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11.30.2004    |    MOPE
Standing for "most oppressed people ever." The Irish, naturally, have the MOPE franchise, thanks in part to seven hundred years of English and Scots invasions and occupation that continues to this very day. Ah, I can hear the strains of "six counties are under John Bull's tyranny..." strummin' soft-like in the background. [For some important notes on this, and on the Dublin pub scene which is totally unrelated to the theme of this post but most definitely has MOPE and is lots of fun, check out Beer and Loathing]

The Jews, also, have at least some portion of the MOPE franchise, and, while this may seem obvious, it isn't for reasons that most would think. The Jews have been singled out for MOPE-dom for the simple reason that they were chosen by God to be His witness, and to capture in the Hebrew Scriptures the story of His creation of us. Nobody likes to be reminded of his failures, and those whose identity was forged in Torah, i.e. the Five Books of Moses, are living reminders of how we fail to measure up to what is expected of us.

The world has never forgiven this witness, even those millions who claim to believe in God whilst at the same time killing and oppressing Jews throughout history, throughout the world. This, of course, includes many, many, who have claimed to have been Christians. They weren't.

True Christians now stand side-by-side with observant Jews; living witness to God's awesome majesty. And, a living rebuke to the world. Those who are true servants of the Lord, whether Christian, or Jew, are the MOPEs of history. The torch was passed to us Christians, who by the saving death of Christ Jesus inherited both the mantle of witnessing God's works in history, and carrying what I call the "God gene" for the crooked timber of humanity.

By which I mean that the true MOPEs are those who know that God is, as we sing, "Lord of All." Nations exist only at His sufferance, as do we all. This is hard, frankly intolerable, for those who do not so believe. And they've made no bones about it, and taken their ire out, with often fatal results, on believers. Us MOPEs share in the victimhood of the Irish and the Jews, but know that it's nothing to do with a mere fiction like ethnicity or nationality.

It has to do with our certain knoweldge that all that is in the world of the living is only temporary and not truly important in the eternal scheme of things. This does not mean that we ignore the world; as the tired phrase goes, Christians, and Jews, must be in the world, but not of it. This is not an invitation to nihilism. It means to do God's will in the here and now, as best we grasp what that will might be.
11.28.2004    |    "Keep watch..."
...because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. These words of our Lord from Matthew 24:42-44 (NIV) were the Gospel lesson for today, the first Sunday of Advent.

As a Baptist who sometimes attends Episcopalian services, I am sometimes conflicted. The simple Baptist in me rejects most ritual as being superfluous. Baptists also know that we are all priests of God, and need no one to stand between us and the Lord. Episcopalians also seem to grasp this, and, for all of their un-Scriptural tendencies as a denomination, also include many who are Protestant in outlook -- a congregation of priests.

One of the beneficial yet superfluous aspects of the Episcopal Church is its adherance to the Catholic liturgy, and the resultant liturgical cycles of the Christian year. Beneficial for those, like me, who often need to be reminded of the glory that is God and His Son. Superfluous, given the very words of today's Gospel message: "Keep watch...you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him".

This means 24/7, 365 days a year...we never close...we are always ready. Wish I could say that was ready all of the time. May it be your joy to be ready.
11.27.2004    |    'We Have Sinned Against You'
Thus confesses Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw. Professor Mouw, along with another evangelical Christian, preached to the Saints in Salt Lake City on November 14. From Beliefnet:
For the first time in 105 years, non-Mormons mounted the pulpit at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Nov. 14. The event, dubbed an "Evening of Friendship," was organized by Standing Together, a network of 100 evangelical churches trying to improve relations with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical animosity dating back to the founding of the LDS Church has heightened in recent years between the two groups, particularly in the 1990s, when high-profile evangelical leaders said that Mormons are not Christians and the Southern Baptist Convention held one of its annual meetings in Salt Lake City, partially with the goal of converting Mormons to evangelical Protestantism.
Well, isn't that nice. Interfaith outreach, and all of that. Feel-good. Small problem remains, however.

