Thursday, October 21, 2010

Didya E'er T'ink

     This may be my shortest blog entry as it contains only one salient but, I think, profound thought & it takes the form of a question.  It has come to my attention through such internet viral videos as Zeitgeist & the whining of the pathetically parrot-billed squawking puppets of atheist apologetics that Christianity was nothing more than a repackaging of some very “well-known” (their words, not mine) pagan myths such as the stories of Mithra & Osiris.  Now, putting aside the hopelessly shallow, myopic & self-serving “scholarship” offered to support this fable, let us consider one & only one profoundly revealing point..  Paul, and the subsequent churches he seeded throughout the PAGAN world from Rome, to Corinth to Greece & beyond, speaking to & converting thousands, perhaps millions of PAGANS from their PAGAN Roots which for some ran deep into the generations of their families, let us consider the following question:  If these devout PAGANS were merely hearing a variation on THEIR OWN “Well known” stories, providing they had IQ’s exceeding that of the average parsnip, rather than be converted to Christianity, might they not say, “Hey! We’ve already got THAT “well known” story in our repertoire!  Jesus? Jesus?! We don’t need no stinkin’ Jesus!  We’ve got Mithra/ Osiris/ (insert favorite pagan god brought back from the dead here).  WHY CHANGE?”  In short, if I may be allowed a follow-up question, why so many converts among PAGANS who supposedly already had this OLD-HAT story “well known” for supposedly thousands of years?  Sounds strikingly double fishy to me.  What about you?  Hmmmm…?  Think about it.  I’ll get back to you!

Challenges?  Questions?  Gripes?  Groans?  Let me know what you think! []

Monday, September 13, 2010


Text: I Tim 5:1-2

1 REBUKE not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

     Some theologians & scholars (post-Bower, Ehrman , Brown et. al.) argue that Paul can not possibly be the author of I & II Timothy or Titus since all these "Pastoral Epistles" mention "elders."  They attribute these works to a later period & label the author as "DeuteroPaul" ie "Second Paul."

     The argument goes that the New Testament churches were Spirit-driven anarchistic entities that did not use elders.  Later, post-Clement of Rome & onward, a more monarchical, authoritarian structure developed.  Therefore, these three letters must be from that later period, not from Paul.  The problem with this argument is that it begs the question ie it assumes its answer in its premise.  It is invalid to use the New Testament as evidence of a theory then use that same theory to invalidate part of the New Testament!  Doing so makes the argument invalidate its own proof!

     Other weak argument has been offered in the form of vocabulary analysis observing that "Paul" uses different words than he does in his other letters.  This is very weak because, as Paul is addressing very different issues in Romans, Corinthians, etc. than he is in these three letters.  By way of example, if you were writing a letter to the editor about prostitution downtown, you would use very different vocabulary from when you write your little brother or sister about getting their first job (unless of course, it is as a prostitute!).  This is very parallel to Paul's situation: the other epistles are for a general audience; these are personal.  The others address problems to be corrected in society or in the church; these are to exhort individuals.  The list of differences continues & greatly weakens this argument, too.

     All in all, the arguments for "DeuteroPaul" are very, very weak & can probably be ignored as generated by an a priori agenda that does not include honestly evaluating the integrity of the New Testament.  Up against 2000 years of textual pedigree, style examination, contemporary correspondence & many other tests by which we can analyze these letters, the "Second Paul" arguments are less than second rate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Church Bureaucracy & the Individual Believer

TEXT: Matt 18:20

“20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
 there am I in the midst of them.“

     Protestantism relies very heavily (some might say too heavily) upon this promise.  Reading the writings of the Church Fathers from the generation immediately following the time of the apostles, it seems at first glance that many, even revered, names in the early church too often to forget this promise.  This in not the case.  Their interpretation was that as Christ sent the Holy Ghost to comfort believers (John 14:16), so did He ordain bishops for the church to stand in His stead.  Thus, the presence of the bishop was seen as the fulfillment of this promise.  Protestants who seek to return to the practices of the "early church" must recognize that this movement toward a formal ecclesiastical structure modeled on monarchy was a strong & relatively early development within the church.  It cannot be easily dismissed that many early church leaders, some personal students of the 12 directly, approved of & strongly championed the institution of a formal church structure utilizing little, if any, democratic input from the laity.

     For instance, the aged & revered martyr, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, saw the person of the bishop as this promised presence of Christ Himself, reasoning that one must have as much respect for the messenger as one has for the One that sent him.  Therefore, he saw it as unlawful for anyone to baptize or "make love" (in the Greek it's not as kinky as it seems in English!) ie hold a "love feast"1 without the bishop present else, as Ignatius sees it, Christ is not present.2

     Firstly, it should be observed that being "early" is not an automatic correlation to being "right."  At first, Christians under the direction of the apostles practiced a form of communism that Karl Marx would have readily recognized, where all property, food & assets were held in common & work was volunteered by the able (Acts 2:44-47).  Predictably, everybody ate heartily but no one wanted to work to grow more food (2 Thess 3:10 & 12)!  Eventually, Paul would dispense with this communist schema declaring, "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thess 3:11) & that each should "eat their own bread" (2 Thess 3:12).  Suddenly, there was an eager workforce enough to grow plenty of food for all.  There is hardly a Christian today who would advocate communism & yet, such was the practice of the Biblical early church.  This, then, is the classic example of "early" not being "right."

     Secondly, it must be recognized that how much formal structure should be attached to the Church has been a plaguing issue since the departure of the apostles.  It is a subject fraught with the allure of power, the trap of excess riches & ultimately a responsibility to God which, in the snare of worldly temptation, can be too easily dismissed & forgotten.  In the final analysis, Luther observed, it is the individual "sheep" that is responsible for recognizing, discerning & responding to the voice of the true "Shepherd" (John Ch 10; see blog post on 10:1-5, "Emergence of the Individual").  How the bureaucracy of any given church organization argues for its preference would seem to be a more worldly matter than an individual believer need internalize for such arguments are all but irrelevant.  For the individual, Ignatius notwithstanding, there is this promise from the Lord of all creation, that even if all one can do is find fellowship with but one other believer, the King of the Universe is with them in spirit, but as a body ie the Body of Christ ie The Church.

