It saddens me how often these musings are inspired by misinformation and ignorance in the pulpit or the tele-evangelists studio. Godly men in the role of teacher and preacher are held to a higher standard in both knowledge and practice of the word. Evangelism is properly the work of reaching the lost on a wholesale scale. When an evangelist uses his venue to teach or a pastor or teacher moves his sermons and lessons to the mass media, it is a frightening thing. He assumes great responsibility for the lives and spiritual welfare of mass humanity whom he has never met nor been inspired to teach.

Such a mass market approach is the proper purview of the prophet whom we are more comfortable calling preacher. Preaching is the activity of conveying God’s inspired word to believers who are strayed from the faith or entertaining heterodoxy, or who are backslidden and in rebellion. We are so much more comfortable with the term preacher because we in the west associate prophet with canonicity, and rightly recognize that false prophecy is a matter of life and death. By calling prophets, preachers, we seem to think we not only reduce the import and urgency of their appeal, we insulate the speaker from the liability toward God that he incurs when he compromises with the powers that be or presents a sermon based on bad scholarship or deceit.

Sadly this semantic manipulation does not dissuade God or eliminate the very serious responsibility the failed or false prophet has to the hearer and to God.

Recently I heard a recording of a man who has spent at least the last 30 years teaching and preaching to the people of North America. This man has a sweet disposition and has helped a large body of believers to fall in love with the scripture and to discover the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs as real people instead of shallow characters from obscure parables. I’m not sure how old the recording is but I believe it to be at least 15 years old (dating from his tenure as a pastor). In this lesson, he attempted to interpret the passage in James where the sibling of our Lord Jesus told us to “call upon on the elders of the church … and [their] prayer … shall heal the sick.”

It should be noted that this man is a fairly good student of the scripture, but he has embraced the heterodoxy neo-Irvingite theology that we in America call Evangelical. However he could properly be call a charismatic because, like his Irvingite fathers, he grudgingly accepts the gifts of the spirit including supernatural tongues and prophecy as occasionally present in today’s church. He would argue against their proper role as a normative component of spirit filled living.

That is an important observation, in that it skews his cosmology and his doctrine to the point that it is a primary cause of the eisegesiswhich he exercised in this lesson. His dogma informs his study and overrides doctrine therefore reinforcing his chosen dogma. This is the worst pitfall of the student theologian and should have been eliminated from this man’s habits long ago. He took a single word from the passage, the one translated anoint, and attempted to redefine it as medical treatment.

Basing his argument on extra-biblical sources he established the word’s common usage to refer to a specific medical treatment common in Hellenistic Greece, and extrapolated it to mean medical treatment in general. He then ignored the proper syntax of the passage and argued that it should have read approximately like, “and they shall administer medical treatment”. This is a surprising abuse of scripture given the source, a man who has a history of scrupulous adherence to context and canonical criticism. He compounded his error by smugly announcing, “now you’ve never heard a pastor say that before!” To be fair, this was after he had explained that he felt unfairly exploited if a person came for prayer when they haven’t first gone for medical treatment.

One is tempted to coin the term reverse reactionism, to refer to the activity of liberal theologians who, upon discovering that a preacher of prophet is making headway in bringing about revival and repentance, attack in order to defend the entrenched liberal theology. This preacher would be just such a reverse-reactionary, attempting to prevent God’s people from turning away from reliance on modern medicine and philosophies.

Before he was done he had recklessly announced that 1) he had no power, and 2) that he had members of his congregation who needed psychiatric drugs and he would not pray for healing of their minds, and 3) that you should have faith in your doctor. Every successive statement was more heterodox and rebellious than the last. I must admit I was offended and appalled. I can only hope he’ll repent and destroy the copies of this sermon.

His faithlessness was tantamount to an argument that the God who made the mind was not capable of healing it. He was also arguing that there is no power in the godly obedience, that the prayer of faith will not save the sick, and that God does not bring the spirit of a sound mind. Essentially he was replacing God with men in the most vomitous piece of carnality and humanism I have seen in a pulpit.

Let’s look at the passage. It is patently clear that the passage says, “and they [the elders of the church] shall anoint” the petitioner. Now it may be true that the term translated anoint is the Hellenistic equivalent of “slap some oil on ya,” but that doesn’t obviate the translation as anoint. What it does is highlight the crude, folksy patois used by the author of James. It’s common usage outside of the present context does not obviate the context, and the speaker is just wrong due to bad scholarship.

The present context is calling upon the Elders of the Church. If that Elder has no special power he isn’t a legitimate Elder. The office of Elder conveys the power to speak with authority on matters of faith and practice and this passage clearly indicates it conveys a deepened responsibility for the welfare of younger members. This is the result of longer service and the deepened relationship and trust in God’s character that comes from long, authentic service (as opposed to inauthentic service which is a waste of time and does produce a powerless and ineffectual leader).

Regardless of any other consideration, the abuse of scripture evidenced in this passage is not only troubling it discredits the entirety of the resulting sermon and indicates a need for repentance on the part of this teacher. As a personal aside I want to make the following appeal to the teacher mentioned above:

You are a man of God, and I have followed your ministry with appreciation for many years. But, you know more than most that the appeal of compromise is an unrelenting temptation for the compassionate teacher. A desire to see our student flourish and succeed can cause the best of us to falter in holding the line of Biblical theology and holiness. But if we do not hold our students accountable, just as they hold us accountable, God will hold us accountable for their blood. If you feel powerless, then I’d invite you to seek the gift of healing and the deeper infilling and communion of the Holy Spirit that accompanies Glossalalia (as opposed to the supernatural gift Xenoglossa).

God is gracious, please hear my appeal. And for the sake of those whom you lead, don’t dismiss this appeal with a smirk and a chuckle as you are wont to do. Please brother, show the godly remorse and repentance that you so appreciate in David. I know you have a heart that seeks to know God’s heart.

Your brother,

Fred

Written on April 1st, 2009 , Musings Tags: , ,

I realize I’ve spent a lot of time on what Christian marriage and sexual morality is not. In the interest of balance I will make a point of expressing the positive definition of marriage and Christian sexuality. This is a much more difficult task since essentially the position of the Bible is “anything not prohibited is implicitly encouraged and in some cases commanded.”

The best place to start is with the traditional Christian marriage vows. Bear in mind that marriage is validated by scripture in such a way that all marriages between a man and a woman regardless of the religion or lack there of involved in the ceremony, including common law marriages are given equal weight by the scripture. Even the lack of ceremony is no bar to marriage. Simply purporting to be married before witnesses and the community at large constitutes a valid marriage by Biblical standards as long as 1) the parties to the marriage genuinely intend to be married, and 2) the parties to the marriage are legitimately marriageable by Biblical standard. That said, marriage is hard enough to live up to without complicating things with unclear expectations and a lack of initiation.

In order to aid in commitment among other reasons the church has traditional religious ceremonies that provide a point of initiation. This clearly defined point of demarcation and public oath of marriage helps to reinforce the serious nature of marriage for the sincere believer. It provides a context for a crisis event that reinforces the objective reality of being married.

What I’ve done following is take traditional vows which are derived as an expression of Biblical standards for living married as a Christian couple and look at the legal and spiritual implications of the oaths we call vows. They are in fact Vows before god and man, but constitute a verbal contract in the form of oaths publicly sworn.

The particular formula I chose to analyze was as follows:

First the husband

I N.N. take you N.N. to be my holy wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till in death we do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and in this intent I pledge my oath to you.

Then the wife

I N. take you to be my holy wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish and to obey, forsaking all other lovers, till we do part in death, according to God’s holy ordinance; and in this intent I pledge my oath to you.

Breaking it down the husband’s vows read something like this.

The Husband’s Vow

I N.N. take you N.N. to be my holy wedded wife,

Holy wedded wife indicates both that the act of marriage is a religious rather than civil observance and that the office of wife is a religious office to which a woman is ordained.

to have and to hold,

In old English have is a term that is richer in meaning than the way it is used in modern parlance. To have is not to merely possess in the simple sense of custody, but to thoroughly control all aspects and features which can be possessed and to have the right of determination and consumption of all features and produce. To have a wife is to possess her sexually, to command her respect for your position if not your person, and to determine the course of her life.

Holding is also very different from when the vows were first composed. A holder is one who has taken a property which belongs to another and is empowered as steward. But more than than holding includes developing natural resources, grooming and developing. In the sense it was intended, to hold a wife is to take possession of her with the intention of grooming her into a finer person and to hold the title to her as a grant of authority from her true owners, namely she herself and God almighty.

Legally this entails the agreement to guide, instruct, and discipline the wife in every aspect of person and personality, taking personal responsibility for her wellbeing and provision. It also entails the grant of power of attorney and medical power of attorney simultaneously and anatomical gifting in toto of a mans person and living tissues, in the interest of meeting the needs of his wife.

from this day forward,

Obviously demonstrates that the title of husband is being conferred effective immediately.

for better or worse,

This is the most misunderstood part. In this context it surely means that the title remains effective even when the husband is ineffective and fails to succeed in his appointed task. This includes criminal conviction, incarceration or legal obligation of the wife, or any other failure. The vow is inviolate.

for richer or poorer,

Whether the marriage leads to, or through times of wealth or poverty, the marriage itself is inviolate. Poverty is no grounds for divorce and a man who leaves his wife because of poverty violates his oath of office and breaks a vow to God. Scripture clearly indicates that breaking a vow instigates a curse from God himself.

in sickness and in health,

Again sickness of your spouse is no nullification of obligation and no divorce on grounds of mental or physical illness is valid.

to love and to cherish,

This is fascinating in many ways. Love is ill defined in any language and for any culture. 1 Corinthians 4 defines it as patient, kind, generous, modest, proprietary, unselfish, even tempered, trusting, compassionate, committed to truth, accepting, accepting, hopeful, durable and permanently reliable. Even still this is just a pale inadequate definition.

To cherish is to place not only affection but inherent value in the object of that affection. To cherish a woman is to see her as an object of fine value and yet to hold tender affection for her as a person.