Also from Beliefnet, that pesky Charles Colson, opines that, no, Mormons are not Christian. To support this heretofore unexceptional position on the part of Christians, he writes:
But none of this alters the fact that Mormonism is an entirely different religion. For instance, Mormonism believes in many gods, not just one. Christians believe that God is eternal and is a spirit. Mormons believe that the god of this universe -- like other gods in other universes -- was once as we are. God "progressed" in knowledge and became divine, but retained his body.

God is married to a being the Mormons call "the Mother." The "Mother" is not the same person as Mary, who Mormons believe was impregnated by God physically. For Mormons, Jesus is God's son in a very different sense than that taught by Christianity.
Clearly, if what Mr. Colson writes is true, Mormons are not Christians. That they've taken the name of our Savior doesn't make them His disciples.

My personal experience with Mormons is mixed. On the one hand, their decency and industry is undeniable; they are very admirable. On the other, they're quite agressive on trying to convert us gentiles (which is what I was called; I'm lovin' it...). They also believe some quite fantastical things, such as that the Indians of North America are, somehow, descended from Jews who emigrated from Jerusalem. I don't think so, boyos.

My reading on Mormonism in the secular literature paints them as a personality cult, vesting life-and-death power in their leader, who is considered to have been appointed directly by God. In this, of course, they're not terribly different from Catholics of the Middle Ages, and, no, I'm not among those evangelicals who considers Catholicism to be a cult.

All things being equal, I'd have to consider them heretical Christians, at best. To deny Scripture by adding a new gospel in the Book of Mormon is the very least of their problems with calling themselves Christians.

If we Christians believe that there is truth, make that Truth, in the canonical Gospels, then those who confess a new gospel deny that truth. Those who join with them in this error,such as Mouw, are, themselves, at the least, confused. My suspicion is that these Christians preached to the un-Christian Mormons out of a sense of Christian love, and, just maybe, with the secret hopes of turning them from their apostasy to the true path of Christ.

Or they could be fools.
11.26.2004    |    In the words of...
C.S. Lewis:
If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.
From his essay, "Man or Rabbit".

This is as direct, and blunt as it gets. Old Clive Staples had, of course, nothing against the good works and the morality that Christians usually preach. Just that he knew that Christianity as being "helpful" is not the same as it being true. He was, properly in my view, scornful of preachers who might emphasize the goodness of being Christian at the expense of the truth of being Christian.
11.25.2004    |    Godless Nation?
Just a quick note, and a depressing one it is. Via the Claremont Institutute, we learn that the Declaration of Independence has been banned:
In the city of Cupertino, California, a fifth grade public school teacher at Stevens Creek School, Stephen Williams, has been prohibited by the principal from distributing the Declaration of Independence among other documents from the American Founding. Why? Because they mention God.
Getting past the activist jurisprudence that may have fostered a climate in which God is banned from the public square, I think that there is a large majority of Americans who would find these actions in California despicable and unamerican in the extreme.

Let us hope that some decency and respect for our nation's Christian founders and Christian foundation remain. After all, it was those very Christian men who fought against having any one sect becoming the established religion. They insisted that even those who don't share their version of faith be free to worship, or not, as their conscience dictated.

Make no mistake. The founders did this not just out of self interest. They did it because of their faith; a faith that told them that all men are created, by God, as equal. And the dignity of each person comes not from any secular thing, but from God. This is a radical idea in history, and it took post-Enlightenment Christians to put it into practice without the deadly excesses of the French or Russian Revolutions.

It should come as no shock that both of those experiments were dismal failures, because both denied God a place in the public square and insisted on the perfectibility of mere mortal men. Our Founders were both humble before God, and brilliant, to see, well before either of those failed revolutions, that without God as our anchor we are but brutes.

Even with God we often fail. To banish God from our commonweal will mean, sooner or later, that our failure will be certain.
11.24.2004    |    Still Left Behind
Nick Kristof, a reliable voice for the Upper West Side Culture, weighs in on the Apocalypse in the Gray Lady. Once again, a New York salon-dweller writes about those poor demented fundamentalist Christians. The immediate target of Kristof's ire are Tim LaHay and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the Left Behind series.

