Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Religion of Bailoutism

After years of ecumenical influences, America has resultantly become a nation of virtual Christianity.  Evangelicalism, having been turned on its head, has become a kind of meaningless label for a movement that only survives as a miniscule minority.  Here is a sad but interesting article regarding America's most popular views about who will inhabit heaven:

By CHARLES M. BLOW

Published: December 26, 2008, The New York Times

In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.  This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

What on earth does this mean?

One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. As Alan Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College told me: “We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven.” He explained that in our society, we meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.

Also, many Christians apparently view their didactic text as flexible. According to Pew’s August survey, only 39 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and 18 percent think that it’s just a book written by men and not the word of God at all. In fact, on the question in the Pew survey about what it would take to achieve eternal life, only 1 percent of Christians said living life in accordance with the Bible.

Now, there remains the possibility that some of those polled may not have understood the implications of their answers. As John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said, “The capacity of ignorance to influence survey outcomes should never be underestimated.” But I don’t think that they are ignorant about this most basic tenet of their faith. I think that they are choosing to ignore it ... for goodness sake.

This is an interesting read.  If anything, I might conclude that the numbers may still be a bit generous regarding those who profess Christ and hold to inerrancy with true conviction.  It is a sad state of affairs – but the whole of our culture has come to believe in the religion of Bailoutism (or if you prefer, Ba'aloutism).  This is the religion of helpless victimization, non-responsibility, and the expectation that no matter how indifferent or rebellious a man may be, he can expect to be rescued in the end - simply because the entire universe owes it to him.  

Sadly, we’ve been here before (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11), and won’t see the end of it until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.

Dagon 2.0

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What God Owes Us

Throughout my life as a youth I had no better regard for Christmas than an alcoholic might have for a cheap bottle of booze.  For me, the only value of Christmas consisted of the food, free time, cash, and toys that I received during this festal season.  Of course, all of these base impulses of mine were well concealed beneath the veneer of my freckled smile and youthful charm.  I merely endured the holiday formalities so as to anticipate the morning of the 25th - and this I did with the pained anxiety of an addict.  As I look back on those days, I now realize that I never saw the depth of my blindness, and my utter lack of regard for much of anything else other than my own desires.  I do recall one Christmas morning where my hedonism had reached its peak.  In particular, I remember making an extra effort to detect the "goods" that I expected to receive that year.  To do this, I would carefully inspect the bags and packages as they were ushered into our house, and I even tried to probe my parents for information with the earnestness of a military tribunal.  I was so sure that I would be buried alive in a treasure trove of goods, unlike any other Christmas in the past, and this only intensified my anticipation for payday on the 25th. 

To my horror, it was the most meager gift exchange in the history of our family. 

I will never forget the dark feelings of resentment that I had for such an anticlimactic morning.  Sadly, instead of feeling rebuked for my selfishness, my overactive mind yielded a never ending supply of thoughts which justified my narcissism.  The smiles and thanks that I offered to my parents that morning only masked the darker reality from within - I wasn't thankful at all.

In many ways, this is a picture of the natural man who does not give thanks to the very One who showers mankind with the daily gifts of His beneficence and kindness (Romans 1:21).  This is even true when it comes to the Father's matchless gift of His beloved Son - Jesus Christ.  Frankly speaking, the natural man looks at the manger scene with contempt and disappointment - whether he might be a secularist or a religionist.  Now the secularist will reveal his contempt unhesitatingly; but the religionist is rather deceitful with his ingratitude.  Many religious people feign appreciation for God's greatest gift to the world, but their real view of the manger scene is one which belies its true value.  How often do I hear men speak of God's "gift" in terms which seem to emphasize the world's supposed worthiness.  Such preachers portend a deity who is so focused on mankind's value and need that he seems to be indifferent to his own justice and glory.  I have heard some preachers say - "If you were the only person on earth, God would still send His Son to die for you."  Despite the better intentions of this expression, many offer this teaching with the following connotation: God gives His gifts based upon the value and worthiness of the recipient.  Now if this were truly the case, then we ought to refrain from calling Christ "God's gift" to mankind and instead refer to Him as "God's payment" to a worthy world.  In a paradigm of thinking such as this, it is as though God owed us the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This is the best that the religionist can do - in the bondage and slavery of his own heart and mind he can only transform the 1st Advent celebration into a payday; but the reality is that God owes us nothing.  He doesn't owe us the next breath nor is He indebted to give us our next heartbeat.  He doesn't owe us fruitful seasons, human joy, or even the glory of the Heavens above; and He certainly doesn't owe us eternal bliss and forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Beloved Son.  The incarnation, perfect life, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Son of God was nothing less than an unmerited gift offered freely to a very unworthy and thankless people (John 3:16).  If one wishes to bloviate about the matter of what God owes us - then let him remember this: God does owe mankind His just and eternal judgment (John 3:18, 36).  Those who believe that they deserve a payday will in some sense get what they were looking for, but it won't be what they were expecting.  In short, all religionists are like selfish little children huddled around the festal tree, seeing the gifts that are offered as being that which they deserve as good and worthy people.

Let me now end with a second Advent tale.  In 1982 I was in the military and was thousands of miles away from family.  I barely had two pennies to rub together, and the Christmas tree that I had was nothing more than a pine branch taped to a cardboard platform - it was all quite tacky at best.  From the world's perspective it would all seem quite pathetic, and yet for myself it was the best 1st Advent celebration that I had ever celebrated in my life, because it was my first Christmas celebrated as a Christian.  It was the first time in my life that I realized that God had graciously refrained from giving me what I actually deserved and instead gave me the precious and undeserved gift of salvation through faith in the One who was crucified for my sin.  For the genuine Christian, the celebration of the 1st Advent of Christ is not merely an annual event - it is a perpetual remembrance and celebration of that gift which no man deserves.

Update:  With video -

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Love of Discipline

It was recently reported that Grace Community Church, in Jacksonville Florida, is going through quite a trial right now.  Foxnews.com reported that GCC is in the midst of a church discipline matter - the story became national news as of last night (story here).  We can thank the Lord for the church's resolve in this matter.  On the other hand, it is quite odd that the person being disciplined has expressed such regret over the publicity of her case - and yet she is the one (it is reported) who disclosed the matter to foxnews in the first place.  This is, no doubt, a rather tangled matter - but we do pray that God's glory would be revealed through the faithful perseverance of his people...