Combined these to elements of the vow rob the draconian teeth from what has come before. They provide the checks and balances to the great power which a woman confirms in her husband by taking this vow. This juxtaposition of guiding authority and doting lover provides a synthesis that truly meets the needs of a woman and leads her to health and stability that she craves.

till in death we do part,

The vow is both the confirmation of an ordinance and holy order of the church, but also a contract or covenant between the spouses. As such each spouse is party to that contract. The grants of authority and personal power given to the Husband are stringent and the degree of submission and surrender of self determination give the wife the right to expect some guarantee that the value of her service and labor will not be rendered for its numismatic value and then discarded to the exclusive benefit of the husband. In this interest the duration of the agreement is until one or both parties to he agreement are deceased. If any term is violated, except sexual activity with any person other than the husband’s own wife, the power to discipline the husband is sufficient to cover the breach and retain the contract intact. In the case of infidelity by the husband, it is recommended that discipline be the only measure taken to adjust the quid pro quo nature of the contract, however dissolution is a much discouraged option.

according to God’s holy ordinance; and in this intent I pledge my oath to you.

This term establishes the bible both old and new testament as the legal and religious context for interpretation of the vow and resolution of disputes.

The Wife’s Vow

I N. take you to be my holy wedded husband,

The word husband is the English term that really means executive gardener or breeder, steward and landscape architect. The formula again indicates this is a holy order and office confirmed in the wedding ceremony.

to have and to hold,

Again we have the old usage of the word have indicating possession, control and consumption. However having just expressed the intention of setting that possession as a husband overseeing herself the effect of having is somewhat modified. The best analogy is the horse groom and rider. Horses are powerful and deadly beasts, yet with proper treatment and respect they offer loyal and reliable service. A justifiable respect for the danger combined with gentle guidance leads to a mutually satisfying relationship. The horse carries the rider and bears burdens for the rider in exchange for care, and respect. To have a husband is to embrace him sexually, to command her respect for your position if not your person, and to gently guide him in the direction that will meet you own needs while allowing him to have his way and expend his energies in meeting those needs as well as his own with varied cadence and ever changing intensity.

Again title is held at the sufferance of the true owners meaning God and the husband himself.

Legally this entails the agreement to be guided, instructed, and disciplined by the husband in every aspect of person and personality. It also entails the grant of power of attorney and medical power of attorney simultaneously and anatomical gifting in toto of a woman’s person and living tissues, in the interest of meeting her husband’s needs and desires.

from this day forward,

This is a reciprocal announcement that the agreement carries forward immediately from the moment it is made.

for better or worse,

Again no change in fortunes, legal status or degree of success or failure is sufficient to terminate the agreement.

for richer or poorer,

Financial status cannot affect the agreement.

in sickness and in health,

Mental, or physical health and wholeness in no way affect the durability of the agreement.

to love, cherish and to obey,

Love is a balance to the intent to guide. By making himself responsible and emotionally vulnerable a man is in real danger of damage from his wife. Genuine love will temper her response limiting her from emotional abuse and mental cruelty, or infidelity which can crush the psyche and soul of a man.

forsaking all other lovers,

Obviously this set exclusive monogamy as a term of the agreement. The penalty of failure to meet this condition is flexible and at the discretion of the husband. Valid penalties being disciplinary action or in extreme conditions termination of the agreement.

till we do part in death,

The demands of vowing to take such a high degree of responsibility for another person, combined with the emotional vulnerability and drain of vowing to cherish and love, makes the marriage a great commitment for a man. No man can lightly provide these things and having invested so great an amount of himself he is entitled to a guarantee that this investment will not be torn away, rendered for its numismatic value and then discarded. In this interest the Vow is for the duration that both parties to the agreement live. This vow is a verbal contract and the term of duration is until one or both parties is diseased. If any term except exclusivity (forsaking all other lovers) is violated the power to discipline the wife is sufficient to cover the breach and retain the contract intact. In the case of breach it is recommended that discipline be the only measure taken to adjust the quid pro quo nature of the contract, however dissolution is a much discouraged option.

according to God’s holy ordinance; and in this intent I pledge my oath to you.

This term establishes the bible both old and new testament as the legal and religious context for interpretation of the vow and resolution of disputes.

The vows themselves are both contract and covenant, and like the covenant between God and man they express a contractual obligation. But they also define a healthy and rewarding relationship that brings joy and reward to both parties. It is my prayerful hope that this discussion helps you to grow in your faith and in right relationship with your own spouse or prospective spouse.

in his service

Fred

Written on July 1st, 2007 , Musings Tags: , ,

Recently I heard a sermon from a popular televangelist. Now, this man is a part of the growing Epicurean movement in the former Calvinist and Evangelical churches in America. Neo-Epicureanism has found a way to create a fascinating dynamic tension between Stoicism and a sort of “Enlightened” Hedonism (ref. Enlightened Self Interest in any encyclopedia). They blend the sharply defined dualism of the stoics and Gnostics with a licentiousness that changes disobedience of Christ, from a damnable failure, into a mere character flaw that can be overlooked in anyone. Overlooked, so long as they are popular with the people of a given congregation. This is similar to the pride the Corinthian Church took in their perversion of grace and forgiveness. A grace that allowed a man to live in an incestuous relationship with his mother, without censure from the congregation.

This strange belief system lead the speaker to do something that I would respect a great deal if it were coming from someone with a sound doctrinal approach to interpreting scripture. As I have pointed out numerous times, some of the most politically and socially narrow belief systems come from the most liberal of interpretive forestructure. In other words, a liberal doctrine like that of the reformation theologians leads, inexorably, to a legalistic dogma like that of the puritans. And incidentally to a complete failure of the popular piety to reflect that rigid dogma.

The beauty of this particular sermon was that it violated some of the legalism of the speaker’s own tradition, by delving into the topic of human sexuality from the pulpit, in a marginally graphic way. By using popular slang as a system of euphemism, he was able to do this without causing his audience to rout. And, he made some very astute points with regard to the Biblical view on sexuality.

Now, most liberal theologies, like the puritanical theologies of the reformation or the ascetic Gnosticism of the Roman Catholic Church, lead one to censure human sexuality and censor any reference to or education in the proper view and habits of the Biblical Christian. Dictates are made, but they are inevitably a list of “don’ts” and these “don’ts” are made up of the worst and ugliest behaviors, in the view of the theologians of the given church body. Lists of “do’s” are given no attention and are viewed with the same prurient attitude that a preadolescent takes toward the subject (lot’s of giggles and blushes, or angry censure and accusation).

This televangelist avoided that prurient behavior by rediscovering that the “Sex is a beautiful gift from God” doctrine naturally requires a more exhaustive exploration of scripture than is found in the church today. Sex has been left to philosophers, educators and medical personnel to explain and teach, when it is the natural topic of scripture. Scripture spends more time speaking about sexuality in both prophetic dictates and in narrative accounts than most any other topic. If reading the bible doesn’t lead to discussions of sexuality, then you aren’t reading honestly and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, do we want psychologists and educators teaching our children how to engage in sex, when all those kids have heard is a list of “don’ts” that are supposedly going to send them to hell?

This minister, was rightly lead to broach the subject and he did a credible job of euphemistically walking tiptoe around the sensibilities of some people, while essentially instilling the basic principal that sex within marriage is not a thing God grudgingly allows so the species can be perpetuated. Instead, he pointed out that God ordained sex as component of the first commandment of all time, preceding, “Don’t eat from the tree of Knowledge.” This command precedes the fall of Man, the flood, The Passover, the Law and the Resurrection — and yet it has been reiterated and expounded on after each of these events. God wants you to be sexually active and married. Heterosexual activity glorifies and pleases God. In point of fact, it is an act of worship and obedience, and Christ himself warned us that those who censure marriage and marital sexuality are false prophets.

As the speaker developed this idea, he happened onto the fact that the Law of Grace often shows intensification of the requirements made on a Christian. Where before the fall there was one standard, we see greater expectations and higher standards instituted at the fall, the flood, the death of Sodom and Gomorrah, the reception of the Mosaic Law (Torah/Pentateuch), and the coming of Christ; a natural progression, (Heilsgeschichte or history of salvation) in direct proportion to the increased grace meted out with each revelation of God.

So, where grace doth abound, expectations of a righteous and holy God do more greatly abound. This is pointed out by Jesus in different ways, but two that stand out are the attack on Jesus preachments against divorce and lust by Pharisees. In the divorce passages, he says before you were allowed to do thus and so, for the reason of your own weakness, but now “I bring you a better way.” This minister pointed out that there is a parallel in the discussion of lust, where Jesus says you have been taught thus and so “but I say if a man commits lust in his heart he is guilty of adultery already.”

There are similar treatments of moral imperative salted throughout Jesus’ ministry. These two, however, can leave a student theologian grasping for some means to reconcile the passages and reassure himself that Jesus hasn’t contradicted himself. Let me assure you he has not.

The apparent contradiction resides in the fact that Jesus said divorce was not allowable for a Christian, except in the case where the believer’s spouse has committed adultery. Given that lust is unavoidable for the teenaged, and usually the twenty something male, this would seem to indicate that every marriage is invalidated a priori (before the fact of wedding). What’s more, although I cannot speak to the mind of young women, I suspect that the fascination with muscular athletes and large appendages is far from platonic, or even innocent.

These factors would seem to obviate and invalidate the preachments on divorce by our Lord. Worse yet, the narrative of Jesus encounters with the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery, seem to broach an even more direct contradiction given the common interpretation of these events and the strategic amnesia toward certain statements made to these women by Jesus.

Much ado is made of Jesus’ challenge that “he who is without sin” should cast the first stone, and yet he, Jesus cast none. I wonder sometimes how the scene would have played out if the accusers had acknowledged Jesus’ sinlessness and demanded that he indeed begin the stoning. The passage might have taken on a very different dimension, and I would like to have heard Jesus’ answer to them. But, cowardice and unbelief won the day and, when Jesus looked up, he lacked the testimony of even two witnesses. Therefore, he sent her on her way in accordance with the Law of Moses. “For, by the mouth of two or three witnesses let a thing be established.” He did give her an inflexible admonition that is conveniently forgotten by most citations of this passage.

If this were a genuine contradiction and Jesus were preaching in favor of adulterers, the whole of the new testament would collapse as just so much historical text. In the minds of some people this is what happens. Let’s examine that premise however. What did Jesus mean when he said that the lustful person has committed adultery. Is lust, in fact, a sin limited to married men? No, we hinted earlier that there is reason to believe that women are capable of lust. On top of that, common sense and recent legal cases tell us that people lust more often before marriage than after, with the celibate suffering most of all.

If you read closely you begin to notice that the term used is adultery not just sexual immorality and not fornication. So an unmarried woman who is celibate unmarried and virginal, but who dreams of a man with gentle hands stroking her bare flesh in an intimate way can’t be married because she is guilty of adultery. Does this reading make sense? Not even a little.

