[STUDY] MY STATEMENT OF FAITH [basic stuff I believe]
This entry is sort of my statement of faith. I believe in the Trinity. I believe in a real Hell. I believe in a real Heaven. I believe in the literal Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe in the full Deity of Christ. I believe in the Physical Return of Jesus to the planet. I do not believe in the Rapture as a separate event from the Second Coming. I believe that all men must be saved, Born Again thru faith In Jesus Christ or they will not go to heaven. I believe in the continuation of the Gifts of the Spirit for the function of the church today. In short, I agree with the historic majority view of all Christians today [Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant] on most major Christian doctrines except for Paedo Baptism [infant baptism] and would disagree with some Protestant views of the cessation of the Gifts of the Spirit and the late development of Dispensational Theology. NOTE- You will find that I view both Catholic and Orthodox expressions of Christianity as ‘Christian’. This does not mean that I embrace sacerdotalism [strong sacramental theology] I believe strongly in the doctrine of Justification by faith. Note- I am a Trinitarian in doctrine, there are many divisions in various religious groups [Christians, believers in Jesus, etc.] on how best to express the Trinity. While I do my best to be open and understand the difficulty in arriving at an easy to understand language of the Trinity [as Augustine and other church fathers expressed] yet I hold to the doctrine of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as 3 distinct persons who make up the God head.
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
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.
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
 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.
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
 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.
 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.
 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.
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.
Today I want to talk a little bit more about the bible and science- maybe over the next few weeks I’ll do a sort of overview of the Old Testament- like I just did with the New Testament.
I think it’s important for believers to have a basic grasp on some of the ideas about creation- evolution- and the whole debate in general.
I have written a lot in the past on the various theories- and won’t try and cover it all again- but just give some parameters that kind of frame this debate.
The other day I saw a news clip of an actor that I used to like- Matt Damon. I always liked Good Will Hunting and the Boerne Identity flicks. Some reporter asked him a question that kind of pit the right against the left [politically]. He replied with some ‘high faluttin’ language- I mean you could tell he really thinks he is the Good Will guy- but he did it in a way that said ‘you inferior intellects of the world- why must we have to put up with you’!
Sort of like when Tyson gave his speech on the inferior skills of those who were losing to him- they were losing because they were truly behind the advanced world of scientific boxing [not because Tyson fought you like ‘you stole something from him’ the quote of a defeated foe]. I sensed in Damon's response a feeling that you pick up when the media tries to cover this whole debate.
The other day they showed a clip of some kid asking Perry ‘why do you not believe in evolution’ and Perry actually answered in a good way- he said ‘in Texas the schools teach both creation and evolution [actually that’s not true] and that evolution has some gaps to it’.
You then heard the mom in the background saying ‘ask him why he rejects science’ and of course you knew which way the report was going.
The history behind the way Christians view the book of Genesis [and creation] has varied lots over the years. Many old earth creationists [like myself] have argued for a ‘less literal’ hard line stance on the Genesis account- yet also not fully accepting the evolutionary view of things.
Others are what you would call Theistic evolutionists- they believe evolution is God’s way of doing things.
And others hold to a literal 6 day creation- with no room for any sort of symbolism at all.
All these views have some type of problem with them- something that you could find and say ‘see- this is why this view is wrong’.
And as I read the different views- I try and stay open to the best arguments from all sides.
As you read Genesis chapter 1- you see the Account of God creating all things. You have the 6 days of creation with God resting on the 7th day.
You do see somewhat of a framework right in the 6 days. For instance- on day 1 you have God making light- yet he doesn’t create the sun and luminaries until day 4.
On day 2 he creates the sky and water- day 5 birds and fish.
Day 3 he makes the land and plants- and day 6 he makes man and animals.
So you see a sort of ‘2 tiered’ system here- God making on the first ‘3 days’ the things that correspond on the last [2nd set] of ‘3 days’.
Now- this does not mean you have to spiritualize the whole thing- but there is room here for more than meets the eye.
The strict creationists argue that even though God made the light on day 1- and the sun and stars didn’t appear until day 4- they actually teach that for the first 3 days God had made another source of light- that we don’t know about- and this source lasted for only the first 3 days.
I see problems with a rigid view like that- I would prefer to see it the way I just showed you- that God is doing the creating- and it is done in 6 days- yet we are not getting a scientific account here- God is showing us things that we could grasp as regular folk who are picking up the bible and reading it for the first time.
So as you can see these types of debates can go on for a while.
The main point I want to make is the Church has always had room for true science to ‘fit in’ with the text- the church has not always taken a hard line ‘creationist stance’ on these things.
And at the same time there are many problems with the actual theory of evolution [Perry’s gaps] problems that I see that many of the media folk have no grasp on. For instance you do have a whole bunch of science that does seem to say that one species of a thing can never- ever evolve into another thing.
The science on this very fact has caused many scientists- unbelieving scientists- to ask ‘is it time for us to re think the theory’. But when you listen to the news people- or to Mom telling her kid ‘ask him why he doesn’t believe in science’ you realize that many of these ‘enlightened folk’ have no idea what they are talking about.
Yes- they sound like the Matt Damons and the Tysons of the world ‘you have no place with us in this advanced world of the intellect- we have surpassed your Neanderthal ideas- we are the new generation’.
Yes- I see the lines being drawn already- the Perry’s of the world are now going to be contrasted with the enlightened folk- I just wish both sides would spend a little more time listening to each other- and realize that we are not as far apart on some of these things as we think- we might be able to all get along someday- but who knows when that day will get here.
 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.
 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.
 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?
 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.
 THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTIL ALL THESE THINGS HAPPEN
Let’s cover a little more on the End Times. Here in my study I have a couple of books that would fit in the category of Preterism. Preterism is the view that some Christians hold that says all the events spoken about by Jesus in these end times chapters were fulfilled in the 1st century.
The books are by R.C. Sproul [not a full Preterist] and Gary Demar [a full Preterist]. Demar's book is called ‘Last Days Madness’ and if you want a full study of this view- that would be the book to get.
Now- am I a Preterist? No. Like I said before- I try real hard to stay in the classical mainstream of Christian thought- and though Preterists make a good case- in the end I think they go too far.
But let’s talk a little about why certain believers have found it necessary to even make a defense like this. In the chapters of the bible that talk about the last days- there are frequent statements made that seem to indicate that the things being discussed would take place ‘quickly’ ‘shortly’ or at least in the lifetime of those hearing the message at the time. Jesus says ‘truly I say to you- this generation will not pass away until ALL these things are fulfilled’. Another time Jesus says ‘some of you standing here will not die until you see the kingdom come’.
