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7.30.2007    |    Changing Venue
This blog is now published at Wordpress. You will be automatically directed there after a few seconds, or you may click http://johnluke.wordpress.com.

Thanks for dropping by.
7.29.2007    |    "chemical in essence"
"The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems" is the title of a report from the National Research Council, and, as written up in today's WaPo Outlook section, in a lively article by Joel Achenbach, we are told this grim truth about life as we know it:
"It is chemical in essence," the report says of life, a statement that is both bland and mind-boggling. Life, you'd think, would be more than just chemicals interacting. Surely it would require some kind of special juice, energy, force. But no: Vitalism is a theory that died out a long time ago. It's just organic chemistry. It's just reactions involving polymers, covalent bonds, catalysts, solvents, nucleophiles, electrophiles.
This is more than a little sad: it completely ignores the notion that there might be something extra, call it a divine spark, perhaps. Of course, I do not take Mr. Achenbach to task for not delving into how God figures in all of this. That would be inappropriate for an officially atheistic paper. Heck, they even have atheists write the "on faith" sections...

Sorry, couldn't resist. Just that those who write on faith for the Washington Post seem to think that any religion is good, as long as it doesn't entail believing that nasty smiting and damnation one may find in the Bible. But, I digress. Now the article in question doesn't rule God out as the designer of those biological and chemical processes.

But it's where I start. If there are other life forms in the universe, and I'm reasonably sure there are, given its vastness, who do we think might have created them? I'm also reasonably sure that it is God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, acting outside of space and time and for reasons we can not yet understand.

God is the Eternal Chemist, so to speak. That carbon and water are such a nifty building blocks is not an accident. Not by any stretch of the imagination. So, is God content to just be a chemist? Hardly. We have life, as do many, many other organisms. We, meaning homo sapiens sapiens here on Earth, have been granted something special that goes well beyond chemistry and biology: the ability to worship God, to love Him, and, as best we can, to do His will.


7.27.2007    |    Big Love
Have you seen the HBO original series, "Big Love?" If not, you're missing something. This is likely the show that Mormons, most especially Mormons running for national office, would prefer to disappear down the memory hole.

The show's premise? An ostensibly normal and successful businessman, Bill Henrickson (played superbly by Bill Paxton), attempts to balance his polygamous life with the demands of his community that he at least give lip service to not committing bigamy.

Bill fails at this task, and the dramatic tension among and between his three "sister wives" makes the show worth watching. Not to mention Bill's dealings with a cult-like compound of polygamists headed by a seriously power-mad creature named Roman Grant (played, also superbly, by Harry Dean Stanton).

So, why would this show be the show that Mitt Romney loves to hate? Simple. Because it shows how thin the veneer is between Mormons who sign on, in public, to be monogamous. In private, the sense is, hey, we're Mormons. We can have more than one wife -- it's biblical, you know. As in, the Hebrew prophets had multiple wives, didn't they?

Well, Mormons (or anyone else for that matter) may believe anything they want, but that does not make it so. Or moral. Why one wife, if there is clear evidence that ancient Israelites had multiple wives? Two things.

One, we are not living in the Near East of three thousand years ago. Different time and place; different cultural norms. Two, most important, Genesis, chapter 2. God created a woman, that's a, as in one, woman, Eve, to be Adam's wife:
2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This is clearly the template for humanity; one man, one woman, with a charge, in Genesis 1:28, to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."

Is this an oversimplification of God's plan? Perhaps. But God's power is made manifest in the first two chapters of Genesis. It's creation, after all...and I have to assume that if God intended us to have more than one wife, He'd have made some mention of this to Adam.

That Mormons, and Muslims, and others, don't adhere to this basic tenet is no reason to ignore what appears to be God's clear direction to us: one man; one woman. Complementing each other, both needed to fulfill God's plan for us. My close reading of Genesis reveals nothing as to whether God, somehow, believes men should dominate women. Or vice versa.

And, common sense dictates that when a man has more than one wife, they're all going to be short-changed. Treated, in a word, as inferiors. Polygamy is, simply, wrong. It denies the equality of men and women. Not that we are the same. That we are equal in human dignity in the eyes of God.

For mere men to make rules that denigrates the dignity of women is, also, simply wrong. In the case of having more than one wife, since it violates God's first template for our kind, it is also properly called an abomination.