As might be expected from a stalwart of the left, Kristof's higher virtue, if not his highest, is not salvation, but tolerance. As in, how intolerant of these red state rubes, to write about how unbelievers will be cast in a lake of fire, and Jesus will do the smiting. By Jesus, no less. Shocking.

In fairness, Kristof at least references the essential Gospel chapter, John 3. In which I assume he meant John 3:17-18 (NIV):
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
This is rather direct, and hard to parse in any other way but its plain meaning. But to those who worship in the temple of multiculturalism, this is a cardinal sin -- to state that not all beliefs are equally valid.

From Nick's own word processor:
If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series [Left Behind], we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering.
Well, yes, we would. Perhaps because the Muslims wouldn't wait for God to execute His judgment, and would continue the violent jihad that has been the norm since the 7th Century. And, perhaps because we Christians know that Muslims have a perverted and wrong view of God.

Kristof compounds his error and shows his scriptural ignorance with this silliness:
Silly me. I'd forgotten the passage in the Bible about how Jesus intends to roast everyone from the good Samaritan to Gandhi in everlasting fire, simply because they weren't born-again Christians.
Fascinating for a multiculturalist, relativist, even one with good instincts as Kristof (his reporting on the genocide in Darfur gained my everlasting respect). The passage Mr. Kristof seeks is Revelation 20:11-15 (NIV):
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
As for who is it that is doing the judging, that is Jesus on that throne, and, as we sometimes recite from the Nicene Creed, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead..."

As for who goes into that lake of fire, given their plain meaning, I'm not surprised that Kristof denies seeing these words of Jesus in John 3:3 (NIV): "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again". This, plus Revelation 20 make it clear that only those born again in Christ Jesus will be saved. Except to those who prefer to deny the plain text meaning of Scripture.

As for Ghandi, the good Samaritan, etc., I'm glad that Kristof can predict the end times to know that we Christians think they will not be saved. I don't know how or if such will be born again. I do know that what we call "heaven" is simply our limited way of saying, "unity with God." I also know that the only way to that final unity with He Who Is must be through Christ Jesus. If not now, then at the end times.
11.23.2004    |    Changed Perceptions
...of Jewish law, that is. As a Christian, my views of observant Judaism were, to say the least, skeptical. The AskMoses website is a delightful antidote to my ignorance.

AskMoses website answers questions with simplicity and yet completeness, and with an obvious love of the Lord. Not that I agree with some of what they write, of course -- such as their misunderstanding of Jesus as Messiah, or of their notion that an observant Jew must be "martyred" rather than be "exposed" to other religions.

The essence of one of the answers, to a question about ritual purity, struck me as particularly beautiful, and just as true for this Baptist as it must be for any believer, Jew or Christian:
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience—we are spiritual beings having a human experience."
This truth captures in very few words precisely how we, mortal creatures who are sinners, can at the same time be made in God's perfect image.

It also captures the essence of the incarnation of the Trinity in the person of Jesus the Nazarene -- Jesus was a person of the Spirit in ways we are not, but in ways which we might become at the end of time.

From AskMoses:
Studying the philosophies of other religions (even in a secular setting) is absolutely forbidden. In fact, according to halachah one is obligated to be martyred rather than allow him/herself to be exposed to such teachings!
11.22.2004    |    God's take on the Palestinians?
Actual, factual history (as opposed to Arab or lefty versions) demonstrates that "Palestinians" did not previously exist as a coherent national or ethnic group. However, some pre-modern inhabitants of what is now Israel were labeled "Philstines", hence the name given to the area; i.e. "Palestinian" is a translation of "Philistine." The Philstines were the prototypical bad guys and all-around punching bags (worse than that; remember King Saul?) of Biblical fame. The actual Philistines of Goliath's time were most likely a seafaring people from the (northern) rim of the Mediterranean Sea. Whatever else they were, they were in no way shape or form or ethnicity "Arab".

But they were considered nasty (they certainly got bad press reviews in the Book), and they gave the Israelites a tussle. However, God has been known to pick favorites, and the fact that there are not real Philistines around today is evidence of that. However, today's "Palestinians" remain a sad lot, and perhaps this is part of some divine plan.