1 probably a reference to Holy Communion aka the Lord's Supper or Lord's Table

2 Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Ch. 8; St. Ignatius of Antioch, (c.AD110); accessed 8/9/10

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Christian Development of "Self" in Western Tradition

Text: John Chapter 10

     The development of the "self" as we understand it in western society is principally the Christian notion of "self."  It does not extend back into the pagan philosophers preceding the Christian era nor is it the outgrowth of the European Enlightenment.  Rather it was appropriated by Enlightenment thinkers trading on the collateral handed to them by Christian humanism.  Nor is the notion of self to be found in any other religious or philosophical tradition outside of where it has been imported from the west.  We shall endeavor in this article to survey the development of the western self both historically and philosophically, seeing such roots firmly entrenched in the Christian tradition.  We will conclude with a brief examination of whether the self as we know it can survive being untethered from those Christian roots.

     Our first order of business must be to define what we mean by "the western self" and how it is to be distinguished from the self found in other cultures and derived from other philosophies.  The western self as we know it today is a deeply personal concept derived from the inner workings of an individual human being.  It has value, musings, development and stature over, above, and independent of the society and culture around it.  This is not to say that it is not influenced or shaped by the culture of which it is a part.  Rather it transcends or at least has the ability to transcend any cultural or societal pressures exerted upon it.

     Indeed, properly understood in western tradition, the self is seen as the very engine and generator of culture and society.  Thus the self forms the kernel of western society artistically, politically, in fact in all ways endemic and necessary to the development of civilization.  Civilization is seen as the expression of self collectively.

     Thus in this definition, we can see how the western concept of self differs greatly from that of ancient society and cultures outside of the Christian tradition.  In all cultures outside a western influence, both ancient or modern, the self is always seen in a relational attitude not as an independent entity.  The self as a module of society or the self as a module of culture or of the family or of the tribe.  The self is never seen nor developed as an independent entity, one capable of expression in decent society.  The self always exists in the service of another entity be it the tribe, or the religion, or the state.  This, then, helps the westerner to understand what informs the concept of the individual seen as honored by human sacrifice.  We see as barbaric what the Aztecs did to their citizens --cutting their hearts out sometimes by the thousands and throwing them often still beating down the steps of their sacred Temples.  Yet, one must see it from the viewpoint of an individual indoctrinated into this other concept of self --the self as existing for the purposes of the religion, existing to please the gods, existing for the sole purpose of feeding the society.  Personal fulfillment is seen exclusively within this framework.  Thus, what greater honor than to have one's heart given to the gods and, that heart seen as worthy sacrifice, bringing peace or bounty or victory in war two one's people?

     There was a game played by south American Indians in pre-Colombian days.  It was something of a cross between soccer and basketball except instead of a soccer ball, the head of a slain enemy was used.  Stone hoops were built high into the stadium walls and, as best as we can tell, the "ball" was kicked around with points scored by getting it into the hoops.  Here, however, is the salient point for our purposes: the winning team had their heads chopped off as a sacrifice to the gods.

     That bears repeating for the western reader: the winners got their heads chopped off as a sacrifice.  We would wonder, "Who the heck would want to win this game?  Why enter into such competition?  And why are on the earth would you attempt to win!?"  And yet they did!  With enthusiasm!  No one had to force them into the competition.  And each side eagerly and fiercely competed to win on no less a level than is seen in any of today's most professional team sport.  Why?  Because the self was in complete subjugation and derived its sole purpose for existence from the collective.  Society gave the individual worth.  There was no other reason for existence independent of one's relationships.  Thus, those socialist proponents who wish to see the self as deriving value from its service to the greater whole are actually advocating a return to an ancient and primitive concept of self.  Far from being "progressive," they are regressive to the concept of "self"; something with which we will deal later.

     There are those who would like to see the western self as extending from the Greek philosophers raised in the first democracies.  This is a failure to read the work of those philosophers and history together.  It is true that Greek democracy utilized the individual vote as its basis for making the decisions of the whole.  However the vote was not extended by any means to all members of society.  Fully half of that society was excluded by failure to extend a vote to women.  Neither were slaves nor free immigrants given the vote.  When actually totaled, an extremely small minority were given suffrage.  The concept of self in these societies was still seen as in service to the greater whole.  To this end, the majority of individuals could be excluded from determining their fate or status in society.  These things were determined by a majority vote of a non-Republican, non-representative minority.

     One need only read Plato's concept of the ideal society as expressed in his quintessential work The Republic.  In this detailed recitation of how the ideal society should function, Plato demonstrates and rationalizes how it is the state's responsibility to determine the vocation of individuals from birth.  Children born of warriors who in their youth demonstrate an aptitude for being a warrior are chosen by the state to be soldiers.  Those born of academics who in their youth demonstrate an aptitude for academics are assigned to be teachers, and so on.  An individual who rebels against the state's decision on their choice of career is banished; if the rebellion is deemed criminal, the offender is executed.  Thus all disagreements with the state on this and many other points are deemed in and of themselves to be subversive to the interest of the state, an interest which in all cases trumps the needs and desires of the individual who is but a module with which to build the state.

     Marriage, too, was seen as an instrument of, for and therefore to be exercised by the state.  As the state required strong soldiers, strong women were to be married to strong men.  As the state required teachers for its youth, smart women were to be married to smart men.  In fact, in an age before genetics, operating on its own pre-Darwinian notion of social evolution, Plato does not seem all that far from Hitler.  He has more in common with Nazi concepts of racial purity than with those of the Western self.  Indeed, as in Nazi Germany, marriage was an institution granted as a privilege by the state.  One could not be married without license from the state after the proper officials had determined the proposed union's benefit to the state.  Marriage for love or individual preference was seen as a vile expression subversive to the interests of the state.  This concept of marriage is almost universal in the ancient world.  Arranged marriages are still the norm in many cultures that have resisted influence from the west.  In western society, it was this crisis between individual duty to the state and the "zeal of the organs" in the service of the individual that formed the basis of the tragedy of Tristan and Isolde, probably the first expression of this conflict in world literature.