There is a scriptural dichotomy dividing sins of the flesh from sins of the heart. We see this in the old testament where unbelief in God, Lust, desire for what doesn’t belong to you, even lack of sufficient affection for God are sins which bring judgment and damnation. They do not however incur civil or punitive penalties, to be applied by other people or by the state. They are terribly serious sins committed against God alone.

God is depicted in midrash and therefore in the New testament as a bridegroom to the corporate body of believers. This is a metaphysical or spiritual principle that is seeded throughout Jesus’ ministry. So in this sense, any sin against God is by definition a form of adultery. This idea is developed in Jeremiah 3, where God depicts the northern Kingdom of Israel as one of two wives, Judea being the other. He makes a great deal of the fact that he “divorced” himself from the northern tribes because of their sin and unbelief. Then in a twist, he divorces himself from Judah and remarries Israel because the Levites, Jews (Judah and Benjamin), and Simeonites, are going through the motions of serving him but are corrupt and sinful despite their profession of faith.* This initiated the Jilted husband motif that is a factor in the prophets and proverbs and Jesus uses it liberally in his sermons.

For this reason Marriage is sacrosanct to the believer. It is an earthly type in the midrashic sense for the relationship between God and the congregation of his believers. But similarly, in the New Testament there are ways in which we can violate this get or covenant of marriage in a way that tempts God to divorce us. This is the adultery that Jesus is referring and it is a heart condition. When you lust, or even covet your neighbors new car, you have committed adultery in your heart. Even if you have never married, it is adultery against God, the father and lord of all creation. It is adultery against Jesus as Christians are the bride of Christ .

However, since it is an activity of the heart, and not a sin of the flesh, it is not a sin against one’s present or future spouse. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a sin against God is lesser than a sin against your spouse. When God divorces people or nations, lives are lost and souls are damned to eternal exile from God’s presence (fate far worse than death). But what it does clearly show is that, your spouse is not entitled to divorce you because you have lusted after another.

In fact, Jesus clearly indicated that when a person divorces an adulterous spouse, the faithful spouse has shown an unforgiving and hard heart in defiance of Jesus’ commands. The faithful but unforgiving spouse has made it through the eye of a technicality, but is not in right relationship with God. They have succumbed to legalism and selfishness. They get their freedom from the adulterer, but loose the opportunity to bring that spouse home to Christ and have a long way to go in repairing their relationship with Jesus.

Is there a point where divorce becomes necessary? There are some simple guidelines to follow in these cases:

  1. When the threat to your children, or your life due to sexually transmitted diseases, or the hardening of your hearts due to the loss of intimacy threatens bodily harm — you have to weigh the consequences of your actions and prayerfully seek God’s guidance. He won’t be happy with divorce (Mal 2:15-17;Jer 3:1), but being certain to get permission first will go a long way in preserving your relationship with him. Bear in mind that remarriage to a third party is only possible for a spouse who has not committed adultery prior to divorce.
  2. Be sure that you have not retaliated against your spouse by engaging in adultery as well. If you are both guilty, neither has the moral high ground and neither has the authority to seek divorce. In that case, divorce itself is adultery and you both will suffer. In fact, when you are the victim of an adulterous spouse, do not seek companionship from anyone who is a potential sexual partner. You will inevitably find yourself embroiled in one form of adultery or another. You will not be able to get good guidance from God because you will be distracted by ungodly impulses.
  3. If both spouses are Christians, you really only have the option of mutually agreed upon separation. And it must be mutual agreement. Divorce is really not an option. If a new believer has a spouse who is not a believer at the time of the divorce, and has never professed Christ, the non-believer is free to divorce the believer and in this limited case the Apostle Paul has granted, by the authority of the spirit an a priori (before the fact) annulment with the words “it is as if your were never married.”

Ultimately, the reason the question of divorce comes up so often is the rebellious nature of western society. Divorce cannot subside from the words of God’s prophets because God’s people have become so corrupt and self-righteous they challenge the Corinthians of the first century. Where in Corinth they were proud to be so forgiving and loving that they allowed a man to attend services, knowing that he was sleeping with a woman who was his mother or stepmother — today, homosexuals and pimps are welcomed and the unbiblical proverb is cited that church is where sinners belong. This is the same licentiousness that Paul took 3 chapters in 1 Corinthians (ch.s 4-6) to challenge.

The most disheartening thing is the fact that the corruption has grown to such proportion that it is commonplace to find ministers of the gospel who are themselves living in a parody of marriage with a spouse who was formerly married and has divorced without benefit of the biblical standards on divorce. In other cases homosexuals, gluttons and the patrons of whores are standing in pulpits on a Sunday morning, officiating at communion, while preaching that men who have succumbed to reviewing pornographic images are guilty of adultery and therefore subject to divorce.

Talk about Pharisaic hypocrisy. These Corinthian Family Values are strangling the life from the church and destroying the testimony of its people. It’s time for the people of God to discover how to make their yeahs be yeahs and nays be nays, such that “I do” at the altar is genuinely binding even during the worst of times, just as the oath of marriage says. Life long marriage even when you decide at some point you may have chosen the wrong spouse, needs to be the rule not the exception. And that “wrong” spouse should never be made to know that they were wrong. The believer has access to a supernatural font of love and compassion. If Jesus can die on a cross for you, you can make a loving home with your spouse. If you can’t and you abandon your spouse, you become responsible to God for their sex life (Matt 5:22), however sinful it may become. Imagine living out a life walking in the spirit and, when you face God, losing out because you were so hard-hearted you divorced your husband for reason that he snored or wasn’t hardworking enough to suit you.

When you break a vow, even a marriage vow, you are under condemnation, and Calvinist Dualism heresy aside, God will hold you accountable both in this life and in the next — even if you are a believer, and even if you can legitimately stand and say, “Lord didn’t I preach in your name, didn’t I heal the sick, didn’t I cast out demons.” Of such Jesus spoke in the “Parable of the Sower”. They are the shallow ground. In fact, they do convert to Christ, but in the end they fall away and are damned. Repent. As we all must. Your immortal soul is at stake.

God bless you as you seek him in spirit and in truth.

With love,

Fred

* There is a third clause in that passage where Jeremiah reports God’s intention to merge the pagan Israelis, Righteous Gentiles and Judah and corporately refer to all of them as Jews.

Written on May 1st, 2007 , Musings Tags: , ,

Recently the media has been hammering home a particularly crude form of propaganda regarding what they and law enforcement have come to refer to as “sex offenders”. The typical mode is to feature a lawyer who is representing a defendant from a particularly ugly accusation. This lawyer is then pitted against a team of law enforcement, right wing politicos and a particularly abrasive and belligerent district attorney.

The announcer will pretend to be neutral, but go out of his way to undermine the lone defender. The intention is to use cracks, potshots and logical fallacy in an attempt to confuse the audience. Then end up with the sanctimonious proclamation by the DA that, “these kinds of offenders can’t be rehabilitated.”

This ongoing move is only one part of a terrifying trend in American jurist imprudence and in so called conservative values. Marking the sex offender with GPS tracking devices, state registries, automatic notification of neighbors and coworkers has been a huge step toward the sort of excesses that were carried out in Nazi Germany and in the USSR. People who have owned a house in a particular place for many years are now forced to sell and move in order to find a place that isn’t within a certain distance of a school.

For a single mistake, however egregious, this is tantamount to cruel and unwarranted, unusual punishment. Shall we tag every convict? Perhaps we should tag governors who have settled out of court for fondling costars. Perhaps we should tag presidents who have sex with interns less than half their age or sexually assault campaign staff and senators who send homosexual cybersex emails to underage pages.

Would law makers and law enforcement be so ready to take such a draconian approach if all sex offenses were similarly treated? How about tagging cops who commit adultery, and DAs who visit prostitutes? How about tagging legislators who commit sodomy, there would be some quick backpedaling then.

The basic premise of this movement is the idea that there can be no rehabilitation for sex offenders. This sentiment couldn’t be more erroneous or lacking is simple human compassion. It is fueled by nothing less than a desire for vengeance. Vengeance is illegal under American Legal tradition and these laws are certainly unconstitutional.

But who is the F. Lee Bailey who will stand up and defend the rights of these admittedly repugnant offenses? Because that is the way the propaganda paints this issue. It’s not about people who for whatever motive have committed a heinous and repugnant crime. It’s not about people who have deprived a family of loved ones or who have damaged a loved one in a life altering way. It’s about criminals or, in some cases, falsely accused innocents, who are being seen as the crime itself rather than human beings.

This rush to perverted justice and dysfunctional thinking is not newly born with sex offenses in America. Twenty-five years ago the great bugaboo that law enforcement used to justify wicked infringement on civil rights and oppression of the people was drug addiction. Millions were imprisoned and innocent lives were sacrificed when whole families were regularly deprived of house and home because one individual was dealing drugs. People were imprisoned where they were raped and fed even more drugs, only to be released with no treatment and soon found drugs on the street. This was called justice.

Someone once said, when the only tool you have is a hammer you see every problem as a nail. This certainly applies to psychology or sorcery. When the only tool you have is a couch, then you see every problem as a coma. Applied to the church, when the only tool you have is healing, you see every problem as a wound. There is no more effective paradigm.

Sin is a wound in the soul or psyche of man. Drug abuse and sexual abuse are two of the main issues for which Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism have no lack of treatment. God encourages free and open affection and uninhibited sexuality. Plentiful sex is such a priority for God that even in the cursed state of sin, he commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The vast amount of Biblical treatment of sex is not intended to inhibit human sexuality but limit the paradigms of interpersonal relations in a way that is healthy and conducive to good social order and the protection of innocents.

Similarly the treatment of the soul or psyche is not ignored by the Bible. While philosophies such as psychology are censured and the use of drugs or meditative techniques are strictly forbidden to the believer, the bible in toto is primarily a tractate on how to achieve good relations with God and mental or soul (pyschic) related healing.

The old testament law proscribed death for the psychologist with his manipulative brainwashing and vain philosophies, the psychiatrist with his pharmacopoea, or the witch who proscribes various worts and herbs. Under the new covenant we are instructed to reach out to these deceived and destructive sorcerers and lead them to salvation and rehabilitation. Similarly we are to heal the victim of sorcery, whether that is a valium addict, or the person who has lost the ability to function without brain altering ‘antidepressant’ potions, or the marijuana user who mellows out his stresses.

