there own break away church in the 3rd century- and a few very influential men would join the group. A well respected early church father- Tertullian- eventually joined their ranks.
Augustine argued against the Donatists teaching- and taught that Gods grace- and the grace given to believers thru the sacraments were not derived from the holiness of any priest or preacher- but if a believer in good conscience received the sacraments- that that’s what really counted.
Saint Augustine is one of the titans of church history- he is loved by Protestants and Catholics alike. He is famous for his belief in the doctrine of Predestination [that those who are saved were chosen by God before they were born] and for this reason he is loved by the original protestant theologians [Luther, Calvin, etc.]
He also taught a very ‘Catholic’ form of Ecclesiology [church govt.] and is well loved by many Catholics as well.
The Catholic Church refers to him as the Doctor of Grace- later on in the 13th century we will meet Saint Thomas Aquinas- who the church refers to as the Angelic Doctor.
Both of these men played a major role in the development of western thought and Augustine made an effort to distinguish true Christian thought from the philosophy of Neo Platonism which was very strong in his day.
When reading Augustine [he wrote a lot] you need to be careful to distinguish some of his earlier writings from his later ones.
Early on you still see forms of Platonic thought in Augustine- but as the years rolled by his thinking progressed more and more towards historic Christian thought.
For those of you who are interested- the Confessions of Saint Augustine is considered one the classics of Christianity- you can pick up a short version at most good bookstores- it’s well worth the time to read.
 IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Was gonna do one last post [for now] on Libya- we will need to cover the whole development of how we began to view/and act over a 6 month period- we acted [as a nation] contrary to our public statements. We swore- over and over again- that we were not targeting the man [or his family] and he swore [before the U.N. - by his rep.] that we were lying- and did indeed already kill a few of his grandkids [which was true] and were going after him.
Then- on national T.V. - we saw him flee Sirte [his hometown] and get bombed by both NATO and American planes [ours were Drones]. We destroyed a bunch of vehicles- left a lot of dead bodies- but he made it to a tunnel.
Then he got pulled out- ended up with a bullet in the head. O- forgot- this happened a day or 2 after Hillary Clinton visited Tripoli [her first visit] and said ‘we are waiting for you to capture or kill him’ [oop’s!] She later had to ‘clarify’.
She also was caught on tape- laughing and rejoicing over his death- okay- many people did- but if your saying publicly- ‘that’s not what we want’- then it looks bad.
Of course the other Arab nations want the U.N. to investigate- they were being told- by us- that we were not going after him. He begged for a peaceful resolution [he did do this!]. But we basically said no.
There are lots of questions to still be answered on this thing.
Okay- yesterday I wrote a quick note about a conversation I had with a new friend who just joined my site. She was into some new age stuff- we talked a little- I defended historic Christian belief- then she blocked me.
Let’s talk a little about Apologetics/Theology. Apologetics is the field where Christians Defend the Faith.
In our day- it is common for believers to be ‘left in the dust’ when they bang up against an atheistic scientist [they not all are!] or someone versed in Philosophy [Sartre or Camus- atheist thinkers- or Hitchen's and Dawkins].
Many times these various fields of study are too much for the average believer to feel like he can engage in- in an intelligent way- and ‘win’ the argument for the Christian view.
But church history has a long- and very successful- track record doing this very thing.
A few weeks back I did about 5 posts or so on Philosophy- a field I like to study. But if you do too many of those posts at one time- then it can get a little heavy [and boring!] So I try to break it up by only doing so many at a time. The same goes for Theology- Church History- etc.
But over time- if we become well versed in these various fields- it will help us defend the Christian view- in an intelligent way- without being mean about it [I try!]
But sometimes you will offend people- even if you try to be nice- because you’re engaging in a conversation that says ‘yes- as Christians we believe in ultimate truth- and that truth is in the person of Jesus Christ’ yes- that will offend some.
My approach to these types of debates is I’m what you would call Ecumenical- I believe that Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox- and all the other ‘churches’ that profess Christ- I believe they are all Christian.
Now you might say ‘well John- doesn’t everybody?’ Actually no- many of the most knowledgeable Apologists do indeed go after the other groups. Quite often you will have a strong protestant defender [usually from the Reformed faith] that will really hit the Catholic church- in my view- too hard.
While it is true that historically Catholics and Protestants have differences- I have often found that Many ‘average’ Catholics/Protestants are not really aware of the real differences- they often have very limited perspectives about the ‘other side’ and these limited ideas [often wrong] seem to stay with the people- for most of their lives.
One example- the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception- what is it?
The teaching became Official- only in the last 2 centuries of the Catholic church- though it was held by many- it finally became official in the last 2 hundred years [ 1854 for the Immaculate Conception- 1950 for the Assumption of Mary doctrine].
The doctrine teaches that the Virgin Mary- Jesus Mom- was born ‘without the taint of original sin’. Now- what does that mean?
Some Protestants think the Catholics teach that Mary was ‘sinless’ in the same way Christ was sinless.
Actually- that’s not the official doctrine [see- it’s important to know the official teaching when we engage like this]. The actual teaching- that has the churches Imprimatur on it- is that Mary WAS A SINNER- just like the rest of us- but in order for Jesus to have been born from a pure vessel- that the actual work of the Cross- Redemption- it was applied to Mary ‘ahead of time’.
Yes- the official teaching is that Mary ‘was saved’ from her sin- just like the rest of us- thru the Cross. The difference is the forgiveness that came to Mary- came to her before she was born- yes- the teaching does teach that Mary was born ‘without sin’ but not like Jesus was without sin- but she was ‘without sin’ because her salvation was applied ahead of time- way ahead of time- before she was born.
Okay- do Protestants believe in this teaching? No. But is it ‘so way out of line’ to the point where we should view our Catholic brothers and sisters as ‘non Christian’ because of it? No- not in my view.
Plus- many Catholics don’t even realize that this is what the doctrine teaches- many think it is talking about the birth of Jesus- being born without sin- by the act of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Virgin Mary and Mary conceiving.
No- this is what we call ‘The Virgin birth- conceived by the Holy Ghost’. Jesus being born from a virgin with no earthly father.
This is not the Immaculate Conception.
So right here alone [trust me- there are many more examples that I could give] Both Catholics and Protestants usually get the doctrine wrong- yet they remain divided their whole lives- over something that they are not even right about.
So I have found this type of stuff to be a problem while striving for Christian unity- and many Christians prefer to see the ‘other side’ in a negative light- and will continue to view them that way- till they die.
I always feel bad when I lose a friend from the site- sometimes you can’t help it [other times it is my fault!] but sometimes it’s because we have views about things- strongly held views- and when others hold to a different view- well we try and avoid them.
One day I received a Friends Request- to my surprise- it was from a young Catholic priest- I did not know him but he must have read a few posts of mine and liked them. He often gave me Thumbs Up comments on the posts- and at times would tell me he loved the posts.
Most were my Theology/Church history posts.
Often times Catholics and Protestants can agree and enjoy these types of studies. I love studying and teaching on the Church Fathers and early Christian history- and these sources all have a very strong Catholic flavor to them- so I see my fellow Catholics as being a part of a long tradition of Christian history.
Many famous converts to the Catholic Church [Bishop John Newman- converted from the Anglican Church] convert because they read the Church Fathers- and when you read them- it’s obvious to see the catholic nature of the early church in these men’s writings.
So anyway I was very happy to have a Catholic priest as one of my ‘on line students’ [and honored].
But one day- during one of my studies [covering one subject for a month or so] to my surprise I saw he was gone [yes- the dreaded block]. I thought- geez- wonder why?
I realized it was right in the middle of a study I did on Islam- and while I was doing the posts- I was also going thru a study on Islam- by the same guy who teaches it to the U.S. govt. - yes- it was a prof. [I think named Espinoza?] who teaches Islam to our govt. employees [sort of like a tolerance type thing].
Though the teacher was Catholic- yet he was VERY much pro Islam- I mean to the point where I had to reject some of the stuff he was saying- and finish the study from my own education on Islam.
At one point- he taught that the spread of Islam thru out the world had a wonderful- liberating effect on all the women in the lands where Islam spread. I mean it was so obvious that the man had no idea what he was talking about [in this area] that I realized he was not a good source [this happens every so often].
And it was more troubling that this was the guy Obama picked to teach Islam to our govt. employees [don’t get me wrong here- he teaches our govt. workers- not to convert them- but more of an informative type thing- just like you would teach any other course about sexual harassment- or whatever].
Anyway- in one of my posts while teaching on my site- I did refer to Mohamed as ‘the prophet’- now- I don’t receive Mohamed that way myself- but because I was teaching some Muslims who did recently join the site- well I used the title in this way.
I think that might have been the ‘last straw’ for my student/priest- he ‘went on Pilgrimage’ right after that post.
Okay- today’s point is we all should try our best to be ‘tolerant’ that is- we should give people as much grace/mercy as possible- but at the same time we also need to be honest about the Christian faith.
Yes- as Christians we believe salvation comes thru Christ- he was not just ‘one religious leader among many’ no- we believe he is the Way- the Truth- the Life/light- no man comes to the Father- but by him.
Sometimes we do our best not to offend- we might even go out of our way to receive people- other religions and systems that are not Christian- that’s okay- I have Muslim and Jewish and all types of friends- I’m glad they are my friends!
But we also have to be honest about our beliefs- and every now and then that might- just might- earn you a BLOCK.
 CULT? Three 6’S? Not a Christian?
Okay- let’s talk a little about some of the ‘big’ stories. Actually- these stories are small but the media wants to make them big.
At the debate the other night- Cain took some heat- you know- he’s been hawking the 999 plan on taxes- and now that he’s rising in the polls they have to bring him down a notch.
So they slammed the plan- Bachmann even exposed the secret agenda behind the plan- yes- right there in front of the whole world- she said ‘you know what you get when you turn the 999 plan upside down’?
And yes- we now know the truth- you get 3 upside down 9’s.
Okay- let’s get a little serious here. Another ‘religious’ test popped up on the trail- you had the Baptist Pastor from Dallas tell a reporter that Christians should prefer other Christians when they vote- and Romney is not a Christian.
He went on to say that he thought Romney was a fine man- but that historically Mormonism is a cult.
Was he right?
Let me say this- I have read scholars my whole life- study theology and Christianity- am very open to the other Christian churches- and even my approach to Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses has been one in which I try to have open dialogues with people- not ‘cover up’ their doctrinal flaws- but to be open and show as much charity as possible.
Okay- I know of no serious scholar who would disagree theologically with the Baptist Pastor. Now- was the approach he took right? At a political type meeting? Probably not.
Are there more appropriate ways to engage in dialogue with Mormons- who overall are very good people- serve the country well and for the most part are honorable? Yes—there are better ways to talk about it than saying Romney is ‘not a Christian’.
Let’s talk a little bit about why most bible scholars do hold the ‘cult’ view.
Historically- Christianity is what we call Trinitarian [for the most part- this is also a very long study]. Sometimes we refer to this as Nicene Christianity [from the famous council at Nicaea].
Or we can look to a few other church councils that hammered out the language of the Trinity.
I am Trinitarian- I hold to the historic belief on this- just to be upfront at the start.
Now- have all ‘Christians’ at all times held to the doctrine? No. Now- some will say ‘Then they are not Christians’ okay- I agree.
But the way I define ‘Christian’ while making the argument from history- I am speaking of all those who saw themselves as part of the church [men like Bishop Arius- who rejected the Trinity] and yet did not agree with the historic position.
Church history is littered with men/movements that fall into this category.
Muslims and Jews [even some Messianic Jews] also take the side [doctrinally] with those ‘Christians’ who reject the Trinity. Why? Both of these religions believe that exalting Jesus to Deity [being God] violates the teaching that there is only One God [the Father].
Many of these same objections are made by the various ‘Christian churches’ that also reject the Trinity.
Okay- the historic Christian doctrine- accepted by Catholics, Orthodox and most Protestants- says that God is One- and there are 3 persons in the God Head. The famous Christian him says ‘God in 3 persons- Blessed Trinity’.
So- the belief is there is only one God- yet 3 persons in the God head.
The various groups who disagree with this doctrine usually say it’s a contradiction- and they have various ways they try to explain it.
They will point to bible verses that say ‘Jesus is the Firstborn of all creation’ or ‘Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God’ and they will argue that Jesus was the first creation of God- but not ‘God’ in the sense of True God.
Most scholars will show you that looking at these few verses- in context of the entire bible- show us that they are not meaning that Jesus was actually created- but that he has pre imminence among the whole creation- he is Lord of all.
I really did get into the debate- have taught it in the past on the blog- and today’s intent isn’t to do it all over again.
But- we needed to cover that to say this- what then is the Mormon belief?
While most churches that disagree with the Trinity- usually disagree by saying the doctrine is Tritheistic [meaning you believe in 3 Gods] Mormons actually go the other way- they believe/teach that you actually do have 3 Gods- that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are 3 different Gods.
Okay- that’s the main reason [there are lots of other things] that scholars classify Mormons as ‘non Christian’.
But it’s really hard to have these debates in the political arena- and because of the various ways we use the term ‘Christian’ [most of the times in the media it covers a much wider range than what we use in studying theology] I would not say ‘Romney is not a Christian’.
Why? Because I would have to qualify it by explaining all of this- and you do have many groups that have branched off from historic Christianity- who never accepted the final councils on the Trinity- and many of these groups would still be defined as ‘Christian’ in a broad sense- say if your studying Sociology and not Theology.
Now- you ask ‘geez John- this can get a little confusing- does the bible actually give us a test on this’.
Glad you asked.
The only biblical ‘test’ that is where you have a clear cut statement on ‘if you believe this your okay- if you believe this you’re not’- the statement comes from the epistle’s [letters] of the Apostle John [New Testament].
In 1st John and 2nd John he talks about those who believe that Jesus is the Christ- they are ‘from God’ ‘Born of God’ and those who say that ‘Jesus has not come in the flesh’ these are not ‘of God’ these are ‘the anti christ’.
It’s interesting to note- that in the entire bible- the few times the actual word ‘anti christ’ is used are in these passages.
So the test- if you want to look at it this way- is a Christological test- do you believe Jesus is the Christ [Messiah]. And ‘do you believe he has come in the flesh’ [what we call the Incarnation].
That’s the test- you do not have a ‘Trinitarian’ test so to speak- though the doctrine itself is found in the bible.
Why would the apostle John give these 2 criteria as ‘the test’? Because for the 1st century Jewish believer- Jesus did indeed come as the promised Messiah- and the question is indeed ‘do you believe he is the promised one- or not’.
The other ‘test’ is a little more tricky- but in the 1st century you began having a challenge to the main belief of Christians- it came from the Gnostic ‘cults’. These were the quasi ‘Christian’ groups that mixed in Greek concepts of matter with Christian belief.
The last few weeks we discussed their ideas a little- and one of the ideas that Plato taught was that matter itself was evil.
This is not the Christian view- the Christian view is that matter [creation] is from God- it is good- not inherently evil.
Okay- so you had a division of the Gnostics [which their name meant Knowledge- they believed they had secret knowledge about these things that the average Christian did not have] called Docetists.
These guys taught that Jesus was not Really a human being- who came ‘in the flesh’. Why did they teach this? Because they also taught that matter/flesh was evil- and Jesus could not have really been ‘in the flesh’.
This doctrine violates the very clear N.T. teaching that Jesus was indeed born of the Virgin- and was fully God and fully man- thus the apostle John was targeting them when he said ‘if anyone does not believe that Jesus has come in THE FLESH he is not from God’.
Got it? Okay- we did a little teaching today- as you can see these types of debates cannot really take place in a 30 second news sound bite.
So even though most scholars [if not all?] would agree with the teaching that Mormonism does not fit in with historic Christianity- yet to say ‘this guy is not a Christian’ without being able to make the distinctions that I just did- well it just sounds bad- to be honest.
I personally could vote for Romney- to me it would be more of an issue of his political positions- if I felt he could do a good job- I personally would not use the ‘religious test’ on the guy- but you do have a large group of Evangelicals who would not vote for him- mainly because of this very issue.
I think these issues are important- and people should be aware of them. I also think the term ‘cult’ or ‘he is not a Christian’ if we are going to throw those words out- they need to be surrounded by the above context- when they just pop out on a short sound bite- without the time to explain them- then it’s probably better not to throw them out at all.
 LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD?
I read an article the other day- some guy got busted for assault- because of Facebook. It went on to say how he posted a status update when his mom died- and he was waiting for his estranged wife to ‘like’ it.
She never responded- so he did what any normal person would- he jumped in the car and drove over to her house. Okay- I’m gonna ad lib here ‘knock knock’ she comes to the door and he says ‘go into that damn computer room right now and Like the status’!
One thing lead to another- and he got busted.
What’s wrong with this picture? I mean he was talking to her- in the ‘real world’ face to face- yet instead of saying ‘ex- are you sad that mom died’- no- he says ‘go like the post!’
Okay- this will be the last post for a while on philosophy- I think I did about 3 or 4 the last week or so- I used to do one subject and stick with it for around a month.
Then at the end of the study [Physics, History, etc.] I would stick them all together on the blog as a single study.
But I realized that new friends who are just reading the site- post by post- they might think that’s all I write about- so now I’m trying to just do a few at a time.
Okay- we made it all the way to Plato and his famous school that he founded at Athens [Greece]. Though Socrates was his teacher- yet Socrates never founded an actual school.
Like I said earlier- Plato had a view of Reality that was a bit strange. He was an Idealist- not in the way we use the term today [mostly] but he believed that Ideas themselves were the real world- and what we see/experience in the material world are not ‘as real’.
Plato believed that knowledge was A Priori- which means the actual knowledge about a thing exists before the thing comes into being.
The famous example he used was a Chair. He would ask ‘what is that’ pointing to a chair. The student would respond ‘a chair’ Plato would say ‘and how do you know this- how did you obtain that knowledge’ and he argued that in the Idea realm- there is a perfect form of Chairness that exists- and that’s why we can identify ‘the chair’ in the material realm.
Now- Plato’s most famous student was a man named Aristotle. He actually respected his teacher a lot- but there was some tension between the 2. Plato was more of a down to earth type guy- liked to wear plain clothes- did lots of his teaching by walking around the classroom- interacting with people.
Aristotle was more of a ‘Fancy Pants’ type guy. He had a little bit of the elitist thing going on. He was more of a book worm than Plato- and he would eventually start his own school to compete with Plato’s Academy.
Aristotle’s school was named the Lyceum. Aristotle was more of a Realist than an Idealist. He believed that this material world was more than just a copy of the Idea world. He taught that Substance and matter were very real- and that contained within the thing is the actual form and future potential of ‘that thing’.
For instance- the Acorn has within it the actual form of the Oak Tree. This form did not come from an Idea world- it came from the thing itself- the Acorn.
So matter has within it both the potential of its future form- as well as eventually becoming that thing.
For Aristotle- knowledge is more A-Posteriori- that is we obtain knowledge about a thing- from the very thing itself. We see/touch and experience that thing- and by our senses interacting with the substance- we get knowledge- after the fact.
Okay- to Aristotle all substance has both Form and Matter. Then what he called substance- had 2 categories as well. The ‘substance’ [actual thing it is] and the Accidens [not accidents- not a typo].
The Accidens was simply the outward appearance- what we see on the outside. It might not be what the substance really is- or it might.
This teaching would eventually become a major way that our Catholic friends would come to define the doctrine of Transubstantiation- during the 13the century the great thinker Thomas Aquinas would re-discover [and introduce] Aristotle’s teaching back into the church.
In his theological works [Summa Theologica] he would use Aristotelian thought to explain how the Bread and Wine become the actual Flesh and Blood of Christ. Thomas explained that the actual substance of the thing was Flesh and Blood- but the Accidens- what you’re seeing on the outside- looks like Bread and Wine.
Catholic scholars have debated for centuries on whether or not they should stick to the hard line teaching from Thomas on this. They are not challenging the belief in the Real Presence [that Jesus is really there at the Eucharist] they simply wonder whether or not explaining it this way is right.
Finally- after many years of certain Catholic scholars asking this question- in 1965 the Pope [I think it was Paul the 6th?] put out a Papal Encyclical [an official Vatican teaching] and he stated clearly that the way Aquinas taught it is the official doctrine of the church- so that settled that.
Okay- Plato was an Idealist [Dualist] and Aristotle was a Realist. That’s the major difference.
I will note that Aristotle’s most famous student was Alexander the Great. And during the great conquests of Alexander he took with him a whole team of scientists who brought back all types of specimens of things and he gave them to his famous teacher Aristotle- to advance the cause of learning at the Lyceum school.
It has been said that Alexander’s efforts at collecting and bringing these things back after their victories- that this was probably the most expensive scientific endeavor of all time- right up until the modern space Era.
Note- I try to avoid too many ‘big words’ in these posts. Not because people don’t understand them- but because I forget how to spell them! And in this post- there are around 10 words that my spell check has no idea how to spell- so just a warning- there might be a few misspelled words in this one.
 GO SPARTANS?
I really have too much to cover for one post- so let’s see what we can squeeze in.
I have a catalog sitting here- from the company that I order courses from. A few years ago I got on their mailing list [How- ?] and ever since I have been bombarded with monthly catalogs.
I mean every month- a bit much. Then I realized that one month out of the year they put a bunch of courses ‘on sale’ for around 70% off the regular price- and that’s probably where they do their best business [I now only buy from the discounted monthly catalog].
Anyway- I read the intro to their course on Dark Matter/Energy- these teachers are really good- they are professors from the premiere universities of the world [Oxford, Harvard, etc.] and to get the courses at this price- well it’s really a bargain.
But over the years- studying various disciplines [Theology, Apologetics] it’s easy to see when some smart men- make really bad mistakes.
Especially when dealing with the whole ‘proof for/against God’ type stuff.
In this short intro to the Dark Matter course [Physics- these courses cover everything- history- science- religion- the whole 9 yards] they start out okay- they explain that according to the standard theory of modern physics- that there is about 95 % [wow- that number has jumped these last few years!] of matter ‘missing’ in the universe.
What do they mean by ‘missing’? They go on to explain that the effects that we see in the universe- the gravity and function of the universe- well according to standard theory- there is simply not enough matter to explain how all this is held together- how everything actually works.
Okay- so they admit that there are a whole bunch of phenomena- that we see taking place- that modern science has no idea how it’s taking place.
Now- as the intro continues- they say in order to ‘fill the gap’ they have come up with the idea of Dark Matter.
Dark Matter is simply a name given to nothing- that is nothing that we can detect thru the means of modern science.
Okay- by definition- it is a Metaphysical reality- something that science has espoused as a possible cause for the effects we see in the universe- and by their own definition- its invisible- undetectable and unseen- it is metaphysical [just like the argument for the existence of God].
So they go on to say ‘we know that this matter exists- because how else could you explain how everything works’- now- to those who get into these debates- the guy who wrote the intro- I’m sure he means well- but his whole argument is a materialistic one.
He is saying that there is no chance that some type of ‘non matter’ can be making this happen.
So he then says ‘because WE KNOW that there has to be a material explanation for this- no ‘God stuff’ here- therefore its Dark Matter.’
Okay- and what is Dark Matter again? O- it’s this non detectable- unseen matter- that just happens to make up 95 % of the universe.
Okay- Mr. smart guy- you don’t go for those Intelligent Design guys- the ones who argue that some non material force might be behind this- you rejected their argument because you say they are arguing from a non material realm [called metaphysical].
So how again have you proven that your idea- all this missing matter- exists? O- easy- because we see the effects OF IT all around us.
Actually- no we don’t. We see the effects of SOMETHING- that is- modern science has this huge gap- there are effects taking place in the known universe- that have no materialistic explanation for- we can’t find a material, observable cause for these effects.
The Christian says ‘Okay- I stick God in that gap’ [which many materialists accuse us of doing- they call it the ‘God of the Gaps’ approach].
But the materialistic scientist [one who says there can only be a detectable- material cause to things- in order to classify it as science] he then comes up with the whole Dark Matter argument- an argument based on non detectable- unseen- unproven matter.
And he then says ‘it must be there- because how else can you explain how everything is functioning?’.
The point is- your argument is based just as much on ‘unseen- unproven’ ideas as the Christian. You assume that this matter ‘must be’ simply because you leave no room for a non material explanation.
Then you say ‘yeah- but our idea is based on science/matter’ actually it is not- you argument is based on an idea- non proven by your own standards of modern science- and your idea- your Dark Matter- as of today is nowhere to be found.
These debates can go on forever- and my point is to simply challenge the believer- and the scientific community- to try to be more honest in the approach of seeking for truth.
In the last post I mentioned the pre Socratic philosophers- the 6th century B.C. guys who came before Socrates.
In the 5th century B.C. you had Socrates [born around 468 B.C.] and he would become one of the titans of Western thought.
He had a famous student by the name of Plato- and Plato would follow in his master’s footsteps. Plato founded a famous school at Athens- the land was donated by a man by the name of Academe- and till this day- that’s where we get the modern term for Academia.
Socrates started well- his ideas are not to be confused with Christian belief [he taught that the soul of man always existed- even before he was conceived- not a Christian belief] yet he did have lots of ‘Christianized’ ideas.
Socrates was of the school of thought that wanted to seek for absolute truths- to find out the purpose and meaning behind things.
Like his student Plato- they were what you would call Idealists- that behind this natural world- there exists Ideas- principles that are ‘more real’ than what we see [he would too laugh at the dark Matter intro I hit on at the top].
Socrates lived at a very advanced stage of the city/state of Athens- Greece. For their day- they had quite an advanced society- Jury system- somewhat of a Western style Democratic process- pretty good for the day.
But something happened during his lifetime that would change the whole direction of Athens [and Greece]. They would suffer a huge military defeat by another city/state that seemed to be no match for the Athenians.
Do you remember their name? Do you Remember the Spartans? Yes- we see these brothers in the famous movie ‘The 300’. The Spartans were indeed a fighting machine- just like depicted in the flick [one of my favorites by the way].
They had a famous motto ‘either come back holding your shield high [in victory] or come back lying on it’ [dead- like a stretcher].
So when Athens fell at the hands of the Spartans- they went through a sort of depression- a malaise came over them. They began to resent the thinkers who were always searching for ultimate answers to things- and they embraced a new type of philosophy- called Sophism.
The Sophists were thinkers who said ‘lets just learn the most pragmatic approach- how to get things to work- and how to win the argument’ and they didn’t really care a whole lot about whether they were ‘right’ or wrong- they just wanted to master the practical side of life.
Socrates and his crew thought this approach would ruin Athens and he continued to fight for the search for ultimate truth- the real reasons behind things.
He went around town debating the other thinkers- he had a system- called the Socratic method- where he would engage you in a debate- ask you questions- and let you too ask them back- sort of like the Detective Columbo.
After a while this got him into trouble with the authorities and they sentenced him to death.
He was given his choice of execution- and he chose to drink the Hemlock.
We are told that his famous student Plato visited him on the eve of his execution- and he was surprised to see his master relatively at ease with his impending death.
Socrates believed that the unseen things- the non material realm- was actually more real than the seen- detectable realm. He did not need some Dark Matter idea to explain how things worked- he believed there existed unseen things- God- Soul- etc. and that these things were more real than his own natural life.