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7.26.2007    |    Pio XII
Pope Pius XIIOne of the most difficult subjects for any Christian, or any Jew for that matter, is the role of the Roman Catholic Church during the Holocaust. After the deed was done, after six million were killed, one may find a full spectrum of belief as to what the Church, and the pope during that time, Pius XII, did, and did not do.

Nothing brings out the apologists for the Church so much as a new, comprehensive study, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945, written by a survivor, Saul Friedlander. Among other things in this work, Pope Pio XII comes in for some rough treatment in the form of truth-telling.

Unfortunately, this ground has been trod before, by some with anti-Catholic agendas. As contrasted with truly objective historians, who seem to be rara avis. So it's difficult for the amateur to know with much certitude when agendas are being spun, as against when the news just simply isn't good.

I'm not a Pius XII basher; for one thing, I can't imagine the stresses this man must have been under as the wartime pope. On the other hand, I do know that Christ's vicar should have, and could have, done much, much more to place the Roman Church on the side of human rights. But did not.

One may turn to Catholic sources to get extraordinary apologia of that for which there is no excuse. A case in point is the lengthy critique of Mr. Friedlander's work at First Things.

Reading this defense of the indefensible, one may learn, yet again, how Pius made speeches that angered the Germans, how he personally was a warm and lovable sort, how he helped save the Jews of Rome. But here's the bottom line: the Church did not put its full weight and majesty against the Germans in their Final Solution.

The Church retained its regal palaces and billions of dollars in property and fine, jeweled vestments. The Church had its heroes; priests who defied the Germans and who died as martyrs. Jesus Christ would have expected no less, than that those who claim to be His intermediaries on Earth act as He did, and sacrifice so that our brothers and sisters might live.

As for what the self-annointed "Christ's Vicar" might have done but did not? Excommunicate all Catholics who participated in the Final Solution. Withdraw any and all papal sanction given to any part of the German or other national Catholic churches whose officials did anything less than join the resistance. Provide all support possible to the Allies, including espionage.

Just a few examples of what the Pope did not do, except in the most limited (and safe from from reprisal by the Germans) fashion. There is one example, in particular, that stands to damn Pope Pius XII by way of contrast: Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer did what any Christian must do: stand up for the Jews, from whom came salvation in the form of Jesus Christ. Pius, put in its most simple terms, did not.

God will deal (has dealt?) with Pope Pius XII, and it is well beyond my reach to claim that I know that he's in hell or in heaven. But know this: As a Jew, I know the Roman Church pretty much sat on its wealth and did not use its very real power to save my people. For this I will be very, very skeptical of claims to the contrary. So far, they ring hollow, sort of like a criminal who pleads "guilty with an explanation."

This is shameful for an organization that claims to be Christ's body in this world.


7.24.2007    |    narcissism
One of the diseases afflicting the Christian church generally is alive and well in the Roman Church. The target is the hymnal, Glory and Praise, which is raked over the coals in this posting at Mere Comments. Here's the litany of complaint:
-- the neutering of old masculine language about mankind and even God
-- the heedless fouling up of the old poetry, to update a "thou" and a "thee"
-- the seizing of every chance to talk about dancing (not to be found in the New Testament, I suspect, unless it's Salome) and about the motherhood of God"
-- in general, the louche emphasis upon feelings, not repentance, but soft and syrupy feelings
-- the blithe arrogation of God's words to ourselves, speaking in the first person
-- the arrogation of God's grace and majesty to ourselves: "We are the Bread, we are the Body"
-- the celebration of our own wonderfulness, and the decrying of sin -- that is, other people's sins
-- the abandonment of traditional liturgical forms, traditional poetry and song -- all relegated to the status of the "old fashioned," for trotting out, like Grandmama's silver, at certain feasts, and that's it
-- the passing along of counterfeit "folk" music, actually performance music, like "Do You Remember the Kind of September," only not nearly as good
-- the mincing baby-talk in the verses, along with a bogus primitivism, a la the Indians in Hollywood: "You are child of the universe."
Note, especially, that heretical "we are the Bread, we are the Body." As in Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. We are most certainly not "the Bread." Nor are we "the Body." This kind of sloppy thinking, of celebrating sinners who pretend to be The Christ, is sickening.

Yes, there is that of God in each of us; the Inner Light, if one prefers Quaker testimony. And, of course, we are each of us made in God's image. But, brothers and sisters, let us never confuse our sinful selves with He who is without stain.

In the words from the Mere Comments posting, "It's narcissism, all of it."


7.23.2007    |    Hope for Islam
There is an essay in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section that gives some hope for a better, more tolerant future for Islam. It is "Losing My Jihadism" by Mansour al-Nogaidan, a Saudi native.