     This brings us to another point, namely from whence do these dynamic shifts in thinking within western society come?  Rarely do they spring from philosophers or academicians.  Rather, they flow from the minds and pens, the hands, eyes and brushes of artists, poets, and writers of both fiction and popularized nonfiction.  Neither Leonardo nor Hume were academics nor were Hemingway or Picasso philosophers.  Yet each had profound impact on the popular conception of the self in western society in their respective times.  The late philosopher Joseph Campbell, expert in mythology and comparative religion, correctly identified the artist, poet, storyteller as the root of all social and philosophical change within a culture.  While academics and philosophers study and expound upon change, it always seems to be the cultural black sheep that is the dynamic engine of change and progress.  This accounts for the explosion of change and progress seen in western society as opposed to others.  Thus, those who would see western progress as the result of economic disparity with the west reaping the natural resources of others worldwide have got it all wrong.  It is not economic disparity but spiritual disparity that has marked the upward trend of western society.  Our spiritual base has promoted the value of the self.

     Having dissected off from whence the self did not come, in my next entry I will present the seed from which it did spring and provide discourse on the cradle in which it was nurtured.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Emergence of the Individual

TEXT: John 10: 1-5

" VERILY, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the
sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth
his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the
sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know
not the voice of strangers. "

     Martin Luther turned this into a powerful argument for Protestantism.  His grasping of this passage in part was that the sheep must judge whether or not the voice they follow is that of their Good Shepherd.  Luther's reasoning was that this being the case, every man must have the right to read the Bible for themselves, decide & pass judgment upon the edicts of pope & church, the voice of the Shepherd being the higher authority.  If such edicts be from that higher authority, then they should follow; if they be the voice of strangers, then flee.  "For a hat of pearls & a staff of silver does not make a shepherd or a bishop, but his office does depend on his care of the sheep," ie the rights of government are derived from the authority of the governed.  He saw this authority of the individual to "knock all edicts of all the papists & all the councils to the ground" as divinely bestowed, never to be rescinded.  He saw it also in Christ's warning in Mt 7:15 to beware wolves in sheep's clothing ie we, the people, have the right to judge our leaders, spiritual or otherwise.  If we are obliged to follow whatever authority would pretend to lead us, be they shepherd or wolf, then we have not the authority to judge & Christ's warning would be in vain for we would have no option to act upon our judgment.

     This is a hard argument to break.  It formed one of the cornerstones for recognition of each individual's right to pass such judgments as "endowed by their Creator."  Though Martin Luther explicitly stated that removal of this "sword" from the papacy by the people must not be by force, by its full flowering in the 18th century, the concept of the individual under God would overturn the interests of states with revolutions in the America's & Europe.  Human society would be forever changed by a whole strain of thought extending from the acts initiated by one man's interpretation of one Bible verse.

     So must it ever be, for without this kind of fundamental, over riding foundation of higher authority, there can be no human rights.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lessons Forgotten

TEXT: Amos 2:6

"6 ¶ Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;"

     Greed is a killer.  Even though Israel was a wealthy & prosperous nation, there were still those that wanted more; more to the point that they would engage in the trade of human beings, prohibited by God, practiced by the Canaanites that surrounded them.  Obviously all memories of their experience of slavery in Egypt were now lost in the minds of the people, but never so in the mind of God.  Again, it would be hypocritical of God to condemn those around Israel trading in the slaves but not to bring down justice on Israel for the same actions.

     Ultimately, this must go back to the lessons of Egypt that seem to have been neglected.  In Egypt, on the night of the Passover, there was nothing special about being a Jew that would save you.  There was nothing special about being Egyptian that would condemn you.  All hinged on the blood of the lamb.  If you had it over the entrance to your home, you were saved.  This simple lesson which was commanded that they remember, commanded that they pass it along to their children commanded that it be as frontlets to their eyes, were forgotten in Israel.  Once one forgets how to ask for grace, one falls from grace.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Freedom For All

TEXT: Gal 3:28

"28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, considered to be the foremost authority on early 19th century American liberty & political philosophy, listed this text as the bedrock basis of American liberty in chapter 1 of his monumental work Democracy in America.  In his analysis in that book, he detailed how well educated every American was, primarily from each reading the Bible in their native tongue (primarily English).  He deduced that it was every Americans' knowledge of the implications of this verse as the Word of God that brought about the revolution against Britain.

     In fact, de Tocqueville asserts that Paul's expression here is the first time that anyone had ever declared all men, women, slave, master, Jew, or gentile were equals under God.  This then is the root for Jefferson’s ground-breaking chain in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, that “We hold these truths to be self evident:  that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;  that among these are life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.”  How much like Paul’s statement does the opening half of Jefferson’s formulation sound.

     Tocqueville goes on to examine the root of the claim & finds that it rings true that without Biblical Christianity there is no egalitarian freedom for all.  He sees this as the driving force behind all the other leaps toward democracy (the printing press, the gun, the microscope, science, the engines that drive democracy), without which, progress would not be possible.

     Wrote de Tocqueville:  "Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth." *

     Regardless of what revisionists wish to say today, no matter what pratter they peddle, it is imperative that one read the documents of the period to see that from the Bible & from our people's ability & freedom to read it springs the lifeblood of our freedom.

*Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1851), pp. 331, 332, 335, 336-7, 337

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's the Porpoise?

TEXT: Ex. 26:14

"14 And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins."

     The Hebrew word used here can also refer to "porpoise" skins.  Some scholars insist that "badger" is an incorrect translation.  However, though porpoises are found in the Red Sea & in the Nile, they are pretty scarce in the desert, which means the Hebrews would have had to have anticipated their need & stocked up before leaving Egypt.  While this is technically possible (it may be they had a hoard from the spoils of Egypt; maybe they successfully raided a well stocked porpoise store like "Red Sea World"), it seems highly unlikely to say the least.

Friday, July 23, 2010


TEXT: Prov 22:6

"6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

     Arguably there is nothing more important to the health & survival of the church as an institution than the proper training of Christian children.  More important then evangelism.  More important than missionary work. Our children are our closest & best resource for the future church.  All the more tragic that increasingly, more & more young adults are leaving the church in droves -- upwards of 70%!  This hemorrhage has led to the first noticeable drops in church attendance in over a century; the first but unless things change radically, unfortunately not the last.

     Check the backgrounds of virtually every prominent atheist today & you will find two things:  1) Freudian difficulties with authority figures (ftnote) & 2) religious teaching in their youth.  That's right -- religious teaching in their youth.  Rabid atheist Dan Barker was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home & was a preacher with a music ministry before casting God aside. George Smith was a religious youngster in a non-religious home until as a sophomore in high school he began to stray away from Christianity.  Even Richard Dawkins was the beneficiary of a church run private school in England.  The modern atheist, new ager or cultist usually has some sort of significant church association in their youth.  How can this be?

