Thursday, May 29, 2008

Biblical Christianity as Scapegoat

Contemporary Marxism tends to be a merger of the romantic ideals of National Socialism and the economic concepts of Marxism. That is, the concept of state and community ownership of property versus private ownership has merged with ancient spiritualities wedded to land. This is mainly done by focusing on indigenous peoples and their view of the land as sacred. Private ownership as well as biblical Christianity are considered the enemies in this scenario.

This merging ideology and its inroads into the mainline denominations are clearly seen in a communiqué Hans Cornelder linked to on
Presbyweb. Communiqué from the Workshop on Spirituality of Resistance, Liberation and Transformation offers the reader a complete outline of an abhorrent ideology that uses ethnicity, culture and religion as weapons against the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

An announcement on the World Alliance of Reformed Churches web site states that the workshop was sponsored by “the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), the Council for World Mission (CWM) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).” Both David Fischler on his blog
Reformed Pastor and Jim Berkley in a letter to Presbyweb have written about the event.

While this was a very political event, in this posting I am concerned with the religious attitude and decisions of the people who attended the workshop. Since three “Christian” organizations sponsored the event it would seem the attendees commitment to Jesus Christ should have been supreme but instead they have betrayed the Lord. And, in their duplicity they have betrayed his followers.

The co-signers of this document write, “Empire spawns its own destructive spiritualities, such as the “religious right,” and thus it seeks always to co-opt the powers of religion for imperial aims. New spiritualities are coming forth to oppose imperial spiritualities, and these should be supported.” Of course they do not clarify who the ‘religious right’ is, but they do go on to write:

"Justice movements require a new solidarity among religious groups and all peoples of conscience (secular and religious), and thus we affirm and honour the full multiplicity of spiritualities that enliven such movements." (Emphasis the author's)


"Religious groups and all peoples of conscience should recognize a leading role for indigenous peoples, honouring especially their earth-centered spirituality, focusing on interdependencies of body, mind, land, community, and spirit, as resources for a liberating justice for all creation. We affirm the struggle of all First Nations peoples for their land and for their rights to self-determination." (Emphasis the author's)

Along with this they insist that Christians, “relinquish the hegemony of their Christian language and rituals in movement work, even when this means leaving the comfort zones of Christian belief and practice.” (Emphasis authors’) The authors go on to assert that:

"Christian leaders and institutions, when participating in justice movements, must foster liberating spiritualities by re-interpreting their Christian stories, beliefs and practices to challenge forthrightly the forces of empire.

For all religious traditions, the demands made upon us by justice movements lead us toward spiritual openness to diverse readings of oral and written sacred texts and traditions, and even to a willingness to question and contest some emphases in these sources." (Emphasis the author's)

Not all of the author’s of this document have authored material that will clarify further the meaning of these unfaithful statements, however one of the signers Ivone Gebara, a Catholic ecofeminist theologian has written a book,
Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation.

In that book she lays out a new form of spirituality which she considers Christian. The truth is, it is an old form of religion but it is not Christianity.

Of the Trinity Gebara finally concludes that everything that exists is the Trinity. She does not clarify whether this is a form of pantheism or panentheism. But she does reconstruct the Christian view of the Trinity writing of “Trinity in the cosmos; Trinity on earth; the Trinity in relationships among peoples and cultures; the Trinity in human relationships; and the Trinity in every person.” (155) Gebara then explains:

"This list undoubtedly suggests that everything is Trinity, that all things are part of that vital and intimate relationship between multiplicity and unity that marks both our character and our makeup. This perspective opens us to realities beyond Christian experience." (155)

As is always necessary when constructing a religion, Gebara tries to account for evil. In both pantheism and panentheism that attempt is not an easy task without reaching for scapegoats. The reason, knowing that humanity is divine or part of divinity means that somehow the transcendent within is involved in evil. In this case, Gebara locates evil not only in a political and economic system but also in those who insist that their Lord is the one way. She writes:

"Evil is the proclamation and imposition of my gods as eternal and exclusive, capable of saving all of humanity. Evil is the claim that some people know the will of God and are commissioned to teach it as irrefutable dogma, while others are obliged to humbly recognize and accept their own ignorance." (168)

This is of course not only unbiblical it is illogical thinking. If a revelation is truly given by God; if God has in Jesus Christ entered human history redeeming his people, that is not evil and it is God’s doing.