The essence of his charge to his co-religionists? Reinterpret the Koran; learn to live in peace with others. From the essay:
Muslims are too rigid in our adherence to old, literal interpretations of the Koran. It's time for many verses -- especially those having to do with relations between Islam and other religions -- to be reinterpreted in favor of a more modern Islam. It's time to accept that God loves the faithful of all religions. It's time for Muslims to question our leaders and their strict teachings, to reach our own understanding of the prophet's words and to call for a bold renewal of our faith as a faith of goodwill, of peace and of light.
The author is looking for an Islamic Martin Luther, which perhaps shows he hasn't truly thought this through. Luther's central theme wasn't that the Roman Catholic Church was theologically wrong, but that it was corrupt. Perhaps a better analogy would be for Islam to seek its own John Calvin, perhaps the single most influential Protestant theologian in history.

In a very few words, the true reformation wasn't merely denying the Pope's authority as the "first among equals" Bishop of Rome. The true reformation was in redefining salvation in terms of sola fide. This is what was radical, and it was based on a thorough reconsideration of Scripture. This is what Islam appears to need.

Regardless, kudos to Mr. al-Nogaidan. He is a brave man, and while his hope for an Islamic reformation may be faint and wan in its chances for success, there is hope. And that's always a good thing.


7.22.2007    |    a right to be wrong
Rod Dreher has written an essay which should be read by anyone who is offended by Pope Benedict's statement earlier this month (MSNBC story here). That statement reaffirmed ancient Roman Catholic teaching: that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true and complete Christian church.

Dreher's central thesis? It's far better for denominations to make forthright truth claims while still respecting the rights of others, rather than going along with the current "I'm OK, you're OK" pap that passes for ecumenicism. Or, in sound-bite terms, "people have a right to be wrong about God." From his essay:
Good relations among believers must be built, but only on a foundation of honesty. It does not follow that acknowledging theological differences – particularly the exclusive correctness of one church or religion – therefore requires a program enacting political or social superiority. In fact, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Acknowledging that people have a right to be wrong about God is a moral breakthrough for humanity, an idea that should be spread.
This is both powerful, and a little troubling. If I am wrong about what God expects of me on this earth, am I not in danger of eternal damnation? My gut reaction is, "yes, I am." And therein lies the problems of this two-edged sword.

On the one side, we must accept that human beings have free will, and will choose how, or even if, to worship God (ignoring, for the moment, some elements of Calvinism dealing with God's predestination of who, precisely, among us shall use their free will to choose correctly).

On the other side, we are all sinners, and often use our free will wrongly. What's wrong with a church making exclusive truth claims? Doesn't this help us to decide? It certainly can, and, with Rod Dreher, I respect a man, or a church, that stands up and forthrightly tells us what he or it believes to be true.

With the Catholic Church, however, its triumphalism has to be measured against its past, during which the same claim was made. And during which many, many "heretics" were tortured, punished, and put to death for the alleged sin of disbelief. Sorry, Benedict. We've heard this song before, and I won't dance to it.

Now, I don't believe that Benedict, or most other leaders of the Roman Church would bring back those bad old days. And I can't make any statement about whether a Catholic will be damned for his beliefs. Some things are just beyond a mortal man's reach.

So I won't repeat the error of the Catholic church's triumphalism. Let me just say that my statement to the Pope must be, "thanks for the tip, il papa, but I think I'll just go my own Protestant way."

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7.20.2007    |    "atheistic theology posing as science"
The best man running for president? Got to be Senator Sam Brownback, a man who lives his Christian faith in the public square, without apology.

Part of this has included going into the lion's den of the secular-humanist media and explaining his stance on evolution in an op-ed in the New York Times. Evolution, which, somewhat akin now to global warming, is treated as an article of faith by the secular crowd. Which is why one will see the locution, "belief in evolution."

In Sam Brownback's words:
The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
The senator is hardly anti-science, and, despite the lack of charity among some in the ranks of secular humanists (e.g. Richard Dawkins), is hardly a knuckle-dragging troglodyte seeking to impose a fundamentalist Christian religion on America.

Sam Brownback concludes his essay on evolution with this:
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
Which illustrates the religion of the unbeliever. Religion, requiring its adherents to swear fealty to its dogmas, posing in the sheep's clothing of logic and science. But which can tolerate no views that may conflict with a God-less, random, universe.

