Today is Holy Saturday A day to think about the crucifixion and what that means for us as his children and what it means for the world. Walk softly today and think of our Savior:
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons,’ communication about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, published on the Presbyterian News Service reinforced my belief that a damaging cultural storm is pushing aside safety mechanisms that Christianity, as well as other faiths, enjoy in the United States. A mainline denomination with secular media and big businesses behind it all bearing down on freedom of religion reminds me of a juggernaut. As Merriam-Webster puts it:
“… a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path …”
And because progressive religion is attaching itself to the secular, the origin of the word, which is religious, fits perfectly. Webster states this: “Hindi Jagannāth, literally, lord of the world, title of Vishnu,” while Encyclopædia Britannica expands it to explain about the festivals of the god:
“… The image is placed in a wagon so heavy that the efforts of hundreds of devotees are required to move it, and it is dragged through deep sand to the country house of the god. The journey takes several days, and thousands of pilgrims participate. Reports of these processions in the past have been much exaggerated, although accidents are common and occasionally a frenzied pilgrim attempts to throw himself under the wagon. The English word juggernaut, with its connotation of a force crushing whatever is in its path, is derived from this festival.”
Parson’s posting, “PC(USA) anxiously awaits proposed revision to Indiana RFRA law,” picks up the false assumptions secular media keep reporting. For instance, he writes, “We are deeply alarmed about the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) recently signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and are concerned that its current wording could provide a legal excuse for individuals and corporations to use religious conviction as a reason to discriminate.”
There are so many cases of Christian florists, bakers and photographers losing their livelihoods and vocations because they felt they could not participate in a same gender wedding and yet there have been no words of comfort coming from leadership in the PC (U.S.A.). No communication to those in the PC (U.S.A.) about remaining faithful to Scripture. No understanding that these artists and businesspeople did not discriminate but simply refused to be part of a ritual they believe to be sinful.
How comforting it must be to be in a church where those who must take risks for the sake of Christ are nourished and prayed for by their shepherds even at the higher levels of the church. But instead there is a threat embedded in Parsons’ communication:
“The PC (USA) affirms religious freedom and engages in ministry widely throughout the state of Indiana. Youth Triennium has been held for decades at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Over the next several weeks plans for the 2016 Triennium will be evaluated.” (Italics mine.)
PC (U.S.A.) pastors are already worried about being sued by same gender couples for refusing to perform same gender weddings. Their worry is that their presbyteries and other PC (U.S.A.) leaders will not defend them. The gods of sexuality are riding high on their festival wagons now, and politicians, big business, government officials, the media and progressive denominations are in the procession. The wheels are heavy and will grind the innocent beneath them. When sexual gods become the dominant idol their demands can and will overshadow all freedom.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. ("Should We Support Gay Marriage? No") Wolfhart Pannenberg
|picture by Stephen Larson|
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is now, with clarity, stepping beyond biblical Christianity by changing the Book of Order to allow for same gender marriage. In many other ways the denomination has turned her back on her own documents without changing them. She has allowed apostate ministers to teach her people heretical and damming doctrines. She has allowed her most precious gifts, her unborn children, to be killed. But none of this has entered into her constitution, the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order.
Now the Book of Order, in contradiction to the Book of Confessions and more importantly the Holy Scriptures, will contain a confirmation that is heretical. That is, that marriage can be defined as an institution that binds two people of the same sex. This pushes the PC (U.S.A.) into the historical groupings of those organizations that must be considered apostate.
Rather than standing with that Church which through the ages has been orthodox, faithful to the apostolic witness of Scripture, the PC (U.S.A.) stands with the Unitarian Universalist Church, the metaphysical churches of the 19th century, (which are still with us), the German Christians who placed a new revelation beside the biblical revelation, and all of those new and past, so called Christian religions, whose founders placed new revelation beside the biblical witness.
And this will not be the end of new revelation, new twisting of Scripture. When the door is open to darkness in the name of religion a deeper darkness occurs. If it was easy to put same gender marriage in the Book of Order in 2015 by 2016 it will be easier to push for the idea of pluralism to be placed in the Book of Order. That is, the idea that other religions are as efficacious toward salvation as Jesus’ life death and resurrection. The denomination already has officials who believe this.