Monday, September 01, 2008

One Nation Under Feminism

Isaiah 3:10

11 Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him,

For what he deserves will be done to him.

12 O My people!

Their oppressors are children,

And women rule over them.

O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray

and confuse the direction of your paths.

Some time ago I changed my voter registration to that of Independent as I came to realize that the Republican party no longer represented me very much at all.  Since then I have become more and more convinced of the importance of such a choice.  I certainly don't mention this in order to sway others to do the same - I only mention it here in order to point out my growing vehemence towards the shallow politics of our nation.  My differences with both the Republican and Democratic parties are not principally found in the matters of taxation, fiscal discipline, or even energy policy; my profound differences are found in the matters pertaining to "family values" - something that has been reduced to a meaningless campaign slogan, used only for political expediency in too many cases.  The way in which our family values have been systematically destroyed in our nation are as follows:

  • The definitions of marriage and marital fidelity have been degraded severely.
  • The concept of the roles of men and women have been all but decimated, thanks to the rise of feminism and the prevalence of emasculated men.
  • As a result of these problems, the valuation of children has degraded in our overall culture.

As to this final problem, most Republicans will pridefully deny any wrong-doing, while pointing out the opposing party's devotion to a woman's "freedom of choice" (i.e. the right to murder unborn children).  While I can agree that the Democratic party has excelled in this matter of devaluing the rights of children, I must also remind Republicans that they have no right to cast the first stone.  If anything, there is a more insidious denigration of children among Republicans these days, and it has to do with their exceeding devotion to feminism.  Many who would term themselves as "conservatives" these days, show themselves to be quite liberal when it comes to the biblical definitions of fatherhood and motherhood.  If anything, through the advancement of feminism (which has resulted in the systematic destruction of motherhood), the children of our nation are being being abandoned as virtual orphans.  Left to themselves, their classmates, teachers, televisions, video games, and ipods, the children of this generation are being raised within a cesspool of materialism, selfishness, and familial anarchy.  Even those trace elements of "motherhood" found within our culture are still being systematically crushed beneath the well lubricated machine of political correctness and identity politics.  Consider the following clip from ABC News: 

Why is it that male politicians have not been questioned about "who is taking care of the children" at home?  Because this nation, which once held to a form of Judeo-Christian values, understood that men were to lead and provide for their homes, while mothers nurtured and cared for their children.  In other words, there once was a day when fatherhood and motherhood meant much more than sexual reproduction.  Sadly, many conservatives have excelled in this degradation - in some ways transcending the efforts of contemporary liberals.  Our most recent illustration of this point has been seen in John McCain's appointment of Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska.  We are supposed to believe that appointing a woman to this office is a good thing.  After all, the glass ceiling that kept mothers in their home, and out of the public workplace, is being utterly shattered by feminists like Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, and...Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin:  "I think -- I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections.  I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984...(APPLAUSE)... and of course Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign. (APPLAUSE)  It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America...(APPLAUSE)... but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."

Palin's Acceptance speech, Aug. 29th, Dayton Ohio

Like many other feminists of our day, Palin has broken through the glass barrier of motherhood indeed, and with a vengeance.  Having served two terms as Mayor (Wasilla), and now as the governor of Alaska - she has certainly proven to us all that women can break free from the shackles of motherhood.  Unfortunately, what she has also proven is that mothers who forsake the importance of nurturing children in the home often reveal the dark consequences of their choices.  Sadly, it has been reported today that her unmarried 17 year old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant.  I would add to this unfortunate news the fact that Sarah Palin made a questionable gamble when her fifth child was born in April of this year.  At 8 months into her pregnancy, she began to leak amniotic fluid; and yet despite this she proceeded to give a speech thirty minutes later at a Texas energy symposium.  Afterwards, rather than checking into a hospital for her soon to be born Downs Syndrome child, she proceeded to take an 8 hour commercial flight back to Alaska, despite the obvious risks associated with such a choice.  While we still know very little about Sarah Palin, what is known about her choices as a mother is quite troubling. However, we must remember that children are not obstacles to a greater agenda; they are precious gifts (Psalm 127) who require the loving guardianship of a father who will lead in the home, and the caring nurture of a mother who is most eager to devote time to her family. 

Let me say that for some of you who care more about a better energy policy, or lower gas prices, just remember this: there are things that are much more important, such as God's institution of marriage and family; the value of human life; and the importance of nurturing children who are called precious gifts from God Himself.   If you feel a competition between these matters, then you ought to consider whether or not you too have fallen into the trap of materialism and pragmatism.  We all have a need to guard the higher priorities against the onslaught of the lesser.

Finally, lest anyone might seek to confound my overall point in this post, remember that the greater culpability in this story is found, not with Sarah or Bristol Palin, but with the one whom God has ordained to manage the Palin household - Mr. Todd Palin (Genesis 18:19, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:7).  I tremble at the thought that our nation may very well deserve the consequences of the actions and inactions of this "First Dude" of Alaska, thereby leaving us all the more as one nation under feminism (Is. 3:10).  

Update:  Here is an interesting interview with Voddie Baucham concerning the matter of Palin's nomination.  Be sure to advance to 1:00 in the video - the interview doesn't begin until then.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nuff Said...

What exactly would we do without the mainstream media?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In the Tank...and Waiting

And for the much awaited prize - let the 2008 Gaffe-Fest begin:  "President Joe Biden" and "Barak America," respectively:

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A "Wordle" for All Nations Under God

A Wordle is a graphical "word cloud" which gives greater prominence to words that appear most frequently.  In a sense, it is an artistic way of seeing what is emphasized in any piece of literature.  Hence, I decided to throw the full text of All Nations Under God in there, and the picture above is the result.

Wordle link credit: David Kjos & image is courtesy of Wordle Net.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sin Not Leading to Death

1 John has been a rich preaching and devotional experience for me.  Despite its small size, it is a massive treasure chest full of God's riches regarding the truths of salvation, preservation, and sanctification.  Now that I am coming to the close of this wonderful epistle, I find that John provides a very interesting instruction regarding prayer.

1 John 5:13-16: 

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who has been born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him.