Plato would make his teacher famous through his school- and thru his many writings about his teacher. We know these writings as Plato’s Dialogues- he wrote these papers in dialogue form- having Socrates debating the other schools of thought- just like he did in real life.
So you never really know who to attribute the famous quotes to- Socrates- or Plato? Was Plato putting his own words in the mouth of his beloved teacher? We don’t always know for sure.
Okay-maybe a bit much for today- actually had more I wanted to do- but we’ll call it quits for now. Maybe do a quick search on some of these subjects- see how they affect the contemporary arguments for the existence of God.
See how modern science is a noble field- but one in which the Christian does have a say- and how we should challenge the assumptions that are passed down to us.
Socrates refused to settle for the purely practical outlook on life- he continued to seek truth till his last day- he dialogued with those who had other ideas- he listened to them and they heard him- and at the end of the day society was better off for it.
 THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING- PLATO.
I caught a show the other night on Link TV. It was a spin off from this famous Platonic quote- it was called ‘The examined life’.
They interviewed some of the most prominent philosophers of our day. Cornell West, Peter Singer- a few others [I think the name is Singer?] I found it interesting that Singer- who specializes in Ethics- tried to make the case that you really don’t need religion/God in order to do ethics- all you need is to work from the basic principle that says ‘try to treat others like you too want to be treated- and then you will have a foundation for morals’.
Now- I caught the contradiction right away- do you see it? Who is he quoting? This is the great moral principle- given to us by Jesus himself- called the Golden Rule.
This actual principle- in Theology [the study of God] we call Natural/Moral law. The Argument is based on the reality that all people [not animals- Singer- get to it in a moment] have within them this moral compass [Romans 1] and that this in itself is proof that there must be a higher moral being- a transcendent being- who has put it in man.
I just found it funny that Singer- who is supposed to be a prominent atheist/agnostic thinker- would fall flat on his face like this.
Singer advocates for legal Rights for animals- and has also argued that viability of the new born baby should determine its personhood- he says that we should be able to abort babies up until around the age of 1- because they can’t really survive on their own until that age.
Okay- why do Philosophy- or Physics- or any other of a number of schools of thought? Because too often Christians abandon these fields- and then when someone from that field says ‘this is why we don’t need God’ we usually have no answer.
When we think about philosophy- most of us think about the 3 great big shots- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. While it is true that these guys were the major guys at right around the 5th century B.C.- yet we actually date the beginning point to the early 6TH Century B.C. to a man by the name of Thales.
Thales accurately predicted a solar eclipse in the year 585 B.C. and he gained notoriety because of this. Thales was the first Greek thinker to grapple with the idea that there must be one reality that makes up all things.
He would argue that Water was this element- that contained being and Motion and life. Many of these pre Socratic thinkers were obsessed with the idea of motion- where did it come from?
Thales observed that streams and rivers- and all types of water sources flow- so to him this was a logical source of motion.
This idea- that only one element makes up all reality- is called Monism. Monism is not be confused with Monotheism- the belief in one God- Monism actually leads to another religious view- called Pantheism- the belief that God is everything- and everything is God.
This is not the historic Christian view.
Now- the pre Socratic guys- Parmenides, Zeno, Heraclitus- these guys would challenge Thales view that water was the main thing.
Some said ‘maybe it’s Air’ another said ‘Earth’ and some Fire. These 4 elements [Earth, Air [wind] Fire and Water- are the 4 basic elements of the early Greek philosophers.
We see these things in the naming of musical groups [Earth Wind and Fire] as well as the themes in movies [fantastic 4- based on 4 basic elements- powers].
Now- one of the thinkers said ‘wait- maybe the reality behind all things is not any one of these elements- maybe there is a 5th dimension [another musical name- and also the famous Bruce Willis flick- called the 5th Element] a Boundless being- outside of time and matter- maybe this 5ht element is the foundation for all things.
Of course this view would lead to the more developed view of God that Socrates and his followers would embrace- an early view of God- much like the later Christian view [absent the Trinity].
By the way- the view that 2 or more elements make up all reality is called Pluralism- not to be confused with religious Pluralism [that all religions lead to the same God]. The most common form of Pluralism is Dualism [2 realities equally true] but all non Monists who embrace more than one reality are Pluralists.
Okay- maybe a bit much with the 10 dollar words- but it might spark the interest of some.
The church has debated for centuries on whether or not Philosophy should be taught to Christians. One of the early church fathers- Tertullian- said no- his famous quote is ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’.
Meaning what does Philosophy have in common with Christianity [Athens- Greece was the seat of philosophy in Jesus’ day].
For the most part- the early church fathers would embrace the study of philosophy- and try to make arguments for the Christian faith by presenting Christianity as ‘thee’ philosophy that best answers the questions of man.
These early Christian thinkers are called Apologists- men like Justin Martyr are in this class.
Apologist is a word we use to describe those who defend the faith- it comes from the Apostle Peter’s letter in the N.T. where Peter says ‘give an answer to those who ask you about the faith’. In the Greek language- the original language the N.T. was written in- this phrase is talking about a defense- an ‘apology’ in the sense of ‘making the case’ not in the common sense of apologizing.
In the book of Acts- chapter 17- we read the famous sermon of the apostle Paul- given at Mars Hill. He was in Athens at the time- and he was debating with all the philosophers of the day. He tells them ‘as I was looking around town- I saw that one of your altars is addressed to The Unknown God’.
He would go on and declare unto them that this Jesus is the true God- the one raised from the dead.
Paul also said ‘in Him we live and MOVE and have our being’. Kind of a popular verse quoted by preacher’s today- but we often overlook the significance of the MOVE part.
I mean- why say we MOVE in him too? Paul was a smart guy- he knew these children of Socrates questioned where motion came from [Remember Thales?] So he was basically saying ‘I am declaring to you the one true reality- the true 5th Element- the missing God particle from your system’ and he went on and preached Christ- being raised from the dead.
Paul knew that you can’t really do true philosophy- to grapple with the questions of life and being and ‘motion’ without realizing that God is indeed the ultimate answer to all things.
Even Peter Singer- who claimed that you don’t need God or religion in order to do Ethics- even he unknowingly quoted Jesus in attempting to give a basis for his Philosophy- yes- he quoted a God- one unknown to him- just like the altar at Athens- but a God never the less.
An inescapable 5th element- the missing part to the whole puzzle.
 THE YEAR UZZIAH DIED
After the debate last night I caught the 1st 7 minutes or so of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As an avid news watcher- I try to catch what the most influential pundits are saying at the time.
Though Stewart is a comedian news guy- yet he usually gives you a balanced view- with a few F bombs thrown in every so often.
So his top skit was today’s vote at the U.N. [well- they won’t vote today on it] the Palestinian request for the U.N. to recognize them as a state [nation- called nation states in that part of the world].
Stewart did a pretty funny [and eye opening] skit. He had one of his reporters ‘report’ from Halifax- Nova Scotia [of course he shoots these scenes from his area- I guess?] And the skit was that the new Holy Land is actually Halifax.
That they discovered this new scroll [in his hand] and the evidence pointed to Halifax as the spot.
So as they talk the reporter also pronounces Halifax with a rolling ‘Hal’ you know- to make it sound Jewish.
So- after this new find- I guess the whole war over the ‘2 state’ solution is now resolved- right? Wrong.
On the split screen you have the Muslim reporter show up- and he makes the claim that Muhammad actually found Halifax first- he even says he has proof that ‘the prophet’ was there- they have evidence that he caught a huge fish once on a visit.
Now of course- these guys are all taking risks with this stuff- but it is funny. So the ‘Jewish’ reporter says ‘okay- show me the picture and I’ll believe it’. Of course- in Islam- it’s blasphemous to depict the prophet in a picture- so they go back and forth on the thing- The Muslim guy pronouncing Halifax with a sort of Muslim drawl [Halalafax].
The sad thing is- even though it’s a comedy show- Stewart showed us how all the religious ‘wars’ and fights- how they look to the ‘outside world’.
As I have been doing a ‘jump around’ study on the Old Testament these last few weeks- in my own study [for the posts] I am at the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is one of the Major Prophets- he is quoted more than any other Old Testament prophet- in the N.T.
There are more famous prophecies from Isaiah- about Jesus- than any other prophet [A Virgin shall conceive and have a child].
When we read the books of the bible- we usually have pretty accurate dates on when the book was written- at what time the prophet lived.
In Isaiah’s case he gives us a specific date to his calling- in chapter 6 he says ‘in the year that king Uzziah died- I saw the Lord’.
King Uzziah [a king in Israel] died in the year 740 B.C.
If you walk down to the Mediterranean shore from Israel- you can look North West and see Italy. In the year 740 B.C. - Rome became a city. Of course it would be centuries before Rome would become the capital of the world empire- yet it was birthed as a city the same year Isaiah was called by God.
If you look west- you see Egypt, Libya and Tunisia- all places where the ‘Arab Spring’ has taken root.
It’s amazing to think- that after thousands of years- this whole area is still one of the most influential news making spots on the map.
After John the Baptist baptized Jesus- the Spirit descended on Jesus ‘like a dove’ and the bible tells us ‘the Spirit DROVE Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’.
In Luke’s account [chapter 4] One of the first events to take place after the wilderness test- was Jesus goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath- and as ‘his custom was’ he ‘opened the book and read’.
Now that’s the way the English version reads. But it really doesn’t give you the full picture. The Jewish people [till this day] don’t have their bibles [Called Torah for Jews- Pentateuch for Christians- which are the first 5 books of the Old Testament] in book form.
They have their bibles in scroll form. It’s actually part of their worship to have these beautiful hand written scrolls- which cost thousands of dollars to make- in this form.
So when you read ‘Jesus opened the book and found the place’ it really means he unrolled the scroll- and came to the spot where the reading was marked for that day.
I have heard many preachers over the years correctly say that it was a scroll- yet they seem to think that Jesus just unrolled the thing and supernaturally came to the spot where he read from.
No- the spot was already marked out the week before- he was just reading from this predetermined spot.
Now- he reads a famous passage ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach’ and the prophecy goes on and talks about the ministry of the Messiah.
Now- for Jesus to have read this- and for the people to have heard-was nothing out of the ordinary- until what happened next.
Jesus then ‘closed the book’ and says ‘This day this prophecy has been fulfilled in your ears’ and the bible says that the eyes of everyone there were fixated on him.
Jesus read from Isaiah 61 that day- the prophet that was called 740 years earlier.
This happened right after the temptation- it was the difficulty- the tests- the very tough things he went through- it was these things that gave him the ability to speak- and for all the people to hear.
As they will present the Palestinian request today- and as this same land- where Jesus walked- Isaiah heard God- the devil tempted Jesus- as this land once again becomes the center of attention- I hope we don’t all look like the caricature that Jon Stewart showed- brilliantly- on his show.
Quite often ‘the world’ sees the church [religious fights in general] as stupid and silly. They see certain adherents willing to fight- and kill- over their beliefs.
They see a never ending feud between groups of people who are so fixated on a certain side- an issue- that it seems almost impossible to sit down and actually treat the other side as human beings- who are all indeed created in the image of God- who Jesus said ‘even if we see them as our enemy- we are to love them’.
Isaiah was a cultured man- not like most of the other prophets. He had influence in the politics of his day- and most Christians today revere his prophecies as at the top of the list- as far as prophets go.
In chapter 6- after he saw God- and heard the call- he responded ‘I am a man of unclean lips- it the middle of people who are also unclean’.
And the bible says an angel took a ‘live coal’ from the fire and put it in on the prophet’s lips. God was saying ‘Yes Isaiah- you are unclean- this whole nation is unclean- man is unclean- yet when I use people to speak to a people- it’s based on my character- not yours’.
Isaiah would fulfill the mission- and be honored by having Jesus read from his scroll on the opening day of the preaching ministry of Jesus- and for him to have said ‘today- this has been fulfilled in your ears’.
 BIBLE OVERVIEW- JOSHUA TO CHRONICLES.
I have a feeling that this week [and from here on out] we are going to be inundated with lots of scandals in the news- and before all that hits the fan- I want to do a few more posts on this brief overview of the bible that I started around a month ago.
This ‘chunk’ of scripture covers the period of the children of Israel possessing the promised land [the book of Joshua] and establishing themselves as a self governing people- no more Egyptian Pharaohs to answer to.
At the end of the book of Joshua we see that God’s people did not fully obey the Lord- they allowed some of the enemy nations to remain in the land. The history of Judges covers the period where Israel had no king [but God] yet God raised up temporary deliverers who lead them during trying times.
You had prophets too. The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel fall into this chunk of scripture- and it’s during Samuels’s time that the people ask for a king ‘like the other nations around them’.
Samuel takes this personally- but God says ‘Samuel- by asking this- they have not rejected you- but me’
So even though God’s original plan did not have a king over them- yet he grants the request. King Saul becomes the 1st king. Then we have David- and his son Solomon.
We read of the history and stories of the kings in these books.
Israel will become a divided kingdom under the son of Solomon- whose name is Rehoboam. The kingdom will split between the northern 10 tribes- referred to as Israel- and the 2 southern tribes- referred to as Judah.
The northern tribes- under king Jeroboam- will establish the city of Samaria as their capitol- and Jeroboam will set up idol worship and a false competing priesthood. Why?
He realizes that if the northern tribes continue to return every year to the south- in order to carry out their worship- then they will eventually want to ‘go home’.
So Jeroboam sets up this competing ‘religion’ in order to maintain unity for his kingdom.
The northern nation will last for around 200 years- up until the time they are taken captive by the kingdom of Assyria [around 720-30 b.c.]
The southern kingdom lasts for around 350 years- until they too are taken captive- by the Babylonians [around 580 b.c.]
An interesting note; the northern kingdoms will have 20 kings reign over them during their 200 years. And from these 20 kings- you have 9 different families/dynasties represented.
The southern kingdom will last almost twice as long- they too will have 20 kings reign during their time [both the north and the south have their own different kings]. Yet they will only have 1 family/dynasty that all their kings will come from.
That was the ‘House of David’. Why?
David is from the tribe of Judah- if you remember when we covered the history of Genesis- we ended [chapter 49] with Jacob blessing his 12 sons [the 12 tribes of Israel].
When he gets to the son/tribe Judah- he says ‘the scepter shall not depart from Judah’. This promise is later personalized to David- where God promises that one of the physical sons of David will always sit ‘on the throne’.
Now- this is where it gets interesting- this promise to David- sometimes referred to as ‘the sure mercies promised to David’. This very promise is quoted by Peter in the book of Acts- as having been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That God did indeed keep his promise to David- and raised up one of his ‘sons’ [David and Jesus both come from the lineage of Judah] to take the throne- forever.
That’s good stuff- for sure.
Okay- after the kingdoms [northern and southern] are taken captive- God raises up various prophets who basically speak Gods word to the people in their various states of captivity [this is contained in the other O.T. books of the prophets].
So in a way- you just saw a panoramic view of the whole Old Testament.
Now- of course we skipped a lot of ground- didn’t get into the great defeat of Goliath by David- or talk about the confrontation between king Ahab [a wicked king from the north] and the prophet Elijah.
We did not cover the walls of Jericho falling down as the people walked around the city for 7 days.
Yes- there are lots of good stories in these books- but when we [I] do an overview like this- what we are trying to do is simply give a broad outline of what we are looking at.
The same goes for the N.T. overview we did.
Too often when new believers [or old!] make an attempt to ‘get into the bible’ they start with Genesis- and they quit in Leviticus!
It’s easy to get lost in the details- while not seeing the big picture.
So I like for believers to first go through a good overview of bible history- not so much a study of each book- which is good in its time- but more of getting a good grasp of the overriding themes.
Let’s end with an interesting encounter that Jesus had with a woman from ‘Samaria’. In John chapter 4 Jesus sees a woman at the well- he asks her ‘can you draw some water for me’. She is shocked- she says ‘why are you- a Jew- asking me- a Samaritan- to do this’.
And in parentheses- the apostle John writes [the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans]. This can actually be translated in a way that says legally the southern tribe of Judah was not allowed to do business with the northern tribe of Israel- now referred to as ‘the Samaritans’ which is the name of that original competing capitol city that Jeroboam set up in the north.
Ah- the racism- the elitism- it carried for hundreds of year- centuries of viewing the ‘other side’ as unclean.
What Jesus did at the well that day was indeed a violation of the rule of the day. When his disciples came back- and saw him talking to the woman- they were speechless.
This Samaritan woman goes on to believe in Jesus- and she goes and tells all the people in her home town- and many of them will believe too.
Something- after all those years- once again the Samaritans- and the Jews- and the Gentiles- well yes- the whole bunch- they will all become united once again under this king- this Son that has come from the royal line of Judah.
John writes about him in his strange book- called the book of Revelation- in chapter 5 he says no one was able to prevail to open the book in the hand of God.
There was crying- John and the others in this heavenly room before God felt hopeless.
Then an angel says to John ‘don’t weep- the lion FROM THE TRIBE OF JUDAH- he has prevailed to open the book and loose the seals- yes he is worthy’.
 I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU
Let’s try and close the week with some bible stuff- I might hit on a few news stories that are important- but let’s start with some scripture.
Today I had a good prayer time- If I get up at 3:30- and the morning is nice- it’s easy to pray for a few hours. On Friday [and Monday] I try to do a prayer routine that covers lots of stuff [world events, world leaders- yes I pray weekly for the president- and a bunch of other stuff].
I will walk the yard- and if there is no wind- then it’s kind of muggy- and it just seems like work. But this morning there was a nice wind- a higher ceiling for the clouds- and almost a full moon. Plus it’s raining as I write [I mean we have been in a drought!].
So it went well. Okay this week I read John 1 [as well as other stuff]. One morning I got up and couldn’t pray- and I remembered the verse where Jesus says ‘I have prayed for you’. I felt like the Lord was saying he took up the slack that day. The bible says Jesus is at the right hand of God and prays for us.
Then the next day I was listening to a favorite radio preacher- and he quoted the whole verse- Jesus says to Peter 'Peter- satan has desired to have you- that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not- and when you are turned again- strengthen your brothers’.
This occurred near the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus- he spent 3 years with his men- and then it was time to leave. At this point Jesus is spending whole nights in prayer to God- struggling with the completion of his mission- praying things like ‘God- if it’s possible- let this thing go away- if not- let your will be done’. And it’s an ‘existential’ experience [if I remember- I’ll explain this before the post ends].
Yet during this time of struggle- at some point- the Father reveals something to the Son- he tells Jesus ‘you friend Peter- there has been a request made on his life. Satan has come to me for permission to test him- I am going to allow him to go through some very difficult stuff’.
So during this tough time for Jesus- in the midst of his own personal turmoil- his soul ‘being poured out unto death’. He has only a moment with Peter- and he sees what is going to happen- and he simply relates to Peter what God had said.
In the book of Job we read how one day the angels came before God- and satan came too. He asked God for permission to go after Job- and for reasons that we don’t always understand- God said ‘okay’.
So in Peter’s case- this was destined to happen- he will be broken over the thing- probably hate himself for what he will do- yet it’s going to happen.
In John chapter 1 the religious leaders come to John the Baptist- they ask him who he is- sort of like ‘John- who do you think you are- what’s the end game here?’ John responds that he is not the Messiah- he is just a voice in the wilderness- preparing the way for the Lord.
John quotes the prophet Isaiah when he says ‘the voice of one’. They also ask him ‘are you that prophet that was supposed to come first’. This verse is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi. In chapter 3 the prophet says ‘the messenger of the covenant will come suddenly to his temple’ and it speaks of Christ and John.
But when they ask John ‘are you that prophet’ John says no. Was he the one who was to be the forerunner prophet? Actually yes- he was. How do we know this? Jesus himself will later testify that John indeed is the prophet who was to come ‘in the power and the spirit of Elijah’.
So this is one of those cases in the N.T. where you seem to have a contradiction. I think if we read carefully there really isn’t a contradiction- John might have really not understood that he was ‘that prophet’. John- like Peter- Like Jesus- like all the other ones in this story- they are having real life struggles- tough things they are dealing with- and in John’s case he might have thought ‘that prophet- are you kidding me- I’m barley surviving this thing’.
Now- we will read how John gets himself into some hot water. Not only is he preaching about The Lamb of God- he starts saying ‘Herod [the Roman ‘king’ figure that was over the Jewish people] you have take your brother Phillips wife- you can’t have her!’
Herod was the son of Herod the great- we read about ‘the great’ as being the king at the time of Jesus birth- he was the one who had all the babies killed because he heard that Christ was born and he wanted to wipe out the competition- this Messiah who would be ‘The King of the Jews’.
The funny thing was- Herod wasn’t a Jew. Yet he saw himself as the actual Messiah to the Jews- Rome gave Herod [the great] this figure head authority- and it literally went to his head. Now- Herod died soon after the slaughter of the kids- and his son would ‘reign in his place’.
This Herod would be the king at the time of Jesus earthly ministry. This is the king who John the Baptist was preaching against.
One time they came to Jesus- to kind of intimidate him- they said ‘you know- Herod knows about you- he will get you’. Jesus- you know- we are supposed to respect authority- right? He says ‘go tell that fox- that today and tomorrow I do healings and great works- and on the 3rd day I will be perfected’.
Perfected means ‘come to maturity’. This was a reference to his death and resurrection on the ‘3rd day’.
So Johns out there preaching against what he sees as corruption in govt. and one day they finally had enough- Herod puts John in prison.
Now John’s sitting there in prison- right at the time of this great ministry of Jesus. I mean Jesus is healing people left and right- raising the dead. I mean John must have felt vindicated- right?
John’s sitting in jail- and day after day- in this prison- he starts to think ‘geez- I have been stuck here for a while now- I mean I was the forerunner- Jesus said that about me- I’m the voice of one- the guy who proclaimed the truth when no one else was willing to take the risk- what the hell am I doing here- sitting in prison!’
John must have thought he was getting a bad deal. He sends 2 of his disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one- or should we look for another?’
Was he having doubts? Come on- Jesus is raising the dead for heaven’s sake- John was basically saying to Jesus ‘are you the one? If so- why am I still in the damn jail!’
John was being sifted. Peter will be- Job was too. For some strange reason- this is how things work. The bread has to be broken before it can feed people.
Of course we know the rest of the story- Herod's daughter in law will do a dance for the king- and the wife will get the head of John the Baptist on a platter- she got tired of hearing him.
Soren Kierkegaard- the 19th century Christian/Philosopher is considered to be the Father of Existentialism. Existentialism is the philosophy that says you start with ‘existence’ that is you begin the journey with real life passion- real interaction in life. Your failures and your high points- all these real things we experience in life- these are the things that shape us- that make us real.
Soren lived in a day where the Danish state church was dead and formal- and he spoke out against the dead lukewarm orthodoxy of his day.
One time he would say when he got tired of all the religious formalism- the fake plastic face we all put on so other people can’t really see our struggles- he said he would go read the Old Testament- the stories of murder and adultery and covering up crimes- he said these were real stories- of failure and success- of sitting in jail and thinking you might get out- but instead you get your head taken off.
These are the real stories of some of the most hallowed saints of history- yes- human frailty runs right through it all- like some scarlet thread.
One time Jesus said to Peter ‘I have prayed for you’ that sounds great when it stands alone- but when you see it in the context of the whole verse- then you realize that you just might be in for something that you never expected would happen- you might be getting ready to go through a real existential moment- face to face with your own failures and humanity.
Peter will later write ‘beloved- when you go thru trials- don’t think it strange. Realize your brothers are also going through them’ and ‘it is not only our privilege to believe on the name of Jesus- but it is also our privilege to suffer with him’.
Yes Peter went on to get past the sifting- the memory of being the disciple who denied Jesus. I mean Peter was the only one who walked on water [ besides Jesus]- he raised the dead in the book of Acts- how we remember him?
We remember the day he got sifted like wheat. It’s not easy to forget those days- and even harder to live through them.
Let’s continue our brief over view of the bible. The book of Exodus begins with Israel going into Egypt [connected with the end of Genesis] and the first 15 chapters deal with God raising up Moses and using him to deliver his people out of bondage.
We see the 10 plagues on Egypt- because they won’t ‘let God’s people go’ and we finally see the great parting of the Red Sea and Pharaohs armies drowning in the ocean.
God’s people receive the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai and they begin a very long wilderness journey [40 years].
The book ends with the building of the Tabernacle [a tent system that was the central focus of worship during their travels].
The book itself is a good read- not as slow as the next 3 to come [Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy] and it is the continuation of the promise that God made to Abraham in the book of Genesis. If you remember- God told Abraham if he left his home land and went into a strange land that God would bless him and make him into a great nation.
The Promised Land of course was not Egypt- but Canaan [modern day Israel/Palestine] yet we read a few occasions when things got rough during the journey- That Abraham [and his kids] would lose faith and for various reasons [famine] go ‘down into Egypt’.
So Egypt kind of represents a time of doubt- slavery for God’s people. During their wilderness journey- after God delivers them out of Egypt- they go back to their complaining ways.
At various times they say stuff like ‘why did you deliver us Moses- we have no food/water out here- only if we could go back and have the onions and good food we had in the good old days’.
This mantra becomes a stumbling block for Israel- time and again God will supernaturally provide the food and water [Manna, Quail- water from a Rock] and time and again they will complain.
Eventually we will read the story of them taking their Promised Land [the book of Joshua] but yet even at that point- they still have their doubts [12 spies go in to check the land out- only 2 come back with ‘a good report’- the others say ‘the land looks great- but the people living there are too much for us to defeat- we look like grasshoppers in their sight].
Like I said in the post on Genesis- you can view the Old Testament as the story of one man and his family.
God makes the initial promise to Abraham- and the rest of the Old Testament [Law, Prophets and wisdom books] cover that story.
It’s important to understand that all of these earthly land promises- they take on a much broader meaning in the New Testament- if you carefully read the writings of the apostles [especially Paul] you will see that they viewed the coming of Christ- and his death, resurrection and ascension to God- as the ultimate fulfilling of this promise.
Lots of language says ‘we are now all heirs of these promises- Jews and gentiles’ lots of language like that.
This has been a very contentious point in church history- most of the early church [Catholic, Orthodox] did accept this view [Saint Augustine was very influential in this area] and later on many Protestant churches would reject it.
But I think for the most part that the historic church got it right- while the Protestant view has some merits as well [Amillennialism, Dispensationalism are the various names given to these views].
Okay- out of all the figures in the bible- only 2 are said to be Mediators- those 2 are Moses and Jesus.
A mediator is the person who acts as the go between- when 2 parties enter into a covenant. Moses is the mediator of the Old Covenant- Jesus of the new.
In the gospel of John we read that ‘the law came through Moses- but grace and truth came through Jesus’.
John also says ‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us’. John uses the imagery of ‘the Word’ [called Logos Christology] a lot in his writings when referring to Jesus.
The words ‘Dwelt among us’ literally mean ‘he pitched his tent among us’ the same image of the tent [tabernacle] that was set up during the wilderness journey that we just spoke about.
This tent that was set up and taken down for the 40 year period of wandering [which eventually becomes the Old Testament Temple under King Solomon] was indeed a picture of Jesus.