So its passages like these that have caused some to make the effort to fit all the end times stuff within the 1st century. You say ‘but how can anyone think that the 2nd coming and the final judgment and all the end times events- how could they think it happened in the 1st century?’ Well before you scoff too much- believe me- these guys make a really thorough case. For instance they will show you verses in the Old Testament that use the same End Times language that Jesus uses about ‘my coming’ and the ‘judge will come to judge the world’ and they will show you that these prophecies were actually fulfilled by certain judgments that took place against the nation of Israel.
And there are Parables of Jesus that speak about his ‘coming’ and in some cases it is speaking about his resurrection and ascension and being seated at Gods right hand- that is ‘the coming’ was more of a view of Jesus ‘coming’ to sit on the right hand of God after he fulfilled his earthly mission. So as you can see, those who make this argument are not totally out in left field.
Okay- how do we answer the critics on the sayings about ‘this generation will not pass until all these things happen’. Like I said in the last post- some say Jesus was talking about a future generation- at least 2 thousand years down the road- who would be alive when the 2nd coming would happen. The problem with this view is in the New Testament you have the Greek language as the original language that you study when looking at these verses [the bible was originally written in Greek] and when you look at this terminology being used in other places- it is always speaking about the generation living at the time of the statement.
So that would make it hard to make the case that Jesus was speaking about some future generation down the road. Others say that ‘this generation’ can refer to a certain ethnic group [the Jewish nation]. While this can apply- yet again this is not the normal way the phrase is used.
So what’s the answer? I do believe that some of the ideas from the Preterists can help here. In the Old Testament there are what you call Dual Prophecies- prophecies that are fulfilled ‘twice’. If you study the events that took place during ‘the generation’ living at the time of these statements- they did indeed see these things happen. I mean you even have reports by 1st century historians [Eusebius- lived in the 3rd or 4th century- was a 1st century historian] that said at the time of the destruction of the temple [A.D. 70] there were accounts of people seeing chariots in the sky and all sorts of signs that Jesus mentioned in the Last Days passages.
Maybe tomorrow I will get a little more into some of the signs- but the fact is you can find just about every element of Jesus Last Times teaching being fulfilled in some way within the actual generation of those who heard him speak at the time.
However Christians decide to come down on these issues- it’s important to see that the prevailing American Evangelical view- that ‘this generation’ is speaking about the generation of people living at the time of the ‘blooming of the fig tree’ which is defined by some as the birth of the nation of Israel in 1948- that this teaching is not to be found in the bible.
While we do not know the time of Jesus return- and the ‘end of the world/age’ [another important distinction] we do know that the signs that Jesus gave us do count for something- it’s not wrong to look at the general signs of increased wars and natural disasters and the like- and to see that his coming is drawing near. Most commentators who have used these verses recently- even in the secular media- have actually been using them in context.
So we should avoid the temptation to date set- try not to add things into the passages that are not there [the fig tree meaning Israel in 1948] and avoid mocking the actual teaching in the bible that Jesus will indeed return some day- the apostle Peter said that in the End Times some would mock and say ‘where is the promise of his coming- we have been hearing it for our whole lives’. So we don’t want to fall into the category of mockers- yet we don’t want to date set either- no man knows the day- not even the Son.
 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.
 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.
 THE SOCIAL STUFF- During the recent debates about the budget the whole issue of funding for abortion came up. Some said it should have been dealt with others said put it off for now. I was in the camp that said let’s not try and add it on right now- our military people were facing the loss of their checks and I felt like we really needed to just pass something without getting into the whole abortion debate.
Now- having said this- I am without a doubt ‘Pro-life’. Whenever we have these types of debates everyone seems to get really pissed- almost as in if the Pro Lifers want to strip women of their ‘reproductive rights’. Last night one of the news shows presented it as the pro lifers were just as dangerous as Al Qaeda. While it is true that there have been extreme groups who advocated for the justifiable killing of abortion doctors- the majority of Christians [like in the upper 99 %] do not hold to this view.
One time while having a discussion with a liberal pro abortion person- the person argued for their position- as they became heated they began using language about disabled people that went like this ‘how dare those conservatives force women to have mentally retarded children- the mom has to put up with the crap of dealing with that person their whole life- the mom has no life- just taking care of this mentally retarded person..’ the person went on describing the ‘mentally retarded’ person as a ‘non human’. I said just listen to the way you are speaking about the person- I’m sure the mother of that child loves that child- does not view the child as some type of animal that they are forever condemned of taking care of because of the conservatives.
When these debates are held in our country we need to understand that we are always talking about human life- if people want to debate when that life starts- fine. Or if they feel the quality of the life of the person might be less than a fully healthy child- fine. But understand that no one should have the right to take another human life- even if that life seems less valuable then what you deem worthy of life.
I heard a story a few weeks ago about a famous French scientist- I believe he was the one who discovered the gene that causes Down Syndrome- either way he was a leader in the field. He was a personal friend of Pope John Paul the 2nd and it was a time in the world where many nations were dealing with the whole issue of legalizing abortion. Because of the doctors work in the field- he had lots of patients who suffered from the disability. At one point there was a video put out advising doctors to let their patients know whether or not they want to take the test to see if their child [unborn] has the disease. The video advised strongly for doing the test so the woman could abort the less than desirable child. Somehow one of his child patients saw the video. On his next visit to the doctor he jumped into the doctors arms [young boy] and said ‘please help us- they want to kill us’. The doctor made it his goal to defend the rights of these innocent victims- people who do have value- who understood what the real issues were. The child pleaded for this adult to protect him and all others who shared his disability.
As this debate will continue to rage in our country- I hope we can all at least view people as human beings- people who do have value- even if we deem their value less than a fully healthy person [which I do not agree with!] These are not things we are talking about- a simple ‘reproductive right’ of a woman. While I’m glad that there are free clinics and other outlets for women to find health care- and yes- reproductive health care does matter. It’s just not right to categorize another human life as a simple matter of a woman’s reproductive right- that child [in many cases a young girl] has rights too.
 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.