The candle of the denomination is going out—it only burns in those who still hold tight to the biblical witness.
Friday, March 13, 2015
|picture by Stephen Larson|
In 2007 Paul Thomas Anderson produced the movie There Will be Blood. Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil, the movie begins with a man who is not blatantly evil but who in his quest for wealth and power becomes, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, that ‘monster’ who darkens our nightmares. There is no question—his obsession led to blood. I thought of the movie as I listened to teaching elder Aric Clark give the installation sermon for John Shuck at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton Oregon.
My thoughts were caused by the laughter when Clark spoke of John’s blogging about how the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not true. As Clark put it, “And of course he denied the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.” There was interspersed in the service more denial, more laughter.
Now I suppose that there was something funny people were looking at as Clark preached. Someone referred to watching fades of pastors as Clark spoke. But for a Christian there is nothing funny about a pastor denying the resurrection. But perhaps the most troubling part of the sermon and the laughter is that generally a committee from the presbytery is formed to help with the installation. And generally that includes someone from the committee on ministry and the executive presbyter. Were there other people from other PC (U.S.A.) churches, teaching elders and ruling elders, who were there participating in the laughter?
And this is the main point of my posting—this is the probable future of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The future of a denomination which allows the careless disregard of Christian teaching and leaves in leadership those who think it is all very funny is staggering with great speed into evil. If one loves to make fun of the faithful, as this sermon does, and lifts up a non-believer as the epitome of faithfulness where can those who bear the righteousness of Jesus turn? Where can sinners (all of us) turn?
Clark uses the book of Job as a way of lifting up Shuck as someone who rightly scrutinizes faith. But no, Job questions God about why, since he has followed and obeyed the laws of God, he is suffering. He demands a hearing with God. None of this is disbelief. The book of Job carries some of the most fervent statements of faith in the whole sacred canon. And they aren’t just at the beginning or the end of the text, they are mixed in with the despair and questions.
Take for instance Shuck’s denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Here are Job’s words:
As for Me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take his stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God, whom my eyes will see and not another. (Job 19: 25-27)
Even in Job’s greatest despair, writing of death, in chapter 14, he asks and gives an answer:
If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer you; you will long for the work of your hands. (14: 14-15)
Job’s great statement of faith, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him,” has not been spoken by Shuck.
Is a whole presbytery complicit in making fun of the faith and will other presbyteries take this path because they now feel that it doesn’t matter what one believes? Striving for wealth and power (and the main character in There Will be Blood even attempts to use Christianity in his quest) leads to shattered broken lives and finally murder. Jesus speaks of the person (or a generation) who has had a demon cast out but is empty. He states that the demon will return bringing seven more demons more wicked then himself. Jesus states. “… and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” He goes on to say “That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
More doors keep opening to darkness and the Church must not laugh but weep, and pray and speak of the glories of Jesus Christ which are the redemptive purposes of God.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Stephen Sizer, Mitri Raheb, Naim Ateek- tearing the N.T. from the O.T.; tearing Christ from Jesus: it's 1938 #2
In 2013 before the 221 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I wrote an article about two pastors who made a point of disconnecting the European Jews who migrated to Israel, from the ancient Jewish people. The article also contains information about how the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church holds the same ideas about European Jews.
One of the men, Stephen Sizer is an Anglican priest of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England. The other is Rev. Mitri Raheb of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. Raheb has at times attended and attempted to influence the General Assembly of the PC (U.S.A.). Both men have been speakers at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem. I am writing this as an example of how such ideas spread and change the very face of Christianity; I also want to show how the church in her various forms is confronting anti-Semitism. I will include in this posting information about Naim Ateek founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical liberation Theology Center who holds the same views.
Stephen Sizer, has been restricted from participating in social media and commenting on Middle East issues. Mitri Raheb has removed Christianity from its Jewish foundations by insisting that both Jesus and the first Christians were Palestinians. Naim Ateek has carried the idea so far that the person of Jesus is divided from Christ.