Consider this from the prophet Ezekiel, Chapter 25, verses 16-17:

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will stretch out My hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites, and destroy the remnant of the sea-coast. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay My vengeance upon them.

Don't mess with Israel unless you're prepared to deal with the Big Guy.
11.21.2004    |    Giving Thanks
From The Presidential Prayer Team website, this Thanksgiving proclamation from the President:

Each year on Thanksgiving, we gather with family and friends to thank God for the many blessings He has given us, and we ask God to continue to guide and watch over our country. Almost 400 years ago, after surviving their first winter at Plymouth, the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast to give thanks. George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition during the Civil War. Since that time, our citizens have paused to express thanks for the bounty of blessings we enjoy and to spend time with family and friends. In want or in plenty, in times of challenge or times of calm, we always have reasons to be thankful.

America is a land of abundance, prosperity, and hope. We must never take for granted the things that make our country great: a firm foundation of freedom, justice, and equality; a belief in democracy and the rule of law; and our fundamental rights to gather, speak, and worship freely.

These liberties do not come without cost. Throughout history, many have sacrificed to preserve our freedoms and to defend peace around the world. Today, the brave men and women of our military continue this noble tradition. These heroes and their loved ones have the gratitude of our Nation. On this day, we also remember those less fortunate among us. They are our neighbors and our fellow citizens, and we are committed to reaching out to them and to all of those in need in our communities.

This Thanksgiving, we again give thanks for all of our blessings and for the freedoms we enjoy every day. Our Founders thanked the Almighty and humbly sought His wisdom and blessing. May we always live by that same trust, and may God continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.

--George W. Bush
11.19.2004    |    "Happy Holidays"
The so-called "Holiday Season" has started. It seems to start earlier with each passing year. This year we received our first Christmas Holiday catalogs back in August. Christmas decorations, as in, red- and green-themed glitz, have been visible in stores for weeks now, and it's only mid-November.

I truly hate how the Advent of our Savior has come to be celebrated in the public square. It has become a frenzy of shopping, forced merrymaking, and almost an enforced secular holiday. As opposed to the Mass for Christ that it was in pre-modern times.

Nothing against celebrating His birth, of course. This is truly a joyous occasion, but the gifts of the Magi were to the greater glory of God. What is the meaning of that bauble you buy for your honey? Somehow it isn't quite for His glory, is it?

Then there's that whole "peace on earth, goodwill towards men" stuff. Again, great sentiment, if it could just last a few moments past New Year's Day. And the annual charity appeals, such as the New York Times long-standing "Remember the Neediest" campaigns. All good things, but, increasingly divorced from the Advent of the Prince of Peace. Jesus? Who's that?

One of the more annoying things to believers has to be the expansion or proliferation of competing holidays such as un-scriptural Chanukkah and the totally invented Kwanza. I'm certain that Hindus, Buddhists, and other pagans have their own version of holidays set around the time of the Winter Solstice.

It is obvious that the non-Christians had and continue to have some sort of holly-envy. Hey, what's with this merrymaking? We want in. Not that what we now think of as "traditional" Christmas decorations have that much, if anything, to do with the birth of Jesus. After all, there is some thought that we celebrate Jesus' birthday as December 25 not because he might actually have been born on that date, but because that was also the pagan celebration of the birth of the "sun god", Saturnalia.

This just might have been good proselytzing in the early church; bring those heathen pagans into the pews (did they have pews back in the early days?). The serious point is that the actual date is not important. Simply does not matter. What matters is His advent, and the promise that His cradle will give way to His Cross and thence His Crown. December 25 is as good as any other date (or January 6 in the Eastern church).

So, what's a believer to do? Relax, enjoy the season, and understand that most people mean no harm in the way in which they celebrate the birth of the Savior. But never, ever, lose sight that we should always be watching for His coming -- not just for a few weeks at the end of the year.
11.16.2004    |    Not to choose is to choose
Where do we think we stand as regards being predestined for salvation? If we accept that God is omniscient and omnipotent, then the question of whether God "chooses" us for election has two answers. First, you may believe that there is a positive choice made by God: who to save; who not to save.