Drug abuse is one branch of sorcery, which is generally the alteration of perception and manipulation of consciousness or brain washing through mesmerism, hypnosis, pharmaceuticals, neurolinguistic programming, self-hypnosis and/or redactive psychotherapy. Because of this it is considered rebellion against God and is very prominently censured in both the old and new testaments. God is very clear that magical thinking and new age techniques are neither new nor tolerable. But the Bible never leaves one with condemnation and no means to effect a correction.

Because the prison system had no answers and psychology is impotent to provide any relief or aid to a suffering mind, these people were deemed incorrigible. The grand pontification by many DAs was that ‘these people’ could not be rehabilitated. When criminal justice departments finally gave up and got out of the way, the church went to work. Because, the answer to every problem is Jesus.

Christ centered drug programs such as Teen Challenge have a less than 10% recidivism rate. I’m not sure of the statistics with regard to Chabad houses, but my suspicion is that they are similar. God is our healer and our counselor. God is the savior. When a drug user who is “not rehabilitable” genuinely encounters God there is a genuine change in the very make up of his personality. He will change in such a way that he is no longer an addict.

I’m not talking about some anomalous or anonymous higher power (which by the way has some effectiveness but a much higher recidivism rate). I’m not talking about numbered steps that magically redeem you, and have to be repeated incessantly because you are forever bound to the addiction and only get by day by day and by the skin of your teeth.

I’m talking about real and permanent healing. If you break your arm and it heals, it will be forever different but it will be whole and reliable, so long as you do not break it again. Choosing not to fall from great height is usually sufficient to avoid repeating the injury. God’s healing for the addict is similarly effective. He takes the sin nature and the human spirit and replaces it with his own. The life force within you becomes that of God. You become converted into a new thing. Where you were born with a carnal spirit, you have a new life and become a new creation or a new species without the same foibles and faults. Of course perfection is a goal and not achieved over night. But the potential is now there where it was impossible in your prior state.

This is proven for drug addicts and it is proven for all kinds of sex offenders. To God there is no difference between the child molester, the prostitute, the incestuous, the pedophile, the rapist, the adulterer, the homosexual, and those who have sex prior to marriage. All are guilty of a capital crime and all these sex offenders are repugnant to God.

But God also grants mercy and forgiveness. He rehabilitates prostitutes, like Mary Magdalene who was the first to greet Jesus in the resurrection, or Rahab who became Joshua’s wife and a mother in the line of Jewish Kings. He rehabilitates Adulteresses like the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery from Mathew’s Gospel and King David, who was not only a sex offender but a murderer. He rehabilitates the incestuous like Abraham, and Lot.

Mary the mother of Jesus was innocent, but she was presumed to have been guilty of fornication (which is premarital sex). If sex offenders had been treated the way America now treats them, she would have been branded with a scarlet letter like Hawthorne’s character or worse stoned to death. Sexual depravity is rehabilitable. Jesus provides this healing, for by his lacerations at the hand of a Roman and on the accusation of the High Priest of Israel, we are healed.

As we enter this Passover season, let’s remember that by the blood of the Passover lamb, we are recognized as the children of God, and protected from the justified touch of the Angel of Death. Jesus is both our Great High Priest and also our Supreme paschal lamb. Let us remember his seder and the salvation in his blood. And in doing so let us remember that a Judao-Christian nation must be merciful as well as just, or God will begin a winnowing.

Written on March 1st, 2007 , Musings Tags: , ,

Recently I was talking to a mixed group of business acquaintances about the question of liberality. It was the tired old discussion that always arises when a Christian in America admits to Christianity. The immediate leap the average person makes is to political and social conservatism, as well as moral relativism vs. objective values (values based on an external fixed point of reference which is immutable and absolute). The tragic thing is the laughable way these very different continua are typically merged and blended into a confused self contradictory whole in the mind of the critic.

For example, a critic of conservative Christian faith might argue something Like the following:

Christians are so intolerant. Look at the way they judge everybody else’s religious beliefs. For hundreds of years Christians have perpetuated the colonial system by sending representatives and provocateurs (i.e. missionaries/apostles) to spread western values. These missionaries tell people their own traditions aren’t good enough and try to shame them into changing into westerners. What’s worse, Christians have no social conscience. They don’t try to help the poor and the homeless and they don’t believe in social change. Christians are evil because they start all the wars in the world and they… and they…

Well you get the point I hope. I could go on with this composite tirade that I have had to endure repeatedly from Jews, Buddhists, Neo Pagans/Wiccans, Muslims, Hindus, Native American shamanistic believers from various first nations, and best of all the lapsed Roman Catholic or Baptist. But, the argument presented above is enough to demonstrate the lack of rational thought involved in this merger. If break it down we see that Social conscience is supposed to be important, and the critic equates social conscience with believing in social change or programming in order to improve living standards and protect the homeless, and the poor, and one would presume other disenfranchised groups like orphans, single moms and the list goes on.

So we can gather from that, the following proposition, that 1 (good or not evil people believe in social change) and 2 (social change is attempting to change elements of society that cause disenfranchisement and suffering).

Another earlier passage in this tirade criticizes believers for trying to change traditional elements in other cultures and presumably blocking trends that the critic supports in our own. In other words sending missionaries in an intolerant ploy to change peoples and societies. What is a little known statistic is that believing Christians are 90% more likely to give to charitable causes than the base population. This charitable giving is a huge part of the intolerance cited by my hypothetical critic. More, the missionaries who work in other countries tend to focus on building infrastructure, teaching reading and the sciences, and improving agriculture. This is the teach a man to fish doctrine.

In fact, our master, Jesus, taught us to be fishers of men and to then impart this knowledge to new recruits. This spreading the gospel with a social component of improving practical living conditions is the basis of Authentic Christianity. Jesus taught us to care for the sick, care for the orphaned and to care for the single mom. These commands can be found unambiguously preached in the new testament. Christians believe in social change for he betterment of the individual soul and the community.

This can be laid out as 2 (Christians believe in changing elements of society that cause disenfranchisement and suffering)

With these three facts we can lay out an interesting logical chain in the midst of the critic’s own tirade:

A (a form of goodness) = B (social change for the betterment of disenfranchised and suffering people)

AND

D (Christians engage in social change for the betterment of disenfranchised people)

Logically:

A = B AND B = D THEREFORE A = D (Christian behavior in the world IS a form of goodness)

Essentially the critic has argued against his own point without even seeing the contradiction. Now some might argue that the TYPE of social change Christians favor is what is at fault and the above argument is a fallacy for that reason. Well the relative merits of Christians as a force for social change (light and salt/food preservative as Jesus called us) is a question for another letter. However I believe the preponderance of evidence lies well in favor of the conservative Christian. But that leads into the point I’d like to make about the above illustration.

In this letter I’d like to look at how people get so confused in their thinking. A sociology professor of mine had an interesting take on the issue. He claimed that there were three different continua that are perpendicular and generally unrelated to one another that govern religious and social identity. His first continuum was Social responsibility and he labeled the vanishing points on his line as indifference vs. codependency. The second was biblical interpretation which he labeled as allegorical vs. hyper-literal. And the last was political which he labeled as totalitarian vs. anarchic.

Now you have to understand that is has been over 10 years since the class and his precise terminology was different but I have captured the essence here. These are an illustration of the continua at work:

Social
  indifference                   codependency
 |           C PG   vs.P           RC    |
<|---------|-|--|----|-|-------|----|----|>

Theological
  allegorical                   hyper literal
 |     RC     C     vs.   P              |
<|-----|---|--|------|----|----|---------|>

American Political
  totalitarian                       anarchic
 |     RC     C     vs. P                |
<|-----|---|--|------|--|------|---------|>

Legend:
C == Reformed, Baptist, Calvinist or Protestant Catholics (e.g. Anglican, Lutheran etc.)
RC == Roman Catholic
P == Neo Orthodoxy (e.g. Pentecostals, Quakers, Wesleyans, Anabaptists, etc.)
PG == Pagan (not appearing on last two continua due to the fact that they fall randomly across the spectrum in a way that no mean value can be arrived at.)

Now granted, the positions on the continua I have posted are hypothetical but I invite you to study the data gathered by Barna Research, in Ventura California, regarding American religiosity. While Barna uses a very loose and debatable definition for what constitutes a believer, the raw data are eye opening and resolve themselves into something approximating the chart above.

What we find in this professor’s diagram is that Roman Catholics lie left of center theologically and politically in American terms, but far to right in terms of social involvement. While churches that arose directly from the protestant reformation tend to lie left of center in all three continua. The Neo orthodoxy that got it’s impetus from the teachings of Joseph Arminius falls somewhere in the middle with a right wing leaning. No the teacher in question tried unsuccessfully to draw a correlation between biblical conservatism and social liberalism but as you can see he failed in that.

The reason for his error was that he had made two fatal flaws in his reasoning. For one, he forgot that the European definition of Political conservatism is leftism for the American mind and the European idea of liberalism is rightwing fanaticism to the American. America was born out of a search for political, social and religious freedom that was not available in Europe and much of American political ideology comes from the political doctrines of the Iroquois Confederation. To borrow a term, European conservatism is the American equivalent of Anti-Revolutionism. This is what paints the gulf between the US and it’s neighbors to the North and to the south who inculcated European politics so thoroughly.

His second major error was in his definition of Biblical Conservatism. He had inadvertently placed the Calvinists on the right side of the spectrum along with the Fundamentalists. This is a common error and one that both the Protestants and the Roman Catholics perpetuate. It arises from the mistaken belief that Calvin’s TULIP — which was the measure of heresy in Holland, Great Britain and France during periods of the Renaissance — is a form of hyper literal interpretation of Scripture since it departs from the hyper allegorical stance taken by the Roman Catholic Church.

The proposition that my teacher made was valid, the problem was his skewed view of the centrist position with regard to theology. The Bible is filled, both Tanakh and New Covenant, with clear prophesy regarding the responsibility of the wealthy to the poor, the able to the disabled, and the powerful to the disenfranchised. A truly conservative theological position takes the intention of scripture to be the literal communication of God’s will and character to the people who follow his direction. It does not take every reference and passage to be literal when removed from the surrounding context. And it views these texts as a source of doctrine both for theological guidance and also political and social guidance. I would introduce a 4’th continuum, which would be morality. The extents would be license vs. legalism and of course the Biblical message would be centrist.