This text has presented some long-standing challenges for expositors throughout the years.  When surveying commentaries on this subject, I find that too many fail to address the broader context of verses 16 & 17; as well I find that not enough expositors delve into the text very well, and as a result some will merely assume that John is speaking of physical death and life without explaining why they think that this is so.  However, one must wonder what John would mean if he is indeed speaking in physical terms alone: "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to [physical] death, he shall ask and God will for him give [physical] life to those who commit sin not leading to [physical] death."   Why would a Christian pray for physical life for someone who is not sinning unto physical death?  It should be evident that John's symmetry of thought is in fact spiritual, as Simon Kistemaker points out in his analysis of 1 John 5:16-17:

"What is the meaning of the word death?  In addition to 5:16, where it occurs three times, the word appears twice in 3:14: 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.  Anyone who does not love remains in death.'  John is not thinking of physical death.  Rather, he is referring to spiritual death.  He contrasts death with eternal life (3:15) to set apart the believer, who possesses this life, from the person who denies that Jesus is the Son of God (2:22-23) and who hates the believer (3:13)." New Testament Commentary, 1 John.

I agree with Kistemaker that the notion of spiritual death/life is much more in keeping with John's overall theme in the epistle, and it is in closer keeping with the Apostle's immediate development concerning assurance and prayer:

1 John 5:13-16: 

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who has been born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him.

As Christians, we have a real hope (v. 13) in view of our faith in the One who keeps us and preserves us from the evil one (v. 18).  Because of this, we have a real assurance (v.13), confidence (v.14), and knowledge (v.15) because we know that the Lord hears our every petition, the greatest of which was our petition for the mercy of forgiveness and salvation, and therefore we are assured that He secures us in the Beloved One, Jesus Christ.  These contextual considerations are, frankly speaking, unavoidable.  I would suggest that anyone who approaches verses 16-17, apart from such a context, would be in great danger of missing the Apostle's broader point.   Ultimately, John is teaching believers how they ought to pray for other brethren (v. 16a.  "If anyone sees his brother committing sin...").  Therefore, when Christians sin, it must be remembered that such sin is not unto apostasy, or spiritual death (eternal condemnation).  Thus, John's mention of "sin unto death" is designed to establish an important contrast between the child of God and the reprobate.  Calvin secures this same important observation:

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "There is a sin unto death. I have already said that the sin to which there is no hope of pardon left, is thus called. But it may be asked, what this is; for it must be very atrocious, when God thus so severely punishes it. It may be gathered from the context, that it is not, as they say, a partial fall, or a transgression of a single commandment, but apostasy, by which men wholly alienate themselves from God. For the Apostle afterwards adds, that the children of God do not sin, that is, that they do not forsake God, and wholly surrender themselves to Satan, to be his slaves. Such a defection, it is no wonder that it is mortal;* for God never thus deprives his own people of the grace of the Spirit; but they ever retain some spark of true religion. They must then be reprobate and given up to destruction, who thus fall away so as to have no fear of God."

Calvin is correct, I believe, when he reveals John's polarity of thought.  Believers do not forsake God (sin unto death), and thus their sins, though still grievous, can never lead to apostasy.  When we consider the application of John's teaching about prayer, coupled with his description of the believer's true assurance in Christ, we find that John is giving us an instruction on prayer which curbs judgementalism - which is a fitting capstone to an epistle that is filled with critical tests for assurance:

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "The Apostle in the meantime exhorts us to be mutually solicitous for the salvation of one another; and he would also have us to regard the falls of the brethren as stimulants to prayer. And surely it is an iron hardness to be touched with no pity, when we see souls redeemed by Christ’s blood going to ruin. But he shows that there is at hand a remedy, by which brethren can aid brethren."

The entire epistle of 1 John is indeed filled with several tests that are useful for evaluating fruit in the lives of the children of God and the children of the devil.  These lists are needful, but in the wrong hands they can be used as an instrument of cold judgementalism.  If we know that we are praying for a brother (which is the premise of John's instruction), then we ought to pray in the proper context of a believer's need.  As Christians, our need is the abundance of Christ's life and power in order to overcome sin.  It is this spiritual life that all Christians possess in regeneration and in our progressive sanctification, and it is this life which dwells in us through the person of the Holy Spirit.  However, when we sin, we quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), thereby diminishing the influence and vitality of life (zoe) within us. But remember, thought the vitality of spiritual life may be partially quenched at times, through sin, the believer never sins unto spiritual death via apostasy.  This, no doubt, is why John says: 

1 John 5:16c:  There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

What might seem to be an obscure statement within some interpretive constructs, is readily clarified in view of John's description of the believer's security.  When we are praying for a true brother who is struggling over sin (v.16a), we are not to judge them harshly by praying for them as though they were an apostate.  Again, Calvin hits the nail on the head when he observes the Apostle's call to compassionate petition: 

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "And when the Apostle recommends sympathy to us, he at the same time reminds us how much we ought to avoid the cruelty of condemning our brethren, or an extreme rigor in despairing of their salvation."

The epistle of 1 John does in fact give us a vast list of tests for evaluating fruit.  Such lists are needful in order to evaluate potential self-deception; the reality of false brethren; as well as the deceptions of false teachers.  However, if we were to treat this list of tests without personal evaluation and humility, we could become like the Pharisees who went about testing others with a cold spirit of judgementalism, pride, and arrogance.  I believe that it is no wonder that John gives us this important and humbling call to prayer for others - remembering that we all struggle and battle with sin on a daily basis (1 John 1:8-10). 

*Note:  Calvin's use of the expression "mortal sin" is in reference to his earlier discussion of Rome's view of venial and mortal sin.  Mortal sin is a reference to sins which lead to eternal condemnation.  Calvin rebukes Rome's distinction of venial (i.e., tolerable sins) and mortal (i.e., intolerable sins) by reminding the reader, that all sin is intolerable in the eyes of God and is therefore mortal (worthy of eternal condemnation); therefore, if it were not for Christ's shed blood and salvation in the life of any sinner, all would sin unto death.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Devotion to History

America's devotion to the subject of history consists, not of knowing history, but of repeating it.  I am convinced our nation's foreign policies are dangerous for the express reason that they are often fraught with the worst kind of historical ignorance.  For example, policy makers are now insisting that the words Islamic Terrorist should not be used together, because to them it seems implausible that the words Islam and terrorism should be so conjoined.  By such a protestation, we see evidence of an illiteracy concerning the bloody trail that flows from the hands of the true followers of Muhammed.  Instead, Pentagon officials should draft a policy that would reconsider using the words government intelligence in the same breath.