Just like God was ‘in the tent’- the Ark that was in the Holy of Holies- the inner room- so likewise God was ‘In Christ- reconciling the world back unto himself’.
John said ‘The Word became flesh’. God became man- lived among us and redeemed us back unto himself thru Christ- once again we see that the entire bible- all the figures and stories and experiences- point to one thing- Jesus, the Christ- The Son of the Most High.
 DARWIN’S RELIGION
In keeping with the last post let’s do a little more on Genesis- and the whole debate over science and religion. Because of the way this debate raged right around the turn of the 20th century [18-19 hundreds] there were many fine Christians who sort of had the impression that Evolution- as fully defined in Darwin’s way- was indeed proven beyond all doubt.
This was certainly not true. What we were learning from science was basically the actual thing that Darwin observed on his Galapagos Island tour- science showed us that species of things do change/adapt to their environment over time. And that these changes do indeed get passed along to following generations.
Modern Biology does show us- beyond all doubt- that ‘micro’ evolution does take place [when I say micro I mean evolution within species].
Darwin- as well meaning as he was- carried the idea further and thought ‘heck, maybe that’s where all species have come from- one common ancestor that eventually branched off over millions of years- and that’s the starting point’.
Now- was Darwin a nut to think this? No- at the time [late 1800’s] we did not know what we know today. It was assumed that living cells were not complex and that something like this was possible.
But since Charlie’s day- we have found out that living cells- no matter how hard we try- or observe- they simply never ‘change’ from one type of cell into another.
As a matter of fact- this scientific fact is so tested- it has left many scientists to re think the whole theory.
Now- why is it so hard for them to ‘re think’ it? You have to understand- for anyone in the field of science to even talk about evolution possibly not being true- it puts you in the category of a nut case.
And I have read/heard statements from non Christian scientists who say this very thing. They can’t get heard- even though the most basic plank of Evolution [common ancestry] has basically been shown to never happen.
See the dilemma? Yet around the turn of the century many fine scholars- men like B.B. Warfield from Princeton- they embraced evolution because they thought the Genesis account left room for various interpretations. And they thought that Darwin was proven to be right- all the way.
So today we have the problem of biased science- that is science that has gotten to a point we they can’t really admit that after 150 years- it does seem that Darwin’s initial idea- which came at a primitive time- was just wrong.
Now- does this mean the ‘God’ idea is right? Well for me- and others- sure. But I can float another scenario- which would still not explain the actual origin of life- but it would fit better than common ancestry.
That idea would be instead of thinking that one original life form arose from the Primordial Soup- you say many arose.
That’s it- you have solved a huge problem by just adjusting the theory- so why don’t they adjust it? Well Darwin’s theory has become more of a religious belief than anything else- to challenge it is considered scientific heresy.
Okay- what about Genesis? Yesterday I gave you some ideas on how different people view it. At the same time that Evolution was being hyped- you also had what’s called ‘higher criticism’ arise out of the universities of Germany. These were the scholars [Butlmann- etc.] that kind of thought the new scientific age was on the rise- humanism was the future- and if there was any chance to ‘save religion’ then ‘religion’ had to adapt.
These guys meant well- but they threw out too much. They embraced an idea called ‘The Demythification of religion’. They thought that the bible still had valuable moral stories in it [Sermon on the Mount] but when it came to science and stuff like that- well a lot of that was told as Myth- not Myth life a fairy Tale- but Myth meant it really was unreliable in these areas.
Many fine men embraced an idea that challenged the historical accuracy of the first 11 chapters of Genesis- stories like a talking Serpent in the Garden- Noah’s Flood- the Tower of Babel- all of these ‘stories’ are found in the first 11 chapters- and it was easy for these scholars to say ‘see- these are not ‘real’ stories- they are Myth’.
Okay- what’s the problem? Well- when you look at various portions of the bible- it is true that some parts are poetry- others are historical narrative- others are Prophetic- and it is helpful to know these types of distinctions.
But if you view Adam and Eve- or Noah’s Flood [you know- the whole world being saved by a man and his family on a boat!] If you read the New Testament Jesus says ‘as it was in the days of Noah’ or ‘in the beginning God created them male and female’ now you have Jesus referring to these first 11 chapters- and he is speaking about them in a way that sure sounds like true history.
See? So these types of debates do rage at times- but overall the bible has stood up to the test of time. Many of the critics will use some of these things to challenge the church- and in a noble effort some good scholars jumped a little too quickly onto the Darwin bandwagon- especially at a time when some scientists are looking for a way to get off!
 HE NAILED IT TO THE CROSS
[Correction- in the last post I mentioned birds having a different respiratory system than other animals. The mistake I want to correct is birds do have a sort of lung system- but they don’t have a diaphragm- they don’t breathe in and out- the same way other animals/people do. Everything else in the post is accurate- just wanted to clarify this part].
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordnances- that he might create in himself one new man so making peace….and you who were dead in sins God made alive…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us..He took the law and nailed it to his Cross’ Ephesians chapter 2 and Colossians chapter 2.
Okay- as I have said in the last few posts- most of our New Testament was made up of the letters that the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in the 1st century. The main themes of these letters are the death and resurrection of Christ- the Cross- what that means to us.
These 2 chapters mentioned above deal with what’s called a Mystery. In the N.T. writings of Paul- mystery simply means the revealing of a truth for the 1st time. One of these truths was the reality that Jesus took the law [10 commandments and all the regulations that man could not live up to] and he nailed it to his Cross.
Now- when he did this- he not only reconciled [brought us back] us to God- but he also removed the ‘enmity’ that caused ethnic divisions between the Jews and non Jews.
In today’s terms we would say the death of Christ removes all racial/ethnic barriers between the people groups of the world. When people read these types of verses- maybe for the first time- it does seem to go against the common understanding that most Christians have.
We often are raised in a good church as kids- I went to Catholic school for the first few years of my life- then switched to public school so I could hang out with my friends. But I still went to CCD classes right down the block from my grade school.
And for the most part I learned Christianity from good priests- and the process was worth it [though many of my Protestant friends will be upset with me because I say stuff like this]. And like most ‘good’ kids- some of the stuff stuck with me- but lots just fell away.
Eventually I would go thru some crisis things- got in some trouble in Texas- was a young kid on my own- and did get into reading the bible.
That’s what really did it for me- reading these truths- straight from the bible- thinking ‘geez- I never knew the bible actually said stuff like this!’
And Walla- a Texas convert! But as time progressed- and I began to get serious about studying church history and the whole realm of Christianity- I came back to an appreciation of my early Catholic roots- I didn’t have to ‘hate’ the Catholics- like many of my friends did [and do] I just needed to see the overall view of the bible- and understand that many churches- like all institutions- do have a tendency to get lost in the bureaucracy as time moves on.
So my goal at this season is to simply re introduce a lot of the bible teachings- along with a healthy appreciation of the historic churches.
The above verses talk about the New Covenant- like I said these past few days- the New Covenant is the new ‘deal’ that God made with man- saying ‘My Son died for you- if you believe- by faith- you will be saved’. Now- this deal- as opposed to the old deal [called the Old Covenant] is really great news-
That’s what the word Gospel means- good news. Of course for people who are not familiar with the bible- it just seems so strange to read a verse that says ‘Jesus took the law- the commandments that were against us- the ones we could never live up to- and he nailed them to his Cross’.
I mean this goes against what most well meaning Christians believe- that if they try their best- keep the churches rules- obey the commandants- then they will be saved.
But that’s actually approaching God with an Old Covenant mindset- not seeing salvation as a free gift- but something you earn.
How did the church in general get away from truths like this? After the first century church moved on- you did have the church go thru lots of stages. Some Protestants hold a view that in the 4th century- under the Emperor Constantine- that the church became pagan/Catholic- and that this started a 1000 year process of the Dark Ages.
I find this view to be too harsh- and prefer to see it like this. Yes, the early church did go off the rails at times- yet there were also many good things that did happen during the so called Dark Ages. At one point the only institution that existed for the protection of society was indeed the Catholic Church.
Nations appealed to her as the final arbiter for justice and fairness in the world.
As the 2nd millennium of the Christian era progressed- you had the development of the University system and the rise of the independent nation states. Germany, England, France- many nation states began to develop armies/navies- and there was a sense of real independence from Rome.
This allowed for a sort of dynamic where the leading scholars of the day [Luther, Calvin, etc..] to be able to break away from what they saw as too much church tradition- and start a movement that would get closer to the bible.
We call this the Protestant Reformation- took place in the 1500’s. Okay- during these debates the Protestants wanted to get back to the basic teachings of the New Testament and in a noble effort- they replaced the style of church- and basically removed the communion table as the central focus of the mass/service- and replaced it with a pulpit.
That is- the new focus was the bible. Okay- we got some good things- and bad things- from this. Now- most of my Protestant friends would say ‘bad- what’s bad!’
Like everything in life- it takes time to see things- and this is one of those things. What slowly happened in protestant churches was the focus shifted from the ‘Table of the Lord’ to the person speaking. In Many present Protestant churches- you basically have a large theatre where people come to hear speaking every Sunday- and this has become a very limited view of what ‘church’ is.
So even though the Protestants meant well- they in a way did remove Christ [as represented thru the Lords Table] and replaced him with the speaking office- and exalted the speaking office to a degree that is really not seen in the churches we read about in the bible.
So as you can see- we have all made some mistakes- and in time we can see the things that need to be corrected- and make those adjustments.
I prefer to see my Catholic past as a good thing- having been blessed to have had a chance to learn abut God and Christian history- even though I didn’t pay attention too well.
And I also thank God for the various Protestants expressions of Christianity that I have come in contact with over the years.
I would encourage all my friends to make an effort to get back to the bible- read these chapters I mention every so often- mediate on these truths- think about them ‘wow- the New Testament teaches that Jesus took the law- and nailed it to his Cross’. This doesn’t mean we can now go out and kill, steal- commit adultery. But it means we are saved by God’s grace. The gift of faith is given freely- we don’t save ourselves through trying real hard to live up to the church rules.
Yes- the bible calls this good news- and if you think about it- it really is.
 MORE ON THE BIBLE
Let’s cover a little more doctrinal stuff- and if I get a chance I’ll do some practical stuff too. Okay- in the last post I covered some historical stuff about the bible- I mentioned how Catholics have 15 more books in their bibles than Protestants.
Why did this happen- or how? Okay- this might get a little technical, but those of you who have been reading my posts this past month will remember that I covered some ‘Intertestamental’ history- which means the years between the last book of the Protestant bible [Malachi] and the first New Testament book- Matthew.
These years are actually covered historically in the Apocrypha- during this time we also had a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. Remember how I spoke about Hellenization- which was the attempt by Alexander the Great to introduce one Greek language and culture into all the conquered territories.
Well one of the things the Greeks did was had the Jewish bible [our Old Testament] translated from Hebrew into Greek. This version is called the Septuagint- which gets its name from the so called number of scholars who translated it- it means 70.
Okay- this version was also popular in the early church- why? The early believers did read Greek- Greek was the common language of the first few centuries- when the church was born. [thus our New Testament is in Greek- originally]
Now- the early Christians had sort of a common consensus on what made up ‘the bible’. They accepted the Old Testament books- because these books were recognized by the Jews as being Canonical [which means inspired by God]. But what about the N.T.?
Like I said in the last post- the early church had a collection of writings that they used/understood to be ‘from God’. That is they had the acceptance- generally- from the Christian community. But they did not have ‘a bible’ like we have today- that is everyone walking around with a bible in book form [called codex in those days- an early book] they all did not own copies of the bible.
Remember- publishing as we know it today- didn’t arrive on the scene until right around the turn of the 16th century with the Guttenberg printing press. So any copies of books- or any efforts to put a bible together- well it would make sense to maybe include some history books along with it.
And this is also why some of the early letters seem to have ‘copied’ parts of other letters in them [Jude and 2nd Peter] not because they were plagiarized- but because books were not easily purchased- and it was acceptable- for standards of the day- to include some material from another writers pen [with his permission] in your own letter.
Okay- now when the early believers decided it was time to actually say ‘these books are in- these are not’. They had general agreement on what was in- with a few exceptions. Some early believers had the Letter of Barnabus in their bibles- others did not have Revelation. Some believers haggled over 2nd Peter [because of what I mentioned above] and others wanted a few more books in.
But the basic corpus of our N.T. was accepted by the church at large.
Now- after a few centuries the church felt it important to put her stamp of approval on the books. And the early church had a council or 2 and finally agreed on what we have today.
One of the early Popes asked a church father- named Jerome- to make a Latin translation of the bible. Jerome included the Old Testament and the N.T. - and he also included the 15 books of the Apocrypha. Why?
Jerome’s bible- called the Vulgate- was translated from the early Greek Old Testament- the Septuagint. Now- the Septuagint is/was a good scholarly work- but the original Old Testament was in Hebrew- not Greek. The Septuagint did have the Apocrypha in it.
And the inclusion of the Apocrypha was a utilitarian thing to do- if you could get these historical books in the bible- then good- you don’t have to have early believers trying to get hold of a separate history book that would fill in the blanks- remember- books were hard to come by.
Okay- Catholics and Protestants have argued over whether these extra books should be in. Protestants [and some Catholics] argue that the Old Testament books are called ‘the Law and the Prophets’ these books are quoted hundreds of times in the N.T. - even by Jesus. Yet there are no quotes from the Apocrypha.
This side argues that the Jewish people did not believe these books to be inspired- and that the N.T. itself does not put the same weight on these books as they do with the Old Testament.
The Catholic scholars argue that there are a few allusions to the Apocrypha in the N.T. [there are a couple- can go either way in my view] and they do make the point that all the bibles did have these books in them right up until the Protestant Reformation [remember- the Latin Vulgate did have the Apocrypha- though Jerome did say in the notes that the Jewish people did not recognize them on an equal plain with the ‘Law and the Prophets’- the Old Testament].
Okay- then during the 16th century Protestant Reformation- at one point in the debates the Catholic scholars argued with Luther- and they did quote from the Apocrypha to prove some doctrinal points.
Luther and the other Reformers challenged the canonicity of the books- and with the plethora of English versions of the bible being printed for the first time in centuries- the Protestants did not include these books in their versions.
The Catholics stuck with the books.
Okay- do debates like this mean we can’t agree on the actual message of Christ? No. There is really no problem in reading the Apocrypha- even if you’re a Protestant. We [Protestants] don’t accept them as ‘canon’ yet as readers of history- we should be able to read them.
And even if our Catholic brothers and sisters do accept them- there are really no major doctrinal departures from the rest of the bible. To be honest- there are a few references that Protestants do have problems with- but overall they don’t undermine the main message of the N.T.
And just a point of interest- the first 2 books [1st, 2nd Esdras] have been challenged- even by Catholic scholars- as not being part of the bible. Yet in 2nd Esdras we find a reference to Christ that does seem to be prophetic. It speaks of a king entering Jerusalem and he is standing in the middle of the people- handing out Palms.
This depicts the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem- which is in the gospels [Palm Sunday]. So it is interesting that this reference might actually be prophetic in nature.
Okay- got into the weeds somewhat- but wanted to show you guys that all Christians agree on the main points- and just because there are things we disagree on- yet the message of the Cross doesn’t change.
Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say ‘we might not all be able to sit in the same pew- but we can all meet on our knees under the shadow of the foot of the Cross’ Amen.
 OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLE
Let’s cover some biblical history- that is the making of the bible itself. A few days ago I did a post on Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God made to natural Israel. The post showed how the early Jewish people saw Jesus as their Messiah- the promised one that they were always looking for.
The earliest mention of the promise goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God tells Eve that her child shall bruise the serpent’s head- and the serpent [actually the ‘seed’ or child] will bruise his heel. There have been works of art [statues/paintings] depicting this scene for centuries. It was fulfilled at the Cross.
So we have the 4 gospel accounts- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John- and these accounts give us the history of Jesus- his miracles and teachings- and they show us the fulfillment of God’s promise- made centuries before- that he would send them their Messiah.
Out of the 4 gospels- only one- John- has a different outline. The first 3- we call them Synoptic gospels. They follow the same basic structure- Johns stands alone.
John’s gospel contains no teachings about the end times- like the others. John doesn’t mention the parables- or the Sermon on the Mount. John’s gospel focuses more on the last week of the life of Christ- while the others cover the 3 years of Jesus earthly ministry [none cover the early years of Jesus- except for the account of Jesus being left behind at the temple when he was 12 years old].
The whole bible [Old and New testaments] have 66 books- 39 Old- 27 new. Only 3 original apostles actually wrote parts of the N.T. Matthew, John and Peter. Out of these 3- John wrote the most. He has his gospel- the three epistles [1st,2nd and 3rd John] and the book of Revelation.
The majority of the N.T. is made up of the collection of the apostle Paul’s letters. Paul is without a doubt the most influential person in the N.T.- besides Christ.
We also have the historical account of the early church- called The Acts of the Apostles- written by the same Luke that wrote the gospel. Luke was a doctor- and an historian. Then you have what’s called the General epistles- the kind of stand alone letters- Peters 2 letters, Jude, a few more like that.
And the New Testament closes with the apocalyptic book [prophecy] of Revelation- written by John [most think the apostle- some think another John- called ‘John of Patmos’]
Okay- one of the major themes of the N.T. is what we hit on the other day- a teaching called Justification by Faith. This is the main thrust of Paul’s doctrinal epistles [Romans, Galatians] and becomes a point of contention in the early church. The teaching is simple- it means the N.T. is a covenant- made by God with man [and with Jesus] that says God will give eternal life to all those who accept the death and resurrection of Jesus. That Jesus died for the sins of man- and because you believe in this free gift- your are/will be saved.
Now- the bible obviously says a lot more than this- but this doctrine becomes one of the main ones because this is the controversy that the apostle Paul dealt with for most of his ministry years.
I mentioned this the other day in a previous post.
Paul also has 3 epistles [letters] that are called The Pastoral epistles- these are 1st, 2nd Timothy and Titus. These are called Pastorals because these young men were protégés of Paul- he trained them up as local leaders who he could recommend to the early believers as trustworthy leaders- after he would leave a community.
These men did not function like what we usually call Pastors in our day- that is sort of a speaker preaching every Sunday at the ‘Main church’ building- but they were spiritual overseers- they led the flock in a way that if problems arose- these men could be looked to as honest guides.
Remember- in the 1st century- you did not have means of communication like we have today- so if Paul left a community [which is what the word church means in the bible- Greek- Ecclesia]. And if a problem rose up- like those who were coming in and saying the Gentiles had to become circumcised and keep the law- then the believers could look to the men Paul left his stamp of approval on.
Paul would of course correspond with these early communities- thus the letters- but until the letters arrived- the ‘Timothy’s’ would do.
Okay- the last book of the bible- Revelation- has gotten a lot of use- often too much- in the sense that we- especially lone wolf Protestant groups- have really done loops with the book.
Overall- the theme is about Christ [Lamb of God] being the central focus of this new kingdom of Priests and Kings [us] and even though there will be tough times [lots of the images of tests and trials] yet at the end of the day- we are ‘married’ to this Lamb [Jesus is called the groom in scripture- and the church is called the bride. God restores in the last book of the bible- what was lost in the first book- relationship- pictured as marriage] and we all live in a new heaven and new earth- and the story ends well.
Okay- just a few more points. The main message of the bible is that God made man [Genesis] he wanted man to be in communion [friendship] with him. Man sinned and this began the long process of God making promises to man [through/to the nation of Israel- and eventually it would extend to all men- thus the apostle Paul working with the Gentiles] that he would save man thru the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All people who simply accept this benefit- they will be children of God. The focus should not be on anti Christ- or when the end of the world will happen- or on any other of a host of teachings that the church likes to dwell on- but the focus is God loving man so much- that he sent his Son to die for man- and we can be saved thru him.
Over the coming weeks I hope to do a little more on the development of the bible- why do protestants have 66 books- and Catholics have an extra 15? I’ll cover it fairly- giving the Catholic view as well as the Protestant one- and promise not to push only one view. But things like this are real questions that honest people have- and I want to help people get a better hold on the thing.
Okay- try and read some of the N.T. these next few days- overview some of the letters I mentioned- maybe read John’s gospel- Romans. I would wait on Revelation for now- I hope to give some hints that will make it easier to understand- so after I cover that a little more- then that would be a good one to read too.
And as you read Johns gospel- notice how many times the word Believe appears- being connected with those who believe have eternal life. That’s one of the strongest promises in the bible- and its Jesus doing the talking! So maybe memorize a few of them- like the famous John 3:16 verse- those types of verses last a lifetime- and longer.
 RICK PERRY- HE NEEDS HELP- BAD!
Okay- just a little politics- then some bible stuff.
Last night I watched the Repub debate- nothing real impressive- everyone played their angle. I also saw a few minutes of Maddow [MSNBC]. Okay- I have mentioned Maddow before- I mentioned that she is a lesbian- openly so. Fine [I don’t approve of the thing- but that’s her business] I want to simply give you an example of inconsistent thinking that people often engage in- and they don’t know it.
A few days ago a report slipped out- some insider leaked the fact that Obama [and his re election team] have made the decision to smear Perry. Now- I know both sides do it- but this was a leak and Obama and his team were mad about the leak.
Then- like clockwork- MSNBC began a week of smearing Perry- I mean it was ‘funny’ to see the sycophants- I mean they were like Pavlov’s dogs ‘jump- drool’ the whole 9 yards. First- they did a critique of the ‘Houston prayer and fasting’ thing- Perry announced a prayer day- had a bunch of preachers [who I actually disagree with theologically] at the event- and Maddow [Rachel Maddow- host of a news show] did an ‘in depth’ critique of all the ‘crazies’ that Perry was aligned with.
She misrepresented the whole group of preachers- even though I do not hold to many of their views- she said they were part of the evangelical movements ‘theocratic’ wing. Theocracy is the belief that religion should actually be a govt./state function- many in the Islamic world hold to this view.
Okay- the actual name for Christians who believe this is Reconstructionism- these Christians do hold to this view- they are a very small minority- and the group Perry was hanging with- they are in no way Reconstructionists.
Second- Maddow critiqued ‘religion’ as she has in the past- and said her only problem with people like Perry- is they want to impose their values on others.
If Rachel were a smart apologist [one who argues this point- but is smart] she would realize that all persons- especially her- do argue- all the time- from a natural law perspective. That is they- even though they deny it- are making the point- all the time- that their particular view of morality- whether it be gay marriage- or anti polygamy- or any other host of moral ideals- they all argue for the ‘legislation of morality’ legislation [the passing of law] is by definition the legislation of morality.
Now- if that law is simply ‘can't drive 70 in a 60 MPH zone’ this is the legislation of morality. The moral principle is ‘don’t drive this speed- it might kill you- and me’ and then we pass a law that legislates that moral belief. Pretty simple.
Okay- what Maddow is mad about- is the legislation of morality that effects her particular lifestyle. Now- she might say ‘well- we believe that consenting adults should be free to do what they want in the bedroom’ okay- got ya.
Would you agree to 2 adults- lets say a brother and sister- who have no ability to have kids- should we let them marry?
Most would rightfully say no- the point is- you are now defining what’s ‘right or wrong’ and it’s not simply a matter of what 2 adults want- it’s truly a matter of ‘right or wrong’.
I could go on- ad infinitum- with these examples- the point is Maddow- like Perry- like the left- the right- they all have some sense of ethics- where they derive that ideal from- well that’s another point- but they have their own ‘morality’ and they do in fact want to impose it- all the time- on other people.
So let’s at least be honest about the thing. Okay she finished her show last night with an image- she said that the true insiders- who know Perry- they will ALL tell you that they are concerned about Perry- they actually feel his is ‘dumb’.
She explained that these insiders- they all knew Bush was really smart [wow- never heard you say that before] yet they all think Perry is actually mentally challenged [I kid you not- she went down this road] and that these Repub insiders- they actually fear for the country- that a dangerous loose cannon like this might take the reins.
Okay- Maddow- who I’m sure would not appreciate us giving images of the things she does- or how ‘smart’ she is- she left us with the mental image that Perry is actually mentally challenged. The same image of Palin, Bachman, ETC.
What’s wrong with this picture? Even though she claims ‘the insiders all said Bush was a genius’ yet her network- they ran with the story that Bush was actually dyslexic- yeah- I remember. Look- I’ll admit I’m no saint here- yeah I too have made jokes about Bush’s brain.
Sure- I would say ‘hey- you critics of Bush- who said- look at the man- after the planes hit the towers- Bush sat- dumbfounded for around 7 minutes- sitting in that classroom- just looking confused’ Okay- I’ll admit I would quip ‘you guys are misreading it- he wasn’t confused about the response- he was sitting in a 3rd grade class- he was struggling with the curriculum’. Okay- I fess up.
But Maddow left us with that ugly picture- the seed of thinking ‘geez- I never knew others viewed Perry that way’ and even I couldn’t shake the mental image- now thinking that he might really be what she said.
They slandered him just as bad as the right has slandered their guys- they should just report the policies and leave this type of character assassination at home.
Okay- I didn’t’ really do any bible stuff- but I covered a little on the moral law and ethics- which fits in with theology. So for now I’ll leave it at that.
Don’t forget- to all my friends who read these posts- pray for one another. I just finished a prayer time and prayed for a bunch of my friends [and those in other nations] who are connected with us in some way- many are going through tough times- and it helps if others are also praying for each other. Pray for everyone on these sites- others who you see when going thru the site- you see a name- or a post that might indicate a friend is in trouble- then try and pray for them that day- stuff like this helps.
And of course pray for Texas- we need it bad- I just found out that our governor is actually an ignoramus- I mean not just of low intellect- but so challenged that all the insiders fear for the safety of the free world if he gets elected. The source?- The same people who said ‘we believe that Obama is possibly the smartest person to ever hold the office of the president- he more than likely has the highest I.Q. than any other office holder in the history of the nation’. The other reporter asked ‘do you know what the number is’ the first guy said ‘no- but I know its very high- higher than any other president’. This was an actual on air discourse between 2 reporters during the inauguration celebration of president Obama.
Yeah- these are just the type of folk I need telling me about Perry’s I.Q.- yeah- they sure know their stuff.
 THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
I was gonna wait till next week to post- but there has been some important news stuff going on- and last night S&P actually downgraded our rating [from AAA to AA+]. So let’s do some today.
Of course last week we finally raised the debt ceiling- our debt will now hit around 17 trillion [wow] until the next raise. I found it interesting to see how the media try’s to tell the public what they think is best- and they actually lie quite a bit.
A few weeks back CNN started a new show with Fahreed Zakariah- I thought I would like it- Fahreed is somewhat of an intellectual and I have heard him in debates before. The only drawback I saw [in the past] was he seemed to take one position- and defend it vigorously- and then take the other side at another time- and sware that this time he was right.
Okay- during the debt ceiling debate- many on the left described the ‘Tea Party’ as nuts- terrorists, psycho’s- the whole deal. It did get a little ridiculous after a while. I saw Fahreed- you know- the smart guy- he tried to give an in intellectual argument to why the Tea Party was ‘subverting the constitution- and actually bringing down the Democracy’ what? Yes- he explained how our govt. has 3 branches- and when one party [Dems] hold 2 [Pres, Senate] that if a minority of the 3rd branch [Tea Part- minority in the house] ‘take hostage’ the country- then they have actually subverted the Republic.