However, if religious dogma of any kind is based on false belief, it can become evil. Even Christianity can become evil. When Christianity is without the cross, without the grace and righteousness of the incarnate One, Jesus Christ, the door is open to evil. A reconstructed Christianity, an oxymoron at best, is the example since its proponents have chosen to see biblical Christians as the source of evil.

Now is the time for this verse:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you , ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my names sake, because they do not know the One who sent me. (John 15:18-21)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From the Newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network

Memorial or Mausoleum is an article from the newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.

This is an excellent article about the huge pursuit of embryonic stem cell research in California. The author, Evan Rosa, writes about the very buildings used for such research to help his readers understand the ugliness of the situation in California.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture offers resources on such life and death topics as euthanasia, physician assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research. I met the founder Jennifer Lahl several years ago when I went with my daughter from Georgia to listen to a debate between the utilitarian ethics professor, Peter Singer, (who advocates killing babies after one month of birth if they are unsuitable to their parents) and Dr. Nigel M. de S. Cameron author with Chuck Colson of Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy.

Jennifer Lahl was working toward her degree in Bioethics while my son-in-law was working toward his degree in New Testament at Trinity International Seminary. My daughter enjoyed auditing bioethics classes and that is how they met. I want to highly recommend the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.

The article starts out:

"Are the buildings in our lives meaningful? Or are they merely physical--neutral spaces devoid of value in themselves?

I don't think it's too controversial that a building could mean something: maybe where you got married, maybe where your children were born, maybe where you worked your first job.

My concern here is the great potential for cultural and ideological influence that buildings bear. Structures aid in forming our visual landscape; they shelter us, inspire us, imprison us. By 2010, we'll have another 12 structural influencers, all dedicated to human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research."

He later continues with:

"Please entertain a brief diversion to help me explain the problem. I sense a greater issue at work here: the cultural importance and ideological influence of human embodiment and the physicality of structures . In an age that teems with Internet social media communities, online universities, remote employment and Web-based grocery stores, the modern humanoid doesn't really ever have to leave its house. It will communicate with others, get a degree, work for some cash, and feed itself just fine. But I doubt that the majority of us will ever reach such a reclusive, barely-human state. I'm hopeful and confident that we'll maintain direct human contact, and continue to move through physical spaces, despite the temptations of convenience and immediacy. At the same time I'm beset with concern about the nature and quality of these relationships and physical spaces where we exist.

Back to the buildings at hand: It's a physical situation. Physical sciences are involved. Physical structures are involved. This involves physical persons (the greatest of these?) conducting experiments on other physical persons (the least of these?). And aren't we much more than physical ? Yet we identify so tangibly with these physical things, I begin to wonder how deeply our regular surroundings can embed certain beliefs and values and assertions in our minds. "

The whole article.

Be sure, at the end, to click on the link in the bio of the author, ex- tree-sitters , for a laugh. So maybe its just my California sense of humor.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

An Overture that reeks of apostasy

Once again Presbyterians (USA) are being asked to ‘affirm’ that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship a common God. Newton Presbytery has sent an overture to General Assembly –07-01 On Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between the Christian and Muslim Communities. The title is perfectly acceptable but some of the recommendations are totally unacceptable. For instance recommendation 2 states:

"State that the PC(USA) affirms that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship a common God, although each understands that God differently; and that, as children of this loving God, we share the commandments of love for God and neighbor, the requirement to care for the poor; and acknowledge Abraham as an expression of our common commitment to one God." (Emphasis mine)

The 3rd recommendation also has some problems. It is:

"Build on this understanding by calling for further dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, viewing each other as equals, and learning from one another to

· promote peace, resolve conflict;
· ensure human rights, prevent discrimination;
· develop dialogue, emphasize commonality;
· recognize differences, celebrate diversity;
· advocate justice, oppose bias." (Emphasis mine)

First of all it is true that many members of these three faiths adhere to monotheism, that is, they believe in one God. And many members also believe in a personal God and a God who reveals himself in a sacred text.

Beyond that, affirming that the Jewish people and Christians worship the same God is under most circumstances not difficult. I will explain.

The Christian sees in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament a God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ. As Calvin puts it the Hebrew Bible shadows forth Christ while in the NT Christ is “already come and manifested. (Institutes, Book four XIV (20) I am not saying here that the Jews believe in Jesus, but I am saying that their sacred text points to him.