 EPISTEMOLOGY- Lets do a little more on how we learn- know stuff. The actual ‘study’ of how we know things is called Epistemology. Today’s popular movement is called Post Modernism- a challenge to the classical idea of Modernism. The classical way of looking at knowledge said there are things that are ‘really true’ and things that are not- this is called Objective Truth. The Post Moderns say words are limited [true to a degree] and because words are simply vehicles that transmit ideas that are not really ‘true’ in the classical sense, then it is wrong for one group [like Christians] to say to another group [non- Christians] that Jesus is the Way- Truth and Life [Johns gospel]. So the battle lines are drawn. It should be noted that a growing number of believers are describing themselves as Post Modern and they argue that it is possible to be Christian and Post Modern at the same time. Okay- as more of the classical type- I believe it is possible to get to objective truth- that the pursuit of what’s true is not a vain pursuit- and yes- though we are all limited in our understanding, yet to even have this conversation requires an element of Absolute Truth. If the Post Modernist says ‘words have no objective truth- only relative truth- they only convey what the hearer decides they convey’ then I can say ‘Oh- so if I take your words to mean there is such a thing as objective truth- that’s okay’? O know you idiot- you’re not hearing what I’m saying! So you see that the Post modernist needs his words to mean something- to convey a specific thing to the hearer- if the hearer can make the words mean whatever he wants- then you can’t even engage in the discussion- got it? So anyway- as I’m thinking about scrapping my Islam course [and just teaching it from stuff I learned myself- in the immortal words of defense secy. Bob Gates ‘on the fly’] I do want to utilize whatever objective truth I can pick up along the way- while at the same time realizing all people have their own biases and we need to listen with a careful skepticism. I ordered a course on Physics a while back- good course- but the instructor- though smart- made a classic mistake in Logic as he taught the course. He often said ‘the universe was created BY CHANCE’. Now- as a purely grammatical- logical argument- this incorrect [a fallacy]. Why? What he really means to say is ‘there are unknown causes in the universe that created the effect of existence- we do not know what these causes are- but we believe that thru a series of actions- which have no particular direction [chance] these unknown causes have caused the effect of the universe’. Okay- I don’t want to be nitpicky- but when I hear an intelligent person say ‘everything was made BY CHANCE’ and for him to get away with this without a rigorous challenge- then the Christian thinker has failed in his task to challenge the skeptic on his own terms- to show that even though the person may be an expert in his field [Physics] yet this does not mean he can get away with fallacious arguments- arguments that are invalid from the get go. So as we progress over the coming weeks/months on the various fields of study- we want to be open to learn from others who have specialized in their particular fields of study- we want to be open minded enough to learn from people who reject the faith- yes atheists can teach us things- there are areas of knowledge that all people have that can benefit the rest of us. And we want to weigh all things that we hear- we all make mistakes- and are susceptible to error. Just because my Physics ‘teacher’ screwed up in a classic way- a way that most apologists recognize right off the bat- I mean you have to be an amateur ‘arguer’ of truth to make this type of mistake- yet I didn’t reject the entire course- I still learned valuable insights from the man. So I think this is the best approach to take- listen to all sides of a matter- doubt the things that seem a little off- do some research- check into it yourself- and at the end of the day let a variety of sources be your pool of knowledge- don’t just rely on one source. Proverbs says ‘In the multitude of counselors there is safety’. Be sure you’re listening/hearing from the multitude [broad range of thought and learning] because often times single sources can be right in one area- and off in another.
 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.
 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.
 BEHOLD, I AM MAKING A COVENANT. BEFORE ALLYOUR PEOPLE I WILL DO MARVELS- SO AS HAVE NOT BEEN CREATED IN ALL THE EARTH OR IN ANY NATION, AND ALL THE PEOPLE AMONG WHO YOU ARE SHALL SEE THE WORK OF THE LORD- FOR IT IS AN AWESOME THING THAT I WILL DO WITH YOU. OBSERVE WHAT I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY- EX. 34:10.
In our Exodus study we are actually in chapter 23, but these past few weeks I have been reading thru some key passages and before we get too far in the study I want to make sure we hit them. In the above verse God is telling the people that this deliverance- an actual historical event that took place around 1400 years B.C.- that this Divine change taking place- was a world changing event that had greater implications than what they presently understood. In chapter 23 the Lord tells the people that he is sending his messenger [angel] before them- and they need to pay close attention to the words he is speaking. In the bible [especially the Old Testament] the angel of God at times is associated with God himself. In the book of Revelation God is communicating a prophetic vision to the apostle John thru angels [messengers]. Basically God is telling his people that they need to stay on message- and that the message needs to be in line with his character [my messenger- the things I have/will say]. In another chapter we will hear God tell Moses ‘put the words/law I give you into the box’. God tells Moses to put the 2 tablets of the 10 commandments into the Ark of the covenant- as opposed to what Moses might say or think. The point being all of us [Christian ministers, Jewish leaders, Imams] we need to make sure we are speaking the words of God, not man.
At this time [as I write] I have friends reading these posts from all over the spectrum. Many have been reading straight from the blog site- others from various other spots where these posts show up. As a Christian- I of course hold to the biblical teaching that Jesus is the Messiah- the ‘Son of God’ who came to redeem man and died and rose again for the sins of man. Now- why the emphasis on the term ‘Son of God’. In Islam- many good Muslim people are taught- from their youth- that to even read/say this term is blasphemous. Why? In Islam many believe that using this term means that God ‘had sexual relations’ with the Virgin Mary- and many good Muslims sincerely will not listen to a Christian teacher because they are taught that to even hear the term is wrong. So as Christians we need to explain that in Christian teaching this term does not mean that- the Christian faith teaches that the Holy Spirit did a miracle with the Virgin Mary and Mary became pregnant with Jesus- not by a sexual act- but by a Divine miracle. So some bible versions- in an effort to overcome the obstacle that Muslims have about the term ‘Son of God’ [because they see this term in a different way than Christians] have substituted the words ‘Son of God’ with ‘the one who originates from God’. There is a debate among Christians on whether or not this is right [many Christians do not think this interpretation is acceptable] but it seems to be an honest effort among Christian missionaries to introduce the bible to the Muslim people in a way that allows them to get past the first obstacle- of not even wanting to read the words ‘Son of God’. Okay- said all that to say this- in this study of Exodus- we are reading a real biblical account of what took place in time- an account that Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in. So as much as I want to continue to make the case for the reality of Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah- yet at the same time I want to also teach the biblical account in a way that all 3 faiths can learn from. And I want to be able to be a voice of moderation in the conversation
Often time’s radical voices from all 3 of the above religions are the voices that seem to get the most notice. Last night I caught an interview with the lawyer who went to the Supreme Court and won the case for the Christian church to protest at the funerals of dead soldiers. Here in the U.S. we have this Baptist church [Westboro Baptist church] that has been holding up picket signs at the funerals of soldiers that say mean- offensive things ‘God hates fags’ and stuff that should not be said. Yet they won their case because it is a free speech issue- and on the program I watched, they let this lawyer- who is also a family member of the preacher of the church- she went on and shared her view about God and the bible- and to be frank it is a very ignorant view- a bigoted idea of God and the bible, yet it is a view that prevails among many Christians [not the ‘God hates fags’ view- but other separatist ideas] and it leaves no room for having a moderate conversation among the other religions of the world. So as we progress in this study- we see the importance of the word of God- the commands and character of God. We see that God is up to something that is bigger- more important than the people understand at the time- and we see that things take time. At the end of the chapter God says as he brings the people into the land- they will not take all the land at once- lest the wild beats take over the land- but he will gave them a little land at a time, just enough territory to establish a functioning society- before gaining new ground.