More recently, we see the evidence of our short term memories in view of Russia's advancement into Georgia.  In the wake of this historical repeat of Russia's aggression, many have praised Secretary of State Rice's "strong words" where she said: "This is not 1968."  On the one hand, I agree: it's not 1968 - it's 2008; however, if her point is that history cannot repeat itself in Georgia, then she is already wrong.  Consider this 1968 BBC report on Russia's deception as it entered into Czechoslovakia:

1968: Russia brings winter to 'Prague Spring':

"Dozens of people have been killed in a massive military clampdown in Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries.

Several members of the liberal Czechoslovak leadership have been arrested, including Prime Minister Alexander Dubcek.

The Soviet news agency, Tass, claims "assistance" was requested by members of the Czechoslovak Government and Communist party leaders to fight 'counter-revolutionary forces.'

But in a secret radio address, Czechoslovak President Ludvik Svoboda condemned the occupation by Warsaw Pact allies as illegal and committed without the government's consent."

May I be so bold as to suggest that Prime Minister Putin is pursuing Georgia with the 1968 playbook in hand, and that history is already being repeated - at least in part?  I offer you this piece from the New York Post as an excellent description of how we, the West, have been left dumbfounded through our gross historical illiteracy:

A CZAR IS BORN:

...This is intelligence work at the hall-of-fame level. (For our part, we had all the intelligence pieces in our hands and failed to assemble the puzzle.)

On the military side, the months of meticulous planning and extensive preparations for this invasion were covered by military exercises, disingenuous explanations - and maskirovka, the art of deception the Red Army had mastered. The Russians convinced us to see what we wanted to see.

Equally as remarkable was the Kremlin's ability to lead the global media by the nose. (Oblivious to the irony, a BBC broadcast yesterday portrayed tiny, poorhouse Georgia as a propaganda powerhouse and Russia as an information victim - an illustration of the Russian propaganda machine's effectiveness.) From the start, every Russian ministry was reading from the same script (try to orchestrate that in Washington). Breaking off his phony play date with Bush in Beijing, Putin rushed back to the theater of war.

Upon arrival, he publicly consoled "refugees" who had been bused out of South Ossetia days in advance. Launching the war's Big Lie, Putin deployed dupe-the-rubes code words, such as "genocide" and "response."

Wearing his secret-policeman's stone-face, Putin blamed Georgia for exactly what his storm troopers were doing to the Georgians. And lazy journalists around the world served as the Kremlin's ad agency.

"...lazy journalists around the world served as the Kremlin's ad agency."  Well stated.  What mystifies me is the general sense of surprise that overcomes the masses when such predictable events occur.  As the oft quoted expression goes:  "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." 

Sadly, this is our devotion to history - the devotion of repeating, rather than knowing.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:10-11:

10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. 11 There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.

 

The Commercialization of Science

One of the most important but little known chapters in Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box is the eighth chapter, entitled Publish or Perish.  I say most important because Behe says things there that are not said enough: that modern/secular science is much more of a commercial industry than anything else.  Those who want to "make it" within the scientific community of the modern age must sing the Darwinian National Anthem  with mindless devotion or face permanent exile.  This attitude is becoming more prevalent in a culture which disdains anyone who would dare to question Darwin's general and special hypothesis of evolution.  All of this is quite ironic since there is no scientific proof that genetic mutations yield an increase of information in the genome in question.  Until such evidence can be given, evolution remains, at best, a strained hypothesis; and we are thereby left to our imagination about how a T-Rex can transform into a chicken, how cows morph into whales - and while we're at it, why unicorns can fly (speaking in the realm of mere hypothesis).  In the realm of physics, and even mystical physics, we have the same dilemma.  Take for example string theory.  Most traditional physicists would agree that such a "theory" is not the product of empiricism and must be relegated to the realm of unproven hypothesis.  String theory may be true, but because it lies outside of the realm of direct observation it could never be absolutely proved, or disproved - i.e., a hypothesis.  But this won't stop some scientists from claiming that string theory is absolute science.  Nor will it stop men from using such mystical physics in the commercial industry of modern research.  Case in point - watch the short video below and note how Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Impossible," explains how it was necessary to sell CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) through the use of creative marketing and exaggeration.  I can at least appreciate his honesty.  

P.S., It's pronounced hadron, not haedron:

 

What is always striking, in such examples as these, is the unmitigated arrogance which attends those who suppose that they can "find God" with a manmade machine.  Sadly, this is the world in which we live.  As they say - Publish or perish.

*Hadron is the nominative English transliteration of the Greek word 'adrotes > 'adros - meaning something that is thick, well-grown or abundant. 

Monday, August 04, 2008

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

Unlocking The Mystery Of LifeI recently had the opportunity to take a look at the video entitled Unlocking the Mystery of Life by Illustra Media.  I won't go into much detail here, but I would rather refer you to a review that I wrote for Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box (here)* for more information.   My best summary of this excellent video is that it is (in a sense) the video version of Darwin's Black Box plus a brief history of the beginnings of the ID movement.  Not everyone will want to take the time to read Behe's book, but with a video like this, a viewer could easily digest the basic arguments advanced by Behe, while being introduced to other leaders within the ID movement in the process.  Additionally, this video is simple enough for children to comprehend.  The CGI reconstructions of various biochemical processes is absolutely stunning, and helps the viewer to see a portion of the vast measure of complexity that lies within the smallest levels of cellular life - the likes of which Darwin could only assume (and hope) was simple and non-complex.  This video does an excellent job of exposing the black box of unproven hypotheses, as held intensely by Darwin and his devoted followers, while at the same time revealing the majesty, wisdom, and glory of the Creator who created life for His own glory.
 
 

*My normal disclaimer concerning ID usually includes a reminder to the viewer/reader that the ID community is quite broad.  While tools like these are useful, I would like to encourage caution to those who use such things. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LHC Countdown

See updates (in red) below -

For those of you who may be interested - there is an LHC update page , along with a blog, now located on the CERN/Hadron website for the startup of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  Some people are watching this "clock" because they believe that the world will end when the LHC is plugged in and activated - those that believe this are convinced that tiny little black holes will be created and will consume the Earth, however, I can assure you that a particle accelerator should be the least of this world's concerns.