     Ken Hamm & Britt Beemer have performed a well documented study of just this issue.  Their conclusions are found in their book called Already Gone.  In their book, they detail how kids are not being lost in their first years of college where they become victims of evil atheist professors as previously thought.  No.  The statistics demonstrate that these children are already gone long before they reach college.  Their statistics are compiled from a survey of 1,000 young adults who, as youngsters, attended specifically conservative, evangelical Sunday schools & youth groups faithfully.  These were not the "holidays only" kids.  These were the hard core of children that might be found in any church's youth group or Sunday school today.

     The statistics are staggering.  More than 60% had left the church by their mid-twenties.  Some 40% of those that had left had no interest in ever going back to church.  In fact, by the statistical showing, kids that didn't go to Sunday school regularly were more likely to remain Christians than those that did!  The main reasons the respondents gave for leaving-- 1) the irrelevancy of the church to their lives & 2) the hypocrisy of the church membership.  However, what is most revealing about Ham & Beemer's study is that they dug beneath the surface & found some tragic flaws that made the church seem irrelevant to these people.

     Despite sitting in a Sunday school classroom virtually every Sunday of their youth, less than 30-40% of the respondents could agree with the following statements:  1) The stories related in the Bible depict true events;  2) The Bible has no errors;  3) God created the universe;  4) Sex outside of marriage is against God's law;  5) Marriage is meant to be between one man & one woman & most staggeringly  6) Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

     The book is well worthwhile to find in a library or to purchase.  The study is incredibly revealing.  The bottom line is that we are not teaching our children how to defend the core doctrines of Christianity.  We tell them week after week after week what to believe but we never seem to get around to telling them why.

     Our failure to teach our kids how to defend their/our beliefs is leading to the rapid demise of the traditional church.  Combined with the high profile & low profile hypocrisy seen on TV & in the home, our kids are simply walking away from the public body of Christ.

     The bright spot in all this?  Remember that 40% that had no interest in returning to church?  Well, there's the 60% that might consider it.  Most of them report that they still believe in God. Most still consider themselves Christians ie members of the Church, the Body of Christ, but obviously have little faith in what it means to be a Christian ie the central doctrines of following Christ.  Virtually all report that they are still searching, still on a spiritual quest.  The refocusing of church away from entertainment to genuine education, from evangelizing the converted to arming the Christian soldier may yet, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, return the church as an institution from the brink of what promises to be a very, very deep abyss.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If Prayers Were Wishes

TEXT: Matt 18:19

“19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”

     This verse along with others is often used resulting in two ends: 1) deception & 2) dismissal.

     Addressing the first, many, particularly charismatic preachers, use this verse to deceive believers into thinking that whatever they pray for, no matter what, as long as at least one other person prays for it with them, they will get it.  This is a wholly unscriptural approach to prayer, both in practice & expectation.  Firstly, one must note that all such promises (including Mk 11:23; Jn 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:24) are made explicitly to the apostles.  If one looks at the passage one will quickly see that Jesus is not addressing the multitude, but the small party of the 12 in all these cases.  It is a promise made exclusively to them, proof of which will be offered soon.  Secondly, all prayer is to be in accord with the Father's will (Luke 11:2).  Even Jesus could not pray His way out of the Father's will.  He prayed in the garden that the cup of the cross would pass from Him, but it did not.  The scriptural approach must be "thy will be done" (Luke 22:42).  Thus, God does answer all prayer.  We simply must be prepared for that answer to be, "No."

     If the interpretation of the charismatic's were true, no Christian would ever have died.  Certainly those that I have prayed with have had two or more praying for healing as have millions more through history.  If this passage were applicable to us, then these people including many members of my family & myself, would be alive & well.  The evidence of our eyes must prevail.  Given the two interpretations, the evidence of our eyes & history demonstrates the truth of only one ie this promise was exclusive to the apostles.

     Which is the refutation to the second use of this passage ie dismissal.  Many anti-Christian speakers & philosophers dismiss Christianity pointing to this as being a "lie" that Jesus spoke for no one has ever gotten everything for which they have prayed.  Again, the faith remains perfectly consistent & intact only if one sees this & similar promises as applying to the 12 exclusively.

     Nevertheless, we should not despair.  The purpose of this promise was to establish Christianity & make it triumphant in history; a purpose that was accomplished through the work of the apostles.  Christianity survived, thrived & has dominated western thought until modern times.  The Christian should feel joy in this fulfillment.  Just because we see this as not applying to us, we should realize we are all on the same grace as Jesus & the apostles ie the will of the Father.  Indeed, this is applicable to us if we see our prayer life from that perspective.

     Prayer is not about wish fulfillment.  Prayer is not about a laundry list of "I want"'s.  Bringing all our desires, all our wants into accordance with His will should be the fulfillment of the believers soul.  It is only in this way that a martyr can go to his/her fate; that a faithful servant can find his reward.

The Real Thing

TEXT: Heb 8: 4-5

4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

     What the author is telling his Jewish audience is that Moses merely saw into heaven to see the heavenly ark in God's Temple which he was to attempt to reproduce;  Christ is actually in that Temple serving as high priest right now.  One of the implications of this is that when John is called to "Come up here" (Rev 4:1) & he walks around these objects (Rev 11), he is claiming to actually be there amongst these objects not merely experiencing a vision of them as Moves did (Ex 25:9).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Habitual Prayer

TEXT: Dan 6:10

“10 ¶ Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

     Daniel was a man of prayer.  We see all through this book that it was a habit for him to pray.  He prayed toward Jerusalem at “the time of the evening oblation” ie toward a city that no longer existed, destroyed over half a century before by the Babylonians, at the time of a ritual that had not been kept in 70 years!  It must have seemed to him at times that all that was left of his home & way of life was in his prayers.  This kind of longing is felt by every Jew that weeps & prays at the Wailing Wall.  Prior to 1948, it was a feeling shared by every Jew that yearned for a homeland of their own.  How much of the reality of the situation actually sunk into Daniel's psyche we don't know.  What we do know is that through habitual prayer, he kept his identity alive.  How many of us, of our young, of those around us every day seem lost, without an identity to hold on to.  How much might prayer help them rediscover & retain who they really are.  This is more than the quaint sentiment, "The family that prays together, stays together."  Prayer must hold a personal dimension to be effective.  Proper prayer life means connecting one's deepest sense of identity, of who we are, with God's.  Prayer is not a wish list; it is not a memorized repeated incantation.