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7.19.2007    |    The glory of God
The object in the photo, taken by the Hubble orbiting telescope, is the Sombrero Galaxy.

This is a rather large object, and it's a bit of a haul from Earth. The basics from the Hubble website:
The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth.
The numbers are staggering. 800 billion suns; light itself takes longer to traverse the Sombrero than ten times the span of years since humans have been able to record their history.

And yet God, the very same God who gave us his son, has also given us untold billions of suns, in a universe that we have only just begun to sense, akin to a bather sticking just a toe in the ocean to test the temperature.

It all attests to the glory that is God; His creation, of which we are honored to be a small part.
7.18.2007    |    Orthodox study "Bible"
I am a big fan of study bibles; they're a necessary complement to anyone who wishes to delve into Scripture. My personal favorite is the Reformation Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul. This study bible uses the English Standard Version, which has become my favorite word-for-word translation.

Not that the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, using the NIV thought-for-thought translation and edited by Richard Pratt, is not also worthy. In fact, I'd recommend any serious student to have both, simply to gain the breadth of seeing particular verses in both an accurate word-for-word version (ESV), and in perhaps the best thought-for-thought version (NIV).

Now comes a study bible down the pike that will not darken my bookshelf -- ever. It is the so called Orthodox Study Bible, which was apparently rushed into print, since they seem to have left out some rather important parts of Scripture. Specifically, this study "bible" has only the Psalms and the New Testament.

Where to begin? Let's start with the fact that Jesus' ministry on earth, the incarnation of God, was based on the Hebrew Scriptures. That the creation, the Fall of Man, the entire notion of God's selection of His people and the coming of the Messiah simply can not be understood without the Hebrew Scriptures.

The best interpretation a Protestant can have? These folks were more concerned with publishing quickly than with fidelity to God's word. This appears all too typical of some denominations; a failure to appreciate the Jewish roots of their faith. Roots best expressed in and by Scripture.

All of it. This is not optional, people.

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7.17.2007    |    Conformity
Something that we must keep in mind whenever someone suggests doing something to make our church services more "relevant" or "youth-oriented." Or whatever seems to be the flavor of the month.

It's very simple: there are eternal truths. There is one very large eternal Truth, with a capital "T" -- Jesus Christ is Lord, and he has overcome the world (John 16:33). He has overcome the world, so that we don't have to.

But we must live in the world. While we do, here is some time-tested, nay, eternal advice from Paul in his letter to the church at Rome. Romans 12:2:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The world has many temptations; it's oh so easy to succumb. I have, and do. Just that, now I feel guilty.

Guilt is only a start, brothers and sisters. With God's help, guilt, not useful by itself, can lead to renewal: stopping the sins before they are even born. How to keep on that path towards renewal?

Let's all take the a advice that God gave to Joshua, when Joshua, a mere youth, was instructed to take on the mantle that had been Moses'. Joshua 1-9:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Remember this whenever you are tempted by the world, or believe yourself too weak to withstand the temptations.

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7.16.2007    |    Necessary and sufficient
"Necessary and sufficient" is the usual standard of proof for an hypothesis. What about the hypothesis that religion is a good thing? Well, this is a little tougher, as any proof depends on faith: belief in things that simply can't be proven.

However, I make the case that the Jewish and Christian religions are, at their core, good. They are better than good. They ennoble us. Here is my statement of necessity and sufficiency for this hypothesis, from Genesis chapter 1:
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
It doesn't get much better than this: being made in the image of God, who is good, merciful, slow to anger, and, as we know from Scripture, able to forgive for the most heinous of sins.

Exactly what "his own image" might actually mean is the subject of much debate, and has yet to be established with precision. We do know, however, the basics from Scripture. Do we live up to this great and good image? Not so much. Suffice to say that the evidence on the ground is that we humans are notorious for doing evil things to one another.

And this is precisely when we are not in "his own image."


7.15.2007    |    A little C.S. Lewis
"Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


   |    "immoral teachings"
It is amusing, in a sad sort of way, how committed atheists will trot out every chestnut in the long list of immoral acts done in the name of religion. But, like making a hobo's stew, everything, and I mean everything, gets thrown in the pot without regard to relevance to the task at hand.

Case in point is one of the best of the atheist class, Christopher Hitchens, writing a response to a challenge by Michael Gerson.