When one is guided by the scripture one tends toward the middle. As Paul said, “in all things moderation.” But that means not indifferent nor codependent. I like to term it interdependent. Interdependence with the rest of humanity, leads to helping with needs and that includes attempting to inculcate values and skills which may be at odds with native tradition, but which improve life for every individual.

It leads not to totalitarianism nor to anarchy, but to Federalism. As Jefferson put it, the ideal American (and I’d say the ideal Christian) is self sufficient, self employed and well educated. This sort of person neither submits to authoritarian nor conformist political dogma, nor does he foment open rebellion where such is not called for in order to correct social injustice. This is the sort of person who risked life and limb to smuggle slaves out of the south on the “underground railway” as the Methodist churches in America did.

This is the sort of person who went to martyrdom in Rome rather than accept the Universalist teaching that all religions are equally valid and a good citizen will pray to Caesar on his day and Jesus on his. And this is the sort of person who will stand against the persecution of a non Christian religious group, out of Love for God’s creatures, even at the risk of his or her own safety and freedom. This is the way that Corrie ten Boom’s family behaved, as did Gerrit J. ten Zythoff whom I have heard speak on the subject at length. This courage must be a part of the believer even today as we consider the policies of the American and British Governments and our involvement with our nation’s politics. Our politics MUST be informed by our faith and a true conservative will cry alongside the holocaust survivor, “NEVER AGAIN!”, even if when the subject is a group we do not accept or approve of.

Today American churches are being persecuted for expressing theological and moral opinions on candidates and issues that directly affect their parishioners. This is a clear violation of the 1st amendment — which was instituted specifically to prevent the gagging of clergy, and the use of financial pressures to enforce the dissemination of propaganda.

This comes back to the root cause of my hypothetical critic’s fatal error. He is the victim of propaganda. We face propaganda in the news media, in our advertisements and commercials and now even from our pulpits. Propaganda that says, a good and righteous life has no fear of inspection, therefore let there be unreasonable search and seizure. “Cause you won’t mind the invasion of privacy unless you have something to hide.” This is an old cry. It came up in the McCarthy era. Old “devil Joe” as I like to call him, taught us that there was a red under our bed, so even our bedrooms had to be subject to scrutiny. The dissemination of false information, or perjury as I like to call it, promoted an atmosphere of fear and paranoia that gripped this country till we couldn’t breath. It can’t be allowed a repeat.

Churches are being told that they can’t preach against sin such as homo sexuality or they will loose their tax exempt status, while “gay rights” advocates are allowed to teach that the church is evil and in effect sinful for opposing homosexuality. George Bush, the supposed advocate of American values and opposition to homosexual marriage, has permitted the IRS to do this. He is the Executive, they answer to him. He therefore is personally responsible for this extortionary policy against the Church.

Churches have been threatened with loosing tax exempt status on the grounds that they oppose Bush’s policies on the War in Iraq. They’ve been attacked by the IRS for criticizing the war and Bush’s policies. In a free society, Churches are free to practice their faith as they see fit. If that includes position statements with regard to political issues that affect their parishioners then so be it. Schools are nothing less than a bully pulpit for opposing views, gagging the church is a violation of the 1st amendment. Bush is the Executive, they answer to him. He is therefore personally responsible for this extortionary policy toward the Church. One which, I might add, he benefits from.

Lord help this nation. Save us from the foolishness that is leading us so far astray.

Written on February 1st, 2007 , Musings Tags: , ,

Faith is a topic that has essential, dare I say Fundamental importance to the Christian and to the Jewish religion. In fact, Christianity and Judaism are most often referred to as faiths, as opposed to religion. The transformation of the verb faith into a noun in order to indicate these complimentary belief systems, is indicative of the “real” or substantive meaning of the word, as opposed to the late modern fad or fabulous meaning. Especially in Calvinist churches and among atheist or pagan opposers of the Church & the Jewish people, Faith has taken on a meaning that is not consistent with the English Language or the Biblical definitions. Faith has become a magic emanation resulting from unwavering and unfounded belief.

The natural meaning of the English word faith is trust. We prove good faith in a business deal by providing some gesture or advance on monies or products. This prior gesture shows that we intend to follow through and on the basis of this concrete proof the other party rewards us with faith in our intentions and character. When you have faith in an institution like your bank, you are showing trust that they will protect your savings and investments, and that they will conduct their own investments in a sound manner that returns a profit. Why would people choose to distort the meaning in the case of Christian Faith, so that it refers to an unreasoned belief that has no concrete evidence to support it.

Obviously the Atheist benefits from such distortion by using it for polemic. By redefining faith as a “FAITH” he can claim that reason and intellect have no place in religion and religions therefore have no place in general society. However, this paper tiger offense is only given legitimacy by the fact of inadequate learning on the part of the church and society in general.

This concept of Faith as an emanation is loosely derived from scripture. However, it is the result of a theology and an exegetical methodology that takes small portions and individual verses out of the surrounding context and the idiom of the author and attempts to base doctrine on the literal meaning of these passages as they have been commonly translated. Now translations vary in accuracy and as they age, the idiom used by translators can become as obscure as the original.

A case that comes to mind is the passage where David is hidden in a cave and Saul, who has been hunting him, comes to do something in the mouth of that cave while his soldiers are camped below. David creeps up and because Saul is busy “covering his feet” David is able to cut a piece of fabric from Saul’s clothing and leave again. David later feels ashamed and apologizes for having shamed Saul in such a crude fashion.

Now the question lost to history is what does “covering the feet” mean? It has been speculated to mean many things including sexual intercourse, defecation and simple sleep. No really knows for sure. Now when that passage is cited out of the greater context of the ongoing terrorist campaign that David was waging against the Israelis, it can be warped in many ways.

A typical application of the bad exegesis I’m referring to would be to take the passage “covering his feet” and then create as dogmatic rule that no-one who is “Christian” can wear shoes. The reason that would be cited is that Saul the evil dictator, was overcome by the righteous avenger because he was busy committing the sin of covering his feet. So this proves that you had better not cover your feet or you’ll be a demoniac like Saul and worse you’ll be tricked and overcome by the righteous avenger. Don’t let him catch you with your shoes on, instead tread barefoot on God’s holy ground like Abraham did before the burning bush.

Now this ridiculous distortion of God’s word is commonplace among those who have failed to study, to show themselves approved, workmen who need not to be ashamed. A similar real world distortion is the distortion of passages relating to faith. The verse “faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen” is one of the important passages regarding faith. Taken out of context however it is used to support the notion that faith is something other than trust. This substance of things hoped for is misused to prove the concept of faith as a magical emanation. The intimation that is made by interpreting the literal English is that hoping really hard gives the imaginations of the mind, substance. This is then coupled with other contextually orphaned passages such as life and death reside in the tongue. And a whole pagan magical system of thaumaturgy is imposed on Christianity to the detriment of souls.

These passages are idiomatic and in their proper context it is clear that they are used as hyperbole intended to drive home a very different point. For instance the substance passage is clearly part of a greater dialectic determined to convince people to have unwavering trust or faith in God and in his character and benevolence. Therefore trusting in him and asking him for things in a prayerful and respectful manner will give substance to those hopes as he provides those things like a doting parent. The Biblical author was trying to use a poetic form of expression to stress the importance of faith in achieving answers to prayer and also achieving confidence in the final disposition of our lives.

This point is even more poignantly made in the second clause of the self same quote. The evidence of things not seen refers to the concept of the evidentiary nature of faith. What it hints at is that the “things not seen” in question have an independent reality which is revealed in the faith of the supplicant rather than being dependent on that faith for existence. Simply exchanging the word faith, which is marginally archaic, with the more modern term belief will tend to dispel the superstitious distortions. The resultant translation reads something like: The substance of desired things and the proof of things not visible is belief. And contextually we find that the belief is belief in the character and competence of God. Belief in the character and competence of God results from hearing the word of God.

The other passage, “life and death reside in the tongue”, and it’s kin are similarly abused. Clearly they are intended to encourage people to be careful or mindful of the potential stupidity and effects of their speech. The extreme application is that of the power to speak non existent things into being. Claiming this power attributed to God, can be possessed by the believer is similar to the claim that Satan made in order to convince Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Ultimately it was the lust for power that lead to the fall. The counterfeit faith, as an impersonal power that makes the imaginations of the mind into reality, is nothing more than this same misguided quest for power and rebellion.

Real saving faith is the trust that God is and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. This is a question of character. It is nothing less or more than trust in the reliable character of Christ. God rewards this faith in two ways. One, he rewards the search itself. If you diligently seek God he will reward that diligence by making himself available to you. This availability is the essence of communion. By diligently seeking God you will come to recognize the presence of his spirit (the ruach elohim) and you will begin to receive instruction and guidance in the choices that you make.

The second form of reward is the answer to prayer. Elsewhere we have looked at the meaning of prayer. Prayer is the sort of petition one makes before a court, whether that is a court of law or a noble court; heartfelt pleas made in deference and humility hoping for the reward of a positive answer granting the substance of the request. As we draw nearer to God we find that he is willing to provide our requests and even the desires of our heart.

Faith is the least complicated and the least effort driven function of the believers life. The state of being a believer is all the faith that is. The state of trusting God’s character is only faith substance. Ward your mind against disparate voices who are spouting instruction in thaumaturgical rites in place of Biblical faith. Trust your loving heavenly father and allow him to command you. Beware those demonic spirits that would teach you, as Satan has so often tried, that a mere human creation can rise up and, on the strength of God’s word or his name (hashem), manipulate or command God. Such is the substance of things feared the evidence of damnation to come.

May God richly bless you as you seek his will and character.

Fred

Written on July 1st, 2006 , Musings Tags: , ,

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:22-24

This is one of the most maligned passages of scripture in the New Testament Bible. Many have tried to elide it from scripture because of confusion and/or rebellion. This is a passage that, by definition, cannot be understood by the carnal mind. Since carnality is the ever growing pandemic in the Christian church, it is inevitable that this scripture will be misapplied and misunderstood at best, and in many cases intentionally twisted for the ruin of souls.