     Prayer is touching God & feeling Him touch back. Prayer is part of a relationship.  Thus, yes, it does take on ritualistic aspects.  There are married couples that, though their day may routinely see them separated for most of the time, they will, with ritualistic passion, have a cup of coffee together, every morning & talk.  The point of such an exercise is not the enjoyment of coffee, though they may with some frequency seek out different, more exotic blends, brew methods, etc.  The point is not actually the talk, though each will save a story or comment expressly for the morning get together.  The get together, the relationship, is the point. The element of good coffee and/or special comments heighten the experience.  But, even if the coffee is a bit off; even if the room is quiet, the experience of being together, the relationship, still makes the experience, the ritual, worth the effort for in this way, in this ritual, they form an identity as a married whole, not two people who happen to be married.  Such a ritual will develop only with dedication to making it a habit.  This is what prayer is.  It's a habitual engaging in the relationship.

     In a modern culture of one night stands, no fault divorce & abortion on demand, maybe we have lost the knack of forming relationships, but that is what Daniel had.  It is a fulfilling experience (or at least it should be) for its own sake.  This is what God wants; not repeated, mindless incantations; not just the odd moment now & then, always when we're in need.  He wants a relationship.  He wants to hear when your sad; he wants to hear when you're happy, ecstatic; even when you have nothing to say, maybe He does!  Make prayer a habit & God guarantees you'll have a relationship.  Be as faithful in your prayer life as Daniel & you will experience all the joy that relationship can bring in this life!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Personal Experience & Postmodernism

TEXT: Matt 1:20

"20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."

     Here Joseph has what many in the postmodern world would consider the senna qua non of spiritual experience i.e. personal contact with the divine.  It must be considered, of course, a rare event today in the Church Age for God to provide such a personal experience.  There are reasons for this which are explained in the Bible. Nevertheless, many feel that their spiritual lives are empty unless they can have personal contact with the divine plane.  This has been suggested as a possible reason for the veritable explosive growth in the charismatic church since this, primarily, is what they ostensibly offer.  However, it should be noted that we're not told to seek or overvalue such contact (2 Cor 12:6) & in fact, we're warned against attempting such (Lev 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut 18:9-12; Isa 8:19-20; 1 Cor 10:14-22).  Even so, you would be surprised how far you can get in witnessing to a postmodernist thinker if you allow yourself to use what they see as personal experience in order to bring to their consideration the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

     We wish to make it abundantly clear that there is but one way to God & that is through His Son Jesus Christ & there is only one way to get access to Jesus Christ & that is through His gospel as revealed in His word.  So, we can only access God through Christ & we can only access Christ through the gospel, but the means & modes to access the gospel are virtually limitless!  Sometimes imagination is required.

     Consider the following situation:  you sit next to a stranger on the train or an airplane & have the opportunity for an extended period of conversation before reaching your destination.  She notes you carry your Bible & asks if you are a believer & you respond by providing her with your testimony.  She responds to that by saying, "Wow, you know, I had a dream just like that just the other night!"  Further, she relates that she called her mother, who is a churchgoing woman, & her mother asked, "What have you done wrong that Satan is doing this to you?" She tells you how immediately she was turned off by that approach

     Now, given the content of the dream, we may or may not agree with the mother as to whether there may be a demon at work.  However, we must note that the postmodern thinker will see the dream as personal experience of the spiritual plane & they may be right.  However, assessing it as demon inspired (even if it is so) is not the route to take in order to open access for this individual to the gospel.  The question instead to be asked is (and this is a very carefully crafted question)  "What do you think God was trying to tell you by allowing you to have that dream?"  This wording is critical to the approach & here's why:

     Firstly, attributing the dream to demons is going to close the person off & shut down the conversation.  No one wants to be told they are cavorting with demons.  You will not be able to relate the gospel if you are not talking &, after all, that is the desired point to be reached for only by accessing the gospel is there access to Christ by which the seeker can genuinely access God, even if they do not accept or acknowledge this fact.  But, if you shut down the conversation prematurely, you preclude the possibility of getting to the step of sharing the gospel.

     Sometimes, the indirect approach ends up being the most direct for the purposes of the gospel.

The question is carefully phrased:

"What..." -- Obviously you are asking for a response;

" you..." -- Remember, we're dealing with personal experience that is the postmodernist's major god, along with his/her feelings, as to the measure of spiritual growth.  You need to tap into that.  So, you want to be asking about what it means to them;

"...think..." -- This is the one thing the postmodernists seem to avoid as much as possible. It must be our goal to get them to engage their minds; to think, not just to feel, about their situation.  Feelings can be very misleading; too many people today follow their feelings in the postmodernist fashion whereas, if they actually thought more, they might grow more spiritually as well as intellectually.  As an example, it is a comfortable, usually unchallenged, postmodern sentiment for one to say,"  Well, you can never really be sure about anything," to which-if only one would think about it -the obvious reply is, "Are you sure about that?"  Many of the quaint, pithy little sayings that are laid out in the postmodern world, fail to pass any sort of scrutiny that sometimes even a kindergartner could provide, but because we are a society that no longer thinks about these things, which thinks about our positions, we get trapped into the comfortable, feel-good euphemisms & philosophies of the age.

"...God meant..." -- This ties the individual to the divine, which is where they want to be in the first place.  Tying them & their experience to the devil or Satan makes for a short conversation.  Eventually though this tie may need to be made, it is better initially to help them see their tie to God first & foremost.  Even if that brush with divinity must eventually convict them of their experience, they are at least initially more comfortable with pursuing the conversation.  You are also indicating that their experience was an intention on the part of God.  This is important for conveying to them that God does indeed care about them personally.  A postmodernist is apt to appreciate this or, alternatively, that God is an impersonal thing.  In case of the latter, using this question, you'll be able to tease such feelings out & address them in due course;

" allowing..." -- to say "by giving" wrongly conveys our conviction that all that happens in our experience is allowed by God, but not necessarily sent or given by God.  As demonstrated by the Book of Job, not all is directly caused by God, but all is allowed by God.  Given the fact that such dreams may be brought about by demons or demon inspiration, we do not want to be in the position of insinuating that God was the cause of their dream.  As notably repeated in the gospels several times (Mark 1: 24-25) Jesus never wanted or accepted the testimony of devils on His behalf, even though they knew who He really was.  We should not be in the position of conveying, even in an indirect way, that He is associated with such activities.  By using the word "allow," we're able to remain flexible in later judging of the dreams content should you be called upon to do so.