Now, Hitchens' laundry list of sins allegedly based on faith:
Those of us who disbelieve in the heavenly dictatorship also reject many of its immoral teachings, which have at different times included the slaughter of other "tribes," the enslavement of the survivors, the mutilation of the genitalia of children, the burning of witches, the condemnation of sexual "deviants" and the eating of certain foods, the opposition to innovations in science and medicine, the mad doctrine of predestination, the deranged accusation against all Jews of the crime of "deicide," the absurdity of "Limbo," the horror of suicide-bombing and jihad, and the ethically dubious notion of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice.
Isn't that cute? "Heavenly dictatorship." Ah, it's so hard to obey those pesky and arbitrary rules. First, the softballs. Islam and it's strictures are, to be blunt, not based on anything God had anything to do with. Totally man-made, and therefore, sinful. Different wording? Allah is not God; he is a twisted murdering phantasm conjured up by a marauding band in the desert.

If, by "mutilation of the genitalia of children" Hitchens means circumcision, well, let's just say that this has been proven to have health benefits. God might have been on to something on this one.

The "mad doctrine of predestination" is an interesting accusation, but just look about and see all the evil in this world. Yes, in theory we may, each of us, no matter how sinful, may be saved by the unearned, free grace of God. But the evidence of predestination, of the apparent fact that God has chosen those few who will be saved, is both predicted and supported by Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14):
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
God, being all powerful, certainly could cause all of us to pass through that small gate on the narrow road to salvation. Therefore, I've concluded that predestination, whereby God has selected who shall be saved, makes perfect sense. Your results may vary, as the commercials say, but for us Calvinist-leaning folks, this works.

As for "limbo" and "deicide" he's spot on. The church qua church is imperfect, and has spun a web of dogmas and doctrines and rules that have little benefit. The church has many sins to atone for, not least of these being pride.

The suppression of scientific inquiry? This is, at the least, a mixed bag. Who does Hitchens think was tending the fires of science and technology for 1500 years? Finally, Hitchens mentions that great "stumbling block:" the "human sacrifice," by which one assumes he means Jesus dying on the cross in expiation of our sins.

This is difficult, but Jesus was God's only son; His incarnation on earth, sent for precisely that purpose. Human sacrifice is not part of Christianity. Never has been, never will be. Firstly, Jesus was fully God, and the sacrifice was God suffering on our behalf on the cross. It was not a "human" sacrifice, and it wasn't done to be a normative part of Christianity.

As for the other things, including dietary, sexual orientation, and the usual list of complaints by libertines that religion is just too confining: this is all in service of obedience to God. I can't explain kashrut in exhaustive detail, but I do know its actual basis: obedience. A lot of libertines have problems with obeying any external authority. The state, their parents, or...God.

Finally, as for "the slaughter of other 'tribes,' the enslavement of the survivors," let's just say that this was merely part of God's historical plan to establish Israel as His kingdom on earth. Once again, such actions have zero relevance to Christianity. We are told, in absolute terms, to love our enemies. Something which those who claim to be Christian violate all the time, of course...

It does come down to what one believes. If one is a believer, then Hitchens thesis is so much gas. If one is not, then it makes perfect sense. In conclusion, I'd like to knock one out of the metaphorical park. Hitchens' "challenge:"
Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.
Standing in for Gerson, here goes, from Matthew 5:
38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
This is sufficient for me, though I make no claim as to living as Jesus instructs me to do. But that's not the fault of my religion; that's on me, and me alone.


7.09.2007    |    A step backwards
First, a disclaimer: I love Pope Benedict. As a fellow Christian, and as a learned theologian. But I'm afraid he has taken a giant step backwards for the Roman Church in re-authorizing the Tridentine Mass.

What's wrong with Latin? Nothing, as a language, although it's got far too many verb forms... But why this fixation by so-called traditional Catholics on the Latin Mass? The usual answer, were they truthful, is that it's what they grew up with, or what their parents or grandparents grew up with.

Latin is not a language that Jesus or any of the Apostles or disciples would likely have chosen: that would have been, most likely, Aramaic, with gentiles probably native speakers of Greek.

The Last Supper, which is the prototype for the Mass, would certainly not have been in Latin. So, a traditionalist should insist on Aramaic? Don't hold your breath. My point is that the Latin Mass, like so much else in Catholicism, is man-made, an artificiality.

When I was growing up in the Bronx, the fact that the Mass was totally in Latin hindered my Catholic friends from ever understanding Scripture. The Latin Mass, which I've attended more than a few times, can be beautiful, and moving: if one bothers to study the English translation and meditate on the Scriptural basis for the Mass.