I think we all need to re evaluate and take a look at the present landscape [both symbolically and geographically] and give things some time to settle in- to establish rule and order before we take too much area at once. Right now in Libya- there seems to be a standoff between the protestors [rebels- they don’t like this term] and Gadhafi. The country- though big in geographical terms- is relatively small in population [compared to Egypt- 80 million people]. Libya has 6 million people- 90 % live right off the Mediterranean coast- and the forces in the east [major city- Ben Ghazi] are up against Gadhafi’s stronghold in the west- Tripoli. As I watch all the reports we need to be careful that we don’t misread the situation—even though there were reports of civilian deaths- it does not look like Gadhafi has opened up his air force on the civilian population- not in a way it was reported at first. So even though we [the west] condemn the deaths that have taken place- I’m not sure that we are seeing what some have described as a Genocide [which I too said in the beginning]. So maybe the Middle East, Africa- and even parts of Asia- maybe it’s time to sit back and regroup some. I’m speaking to those who are wanting freedom- NON VIOLENT protestors who are protesting to gain human rights- I’m not talking military strategy here! And in today’s chapter [and the verse I quoted at the top] God is saying to the people ‘I am doing an awesome work in the world right now- obey me- listen to my words- I will give you bread [instruction] every morning [the Manna on the ground] I have given you my words [WORDS THAT HAVE SAID- DON’T KILL! TO ALL SIDES] make sure you organize your new found freedom around these things- don’t use this freedom for a chance to sin- to release anarchy/lawlessness [read Galatians chapter 5] but instead use this new freedom to serve God and love your fellow man’.
 IS IT POSSIBLE TO PROTEST TOO MUCH? A couple of days ago I started teaching the story of Moses and God’s delivering of his people from Egypt- I talked about the Ark of the Covenant and the fall of Pharaoh- try and go back and read those posts- and for the next few days I want to simply tell the story found in the book of Exodus [Old Testament]. In Exodus chapters 15- 16 we read the story of the great deliverance of God- in the previous chapters the people were under bondage to oppressive rulers [much like the autocratic rulers in the Arab/Persian world right now] and the people cried/protested and God heard them and he sent them new leaders [Moses] and this new leadership was needed in order for the old guard to pass away. Now- as they proceed on the journey the first spot they come to is a place named Marah- which means bitterness [present day Suez canal area]. They traveled for 3 days and found no water- and at Marah there is water- but the water is bitter, it’s not fit for human consumption. So they complain and Moses finds a stick/tree branch and puts it in the water and the waters ‘are healed’. In Christian teaching this branch is a symbol of Christ [who the bible calls the true vine- also the apostle Peter calls the Cross ‘the tree’] and the symbol means that when people believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ- in a spiritual way the ‘waters are healed’ [people are brought back to God thru the Cross]. The next spot they get to [Elim] has plenty of food and good water. Now- as they continue on the journey they begin missing the old stability they had under the old regime [Pharaoh] they start to complain against the new leaders and say ‘you led us out on this journey- now we have no good food like the old days- we will all starve out here- we wish we never protested’ wow- talk about rebels! Okay- Moses gets mad too- thinking to himself ‘man- I never asked for this- and now I’m supposed to put up with this’ [sort of like some of the leaders who have had to fill the gap after Mubarak fell- some of these guys- being prodded by the U.S. govt. are being asked to keep the peace until they can transition into a new Democratic rule]. God answers Moses and tells him he will send them meat and bread- God supernaturally causes a bunch of Quail [birds] to blow into the camp and they have lots of meat- and in the morning when they woke up there was this wafer type bread that was on the ground. The bread is called ‘Manna’ which actually means ‘what is it’. God fed them for 40 years with this ‘unknown’ bread- and he tells Moses to put some in a jar and save it as a memorial of Gods provisions. Eventually this jar with the bread in it will go into the box [the Ark I wrote about a few posts back- which had the 2 tablets of the 10 commandments it] and it will be a reminder to future generations how God was with them on the journey. Okay- a few practical points; it is possible to ‘protest too much’ that is after God initiated the process of ‘new rule’ the people couldn’t just keep protesting their way into a new govt., they had to ‘put up’ with some type of leadership along the way. Right now in Egypt [2-2011] some of the people are split on what to do ‘should we keep protesting’ some ask- others are saying ‘okay- we got Mubarak to step down- we need to give some of these military leaders a chance to set some things up for the elections to come’. In the case of Moses this was Gods will- that is the people went too far in not even being willing to let Moses lead a little. So some times as the protests succeed- there might also need to be a few months of letting the new guys have a chance to get some stuff done. A few interesting points; in chapter 16 the bible says ‘this happened on the 15th day of the 2nd month’. Geez- that’s right around the same time that the present Egyptian uprising also took place [I am aware the months of the Jewish calendar are different than mine- but it’s still pretty good!] and in the book of John [John’s gospel, chapter 6] Jesus has a conversation with the Jewish leaders and he says he himself is ‘the bread of God that came down from heaven’ he says the bread Moses gave them [the Manna spoken about here] was a symbol of his own life and death on the Cross for the sins of the world- he says ‘all who eat/receive me will live’. I find it interesting that in this story the original Jewish people are eating the bread for all these years- and the name of it means ‘what is it’. Both Muslims and Jews respect Jesus, they see him as a prophet sent from God- yet in Christian theology we teach that Jesus is much more than that- he is the ‘sent one’ [Jewish Messiah- the one who originates from God] many well meaning Muslims and Jews ‘have’ Jesus sort of like the Manna- they know the bread is there- they even ‘eat it’ [benefit in a way from it] yet Jesus says ‘I am the true bread- the bread that comes down from heaven and gives my life for the world’. As the Arab world is going thru their own journey right now- facing many difficult days ahead- days where some will be tempted to say ‘we regret this new found journey of freedom- we wish we never left Egypt’ there will also be a chance to feed from the Manna- the bread that has been there all along- the bread that many said of ‘what is it’ [or who is this Jesus] Jesus himself testifies that it is speaking about him- he is the true bread of life- the only ‘leader’ [new Moses] that can truly liberate- may we all find true revolution thru him.