UPDATE:  Geneva, 7 August 2008. CERN has today announced that the first attempt to circulate a beam in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be made on 10 September.

UPDATE (10 September 2008):  Live webcast here.

UPDATE (11 January 2009):  "The top priority for CERN today is to provide collision data for the experiments as soon as reasonably possible," said CERN Director General Robert Aymar. "This will be in September of 2009."

More Fodder for the Faithless

 

I've been away from The Armoury for some time - we recently completed an addition to our home which took every spare ounce of time and energy - but we're thankful for the results and bless the Lord for it.

I realize that this is a weak way to return to posting, but I thought I'd begin with an AP News Story: 

AP News -

A pastor brought out a dirt bike during a church service to demonstrate the concept of unity. Now he's demonstrating the concept of healing.

Jeff Harlow, the senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church, broke his wrist when he lost control of the motorcycle at the start of Sunday's second service, driving off a 5-foot platform and into the vacant first row of seats. He underwent surgery on the wrist Monday.

"Jeff has already laughed a lot, so he's OK. I think his pride was bruised," said his wife, Becky.

Becky Harlow said her husband had recently attended a motorcycle race in Buchanan, Mich.

"He had this idea that he would bring this bike out onstage and show people how the rider would become one with the bike," she told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was going to just sit on it and drive it out. He was just walking the dirt bike out onstage and somehow it got away from him. It was not intended."

No one else was hurt.

Jeff Harlow had performed the demonstration at earlier services Saturday night and Sunday morning without incident.

Whenever I read things like this, I am reminded of the fact that such events as these give the world more fodder against those who name the name of Christ - and therefore (sadly) many conclude that if such behavior is Christianity, then they'll have nothing to do with it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Science of Sophistry

How often do I hear people refer to antibiotic resistance as being "proof" of evolution, and yet they never address the fact that such resistance is not the product of increased information in the genome.  As an example of this common error I offer you this article by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, with the following excerpt below: 

"It’s very common for evolutionary propagandists to define evolution as (1) simply ‘change in a population over time’, as well as (2) the idea that all life came from a single cell, which itself came from a chemical soup. Then they produce examples of ‘evolution’ (1) and use this to prove evolution (2), and then claim that Biblical creation is wrong! However the Biblical creation model does imply that organisms change over time—but these changes would always involve sorting or loss of already existing (created) genetic information, never the gain of new information. But evolution (2) requires the gain of new information. Even if information losing (or neutral) processes could continue for billions of years, they would never add up to a gain of information."

We never really hear from the defenders of Darwinism on these important matters.  The most that is ever offered, as an answer, is a Dawkins-like sophistry: 

You'll notice that Mr. Dawkins never answers the question, and this is quite unfortunate because the query ventures into the heart of genuine science which is founded upon the empirical method.  His avoidance of the question is quite telling.  Sophistry and dogmatism constitute no substitute for dialogue and debate - the latter of which is grossly missing within the "scientific" community of the modern age.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Love, Obedience & The Valley of Kidron

One of the things that I enjoy greatly about the synoptic Gospels is how they regularly illustrate the need for the testimony of witnesses in order to confirm a matter.  In science, much of what is called the empirical method is dependant upon this principle.  Simply put, if we want to get our facts straight, then we need to corroborate our studies with those who were eyewitnesses of the very matters of which we speak (Deut. 19:15, Matt. 18:15-16, 2 Cor. 13:1, 1 John 4:14).  Like different facets of a single diamond, the four Gospels give us the full specter of beauty concerning the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Right now, we are studying through John's Gospel, and we have finally managed to make our way to chapter 18 - the chapter of betrayal.  It is here that the Lord is systematically betrayed by Judas, the Jewish leaders, Peter, and the nation as a whole as evidenced by their trading in Christ for Barabbas - a thief and a murderer.  Our attention is normally directed immediately to these heart-wrenching betrayals; betrayals that are eclipsed only by the crucifixion itself.  However, if we press on too quickly, then we'll surely miss an important detail mentioned by the Apostle John at the beginning of the chapter.  Mentioned in no other Gospel is this important facet of truth:

John 18:1-2: 1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.

Perhaps you're wondering what detail you were supposed to notice.  The brook of Kidron, a seemingly meaningless plot of land just east of the temple mount, may not appear to be an important detail, but for any Jew - it was teaming with great importance.  Historically, the brook of Kidron was a reminder of the obedience of another king - king Josiah.  For king Josiah, the brook of Kidron became a symbol of loving obedience for a very important reason.  When Josiah became king, he read the long lost Scriptures that had been hidden in the temple, and became convicted of the gross idolatry of the nation of Judah.  Thus armed with truth and great zeal, he purged the temple (and the nation overall) of its idols - burning them all, and throwing their ashes into the brook of Kidron (see 2 Kings 23). 

Josiah is therefore remembered for his great love for the Lord - for he "...turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might according to all the law of Moses..." (2 Kings 23:25, Deut. 6:4-5).  But Josiah not only abhorred the evil of idolatry, but he also reinstated the Jewish feasts, beginning with the feast of the Passover (2 Kings 23:21).  It is in this sense that Josiah stands as a model of genuine love for God, because he abhorred what was evil (idolatry), but he also did cling to what is good (Passover).  This is what the Bible calls genuine love: 

Romans 12:9: 9 Let love be without hypocrisy [anupokritos]. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Such is pure [anupokritos] love - the love of God.  In many respects, John's mention of the brook of Kidron should remind us that king Josiah is a foreshadowing of King Jesus.  The parallel is quite striking:

King Josiah:

1.  Cleansed the temple (& nation) of idols.

2.  Immediately following this cleansing, he re-instituted and observed the Passover (the Passover is a type of Christ who is the sacrificial Lamb of God).