This carnality insinuates itself in subtle ways. The immediate carnal response is to demand that the following verse “Husbands love your wives as Christ has loved the church” must be dealt with simultaneously. In reality, such a plea soon deteriorates into a ploy to study the next verse to the exclusion of those sited for this study. In fact, the majority of the church would like to believe, and may in fact believe, that the fifth chapter of Ephesians skips from verse 21: “Submitting yourselves one to another…” to verse 25: “Husbands love your wives…”

The other equally carnal application of this verse tends toward a Sufi, Wahabbi or Shi’ia (Islamic) view of women. And, while Ephesus was a community located on the Turkish peninsula and Paul was a native of Tarsis another community of displaced Jews located on the southern cost of Turkey, such a view is unbalanced and lacks the moderation Paul preaches in the other Epistles. Such a view demands women to assume the role of passive automaton or robot.

Either view is prompted from a desire to patronize women, treating them as irresponsible children who are not only relieved from responsibility but are to be either held in reign or appeased. The first of these approaches stems from the growing antichristian feminism and the latter perverts the concept of Biblical submission. In either case, the result is to forsake “the natural use of the woman” as was warned would be the trend in the last days. This causes this small, generally misunderstood passage to become key to Godly worship.

So let’s examine this passage. The common mistake made by both groups is to approach the passage with an eye for the men who may read the passage. Ironically, no great concern is expressed for the effect of women reading Eph 5:26. The common expectation is that a man reading will justifiably or unjustifiably read the passage and begin to demand that his wife become his servant and view her as his chattel or personal property. This is considered his due by one camp and as a horrific abuse of a woman’s person by the other.

What both camps fail to recognize is that the passage is not directed to men. The first sentence addresses the passage quite effectively. “Wives, submit yourselves.” This is not a blanket statement to all women. The same author tells us, “there are now no more … male nor female”. So then, it can’t be intended as a general statement with the goal of causing women to become a lower caste to men. (Obviously women cannot be allowed to assume a superior caste either.) This instruction is directed specifically to women who have married a man and the instruction limits the submission to a woman’s “own husband”.

What then can this submission entail? Submission certainly evokes definitions that are based on the world history of feudalism and slavery. The pictures of bondage and physical torture in a sexual context blend with pictures of black slaves being raped by white owners in the American Southeast. The history runs to noble warriors raping and getting unwanted bastard children on the daughters of poor serfs who are prevented from protecting those women on penalty of death.

These images cloud our understanding and make woman fearful of, or resigned to, a life of indignity and drudgery. These same images make sane men uncomfortable to the point, themselves, of pretending this passage out of existence. Healthy men are generally unattracted to a passive woman who sets aside her intellect and will in order to be submitted. Healthy men are generally attracted to a vibrant, active and youthful mind almost as much as to an attractive body and pretty face. This is what often leads to the fabled midlife crisis. A man tries to recapture his own youth by dating and bedding a much younger woman with the sort of youthful exuberance he is not experiencing in his spouse. A side effect of the age difference is that the younger woman will often fall into the role of Godly submission, instinctively. She will cater to the older man in ways women his own age feel too reticent or superior engage in. This perverted illusion of the God ordained paradigm for marriage, buried in the reality of adultery, is so seductive that few men have the will to entirely resist it.

This issue of submission carries into the bedroom as well. Clearly, the Bible tells us that a married person does not have ownership over his or her body. A Christian alternative to the Feminist pro-choice mantra would be, “My body Your choice!” Because the Bible clearly commands that the married person is the sexual object and property of the spouse, most people who are aware of this tend to overlook the fact that the commands creating this state are gender neutral. This means that a man is a “sex object” for his wife just as surely as she is for him.

Given that Submission of a wife to her husband and his ownership of her body (California Law would define it is as an anatomical gift) is absolute, doesn’t this in fact describe sexual and practical slavery? Isn’t it Biblical to expect that a woman must serve her husband passively and silently not complaining or resisting? After all, Onesimus was forced to return to his owner.

These are the common arguments, but once again these are carnal and overly simplistic readings. Let’s look at the least read clause in the entire passage. “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” This is the third time he has repeated this same concept in the space of three sentences. Yet most readers have gotten tired and ceased to see it as a practical instruction by the time they get to this line. If they actually read it, they are probably a member of that minority that overly mysticize and warp the instruction into some theological or metaphysical philosophy.

Granted, the passage obviously links the rite of marriage with the ecclesiology or study of the organization and role of the church. This is another of Paul’s prose poems, where he assumes that one pregnant point of theology is so obvious that he skims over it and uses it as a proof for another unrelated point. Yes, Paul is demonstrating that the role of the church in relation to Jesus is a direct analog to the role of a wife in relation to her own husband, and not to any other man. However, the author skims close to the edge of suggesting that a husband occupies the role of Saviour and intercessor for his wife. The leads the woman reading it to understand that any scripture illustrating the role the church plays in relation to Jesus, is her rightful role in relation to her husband. The ecclesiology becomes a road map for “wifely” behavior and submission.

This is a relationship that is well documented in other passages, by this and other authors. So the proper way to understand the submission that is indicated here is to look at the role of the church in relation to Christ as documented. The church is called to be a dynamic and aggressive servant. Passages everywhere reveal a role that requires the church to be intuitive in anticipating and meeting the needs of Christ — to be a repository of trust, praise, worship and active eager service with a desire to please and even exceed Christ’s expectations. A passive, flaccid church is rebuked by James, who says simply, “Show me your faith without works and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” Jesus says of the church, “God loves a cheerful giver.” The verses go on and on describing a role of the church as cheerful active excited lover and servant, anxious to not only please but anticipate and delight.

This is the role of a Godly wife as expressed in this scripture. The image is not a drudge, scullion and concubine – grudgingly or helplessly acceding to her husband’s wishes, needs and desires – but a cheerful anxious servant and sexual partner anxious to please and delight, anticipating her husbands desires and exceeding his needs. However, she must also be willing to persistently seek her own needs and desires by prayerful request. To quote Christ for the benefit of married women, “You have not because you ask not. Come boldly before the throne of your spouse and ask as a beloved.” To draw an analogy from the world, she is to be his groupie placing him on the pedestal of Rock Superstar and Monarch.

But remember, this is an instruction to a Wife not to men. It’s not a husband’s job to force or cajole a wife to be his groupie, or to request the solution to her needs. Just as the church must assume this role by choice and by faith that overcomes disappointment and disillusionment in the face of perceived failure in Christ, a woman must learn to overlook her husband’s human frailty and failing, to the extent necessary to be his committed groupie for life. In fact, the attitude and behavior a woman assumes in relating to her own husband is a public expression of her relationship with God. If she is verbally abusive, uses sex or humiliation to manipulate her husband, or threatens to leave him in order to control his behavior – she is exposing the fact that she treats God with similar impudence in her prayer life and in her Christian walk. If she won’t serve her own husband eagerly, proactively exceeding his desires – she doesn’t serve God either. This is not because her husband is God, but rather that the same corners of her soul that poison her relationship to her husband poison her relationship to God in the person of Jesus. The one is a microcosm of the other and the two relationships will always be in tandem.

The converse analogy is just as valid in that the role of a Godly wife is a perfect picture of the role of a consecrated church. If the church is selfish, demanding and focused only on her own needs and desires to the exclusion of Christ’s needs, that church is rebellious and in danger of being divorced from Christ. If the church is nagging and judgmental toward Jesus, the church will surely be scolded and will certainly not receive his best and most attentive affection. If the church is moody and melancholic, that church will surely tire and exasperate Jesus to the point that he will distance himself and be less than intimate. A church that entertains other religions and gods and who sells herself for money will be booted out as a whore. The marriage killer issues are equally effective salvation killers.

God loves a cheerful giver, and Jesus demands a faithful and devoted church. This is the reason that marriage is a critical issue for the church and why the church is a critical issue for Christian marriage. The two are inextricably entwined.

It is my prayer that this simple message reaches those who have engaged in or counseled rebellion in a woman to the destructions of her soul. God bless you as you seek him honestly and spiritually.

Fred

Written on March 1st, 2006 , Musings Tags: , ,

Never let it be said that a Pentecostal would be less than forward thinking. After all, we are continually accused of living in the future with insufficient regard to the present. Our detractors have indicated that we focus on the ‘End of Days’ (escaton) to the exclusion of compassion and social conscience. This can be easily refuted by a factual review of the expenditures and ministries of the major Pentecostal denominations; however that is for another day. Instead I’d like to show just how traditional Pentecost really is.

Recently I was embroiled in an unwanted debate regarding the fact that Evangelicals & Fundamentalists, Protestant Catholics, Roman Catholics, Coptics, Orthodox, and Pentecostals all variously (and contradictorily) claim the succession of the Early Church and the Apostolic Faith. The person in question was clearly trying to create dissension and controversy, so the discussion rapidly devolved into streams of obscure historical references and ancient doctrines.

This often occurs as the ‘so called’ traditional churches generally wish to pull out the ‘bazooka’ of their long history to prove their supremacy. While I like to be as forward thinking as any Pentecostal, let me take a moment to correct some misconceptions.

The common misconception is that the Pentecostal movement began some 250 years ago in Sweden, and spread to England then to the United States — where it found fertile ground spawning new and Evangelical denominations as well as various heretical cults.

This is a view unfortunately espoused even in the official histories of those various ‘Evangelical’ denominations, to their discredit. This is an unfortunate misconception that denies the very real suffering and at time martyrdom of the fathers of the Pentecostal movement.

The modern expression of the Pentecostal movement did in fact have a brief excursion into the Irvingite movement which became the foundation of the modern Baptist Churches, however the Baptist churches and the Irvingite movement are in fact evangelical or, to be more accurate, Calvinist in their origins. As Calvinists they still cling to the belief that God has arbitrarily chosen a few people to save and arbitrarily damns the remainder. Further, they see salvation as a one way door, once you are a believer, no sin, rebellion or outright blasphemy can ever separate you from God.

This view is common to all Evangelicals and is one of the identifying characteristics of that movement. They however are not Pentecostal nor are Pentecostals Calvinist or part of the protestant reformation at all. Nor did we originate in the 18’th century. In fact, we do date back to the early church. We have always been relatively few in number compared to the ‘church’ at large, and our organs of ecclesiastical government have morphed and distorted at times becoming very odd indeed. However, the body of doctrines has come down unchanged from the earliest ministry of the Apostles, and the missions of Paul into the Turkish peninsula.

That claim is made by others, however let’s look at some of the seminal figures.