Alternately, those who allow that our free will operates to save us should consider this: not to choose is to choose. That is, again, given that God knows all and can do anything if that is His will, He knows, from the very beginning of creation, whether our free will will be used to open us up to His saving grace. The mystery remains: since God could change the events that He has foreknowledge of, would he?

Either way, Romans Chapter 8 would seem to make the Calvinist case. Romans 8:28-30 (NIV):
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be
the firstborn among many brothers.30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Seems quite clear. Those whom God would save, are predestined, foreknown by God. Now, from when does God know who would be saved? For an answer, look at Ephesians 1:4-6:
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Well, there you have it. God has known which of us is destined to be saved, or not, from "before the creation of the world." Again, if there’s a distinction between God choosing, and knowing how we will choose but doing nothing to change that choice, I'm not sure it matters.

Still open for discussion, of course, is whether God would change His mind as a result of our free will. This gets into paradox territory, since God already, from the beginning, knew (knows?) what we will do, knew everything, what would make Him change His mind? If He were going to change His mind, He'd have done it at the beginning…wouldn't He? Seems logical, as there should be nothing that happens that He doesn't know about in advance.

Makes your head hurt if you think about this too much, I say. For now, I just accept that the choice has been made by God, at least by omission; it’s on us to wake up to that choice. So, where does that leave our free will? In the dust of Paul's epistles? God has chosen, before we were born - "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb", as the Psalmist reminds us (139:13).

We are operating blind as to free will in the here and now. God may know, but we surely can't know for certain as to our salvation. The best we can do is use our free will, in the hope that we will be able to open ourselves up to grace. I don't believe that God would deny salvation to any one of us who are truly open to His grace; I just think that He knows how we will choose, but He Himself chooses to not change what will be.

If God wills otherwise, against our salvation, any and all of our efforts would be in vain. But if God has chosen us for salvation, His call will be irresistable. I’d like to think that it’s a tautology – if we are chosen, of necessity our free will will open us up to His grace.

Once open, we will have His help in standing firm in the gap. Jesus tells us, in Luke’s Chapter 21:14-19, that those who have accepted Christ will persevere:

14…make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend
yourselves.15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries
will be able to resist or contradict.16 You will be betrayed even by parents,
brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.17 All
men will hate you because of me.18 But not a hair of your head will perish.19 By
standing firm you will gain life.
We should always act as though we have been predestined by God to be among the elect. This means be open to grace, which, if we are truly open, will of necessity result in us doing the right thing. And in receiving “words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict".

Are you saved? Am I? Seems as though it’s been written in the book of life, which is closed to our reading for now. Absent affirmation, let’s all act as if we were saved. And I do not mean pretend acting; I mean by your deeds show you have been chosen.

With faith, it should come naturally. Should; often it is very, very, hard to feel God's presence in our lives. Many is the day that I've had my doubts and find my faith flagging. I suppose that is why it is called faith...
11.15.2004    |    Tribes
Which of the twelve tribes are you a member of? No, I write not of Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, and others of the twelve sons of Jacob. This categorization is a handy-dandy modern grouping of various “religious groups that comprise the U.S. electorate", according to the article, title “The Twelve Tribes of American Politics,” at beliefnet.

While this categorization might be of interest to some, I’m not sure it sheds much light on what the real distinctions in belief might be among these various groups. It is also a little demeaning in my not-so-humble opinion (John Luke, just keep repeating, Micah 6:8 to yourself…), to lump such diverse groups as “Black Protestants", “Latinos” and “Jews” into categories that sound vaguely, well, more racial than related to core beliefs.

Unstated, though it might as well be, is that these are a secularist’s view of religion. How else to explain the lack of separation of the fundamentalist Orthodox Jews from those whose Jewish identity starts and ends with eating bagels and lox? Also, the too-clever by half distinction between “Moderate Evangelicals” and the “Religious Right", not to mention that “Black Protestants” are just as likely, if not more so, to be primarily evangelical.