He then went on to attack the whole Tea Party mantra- their idea of cuts without taxes- everything. He then explained that the entire world has compared us to Europe [now it gets bad] and that even Europe looks good compared to us- he said that the Europeans have actually ‘shown the world’ that they are very reasonable compared to the U.S. in their dealing responsibly with their debt crisis.
Now- the very next day- because of European fears [no matter what anyone says- they have not solved their debt problem- it has actually spread this week- Italy is on the edge right now] we began to see the market collapse [dow went to 11,300 from a high of 12,500]. There are many reasons that this happened- but one of the main ones is the fear that the European debt crisis might spread to the globe.
So- the night before Fahreed said the world compared us to Europe- and the reasons we are in trouble is because we did not act responsibly- like Europe.
Then when asked ‘overall- is it at least good that we made the deal and avoided default’ he said no- and then made the actual Tea Party case to defend his position. He said that the deal only cuts a few billion in the beginning years [which he has advocated before!] and then he said- the way congress spends- ‘there’s no guarantee that they will ever stick to the cuts’. This is the exact argument the Tea Party made- to the tee!
That’s why they fought for a constitutional amendment- which Fahreed does not want.
Okay- then MSNBC had on an addiction specialist [I kid you not] to analyze the mental health of the tea party. Martin Bashir asked this guy to explain the danger of the Tea Party. The shrink went on to explain that when addicts have unrealistic expectations [Tea Party- cuts and no taxes= want dugs to make me happy] that they will resort to any means to get what they want [Heroin addict- give me your money or I’ll shoot. Tea Party- do the cuts or well not vote for a debt increase] when addicts do not see the danger of their unrealistic expectations- then yes- you get Oslo, Norway. You must be kidding- they had a guy on the air- comparing the position of the right to the guy who killed 80 people in Norway- and he [like Fahreed] tried to make it sound respectable.
On the news last night- before the downgrade- the jobs numbers came out for July. Now- news addicts like myself watch these things closely. The ‘left’ wants real bad to have some good news for the average folk. If the numbers are bad [under 200,000 new jobs is bad] then that doesn’t help. But there was no way the numbers would be above 200 thousand- I mean no one predicted that. They were hoping that they would at least be around 100,000- and not like the last report- where they hoped for 100 thousand and got around 18,000.
So as I perused the talking heads [ABC, CBS, NBC] of course they talked about the ‘number’ of unemployment dropping to 9.1 from 9.2- the number that I was waiting to see was the actual jobs number- how many new jobs were created last month?
Instead- I saw a screen graphic [you know- Lemmings like graphics- they think if they show the public anything- well they will never know] and it showed 230,000 new jobs [what!] and the unemployment dropping to 9.1 [from 9.2].
I immediately new they were lying- they were gonna show what they wanted to show you- and if they can tell you their story- any way they can- they will.
So- the small print [under the 230,000 jobs number] was the total manufacturing jobs gained- get this- since 12-09. What? Why take one sector- and go back to Dec. of 2009- and then add it up and show on the screen ‘230,000’ new jobs. Well, that’s the only jobs number [230,000- for total jobs from July] that would fit with the picture ‘unemployment went down to 9.1’. [Note- the reason 130,000 new jobs does not lower the overall rate is because that does not even keep up with the population growth of the country- we get over 100,000 new people seeking jobs every month]
No other jobs number would work. So they simply lied- they gave you a picture- false- and thought ‘you know- the average folk- we tell them what we think they should hear’.
So how did the unemployment number drop to 9.1? There are various factors that make up the number- some months you have natural weather disasters [snow storms] and people simply don’t go looking for work- that skews the number. Other months- people have been out of work so long- they give up- that skews the number.
But if the total jobs were only 130,000- then you know for a fact- that the real number didn’t drop a decimal Point- cant happen.
So more than likely some people didn’t go job shopping last month- and that skewed the number. But- the media knew they needed you to see the headline ‘230,000 new jobs’ and ‘unemployment down- 9.2 to 9.1’ and by golly- they found a way to make that happen.
Now- I hate to say [well actually I don’t hate it] ‘I told you so’ but heck- I did! If you go back and read/check the last months posts- somewhere in there I said ‘people must be nuts to be in the stock market right now’ now- I gave the caveat ‘I’m not telling you to get out’ but I then went on and said ‘if you’re smart- get out’.
Every media financial guy that was on the air- bar none- said ‘to the average investor- don’t panic- stay in the market’. Yet- in the past few weeks- 98% of trades that were done by these professional fund managers- who manage 401 k’s- 98 % were trades fleeing the stocks and going into bonds. Why? The Dow was at 12,500 [too high in my view] and we were facing all types of bad news. The Greek debt crisis [now more than Greece] the entire U.S. housing market is still a mess- and will be for a long time. The jobs numbers are terrible- and every indicator tells me these next few years are not going to be good.
So- if the odds of the economy getting worse are very high- then why take the risk of staying in right on the verge of a possible collapse? I know we can’t ‘time the market’- but heck- all those fund managers thought you could. Look- there was [is] no chance that the market was gonna hit 13,000 in the next few weeks- and a very great chance that it would collapse- then get your money out for the danger week/month- and if the sky doesn’t fall- then you can get back in- there was no chance you were going to miss a bull market- none.
But all the guys on the news said ‘stay in- hang in there’ and at the same time they- and all the professional funds they managed- they all jumped ship- left the stocks and fled for safety- while telling you ‘you can’t time the market’ yes- we are the lemmings.
Okay- then last night- well the S&P downgraded us- for the first time ever. Why? Well besides all the stuff I just mentioned- they felt the debt deal did not go far enough- that we needed to at least cut 4 trillion in spending over 10 years- we did about half that.
The defenders of the president were out in numbers- blaming the S&P for bad math [yeah- they did make a mistake- but that doesn’t change the overall picture one iota] and the reality is- the global economy is in trouble. Now- when you downgrade an entity [state, city, nation- bank, etc.] that means that entity has to pay you more interest if you buy their debt [treasury bonds]. But the last few weeks we have seen all the professional money fleeing stocks- and yes- going into U.S. bonds. Look- these investors know the scoop- S&P didn’t reveal anything that we didn’t already know- so the fact is- yeah it’s bad that we got downgraded- but the other investment options are so bad- that at the end of the day- people are still buying U.S. debt.
In high school I had a teacher- Mr. Steinberg. Mr. Steinberg was not ‘cool’ as a matter of fact- he seemed a little nerdy. He was Jewish- and at times wore a Star of David necklace- it was big- it was like he was asking for the persecution.
I liked Mr. Steinberg- and respected him for not being ashamed of his faith. It was in his class [English] that I was introduced to the great classics. Grapes of Wrath, Old man and the sea- all the classics. After we covered a book- he would check the TV Guide and when the made for TV movie was on- he assigned us to watch it.
Both of the above books/movies became favorites of mine- till this day I’ll watch them when they pop up on the classic channel. I actually have the Grapes of Wrath book sitting right here.
But the movie- Old man and the Sea- enthralled me. The struggle of the old man- his fight with the great fish- his arm wrestling bouts with the younger guys- the whole mystique was my thing.
The author- Hemingway- was himself a ‘mans man’ he lived large- took in all the experiences of life- and embraced a philosophy of life called Nihilism. This world view was popularized by men like Sartre, Camus and Freud. It basically is atheistic and says ‘there is no real meaning to life- man is a ‘useless passion’- he exists, only for the purpose of experiencing life- when the pain exceeds the pleasure- that the responsible thing to do is check out’. Yes- this philosophy advocates suicide.
Sartre [John Paul Sartre] actually said that the only philosophical question left is suicide- that we need to ask ourselves- as a society- should we allow ourselves to check out- for the good of the whole- when the pain exceeds the pleasure.
Another great work of Hemingway is titled ‘the Sun also rises’. He took the title from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes- written by Solomon [you know- to everything there is a season]. Solomon also embraces a sort of nihilistic view in this book- though it is in the bible- it is a form of literature called ‘pessimistic wisdom literature’. Sort of the philosophy Hemingway embraced.
Hemingway spoke about this view all thru out his life- though he was a brilliant writer- he had no hope ‘in the world’ [Apostle Paul]. One night, after he went to bed with his wife- he woke up- went downstairs and rigged up his favorite hunting rifle- and blew his head off. His daughter followed him a few years later.
I don’t know what’s down the road for our world right now- there are many people feeling hopeless today because they have lost- yes once again- a big portion of their wealth. As Christians we can say ‘yes- life is hard- we struggle at times- but in the end our struggles are working out a higher purpose- we have meaning in life’ but the atheist/nihilist- to them there is no redemptive purpose to the struggle- when the pain exceeds the pleasure- well yes- they check out.
Over the next few weeks- wherever you are at- think for yourself. If all the professional investors take their money out of stocks- and at the same time they advise you different- then stop listening to them. If your mad at the right [or left] then don’t keep watching people who are coming up with diagnosis’ that say the country is being run by actual Oslo killers- that’s just not true- no matter how much you might hate their point of view.
And at the end of the day- we as believers- we do have hope in the world. Mr. Steinberg wore that star of David- proudly. And in a recent post [Last?] I spoke about the promise that God made to king David- that he would raise up one of his sons and this Son would rule on the throne for ever. Yes- today this promise has been fulfilled through Christ- who sits at the right hand of God.
I don’t know- maybe I’ll rent the Old man and the Sea later [I tried in the past but couldn’t find it] and I’ll see the struggle of the old man [played excellently by Spencer Tracy] but instead of embracing his creators view [that is his earthly creator- Hemingway] I’ll ‘give’ my sufferings up- as the Catholics say- I’ll offer them to the Lord. Hemingway took the cowards way out- at the end of the day- he wasn’t the man we thought he was- he copped out.
 CALLING ALL ANGELS
Let’s try and do some teaching today. A few weeks back I mentioned how I kept ‘stumbling’ upon bible verses that speak about angels- especially Gabriel and Michael. I mentioned how I was praying for Persia [geez- who prays for Persia?] and I started praying for God to send Gabriel and Michael to ‘war’ against any leaders who were wicked.
Okay- this all started at a time when I was doing a teaching on Islam- and was [and still am] praying a lot about the Arab Spring. Anyway- one morning- after praying like this- I felt the Lord leading me to read Daniel [I think chapter 8?].
Anyway as I read the chapter- God says ‘I heard your prayer- and I have sent Gabriel and Michael to go and war against the prince of Persia’. Man- you can’t make stuff like this up. Anyway- I actually had a few more of these ‘angel signs’ that I didn’t get into. The other day I mentioned how when I woke up- I felt the Lord wanted me to read Revelation 12- sure enough- there you have Michael warring against the dragon- helping the woman who is being attacked. Then this morning- I felt like we should do Luke chapter 1. And again- you have Gabriel telling Zacharias that his sons name will be John. And Gabriel communicating with the Virgin Mary.
I just found it strange that I have been bumping into all these angel chapters- I mean I do realize the bible has accounts of angels- but the odds on accidently hitting all these chapters- while not looking for them- it’s not that easy.
Okay- when we read the bible [which I hope you guys are doing] it’s easy to read straight thru the gospels- and not notice the details. Luke’s gospel has more accounts of women speaking- their dialogue- than any other gospel. Some scholars think Luke actually interviewed the Virgin Mary in his compilation of his gospel.
Marks gospel refers to Jesus as ‘the Son of man’- Matthews gospel uses the term Kingdom of Heaven in place of Kingdom of God. Out of all the titles used for Jesus- the term Son of Man is the 3rd most popular. Jesus Christ [Messiah] and Son of God are popular- but the term Son of Man comes from the vision that the prophet Daniel had.
It’s interesting to note- that even though this term is ‘less honorable’ than the others- yet when Jesus is referring to himself- it is the most common term that he uses.
In Luke chapter 1- we see an interesting thing. When the angel Gabriel [the only angels given names in the bible are Gabriel and Michael] speaks to Mary and Zacharias [John the Baptist’s dad] they take the good news as an answer to the promises that God made to the Jewish nation years before. Both Mary and John’s dad say ‘you have kept the promise you made to Abraham- you have kept the promise made to King David’.
What promise? Right at the beginning of the biblical story [Genesis] we see God interacting with man- he chooses Abraham to start a ‘conversation’ with. This journey eventually leads to the birthing of the nation of Israel. Abraham has Isaac- Isaac has Jacob- and Jacobs name is changed to Israel- and he has 12 sons [the 12 tribes of Israel].
Down the line comes a great king who will rule over Israel- his name was David. God made promises to David [like he did to Abraham] and one of those promises was God would raise up a son to David- who would sit on ‘the throne forever’. Now- this is one of those prophecies that is a dual prophecy- that is some of the language used is speaking about Solomon- David’s son- and some is fulfilled thru Christ.
In Luke one- they are praising God for raising up this promised king- a Son of David- who will sit on David’s throne. These promises were very real among the Jewish people of the 1st century.
Now- it would take way too much time to try and explain the various theological arguments that have taken place about this promise- that Jesus would inherit the Throne of his father David. Suffice it to say- that when you read the sermons in the book of Acts- especially Peter’s- you see them speaking about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as the main fulfillment of this promise. Peter says that the actual promise that a son of David would sit on the throne ‘forever’ could only be fulfilled thru somebody who would live forever- thus pointing to the resurrection of Christ.
The early Jewish believers/apostles all accepted Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham and David. God told Abraham that he too would have a son that would bless all nations [Jews and gentiles] and the apostle Paul uses this a lot when talking about the gentile church.
Today’s point is- right at the start- the early Jewish people saw the coming of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise of God to send the Messiah to them. There are various reasons why many people later rejected this claim- but at the start- they saw Jesus as the fulfillment.
When the angel tells Mary about her giving birth to this Messiah- she replies ‘be it unto me according to thy word’. Mary goes on and gives this ‘prophetic song’ which has come to be called The Magnificat- which is a term that comes from the start of the song- in Latin. Mary’s response to the angel is a point of contention between Catholic and Protestant scholars.
The Catholic church calls it ‘Mary’s Fiat’ which means Mary used a commanding tone- sort of like saying ‘you do this Gabriel’ like she was the one in charge. Protestant scholars view it more as a response of humility- like she said ‘okay- whatever you say’.
The confusion over this can be attributed to an early Latin translation of the bible- by the Catholic church Father Jerome. He wrote the Latin Vulgate- the very famous Catholic bible- and in Latin- the word used in this spot denotes ‘command’.
But when you go to the original Greek translation- the word is more passive.
Now- even though this is an ancient disagreement between very smart guys- how many Catholics and Protestants are even aware of this? So like many things- we are taught to see the ‘other side’ in a negative light- and often times we don’t even know why we don’t like them- we just know we don’t like them!
Okay- maybe you should read the chapter today- it’s a long chapter [Luke 1] and look for the language that talks about Jesus as being the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham and David- its interesting to see the importance of the early Jewish people as seeing Jesus as one of their own.
History will later show how the Jewish believers were persecuted severely- and early on [2nd century] they would be forbidden to worship as a Jewish church [I think the emperor was Hadrian- he outlawed all Jewish expressions of ‘Christianity’ that is- Jewish people- who accepted Jesus as their Messiah].
This would leave only the gentile expression of Christianity- which we all know of today as we study church history. But we must not forget that the 1st believers were all Jewish- and they saw Jesus as the answer to the promises that God made to them centuries before- Peter said God fulfilled the promise that he made to King David- that a Son would sit on his throne- forever. Yes- the church recites this fulfillment every Sunday ‘he is seated at the right hand of the Father and will come again to judge the living and the dead’ amen and amen.
 FATHER GUIDO
As I young Italian kid growing up in N.J. - right across the Hudson you saw the bright lights of N.Y.C. - back in the day [70’s] you had the rise of SNL [Saturday Night Live] it became an instant hit with the locals- and we were all treated to the ministry of Guido Sarducci- the Catholic comic who took his skit to the big screen.
Of course if you were an Italian Catholic- you could make fun- but if you weren’t- hey- don’t talk about my religion/culture! Italians are a proud people- and often times the Macaroni and Meatballs [which I just made this past Sunday] fit right in with the religious/cultural tradition- that is you tend to associate your religious views along with everything else- and in a way I’m okay with that [though you will find many teachers/preachers who are not.]
Italians also had a way of making excuses for those among us who had some type of physical/mental handicap. In Today’s world we realize that even the word Handicap is politically incorrect- but back in ‘the day’ we didn’t know any better.
It’s a funny thing with us Italians- we seemed to come up with some excuse- and that same excuse would get passed around- sort of like an oral tradition- and you would hear it used many times over.
I had a friend whose brother had somewhat of a disability- wasn’t too bad- but you could tell. And I guess his mom [good Italian family] always told him ‘if any of the boys ask about your brother- tell them that when he was young a bowling ball fell on his foot’. So I [and the other hoodlums] grew up- with this inner fear of bowling- why?
Another commonly used ‘tool’ was ‘the piano fell on his head’ geez- can we come up with something a little more believable? I mean after hearing that one a few times- I began asking myself ‘what’s wrong with us Italians- cant we either avoid ordering pianos- or avoid living in apts where people do order them- or at least not walk underneath them anymore’. Look- we are a proud people- and I’m sure brother Guido likes his job [at the furniture store] but enough is enough- someone needs to go down there and tell Guido ‘look brother- you have dropped so many darn pianos these last few years- your gonna do real damage to the entire Italian community- go get a job at the Pizza Parlor- please- before you kill us all!’
Well this gets me to the point- we- as people in general- associate our heritage with our religion [whether German Lutheran- Italian Catholic- or whatever]. We connect who we are- with what religion we embrace. As a proud Italian myself- I was glad to see- as I studied the history of Christianity and theology- that the Catholic church does indeed have a strong heritage- and that it’s okay to view the church as a good Christian church.
Now- this statement alone is enough to lose lots of ‘blog readers’ I mean in the realm of Protestant Christianity- this statement is often considered unforgiveable. But most ‘learners’ who study original sources- the church fathers- etc. most of us come to this conclusion based on the facts- that you see a very strong Catholic form of Christianity- very early on [2nd century].
You actually see some writings that speak about an early order for the Mass- and it’s surprisingly similar to what you see today. But of course you also have many doctrinal disagreements that Catholics and Protestants have fought over- and often times these 2 groups are disagreeing over things- that weren’t even part of the original ‘disagreement’ [16th century reformation.]
This discussion- cultural Christianity- has made it into the news in recent days. You had the tragic murders take place in Oslo- Norway- and the media has gone back and forth over whether or not the killer should be defined as a Christian Terrorist.
Oreilly made headlines by taking the N.Y. Times to task for doing a front page story on it- using the Christian term. Others have said that he was indeed a ‘Christian terrorist’. Some of the debate hinges on this ‘cultural Christian’ view. That is- if your view of Christianity is ‘lets go back to the medieval crusades- and re claim Europe once again for the white Christian population’ then the man was truly ‘Christian’ in a sort of cultural way- seeing it more as an historic cultural movement- and less thru the eyes of ‘a personal relationship with Jesus’.
As a matter of fact- the Oslo shooter says this very thing in his writings- that he chose to become a Christian by being baptized at the age of 15- in Norway’s state church- yet he does not see himself as having a personal relationship with Christ.
But these distinctions- though very alive and real amongst many Christian groups- are hard to make when simply covering the story of some nut who rants about going back to the crusades and fighting off the encroachment of radical Islam- so in a way- I think Christians cant totally disclaim the man- yet we can emphasize that true Christianity- like Oreilly said- does not teach murder.
Many years ago I went back North to attend the funeral of my uncle. I loved my uncle, as a kid he would take me- and my cousin Tara [his daughter] to the Ringling bro’s circus in N.Y. he would take us out to eat Chinese- and do stuff like that.
My dad [I later found out] always put up the cash- but my uncle enjoyed doing it. As the years went by- I realized that my uncle- Rudy- actually was involved with crime. How far up he made it on the ladder- I never really new. But I began to realize that he did have some involvement in the Italian mob scene in the area.
One time I was talking about some event that took place in N.J. [N.Y.] I think it was the world’s fair. I remember- my uncle had no recollection- then my dad quickly jumped in ‘oh Rudy- that’s when you were on vacation for a few years’ a few years? Who goes on vacation for a few years? O- now I get it- he was in jail [you know- the piano thing].
I used to do paint jobs with ‘the crew’. My dad, my uncle- and a few other guys. Juny was ‘the boss’. We actually did real- professional house painting- learned the trade and did it for a few years in Texas. But I later realized that they were all doing the crime thing [not my dad- he was in the group because they grew up together]. One time- a customer did not want to pay- after the job was done- I later found out that my dad and my uncle went and ‘made him an offer he couldn’t refuse’ he paid.
Anyway- I went back to Jersey and preached at his funeral. Boy- the place was packed- I mean it was like going to the casting of the God Father movie. As I talked- I simply did my best- realizing that many of these guys- like I said earlier- they have a culture- a tradition of being Italian- and Catholic. As I spoke I simply talked about the reality of the promise of eternal life in Christ- and shared about the lord’s supper- and gave some spiritual insight [I hope!].
Instead of trying to convince them to ‘change their religion’ I simply tried to focus them back on the main teachings of ‘their religion’ that all true Christianity is built upon the Cross- having the gift of eternal life because Jesus died and rose again. I emphasized the reality that all of these truths are based upon Christ- he purchased eternal life for us all- it’s not simply a matter of ‘what religion are you’ type of a thing.
After the funeral I had many people come up to me and thank me for the message- but I remember one person in particular. He looked to be around my age at the time [30’s] probably an Italian boy- grew up in the area [I guess] and probably did lots of the stuff I did as a kid.
In a way- I wondered if that would be me- or if he would be me- if we simply made a few different decisions in the early days.
He came up to me- looked me straight in the eye- and thanked me so much for ‘the talk’ I got the sense that he saw- for the first time- what everything was really about- that it’s not just a cultural thing- that life and death are very real things that we all deal with- and that he didn’t have to leave his religion- he just needed to understand more about what his church is all about.
Yeah- I was glad to see that he ‘got it’. I felt like I succeed that day- on the task of telling the truth- without having to make people believe everything I believe- just enough truth- truth that was right there before him his whole life- truth that just needed to break though.
Of course you can only do so much with these short trips- I mean if I had the time- I would have liked to have gone downtown- you know- to that piano store- and had a talk with old brother Guido- maybe speak to his union boss [who might have been at the funeral- you know- the mob connection] but time was running short. I guess there are kids living in Jersey right now- walking the same streets to school- ordering pizza at some famous spot- watching re runs of Father Sarducci. And of course- I’m sure they know someone- some friend or relative- well yes- when they asked ‘what happened to so and so’ the response was ‘the piano fell on his head’ geez- one word of advice to my Italian buddies- stay away from the damn pianos.
The week is winding down- and as far as I know- as of last night the president and congress have not been able to reach an agreement on the debt crisis. I do think the president has put himself in somewhat of a corner. In his speech he continued his argument that the deal needs to be balanced with ‘revenue increases’ [which I agree with] and he spoke about the ‘rich’ having to pay their fair share [though they do already pay for most of the taxes in the country- the big corp. loopholes are another matter].
Yet the 2 plans on the table right now- Reid and Boehner- neither one has tax increases. Reid’s is around 2.2 trillion in cuts [over 10 years] with the corresponding debt limit increase. And Boehner’s is 1 trillion- with the same basic plan. Reid's takes you past the next election- Boehner’s doesn’t. Can the president really say ‘I rejected the plan- the country defaulted- all because I wanted a 13 month plan- instead of a 6 month one’.
That just seems untenable to me.
Okay- what about compromise- is it a bad thing? Let me try and tie this in with some comments I made in the last post. In the last post I spoke about the difference between ‘Sola scriptura’ and ‘Solo scriptura’. Sola was the Reformation belief that when the Protestants and the Catholics couldn’t come to an agreement- then at the end of the day- the bible ‘alone’ settles the matter. That’s what Sola [alone] scriptura [scriptures] meant.
Over the centuries many Protestants began to embrace a view of Christianity that said ‘we don’t need/listen to what the traditional churches have to say- or what the Christian church fathers have to say- we have the bible alone to tell us’.
And even though the bible does give us instruction on all areas of life that are pertinent to the Christian experience- yet the bible actually contains within it stories about how the church should regard ‘tradition’ or how they should look to both scripture- and past history- when trying to come to solutions to problems.
In Acts chapter 15 we have the record of how the early church dealt with the problem of Gentile believers coming into the church. The first believers were all Jewish- so when they accepted Jesus as the Messiah- they also kept their Jewish heritage and their observance of the law.
Yet when the gospel started going out to the Gentiles [Acts 13] initially there was no need for converting fully to Judaism in order to be considered part of the church. Yet at the main church in Jerusalem [Acts 15] many Jewish leaders insisted on the Gentiles having to become circumcised and fully put themselves under the entire law.
So Paul and Barnabus- who were the main missionaries that worked with the Gentile believers at the time- they disagreed with the leaders coming out of Jerusalem- and determined that they would all go up to Jerusalem [from the city of Antioch- where these gentile believers were living at the time] and they would bring the question before the leaders- Peter, James and John.
During this discussion [which is the first church council] they listened to Peter’s experience where God showed him to not judge the gentile believers- but to accept them the way they are- as fellow believers in the Lord.
Peter had this experience in Acts chapter 10- God showed him a vision and taught him not to reject the gentile believers.
Then James [who seems to have been the main leader at the Jerusalem church] quotes form ‘the bible’ [the bible they had at this point was the Old Testament] and he quotes a passage from the prophet Amos that seems to go along with what Peter said- that God would raise up gentile believers too.
So after the discussion- James stands up and makes the final decision- with the agreement of the other leaders- and they write a letter and send it back to the gentile believers at Antioch- and they tell them they don’t need to fully convert to Judaism- but simply keep a few important commandments- don’t eat blood- don’t commit sexual sin- and a couple of things like this.
So at the end of the day they came to a position of compromise- they listened to all sides- and didn’t simply rely on the ‘bible alone’ that is they sought guidance from the book of Amos- and added that in with the other things that God was showing them at the time.
They were a community of people who were flexible enough to leave room for others who were not exactly like them- yet they did insist on belief in Jesus as the Messiah as the important thing.
As I watch the current debate- I see stubbornness with some- and I see political posturing with others- no one side is totally right- while the other totally wrong.
Last night I saw a shameful thing on the news- Lawrence O’Donnell showed a clip of a teenage girl who had killed herself because she was picked on for being gay. As I watched the story I of course felt sad for the girl’s mom who was talking about the bullying that her daughter endured- and of course it’s wrong to make fun of people- or bully them in any way.
Then they put up a quote from the mother- who said her daughter killed herself because of the ‘conservative’ district she had lived in. At the bottom of the quote- it said ‘Michele Bachman’s district’. This is no longer reporting- unbiased journalism- its people who have agendas that they are so attached too- that they can’t even see how doing this- associating the tragic death of this girl- with a presidential candidate- is so out of line.
The other day I heard a male ‘progressive’ news person talk about Bristol Palin getting ‘knocked up- [like a little slut]- while drunk on wine coolers’. Now- this girl is 20 years old- this happened when she was 16. Can you imagine any news person- speaking publicly like this- about the presidents beautiful daughters in a year or 2 from now- when they are the same age?