Bishop William J. Seymour

Bishop Seymour was a young and respected Methodist minister, when he attended a small Bible school in Topeka Kansas. The students at that School were engaged in the practice of tongues, healing, prophecy and other examples of God’s divine inspiration. Most notable was Agnes Ozman a young woman who went on the be the founding Matriarch of the Ohio State branch of the Church of God in Christ, a major Pentecostal denomination. American culture went into the formation of that institution, later renamed Assemblies of God, so that she, as all Heads of state wide branches of AoG are, was called superintendent rather than archbishop, or one of the other terms steeped in feudal tradition that plague other bodies. [The COGC was forcibly divided along racial lines as many southern states made it illegal for whites and blacks to attend services together. The Black branch of the church is larger in the United States and retains the name COGC]

Bishop Seymour however felt no difficulty in accepting the title and from his ministry more than one denomination was formed under his tutelage as patriarch and Apostle.

One might argue, well there is the proof that Pentecost is a late innovation, if it weren’t for the fact that the Methodist church had a Pentecostal origin itself.

Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley was an Anglican priest who founded the Methodist reformation of the Anglican Church in the 18’th century. The Anglican fellowship had undergone many periods of upheaval as the Calvinists and Catholics had variously tried to eliminate one another by fire and by force of arms. This violence was one of the reasons for the colonization of North America by English immigrants. Calvinists fled persecution by Catholics, Baptists fled persecution by Calvinists and finally Methodists fled persecution by Episcopalian reformers.

Wesley was a man with a mission, some might describe him as driven. With the help of his brother John, his children and a personal secretary, Wesley attempted to forge a reconciliation between Aminianism and the Anglican Canon Law. The result, while ostensibly Catholic, is certainly not compatible with the Protestant, Calvinist, or Roman expressions that have historically held sway in the Church of England.

The question is why this discussion of Wesleyan Methodism is anything more than a pedantic and admittedly very shallow historical analysis. Well one might ask. The answer is in the writings of Charles Wesley himself and in those of his close confidents. Wesley taught a faith that at first glance might seem Evangelical. He taught that one must be saved by grace, though faith in Jesus Christ, rather than church affiliation and baptism. However Wesley Espoused the Arminian model that said salvation is a free will act dependent on the cooperation and obedience of the penitent. He also taught in the Arminian tradition that a subsequent work of sanctification must be completed to truly succeed as a believer and to avoid failure and subsequent fall from grace.

Wesley also taught that subsequent to sanctification a ‘third moment’ or third definite work of grace is the fire baptism by the Holy Spirit. Wesley showed scripturally that in order to be empowered for service as a minister of the gospel and an authentic cleric of the church, one must have received this baptism by fire which is accompanied by, as Wesley put it, ‘groanings that cannot be uttered’.

Wesley was a careful man and unwilling to go far in his description or demonstration of said groanings, however he felt they were essential and not optional for every believer and prerequisite for clergy. What we find in the reports by his personal secretary however, show that these groanings are in fact what we in the 21’st century shorthand as tongues. Wesley was in fact a consummate Pentecostal and would have every one of his followers be one as well.

If Wesley was Arminian then who was Arminius?

Jacobus Arminius

Born Jacob Harmenszoon in Oudewater near Utrecht, Arminius was a Dutch reformer who sought to correct the wrong turn the reformation had taken under the influence of Calvin’s successors. Arminius restored the portions of scripture which the Calvinists had chosen to discard in order to support their nihilistic view of humanity and the role of an individual in his own salvation. Falsely accused of various heresies including neo-palagianism, he was acquitted at trial and went on to develop a Restorationist movement that till this day has had at it’s heart the reintegration of doctrine and scripture, previously discarded in order to support misguided or heretical dogma held by the other major branches of the church.

Arminius takes the Pentecostal movement back to the 16’th century and while neither he nor his contemporaries embraced the actual practice of ecstatic gifts, you see it in every branch of his followers, including the Quakers, Shakers, Anabaptists, Methodists, etc. The restoration of discarded scripture, by which I mean scripture intentionally ignored or misinterpreted in order to support dogma, lead to a new revival of the church and an exploration of those things which had been lost to the church at large prior to the renaissance.

Medieval Mystics

Throughout the medieval period we see the church fathers embracing the authentic if somewhat mystical practice of ecstatic prophecy and miraculous gifts, followed unfortunately by the acquisition of the glory of those events not for our savior, but rather to bolster the reputation of the already bloated and corrupt Roman Church. This is what led to the renaissance reformation and subsequent Restorationist Movement which shaped the Dutch Reformed Church.

One might think the age of enlightenment and the renaissance at large was a time where ancient Greek Philosophies were allowed to corrupt secular society and were thus in some way ungodly. Some of the excesses of the period would almost support such a claim. The problem with that belief is that one must question, where did these terribly damaging Greek works — such as Aristotle, Euclid, Pythagoras, etc. ‘ come from.

The answer often spouted erroneously by the uninformed is ‘from the Muslims!’ Many of the inhabitants of the Christian kingdoms of Western China and Northern India fled into Europe to escape the advancing horde of Tartars and their Mongolian slaves. This brought believers, who often carried copies of rare works with them, into the west where they often integrated their own traditions with those of small parishes.

Islamic jihad against southern Europe did in fact bring copies of these works back to a Europe that had been plagued by book burnings and censorship by the Roman church throughout the so called dark ages. In point of fact, many medieval priests were so illiterate that they memorized their Psalters and Office and even bible ‘readings’ — if I dare use that word — because they could not read them and would have been legally prohibited from owning a bible in the first place. This made parishioners more open to influence by older more Biblical faith, that was brought into Europe by the Nestorian Believers, than they would have been if the parish priests had been Biblical scholars themselves.

It was the conundrum faced by the medieval church, educate the priest and he might revolt against unbiblical Dogma on his own. Leave him uneducated and he is vulnerable to persuasion.

So Christians are historically anti-education and there is no connection between the Aristotelian approach to Biblical hermeneutics of the reformation, and the traditional church. Such a conclusion would be quite erroneous.

The Eurasian Steps were home to Christian kingdoms where the sciences as well as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit were kept alive as evidenced by myths of the kingdom of Prestor John.

The Islamic nations of the medieval period and prior to that, were some of the best educated students of science possible at the time. Science, Art, and Literature flourished in ancient Middle-Eastern, Indo-European cultures. That is fact. What is generally overlooked is the coordinate fact that, the teachers and educators of the privileged Muslim governors and caliphs were Jewish civil servants and Christian educators.

These Christian Educators were so deeply integrated into early Islamic regimes that there are references to a monk of the sect common to ancient Iraq in Islamic religious works. The Ancient Christian sect found in these regions has been variously called the Nestorians or Assyrian Christians. This name, Nestorian, is derived from the ancient reformer whose teachings they espouse, Nestorius the Patriarch or Bishop of Constantinople.

Nestorius of Antioch

Nestorius was appointed Bishop of Constantinople by Theodosius the II emperor of Rome. Nestor a devout believer and adherent to biblical Christianity, immediately set about trying to correct some of the heresies concerning Mary that had crept into the church since the council of Chalcedon.

Namely, the Church at large had already, begun to erroneously refer to the Bishop of Rome as Pope and had begun to refer to Mary the mother of Jesus as the Holy Virgin and as the Mother of God. This proto cult of Mary had begun to form the seed of the present day heresies wherein Mary is deified as ‘co-redemptrix’ and Mother of God, or Queen of Heaven.

Nestor, in trying to stop this insurgency of pagan goddess worship, began to preach apologetically that while Jesus indeed has a unique nature both divine and human, none of his divinity derives in any way from Mary. Essentially he was presenting the Biblical teaching that Mary was blessed by being chosen to carry Jesus to term, but that the divinity of God is in no way parented and thus obligated or submitted to her in any way. Nestor in no way denies the Hypostatic Union, as such a doctrine was itself unformed and not yet Dogma, and there is no evidence that Nestor ever denied this teaching after it was codified.

Nestor was slandered by the cult of Mary who could not conceive that the divinity of God and the hypostatic union could surpass their limited imaginations and that a woman could give birth to that which she did not conceive. Further, he was waylaid by supporters of that cult and prevented from presenting his case to the Council of Ephesus. The Council of Ephesus correctly codified the Dogma regarding the hypostatic union but tainted it with the pagan doctrines of the cult of Mary, beginning a long and dark slide into apostasy and superstitious ignorance by the church hierarchy as a whole.

Perhaps the most telling evidence of Nestor’s innocence comes not from Nestor’s account of the events but from those of his detractors.

“I am astonished that the question should ever have been raised as to whether the Holy Virgin should be called Mother of God, for it really amounts to asking, is her Son God or is he not?” Cyril of Alexandria

Nothing could more poignantly underline the fallacy of the argument against Nestor than this quote. In today’s world we might well think that it is intentionally disingenuous. In all probability, the lack of a classical ‘liberal arts’ education left the Bishop unable to analyze his own dogma and therefore see the fact that he was assuming the conclusion before testing the hypothesis Biblically and defending each of the assumptions apologetically. But even natural science provides a basis for Nestor’s assertions.

The advent of modern fertility treatments, in vitro fertilization, and surrogate pregnancy, have proven that an infant with no biological relationship to the mother, whatever, can in fact be brought to term by a healthy virgin. I want to be clear, THIS IN NO WAY SUGGESTS THAT MARY WAS NOT THE BIOLOGICAL PARENT TO THE CHILD THAT WAS JESUS. What it does is show the scientific validity of believing that not every characteristic of the child must originate with the mother . Every natural human child is half the product of it’s father. The Mother only provides half the physical makeup of the child. The motility and life in sperm shows that only half the spirit of a child originates with it’s father. The union of two opposite lives, an egg and a sperm, create a new synthetic whole. The divinity of Christ’s nature, as Nestor intuited, was in no way derived from or dependent on Mary’s body or her spirit. Mary was a woman. Mary had other sons after Jesus, and they were the offspring of her husband Joseph. None of those were divine in nature or possessed of the hypostatic union.

In his opposition to the Romanization of the church and by subsequently excommunicating* the Roman and the Byzantine churches, Nestor was merely continuing a tradition held by one of his theological influences the apologetics of Tertullian.

* Naturally the Roman church had already pronounced excommunication of Nestor.

Tertullian

Tertullian was a former Roman Lawyer who converted to Christianity late in life. He was made Bishop of North Africa where he served as a vocal force in the synod of Bishops. As an experienced orator he was quite eloquent in his apologetical treatises, although he did on occasion indulge in the unforgivable act of polemic. Tertullian was indeed a Pentecostal in that he practiced and taught the practice of ecstatic ‘charismata’ as a natural outgrowth of the life in the spirit. He is erroneously accused of having converted to Montanism, however his own treatise against Montanus and the heretical practices and dogmas of the Montanists lays such specious accusations to rest.