3.  He is described as a great example of loving obedience among the kings of Judah and Israel (2 Kings 23:25).

King Jesus:

1.  Cleansed the temple (twice: John 2, Matt. 21).

2.  In both cases, Christ observed the Passover immediately after both temple cleansings.

3.  He is revealed as the greatest example of loving obedience as the King of all kings (John 14:31).

From the lesser (Josiah) to the greater (Jesus), we see the multiple facets of loving obedience; but there is an important contrast to observe here.  Josiah's idol-cleansing had only a temporal effect on the nation, for the Lord "...did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah..."  (2 Kings 23:26).  But when Christ cleansed the Jerusalem temple, he made an important declaration:

John 2:19-22: 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

When Christ cleansed the Jerusalem temple, He was directing the nation to an important and greater work yet to be performed.  Unlike king Josiah, King Jesus had the power to lay down the "temple" of His own body, to bear the sins of many, and to take up His life again through the resurrection (John 10:18).  Therefore, while there are great similarities between these two kings - this distinction is crucial.  King Josiah offered reforms to the nation, by destroying the idols of the land and throwing their ashes into the brook of Kidron; but these crucial reforms had not the power to turn away the wrath of God.  However, King Jesus walked through the valley of Kidron on His way to his own arrest, trial, and crucifixion.  It was by this path of loving obedience that He sacrificed Himself, thereby providing a way to be "saved from the wrath of God" through faith in Christ (Romans 5:9). 

No other Gospel writer mentions the valley of Kidron - this is why we need the full testimony of the four Gospel witnesses.  John's mention of Kidron is no small detail, but is a crucial reminder given to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Ultimately, the valley of Kidron is a picture of the loving obedience of two kings - the latter of which is the only true hope for mankind.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hawking, Higgs & the Large Hadron Collider

 

Job 38:4: 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding..."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Prostituting America

This is a sad commentary on our culture. It is no wonder that America is producing those like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton. The transition from promiscuity to prostitution is a very small one: 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bigotry is Horrific in any Color

UPDATE:  This TUCC webpage was taken down in 2006, containing the following:

Trinity United Church of Christ adopted the Black Value System written by the Manford Byrd Recognition Committee chaired by Vallmer Jordan in 1981. We believe in the following 12 precepts and covenantal statements. These Black Ethics must be taught and exemplified in homes, churches, nurseries and schools, wherever Blacks are gathered. They must reflect on the following concepts:

1. Commitment to God
2. Commitment to the Black Community
3. Commitment to the Black Family
4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education
5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence
6. Adherence to the Black Work Ethic
7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect
8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”
9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the Black Community
10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions
11. Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System
12. Personal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System.

 As well, I thought that this was very insightful:


Link: sevenload.com

 

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Second Person of Humanism's Trinity

 I grew up in southern California - I confess it.  Throughout my life, I knew that I lived in a socially progressive state.   By progressive, I don't mean actual progress, but progressive in the sense of liberal social-engineering.  One way in which California has excelled in such "progressiveness" lies in the area of a Gestapo-like secular-education system that presents itself as a kind of second member of Humanism's trinity.  Of course, the other two members of this idol are Evolution & Sexual Promiscuity.  This is why I often say that I grew up as an evolutionary atheist.  It is not that my parents foisted this upon me per se, instead the educational environment in which I was raised pummeled me with a dogmatically humanistic "theology" which left me with no other alternatives of thought, because...

...my teachers were the infallible operatives of the state.

What else might one expect from Humanism's incarnation of secular education but infallibility?  And lest anyone question California's special devotion to its only-begotten, remember that approximately 50% of California's annual budget is consumed by an educational system that can barely get by with spending roughly $10,000.00 per student, per year. 

Question:  Can I have $60,000.00 in annual school credits for my six children?  

All this to say (sadly) that I wasn't terribly surprised when I read this reported abomination, as supplied on Fox News:

AP Story, Friday, March 07, 2008

LOS ANGELES  —  California parents without teaching credentials cannot legally home school their children, according to a recent state appellate court ruling.

"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote in a Feb. 28 opinion for the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Noncompliance could lead to criminal complaints against the parents, Croskey said.

The immediate impact of the ruling was not clear. Opponents said they will appeal.

An estimated 166,000 students in California are home schooled, but it was unclear how many of them are taught solely by an uncredentialed parent.

To earn a five-year preliminary teaching credential in California, a person must obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and complete multiple examinations.

Until now, California allowed home schooling if parents filed paperwork to establish themselves as small, private schools; hired a credentialed tutor; or enrolled their child in an independent study program run by an established school while teaching the child at home.

The state left enforcement up to local school districts, but there has been little oversight.

The old system "works so well, I don't see any reason to change it," said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association.

The ruling stems from a case involving Phillip and Mary Long, a Los Angeles-area couple whose eight children are enrolled or have been enrolled in Sunland Christian School in suburban Sylmar and occasionally have taken tests there.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services intervened after the couple's eldest child "reported physical and emotional mistreatment" by the father, court papers said. The department conducted an investigation and found that despite the couple's assertion that their children were enrolled at Sunland, they were educated at home by their mother, who does not have a teaching credential.

An attorney appointed to represent two of the Longs' young children asked the court to order that the children physically attend a public or private school. A trial court disagreed, and the lawyer appealed.

Under California law, children are required to enroll in and attend public schools unless they attend a private school, or are tutored by a credentialed teacher. The appeals panel found that the Longs did not adequately demonstrate that the exemptions apply to their children.

Attorneys for the state Department of Education were reviewing the ruling, and home schooling organizations were lining up against it.

Phillip Long vowed to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

"I have sincerely held religious beliefs," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Public schools conflict with that. I have to go with what my conscience requires me."

Please forgive my cynicism here, but California has been an obnoxious band leader for the nation.  The rest of the nation has followed many of the policies that have been tooted by this west-coast pied piper.  Time will tell whether this verse of Humanism's bad-trinitarian hymn will catch on or not.

Friday, February 29, 2008

People Need the Lord

 The Apostle John said - Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13).  Having recently posted a video review of Hitchens' book god is not Great, I have been reminded of the Apostle's wisdom concerning the predictability of the world's vehemence against Christ.  I would ask that you pray that some of these critics of Christ would watch the above video and consider the folly of "atheism" while giving an ear to the Gospel as it is presented in both the You Tube and God Tube versions.  People need the Lord.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Christopher Hitchens Believes in God...

...or at least we can say that Christopher Hitchens knows very well that God exists, and that by using the word "believe," I mean no more than what is taught in James 2:19.  Ultimately, men like Mr. Hitchens live in the denial of their innate knowledge of God because all men are in fact suppressive persons (SP).  No, I don't mean SP as denoted in the vernacular of Scientology (SP = anyone who opposes Scientology).  Instead, by calling men suppressive I mean this:

Romans 1:18: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness...