 DON’T LOOK IN THE BOX!- Let me try and do 2 things today; a short ‘memorable’ truth that is in keeping with yesterdays spirit- and the current events in the Middle East [never got to this part-will do it tomorrow]
First- How many of you remember the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies- go ahead- raise your hand. Yes- those of you reading this- actually raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie- believe me there is a purpose to this. Okay- did you do it? Wow- see how easy it is to engage in stuff when no one’s looking? Well yes, in the bible there is a famous story about ‘not looking’- it has to do with the Indiana Jones movie. First [or 2nd?] the Ark in the movie comes from a real story in the bible about a box [Ark]. Sometimes people confuse the Ark of Noah with this Ark- I heard Keith Olberman [one of my favorite liberals- now with Al Gore’s channel, Current TV] mocking someone- and in his mocking he talked about all the animals that might fit into the ark- the problem was the person he was mocking was talking about this Ark [small box] not Noah’s! Okay- in the book of Exodus we read the famous story of Moses delivering the children of Israel out of bondage [okay- what country was it again? O that’s right- Egypt- wonder of this is significant today? A stubborn dictatorial leader- ruling Egypt- who can’t seem to read the writing on the wall- guess not] and as they flee Egypt they do the Red Sea crossing and they wind up spending 40 years wandering in the wilderness because of their unbelief [too much to explain right now]. So- during their journey they get the 10 commandments and God sets up a tent [tabernacle] system that consists of this small little building surrounded by a fence and in this little room/building there is this box [Ark] that holds the 2 tablets of the 10 commandments. This box is covered with gold- has 2 angel statues on each side of the lid and the lid covering the box is called ‘the mercy seat’. Now- this ‘seat/lid’ is actually the altar that the high priest puts the sacrificial animal blood on once a year [Day of Atonement] to cover the sins of the people. In a nutshell- the lid on the box allowed a holy God [represented by the 10 commandments- his character revealed in this symbolic way] to dwell with sinful man- because the lid ‘atoned/covered’ the sins of the people- allowing God [in the box] to dwell with the people. Got it? That’s the Ark of the Covenant- the box in the Harrison Ford movies. Now- the movies tell the story about Indiana trying to find this ancient artifact- because it is said to have this awesome nuclear like power. Is this true? No. The idea comes from the bible [1st Samuel chapter 6] one time the box was taken captive in one of the battles- during its return to Israel [another long story] it winds up in this area where the people look in the box and the bible says 70,ooo people died [some bible versions say 70 people]. Wow- why did this happen? The lid covered the sins of men- once you take a peek- lift the lid- you have removed the only covering that man has for his sin- Gods holy character [the tablets] meets mans sinful one- obliteration. That’s the story- not some secret nuclear device. In the New Testament book of Hebrews [chapter 9] the same word used to describe the lid [mercy seat] is mentioned again in connection with the Cross of Christ. In the book of Romans [chapter 3] Jesus is said to be ‘the propitiation for our sins’ this is the same word- from the Hebrew language to the Greek [Old Testament story was written in Hebrew- New Testament in Greek] for ‘Mercy Seat’ so what’s the story? The lid on the box represents the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for all men- it’s because of Jesus that God can once again dwell [the same word for Tabernacle- the whole tent system I just described] with men. The language used to speak about the Incarnation [God becoming man in Jesus] speaks about God dwelling [tabernacling] with men- in a very real way the box also represents the humanity/Deity of Jesus- it was made out of wood [a type of flesh] yet covered with gold [a type of divinity]. So Jesus is the covering [actually for you theologians the New testament sacrifice of Jesus does more than cover- it removes- but this post is supposed to be short!] and if you try and approach God without the ‘lid on’ you get creamed- got it? Now you can tell your kids the real story behind the box- and O yeah- someone let Keith in on the secret! P.S. for all of you who raised your hands- please send me an email- you’re the type we want for mailing lists! J
 NO TEMPLE IN IT- Let me try and communicate a few simple truths that hopefully will stick with people- you know- stuff you hear and it makes you think differently from here on out. I have been reading the book of Proverbs these last few weeks and the proverbs teach us that wisdom allows you to communicate great truths in short snippets. One of the proverbs actually says this. If you read the gospels you’ll see Jesus using simple short stories [Parables] to teach great truths. Okay- down the road I plan on teaching the book of Revelation- it’s really a great book- if your able to ‘get thru’ the dragon heads and 666 and all the other images that seem to preoccupy the current popular prophecy books that are on the market today. Don’t get me wrong- the dragon heads and all that stuff do mean something- but not what we usually read from the Lahaye books. One of the images I read the other day [and many times over the years] is the picture of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven- John says ‘this city’ has No Temple in it. Now- in the New Testament- many times- the imagery of the city is speaking about the church- the corporate people of God. We also see a major theme of the New Testament being the idea that thru Christ- our final Passover sacrifice- the old system of sacrifice and ‘temple’ have passed away [Hebrews]. I mean these themes are major theological themes in the bible- that Jesus ‘suffered outside the city gate’ [Hebrews says the place where he died was outside the city] and that this means that we are all accepted by God thru Jesus- not because of our religious affiliation with ‘law and temple’ [in the city gate] but because we approach God on the basis of the Cross of Jesus- outside the gate- the place where there is ‘no temple’. See? So- this major theme of the New Testament [the actual term we use- New Testament- is speaking about this truth] can be summed up in a short prophetic glimpse [remember- wisdom lets you say much in short snippets] by saying ‘I John, saw the holy city- the New Jerusalem [the church] descending down from God and this city had NO TEMPLE IN IT’ See? John is not really talking about the aesthetics of heaven, in so much as he is giving us this great prophetic spiritual reality ‘I see John- this image of NO TEMPLE simply means the New Covenant will be established on the one sacrifice of Christ and not on the temple system of continual animal sacrifices’. Yes- I think John [the apostle] would be glad if we saw his Revelation thru this lens- a paradigm that exalts the person and work of Christ- instead of a bunch of dragon heads.