" to have that dream?" -- this validates the individual's personal experience.  We should have no doubt that anyone's given experience, be it a dream or near death experience (NDE) or other such phenomenon, has spiritual implications.  It certainly has significance to the individual & while we may not want to validate or endorse the content of that experience, we can feel free to validate the fact of the experience as being genuine & of significance to the individual.

     Though this example has been provided & broken down, it is important to recognize that it is just that -- an example.  There are innumerable approaches to postmodernist seekers; flexibility must be maintained in terms of approach. This is usually more important than anything else.  The postmodern seeker will want to know that you are listening to them; seeing their specific circumstance; hearing their specific story. Postmodernism & postmodernist thinking can not be distinguished by age group, by mode of dress, or by any other physical characteristic.  A postmodernist is one who has accepted uncritically the time dime store philosophy that has pervaded society beginning in the early to mid -80's, at least in the popular culture; some philosophers think that it traces its roots as far back as the opening of the Bastille in the time of the French revolution, when Europe entered the Enlightenment.  Popular postmodern thinking seems to have come into vogue about the time of the end of the cold war.  We had all been told by Star Trek & 2001 a space odyssey that if only we could overcome our differences with the Soviets either through accommodation or by overcoming the Soviets themselves (though most seemed to think accommodation would be the eventual policy we would have to take) that we would soon find ourselves wearing bright silver clothing, living in the brightly lit white world of sleep spaceships zipping from galaxy to galaxy without care in peace & harmony.  Unfortunately, we seem to be living in the same forlorn world as before only now it's terrorists with planes instead of commies with nukes that hold us hostage. People have become disillusioned with the modernists dream and have seen them as having fallen short on their promises.  Likewise, just as they were wrong about having to accommodate the Soviets someday, they seem to have been wrong about just about everything.  Some have gone as far as to claim that bringing down the Soviet empire was the wrong thing to do!  They insist that if we have accommodated them as the modernists had suggested, we would be living in the world of clean white space ships.  This, on the face of it, is, of course, silly since continuing the Soviet empire simply meant the extension of the suffering of the millions of people that lived under its yoke.  They're certainly no worse off today than they were & one might say they're a whole lot better off in many ways than they were before.

     Some have said that postmodernism isn't as much a philosophy as it is a mood.  People have become disillusioned, disappointed & are simply disgusted at finding Christ's observation as true i.e. "Know ye not that the poor will always be with you?"  So many, though they may seem bright & cheerful on the outside, they're living that life of quiet desperation, so tired of having to think for themselves that they have surrendered, allowing others to think for them, finding comfort in poorly thought out, feel-good cliches.  Postmodernism may be viewed as a great depression of the spirit.  To this, Christ is the answer, the only answer.  We must be flexible enough to introduce Him to the members of this wide, disparate group, being firm in our message, yet gentle in spirit.  Note the variety, however, in the ways in which Jesus in presented by Jesus & his followers: eg to Nicodemus, Jesus said, "You must be born again; to the woman of the well, He said nothing of being born again but He told her He was the water of life; when Phillip saw the Ethiopian in his chariot perplexed by the words of Isaiah, he didn't speak of the water of life nor did he speak of being born again, rather the Ethiopian was perplexed and so Philip offered to explain.  Example after example, time & time again, Christ & his apostles are providing us with a pattern of flexibility.  Each delivered the message of the Gospel, but in a way that met each spiritual seeker where he or she was at on their spiritual journey.  They delivered it in the close, personal circumstance of their own lives & on a level that each was able to understand.

     Some have said that Christianity must change or die. Christianity does not need to "change" but it does need to remember & rediscover the flexibility that made it spread across the world so successfully in the first place.  Christianity was never intended to be a cookie cutter religion; this is not a do progressive concept.  This is good, old fashioned, Biblical Christianity available to anyone who is willing to rediscover it.

     We must remember, our primary goal is to open up access to the gospel for these individuals.  The postmodern thinker (a term which is actually an oxymoron since they worship feeling & eschew thinking!) is lost in a morass of conflicting feelings seeking experience, the majority of which will turn out to be fraudulent & hollow.  It is the Christian's duty to demonstrate that there is a better way; to show that spirituality is not merely a matter of "feeling one's way."  God calls us to love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, all our strength & with all our mind (Luke 10:27).  Yes, we must feel; Yes, our souls, our being, must be engaged; but, we must also think.  Of the all creatures in creation, God gave us the ability to reason.  He gave us the faculty of mind.  We must open the postmodernist up to the idea that had God not wished us to use this faculty, why would He give it to us in the first place!?  Postmodern relativists tell us there is no such thing as "truth" & yet they wish us to believe that their assertion is true!  They tell us that words have no meaning & yet they write tomes hundreds of pages long using thousands of words to convince us of this truth in a world where they say there is no truth!  Postmodernism is incoherent; at the very least inconsistent.  It is our job to lay this false philosophy bare but, of prime importance, to use whatever means we can to open access to the Gospel & allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Human Do's

Mark Ch.7

"7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."

     The Pharisees had come up with what they thought was a work-around God's law regarding caring for parents.  A person was able to say that they were dedicating their inheritance and property to the service of the Temple.  This sounds all holy and pious, of course.  Having done so, technically the Temple owned all their wealth.  They, personally, however, were allowed to live off the proceeds from that property as long as they lived.  This practice was called Corban.  However, since they technically owned nothing, they were not required to provide for aging parents or sick siblings or any family for that matter.  Jesus flat out condemns this practice.  His charge is that their traditional practice made God's law to no effect.  Yet, again, the Pharisees had technically fulfilled the law, but really missed the whole point.