When we only see one side as the enemy- when we demonize peoples kids- accuse people of murdering gay kids- simply because they lived in your district- when we get this low- then compromise seems impossible- because you now view the opposing side as the real enemy.
I hope and pray we can get a compromise- for the sake of our country. I hope we can be open to what others are saying- people who have been around longer than us- ‘spiritual’ fathers if you will. Even though we seek God- have the bible- and do our best to determine what’s best- yet it’s also important to respect the opinions of others- don’t demonize everyone who is not just like you [or me] at the end of the day we need each other- even the ones who don’t fit our mold.
 PEOPLE LAUGHING- PEOPLE SINGING- A MAN SELLING ICE CREAM
These past few days I have been reading scriptures on the influence of the church in the nations- that is God’s original purpose for the church- to have a people/nation that he could reveal his glory though. This morning I read Zechariah chapter 8- it talks about God restoring Jerusalem and that there will be old men and women dwelling in it- little boys and girls playing in the streets once again.
The impression you get is a sort of ‘block party’ atmosphere- all types of people enjoying life once gain- after a season of captivity. As I read the verse on the old men and women- I thought of Aunt Bee.
Bee was the aunt of one of our original church members. Emmet [Senior- I have also talked about his son on the site- Jr.] became a church member early on. I don’t remember if I met him while preaching at the county jail- or through Elias- another friend who struggled with addiction. Both of them were long time drug addicts.
I would pick up Emmet at his Aunt’s house every week for church- and just visit him every so often. The ‘church’ was a little home group I started from scratch. I fixed up my 2 car garage- and the guys I met from the streets- or at the jail- would become the core group.
Over time Aunt Bee- who raised Emmet- started coming to our meetings- and as an older lady- in her 70’s- she would tell me she was learning the bible for the first time- she really liked it.
I was basically filling the slot that she missed out on- the bible study aspect of Christianity. Bee was a good Catholic lady- and she told me her friends said ‘why do you go to brother Johns’ church- your Catholic’ she would tell them ‘because I learn things’.
I never tried to ‘convert’ Bee- she stayed Catholic- and that was fine with me. Many Protestant bible churches do fill a need that some of the historic churches lack- simple bible study. Yet many of the Protestant ‘bible’ churches lack what the historic churches offer- a historic connection to traditional Christianity.
During the Reformation of the 16th century- the Protestant reformers [who were all initially Catholic] fought with the Roman church over doctrinal issues- and during this fight the reformers stated a few main principles- one of which is called Sola Scriptura- which means ‘the bible alone’.
What they meant by this was on issues where the church could not come to agreement with the dissenters- that at the end of the day- the bible would have the final say.
Now- the common mistake many Protestants fall into- is thinking that this principle means ‘Solo Scriptura’ is a belief that all Christianity is simply a process of reading/organizing your life around the bible. That is the view that the bible is all there is.
This is not the historic Protestant position- the reformers themselves [Calvin. Luther, etc.] referred often to the early writings of the church fathers [Augustine] in trying to prove their points.
I have found it helpful over the years to spend time reading/hearing the voice of the historic church- as well as being up on the bible. The other day I moved a few books from my office into a shelf in the living room- I read an article on how people are selling books ‘by the inch’ just to decorate their homes. What types of books- that didn’t matter- they were just for show [ouch!]
So I figured I’ll move the real McCoy- classics that I have read and re-read over the years.
I was glad to see that I still had the Confessions of Saint Augustine- a classic from the 4th century. Augustine was a Catholic bishop from Hippo- North Africa. He is often associated with the doctrine of Predestination [which he did believe in] and is loved by many Catholics and Protestants alike.
The major reformer who launched the reformation was Martin Luther- a German Augustinian monk- Luther was also a strong believer in the doctrine of predestination- though its common to associate the doctrine with John Calvin, Luther too was a strong believer in it.
One day Aunt Bee shared a story with me- she used to visit her daughter who lived in Alaska- her daughter sort of felt like her cousin Emmet was taking advantage of her mom. I was familiar with the environment- my older sister- who has also been a drug addict for many years- has lived with my mom her whole life.
When addicted people live with their parents [aunts] as they age- they fall into an environment where they manipulate the guardian to get what they want [money- borrow the car, etc..]
So Aunt Bee’s daughter felt like Emmet took advantage of her mom. Aunt Bee told me about an Indian she saw one time while visiting Alaska- he was panning for gold in one of the freezing streams- and was wearing an Indian loin cloth and was in the ice cold water. She said how interesting it was to see how other cultures learn to adapt to their environment.
Bee was an educator- she taught at A&I university [Kingsville- Tx.] for many years [now called A&M] and her students were some of the most famous people in Texas- Senators and congress people. I found it interesting how an influential person like Bee- would wind up learning the bible from some Jersey boy- preaching in a garage [I was around 25 at the time].
Bee was a good person- she died many years ago- as has Emmet. Emmet eventually broke the drug habit and married another church member- Janie. She was s single mom with lots of kids- they made a very nice couple. Emmet died at around the age of 50- his liver went out- too many years of drugs eventually got to him. As a matter of fact- Elias- who I think first introduced me to Emmet- he eventually became a preacher and pastored his own church. He started with me- was the song leader and filled in on the days I had to work- and eventually took a position with a church called Victory Outreach- a ministry to addicts.
One day while working at the fire house- I was riding on the ambulance that day and we got a call. As I got to the house- I realized it was Elias’s house- he had a brain aneurism that day- he went into a coma and died a few days later.
I met Elias around 8 years earlier- preaching to him at the jail. Gave him his first bible- which he would always remind me about- and walked with him for a few years. He was ex-air force. He did at least 4 years before he got out and got hooked on hard drugs- mainline addict.
We had lots of good times together- I see his boys every so many years when I venture into Bishop [a small city around 40 miles from where I live]. I think his wife- Janie- still lives there.
The bible says Gods city [a symbol of the church] has old people having fun in the streets [the aunt Bee types] and little boys and girls playing in the streets [too many names to mention in this one- Elias & Janie alone had around 6 kids- Janie & Emmet too- different Janies!].
God’s church/family is a great one- it consists of the great church fathers [men like Augustine] and it extends to the little kids playing in the streets of some small town in South Texas- it even includes those who society has rejected- those who have failed many times in life- and they know it- more than anyone else.
I read a verse the other day- in Psalms ‘sins prevail against us- yet you will save us from our transgressions’ I thank God that he helps people- people who have things that ‘prevail’ against them- he often uses these people to help others- Gods ways are sometimes very hard to understand- his ways are not ours.
 LITTLE BOY LOST
The other day we saw the tragic story of the little Jewish boy who went missing on his way home from summer camp. This day he was without a ride, and his mother thought it would be okay for him to walk home the few blocks. After he didn’t show up she called the police.
They eventually discovered that he had been abducted by a member of their own community- and was tragically killed. The Jewish community in this area of Brooklyn is known as an Hasidic community. My mom was born and raised in Brooklyn- and as a boy I remember going to the city and seeing these strange looking guys with funny looking hair and dress.
This community dates back around 2300 years or so. During the Intertestemental period [the time between the last Old Testament book- Malachi- and the book of Matthew] you have quite an interesting history. It was during these 400 years that we saw the rise of the Greek world under Alexander the Great.
In the Greek world you had some very influential philosophers; Socrates most famous student was Plato- Plato’s most famous student was Aristotle- and his most famous student was Alexander the Great.
Alexander sought to implement the ideals of his teacher- he wanted to unify the known world under one people/culture- a belief that Aristotle held- a sort of ‘unified theory’ [Einstein] that would seek to bring all learning/knowledge together under one supreme [Divine] principle.
Alexander’s experiment was called Hellenization- which was the Greek worlds attempt to impose Greek culture/language on all their conquered enemies- and at the same time allow them to hold on to the their own culture too. Alexander did amazingly well at this experiment- at the young age of around 24 he had accomplished most of his mission. The cities were a sort of composite of Greek culture mixed in with their own culture- this is where we get the modern term Cosmopolitan.
Alexander died young and his kingdom was divided between 4 generals- one of them- Ptolemy- would himself make it into the history books because of his keen intellect.
The system of cosmology developed under him would last [and work!] until some 17-18 hundred years later when it was overthrown by the Copernican revolution during the time of Copernicus and Galileo.
Alexander’s generals would do their best to carry on the system of Hellenization- and other nations generals would keep the system going even after Greece fell. One of them- Octavian [Roman general] makes it into the history books by another famous name- Julius Caesar.
Alexander established a great library in the Egyptian city of Alexandria [named after him] and many of the great writings were preserved during this time.
The writings of Aristotle would be discovered again during the time of Thomas Aquinas [13th century Catholic genius/scholar] and this would lead to Scholasticism [a peculiar school of thought developed/revived under Aquinas] and give rise to the Renaissance.
Okay- before the birth of Christ- the Jewish people resisted the imposing of Greek culture upon them- you had the very famous resistance under the Jewish Maccabean revolt- where the Jews rose up and fought the wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanies- and till this day the Jewish people celebrate this victory at Hanukah.
Eventually Rome would conquer the Greek kingdom and the Jewish people were allowed to keep their culture and temple- yet they were still a people oppressed. Hassidism [getting back to the beginning] developed during this attempt to not lose their Jewish roots- the Pharisees of Jesus day came from this movement.
Alexander was pretty successful in his attempt to unify language- even though the bible [New Testament] was written by Jewish writers- living under Roman rule- yet the original bible is written in the Greek language.
Bible scholars till this day study the Greek language to find the truest meaning of the actual words in the bible [I have a Greek Lexicon sitting right in front of me].
It would take a few centuries before a Latin version appeared on the scene [the great church father- Jerome- would produce the Latin Vulgate].
Yet it would be the re- discovery and learning of the Greek texts [under men like Erasmus- and the Protestant Reformers] that would lead to the Reformation [16th century] and other movements in church history.
Of course the tragedy of the little boy lost is very sad- and the roots of Jewish culture are noble and good- Pope Benedict refers to the Jewish people as ‘our elder brother’ because of the Jewish roots of Christianity. The original church was made up of Jewish believers- people who were waiting for the Messiah for centuries [actually Millennia] and they were convinced that this Jesus- this Jewish itinerant prophet- was indeed the one that was to come.
When you read the sermons in the book of Acts- you hear Peter, Paul- and especially Stephen [ Acts 7] relating the person of Jesus to the prophecies that were spoken about the Messiah in the Old Testament- these early Jewish believers were convinced- in no uncertain terms- that Jesus was the Messiah who was foretold to come.
At the Jewish trial of Jesus- the high priest asks ‘are you claiming to be God’s Son’ Jesus- one of the few times he did this- said ‘you said it’. The priest throws up his hands and says ‘what more need do we have of witnesses- he himself has said he claims deity’.
In John’s gospel we read when Jesus said ‘Abraham saw my day- and was gad’. They asked him ‘how could Abraham see your day- you’re not even 50 years old’ Jesus replied ‘BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS- I AM’ They were incensed- the words I AM were the words used to describe God. The bible says they took up stones to kill him.
The great Christian writer- C.S. Lewis- spent many years as an atheist- yet as an intellectual he read all the great writings of history- and he said that no matter how hard he [and other atheists] tried to reject God- that history was filled with writings- both pro and con- about God.
As a matter of fact- there was no other underlying theme- some scarlet thread- woven thru out the entire history of man- that even came close to this testimony of the reality of God.
Many agnostics of Lewis’ day said ‘we believe Jesus was a good person- even a Rabbi- Prophet- great messenger of God’ Lewis said Jesus did not leave this option open to us. Jesus said he was indeed the Son of God- Deity come down- born from a virgin- crucified- died and was buried. On the 3dr day he rose again- according to the scriptures- he is seated at the right hand of God and will come again- to judge the living and the dead.
Yes kingdoms have come and gone- great men and despots have either honored this Jesus- or despised him- but today we still talk about Jesus- King of Kings and Lord of Lords- we have only one option- either we confess him as Lord- or we call him a madman- which one will you choose?
 THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE ROOM?
Okay- the current media obsession is with Bachman- they have covered her misstatements with a fine tooth comb [more like a plow!]. I mean the main news outlets are going at it. Sure- I realize that calling John Addams a founding father is a bit much [more like a founding son] but why the obsession?
I remember when Newt got into the race- NBC [not their hack political arm- MSNBC] introduced him like this ‘he has been married 3 times- how successful he’ll be with the religious base- we don’t know’- wow- his intro mind you!
What happened to the Chris Matthews rant of no religious test? He went on for months about it- using it- wrongly- to say you can’t question/make your choice of a candidate because you don’t like his particular religious views. Yet the media has recently done polls on ‘would you vote for a Mormon’.
They laud the Broadway play ‘the book of Mormon’ which openly mocks Mormons. Can you imagine a play where you had Muhammad being mocked?
Yet now their fascinated with Bachman’s revisionist history. Okay- I’ll admit that Christians do run into trouble at times with the whole founding father argument. I often hear preachers say ‘the constitution says- we hold these truths to be self-evident’ and then they will argue their point from the ‘moral law’ theory we find in Paul's letter to the Romans- chapter 1.
The apostle does say ‘all men are without excuse- God has revealed himself to us- he has made his truth known’. See- self evident. Actually the language used in the constitution was the ‘anti-Christian’ strain coming out of the European enlightenment.
The Enlightenment [sometimes called the age of reason] came off of the Reformation/Scientific revolutions of the 16-17th centuries. Many of the men I have been studying these last few years were major thinkers in the movement. Right around the 18th century you had a feeling of ‘modern man’ will eventually cast off all these religious restraints and we will enter this new age where the human intellect will rule.
Most of these thinkers did not reject a belief in God- they simply rejected the institutional view of religion. They fell into the category of Deism.
Now- Deism argued that we do not need Christianity- the church- the bible- to know right and wrong. But that enlightened man knew these truths by nature [that’s where the Romans 1 argument comes in]. But when the deist made this argument- he was in fact approaching it from an anti-Christian viewpoint.
Jefferson actually wanted the language to read ‘we hold these truths to be sacred’ but Franklin prided himself in interjecting ‘non-Christian’ [pro deist] language instead- and Walla- we have ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident’.
Okay- so you can see we all have a little bit of revisionism in us.
I’m not a fan of Bachman- to be honest about it. But it’s too early to be flooding the airwaves with such obvious vitriol against the woman. Geez- cover her ideas.
I’m an ex-Navy Corpsman- as a defense of Bachman many right wingers have been showing the infamous speech of the president- where he called the guys ‘corpse men’ around 3 times [you know- that monitor does not sound the words out for you]. And of course the right has to go thru the record and show all the instances where the media actually covers up the faults of their favorite guy.
Yes- to be honest- they do stuff like this- all the time. But I wish we could simply debate the various sides- be honest about our view- and then move on from there. The left always accuse the right of being partisan- yet I think they are just as bad- and just as misinformed on many issues, its pride that makes them think they are truly above everyone else.
Let me finish with an example. One day I was hanging out with the homeless guys- sure- a few drunks- a few dope heads- the usual crowd. And a new guy shows up. He claims to be an ex professor that taught at Berkeley in the past.
As the conversation grew- he began ‘teaching’ the course that he taught at Berkeley. It was a course on ANE myths [ancient near east myths]. He went on to cover the fact that other societies had their own versions of biblical stories. They had flood stories [Noah] creation accounts [Genesis] and stuff like that.
Now- I usually do not ‘do theology’ when hanging in the streets- but I couldn’t resist. So- as luck would have it [bad?] I just happened to be familiar with ANE myths- and the apologetic rebuttal to the argument- so I jumped into the fray.
I went on to tell the professor that I too was familiar with his course- and I went down the list- point by point- refuting his ideas.
I explained that just because these other stories do exist- that in no way means the biblical account is fake- as a matter of fact- if these things did actually occur- you would expect other societies to have their own versions. I gave him a few more basic points like this- and left it alone [you know- when you do street apologetics like this- things can get rough- almost as dangerous as a Wisconsin Supreme court justice meeting].
As this enlightened liberal professor sat there- listening to what looked to be his last rung on the ladder being kicked out from under him [lost his home- wife- everything- the only thing left was his superior intellect over the average idiot- one of those types of mindsets].
He realized that he was being thoroughly refuted [for the 1st time?] by some homeless bum from Texas [I play the part well]. I mean- a homeless ‘redneck’ no less.
He simply stared straight ahead- the smell of alcohol [and various drugs] wafting thru the air- and he looked up and said ‘I am going to leave now- and go put a bullet in my head’ [his head- not mine].
Now- whether or not he carried out his mission- I don’t know. But he was the classic example of a person- who seemed educated- who prided himself in not being like the rest of the ‘idiots’ of the world- and it was difficult for him to realize that his view- no matter how sincerely held- was only one view. It is possible in life for us to be wrong- or for us to be as misinformed as the other person.
I have no idea how long the current media fascination will last with Bachman- I’m sure they’ll find another thing to fasten upon- of course when their side calls a bunch of servicemen ‘dead men- corpse men’ well- something as egregious as that- that will never make it to the air. But go ahead- another round of the Book of Mormon- watching the clip air- making the ‘Mormon/Christian’ look like an absolute idiot- and saying it openly- well the media has plenty of time for that.
 IS IT MORALLY WRONG TO TEACH MORALS?
The other night N.Y. passed gay marriage [or marriage equality]. They are not the 1st state to do this- but some in the media hailed it as a great advance for civil rights. I spoke to a Catholic friend who lives in the area- he’s an older brother- and he was really upset about it.
I think I caught him off guard by telling him it really didn’t ‘upset’ me- not like I lost a battle [right winger] of some sort. I told him I obviously have a different position than Governor Cuomo- but I’m not real mad about the thing.
I understand why some people are- and I also told my friend that my position is basically the same position that his church holds- I think homosexuality is ‘a sin’ [like many other heterosexual sins!] but I think the ‘right versus the left’ approach does no good- it seems to just alienate people
A few months ago our local high school made it to CNN because of a debate between some girl who wanted to start a straight/gay club on campus. You had the school say no- even though they did allow a Christian club to meet. The ACLU got involved and before you knew it they were all picketing for/against the club.
As I watched the thing on the tube I saw some local preachers standing out there- a few feet away from the kids- holding signs and shouting ‘it’s an abomination’.
Then you saw the gay kids- who also had the support of some liberal preachers- they were holding signs that said ‘God loves everyone’. It just seemed ‘non Jesus like’ to see the older men- railing against the young girl [the lesbian girl] and shouting in the streets about her being an abomination.
The point being we need to tell people the truth about what is in the bible- and what the church [predominantly] teaches- and then avoid ‘going to war’ with people.
As I’m continuing to read different works on philosophy and modernity- I recently came across Daniel Dennet- a contemporary atheist/thinker. Dennet questions the ‘morality’ of teaching morals [religion] to kids. He espouses the question of the whole idea of religious teaching/tradition. Is it ‘right’ to teach ‘what’s right’?
Okay- I’m sure he is a smart man [they tell me so] but he of course is falling into the classic mistake of thinking he can argue from a foundation of ‘oughtness’ while claiming we should not have these types of foundations.
Basically you can’t argue a moral position [is something right- wrong] if you reject the reality of morality itself. This mistake is easily refuted in the field of apologetics. Sam Harris [another contemporary atheist] makes these same arguments.
I found it interesting to hear Governor Cuomo and other supporters of the law- they were oozing with moral language ‘we are proud to be part of the struggle for the rights of all people’ and other language like this. I’m sure these well meaning folk don’t realize they are contradicting their core argument ‘who is society- the church- to say what’s right or wrong!’ And then they say ‘it’s wrong for them to think that way’.
Okay- I hope you see the point. Immanuel Kant saw this some 300 years ago when the ‘age of reason’ was just taking off. Many thinkers of his day began questioning the wisdom of having religion/morality as part of the fabric of society. Kant recognized the need for the basic idea of right and wrong [What he called ‘oughtness’ you know what you ought to do] and even though he disagreed with Descartes’- he did not believe you could ultimately prove God through reason- yet he saw the need for ‘God’ to exist in the fabric of human society- in his mind there had to be an ultimate judge who could carry out justice- and there had to exist a basic idea of what you should and should not do.
These debates are long and can go on forever.
In Matthew 13 Jesus gave us a story about Gods kingdom. He said it’s like a field. A farmer goes out and plants good seed. Then when everyone was sleeping- an enemy went out and planted ‘bad seed’.
When the plants came up- his workers asked if they should go out and pull all the bad crop out. The boss said no- just leave them alone- in the final harvest he will deal with them- but it wasn’t their job to go pull them out prematurely.
Sometimes we [the church] are like the workers- we see ‘bad seed’ things that we recognize are not healthy for the field- we think ‘let’s go dig them out’. But God says ‘I’ll deal with the bad seed in my time- if you think it’s your job to go around pulling up all the bad weeds- you might hurt some good wheat too’.
I in no way ‘rejoice’ over the N.Y. vote- but I feel no urge to go ‘pull the bad seed out’ some of what we think is bad- might turn out to be good in the end.
 IN DEFENSE OF LIBERATION THEOLOGY
I’ve been wanting to get back to some of our studies- but the news cycle has been hot these last few weeks [not just Weiner!] and I have been sidetracked somewhat. One of the other important news stories was the going away speech by defense secy. Gates.
He tore into NATO and raked them over the coals for their willingness to vote Yes on intervention- then letting the U.S. do the majority of the work. There are 28 nations that make up the alliance [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. Yet in Afghanistan there are a total of around 140 thousand troops. The media constantly report ‘NATO troops were killed- or accidently hit a civilian house’. We get desensitized- we think these are actually troops from NATO- like these other 28 nations are doing this stuff. Out of the 140,000 troops- 100 thousand are U.S. troops. I mean 28 other nations?
In Libya- once again the entire alliance voted to go in [or abstain- though ‘going in’ meant different things to different nations] and after a few weeks of ‘going in’ once again we are pulling 70 percent of the load. Gates blasted the alliance- saying with all these nations’ troops- they have a hard time standing up 25-40 thousand troops. These other 27 nations can’t even supply a regular fighting force of 25 thousand troops!
Hillary Clinton spoke out [rightfully] against a new resurgence of ‘colonialism’ taking place on the African continent. Colonialism is the abuse of 1st world nations stripping 3rd world nations of their vital natural resources and doing this with the consent of ‘paid off’ higher ups in these ‘stripped’ nations [this definition obviously doesn’t speak about plain colonialism- but in modern public speak that’s what they are talking about].
In Africa, China has been doing this now for a number of years- they have been ‘investing’ heavily in buying up the worlds natural resources- and the civilian populace living in these nations are extremely poor. If other nations want to partner in trade and investment with poorer countries- that’s fine. But don’t take the resources from these countries while the people living there are dying from poverty.
Around the turn of the 20th century you had the rise of what’s commonly called ‘the social gospel’. This Christian movement concerned itself with the broader mandate of the gospel that deals with bringing justice to the poor and hurting people of the world. Dealing not just with ‘saving souls’ but also with creating a more just society on the planet right now.
While this movement had its critics- it did not go as far as the later development of Liberation Theology. Now- once again in our ‘reductionist’ news media- we have managed to simplify our understanding of Liberation theology- and have basically presented it as some satanic movement that simply wishes to implement Marxist ideology into the American experience.
Glenn Beck got a hold of a few books [articles?] that showed the church’s criticism of Liberation theology- and it cemented in his mind that all liberation theologians were ‘the enemy’. It did no good to realize that- yes indeed- Obama’s church is a theological offshoot of Liberation theology.
Yes- the good ole Reverend Wright is a Black Liberation theologian and darn proud of it! Liberation theology took the concern of the social gospel a step further- it sought to implement social justice policies by mixing Christian teaching in with political structures. In a way it was a form of Marxism- without Marx’s penchant against religion. To the contrary the Liberation adherents saw this approach as a mandate from Jesus himself.
Liberation theology arose in the last half of the 20th century primarily as a result of what the Catholic church saw taking place in Latin American nations. Once again a type of Colonialism was taking place in this 3rd world region of the world [though they are obviously doing much better today]. And the Catholic church in the region developed a Liberating theology that would deal with these social injustices through political means.
The very influential Catholic bishop of El Salvador- Oscar Romero- would be the lead visionary of the movement at the time. Romero said some very important- and true things at the time. It would be wrong to totally reject all Liberation theologies as ‘satanic’. Romero taught that true theology- true learning and growing in our understanding of God should take place in ‘Base Christian Communities’ as opposed to the ‘institution’. This concept is actually taught in the bible [in my view].
His ideas would give birth to what is known as Feminist theology [Catholic female authors like Fiorenza of Germany or Mary Daly from America] these women were writing in what they saw as institutional oppression from the church against women- that in their view the church has historically repressed women- and they drew from the stream of Liberation theology that sought to ‘free people from oppressive regimes’ it’s just the regime they were speaking about was the church itself!
And yes- the Black liberation theologians would manage to tweak Liberation theology and make it fit their particular struggle for what they saw as a continued repression of the Black race.
All in all liberation theology was a very influential movement- that does indeed have many strains of truth within it.
Then why did the Catholic church have to officially distance itself from the movement? Bishop Romero [who would eventually become the arch Bishop of San Salvador] gained so much influence within the Latin American church- that the Vatican had to finally come out and distance itself from the movement.
Liberation theology was in fact a strange mixture of Marxist ideas- though they were taken from Jesus and the gospels. In the 20th century- right around the same time of Romero's great influence- you had another very influential Catholic leader by the name of Pope John Paul the 2nd. John Paul would eventually become one of the greatest and most influential Popes of all time [that is saying a lot].
One of John Paul’s great achievements was his vital role in the pulling down of the Soviet Union and his stance against communism- especially seen in his own resistance to communism in his home country of Poland.
Now- how could the church be lead by one of the greatest heroes of anti communism of all time- and at the same time have such an influential Arch Bishop operating out of Latin America- who was in fact espousing a form of Communism?
So this page has been written in the books and we have what we have.
Today I think we all need to take a second look at the things we deem [or have heard] are wrong- or satanic. Though I have many disagreements with our president and this current administration- yet I agree with what Hillary said in her warning about the African continent. I also do not think it right to demonize the president because he did indeed attend a Black Liberation church- many of these congregations fully embrace redemption through Christ- and their ‘zeal’ to extend that redemption through the social justice arm of political govt. is not totally wrong- the bible speaks much about human govt. being a tool for social justice in a just society!
But we in America are fixated on more important things- like when the next picture of congressman Weiner will come out- yeah who has time for all this social justice talk anyway.
 VARIOUS MUSINGS
Took a ride to the city of Bishop the other day- on the way I had a tire blowout on the highway [no spare] and managed to drive it [still had air in it- the radial tread ripped off] to a shop to get a new tire. I had one of my homeless friends with me and we were gonna have a fellowship day with Eliseo at his ranch- instead we will do one this Wednesday.
Those of you in the area who know where Eli lives- we will be there at around noon. Bring some food and meet us there, everyone is invited. As a side note- Eli, I got your message last night. I think little Rudy called too- I will try and get back with him, if he wants I’ll pick him up Wednesday for the ride.