This of course changes with some forms of Judaism such as P’nai Or or ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal which is syncretistic, “absorbing and utilizing the spirituality of other religions and spiritual paths as well as incorporating modern psychology and philosophy. Therefore, in addition to Hasidism and Kabbalism, it encompasses elements from Sufism, Buddhism and Native American Religion …” 1

On the other hand the sacred text of Islam does not reveal Jesus Christ as very God of very God although they do speak of Jesus. The Christian does not find grounds for the deity of Christ in any part of the Qur’an and no part of the Qur’an shadows a Messiah who comes to save his people from their sins.

So to return to recommendation 2: State that the PC(USA) affirms that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship a common God, although each understands that God differently—This overture’s recommendation suggests that our human understanding about God is the reason for our differences. That is theology from below; theology only understood on human terms. But God’s revelation has come to us in Jesus Christ who is God in the flesh, the Incarnation. We can only know God through Jesus Christ. That is not an understanding but rather revelation given from God’s side. We cannot get behind Jesus Christ to any other God. So we do not know the God of Islam. He is not our God.

And the problems with recommendation 3: emphasize commonality—Perhaps in our witness to Muslims we might want to emphasis at first what we have in common, but if we are doing this as a means of avoiding speaking of Jesus Christ and who he really is as well as his great gift of salvation: well, one remembers Peter who for a few tragic hours was unfaithful.

Celebrate diversity—this could only mean celebrating the different views of God we have. That is apostasy.

Oppose bias—if this means we are to oppose the Biblical belief that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior, once again all that can be said is apostasy.

The Barmen Declaration is quite sufficient here:

"Jesus Christ, as he is testified to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God, whom we are to hear, whom we are to trust and obey in life and death.

We reject the false doctrine, as through the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation." (8.11-8.12)

Timothy George in his very helpful book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? has a wonderful poem by Edward Shillito entitled Jesus of the Scars. The last verse is:

"The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak;
They rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
and not a god has wounds, but thou alone."

These are also words sufficient to help us offer a resounding no to such an overture.

1 Shirley Lucass, “Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, New Religions: A Guide: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities, Editor Christopher Partridge, Forward J. Gordon Melton (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2004) 117.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Calvin on sheep and goats

John Calvin in his commentary on the parable of the judgement of the sheep and the goats writes this:

"As a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. When our Lord says that the separation of the sheep from the goats is delayed till that day, he means that the wicked are now mixed with the good and holy, so that they live together in the same flock of God. The comparison appears to be borrowed from Ezekiel 34:18, where the Lord complains of the fierceness of the goats, which attack with their horns the poor sheep, and destroy the pastures, and pollute the water; and where the Lord expressly declares that he will take vengeance. And therefore Christ’s discourse amounts to this, that believers ought not to think their condition too hard, if they are now compelled to live with the goats, and even to sustain many serious attacks and annoyances from them; secondly, that they ought to beware of being themselves infected by the contagion of their vices; and, thirdly, to inform them that in a holy and innocent life their labor is not thrown away, for the difference will one day appear."

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Dis-heartening Action involving the Synod of the Pacific

On May 6th, at the Sacramento Presbytery meeting in Weed, the Presbytery voted not to appeal the court's ruling that First Presbyterian Church of Roseville California owned their property.

Now an e-mail has come from the Presbytery staff that, once again, David Thompson, Garry Cox and Timothy Little, Pastors at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, filed a complaint against the Presbytery. The notification goes on to state:

"On May 13, 2008, the Stated Clerk of the Synod, Joey Mills notified the Temporary Stated Clerk of the Sacramento Presbytery that a stay of enforcement on the motion was granted signed by Melvin Kachigian, SusanBarnes and Linda Lee.

The stay orders that the corporate officers of Sacramento Presbytery,Barbara Farley (Moderator of Council), Marie Segur (Treasurer), and Claire Pisor (Temporary Stated Clerk), be directed to authorize the presbytery's attorney to file a timely notice of appeal of the judgment. Accordingly,the officers have complied with the order of the Synod Permanent Judicial Commission."

This order to file a notice of appeal is all very dis-heartening and one of the reasons so many churches are asking to be dismissed from the Sacramento Presbytery.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The California Supreme Court and the biblical Church: A difference of opinion ?