 COURAGE- Last night I caught a real interesting show- it came on ‘by itself’ that is I must have checked the programmer to come on every Monday at that time [I don’t remember checking it]. Every Monday on EWTN [the Catholic station] I try and watch the Journey Home- with Marcus Grodi- he has real interesting guests who have converted from Protestantism back to the Catholic Church. It’s interesting to see these stories- I have yet to see a convert that was not well informed and knew the bible as well as church history- overall good show. So anyway another show popped up [they moved the encore presentation from 10 to midnight] and it was a profile of a group called Courage- I have heard a little bit about them before- they are a Catholic 12 step program designed to help people who are struggling with the gay lifestyle- it helps them return to the faith and attempt to live chaste lives. Now- I know this subject is hot- I have gay friends- lots of us have gay family members- and the country just had a big debate about gays in the military- so it gets people riled up. I really liked just listening to the stories the guys were sharing; one of the brothers was living in San Fran. And he had a relative that invited him to a courage conference in N.Y. He said he really never wanted to go- but his brother would always ask him in a nice way- so he accepted the all expense paid trip and flew to the city- he shared how spending a few days listening to other gay people who have returned to the church- that he experienced a conversion himself. When he went back to Ca. his friends told him ‘you even look different’ within 6 months he moved back to N.Y. A few of the other guys shared similar stories- it was an honest show- I liked it because it wasn’t the normal ‘Christian verses gays’ type thing you see all the time- but just an honest story about gay men seeking to live celibate lives- they are not ‘fighting’ the church- joining the parade of those wanting to make the church change its position on the subject- they are just men who have returned to a former faith- and are seeking God. These stories are also a lesson for Protestants- I can tell you- just watching the show- I could hear in my mind the normal Protestant response ‘these guys aren’t even saved’! Yet the conversion that the men experienced- it was obvious that these men were sincere Christians- trying to overcome things that they felt they needed to overcome. Now- I do realize that even this short note can be highly offensive to those living the gay lifestyle- sort of like ‘who do they/you think you are to say they need to overcome anything’ I hear you. I’m familiar with the whole debate- I do understand that there are many movements today that accept the gay monogamous lifestyle as a legitimate Christian way to live. But the normal- traditional belief [which I do hold to] is we should love and respect all people- even those in the GLBT community- and at the same time be honest about what the bible says on the subject [basically the bible does say it is a sin- this is a big debate amongst many scholars- teachers- and some think otherwise- I wrote a post on this in the past, if I can find it I’ll paste it at the end]. I do think that too many Christians respond the wrong way in many of these debates- even during the recent ‘gays in the military’ debate- some believers said ‘gays shouldn’t serve in the military because the bible says it’s a sin’ Yikes! Look- I just gave you my own conservative view- I do believe the bible says it’s not an acceptable lifestyle- yet to use that reasoning to ban gays from any job- that’s just not a good approach in my view. You very rarely- if ever- hear that argument made against those who are just ‘sleeping around’ as far as I know- at least when I was in the navy- just about everybody did. I do understand the whole argument that some military leaders made- that it affects certain ways the military functions- should we allow same sex attraction to exist in living together- taking showers- etc. But that’s a different concern- and basically Christians should not seek to ban gay people from anything. The criteria should not simply be the sexual orientation of the person. I felt bad for the gay pilot who was making the rounds in support of overturning the ban [which did pass by the way] he was in the military for 19.5 years- almost enough to retire- and because he spoke out there were rumors that they were going to discharge him- I mean if I were the one making the decision- I would have never discharged him just because he was gay- especially after almost 20 years of good service. So all in all I think believers [and humans!] in general should try their best to not discriminate against people because of race, sex- etc. And at the same time be honest about the churches’ belief- and realize that there are a lot of people in society that don’t want the church/Christians to tell them anything- that’s fine- that is Christians should not take the position ‘we are at war with you guys- you’re on one side- we are on the other’ Jesus simply never approached it like that [yes- he never spoke specifically about the subject- but he never approached any sinful lifestyle with that mindset- he loved people- was upfront about their sin ‘go and sin no more- I don’t condemn you’ type thing- but never engaged in the way the conservative right has done]. Okay- not sure why we went this way today- just felt strongly that I needed to comment on it. John
 Let me just give you guys a heads up today. These past few months or so I have been doing a lot of posts on Philosophy. Sometimes I do a bunch of history- or science- or another subject. For those of you who come to the site strictly for bible teaching- yes- there are times where I do an entire book of the bible- or cover a series on a biblical truth [Justification by faith- etc.]. On the blog [corpuschristioutreachministries]- if you go to the February 2010 posts- you can find all these studies. But for today let me just do a brief overview of where we are at- by the way I also wanted to mention the referendum in Sudan [Africa] today- today southern Sudan will vote on whether or not they want to be independent from the North [I’m almost positive they will vote for independence]. Sudan has been in a civil war for over 20 years, around 2 million people have been killed [massacred] in the process. The ruling north is predominantly Muslim- the South Christian [another long story having to do with independence from Britain in the early days]. So why should we pray for Sudan today and in the next few weeks? Because if the South does break away- many Christians who live in the North will be in danger of severe persecution as retaliation for the South’s vote- so let’s pray today [1-9-2011] and in the next few weeks for Sudan. Okay- the brief overview I want to do is to simply remind all our readers that the main truth- or thing we all need to re-focus on is the reality that the Christian message is one of reconciliation- that God, thru Christ- has ‘brought back’ the world to himself as a Divine gift. In essence the Christian message is not ‘turn your life around- be good- and then go to church and you will be saved’. Now- being good- going to church- all of these things are good to do- but many times people get the cart before the horse and the world never really understands the message of the Cross. When the bible says ‘repent and believe the gospel’ it is not saying ‘stop sinning and believe the gospel’ in the sense that your telling a drug addict ‘once you quit the habit then God will accept you’ the word repent in the new Testament does of course carry with it the idea of ‘turn away from sin’ but it mainly means ‘change the way you think’ or basically it means ‘are you finally tired of what you’ve been doing? Then let’s try the God thing’ [of course that’s my spin on it]. In essence the message of Jesus and the church is ‘God forgives and accepts people, not based on how good they are- but on the fact that his Son died for you and rose again’. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul says ‘If God gave his son for us- how much more will he freely give us everything else’. People [Christian’s/ preachers] often make the message confusing- sort of like if you don’t get all the details just right- you aren’t ‘saved’. The fact is if God gave his son for us- paid such a high price to save man- then why would he also go thru all the trouble to make ‘getting saved’ so difficult- that most of mankind will miss out on it! The basic way we are saved is thru faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ- this is what the gospel [meaning good news] is according to the New testament [1st Corinthians 15]. If you read the gospel of John, the letter to the Romans- or the letter to the Galatians [all New Testament books found in the bible] you will read the story of how God chose to save men when they would simply believe in Jesus- yes- the gift of God is eternal life thru Jesus Christ. Now- as a student of theology and history- I certainly am familiar with all the many controversies surrounding the various churches and how they implement the sacraments- or baptism- or ‘the sinner’s prayer’ when encouraging people to accept Christ. The main point I want to make today is the reality that many times in the New Testament the bible speaks about those who believe in Jesus, that these are ‘the sons/daughters of God’ [John chapter 1]. If you just pick up the bible this next week or so and read thru the gospel of John- you will be surprised to see how many times Jesus himself connects simple belief in him with eternal life ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life’ 3:16- ‘he that hears my words and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life’ 5:24- ‘he that believes on me has everlasting life’ chapter 6- the last chapter of John says ‘many other things did Jesus do that are not written in this book [John’s gospel] but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God- and thru believing you might have life thru his name’. I want you to think differently today about ‘Christianity’ or ‘going to church’ or ‘God’. Over these last few months I have engaged in lots of arguments for the truth claims of Christianity- refuting the contemporary atheists- showing the historical proofs for Christianity. For many people they hear things thru out their lives- little bits of info that cause them to doubt certain aspects of the faith- and then they use these arguments- often easily disproved- as excuses to say ‘that whole Christian stuff is a bunch of bull’. So the apologetic arguments for the reality of God are intended to ‘un-do’ many of these excuses- but at the end of the day the message of eternal life is simple- it’s a free gift given to all who will simply believe. I was going to post one of the bible studies here at the end- but just go read one or 2 of the ones I just mentioned from the blog- or pick up a bible and read a chapter or 2 a day- I mean the book of Galatians is only 6 chapters, you could read it in a single sitting. Okay- that’s it for today- remember try and pray for the church in Sudan- that all will go well and there won’t be any violence because of the vote- and do a little bible reading the next day or so. God bless, John.
 HEGEL [modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.
Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.
When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel's ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.
I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much they differed from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as Protestant Christianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!
I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’s world it is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!
So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christian tradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J. As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.
One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.
 Jesus of Nazareth [pope’s book] chapters 3-4. Okay- I’m having a hard time ‘dummying down’ the Pope’s book- trying to explain it in simple terms- so those of you who don’t get into it- just skip these posts and read another part of my blog. Okay, Benedict covers three different ways of looking at the central message of Jesus –The Kingdom of God. He borrows heavily from the church father Origen [form the Alexandrian school- Origen is very influential on early Christian thought- he also was a Universalist- in the end everyone gets saved- even Satan!]. The Pope shows how Origen viewed the kingdom as the person of Jesus himself- that is when you see Christ- you’re seeing the kingdom. Origen also spoke of the ‘interior kingdom’ a spiritual reality of the kingdom ruling over people’s hearts. Then the Pope speaks about the 19th- 20th century emphasis as the Church as the Kingdom- he shows how the church began seeing the kingdom as present in the world thru her- that is the church herself is a divine presence of God in the earth- and the kingdom is here right now thru the church. I agree with all 3 of the above views of the kingdom- I would only disagree a little with the Popes perspective that the 3rd view is primarily a late development [probably just reads that way because the book is an English translation form the German- I can’t imagine a Pope as learned as Benedict [one of the most intellectual ones in many years!] would miss this]. Right from the early days of Saint Augustine [City of God- 4th century] the idea of the kingdom being present thru the church has been around. The Pope also gets into those who saw the kingdom message of Jesus- and teach that Jesus true Kingdom message was never grasped- and instead we messed up and started ‘the church’. Liberal thinkers like Albert Schweitzer and Adolph Von Harnack all played a role in this type of thinking, and early 20th century ideas about re-thinking the kingdom in general- as well as the philosopher Heidegger. In chapter 4 Benedict does an excellent job at portraying Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who delivers the New Law thru the sermon on the mount- contrasting Moses receiving of the law at Mount Sinai. Jesus goes up on a mountain and ‘sits’ [showing the plenary authority of the teacher- being seated]. In the New Testament [Hebrews and the gospels] the religious leaders are said to ‘sit in Moses seat’- or Hebrews says ‘Jesus sat down at Gods right hand’. In Catholic theology the ‘seat’ [chair- cathedra] denotes the place of authority. I live in a ‘cathedral city’- Corpus Christi. New York’s Saint Patrick’s church is the cathedral for that area. That means the authority over the regional diocese is ‘seated’ at the cathedral- where the regional Bishop resides. So Benedict does a good job showing us Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who sits on the new mount and takes the plenary authority- he also says that Jesus authority did not rest in the religious institutions of the day- like the priests and Pharisees- that Jesus authority was real. The religious leaders was too- but they were not sincere. Once again I find these types of observations consistent with my own thought [and Protestants thought in general] and I find it very surprising to see the Pope thinking along the same lines.