The lumping of the incredibly diverse “Latinos” into a single grouping based on belief is no more credible, and, again, slightly racist. Anyone who has spent any time talking with Miami Cubanos knows that this group is about as far removed from Mexican day trabajadores as a Boston Brahmin is from an Appalachian sharecropper. Yes, both groups allegedly speak Spanish, but I can tell you from personal experience that these sound like two entirely different languages.
Beliefnet comes across as trying too hard to downplay the impact of so-called religious conservatives, by basically splitting them into three “tribes” – “Religious Right", “Heartland Cultural Warriors", and “Moderate Evangelicals.” In the aggregate, these three groups comprise just under 35% of the elctorate (according to beliefnet). And, not to forget, that black churchgoers tend to sound a lot more like white evangelicals, having ties that bind them like unto cords of steel – their Christian witness. It is safe to assume that all are motivated by Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20) to evangelize. My central point being that what makes these groups alike is much more important than what separates them.

Beliefnet does tag the three groupings as being “pro-life, pro-war and anti-gay-rights,” even the “Moderate Evangelicals.” Pro-war? You don’t suppose that beliefnet has a liberal spin, do you? To call evangelical Christians “pro-war” is to fundamentally (sorry ’bout that) misunderstand where we evangelicals stand on peace and war.

From the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, Art.XVI, Peace and War:

It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.

The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.
Real bunch of warmongers, them pesky Baptists. Hardly “pro-war.” Perhaps we Baptists aren’t evangelicals, after all…

The money quote from the entire enterprise at beliefnet is this whopper:
The biggest finding: The Religious Right and the Religious Left are almost exactly the same size. The former has had a much greater impact for the past 25 years largely because of superior organization and drive.
Actually, perhaps what is narrowly labeled as the “Religious Right” would be more accurately called faithful evangelical Christians.
As for any “greater impact", perhaps, just perhaps, this is because the basic beliefs of the “Relgious Right” are actually shared by a much larger number of evangelicals, white, black, and are more than likely joined in cultural matters by Orthodox Jews and (perhaps) uslims.
The “greater impact” thus comes from the bedrock of the many, whose faith is not pale and wan; people, yes, of several faiths, who seem to share an abiding sense of right and wrong, of what is acceptable in the eyes of God, and what is not. It is this last that really annoys liberals and moral relativists.
11.11.2004    |    In the words of...

Jonathan Edwards:

…the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self determination, but to God’s determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining will.
11.08.2004    |    Christian Zionists
I am a Christian Zionist. Given the source of our Word, and the Word made flesh, this is an unexceptional statement. Or should be. All Christians who confess Jesus the Nazarene as Lord, and whose faith is grounded in Scripture, must, definitionally, be of the people Israel.
That the Church throughout the centuries had denied this truth is to its shame. It took a Reformation to remind us of these facts. Forget not that Martin Luther and those who followed him in Geneva were falsely libeled as “Judaizers” of what the Roman Church had corrupted into something divorced from Zion.

Both the history of Zion, and prophecies of the end times center around Zion. The explanation that I’ve heard from those who deny their Jewish roots is that with the coming of Jesus, the old covenant with the Jews had been superceded by the new covenant.
Although it took almost 2,000 years, the Roman Church has caught up with (some of) us Protestants and now acknowledges that God does not break His Word, His promises made to Israel. We have not replaced the Jews as the special objects of salvation by God. We have joined them, even if they may not consider it so.

The lesson, now learned by most, is that while Scripture may be divided into the “Old” and the “New” Testaments, they are really a seamless whole, preparing the world for its salvation that comes out of Zion. One clear statement that affirms this is from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome (Romans 11:26-29, KJV):
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Jacob, of course, being Israel. And God’s promise to deliver Israel to the land of Zion was made clearly, and with geographic specifics, including, for example, virtually all of the current-day Kingdom of Jordan.

The fact that we goyim are now an organic part of Israel does not change that promise. And, if we are faithful to His Word, the promise also binds us to Zion with cords that will not be broken in this world.
11.05.2004    |    Voice of the Vatican
Ahh, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the traditionalist’s traditionalist. There was a not-very fair and balanced piece on Cardinal Ratizinger in today’s Washington Post. For starters, the article ensures that we know that Ratzinger is head inquisitor:
Ratzinger has headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, three years after John Paul II became pope. The congregation is the historical successor to the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition, one of the oldest departments in the Vatican. Sometimes, it is known as the Holy Office. John Paul II has said its functions are “to promote and safeguard the doctrine of the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.”
Get out my hot pokers and fingernail pullers, got us some infidels that need chastisin’ here. And note carefully that “safeguard the doctrine of the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.” This is what likely sticks in the craw of the liberal secular press and their friends out there.