Apart from grace, all men suppress (katechonton > hold down, hide) the fact that they know the truth about God, His righteousness, and His coming wrath.  As to this latter point, men tend to resist the truth of God's wrath with special fervor, and for this reason the doctrine of hell is often tossed about like an unwanted rag-doll; even by those who profess to believe the truth of the Gospel.  Having mentioned Mr. Hitchens in this context, let me add another player into this discussion of suppression -  Mr. Brian McLaren.  Consider what Mr. McLaren has to say about the doctrine of Hell:

McLaren: This is, one of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of the this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God. [Interview With Brian McLaren, By Leif Hansen]

What we have here, in McLaren's intuitive theology, is a classic example of a man who has chosen to place all his bets on a deity that only possesses a handful of attributes - as in love, mercy, and grace.  This is one of the central legacies of theological liberalism: just take the God of the Bible and redress Him with a few threads of divine attributes, while casting aside all other aspects of His character, like His holiness, righteousness & justice.  This little trick is called jelly-bean theology - just pick out the ones that you don't like, and eat only what satisfies your personal taste.

Mr. McLaren's theology of Hell is completely devoid of...theology.  Sadly, his notion of truth represents the theological trend of the past 100 years here in America, and it is becoming more mainstream via the Emergent Church movement. 

Now let us compare Mr. McLaren and Mr. Hitchens for a moment.  As odd as it may seem, Mr. McLaren's doctrine of hell is actually exceeded by the "atheist," Christopher Hitchens!  I say this because on several occasions, Mr. Hitchens has expressed a wish for the existence of hell so that some transgressors on our planet could receive the just judgment that Mr. Hitchens believes they deserve.  With reference to this, Hitchens has expressed his desire that Jerry Falwell and the Archbishop of Canterbury to go to the Lake of Fire; as well, he has frequently called "Mother Theresa" the Angel of Hell.  Clearly, as an atheist, Mr. Hitchens' views of justice and truth are rooted in nothing more than his own intuition of justice - which, like a sine wave, only intersects the axis of truth from time to time; however, within the crucible of his angry rants are the remnants of this suppressed truth:  "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men..."  Hitchens would no doubt claim that his statements regarding hell are ironic, and yet his emotive rants do reveal a desire within his heart for some form of divine justice - albeit subjectively defined by his own views of truth.  The point here is this -

It's a sad day in America when an atheist's notion of hell & justice exceeds that of a reputed "Christian" theologian.

Strangely, Hitchens is closer to the concept of hell than is the "theologian" Brian McLaren - and yet, neither of them comprehend this important doctrine in any real sense.  In the broader scheme of things, both men are suppressing the truth of God's holiness, justice, and wrath through their own stilted opinions.  One does it by means of the false garb of religion, while the other does it via the self-deception of "atheism." 

In the end, they both amount to nothing but a denial of God's authority and truth.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Religions of Hatred

often find myself repeating Solomon's wisdom concerning the wickedness of mankind:

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10: 9 That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages which were before us."

This world, along with fallen humanity itself, yields nothing that is ever substantially new.  Based upon this truth, I no longer look at anything in the present day as a novelty, rather I see the innovations of modern man as being nothing more than a tired-out rehashing of humanity's longstanding devotion to sin, corruption, and all that is deemed as useless in the eyes of almighty God.  Thus, whenever men craft a "new" philosophy or a "new" religion, we can be sure that such a "new" thing "already has existed for ages which were before us."  This principle is most often seen in the generational rehashings of man-made religion.  At the most fundamental level, all man-made religions share the common thread of rejecting biblical Christianity.  This is most often evidenced by means of direct denials of Christ's deity, His crucifixion, and His exclusivity as the only Savior of mankind.  However, for the scores of people who don't even understand such doctrinal matters regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ, they should still be able to see obvious differences between the false religions of this world and the genuine article of Christianity.  The differences of which I speak are that of hatred versus love. There are many false religions of the modern day which show their true colors by means of the hatred that they have for their critics and defectors.  Uniquely, it is the Christian who loves his enemies - even those who persecute, mock and criticize them (Matt. 5:43-48); and yet we don't have to go very far to find examples of false religionists who are eager to persecute, mock, and hate their opponents.  We have recently seen the barrage of hate supplied by the disciples of Muhammed who will gladly "behead those who insult Islam."  The westernized version of this doctrine is seen in the form of the countless lawsuits leveled against anyone who dares to question the actions and teachings of Islam.  In America, we have litigious hatred that is expressed by Islamic groups like C.A.I.R., and Canada is getting a taste of this same vehemence via the Alberta Human Rights Commission vs. Ezra Levant here.  Needless to say, these westernized followers of Muhammed are not the only perpetuators of litigious violence.  Consider, for example, the "doctrine" of L. Ron Hubbard who taught his followers that the detractors of Scientology should be met with vengeance:

SP Order.  Fair game.  May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist.  May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.  [HUBBARD COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE, Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex Remimeo.  HCO Policy Letter of 18 October 1967, Issue IV]

"SP" stands for "Suppressive Person" - i.e., any critic of Scientology.  The evidences of this hateful policy are here with us today, as in the case of the BBC program, Panorama - Scientology and Me:

Despite the ugliness of what takes place in the program produced by BBC's Panorama, it should be noted that such abuse is quite mild in comparison to the vast lineup of people who have been harassed, persecuted, and even sued by the "church" of Scientology.  The many testimonies of these victims stand as the stark evidence of Hubbard's "Fair Game" doctrine of hatred and retribution; and while the church of Scientology's doctrine of vengeance does not explicitly include the beheading of "SP's," we should still remember that such retributive policies are only a few degrees away from the ancient and violent standards of Mohammedanism.  In the end, these religions unveil a common essence of hatred:

James 1:20: ...the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

All of this I offer to the reader for two important reasons: 

1.  For Christians - let this be a reminder to us about what it means to imitate the Lord our God.  Being salt and light in this world means imitating our Heavenly Father who "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45).  It is not for us to take vengeance on our critics, but instead we are called to obey Christ who said:  “...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44).  We are called to more than just speaking the Gospel - we are called to live it in the presence of men.