Such accusations arise from his attempts to reform the Church at large, which had already begun to bend under the pressure of the pagan rulers of Rome. Already the Eucharist was being seen as a magical rite instead of a Seder celebration, recognizing Jesus as the sacrificial Passover lamb. Proto Mariology was in its infancy and the adoption of blasphemous prayer to persons other than God, and the adoption of reliquaries and icons was polluting the church. Because Tertullian was so vocal in his attempts at reform, he was ostracized by the church at large and his own movement developed for a time, before being absorbed by the Roman church at large precipitating the rise of Nestor.

By the reign of Pope Gregory, the upheaval in the Roman Empire and the fall of the dark ages had completely distorted the calendar, and to this day we cannot be certain how many years it has been since the ‘first’ century, or how long it was between the first century and the rise of Tertullian. For this reason among others it is reasonable to believe that the Tertullian mentioned in the epistles is the same Tertullian who later wrote the aforementioned apologetics. This is the position we take until hard archeological evidence, or the return of Christ proves otherwise.

Whether he is in fact the Tertullian of the epistles or another, his Doctrine certainly agrees, in spirit and in letter, with the doctrines of the epistles and of Saul of Tarsi the Apostle Paul.

Paul the Apostle

The Petrine epistles tell us that ‘Brother Paul’ is an authentic emissary of the Church in Jerusalem and that his doctrine is sound. Second Peter says that if anyone doubts that, they have misunderstood the teachings of the church or the Pauline epistles (and I would like to add: or both). Paul wrote, ‘I praise God I speak in tongues more than you all.’ So while he gives many cautions against irresponsible usage of ecstatic gifts, he clearly is not trying to argue they are obsolete.

Paul draws us a very clear picture of grace, of humanity, of Deity, and the proper role of women. There is no doubt after reading Paul that he, and by extension the early church would reject the cult of Mary as heretical and anathema. There is also no doubt he would have rejected as heretical any person or body that prayed to anyone other than to God in the name of Christ. There is no doubt he would reject the notion that the ‘keys of the kingdom’ grant any person or body the authority to prophesy ‘ex cathedra’ and in doing so contradict the clear teachings of the New Testament.

In the letter to the Galatians Paul writes, ‘If anyone, even an angel from heaven or one of [the apostles] teaches any thing contradictory to what has come before, let him be accursed!’ There is no doubt. They were excommunicated a priori.

When you consider the grace and majesty of God’s provision for this later generation it is mind-boggling. That he could use seemingly terrible events such as the schism in the church and the subsequent infidelity of Arabic believers who were swallowed into the infidelity of Islam; even the Islamic Jihad against Europe, and the Mongol invasion, worked to provide the basis for the continual rebirth of authentic Christian faith, in spite of the continued assault by pagans, the heretics and the spirit of Antichrist. The loss of scrolls at Qumran becomes a time capsule for the verification of the validity of the scriptures. The discovery of discarded tax receipts verify the existence of ancient kingdoms that only Bible believers previously recognized. In his mercy, God has protected knowledge so the faithful would have the tools needed when needed. His sovereign hand is in every current of History. He will establish his church where he wills until the end of times. Praise his glorious name.

Fred

Written on February 1st, 2006 , Musings Tags: , ,

Martin Luther posted his thesis many years ago because he believed that the Roman church had become so corrupt that they no longer taught a form of Christianity that reflected the teachings of Jesus and his chosen representatives. Luther’s indictments against the Papacy and its various doctrines were precipitated by the practice of selling indulgences, by priests and nuns who were impious or incapable of keeping the vows forced upon them, and by the thorough lack and even illegality of Biblical scholarship. There were many, many more but these stand out, because they persist.

The Roman church espoused a brand of ‘Christianity’ that needn’t ever confront the man Christ Jesus or his commands to the general population of believers (the body). They preached a message of good works, loyalty to the organization and significant financial contribution — in exchange for which any lifestyle whatsoever, and any infidelity to Christ or one another could be excused simply by punishing oneself in response to the instructions of the priest.

Where Christ commands confess your fault, and failures to each other, the Roman church organized a system of confessing to the professional clergy, for a price, and being punished by that clergy. This lead to an apostasy so corrupt that a child molester, or professional killer could rest secure in the conceit that he was a Christian, and bound for heaven, without any significant cessation of his sinful lifestyle.

Luther sought, like many others in that period, to reform the church and to restore the essential quality of agape, tempered with Justice, that Jesus himself espoused. The Roman Church shares a trait in common with extremist cults in that they see themselves as the only one true expression of Christian faith. His response to this controlling, possessive attitude was to ‘balance’ their excesses with hyperbole of his own.

A component of Salvation that is often overlooked is the question of repentance. Repentance is a word rich in imagery but ill defined among most believers. The common understanding of the word repent is regretting what you’ve done. This is a necessary prerequisite, but it does not constitute repentance.

Let’s look at the Old Testament concept of repentance. In the Old Testament many sins were punished with the death penalty. Capital crimes included murder, rape, adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, slander of God or abuse of his name and magick. Magick included but was not limited to s

Written on May 1st, 2005 , Musings Tags: , ,

During the period that the media called the Cola Wars, two major US manufacturers seemed bent on securing a market share that included 100% of the population of Earth. Sentimental jingles, cultural icons, lasting tag lines were just some of the detritus that precipitated from this ‘war’. Among these were the red and white suit that Santa Claus now wears, a song about Jesus where he is referred to as ‘the real thing’, a new title for generation ‘X’ and ‘the Pepsi’ Spirit’.

In order to promote this soft drink as ‘the choice of a new generation’, a generation that advertising told us was a ‘Pepsi’ generation’, major motion picture stars and music artists were paid enormous sums to deliver heart rending appeals and sing songs designed to stir emotion and create a sense of identity and loyalty. This excess of emotion and devotion to a product was termed by the manufacturer as a ‘spirit’. Americans by and large felt comfortable with that term and the rest is advertising history. This spirit generated by large sums of money was sufficient to motivate one artist so thoroughly that he became a casualty when his hair caught on fire. That raises the stakes high enough that perhaps it isn’t such a great stretch to call it a war.

War or not, in terms of consumerism, in terms of the battle for the hearts and minds on men, it was indeed a war. This was not a war between manufacturers of fizzy soft drinks, but between that spirit that motivates the carnal mind of man, and the spirit of the living God.

Now what I find most troubling is that America, which was founded mostly by Christians and where the vast majority claim a Christian heritage, was willing to accept the definition of spirit as a mind set comprised of emotion, belief and loyalty. This is the humanistic, debased state that Biblical and religious education has fallen to.

In Genesis 1 we see that the Ruach `Elohyim hovered like a raptor over the face of the waters. And through this agency the solid land was divided from the seas and the clouds. This picture of hovering as on the wings of an eagle is of course a metaphor. The metaphors go even deeper. The word Ruach which we commonly translate as Spirit throughout the Old Testament is the word for wind or breath. If in English someone fell and began having spasms that made it hard for him to breath, we would say he got the wind knocked out of him. When someone is too talkative it was common to say he was windy. This metaphor is not lost on the educated mind.

The Holy Spirit we so glibly refer to is known in Hebrew as the Ruach, or breath, of God. This is the metaphor for the Holy Spirit. What we see this breath accomplishing is a physical feat, namely the fine tuning of the work of creation. In Genesis two, God speaks the Earth into existence; the Breath of God turns mud into dry land and large bodies of water; God shapes the physical body of man; but it is the breath of God that enters him and gives him life.

This relationship didn’t escape the writer of Ecclesiastes who wrote, ‘and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.’ (12:7) He wrote this passage is in the greater context of explaining how vain living really is. To paraphrase, ‘the flesh rots, and God reclaims his life giving spirit so what remains of man?’ The writer is posing a question and trying to demonstrate a point that is beyond the scope of this writing, but what he alludes to in order to prove his point. What he takes for granted that the wise student will grasp, is that the life force of a man is not his own. Nor is it his personality or emotions. Rather it is a gift from god at least partly distinct from Mans personal existence. All men possess this gift, whether they choose to serve God or oppose him.

But these and other passages of Scripture show us that the ruach `elohyim is the immanent presence of God, working physical effect on the plenum of time and space. Rather than distant and unreachable, his presence is as near as your next breath. He is also not merely an emotional response to stimulus. Emotion didn’t effect geologic events and emotion doesn’t cause your heart to beat, and your cells to respire instead of remaining complicated chains of inert organic molecules.

A spirit is a life-force, a source of unconscious higher motives, a preconscious intellect, powerful physical force, comforter or tormentor of the conscious mind, a messenger, and the standing invitation by God for you to reform and serve him.

All spirits originate with God, but some oppose him. Those spirits which we refer to as unclean or evil or demonic or anti-Christ not only oppose God, but exist in a perpetual state of rage against humanity. Their primary motivation in existence is the destruction of your relationship with God. It would be foolish to say that we need an evil spirit to guide and inspire every mistake and rebellion. The Bible tells us that when Adam sinned in the garden he tainted the very spirit that is the natural life force of humanity. Being human is cause enough for disobedience and rebellion against God. You are born with the talent and in this issue we all end live up to our potential.

Becoming a ‘child of God’ in the spiritual sense which the Bible proposes, is a metaphor for the regeneration of renewal of the human spirit, by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. We in the Christian world like to say, Jesus comes to live in your heart. This is a metaphor, for the Ruach `Elohyim condescending to directly communicate on a preconscious level with your spirit. He directly affects change in your life force, cleansing the effects of sin and rebellion from the human spirit within you and begins a relationship of personal interaction with you through this spirit.

Next time you are in church and begin to feel emotionally uplifted, look beyond the emotion into the quiet recesses of your mind. Learn to recognize that nonverbal communication between the Spirit of God and your conscious mind that can only occur when you open yourself to him in praise and worship. Listen with your heart and not your ears. Learn to distinguish between the emotion and the motivator. Therein lays the essence of true communion.

I have been just as thoroughly aware of that self same spirit while the cantors sing the evening prayers. It is just as awesome and real as when the congregation in a Pentecostal church begins to praise and worship God in unison. God inhabits the praises of his people. Let him in. As Jesus put it, let him have supper with you.

Pepsi is a trademark of PepsiCo INC.

Written on November 1st, 2004 , Musings Tags: , ,

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Dear Timothy,

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