Okay- after the blowout I did a fish fry/b.b.q. at the house with Henry and Chris [homeless bro’s] and we had a great time. My only mistake was I put the fish out first- about 10 pieces- and I thank the Lord I at least got 1!
Let me try and hit a few things today. Last week I had a good visit with a J.W. [Jehovah’s Witness]. He rang the bell and I told him I was a Christian and that I love having discussions and I did about a 20 minute historical overview of Christianity and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity [which is a major sticking point] and I tried to come down in a nice way- being honest about the historic problems many believers/various groups have had with the doctrine- and at the end of the talk I of course emphasized the bible verses that do indeed speak about the Deity of Christ and left it at that.
He was nice enough to come back by around an hour later and he dropped off a pamphlet put out by their group that discusses the Trinity. He asked me to read it and I did.
The teaching was fairly honest about the various historic disputes that Christians have had over the Trinity. It did cover the reality that there were Bishops and early church leaders who did indeed argue against the doctrine. It did a good job at showing how some early Christian leaders were indeed influenced by Greek philosophy and that some think that that’s where the doctrine developed from.
The pamphlet made the case that ‘the bible’ does not teach the Deity of Christ- and that these doctrines were later introduced by Catholic church leaders who paganized Christianity primarily thru Constantine’s ‘baptism’ of Christendom with the Roman state.
I’m very familiar with all these debates- many Christian scholars have made this exact same argument. Muslims and Jews also reject the doctrine of the Deity of Christ [and the Trinity] and often times you hear these same arguments made.
During the 4th century of the Common Era Constantine became the Roman Emperor and the church hotly debated these issues. The Bishop Arius [who denied the deity of Christ- that Christ is God] fought against the opposing view [that Christ is indeed God] and the bishop Athanasius was the warrior who defended the deity of Christ.
After Athanasius died his tombstone would read ‘Athanasius against the world’ he was the driving force in the 4th century who swayed the tide back to orthodoxy.
Now- the church would have a few 4th [and 5th] century church councils that would settle the matter concerning the nature of Christ and his deity- and the final decision was that the Trinity was indeed true and the Jesus is indeed God.
The other side stayed with the idea that Jesus was a created being- a god- but not thee God. Some of these churches exist till this day. They are primarily oriental churches. If you visit them they seem just like any other ancient type church- the Mass, Saints, Mother Mary- yes- the whole 9 yards. But they stuck with the Arian view [Bishop Arius] and deny the deity of Christ [and thus the Trinity].
How should I respond? Let me just say that I am a Trinitarian who believes in the deity of Christ- Christ is fully God and fully man. The J.W. pamphlet made a good defense for their view- and they were not totally ‘deceptive’ in their argument. But they did quote lots of bible verses that kind of backed up their side- and they quoted some from Isaiah. But they left out chapter 9.
The famous passage that says Jesus is the ‘Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ very strong language indeed.
What about the argument that the early Catholic bishops polluted the true teachings of Jesus by introducing Greek thought into Jesus true teachings? It is true that Greek philosophy had a belief that there was a pre existing principle of wisdom- a ‘divine logos’ if you will.
The only problem with the argument that the Catholic bishops were the culprits who introduced Logos Christology into the doctrines of the church is that the New Testament itself has ‘Logos Christology’ in it. What is Logos Christology?
Logos is the Greek word for ‘Word’. Christology is the study of Christ. Logos Christology is the description of Jesus found in the writings of the apostle John that describe Jesus as the Eternal Word of God.
John wrote the gospel of John, the 3 letters- 1st, 2nd and 3rd John- and the book of Revelation [some scholar’s dispute that John authored the last one]. In these writings Jesus is called the Word of God- he is described as the Word that was ‘with God, and was God’ [John 1].
So the bible itself has Greek influences- because it was written in Greek! And even though the pre Christian philosophers had a concept of a personified wisdom [the Jews also- read Proverbs 8] yet the New Testament also speaks of Jesus as this Eternal Word of God who was indeed ‘true God from true God’.
So I think the talk I had was good- I understand that many groups of people have had difficulty with the doctrine of the Trinity and the accusation that Constantine and the Catholics ‘hijacked’ the true religion of Jesus has been made by many groups over the years. Yet at the end of the day the doctrine of Jesus being God is clearly found in the bible [and yes, even in the Old Testament] and we as Orthodox Christians confess Jesus as God- not because of the Greeks- or the Catholics- or because of any other influence that ‘snuck in’ we confess him as God because ‘the bible tells me so’ Amen and Amen.
 THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
Okay, I think today will be the last day for doing End Time stuff [for now]. Over these last few days I have tied to just hit a few key verses- things that are popular in the media because of the failed Camping prediction.
As I looked over Matthew 24 again this morning- there might have been 2 more areas I wanted to cover- but let’s stick with the verse above [the other area was Jesus teaching about his own 2nd coming- he actually says don’t ‘fall’ for those who say ‘see- here is Jesus- in the SECRET chambers’. He actually warns against having a belief in a secret return- which is actually what the Rapture is. He then says ‘for as the lightning shines from one end of the sky to the other- so shall the 2nd coming be’. Some actually think this is saying its secretive- that just like you miss seeing the lighting- because it’s so fast- so you might not see the return. In context all these verses are saying the coming of Jesus will be open and in full view. When you read the other descriptions Jesus gives- ‘Like a thief in the Night’ if you continue to read in context- these verses are saying many will be surprised- like when a robber comes- they are not saying no one will see!]
Okay- in Matt. 24 Jesus says ‘when you see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place- flee to the mountains- leave the city- troubles on the way’. What does this mean? Jesus is quoting Daniel the prophet. In Daniel chapters 9-12 you read lots of detailed stuff- it’s easy to get lost in the many intricate interpretations some prophecy teachers get into here.
I just want to hit on the Abomination one. The term simply means ‘the wicked thing/person that will bring destruction’. Daniel was one of the Jews taken into captivity during the Babylonian captivity of Gods people. Daniel lived around 600 B.C. and you read in his book that when he was in exile he picked up the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and he figured out the years that God had foretold for the judgment on Israel [chapter 9].
As you look at all the verses about how many years so many things will take place in- one of the famous time verses is the 70 weeks prophecy. This prophecy is usually seen to be speaking about 70 weeks of years [490 years]. As you read and follow the years of the prophecy- it brings you right up unto the time of Christ.
The prophecy says there will be 490 years determined for the Jewish people- and from the decree to rebuild the temple to the appearing of Jesus there will be 69 weeks [of years]. Now- many scholars have traced the years from the decree that we find in the Old Testament to the time of Jesus and it amazingly brings you right up unto the time of Christ.
But the prophecy leaves the last ‘week of years’ out [some say]. If you measure the time right unto the Crucifixion of Jesus- then you have the last 7 years open. This is where many prophecy folk put the future 7 year tribulation. If you are familiar at all with these things- the popular version says in the last days the anti-christ will arise and make a covenant with Israel for 7 years- in the middle of the 7 years [3.5] he will ‘cause the sacrifice to cease’ and bring an end to temple worship and the sacrificial system. Wording like this is used in Daniel.
Now- in some of these verses in Daniel you are reading about Jesus- the prince- and in others your reading about the ‘bad’ prince- the ‘abomination that makes desolate’. Some have said if you trace the years  to the baptism of Jesus [instead of the Crucifixion] then you can view the ‘middle of the last week’ [3.5 years] as referring to the end of Jesus earthly ministry. If this is so- then ‘the prince who made the sacrifice to cease in the middle of the last week’ might be referring to the Cross of Christ.
The New Testament teaches [Hebrews] that the death of Christ was the final sacrifice for man- and his death caused the old sacrificial system to stop ‘the prince who causes the sacrifice to cease’ get it?
Either way- as you can see- there are various ways to view these time verses. Now- in 168 B.C. you had the wicked ruler- Antiochus Epiphanies- attack the Jewish temple and he set up a pagan altar and sacrificed a pig on the altar- this was the first fulfillment of the ‘abomination of desolation’. This began a process of the Hellenization of the Jewish people by Antiochus [Hellenization means imposing Greek culture and ways upon a foreign culture].
This event was avenged by a Jewish priest and his 5 sons [the most famous being Judas Maccabee]. The Catholic Apocryphal book of Maccabees records this event. This is known as the Maccabean Revolt and the Jewish people celebrate this event every Hanukah [I think it’s Hanukah- to be honest it’s been a long time since I read this- might want to double check].
So Jesus picks up on the Daniel prophecy- that was partially fulfilled in the 2nd century B.C. and he says there will be another ‘abomination that makes desolate’ and when you see him [or it?] ‘flee Jerusalem and run to the hills’. Now I mentioned the other day that many Jewish believers did run for the hills in A.D. 70- they took Jesus words as a warning and escaped the slaughter.
If Jesus were talking about the ‘end of the world’ why flee to the hills? I mean if I said ‘the world is ending- run from North Bergen to Fairview [my old hometown area]’ that wouldn't make much sense. So it is possible that the ‘abomination that makes desolate’ was fulfilled in some way during the 1st century. How?
There are various views on this- let me just give you one. Now- to my Jewish friends I want to be careful here- but understand this is a theological issue that weighed heavily on the minds of the 1st century Jewish believers. The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is considered to be the final sacrifice for all men. In the New Testament you have very strong language used for those who continued to sacrifice animals after the once and for all sacrifice of Christ.
The book of Hebrews says those who do this are ‘trampling under their feet the Blood of Christ and are disrespecting his Blood’ strong words indeed [Hebrews]. Okay- in the 1st century you did not have the internet or media like we do today- so obviously God was not holding all the Jews responsible from day 1- that is it took some time before the word of the Cross would get out and those who believed would stop sacrificing animals. Basically God gave the Jewish nation a 40 year probationary period- a GENERATION [‘this generation’- remember?]
From the time of Jesus earthly ministry to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem [A.D. 70] you had just under a biblical generation- just like the prophecies said. What happened at the time of the destruction that might have been called ‘an abomination that makes desolate’? The Jewish nation continued to sacrifice animals right up until the end of the ‘40 year probationary period’ the time God gave them to fully embrace the once and for all sacrifice of Christ. This means it is possible that the abomination of desolation is speaking of the continued animal sacrifices that were ‘trampling under foot the Blood of Christ- and putting him to an open shame’.
In essence this act- continuing to sacrifice animals- was just as blasphemous as Antiochus sacrificing a pig on the altar- got it?
Okay- these past few days I floated lots of other ways to view the End Times teaching besides the most popular ways we hear about in the media [both 'Christian’ and secular]. I’m not saying my view- or these various views are the only ‘right way’ but I am saying we need to be careful as believers when we hear/learn certain views- and then confuse those views with ‘well brother- this is what the bible says!’ Often times people mean ‘this is what I think the bible says’ and we need to be careful that we are distinguishing between the two.
 THE FIG TREE
Let’s do a little more on Eschatology [end times stuff] today. Over the last few weeks these things have been in the news because of the Harold Camping prediction and you have heard various news folk- as well as believers giving their slant to all the popular verses that deal with the subject.
Some media people were quoting ‘no one knows when the last day will happen- not even the Son, only God’. Then you have had a few other popular verses seep into the flow. The main portions of the bible that deal with the end times are Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. John’s gospel does not have an ‘end times’ discourse- possibly because he covers the subject in length in the book of Revelation.
The main gospel on the subject is Matthew- Mark’s gospel seems to be a shorter compilation possibly taken from Matthew. By ‘taken’ I mean Mark was a scribe/recorder- he was the personality we see in the book of Acts- John Mark. If you remember- he had a falling out with the Apostle Paul and Mark ‘went home’ while Paul took Silas and they embarked on the great missionary journeys of the Apostle.
You don’t hear that much about Mark after the ‘falling out’ but we know that Mark would later pen the 2nd gospel and he was also a recorder [secretary] for the Apostle Peter [might be important to remember this- if I get to it?]
So anyway mark seems to have borrowed from Matthew [some scholars think the familiarity between the gospels should be attributed to another unknown common source- referred to as Q- I prefer to simply see it as the writers being familiar with what the other writers were writing- and in the 1st century you did not have Plagiarism as we do today- where it would be illegal to copy something verbatim from another writer- that’s why Mark- who also probably penned 2nd Peter- not as a Plagiarist who used Pseudepigraphy- writings by authors who pretended to be someone else- but as a scribe who was familiar with the other source documents of the time. 2nd Peter has come under scrutiny because chapter 2 seems to have borrowed heavily from the letter of Jude. At some spots it looks like a direct copy. But as Peter’s scribe- it would not have been out of the ordinary to have included- verbatim- a passage from Jude and to have attributed the entire letter to Peter. Or Peter might have simply been familiar with Jude's letter and it would not have been wrong according to 1st century writing standards to have done this. But skeptics in our day try to use this to say the bible is a forgery- so that’s why it’s important to be familiar with the debate and to have a good response.]
Okay-lets at least try and start a little end times stuff. Matthews 24 begins with Jesus and the disciples walking away from the Temple and Jesus says ‘see all these buildings- truly I tell you that there will not be left one stone on top of another’.
The disciples then ask Jesus ‘when will this happen- and what will be the sign of the end of the age/world, and the sign of your coming’. Now- this sets the stage for the entire scope of the answer. Jesus told them one thing ‘the temples coming down some day’ and they ask a few things.
Some scholars believe that the entire answer Jesus gives- about the end of the world and the coming tribulation- some teach that all these things did happen by A.D. 70- that’s when the Roman general Titus [future emperor] attacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Jesus prediction about ‘one stone not being left on another’ was fulfilled to the tee because the temple stones were overlaid with Gold and the looters burned the stones to melt the gold and in the process they literally laid every stone out.
In the Matthew discourse Jesus also warned the disciples that ‘when you see these things beginning to happen- let those in the city flee to the mountains’. As Titus made his way towards Jerusalem some early communities took his words literally and did use the mountains as a place for protection. The community at Qumran hid their writings in ‘the mountains’ that overlooked the Dead Sea- some 2 thousand years later these writings [scrolls] would be discovered- those are the Dead Sea Scrolls of today- one of the greatest archeological finds of history.
And there were Jewish believers at Jerusalem who did indeed flee to the mountains and they escaped the slaughter. So there certainly were things that Jesus spoke about in his 'end times’ teaching that were fulfilled in the 1st century.
But what about the other famous portions? As various media persons were quoting a few famous parts of this discourse [this is the 4th famous discourse known as the Olivet discourse in Matthew- 5 famous long sections of Jesus’ teaching] it would help us to know the entire context of the discourse [which includes chapter 25 by the way].
One of the famous verses is ‘when you see the fig tree putting forth leaves- you know that summer is near- so when you see these signs you know the end is near’. In American evangelicalism this verse has been made popular by men like Hal Lindsay who teach that the fig tree is ALWAYS a symbol for the nation of Israel and therefore Jesus was saying that when Israel becomes a nation again [which happened in 1948] that within ‘a generation’ the end will happen.
This view uses a few other verses to come to this conclusion. Jesus famous ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things happen’ and a few other scriptures. Simply reading the chapter in context does not seem to be saying this at all. The parallel passage in Luke says ‘and all the trees’. It seems like Jesus is simply saying ‘just like when you see a tree blossom- so when you see these signs know that the time is near’.
There really is nothing in the actual text to indicate that this is speaking about 1948. But because of these verses having been used like this many preachers have tried to date the coming of Christ within ‘the generation’ from1948. Lindsey put out a book saying that 1988 was a ‘special time’ why 88? 1988 was 40 years [biblical generation] from 1948. Then some changed the biblical generation to 70 years- which makes this decade real important.
The problem with all these dates is there based on a faulty premise- that Jesus was saying that within a generation of the ‘fig tree blooming’ the 2nd coming will take place- he never said that. As far as I can tell 1948 plays no significant role. Of course Israel becoming a nation again at that time was a great thing- but as a date to begin setting off some type of spiritual clock- that’s not in the bible.
Okay- maybe I’ll do a few more of these over the next few days. Try and read these chapters the next few days and get a feel for the overall meaning [the context] when we become familiar with the overall meaning of the passage- it keeps us from getting lost in the Fig Tree ones.
 THE RAPTURE?
I spoke with a friend yesterday about the Harold Camping prediction that obviously failed. They know someone who is really into Camping and that person was being set up for the disappointment. On CNN they had a Baptist preacher who warned against this type of date setting- yet he spoke confidently about ‘the Rapture is the next event on Gods calendar- followed by the 7 years of great tribulation’.
I’m sure this fine pastor felt like he was providing a balanced voice compared to Camping’s date setting- yet I felt his interpretation was almost as ‘bad’ as what Camping was doing. Why?
My first introduction to ‘the Rapture’ came as a new believer who started attending a fine Baptist church- they were an ‘Independent, Fundamentalist, Pre-millennial’ Baptist church – and yes- they managed to fit all this on the sign!
The standard teaching says that in the New Testament there are 2 separate events that make up the 2nd coming. The first event is called The Rapture- that Jesus secretly comes all the way back to the earth and stops short in the sky [his feet don’t touch the ground] he ‘catches away’ all true believers [normally the Catholics, Orthodox and other historic churches get ‘left behind’] and then begins a 7 year tribulation period.
After the tribulation you have the other part of the 2nd coming- called the Revelation of Jesus- some Christians say this happens after 3.5 years of tribulation- others after the 7 year period.
Some say Jesus comes back after a 1000 year literal reign on earth [post millennial] others say before [pre- millennial].
And then you have various ways they interpret the end time judgment- some say you have what’s called ‘the Bema seat’ a separate judgment for believers- and then the ‘Great White Throne judgment’ the general judgment of the wicked.
O.K. does the bible specifically teach that the Rapture event is a separate event from the 2nd coming? No- in my view the bible does not teach this. Now- I’m sure that most of my Protestant readers are surprised that I hold to this view, because in American Evangelicalism this view is almost like the Trinity- in some circles it divides the true believers from the heretics.
Classic Christianity does not hold this view- this idea became popularized the 1800’s under a man by the name of John Nelson Darby and the idea spread to America in the 1900’s- primarily thru the revivalist strain of Christianity- and the ‘bible school/conference’ movement.
The historic churches just stuck with the classic idea that there will be one second coming- and there will be a resurrection and final judgment. I pretty much fall into this category myself.
You would be surprised how much thought has gone into this idea- I mean you have entire schools of thought- who call the other side heretics- just because they believe a 3.5 year tribulation as opposed to a 7 year one.
The word rapture comes from the Greek phrase used in Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians- chapter 4. That’s the rapture chapter. The apostle says that Jesus will return and catch up [catch away] the believers into the air- they will forever be with God. This event is biblical- I believe it will someday take place. I simply believe this event to be the 2nd coming- not another event that you would define as the rapture.
I believe if you simply read the 2nd coming passages in the New Testament- that you would see this to be the most acceptable view. Jesus actually says ‘after these things [the great tribulation] then the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appears in heaven’ and he goes on to say ‘one will be taken- the other left’. It seems pretty clear to me that the event where ‘one is taken- another left’ takes place ‘after these things’ Jesus actually gives us the time table.
To be fair- the other side has many-many ways to ‘get around’ these verses- I just feel that after all is said and done- that the best way to view The Rapture is to see this event as the actual 2nd coming.
I have written a lot about this over the years [under the End Times section] and my purpose today is not to ‘prove’ whose view is right- I have found those tasks to be next to impossible. My point is if a believer [or group of them] chooses to break away from the historic church’s position on anything, then you need to think thru it very carefully. Most classic Christian churches have had very wise and knowledgeable men who thought long and hard before they articulated doctrine.
This is not to say that the majority view is always right- but it’s simply a safe guide to stick with the majority Christian view most of the time. I’m very aware of the minority report when it comes to the Rapture doctrine- I just feel like the portions of scripture that are used to ‘prove’ the doctrine are not strong enough to overthrow the classic belief.
The plain teaching of the New Testament is that there most definitely will be a Second Coming- and this event does not take place in 2 stages- the Rapture is the 2nd coming.
 HAROLD CAMPING
As you well know- today will be our last day together. Yes- at 6:oo tonight the world is supposed to end. I first stumbled across the article a few weeks ago. The famous preacher from the east- Harold Camping- has once again predicted the return of Christ [or the Rapture].
Camping has gone down this road before- and I have a friend who actually follows Camping and I have tried to be nice about it- but of course most Christians believe Camping is part of a long line of well meaning men- who can’t resist the temptation to date set.
Now- I of course do not fall for stuff like this- I am not that gullible for heaven’s sake, some kind of conspiracy nut. Plus- if the world ends today- then how will we ever catch Bin Laden [of course you heard- he’s still alive?] hiding in Pakistan- with the fake birth certificate duplicator machine- you know- the one he used to fake Obama’s long form!
So yes- we as believers do have a history of doing silly things at times- and for some reason these things take on a life of their own. Many years ago I had a friend [Emit- for those of you who have read my posts these past few weeks- you now know who he is] he was/is sort of a spiritual son- you know- one of the sons of the guys hooked on drugs who eventually became a member of our little church movement.
So one day Emit tells me about the movie Jesus of Nazareth. It came out years ago and they did a good job at depicting the life of Christ. He says ‘did you see the actor who played Jesus? Wow- he was mysterious/spooky’ he watched it with his family and they felt touched by the actor who played Christ.
So I of course opined ‘You know brother- after the movie was made- when you look at the credits at the end- no name shows up for the actor. Then when the other actors and the director questioned each other- no one knows who the actor is!’
Now- of course I was kidding- and I made sure I told Emit ‘brother- just kidding’. But you know how these urban myths go- once you start them- there hard to stop!
So a few years later [maybe 5?] I was talking to his mother in law [Yolanda- another church member who was a woman preacher who did preach and had influence with other Christians- she was Emit’s mother in law]. And somehow she says ‘hey brother John- did you know that no one knows who the actor was in that Jesus movie’. I asked her ‘Yolanda- who told you that?’ she says ‘Emit’.
Now- after all those years the story got out- I mean I wish the truth could spread like this. For all I know there might be an entire group of people in Texas- you know- the ‘anonymous Jesus movie actor believers’ who all believe this story. Heck I always wanted to head up a movement.
But things like this do have a tendency to get around. So anyway that’s how the ‘end of the world is today’ thing has caught on. Now- will the world end today? Doubt it. Will ‘the world’ make fun of us? Sure. Will Christians continue to do things like this? Probably. How can we avoid doing things like this?
The safe way to go- in my view- is to stay connected to the historic church as much as possible. The Christian church has a good- long tradition of Christian truth. For the most part- the stability you find in the Christian classics- the church fathers- Patristics- this tradition is a good one.
Harold Camping is a good man- but he is a retired civil engineer- I’m sure he means well- but try and get your info from men who have been educated- yes thru the more traditional forms of education. Yes- I know ‘who are you to talk- you’re a retired fire fighter!’ But I try to offset that with many years of study- not just bible study- but studying the things I just mentioned. Taking the attitude that I can learn from those who have been at this longer than me. Camping believes ‘all the churches’ are now in deception- yes- he has another weird teaching that says the ‘church age’ has ended and there are no longer any true churches in the world today.
I hope most of you will not fall for stuff like this- we have bigger fish to fry- heck- I need to go out today and start the ‘anonymous Jesus actor followers’ are you in?
 JESUS CHRIST- SUPERSTAR?
The other night I caught the classic movie/musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber- Jesus Christ Superstar. I remember seeing it as a kid [it came out in 73] and I remember that there was some controversy over it. The intro on the Classic channel also talked about the controversy. Whenever a movie comes out depicting the life of Jesus [The Last Temptation of Christ] there usually is some type of protest about it.
As I watched Superstar I saw a few scenes that Christians might see as problematic- but overall I liked it. The things that Christians usually protest are the scenes that show Jesus as a man- tempted the same way all men are tempted- by women! That is- some of the movies depict Jesus as getting too close to Mary Magdalene and even having slept with her.
Now- believers most definitely reject the sleeping part- that did not happen. But was it possible for Jesus [and Mary] to have ever been tempted to be in love? I think so- the bible clearly says that Jesus was tempted in every way, just like us- yet he never sinned [Hebrews, 1st John]. So what’s the big deal if one of the temptations- which he never gave in to- was falling in love with Mary?
The point being- we seem to feel uncomfortable with the biblical doctrine of Jesus being tempted at all- we prefer to overlook the verses that show Jesus was in a great struggle. In Psalms 22- the writer prophesies of Jesus- he says ‘deliver my soul from the mouth of the lion- I call to you from the horns of the unicorns’ it shows a sense of desperation- a sense of Jesus in the garden praying- sweating great drops of blood ‘if it’s possible God- let this thing go away!’
I went to church Easter morning- I on and off attend a mega church here in the city- it’s the 15th fastest growing church in the country [they like to let people know the numbers/statistics a lot] and they average around 7 thousand attendees every weekend. I like the church- it’s a good church. Now, it just so happened that they did mention statistics this day- I felt like they wanted to show the people what they were doing with the money- kind of justify giving to the church- all okay things. As someone who has been around the block- experienced and studied church doctrine [called Ecclesiology- the word Ecclesia is the Greek word for church in our bibles] I have seen how easy it is to view church from the standpoint of getting the right amount of people to ‘join’ so you could have the right amount of money to carry out the church’s mission. Often times the well meaning pastors are influenced by the peer pressure to meet certain criteria and they unwittingly descend into a numbers game ‘gee- if I can just get so many more- who ‘join’ [which means they give 10 % of their money to the church] then I could accomplish so much’.
In the New Testament days you had what was called ‘Oral Tradition’ that is many of the early churches spread the message of Jesus by word of mouth. After a period of time [around 15-30 years- depending on whose numbers you use] these Oral Traditions were put down in writing [the gospels]. You also read how the apostle Paul sent letters to the churches he was working with- and he would say ‘have this letter read among you’. Why not say ‘pass it around and let everyone read it’? There were many early believers who were illiterate- so you had a designated ‘reader-lecturer’ handle the job.
The point being- when you had an increase of people who wanted to hear the message [from Paul or anyone else] you did not have the messenger go out and build huge buildings so everyone in the town could cram in on Sunday and hear Paul [or Jesus]. Instead you had a natural growth take place as people spread the message- that’s how the church grew.
As someone who has written and said much about this over the years [read my section ‘What in the world is the church’] I don’t want to get into the whole thing today- just wanted to say we in the west like seeing Jesus as a famous person- a ‘superstar’ if you will- we like putting him on a stage and seeing him perform. We like it so much we try and emulate this very aspect of what we see as ‘ministry’. Jesus was a real man [and really God] who was tested like all men- he never sinned- but the tests were real. Today we see him seated at the right hand of the father- in his glory- but first came the tests.
Jesus told his men ‘you are the ones who stuck with me all thru the trials- you endured. Therefore I give to you a kingdom- just like I went thru trials and my father has given me a kingdom’. Yes- Jesus has acquired superstar status in the Western world- the American churches seem to focus on that aspect much- yet the psalmist- speaking for Jesus- said ‘save me my darling from the mouth of the lion- the bulls are all around me- my skin sticks to my bones- I am in torment and my soul is at the point of death- help me’ we seem to forget this aspect of the superstar.