In my early years of college I was required to pick a class from a rather strange listing of classes. I picked an encounter class led by an interesting psychology professor named Famous. Famous, whose background had at one time included the desire to be a bishop in the Methodist Church, lived a postmodern lifestyle to say the least.

We had some rather interesting and provocative discussions about Christianity including the meaning of marriage. I remember stating at the time that I believed that in our Western mindset there would come a time when marriage would only have any true purpose or meaning for Christians. While everyone else in the class was upset by that statement, Famous agreed with me. I think both his Christian background and his lifestyle helped him to see that when people simply live with their partner or when marriage can be seen as meaning any kind of arrangement, including same sex marriage, the biblical understanding of marriage dies.

Except in that place where the true body of Christ gathers to hear the word.

Jesus, when answering a question about marriage and divorce, stated what was once obvious:

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”(Matthew 19:4-6)

And my argument that day, in class, was, Christ and his love for the Church sets the standard for marriage, gives the Church a picture of marriage. Paul, writing to husbands and wives states:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5: 25-27)

Today the Supreme Court of California ruled that banning same sex marriage was unconstitutional. As a secular body they went the direction of our broken western culture, which truly does not understand the basic foundation of marriage. How could they understand when they do not acknowledge the biblical Lord?

Marriage, as it copies Christ’s great love for the Church, and his desire to present his bride to himself with out any blemish, negates any kind of marriage that encourages un-holiness. Whatever the state does, whatever it blesses, whatever its words, the Church, biblically, may not, must not, call same sex partnerships and rites, marriage. They must not, alongside the state, acknowledge any arrangement called gay marriage.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A call for prayer from friends afar

This is an e-mail that arrived from our missionary friends just a day ago. Remember that for safety's sake I have left their name out of the e-mail.

"My husband has just returned from a four week ministry trip to Bangladesh and India. One of the team members on that trip was a Pastor who oversees seven churches and four Bible schools in his home country of Myanmar/Burma.

While the Pastor was on the trip, his country was hit by a category 3 hurricane that produced tens of thousands, and as is currently being reported, possibly up to 100,000 deaths. It is estimated that 1-1 ½ million people may have lost their homes in the disaster as the hurricane cut a swath through the central part of the country. The military dictatorship there has been slow to respond and reluctant to give visas to aid agency workers who have offered to help.

Please pray for us as my husband will be trying to get a visa to Myanmar this next week. He has been working on relationships in Myanmar for the last 20 years, and is friends with the head of the Baptist Convention with over a million members. He speaks Karen, which is the language of ten percent of the population, and there are Karen people in leadership positions around the country. Many top leaders also have wives who are Karen.

When he was in Shillong, NE India at the All Nations House of Prayer, the quotation from the Book of Esther was shared in the meeting by a YWAM leader that God had been saying we were coming into a season where it would be essential to recognize that God has positioned people “for such a time as this”

Please pray that permissions and the visas will be released so that the churches may be able to minister to their neighbors in need in the speediest and yet precise timing of God.

In Jesus"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Spirit, Holy Gift of the Father

Spirit, Holy gift of the Father,
Gentle witness to Jesus,
Bright burning fire

You lingered affirming the work of redemption,
You descended with gifts for the Lamb’s chosen ones.
Effecting the work of the Son and the Father
Bringing to memory the words of the Son,
Bringing to memory all He has done.

Spirit, Holy Gift of the Father,
Gentle witness to Jesus,
Bright burning flame.

I think I have been a commissioner to presbytery about a year and a half, probably for about nine meetings. I can’t really remember, but the point is we have sung a particular song about five times now. It has a nice melody but the words remind me of Hegel’s idea of the spirit moving and evolving through history helping humanity progress to greater heights and “bold new decisions.” (And, yes, Hegel would have mentioned the cross and the stable.)

The song is politically correct. It’s the women who have visions; it seems the men need to “clear their eyes.” Hegel’s spirit is not really biblical and a lot of false philosophy and theology have been perpetrated on his philosophical foundation. This song has potential; but for what? However, a wonderful thing happened as we sang the song this last time.