The Roman Church may do as it pleases, of course. I just wish they had not taken what appears to be a step away from spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. As against the "gospel" of a papal hierarchy that issues commands to the faithful.


7.07.2007    |    Legalism and eternity
Just thinking about a book that probably doesn't get read much by most Christians: Leviticus. This is the "how to" manual for priests, of the tribe of Levi. Details, details; it's all in the details.

Leviticus also, of course, contains much wisdom for how we should organize our societies and what is good in the eyes of the Lord, and what is not good. Or, in the text, an "abomination" unto the Lord. Most of us simply don't bother with Leviticus, and when it comes to morality, we prefer to take it directly from the Gospels or Paul's letters.

But from whence do we think Jesus got his standards? Or, for that matter, Paul? There's only one source; it is the word of God, as given to Moses at Sinai, and in the incarnation of the Word, Jesus Christ. This is what is eternal -- the Word of God: Book and Savior.

True, Jesus simplified matters, telling us that we should not let legalisms deny meeting the second great commandment of loving our neighbor. But in no way shape or form did Jesus excuse us from meeting God's commandments. This raises another problem. One may hear, in many if not most churches, that Leviticus was fine for the ancient Israelites, living in the Near East of 3,500 or so years ago. Those rules just can't apply to our modern, post-Enlightenment society.

True, there's no longer temple worship, and the details of a priest's ephod, or, for that matter, specifications of the ark of the Lord, don't seem to have much relevance for the problems we face today.

What is eternal is the singular precept expressed by Jesus in the first great commandment. From Mark 12:30:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
The eternal nature of this commandment should be self-evident: it was true in the beginning; it was true for the Israelites at the time of Sinai; it is true for us.

From perhaps the greatest preacher of all times, C.H. Spurgeon, some words on this most important commandment:
Our Saviour said, "This is the first and great commandment." It is "the first" commandment—the first for antiquity, for this is older than even the ten commandments of the written law. Before God said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal," this law was one of the commands of his universe; for this was binding upon the angels when man was not created.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be. God is eternal; His Word likewise. What changes is only our limited perception of that word. And what we fail sometimes to acknowledge is that the Lord knows how to communicate with His audience; hence the form may change.

But never the substance.


7.04.2007    |    Let your words be few
This is always good advice; advice that I sometimes don't heed. From the Preacher, as recorded in Ecclesiastes chapter 5:
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.
It's clear what God expects of us; it is a theme that is repeated over and over by the prophets, and by our Lord, who expressed the same concept in Matthew 5:37:
Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.
This isn't just a rule for right living; it is what God expects of us. It is among the lessons we take from Scripture, which our faith must encourage us to take to heart.

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7.01.2007    |    "Allah, Allah"
Ahh, the ever-present battle cry of those who wish us dead. This is what one of the Muslim terrorists was screaming as he was in the SUV that two terrorists attempted to ram into Glasgow airport.

It appears they, and the plotters of the failed car bombs in London, are all Paki Muslims. All of which may lead apologists for terror to sell, like the rancid snake oil it is, the notion that Britain's terror is "home grown."

Much is made, far too much, actually, of whether Muslim terrorists are citizens of the country they attempt to terrorize. Why is their citizenship is a total irrelevancy? For two reasons.

First and most important, what motivates these acts of terrorism is the religious faith of the terrorists. The god of Islam, Allah, is, truly, a god of vengeance and death. It is not very difficult for those who would be terrorists to find justification in their holy book, so it remains an open question as to whether terrorists have "hijacked" Islam. Perhaps it is those who advocate peaceful coexistence who have done so. If so, Godspeed, mates. You've a long battle ahead.

The second reason why it is irrelevant is that these terrorist, citizens or not, have not adapted to the essentials of a free society: freedom of conscience; tolerance of those who are different. What this must mean to those who are citizens is to live in peace among their neighbors, however different those neighbors may be.

In short, if someone is technically a citizen but does not live in peace for the precise reason that the larger society is not Muslim, then one forfeits their citizenship. And should have zero claim to being "homegrown."

This being said, it is useful to know that there is a threat within Britain, and that, largely, it is in the form of former colonials exacting their revenge. It's apparent that Britain is a nest of muddle-headed political correctness, manifested by idiocies like checking in with the the local Muslim councils before carrying out searches.

Muslims, qua Muslims, are the threat. Unless and until the Muslim community actually polices itself, both in the U.K. and elsewhere, we must keep a sharp eye on their centers of sedition, especially mosques and Islamic centers.

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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.