     Lest we think this does not apply to us today, we should consider how often church members dedicate so much time and wealth to the church that they think they can nullify their family obligations.  There are those that spend every spare minute over at the church failing to take their day of rest, failing to spend time with their spouses, fail to spend time with their children and still, as here, fail to care for aging parents.  There are some that tithe even at the expense of putting themselves into financial jeopardy.  The worst of this matter is that there are pastors and leaders that encourage this type of behavior, insisting that it is a "sacrifice for God," when the reality is that it is a sacrifice to themselves where church growth even to a mega-church means more power and money for that pastor.

     What is lacking here is the truth of the basis of the church. It is not we that spread the church, but the Holy Spirit.  It is not our work that builds the church.  Christ builds his church.  To operate in such a manner, even for a church-- a "holy" purpose-- is a sin.  It is the sin of pride bourne out by the arrogance to think that without "me," "I" am so important, that without "my" work, "my" dedication, "my" church will not grow.  It is not "my" church.  It's Christ's church.  If you take a day off a week as ordered, His church will still grow.  If you place your resources, your wealth, your time to your family, your spouse, your children-- they are yours-- Christ's church will still grow.

     One of the most prominent idols in Western culture is "work," and not just for the work-aholic.  Too often in Western culture, men and increasingly women are defined by their work.  It affords them their social status & forms the basis of their self-image and self-worth.  This is why we hear frequently of the man or woman who is "disabled," no longer "able" to "be" what they were in their jobs previously, degenerating into despair and sometimes suicide.  They have defined themselves in terms of their career and when unable to fulfill the requirements of the job, they cease to see any value in their life.  It is not just the coveting of power, status or wealth.  It is the mistake of defining ourselves in terms of what we "do" rather than what we "are."  "Are" is a form of "to be."  "Do" is an action.  We are "human beings" not "human do's."

     This is not to say we should not do work to serve others, even the church.  It is not to say that in extraordinary circumstances and opportunities that sometimes huge sacrifices are not required.  It is to say that day-to-day operations, whether in business or church work can not be at the sacrifice of family responsibilities.  It is the mark of a cult that says you must offer all your produce, all your wealth, your family, your time to the cult and any church or ministry that operates similarly is operating on the same basis as a cult.  No church should require or knowingly accept a member's time and money on such a basis.  Those that do must go back and thoroughly read this exchange and upbraiding from our Lord.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Acts 1:6

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

     The Apostles, even after three years of walking with the Lord, witnessing His death, experiencing His resurrection, have an agenda that does not conform to Christ's agenda.  They have received this great commission on a number of occasions & yet have still not understood that the Son of Man came for all of mankind & that all of mankind had to receive the Word.

     Christians in the modern world must still heed the Lord's answer in v.7.  Whether it be eschatology, ministry, mission or even personal prognostications or agendas, the future is not for us to know or to act upon but the present is ours in which to be.  God will bring the kingdom in when He will. We are not to wait around for Him to do so, but to "be witnesses unto [Christ] both in Jerusalem, & in all Judea, & in Samaria, & unto the uttermost part of the earth," (v.8) ie everywhere & everyone.  We are promised the Holy Spirit's lead in these endeavours (v. 8) & we carry the promise that Christ has all authority in heaven & on earth, ruling all nations, the only "superpower" there is & that all that power will go before us & He will be with us always, even unto the end of the world (Mt.28:20)

     Even so, many do not like this answer, but, as often happens, God always answers just not always with the answer we would like.  It brings to mind the many agendas we still sometimes have & try to impose upon God.  Many are delighted to go God's way as long as He is going their way.  We must learn to conform our lives & our desires to God's agenda.  Only then will we know the fullness of worship ie surrendering to God all that we have & all that we are.  We can not fully worship God while retaining the individual, national, or global agendas we desire that are outside God's agenda.  Ministry, financial, political -- all agendas must be subservient to His else we are not walking in His way but ours.  We may find certain tasks annoying, certain places too distant, certain people unappealing. These are to be of no account.  Whatever, wherever & to whomever God leads us is our duty for service.  History is replete with examples of reluctant prophets & missionaries from Jonah to Thomas (see "Thomas in India" below) to St. Patrick (whom most mistake for being Irish; he wasn't; he was a British boy captured by Irish warriors & taken into slavery in Ireland who, after escaping some 13 years later, returned to bring the Gospel to the land of his former captivity).  How much more so should our 21st century comfort laden world be?  We must be willing to go God's way, even if it's not our way.  Obedience must accompany faith, else one must question where that faith is actually placed.

     What is most surprising, when you can truly reach a point of surrender to God, we often find that what He has in mind is so much greater & far reaching than anything we might imagine.  Here the Apostles are focused on just Israel.  Christ tries to make clear to them over & over in the Great Commission (see here & Mt 28) that His vision encompasses the entire world, everywhere the Apostles knew of & beyond to lands that wouldn't be discovered for another 1400 years!  Christianity would spread across the globe from this small collection of disciples huddled in an upper room.  That, then, is the essence of this passage.  Give up your own small visions for yourself & embrace the greater vision of God.  The rewards of doing so may not come to us in this lifetime.  Eleven of the twelve died horrible deaths in martyrdom while the only one to die of old age (ironically, the youngest, John) spent most of his years living in prison or in exile.  However, this is the essence of faith -- knowledge of that which is unseen (Heb 11:1); knowledge that heaven carries a reward greater than anything to be found in this life.  Such is part of embracing God's greater vision for us & mankind.

Defending the Protestant Canon

Luke Ch.11:47-51 : text is in verse 51

“47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.

48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.

49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:

50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;

51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.”

     Christ recognizes the Old Testament canon as running from Abel in Genesis to Zacharia, whose book does not appear last in the Protestant canon order though he is known to be the latest writer in that canon chronologically.  This answers two major questions concerning canon by the Lord's decree, not by man's.

     Firstly, Christ verifies the authenticity of the Genesis account.  By citing Abel as a prophet, Christ is acknowledging that Moses' account in Genesis is real history at least as far as Jesus is concerned (which should be as much evidence any Christian needs).  His statement here means that Abel was a real person, not some mythical invention of later tradition.  In fact, it is tradition vs the Word of God that is the subject of this very debate.  Christ is saying to the Pharisees that they must reference real history, God's real Word, not their traditions when giving guidance or being guided as how to live.  Christ includes Abel (thereby incorporating the Genesis account) as part of that real history. Thus, if the book of Genesis is actually metaphor, Christ's whole argument falls apart meaning He was in error which means He was not God.  Chuck Genesis from real history & you chuck Christianity out the same window.