Stephen Sizer on one of his blog postings linked to an article that suggested that Israel had something to do with 9/11. John Bingham of the Telegraph writes that “Although Dr Sizer removed the posting after complaints, he initially continued to defend it insisting that he was “encouraging debate” about “serious allegations” – insisting that he could not be sure Israel was not behind the 2001 atrocities in the US.” He would later apologize, but this was just one of his many links to anti-Semitic material with later apologies.
Sizer’s bishop, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson, has banned him from using all social media for six months. And he is to no longer write about or attend conferences that have to do with Middle East issues. He had just recently attended a conference in Iran which Bingham referred to as a conference which “was dubbed an anti-Semitic hate fest.”
I mention Raheb because too many Christians in the Middle East welcome his explanation of a Palestinian Jesus. He is simply setting up a false foundation for Christianity that others have taken much further. Rather than seeing the ancient and contemporary citizens of the Holy Land as belonging to various ethnic groups he sees their identities changing. Raheb in his book Faith in the Face of Empire: the Bible through Palestinian Eyes writes:
“Their identity, however, was forced to change and develop according to the new realities and empires in which they found themselves. They changed their language from Aramaic to Greek to Arabic, while their identity shifted from Canaanite, to Hittite, to Hivite, to Perizzite, to Girgashite, to Amorite, to Jebusite, to Philistine, Israelite, Judaic/Samaritan, to Hasmonaic, to Jewish, to Byzantine, to Arab, to Ottoman, and to Palestinian to mention some.” (12)
Raheb goes on to name the various religions the people changed to and finally states that, “… they stayed, throughout the centuries, and remained the people of the land with a dynamic identity. In this sense Palestinians today stand in historic continuity with biblical Israel.” In this way, the term “remaining the people of the land,” allows the Palestinians to take the place of Jews who are immigrants from Europe. All diaspora Jews are disconnected from their biblical roots.
Raheb leads to Ateek. They are often mentioned together, speak at the same conferences and are both liberation theologians. In a Sabeel newsletter, Cornerstone, issue 68, Winter/Spring 2014, Ateek, in explaining what he believes is Jesus way of using Scripture tears the text apart. He writes of Jesus quoting Isaiah 61. He notes that Jesus leaves out the line which has to do with vengeance, “The year of the Lord’s favor is the year of jubilee when justice is restored to the poor and oppressed in the community. This, Jesus read; but he left out, “the day of vengeance of our God.”
Admitting that other theologians disagree Ateek gives this as the reason Jesus left out the line:
“Jesus refused to read that sentence. He left it out. In other words he refused to call for God’s vengeance on their non-Jewish enemies. He refused to read what for him was theologically offensive and unacceptable.”
“Jesus refused to read words that reflected racism and bigotry. … The lesson is clear for me: whatever does not agree with the hermeneutic of God’s love for all people has no authority for us and must not be read even if it is written in the Bible.”
In another newsletter, issue 67, fall, 2013, Ateek gives a lesson on God’s on going revelation, and he teaches an unacceptable Christology. He begins with a purely pagan understanding of revelation writing:
“In the history of faith, there have been various stages in the development and understanding of the concept of the “word of God.” It is safe to conjecture that human beings from their early periods of life on earth felt and believed that God was speaking and communicating with them through the natural order.”
Ateek’s idea skips over any idea of God speaking personally to humanity. Romans 1 and much of the Psalms and Prophets show that God grants some revelation from nature, God’s power and creativity are seen but God’s redemptive purposes are not known without his word both oral and written. God speaks to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Hagar, etc.
Ateek points out that there are verses in the New Testament that point to an infallible revelation, but he proceeds from that to suggest that there is a better way of interpreting Scripture. He writes, “Many Christians, including myself, have found that using the Christ hermeneutic (criterion for interpretation) or the hermeneutic of love can be very helpful especially in the interpretation of difficult texts in the Bible.”