 THE LAST MEAL-
Let’s try and cover the Passover story today. Being we are in Holy Week I thought the story- and what it means- would be helpful. In the Old Testament we read the story in the book of Exodus. Those of you who are not bible readers, just think of Charlton Hesston in the classic movie ‘the 10 commandments’.
The history is the Jewish people were living in Egypt for around 430 years and Pharaoh was oppressing them. They were in bondage- literally- they were the slave work force of the nation. The people cry out to God and God sends them a deliverer [savior]. Moses was ‘secretly’ a Jew- though brought up in Pharaohs house [like Jesus- many do not recognize his real identity- Messiah].
Moses is used by God to judge Egypt. God sends 10 plagues on the nation and the last plague was the worst. Moses told Pharaoh if you do not free the people God will cause all the 1st born children to die. The oldest son in each house would die- from Pharaohs house to the lowest slave. Now- how did the Jewish people escape this judgment? God told Moses to tell the people the night before the judgment- they were to take a lamb and kill it and eat it [not the blood] and put the blood over the door posts- sort of in the sign of the Cross- the blood went on top and on the 2 sides of the doorway. And when the Death Angel passes thru Egypt- when God sees the blood he will ‘pass over’ that house- Walla- that’s where the name Pass Over comes from.
Now- sure enough the plague happened and Pharaohs oldest died as well as the oldest child in all the Egyptian homes. Pharaoh calls Moses and they say ‘quick go- get the h-ll out- before we all die’. The bible says they urged them to go. Well you know the rest of the story.
Now after this great deliverance God tells the people to keep this event as an everlasting memorial- a holiday for the rest of their lives. So for over 3400 years [give or take a few] the Jewish people have kept this feast. Now, when Jesus came on the scene in the 1st century- as a good Jewish boy he too kept this feast. The Feast itself was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread- but it is also referred to as the Passover feast. Technically the Passover meal kicks off the Feast.
So Jesus arrives in the 1st century and John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah who was to come. John calls him The Lamb of God at his baptism in the Jordan. So Jesus carries out his Messianic ministry with his men and he does all these wonderful miracles- raising the dead- multiplying the loaves and fish- you know the story. But every now and then he drops these weird hints- things that totally confuse the disciples. One time he says ‘now I go to Jerusalem to be crucified as it was foretold’ and Peter says ‘no way Lord- God forbid it’. Jesus replies ‘get behind me satan- for you care more about the things of men then the things of God’.
It’s interesting to note that this rebuke of Peter came right after his great confession of Jesus as the Christ. So Jesus drops hints [and open messages!] that he will die for the nation/world. Even the Jewish high priest at the time said ‘it is expedient that one man die for the nation instead of the whole nation being judged’. This is recorded in John’s gospel and John says the priest was prophesying the truth- though the priest thought he was speaking politically- that the death of Jesus would get the heat off of them for the time being- yet the priest did not realize what he was truly saying.
So as the events of ‘Holy Week’ draw near- Jesus takes his men and they go to a special place to have one last meal with Jesus- the famous Passover meal. Jesus says he really looked forward to this meal with his men. Now, Jesus knows that he himself is the fulfillment of all the slain lambs that have come down thru the centuries. He sits with his men and takes the bread and says ‘this is my Body that is broken for you’ and he takes the cup of wine and says ‘This is my Blood’.
Now- today I want to share something I never heard taught before- so to all my blog readers you might get in on a cutting edge truth. In the Jewish religion they did not drink the blood- most bible teachers know why this is- the bible says the life of the flesh is in the blood. So when Jesus told them in John’s gospel ‘unless you drink my Blood and eat my flesh you have no life’ this was a highly offensive statement to the Jewish mind- many followers walked away at that point [John chapter 6]. So the significance of the Old Testament prohibition on drinking blood was in fact pointing to a future Lamb [Jesus] whose Blood you could drink- or it was saying in symbol form ‘look- the life is in the blood- therefore you will not have true life until the day comes when you will drink the blood of a Lamb- the Lamb of God’ got it? [note- most bible teachers know this- I just never read anyone make the connection that the reason blood was prohibited to drink was because there would be a future day when Blood would be accepted- the prohibition was to point to this very thing!]
So Jesus eats the Passover with his men and he readies himself for the Cross. Our Jewish friends [Pope Benedict refers to them as our elder brothers] celebrate this great meal to this day. Christians celebrate its fulfillment every Sunday as churches all across the world hold communion services. To my Catholic friends- this is what the priest quotes at every Mass. Around 3400 years ago Moses told the people if they put the blood on the door they would be saved- the judgment would Pass Over them- all these years later we still have the promise of the Blood of Jesus.
As this Holy Week progresses- many Christians will attend church this Sunday- some are like The Donald- they attend on Christmas and Easter- but still- thank God they go! Whatever group you are in- pay special attention to the communion meal- mediate on the importance of what the meal means- enter in to the reality of Jesus being our Pass Over sacrifice [1st Corinthians 5] and remember the words of Jesus in John chapter 6 ‘Moses did not give you the real bread of God from heaven- you ate the Manna under Moses- and died. Whoever eats my Body will live forever’ Hail to the King.
 THE APOSTLE-
Got up early yesterday and decided to take a drive thru the old towns that I used to drive thru on my way to work. I used to pass up this historic community, German Catholics [the name of the town is Violet] but I never stopped to check out the little area where they live. They still have the original historic church they built in 1906- it’s closed down but it sits right next to a more modern one. It was cool seeing this old community- though I drove past it hundreds of times- it was nice to finally stop.
As I continued my tour I hit Robstown- another town I have driven past lots- have also been there lots of times as well. As I drove thru the main street I saw a few Pentecostal Revival tents set up- the signs had various bible verses on them. I also noticed some signs along the main road that simply said ‘Robstown for Jesus’. I of course didn’t mind seeing it- but I had the sense that some of the ‘more refined’ locals probably cringe at seeing the signs right off their main road. Often times Real Estate people don’t appreciate anything that might turn off a potential buyer.
I finished my tour by heading back to Corpus. I thought about the movie The Apostle [Duvall]. It’s one of my favorites- Duvall sort of documents the experience of a typical southern Pentecostal preacher who winds up killing his wife’s new boyfriend by accident. The story line traces the redemption of the title character and how he eventually gets busted and pays his dues. I heard Duvall talk about doing research for the movie and all- how he always was fascinated with the independent southern protestant type preachers and he had great respect for them. And I liked the overall ecumenical spirit of the movie- at one point Duvall is traveling thru an area [Louisiana?] and he sees this Catholic procession and simply says ‘they do it their way- I do it mine- but we all get the job done’.
We all have our own biases and prejudices- it’s foolish to deny that- but it helps if we simply try and view other people/groups in the best possible light. Sure- at the end of the day we will still have our disagreements, but we might also learn from each other. I remember when first reading thru the bible and attending one of Duvall’s type churches- one of the big verses we hit on was when Jesus says ‘don’t call any man on earth Father- for you have one Father- God’. We used to use this one to blast Catholics. Was Jesus talking about Catholics? Besides the fact that officially the church really didn’t exist yet- we also read the apostle Paul referring to himself as Father when writing the Corinthian church- he says ‘you have ten thousand teachers but I am your father in the gospel- I begat you thru the gospel’. Paul was the ‘spiritual Father’ of the Corinthian church [community]. Paul was an Apostle and the gift of an Apostle is like being a spiritual father.
So what gives- was Paul violating Jesus’ teaching? In the 1st century when Jesus was speaking you had the Jewish religion- Judaism- that had splintered into various sects [groups]. You could say ‘I follow rabbi so and so’ these different sects- and those who adhered to them- were said to be under the Father [Rabbi] of that school. In essence Jesus was simply rebuking the Party spirit- that thing that Paul himself rebuked the Corinthians for. Some of them said they followed Paul, others Apollo’s, etc. So a little bit of historical context- and we have our answer. But as a new believer who was zealous for the bible- I really had not time for all that stuff- I just read ‘don’t call anyone Father’ and that was that.
My short ride was enlightening- I saw the historic German community who brought their faith to this continent over a hundred years ago- sure they have ‘their way’ of doing it- like Duvall said. I also saw the Pentecostal revival meeting- with the classic tent and all [just like in Duvall’s flick] and they were proudly proclaiming Christ. Some feel we need to rid society of all vestiges of religious faith- they look to radical Islam- or to the Pro Lifer’s and say ‘we just need to get rid of the whole bunch’. One of the most popular thinkers of the last century was a man by the name of John Paul Sartre- he followed in the field of thinkers that are referred to as Existentialist’s. Sartre was an atheist- though the ‘father’ of existentialism was a Christian [Soren Kierkegaard- 1800’s].
Existentialism is a philosophy that says there is more than just head knowledge- pure rationalistic approaches to God and life. Kierkegaard wrote his famous book Fear and Trembling- he talked about how when God told Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice- that Abraham had to rise above pure rational thought [God says ‘don’t kill’ and yet he’s asking me to kill my son]. Kierkegaard says true faith rises above rational thought and embraces God in an experiential way.
Sartre wrote a few books too. Titles; Nausea, No Exit, Being and Nothingness. He was famous for saying ‘Man is a useless passion’. Jesus warned of the danger of looking to human systems and saying ‘father’ that is choosing any system of man [like atheism] over and above the Fatherhood of God. You might be part of the Catholic community of Violet that brought their faith to the area over a century ago- or maybe your more comfortable ‘under the tent’ with my Pentecostal friends- either way the job gets done. But you do need to find a ‘tent’ a community that embraces the reality of God- because if you place yourself outside the tent- then according to Sartre- you are a useless passion.
 CULTS- I was thinking of covering the 4th Pillar of Islam today [our current study on Islam] but as I was walking into my office I noticed a pamphlet from the local Jehovah’s Witness group- it was an invite to their meeting. My kids must have found it on the door.
Over the years I have had great talks with the Witnesses as well as the Mormons. I’m always upfront from the start- I tell them I do teach the bible and church/religious history and as our talks begin I cover the basic historical background of their groups. I tell them why historic Christianity often defines them as a Cult- I try and be open and nice- yet I tell them the reasons behind this label.
Most times they are open and willing to talk- I hear them and they hear me. I have had numerous occasions where the younger Mormon kids would come back and really get into the stuff I was teaching- one kid said ‘wow- you know all the stuff we know’ I quoted a few key verses and he really was learning. I had a husband and wife Jehovah Witness team come over- as I was doing the basic study [me teaching them some stuff] the husband had one of those ‘aha’ moments. I was teaching/explaining something from the book of Acts and he said ‘your right- God showed me that too!’ he was really excited.
I say all this to say we often view people as ‘the enemy’ I think some of the reason for them being open to what I have to say is the fact that most of the homes they knock on often view them in a real negative light. Almost as if they were enemies. Now- I am very aware of the doctrinal differences between these groups and historic Christianity- and there are real reasons for the cult label- but I try to see them thru the lens of honest people- who for whatever reason [often raised in the group] they are trying to serve God to the best of their ability. If you view them thru this more merciful angle- as opposed to evil cult members- then you can have an open door that goes both ways.
One of the sad things about current Christianity is the tendency- in many groups- to focus on the things that we disagree on. There are many good Christian churches who view the church down the block as a cult- often times these churches actually believe the same thing on 99 % of their doctrine- yet they have a disagreement on water baptism- or an end time doctrine- or the gifts of the Spirit- and these differences are deemed worthy of the cult label. It’s really a sad thing.
I caught the show Journey Home the other night- it’s the Catholic show hosted by Marcus Grodi- he does interesting interviews with ex protestants who have ‘returned home’ to the Catholic church. The guy he had on was a former Fundamental Baptist minister who is now Catholic. For those of you who are not familiar with Christian fundamentalism- this is no minor change. Most Fundamentalist Baptists hold to a very anti Catholic stand. Anyway it was interesting to hear his journey- how he came to learn church history and he was open to the story of Christianity down thru the ages. I felt he was a little too defensive of his Catholic faith- he quoted a bunch of verses from the book of Acts to kinda say ‘see- they were Catholics’ in the fully orbed sense of the word [Bishops, 7 sacraments, etc.] I did like the brother- it was just you could sense the old protestant reasoning in using proof texts to carry your argument thru to a quick, pat conclusion. Often times this way of proving ‘who’s right’ overlooks the importance of learning over a period of time- thru becoming familiar with lots of sources and at the end of the day you see that no ‘one church’ can really lay claim to their church being fully found in the bible.
What I mean by this is the bible gives us the story of the beginnings of Christianity and we really see the church in her infancy while reading the bible- we don’t yet see any particular Christian church fully formed in the scripture. Though many churches have their arguments- they will quote verses all day on why they are the ‘true church’ or ‘best one’ yet I like the more moderate approach- True Christians are found in all denominations and the ‘true church’ consists of all those in the various groups who truly embrace Christ.
So for today- be patient with the door knockers- maybe you are a door knocker? If so, let’s all sit at the table- listen to each other and try to view people thru the lens of mercy. If my first thought of you is ‘radical Muslim’ or ‘evil cult’ then it will be next to impossible for me to relate to you in an open and honest way. I am not advocating the view that ‘all religions lead to God’ I’m simply asking that we be more patient with people- try and understand where they are coming from- I really have had some very open talks with lots of these groups- very upfront with them- I say ‘this is why historic Christianity views you as a cult’ yes I say that- but I say it in a way- during an ongoing conversation- that allows them time to respond and share their view- and I too respond and have an open conversation. I have found this to be the best way to relate to various religious groups- hope you do to.
 RADIO WARS and some other stuff.
Okay, confession time again. Every so often I admit a fault, yes- I face the blog community and do the ‘I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters- that I have sinned …’ my Catholic readers know the scoop. Catholics have a pretty good track record on confession- they confess to another person every so often. Most Protestants don’t realize that the original Protestant movement that was launched in the 16th century- these reformers did not have a big problem with confessing to a Priest. The book of James [in the New Testament] speaks about confessing to each other- and the Protestants really did not make a big deal over this issue- initially. Later on doctrines like this became a big division- but not initially.
Okay- here’s the confession. Over the years I have battled with my kids over the bathroom radio [my 2 oldest- 18, 19] still live at home and they turn the station to the rock channel when they take showers- now I like rock- classic. My driving around station is the local classic rock channel [104.5]. But in the morning I like the Christian station before I write/speak [record a radio show]. So we go back and forth on it. About a week ago my bathroom radio broke- I had the thing for around 25 years- no joke- I used to record radio shows from the thing [the cassette recorder on top]. So being the frugal person that I am [cheap] instead of breaking down and buying another radio [geez- I only get 25 years out of them!] I go to the garage and work on the one that I have sitting in there for yes- around 25 years. This one has worked all along; you just couldn’t change the dial. You could turn it but it wouldn't always work. So as I’m messing with it I get it to play on a Christian station [air 1- kind of a rock Christian thing- okay] and I actually use the plumbers glue to glue the thing permanently on the station. Now- I’m sure my kids think ‘geez- dad is serious about winning this radio war’ but the truth is if they changed the dial it would be impossible to get back to the station. In the past I wrote little notes on the radio ‘don’t remove this radio!! Ever!!’ They used to take it from the bathroom and I’d never see it for weeks. But they didn’t listen to my notes- in fact they mocked them. Some days I would get ready for the morning shower and the note would say ‘I moved it!’ yes- they put it back- but they took the time to mock my note.
So now I have the radio glued to the Christian rock station [I prefer KLOVE- but Air 1 is okay] and this morning as I’m taking a shower I hear the D. J. say ‘up next- Hanson’. Now- I didn’t even know Hanson [the boy band- now older] was doing Christian music- I felt ‘dirty’ listening to them- not because they were kid rockers- it’s just you can’t claim to be a classic rocker and actually have listened to a complete song from Hanson- in a way it’s like joining a cult. But I had no option- I was in the shower and the song just played. I was surprised- they sounded real good. It reminded me of a story I saw on one of the rock channels one day [VH1 ?] They were talking about Donny Osmond’s break into the hard rock world. He was trying to shake the squeaky clean image and made some good heavy metal type songs. They said the songs were good- one of them [Soldier of Love] made it into the top 10 rock songs of the day [in the 70’s]. Yet when the rock stations played the song they would simply say ‘by an unknown artist’ they knew their listeners would rebel if they heard a Donny Osmond song. So that’s my confession- yes- a few minutes ago I was rocking out with Hanson- just hope none of my buddies find out about this.
Okay- being I already wasted all this space- let me hit a few short things. I just finished the book of Proverbs again [reading it slowly over a few weeks] and there were a lot of points I wanted to hit- maybe the next week or 2 I’ll get to some. I just started a new book on Philosophy- I picked it up a few months ago at half price books and never looked at it until last night- I like it a lot. I know the subject is controversial- many Christians shy away from it- but if you study history [like I do a lot] you will see the strong connection between philosophy and theology [study of God]. In the ancient universities [Paris- etc.] these were referred to as the main subjects- Theology was the Queen of learning and philosophy was her handmaid.
So let me just give a short quote- Socrates said ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. Philosophy- as a system- started around 6oo years before Christ in Greek society. The popular guys we hear about- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle- they lived around 3-350 years before Christ. Christian teachers have taken different stances for and against philosophy. The church father Tertullian said ‘what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem’ meaning philosophy and Christian teaching don’t go together. Yet the great Swiss reformer- Ulrich Zwingli [16th century] was a well schooled theologian- learned in many of the subjects of his day- like the great Catholic scholar Erasmus. These guys were a little more refined [though Zwingli was actually a warrior- killed for the cause] and they saw the Greek philosophers as precursors to Christ- Zwingli believed he would see the great Greek philosophers in heaven some day. So as you see the church has taken different stances on the subject. It’s hard to say that philosophy had no role on Christian thought- many Christians don’t realize that the apostle John almost quoted verbatim from Greek philosophy when he used the phrase ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ [John’s gospel- chapter 1]. In Greek philosophy there was what was considered this ultimate unified principle- that would bring all learning together as one giant truth- this was called Logos- the Word. Greek philosophy had been looking for the Word [Logos] for years- trying to find the one key truth that would tie all other truth together- John was simply saying to Greek society ‘Look- we have found the Truth- the Divine principle that you have been looking for’. So for John to quote this in his gospel was not plagiarism [as some atheists contend] but wisdom- he was speaking to the people in ways that would connect with them. Yes- because scripture is Divine- Inspired- we believe Jesus is very much The Word- the one who proceeds from God- but we also realize that in a sense John borrowed this form of words from the Greek philosophers- nothing wrong with it.
Okay- that’s it for today- I hope you guys always pick something up that sticks with you- you know a little nugget of wisdom that in 30 years from now if I see some of you at an old school reunion you can walk up to me and say ‘John- Jesus is the Word of God’ something that I will be proud about. O wait- just had a thought- if someone walks up and says ‘John- I hear you like Hanson’ I will respond ‘Who’s John?’
 CATHOLIC VERSUS MORMON AND OTHER STUFF. Okay- as an avid news watcher, these last few weeks we have seen a sort of shift in the Liberal versus Conservative media. Lawrence O’Donnell [MSNBC] has decided to deride Beck [FOX] on the air. Now- O’Donnell is smart- he does realize that the ratings for MSNBC are truly dismal- so he’s trying to get Beck to engage so he can get some free advertising. Of course the classic way of getting better ratings has been abandoned by MSNBC years ago [you know- the old ‘unbiased reporting of news’ scheme]. So anyway Beck has gone for the bait a few times and O’Donnell keeps casting out the line. First- O’Donnell is Catholic and Beck is Mormon- and Lawrence is using this as a hook. He is also taking it upon himself to ‘instruct’ his audience in Catholic doctrine. Now- I like these guys [well not really] but as an outside observer let me try and help some of the viewers a bit. Lawrence- as a ‘good’ [let's say well meaning] Catholic does not speak for his church- that is as a Protestant believer- I have studied lots of Catholic history and Doctrine- and I consider the Catholic Church part of the broader Body of Christ- and the facts are- Lawrence does not know ‘the facts’. He challenged Beck on some recent end times musings- he says the majority of Catholics have modernized and don’t believe the ‘old stuff’ anymore; burning witches, putting kids to death for cursing their parents, anti homosexual relationships- Lawrence says the church has advanced and Catholics really don’t believe the old stuff anymore. Now- Doctrinally the church has rejected many of these Old Testament commandments [burning witches] just like most Protestant denominations. Yet the church does not ‘not believe’ the book of Revelation anymore, which is what he lumped it all in with. The official teaching of the church- dating back to the 16th century Council of Trent [you know- little details that I like to refer to as facts] is that the bible is- quote ‘the words that the Holy Spirit dictated’. Now- the language used at Trent was so strong- that the church actually holds to a less literal belief than what the words imply. Most believers do not believe in the idea of a mechanical inspiration of the bible- that is that God actually spoke all the words of the bible to the authors [with the exception of portions of scripture that do record God speaking- 10 commandments, etc.] So, the official teaching of the Church- set down at Trent- is the bible is the ‘word of God’. Yes indeed, the Catholic Church still believes in the book of Revelation. Now- Lawrence says ‘well- not literally’ and he quoted a verse or 2 about Dragons pouring out water from their mouth and the woman fleeing and… well- I’m familiar with the verse- and it is symbolic. I don’t know of anyone- including Beck- that takes this verse ‘literally’. Now- Does Lawrence even know what ‘literal’ means? When Christians use the term ‘taking the bible literally’ this term does not mean that all the verses in the bible are actually literal. For instance the book of Psalms says ‘the hills skipped and danced for joy’ the verse from Revelation that I just mentioned is prophetic language. You have figures of speech also used- the apostle John says ‘there are many other works that Jesus did that are not recorded in this book [John’s gospel] and I suppose if all the works were written down that all the world could not contain the books that would be written’ now- should we read this language ‘literally’ or was John using a common figure of speech to make a point? When the bible uses poetry, prophecy, symbol, etc.. when these passages are read- taking them literally means reading them in context. So when you read about dragons- or hills jumping for joy, or other portions like that- well they are meant to be read in their context. The Catholic Church does indeed still believe in the book of Revelation- literally. I think Lawrence has actually made some good points- I am not a defender of Beck- nor do I hold to the end time views of Beck. My ‘end times’ theology is basically Catholic. I would recommend Scott Hahn’s book ‘The Lambs Supper’ which is an excellent Catholic teaching on the book of Revelation- Hahn is an A-1 Catholic scholar- he teaches Catholic doctrine- real Catholic doctrine. And Hahn does an excellent job at showing us how the book of Revelation is centered around Christ and the reality of the church and the kingdom of God. I am not totally throwing O’Donnell under the bus- I think he has said some good stuff about this not being ‘the end of the world’ and other things- but it’s not good to have a Catholic news man say ‘this is what Catholics believe’ when he obviously does not know what Catholics believe. Yes, Beck does need to be reigned in a bit- but don’t do it at the expense of confusing people about the church. A persons personal view is fine- but don’t tell people what the church does or does not believe- especially if you’re not familiar with the material- o well- I forgot- being misinformed about the facts has never really mattered that much at MSNBC- I’m sorry.
Just a note- The Catholic Church has ‘modernized’ since the famous Council at Trent- Vatican Council 2 [1962-65] did indeed try and bring the church more into modern times. And there have been statements made that say the reading/teaching of the bible should not be taken in a way that rejects the modern advances of science. But the official belief of the bible being the Word of God is still official Catholic doctrine. Many Protestants confuse the Catholic belief by thinking the church accepts Tradition over the bible- this is actually not so. The official belief of the Catholic Church is that the voice/teaching of God comes to us thru both Tradition and the Bible- they do not say Tradition is over the Bible. There are lots of common misconceptions that Protestants and Catholics have made about each other over the years- I don’t think it will do either side any service for MSNBC and FOX to get into this type of debate on the air. It takes more time than a few sound bites to teach it right- it would be better to just leave it be.
[1625 WE ARE IN- As you know the U.S. and our allies have begun enforcing the ‘no fly zone’- in actuality the stated mission is more than a no fly zone, it’s a mission that is too open ended- basically it says we can do anything we need to do to protect the civilian population of Libya- geez- too broad. Now- is this the same type of resolution that Bush had for his 2 wars? No- president Obama has NO resolution from the congress- nada. He’s operating under U.N. and Arab league language- kind of a problem- don’t you think? I heard a major news person say Obama is operating the same way Bush did- without congressional approval. The news broadcaster explained that Bush did not go to congress for Afghanistan or Iraq. Actually Bush went to congress in 2001 for Afghanistan- and 2002 for Iraq. Though the internal debate [now made public] was that the president did not need to go to congress- yet they did anyway. Those defending Obama’s recent action say ‘yeah- but Clinton didn’t get congressional approval for Kosovo- Serbia’ true. Either way- we are there now. If you go back and read my posts on Libya- I was not a hawk on the matter- someone who advocated U.S. military action. But I felt some of the statements from the president [Gadhafi must go] kinda put us on the hook to do something. Though the defense secretary did not want to engage in another Muslim country [not Arab!] yet it seems as if the secretary of state changed her view and Obama decided for limited action. The U.S. will do the early work- and do a quick hand off to France [Britain]. The problem is we never seem to be able to do the darn handoffs! So let’s pray and try and do our best.
As I mentioned above- the media often simply report stuff wrong. It does not help that most of us hold a view of that part of the world thru what we see/hear in the media- a media that gets stuff wrong [not just Fox]. The majority of Arab people are indeed Muslim- but that makes up only 20 % of the entire Muslim world. The most populous Muslim states range from North Africa to Southeast Asia- Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion- and the world’s 2nd largest [around 1.2 billion followers]. Islam also holds huge minority followings in the Western world [Europe and the U.S.]. Most Americans associate Islam with radical Islam- though most of today’s terrorists have come from the radical sect of Islam- all Muslims are not radicals. There is an internal debate in Islam on how to deal with modernity- some scholars teach that true Islam is Patriarchal in nature and the role of women is subordinate. These hold to the idea that a true Islamic adherent seeks for a true Islamic state- ruled by Sharia law. Others believe in a type of separation of Mosque and state- they hold to the view that Islam’s survival depends on its ability to ‘liberalize’ and adjust- like Christianity has done thru the centuries [most Christians are not seeking a theocratic state- though at one time the world was literally governed by the church]. Islam was founded in the 7th century under the prophet Muhammad, and within a hundred years after his death spread into a vast empire [under the Umayyad and Abbasid empires]. Islam also has a sect within her that could kind of be described as Mystical- that is like the Christian Mystics of church history. This branch is called Sufism. So you could say the 2 great institutions of Islam are Islamic law [Sharia] and Sufism [the mystical expression that seeks a more romanticized experience with God- like Christian Pietism].