     Secondly, Christ affirms that the extra books included in the Catholic canon are, in fact by His decree, not authentically canonical.  Christ here Himself closes the canon chronologically at Zacharia.  This is why books such as Maccabees & Jubilees are not included in the Protestant canon.  Christ in advance confirms the writings of the apostles as canon (see Jn 16:14 note "Christ Verifies the NT"), but excludes all books in the so called 400 year "Silent Era."  Any debate over canon must center on this verse, a proclamation from the Lord Himself, which can not be denied, altered or refuted.  Certainly we can look to these books as probable historical accounts in the same way as we might consult the Autobiography of Ben Franklin to understand life in colonial America.  However, we would never call Ben Franklin's work "inspired" just because it is historically accurate.  "Inspiration" implies & must demonstrate more than historical accuracy (though that is a vital requisite component).  Thus, if the Lord Himself did not see these as books worthy to live by, then neither should we.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fellowship is Fiduciary

TEXT: Lev 6:2

"2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;

3 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:

4 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,

5 Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.”

     The Hebrew implies a fiduciary relationship wherein the individual is to place the needs of the partner or corporation ahead of the individuals own needs or wants.  This is the genuine meaning of fellowship as embodied in the Bible ie not socializing but the recognition that each individual has the obligation to place the needs of others before his own.  We "come together in fellowship" not "for" fellowship (Lev 6:2).

     In our fellowship with God, He has seen to His part, placing our needs so far forward as to sacrifice His own Son for our salvation.  Have we kept our part of the fellowship?  The answer, of course, is "no."  Note that Christ is our sin offering made to restore our fellowship with God.  His sacrifice being made to the ends of that restoration, what have we done with it?  Having accepted His sacrifice, are we actually engaging on that kind of level with God or do we simply see ourselves as hourly workers, putting in our time?  One of the aspects of the fiduciary duty is to see to the best interests of God & His enterprise first & foremost.  Paul implies in Ephesians 6 that this is precisely the nature of our relationship to God.  Is this what we do with our salvation or do we use our salvation to our advantage ie as "fire insurance?"

     We also owe each other this kind of relationship. Again, we are to come together in fellowship.  Is this really what we do as the church, or are we having a weekly social event at church?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Zeitgeist: True, but Wrong

     Claims regarding pagan stories of resurrection predating Jesus are clearly presented so as to be true but wrong. How can a statement be true but wrong?

     Here's an example: "the worship of Osiris predates Jesus by centuries and we have resurrection stories of Osiris."   This same statement is made for many pagan gods; for instance--Dionysus, Adonis, Osiris.   They are all true but wrong.   The reader or viewer sees the statements and concludes "O, so resurrection stories predate Jesus."   This is the desired conclusion which is where the deception lies.   The truth is, yes, worship of these deities predates Jesus.   However, our earliest resurrection stories for these gods come after Jesus, most dating to the second-third century A.D.   Consider what is happening in this time. Paganism is swiftly losing its grip on the masses and more importantly, on the ruling class i.e. It is losing political power.   Consider that by the beginning of the fourth century, Christianity will become openly legal and by the end of that century will become the official religion of the roman empire.   So pagan religions are scrambling to make themselves a viable alternative to Christianity and at the heart of Christianity is the resurrection.   That makes the resurrection a good place to start to try to make one's cult attractive to potential converts.   So, it is actually the other way around. Christianity is not changing to appeal the pagans.   Paganism is changing to prevent conversions that are sweeping through cults and decimating their power base.

     Often the same ploy is used when comparing the Gilgamesh legends and Noah.   The statement is made that, " legends of Gilgamesh date back to the time before Genesis and we have the famous story of Gilgamesh on the sea which bears a striking resemblance to Noah."   Again, technically, all true, but wrong.   The truth is some, not all, legends of Gilgamesh predate the writing of Genesis, the oldest is probably being of Gilgamesh & Dinkadoo the wild man (a metaphor for urban civilization overturning simple tribal life).   However the accounts we have of the sea legend only appear some 500 years afterGenesis. (note: this discounts the theories that all books prior to Nehemiah including Daniel i.e. all books prior to the end of the Babylonian captivity, were actually written by the returning captives.   This theory holds that Jewish refugees made up their history because they didn't actually know it and did so by drawing on Babylonian mythical sources such as Gilgamesh.   This is a silly theory and readily disposed on other grounds.)

     Another example of pagan resurrection predating Christianity often centers around the observance of seasons and the pagan rituals attendant to it.   This leaves a skewed view of history as well as pagan tradition.   It is important to remember the pagan observance of seasons in ancient times had little or nothing to do with resurrection.   They centered mainly on fertility.   The pagan god/godless of your choice but the seasons were always seen as an act of sexual procreation, not resurrection.   The male god would spread his seed over the earth, engorging rivers, creating wetlands, etc and the earth (usually a goddess) would absorb the male seed & bring forth life in due season.   That is a very important concept--the times between the rains & the harvest was seen as paralleling the time between conception & birth.   This was a process that took time.

     It was not a resurrection as nothing was seen to have died.   The terms of a resurrection cannot be seen as a time consuming event.   One is either dead or not dead.   At the moment the dead become alive is the moment of resurrection. There is no process of resurrection.   The ancients were not dull observers.   They saw the fit with sex, procreation and birth as the more natural, unforced metaphor.

     The truth is it is impossible to say that no one, anywhere, ever made a resurrection story prior to Jesus.   There are certainly similar legends of vastly different color predating Christianity.   For example, there are vampire stories going back to ancient Egypt.   However, outside of the dead coming back to some sort of life, the vampire story bears no resemblance to a resurrection story.   However, leaving readers with the impression that there was a plethora of resurrection stories in pagan times and traditions prior to Christianity is specious at best; certainly a distortion if not an outright, cleverly crafted deception.

     Christ is the quintessential prototype for resurrection.   As always, Zeitgeist and its proponents are trying ex post Facto to lay claim to the Christian cross as something so powerful and desirable that deception is seen as an equitable price to pay for the obtaining of it.   Legitimate acceptance of Christ to be subsumed in the body topped with the head that wears the crown is seen as a price too high.   Failing in their attempt, I would hope that those who otherwise would have been convinced by the Zeitgeist lying would sincerely consider the claims of the gospel of Christ and legitimately inherit his crown of Glory in everlasting life.