The man’s sins are legion for those on the left. He’s worked against Marxism in the guise of “liberation theology", he warns against rampant feminism:
The letter [from Ratzinger] criticized forms of feminism that made women “adversaries” of men. He wrote that the blurring of sexual identity had “made homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent.”
He’s strongly opposed to the gay agenda, and minces (sorry ’bout that) no words about it, calling homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil.” Worse yet, he’s convinced that not all religions have equal worth. Shocking, isn’t it? A Christian who believes that Jesus is the Way, and the only way, to the Father.

Ratzinger then goes on to commit the cardinal sin (not sorry ’bout that one) of warning the faithful that if they are in a state of grave sin (I don’t need the scare quotes that the Post uses) they are not in full communion with the Roman Church. The cardinal went so far as to actually stand up for this viewpoint:
… a letter he sent in August to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington advising clergy that they must deny Communion to supporters of abortion rights who, he said, persist in cooperating in what he termed a “grave sin.” The note also provided advice on how Catholic voters should proceed when faced with a choice that included a candidate who supported abortion rights. No names were mentioned, but several American bishops had spoken out against Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, for his views on abortion.
Ouch. Here’s a foreign devil, meddling in our internal politics. How dare he?

Well, it is quaint to see a high churchman insist that its doctrine be upheld, especially in matters as grave as the lives of unborn children. You may not believe that the unborn have rights, even the right to life, but that happens to be the Catholic Church’s hard position. I agree with that position, as a matter of my Baptist faith, but I can certainly understand how some Protestants might disagree.

What I don’t understand, and this gets back to why the Catholic Church needs a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and an enforcer like Joseph Ratzinger to stand in the gap: far too many Catholics are like John Kerry. They call themselves Catholic but then choose to ignore basic teachings of their Church. And they get rather angry when their church calls them on it.

As a final note on this, the problem isn’t Cardinal Ratzinger, as much as church liberals would like to have us believe. It certainly isn’t for me to criticize Catholic doctrine or those members of that Church who are unfaithful – until those who are unfaithful drag it into the public square and blame righteous men like Joseph Ratzinger for trying to keep them on the straight and narrow.
11.04.2004    |    Tiptoe through the TULIP
It would be tempting to characterize our Muslim enemies as less than human. This is especially true when we see the end result of their perverted version of faith in atrocities such as the beheading of Iraqis and others. I’m not nearly so shocked as I suppose I should be. For me it just reinforces the old Calvinist TULIP formulation (Total depravity; Unconditional election; Limited atonement; Irresitable grace; Perserverence of the saints).

Originally meant as a refutation of the primacy of free will (Arminianism), it encapsulates the essence of the simple but harsh-seeming faith of our Puritan forefathers (OK, my forefathers; yours were bishops in the Church of England). A Cliff’s Notes version of TULIP may be found here; the full version, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Relgion, is here.

There is a huge body of discourse on the various elements of TULIP, and I’ve my own problems with the limited atonement, at least when it is used as an expression of God’s limited election of those few who will be saved by the Christ. For right now, I’d like to focus on the total depravity of man.

Our Muslim terror “brothers” are surely destined for whatever hell exists after their death. They are living, breathing, embodiments of the total depravity, the total sin of their hearts, their minds, their bodies, their souls. Before we get too comfortable in our comfortable Western living rooms, shaking our heads over such barbarism, ask: Could this happen here?

Questions much like this have to have been asked by all those “good Germans” who looked the other way while the railcars went past; who held their noses to cut out the stench of the crematoria. After all, Germany was the “Christian” nation that brought us Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Heine, the list is long and honorable. Are the German people less, more, or just as depraved in spirit than are those Muslim terrorists who behead innocents?

John Calvin says they are the same. I think the master of Geneva was on to something.

About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.