As an avid boxing fan- I was watching a fight one night- and the official bell ringer ‘rung’ the bell after only 2minutes into the round [rounds are 3 minutes]. At first the ringside announcers- who are not paying attention to the clock- picked it up by simply feeling like the round was short. Sure enough during the break they were told the bell ringer- whose sole job is to ring the bell- messed up. As I watch the coverage unfold over the next weeks/months- and yes- years- I want to try and do my best to stick with the facts as much as possible. I understand it’s not easy to keep all the facts straight [the official bell ringers do at times mess up] and the distinction between the Arab/Muslim world is at times hard to see- I’m sure we will hear lots of reports confusing the 2- but being we are living in a real dangerous time- a time of change thru out the world that we cannot stop [I didn’t even mention the recent events in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia- major events- Yemen ‘snipers’ killed 50 protestor in cold blood- shot in the head/neck. Bahrain cracked down brutally on her protestors- and Syria is beginning to see more of an uprising]. So as we become more familiar with this part of the world- we want to get our facts as straight as possible. In this post I’m just beginning to cover Islam as a religion- over the coming months I want to do some posts strictly on the actual history of Islam- what Islam believes and teaches- and what Islam does not teach. The purpose is not to give a defense to the religion- but to inform each other about a religion that most westerners see only thru a lens of radicalism- thru news reports that fixate on the extreme elements of Islam. Part of our responsibility in the West is to know the subject/people we are dealing with- and for today one of the facts that should help form the coming posts is all Muslims are not Arabs- and all Arabs are not Muslim- the majority of nations that are ‘majority’ Muslim [around 53] are indeed African and Asian. And the latest one that we just engaged in- militarily- is smack dab in the middle of the North African rim that has been on fire- first to its left in Tunisia- and then to its right with Egypt- and we are ‘stuck in the middle with you’.
 CHRIST CHURCH? A few weeks back I was going to write a post from the words of St. Peter found in the New Testament ‘The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God [Christ’s church= house of God] and if it starts there- what will the outcome be for the rest of the world?’ [paraphrased it]. Right after the ‘thought’ the major events off the coast of Japan hit and we have this trilogy of disasters to deal with [Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear meltdown]. I did find it ‘strange’ that the recent events started with Christ Church New Zealand- and seemed to spread from there. I heard a Geologist the other night- he had previously predicted the earthquake that hit Ca. during the World Series a few years ago. He said the sign of the dead fish recently washing up in Ca. was not a coincidence- he said the fish can sense a change in the earth’s magnetic field [prior to an earthquake] and that in Japan these fish kills are actually called ‘earthquake fish’. Wow. You do hear lots of talking heads during these types of events- yet it would be nice to know the truth on these types of things. The last year or 2 we had earthquakes along the Pacific Rim; Chile, New Zealand and of course Japan. If you look on a map you see the Pacific Ocean and you can draw a circle around the perimeter- the part that affects us is the West coast- so they already have a run on Iodide pills [fear of the radiation crossing the Pacific from Japan] and some are predicting an earthquake. The other night I caught a quick news flash of Saudi Arabia sending troops into Bahrain to fight back against the protestors- as it flashed by quickly- I said ‘geez- this is a major event- and it’s getting lost in the media frenzy’. Then O’Reilly spent 15 minutes on a real important life changing story- a stripper who works with a snake- the snake bit the woman on her breast- the snake died from the silicone from the breast implant. Another news show spent almost the whole hour on sports- even the president did another March madness prediction- at a time when the world has protestors in the streets- who thought we would help them [Libya] and they are actually saying ‘Obama- where are you- where’s Bush?’ Now- whatever your view is on intervening [no fly zone- etc.] the fact is if the feeling around the globe is that we are not taking these things seriously enough- then the image of the president doing March Madness picks does not look good. So what do we make of it all? When Peter said ‘judgment must 1st start at Gods house’ he of course was not directly talking about the city of Christ Church, New Zealand. Yet in a prophetic sort of way- these types of things can be signs of what’s to come. One of the important developments has been the fact that the Arab/Persian nations have indeed chosen to ignore the pleas from the U.S. to go easy on the protestors- and they simply have said ‘screw you- look at what you did to Egypt- we are gonna go the Gadhafi route’ [to a degree]. Saudi Arabia crossing into Bahrain- a small Persian Gulf nation where we have lot of troops stationed [and the 5th fleet docked] is a major development. The markets [both Asian and U.S.] have fallen over the fears that the Nuke disaster is already as bad as Chernobyl- and the unrest in the Middle East and Africa is not getting better. So we pray- we show the world that we don’t just throw our hands up and say ‘the end of the world is here’ but we also recognize it is in mans nature to deny the reality of judgment- the reality that mankind faces times where things build up and the planet suffers for it. In the 19th century there was a movement in Christian theology called ‘Liberal theology’- not liberal in politics- but a whole genre of teaching/thought that challenged a lot of the ‘old time’ beliefs [like original sin] and focused on the ability of modern man to rise above the ignorance of the past [even in religious thought] and man was on the road to a true Utopian society that would never fail. This belief was strong- both in the universities of Germany as well as in the politics of the Western world. Then you had the world wars- 8 million people killed in the first one- and 50 million in the 2nd one. Men like Karl Barth [a Swiss theologian- teacher] would challenge the liberal view of mans ‘inner divinity’ and he would blast the Christian world with his famous ‘the epistle to the Romans’ his commentary on Paul’s famous treatise- released in 1918. Though Barth is what some describe as 'Neo- Orthodox’ [the strong Reformed teachers don’t appreciate Barth very much] yet he did bring the church back to the biblical doctrines of original sin and mans inability to ‘save himself’. Barth saw the reality of the WW1 and rejected the Utopian belief that man was so advanced that he would reach for the sky- and grab it! Today we see lots of shaking in the world- some are focused on March madness- some find it profitable to do a story on a stripper- we need to keep our eyes [and bibles] open- mankind is in need of God- man has gone thru stages where he thought the ‘old belief’ in God would fall away- to the contrary- the govt’s of man [apart from God] seem to be the thing that’s falling away.
 ARE THE JAPANESE DISPROVING FREUD? One of the narratives coming from the Japan disaster is the response of the Japanese people. In contrast to our Katrina tragedy the Japanese are very self reliant. Jack Cafferty [CNN] read an email from some elderly lady who contrasted the 2 responses. She called the Louisiana residents who looted, killed, complained and wined- she said ‘those scumbags’ [ouch!] What are we seeing in the Japanese people? The media are referring to them as Stoic’s- the philosophy [ancient Greek- one of only 2 philosophies mentioned by name in the bible- Acts chapter 17 mentions the Stoic’s and Epicureanism] that said the secret to life is living on an even plane. Don’t get too ‘up’ or too down- just ride the wave of life as moderately as you can. The other side of the coin is Hedonism- the philosophy of men like Freud- who taught that the problem with man is that he is taught to restrain himself [by religion] and that this restraint is itself a product of neurosis. Freud was a strange fellow, the father of modern Psychoanalysis; his ideas were actually quite weird. As a Jew [non practicing] he embraced the higher criticism of his day [a way of interpreting the bible as not being actually true- just good stories] and he sought to come up with an explanation for mans religious bent. So he came up with the idea of the Oedipal Complex- a strange view of man that said the real problems of man are they have this view of love and hate for the father figure- and the ‘real’ story of Moses and the children of Israel was the Jews killed Moses in the wilderness [hatred for the father figure] they then felt guilty about it- and out of this guilt they would eventually develop a ‘religion of the Son’ [Christianity] and Walla- that’s the real story. You would be surprised how many people hear silly stuff like this in life [or college!] and they never give it a second thought. Like Pope Benedict says in ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ [1st book of a trilogy on the life of Christ] he mentions the theories of the critics [men like Bultmann] and he then responds ‘and how do you know this’? Bultmann [one of the famous liberal theologians of the day] would come up with ideas like this- and he would just espouse them. The funny thing about these critics was they were trying to challenge the historical accuracy of the bible- are the gospels true- stuff like that. And in their challenge they would ‘make up’ their own stuff [Oedipal complex] and simply expect everyone to believe it. So Freud taught that we need to free man from this neurosis of religion- this thing in society that says ‘restrain yourself’ and if we teach man to do and be all that he feels like doing- then we will have healed him of this destructive religious belief that developed out of a secret love/hate relationship of father. Wow. I can think of no greater philosophy to not live your life by than that. How did the Freudian experiment turn out? It was/is a disaster- I’m not just saying this as a Christian who rejects Freud’s atheism- but many of his ideas have also been roundly rejected by the psychologists of the modern day. Freud actually taught that when you counsel a person [yes- he was the originator of the idea of the patient lying on the couch while the counselor listens] that the patient is ‘transmitting’ psychic energy from himself to the doctor- and that’s what makes him better. Freud wrote Moses and Monotheism [his fictional account of the origins of Judaism/Christianity] Totem and Taboo- the fictional idea of the primitive religion of man- and Civilization and it’s Discontents, his explanation of the conflict between mans psychic life and the demands of society. The basic view of Freud [Hedonism] is a failed system that does not work in the real world. To live your life based on the philosophy of ‘if it feels good- do it’ does not work in any area of life- for the long term. In food, shopping, family life, marriage, sexual expression- the basic principle of self restraint and discipline [the Japanese response] is in great contrast to the ‘unrestrained’ view of life [as seen in some of the Katrina response- many of the looters and rioters were raised with a welfare mentality- they were dependant on the state/govt. to do things for them. When things went bad- they blamed the govt. for it]. In the end of the day- the society that practices self discipline- that teaches their children to be self reliant- those are the ones who have the most successful lives. Those who practice Hedonism blame stuff on everyone else.
 EXODUS 20- God gives the people his law- the famous ’10 commandments’. In Greek it is Decalogue [meaning 10 words] and these laws are actually in the form of an ancient treaty type document- in essence God was not just saying ‘do this- don’t do that’ but he was telling them if they wanted to survive as a people, a society- then they needed law, just principles from which to govern themselves by- and also to hold each other accountable to their government and God.
As I continue to write and post about current world affairs- I also do lots of actual scholarly studying- I try and ‘mix’ world events in with historical perspective and keep my thinking in line with others who have gone on before us- stable thinkers, people who represent a broad range of thought. It’s too easy [and dangerous!] to view all things from a limited perspective- and then to see your view confirmed by your limited reading of the events. I saw a minister on one of the history channel shows speaking about his view of the ‘end of the world’. It was obvious that the program was allowing him to share his view- not because they thought it to be accurate- but because they wanted to show how people can see their beliefs confirmed by world events- if that’s what they want to see. Now- let me give you an example; during WW2 the church in Germany was divided- some wanted to work in accord with the state [Hitler] and others said they wanted no type of ungodly alliances with the state. Men like Dietrich Bonheoffer would reject Hitler’s ideals and be part of ‘the confessing church’ [those evangelicals who would not work with Hitler]. Another very famous theologian [scholar] would sign his name to an important document that stated the same idea of not condoning Hitler’s regime- his name was Karl Barth [considered by many to be the most influential theologian of the 20th century] the document was called The Barmen Declaration. In these cases the church felt she needed to speak out about world events- to side with those who were being oppressed- and to condemn those who were oppressing.
As I write this morning- we come off a day where our forces accidentally killed 9 Afghan boys who were out collecting wood for fire. Gen. Petraeus publicly apologized. Hamid Karzai is livid [rightfully so] and we are rapidly losing the support of the people [and I don’t blame them]. Yemen's president gave a very revealing speech- he told his country that he was going to ‘reveal a secret’. He said there is a secret operations room in Tel Aviv [Israel] and the purpose for it is to conspire against the Arab world and that the U.S. and Israel regularly meet to plan the overthrow of the Arab world. He obviously feels the heat [like all these other nations- he has protestors in the streets] but the fact that these leaders are actually speaking like this openly- our ties to these Arab nations are over. At the airport in Germany- a Muslim employee opened fire on 4 people- killing 2 American soldiers. Reports are he shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ [God is great] while firing his weapon.
In the media there are 2 narratives you can see; some ‘news organizations’ have made the top stories about Rumsfeld and any past mistakes/possible crimes committed under the Bush administration. Now- I guess there is a proper time for this- but not during the same day when the current administration and U.S. forces are involved in so many real-time scenarios, actual things that can change our world for years to come. Other news channels focus on the worst case scenarios- seeming to leave no room for any hope at all. I think both of these extremes are dangerous for our country- and we need to be realistic about the very real dangers- including our countries financial problems [there is talk in the world about dropping the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency- and some analysts believe that China and others will stop buying our debt- financing us] These are very real dangers that we face as a country.
So what should the church do? First- I believe the ongoing killing of civilians [even by mistake!] is something that has to stop. Many Americans see the shooting of our soldiers at the German base as ‘terrorism’ and view the accidental killing of the 9 boys as ‘collateral damage’. We must understand- that the mothers of these boys don’t see it like that- and the rest of the Arab world as well. When God gave the people the ‘10 laws’ he was telling them there are some very fundamental rules that all nations will need to abide by if they want to survive. Most of us are familiar with them- and most of us know what the big one is ‘thou shalt not kill’- I think too many of us have stepped over this line one too many times.
 YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? YOU GOT IT. Okay- history was made yesterday- on the exact anniversary of the Iranian revolution [that didn’t work out so well]. First- I’m glad the people in the square prevailed- I’m on their side and stand in solidarity with them. There are already a few other Facebook pages popping up- DAYS OF RAGE for other countries who are seeking to capitalize on the mood of revolution in the air- it looks like we might really be living in historic times. These events could very well be the defining moment of this century- that which historians will look back on and see as momentous- a defining time. Are there dangers? Yes. There are always dangers when Revolution happens- honest [and dishonest] people on both sides- we [the U.S.] are children of Revolution- if any nation should support these revolts- it should be us! We had dissenters during our season of revolt- some preachers/Christians sided with England- they felt like it was disobeying the bible to ‘Revolt’- there are bible verses that say ‘obey your earthly rulers- listen to the kings and governors- don’t rebel’. Now- that sure does sound problematic if you’re a believer on the revolting side. The apostle Paul wrote this, not under Western Style Democracy- but under Imperial Roman Rule! [ in his letter to the church at ROME!] So how do we join the spirit of freedom and popular revolution with this? Jesus obviously rejected violent revolt [those who live by the sword will die by it] yet he was not against challenging the authorities of the day- non violently standing up to corrupt leaders- and yes- instituting a new revolutionary kingdom- one that would overthrow the ‘kingdoms of this world’ [ The Kingdom of God]. I mean you can’t escape the imagery of revolt and kingdom and righteous dominion [rule] this is the heart and soul of the Kingdom of God. Problem? Well yes- at times [like in our day] many Christians misunderstand the purpose of the Kingdom of God- they [in my view] place too much emphasis on the geographical area of the Holy Land- they develop scenarios that pit Arab/Muslim nations against Israel- and they read the very real Old Testament prophecies thru a lens that says ‘this is God’s word- this ethnic group [Jewish] should posses this area- and this other ethnic group [Palestinian] should get out’. I think when we see the purpose of God and his kingdom thru this lens- we err. But the reality is the bible and the message of Jesus are one of true revolution- peaceful- but revolution nonetheless. The verses Paul wrote are indeed scripture- and they were real practical advice given to the fledgling church in the 1st century- Paul did not want the nascent church to get a reputation of being political rabble rousers- you had what were called Zealots at the time- Jewish political activists who advocated violent overthrow of Roman rule from the Jewish land- and Paul [and Jesus] rejected this idea. So I think if we read the basic instructions from Paul and see the context of the time- that yes- a political revolt was not what the early church needed. But what we are seeing in our day is a possible major realignment of the nations in the Arab [and Persian] world. We are seeing people who have been oppressed by religious theocracies- these people have every right to rebel- to non violently go to the streets and stand in protest to the dictators who have ruthlessly oppressed them for years- these rebels are not criminals- they are non violent protestors who are speaking truth to power- much like what Jesus did. Now- where next? I think we need to do Iran again- I think the president [Obama] thinks this too. Yesterday as he gave a speech after the historic events in Egypt- he spoke to the leadership of Iran and told them ‘let your people also freely protest in your streets’. Now- that message is saying ‘you guys are also gonna fall’- do you really think the Iranian madman thinks ‘well- maybe if we let the people protest- that’s all the president meant’ c’mon- if we thru Mubarak ‘under the bus’ [I’m glad he’s under the bus] there isn’t a snowballs chance in Hades that The mad man from Iran will get a free pass. So yes- lets support all the days of rage that are popping up- lets be on the side of freedom from tyrants and U.S. puppets- the Arab street is smart- they know much more than we give them credit for- and yes- there will be a danger from radical Islamist elements- we should make a distinction between violent and non violent Muslim groups- but even groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that have rejected violence- we should still be aware of their goal- they do indeed advocate for religious rule and we need to say ‘yes- we honor your principled stance against violence- yet we reject any religious theocracy- whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim- we want freedom and rights for all people- regardless of their religion- and we do not support your goal- even if you want to achieve it thru non violence’. Where next? IRAN.
[just a note- as I’m presently studying Marx and Freud and other thinkers- Marx himself rejected God because he felt like the religious rulers would use these types of ‘non revolt’ teachings to keep the people suppressed- Marx’s problem with God came thru this economic challenge- the masses were unwilling to revolt against economic oppression because religion was being used as a tool to keep the people under. I think in the beginning Marx meant well- saw the oppression of people and saw how rulers used religion to control people- too bad he couldn’t read this post]
 THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION TO MODERNITY- Before I jump too far ahead in our study of Modernity- let me try and do a few posts on the contribution that Jewish thinkers added to the conversation. Obviously the influence from Christian thinkers [or those who came from a Christian background] played the majority role in forming the boundaries of philosophical and theological thinking in the Modern period- yet there were a few notable Jewish thinkers who also made some good contributions. Moses Mendelssohn interpreted Judaism thru a rational/modern lens and played the role of liberal theologian- much like the liberal Christian scholars who were attempting to emphasize the universality of religion and focusing less on the idea of exclusiveness. The 19th- 20th century thinker- Hermann Cohen- saw Judaism in terms of a universal ethical humanism- later on he returned to a more particularistic view- stressing the concepts of sin and salvation and how universal ethics by themselves were not able to address these issues apart from a particular religious revelation. Certain schools of theologians view the return of the Jews- spoken about in the Old Testament- to their homeland in the 6th century B.C. as the true beginning of Jewish history and thought- they hold to the liberal view that the Torah was written at this time [as opposed to around 1100 B.C. by Moses] and that this era marked the phase of 2nd temple Judaism. I too view the period from the return from captivity in the 6th century B.C. as a sort of ‘2nd temple Judaism’ yet I reject the idea that the Torah was written at that time- I hold to the conservative view that Moses wrote most of the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Having said that- after the Jews returned to their homeland [6th century B.C.] they would reinstitute temple worship and eventually Herod [Roman ruler] would rebuild the temple and the 1st century Jews would regulate their lives round the temple and it’s rituals- Priests played a major role in religious/political life. In 66 A.D. the Jews rebelled against Roman dominance- and in A.D. 70 Rome destroyed the temple under Titus [the military commander] and the Jews would lose the central religious location that structured their lives for centuries. Eventually Rabbi’s-the interpreters of the law- would play the major role in shaping the religious thought of the Jewish people. As time progressed, society eventually asked the question- which came to be known as ‘the Jewish question’- how should Jewish people be seen? Those living in France and Germany- were they to be accepted as Jews- with a distinct ethnic/religious culture- or should they be seen as German- French citizens? Recently- a famous female journalist [Helen Thomas] made headlines when a u-tube video came out- she was commenting on the ‘Jewish question’ and said the Jews ‘need to get the hell out of Palestine and return to their home countries’ when asked ‘what home countries’ she said Germany and France- obviously the Jewish question still lives in the minds of certain people. In the 17th century you had the development of a Jewish form of Pietism- called Hasidism. And in the 19th century Judaism would split into 3 distinct groups- Conservative, Reform and Orthodox. In the late 19th century you would have the rise of Zionism [the homeland question once again] and eventually the American Evangelical community would take up the cause of Zionism and it would become a major plank in the Dispensational theology of the American Protestant church. Though Zionism [the right of the Jews to once again posses their homeland] started as a purely political concern- over time it became ‘Christianized’ and would become the cause célèbre for many T.V. evangelists of the current day [John Hagee- just to name one].
 OVERVIEW- Lets over view a little today- in the last post I mentioned how we will be getting into Marx, Freud and Nietzsche in the coming months- yet I have so many things going on at this time that just in case I never get to them I want to lay out some stuff. First, most challenges to the Christian faith/God- have come from the point of view that said ‘yes- we believe that there is some being out there- God- but we challenge the purveyors of religion and how man has used religion to control- manipulate the masses’. It was not until the rise of these men that the popular approach of ‘no God’ would take a foothold in the minds of many unsuspecting ‘masses’. Before we delve into the ideas and contradictions of these men- let me explain why most thinkers of the Enlightenment did not take the atheistic approach- and instead opted for some form of Deism/Theism. The original debate of ‘where did everything come from’ did not start during the Enlightenment- it dates back as far as 4-5 centuries before Christ- the question is obviously older- but you can read the debate taking place in the great minds of the Greek philosophers; Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Though the idea of God in the minds of these Greek thinkers was not the same definition that Christianity would hold to- yet they did believe in some type of being who for the most part was what we would think of as God- they referred to him as The Prime Mover- a term that the great Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas would use in the 13th century as he too argued for the existence of God. Okay- the Greeks taught that the universe/cosmos always existed- and there was an initiator who started the ball rolling [motion]. Their ideas about how the solar system worked were primitive- the famous idea espoused by Ptolemy had a sort of crystalline sphere surrounding the earth and the stars and planets were ‘stuck’ to this shield and as the sphere rotated- that’s what caused the heavens to change. Obviously the breakthroughs in cosmology that occurred under Copernicus and Galileo would bring us into a more perfect idea of how everything functions- yet the Ptolemaic view prevailed for centuries. Now- over the centuries those who began to challenge the church- they would hold to a view that while it is obvious that some Divine being exists [yes- very obvious- get to it in a moment] – yet they were not sure about the existence of the universe- did it always exist like the Greek philosophers said- or did the universe- and all things- have a beginning point? It is important to realize that those who would later on [18th- 20th centuries] challenge the actual existence of God- these very intelligent atheists [not joking] understood that if modern science ever taught a view that said ‘there was a point in time where nothing existed’ these men realized if this were true- then the gig would be up- if there was a time where nothing existed- not even God- they knew beyond all doubt that you would have nothing today. In my view these atheists were the smartest. Yet the breakthroughs in Physics during the era of Einstein did finally prove- beyond all doubt- that there was a time in the past where Time, Matter, Space- that all things did indeed have a starting point. This scientific fact [not religious fact] is absolute- beyond all doubt- irrefutable proof that God does indeed exist- and that he does possess all the attributes ascribed to him by Christian theology. If there was a time where nothing existed [not even God] then you would have nothing today- that’s fact- not belief. So- this is the way the world has debated about the subject for thousands of years- and for the recent theories to try and go back to the idea that the cosmos always existed- well that’s stone age thinking- that’s a rejection of what is commonly referred to as Big Bang cosmology- and no serious thinker rejects Einstein’s theories any more. So- where does that leave us? As we get into the many ideas people have come up with about God- religion- etc. we want to give the critics their chance to make the case- I have been reading [and refuting] Christopher Hitchens book these last few weeks [God is not great- Hitchens is a famous atheist] and I’m giving him a fair hearing- but not going easy on his blunders as well. A while back I got into a debate on a scientific type site- it was Christian in nature- but as I read the feed I realized there were a bunch of scientists going at it- smart men- some on the side of faith- others against it. I added [hesitantly!] my 2 cents worth. At one point- one of the scientists made a major blunder in logic while making his case that there is no God- I wasn’t too mean [heck- he was mocking Christians- I had to be a little mean] and as I posted my correction- proving him to be wrong- not in my area of faith- but in his area of science- he left the debate and never came back. As I checked the posts the next day- I saw another scientist anonymously posted a comment- agreeing with me, about a scientific fact- and admitting that his friend was indeed wrong. The point? It is too easy in this debate to think ‘surely these men must be right- after all they wouldn’t be so popular if they were wrong’- the fact is- this debate is not new, and yes- there are many popular writers/thinkers who are teaching an atheistic view- and these guys are making major mistakes in logic, fact, even in their own fields- they have been proven wrong- time and time again. So for those who are fans of the thinkers I will be refuting down the road- keep an open mind- don’t assume that these men are beyond fault- major fault in my view- and realize that the most prevalent idea espoused by the atheistic thinkers today- has indeed been proven false. You cannot get something from nothing- if there were a time where nothing existed- then nothing would exist today.
 FREUD-NIETZSCHE AND MARX- Today I need to do a little more on our study of Modernity [the thinkers who have influenced Western culture/thought from the 1700’s- 2000’s]. At this time I have 3 separate studies I have started on-line; Classics of literature, Great Christian thinkers of history, and Modernity. As time rolls on- I will gradually post all new studies once a year in a monthly post [most of the time it will be February] and as I update them you can read the most recent ones from the most recent years.
Okay- I am skipping a bunch of stuff to jump into the thinkers who represent the most popular forms of atheism- Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. But first we need to take a look at Ludwig Feuerbach. L.F. [Ludwig Feuerbach] laid the groundwork for these other more famous rejecters of God and Christianity. During the enlightenment period it was rare for the critics of religion to hold an outright atheistic view- men like Hume and Voltaire- though true critics of the church- did not come out openly and deny the existence of God. It was also difficult [impossible?] to hold professorships in the universities if you were a doubter of God. Both Hume and Voltaire did not hold positions. F.S. was Hegelian in a way [he followed Hegel’s idea that ‘God’ comes to self consciousness thru the development of humanity] but F.S. was a Materialist- Hegel was an Idealist. Remember- idealism is the philosophical system that sees reality existing in forms/ideas first- then later comes the material thing. The great ancient philosophers- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all Idealists. F.S. espoused the idea that reality starts with the material existence of man first- and thru religion man ‘projects’ the idea of God/spirit into society- and as man and Christianity develop [all good things for F.S.] that the ultimate truth that we learn on this journey is that man is really all there is- his ‘phase’ of God and religion were simply necessary stages for man to arrive at this self conscious state in which he finally realizes that man is all there is- God was a ‘crutch’- a needed one- but never the less simply a projection of mans mind until he came to full maturity. For F.S. ‘theology [the study of God] is anthropology’ [the study of man]. So in this sense he follows Hegel- the development of man and society is the development of God- but Hegel starts with spirit projecting ‘himself’ into creation- and F.S. starts with man/matter first- and man projects this idea of God/spirit as a secondary reality. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur describes F.S. and his disciples as holding to a system of belief called ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’. This meaning that religion and God are not just things that seem to be irrational [according to certain enlightenment critics] but that religion itself is a mask that adds to the suffering of man- that man is under the dominion of false ideas- ideas that have been developed by those who want power over others- and these taskmasters use religion as a tool to oppress the ignorant masses. This idea will come to full bloom in the mind of Marx. Marx referred to religion as a ‘false consciousness’ that kept man in servitude to others who ruled over them- and religion itself was the tool that kept these ignorant masses in check. Nietzsche thought religion had its roots in weakness and sickness- and that the most decadent used it to control those who were actually more moral than the leaders. Freud saw religion as an effect of repression and the actual cause of mental conflict and guilt- he blamed religion for all the psychosis that man is afflicted with in life. The next few posts in this study [whenever I get to them?] I will try and develop all 3 of these famous thinkers ideas- show the errors in their own thinking- and the aftermath of generations who have tried/fleshed out their philosophies- and have found them dreadfully lacking in the end.
OTHER POSTS CAN BE FOUND IN THE 2-2011 SECTION.