And then Ateek writes this:
“… it is important to emphasize that faith for many Christians is not totally dependent on the historical accuracy of the biblical documents. They are liberated from the letter of scripture and they experience the liberation of the children of God. As Paul wrote, “…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). They go to church to worship God and in their worship they meet the Christ of faith and not necessarily the Jesus of history.” (Italics mine.)
In Sizer, Raheb, and Ateek’s attempt to be only pro-Palestinian, they have crossed many lines, both ethical lines and theological lines. There can be criticism and fairness without tearing the New Testament from the Old Testament, or Christ from the humanity of Jesus. Sizer’s bishop is giving proper discipline. On the other hand Raheb is invited to speak at many mainline churches and Ateek’s Sabeel Center is one of the mission projects of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
 Sizer’s blog is now open only to those invited and when I tried to go to a blog posting where he uses someone else’s quote that insists the European Jews are not true Jews, I get a warning from McAfee.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Over the past months many news stories about Israel and the Jewish people, both in Israel and other places, have surfaced both in alternative news outlets and the popular press. Really, so many that a publisher could keep busy for a very long time, with only items about Israel, Jewish students in the United States, anti-Semites and anti-Semitism, etc., etc. I intend to post some items about issues and people I have written about in the past, over the next several weeks.
One of the biggest stories that isn’t getting enough headlines or interest in the media is the anti-Semitism that is evolving within theBoycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement on college campuses in the United States. Many Jewish students and pro-Israel students are being harassed and intimidated by the BDS movement. In an event close to my home city, the University of Davis student senate voted to divest from companies doing business with Israel. The resolution was presented by Students for Justice in Palestine. After the deed was done one of the members of the senate gleefully posted on Twitter, “Hamas and Sharia law have taken over campus.”
The resolution has since been rejected on the grounds that it was not helpful to the student body as a whole and student government was not the proper body to pass such a resolution.
Now the organization Jerusalem U has produced a video that documents what is happening on college campuses because of the actions of such BDS groups as Students for Justice in Palestine. The emphasis includes the BDS movement’s desire to totally do away with the State of Israel and the hate that is too many times focused on Jewish students. I will begin this series with the video:
Friday, February 13, 2015
Now and then events occur that destroy any familiar schedule or the usual thought processes.
In the middle of January I had a heart attack and a quintuple bypass. I am doing very well but it was my coming home that bothered me—for one thing I did not want my great grandchildren to see me. They would have been traumatized. With both legs and one arm black from bruising, as well as the other arm with a long gash I didn’t think they should see me. And that says nothing about my neck and chest. But my condition did start my thinking processes. I was reminded of a book, How Does A Poem Mean? by John Ciardi and Miller Williams. The book covers all of the ways, reasons and meanings of poetry. One need not be misled. So how does a bruise mean?
My body looked like I had met an uncaring thug in a dark ally, but in reality I had encountered some very caring surgeons, doctors and nurses who saved my life. The bruising did not occur because of evil but because of good. The bruising meant life not death, and this led me to thinking about the Church in the Western world, the Church that too often seems like the dying Church.
There is a sickness in the Western Church. There are many reasons, but undoubtedly the most basic is a lack of love for the Lord Jesus Christ which entails a denial of his authority and word. We may think that the Lord of the Church stands aloof from this sickness but no, like the surgeons and other medical personal he applies his own will to his Church. Listen to his words to the Church of Thyatira:
But I have this against you that you tolerate the women Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and leads my bond servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. Behold I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of her deeds.
In Thyatira’s case Christ brings sickness that he might see wholeness in his Church. Repentance is his goal. We may think that the institutions we are watching move away from their biblical moorings will simply redo themselves and continue on. But no, the Lord of the Church has promised to either turn them back to himself or bring them to nothing. This is the Lord of the whole creation we are kicking against—the Lord whose word so many have chosen to ignore.
Jesus is aware that there are still some in Thyatira who have not agreed to the immorality. He promises them no other burdens. But simply hold onto the things that belong to Christ.
Hold on—he wounds to heal and anchors the faithful in himself.