 I AM THE TRADITION!- Just started reading the Pope's book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ it came out in 2006, but never had a chance to read it. I recommend all our Pastor/Preacher friends to read it- especially those of you who are familiar with the Historical Critical method of scholarship, and those involved in the Prophetic movement. Benedict critiques the historical method very well; he’s even funny at times! [In a scholarly way]. Just the preface and intro give enough meat that if you’re not a ‘full book’ reader, these would be enough! The critique for the modern prophetic movement is that Benedict shows the real purpose of Prophets, as pictured thru Moses- he does a superb job at explaining how Jesus fulfilled the ‘prophet like Moses’ prophecy spoken by Peter in the book of Acts- excellent insights! Okay- let me cover a little more Catholic history- at the risk of losing my Protestant readers- but hoping to gain some Catholic ones. Being I’m talking about Popes and all, let me cover some 19th century history. In France you had the French Revolution [right at the end of the 18th century] and the feeling at the time was to throw off all outside control- many of the nation states rejected the Roman church for that simple reason, it was Roman! That is the states were flexing their new felt independence and the spirit of enlightenment and reformation that was running thru the land. In France you had 2 groups who were at opposite sides; The Gaulincansist’s versus the Ultramontanists. The first group represented the feeling of ‘lets break from the Roman church and be free’ the latter group wanted to maintain ties with Rome- the term meant ‘beyond the mountains/alps’. Meaning from Frances geographic perspective, they wanted to keep looking towards Rome. It was in this environment that the Catholic Church would convene the first Vatican Council [called Vatican 1]. Pope Pius the 9th started his pontificate as a liberal type Pope- open to new ideas and all, but as time progressed he took a more conservative stance. The council- starting in 1870- would take a very hard line stance against all the new ‘ism’s’ that arose over the last few centuries. Communism, Democratic spirit, Protestantism- the church took a hard line and seemed to come off as arrogant and unwilling to change with the times. The council would affirm for the first time the doctrine of Papal infallibility and the Immaculate conception of Mary- 2 doctrines that would make it much more difficult to bridge the Protestant/Catholic gap. It’s important to note that the church had a tradition of Papal infallibility for years- but it did not become official Catholic doctrine until Vatican 1. All Catholics at the council did not agree to the doctrine- a famous Priest by the name of Guidi would dissent and challenge the Pope, he asked ‘what about the tradition’? Meaning what about the authority of tradition that has come from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation among the Bishops- if you push a strong doctrine of Papal infallibility- the tradition will lose its power. Pius famously responded ‘I AM THE TRADITION’. The council would never officially close- Victor Emmanuel would sack Rome- The Vatican would lose most of the Papal states and there would arise a sympathetic attitude towards the Roman church! Many felt bad that she lost her standing in the world, this caused many Catholic states to rise up in Support of the Vatican, and she actually gained more good will than before! I would also note that when the council broke up, the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Durlinger- did not accept the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Others broke away with him and these Catholics survive till this day-primarily in Western Europe [Holland, Switzerland, etc.] they are called The Old Catholic Church and are Catholic in every way except for the doctrine of the Papacy. Some view Pope Pius as a stubborn man who was not willing to change with the times, but if you look at the overall political reality of the day- you can see why he took such a tough stance, the church was feeling threatened from the outside by many new movements and she felt that Christianity was under attack- Pius felt it necessary to exert Papal authority, so he did. Vatican 2 [1962-65] would ‘un-do’ the harsh spirit of Vatican 1 and be seen at a much more open and ‘liberal’ council- Pope John the 23rd [Pope during the council] would shape the mood of the council with the saying ‘let the windows be open’ implying a new freshness and openness for the church. Vatican 2 would refer to the Protestants as ‘separated brothers’ Vatican 1- heretics. Okay lets end for now, I encourage all of our readers to try and know the various Christian positions- don’t just allow rumor or gossip to form your opinions of others- strive for an honest conversation with other Christian groups- give others the benefit of the doubt- and if you still have sincere differences of belief, at least they’ll be informed differences- not simply hearsay.
 CATHOLIC/PROTESTANT POSITIONS ON THE BIBLE. Let’s do a little teaching today. To all my Catholic/Protestant readers- when I teach on our respective faiths- understand that for the most part I’m giving you the official position of our churches. Now ‘official’ is a lot harder to say among Protestants- but the ‘best’ statements on Protestant doctrine probably come from the Reformed positions as stated by the creeds and statements of faith that came out of the 16th century Reformation- and yes, there other good statements as well [Baptist confessions, etc.]. When I talk ‘Catholic position’ I’m giving you the official position as stated thru the Catechism of the church- as well as the Encyclicals and decisions that have come from the councils. The Catholic Church does actually have official positions on stuff! [They call this the Magisterium- the church’s official teaching office]. It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant churches have ‘dissenters’ within their ranks- Priests, Preachers, Scholars- who break ranks with the actual teaching of their own churches [Hans Kung- Catholic. Rudolph Bultman- Protestant. Just to name a few]. In some situations where the clergy are ‘less educated’ [I’ll be nice] sometimes they don’t know what the position of their church really is. So that makes stuff a little harder. Okay- what do Catholics and Protestants believe about the bible? Both groups believe the bible is the inspired word of God, infallible- with no errors. Both groups also have notable teachers within their ranks who dispute this- but remember- for the most part this is the official position. The Catholic church’s most ‘meaty’ statement on faith and doctrine still dates back to the 16th century Council that took place in Trent. Though there have been other important councils [Vatican 1 and 2] yet the council of Trent is the most definitive. That council was for the most part a clear restating of the historic position of the church, especially reaffirming the 7 sacraments. The council also produced a document on the church’s position on the bible- the church used stronger wording than most Protestants, they said the bible came to us by the ‘Holy Spirit DICATING’ the words! In fairness, the Catholic Church does not hold to a mechanical type dictation- that God actually said the words to the writers, but never the less, that’s the statement. The Protestants are known for the famous 3 ‘Sola’s’ of the Reformation [Sola= alone] Faith alone, Grace alone, Bible alone- basically ‘alone’ meant the bible was the final authority on the matter- though creeds and councils were helpful, yet they can ‘err’. The able Catholic scholar, John Eck [maybe Cajetan?] forced Luther to admit that the Pope and Councils could make mistakes, and this was a fatal blow to any agreement between the warring sides. Now, many Protestants also seem to be confused on the statement ‘the bible alone’. The Reformers did not mean that we were to cast off all the good things that came down to us from the church fathers- Calvin quotes Saint Augustine a lot in his writings- the Reformers just meant that when deciding on final matters, the bible has the last say. The Catholics held that both Tradition [oral tradition passed down thru the church] as well as scripture had a say. The main point today is both Catholics and Protestants agree that the bible is ‘the word of God’. Catholics have a few more books in their bibles, but we all agree that it is God’s word. [Just a side note- The Catholics say the bible is ‘an infallible collection of infallible books’. The Protestants would not accept this statement- they said ‘we have a fallible collection of infallible books’. Most Protestants are not aware of this. The main reason the Protestant side would not agree to ‘infallible collection’ is because that would side with the position that the church did indeed possess infallible authority, given by God, to make certain decisions that were binding- obviously the Reformers would not go that far.]
[you can read more posts in the February posts]