2.  For non-Christians - please read #1 above (if you haven't already).  Do know that you will meet many people in your life who name the name of Christ, but seem to serve a religion of hatred rather than of love.  When such experiences come your way, recall to mind the words of Christ above and remember that Hell will be filled with such false pretenders (Matt. 7:21-23).  People who walk perpetually in hatred and vengeance are not serving Christ - so do not be deceived.  But do know this - the Gospel's message of grace and mercy is coming to an end; and it will come to an end when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.  This is why the Christian does not exact vengeance upon the critics of Christ, for only Christ has been given the prerogative of such judgment (John 5:26-27, Revelation 6:12-17); and when His judgment comes, God's Gospel of grace and mercy, in Christ alone, will end.  So do not be deceived.  God's patience is indeed great, but it will not endure forever.

Christianity is the one unique gem which sits atop the dark backdrop of man-made religion.  It glistens with brilliance in contrast to the lightless void which surrounds it, therefore the religious harbingers of hatred are quite evident, revealing the clear differences between the children of God and the children of the Devil [1 John 3:10-13].  In many respects, those who believe that vengeance is their prerogative are in fact looking to take the place of God Himself.  Let no one be deceived - this is nothing less than human pride, arrogance, and blasphemy - the very worn-out things that have been around since the fall of mankind.

Indeed, nothing is new...

Update:  I would also recommend the following video which surveys Hubbard's life.  Frankly speaking it is an interesting illustration of how men will gladly believe a lie rather than believe the truth.  Hubbard seemed to understand this principle and he exploited it to the fullest measure.  Ultimately, L. Ron Hubbard was nothing more than a science-fiction writer - from his beginning and to his bitter end:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Solus Christus

It is important for us to remember that our highest calling in life is to love, know, and imitate the Lord our God.  Concerning this latter issue of imitation, it is understood that Christ is the believer's ultimate standard of that imitation - therefore following Him is central to true discipleship (John 21:22).  

That's simple enough, right?

What may seem like a simple principle is actually fraught with much difficulty - but only because of human sin.  The human heart, in all its weakness, is often inclined to establish at least two false departures from this aforementioned principle, and I offer these for your consideration: 

1.  People often deviate from the imitation of Christ by becoming the followers of men. This is often done by giving preeminence to some favored spiritual leader above the Lord Himself.

2.  As well, a person can deviate from the imitation of Christ by believing that his own standard of "truth" should be followed - over any other.  When men believe this, they demote Christ's supremacy while exalting their own "wisdom" over God.

All in all, the above corruptions amount to nothing but man-centered thinking.  The reasons for these corruptions will vary, but none of them are ever justified.  Whether by means of overt rebellion, religious arrogance, ignorance, or spiritual indifference - those who steer away from the imitation of Christ enter into very dangerous territory.  What I present here is more than theoretical doctrine - this is something that we must all take to heart, because these errors of thought and action are much easier to commit than we might be inclined to think.  For example, when we consider the first defection of thought above (exalting others above Christ), it is oftentimes the case that Christians will do this without even believing that they have done so.  I find, especially in this era of "pop" Christianity, that many will attach themselves to some modern preaching-hero who is quite popular and has a strong public image.  Too many Christians today are ready to imitate such heroes without much critical thought, and when their "infallible" leaders engage in questionable behavior, then a battery of excuses are offered to cover their poor judgment.  It is true that we are to imitate godly leaders who imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), but we must also remember that such a calling is never designed to supplant our ultimate and direct imitation of Christ Himself - Otherwise, how else can we take seriously Paul's adverbial qualification, "...as I also am of Christ."?  Examples of such "pop Christianity" aren't hard to find, as in this case, with portions of this dialogue as an unfortunate follow-up.  Or even closer to home, we have this man who will need equally creative defenders for what he is doing in the name of Christ.  What is far more important than our buddies and heroes in this fallen world is Christ Himself and the grave message of the Gospel.  When men seek to condescend to the lost is such a way that cheapens the Gospel's message, then we must remember that we have a much higher standard to follow! - in whatever we do, let us do all to the glory of God alone.

As to the latter error above (exalting ourselves over Christ), we find the corruption of theological arrogance or even perfectionism arising from this form of thought.  Calvin was surrounded by the latter error in his day, and therefore he said the following with reference to 1 John 3:16:

"It is, indeed, certain, that we are far from being equal to Christ: but the Apostle recommends to us the imitation of him; for though we do not overtake him, it is yet meet, that we should follow his steps, though at a distance."  John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries: 1 John, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Calvin's Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 1 Jn 3:16.

"Though at a distance..." - consider that thought for a moment:  Even if one were to take the most godly saint who ever lived on this earth, past or present, you can know this about him/her - such a saint is no match for the matchless purity, perfection, and righteousness of the One who is called by name, The Lord our Righteousness [yhwh tzidkenu, Jer. 23:5-6] - The Lord Jesus Christ.  Knowing this truth is essential, for in this understanding, we can know our limitations well.  Such knowledge is an antidote to: 

Theological Arrogance:  The wisdom of men is no match of God's wisdom, for even the "foolishness" of God is greater than the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 1:25).  Therefore, if you were to take the wisest man that this world can offer - compare him to the Omniscient Lord Himself, then what you find is that your "wise" theologian is a mindless fool.

Pride:  Even if we were to shed our blood for the cause of Christ, such a sacrifice could never atone for our own sins, nor could they atone for the sins of any other.

Presumption:  We can know much about men, but we could never know the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (whether our own, or that of others) as only Christ can (Matt. 9:1-8). 

Hypercalvinistic Arrogance:  Only Christ could omnisciently declare to His audience - "...you will die in your sin", however, as the messengers of Christ, our privilege is to spread the seed of the Gospel remembering that we do not have the ability to know who are the elect of God, and who are not (2 Tim. 2:10).

When you think about it, the concept of imitating Christ is quite basic; however, the manner in which we defect from this standard is multifaceted, and it is often the case that such defections are harder for us to see because of the deceptions of our own heart (Jer. 17:9-10).   Therefore, I would suggest that the narrow path of imitation must also include a watchful eye that can see the outer boundaries that must be avoided.  In other words, walking the narrow pathway of wisdom (Eph. 5:15) demands that we avoid any extreme that would draw us away to the left or to the right (Joshua 1:7-8).  Therefore, the one who walks with discernment does so by keeping his focus on Christ, while seeking to keep his distance from his own sinful inclination to be led astray:

Ephesians 5:15-16: 15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Solus Christus.