Have you ever read a good English novel where as the plot thickens a great storm intercedes tearing everything apart so that the author of the story can put it all back to rights. Or think of C.S. Lewis’s The Hideous Strength where at the end you have ancient Merlin appearing speaking in a strange ancient language and with him a great catastrophe wipes out everyone’s plans. That is every one's plans except for the main character Ransom and all the benevolent Powers of heaven. It’s really a wonderful English tradition.

So, back to the event. Well, I am not actually sure what was wrong but it seemed like the organist wasn't playing the right notes at the right time. Or maybe he was just playing the refrain all the time as we were singing both the refrain and the verses. Most of the words never got sung although we tried to sing the whole song. Anyway it was like a good English novel or mystery, but it caused me to think about the words and how I would like to write a different version. But of course I have no sense of meter or much musical background so I have just began writing a kind of poem song as you can see at the beginning of this post.

It is my attempt to say what I wish the song was really about:

Spirit, Holy gift of the Father
Gentle witness to Jesus
Bright burning flame

I’m still working on it as you can tell.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prebyteries dancing like puppets

Sometimes reading is hazardous to a sense of reality. Trust can be broken in the midst of a hierarchy of words.

Several Pastors, within and without the PCUSA, recently blogged on the Advisory Committee on the Constitution’s advise on the Presbytery of Charlotte’s questions about the transfer of ministers and Congregations to Transitional Presbyteries.

The two questions were:
Can a presbytery dismiss a congregation to a transitional presbytery in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church?
Can a presbytery dismiss a minister of the Word and Sacrament to a transitional presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church?

One blogger who is an Evangelical Presbyterian Church Pastor is naturally interested. Pastor David Fischler of the
The Reformed Pastor wrote Down the Rabbit Hole. And Presbyterian USA Pastor Toby Brown of Classical Presbyterian wrote, Ex Cathedra: The ACC of the PC(USA) takes aim at dismissals to the EPC . The first blog posting I read about the advisory was after returning home from a Presbytery meeting. It was written by Pastor Bob Davis at Presbyblog. He wrote, May 6, 2008: ACC recommends Authoritative Interpretation regarding transitional presbyteries .

Davis points out the advisory's recommendations to Presbyteries. He writes:

"The provisions of G-15.0203 a and b do, however, require that the General Assembly, as the highest governing body of this denomination, advise its presbyteries in this matter. The 218th General Assembly (2008) therefore advises the presbyteries that they must satisfy themselves concerning the conformity with this denomination of a transitional presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) in matters of doctrines and order. Presbyteries may facilitate the exploration of conformity by means of an administrative commission, although such commissions may not be empowered to approve the dismissal of the congregation. In exploring this matter, presbyteries should consider such questions as whether the receiving EPC presbytery is

  • doctrinally consistent with the essentials of Reformed theology as understood by the presbytery;

  • governed by a polity that is consistent in form and structure with that of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A);

  • of sufficient permanence to offer reasonable assurance that the congregation is not being dismissed to de facto independence.

Failure on the part of the presbytery thoroughly to explore and adequately to document its satisfaction in these matters may thus violate, however unintentionally, the spirit of the polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). "

Davis also wrote, "This is a pure regulatory move. It is not missional in design. It would take away authority from the presbyteries and establish greater authority in the higher "governing" bodies. It would have a chilling effect on congregations trying to discern where God is calling -- heightening the sense of distrust."

I was surprised by Pastor Davis's posting. The reason I was surprised: I thought that the advisory must have been posted for several weeks on PC-BiZ and instead it was only posted on May the 6th the day of our Presbytery meeting.

I had already read the Advisory and saw how it had been used since it was a part of the papers posted on our presbytery's web site a week ago. And it was used in the first report written by a mediating team concerning a church in our presbytery seeking dismissal from the PCUSA. The first two meetings with the teams from both the church and the presbytery were held on April the 9th and 11th. So I have two questions concerning these papers.

  1. I wonder how many other mediating teams in other presbyteries are receiving this advice from Louisville or more succinctly the Office of the General Assembly before it is even voted on by General Assembly?
  2. I also wonder if other mediating teams are giving out the suggestion this team did in its first report? That is, given the advisory recommendation to the Presbyteries, "We noted that these issues were the subject of a Request for interpretation from the Presbytery of Charlotte that is currently pending before the General Assembly for consideration at the June meeting, and Presbytery [Sacramento] might choose to defer making a determination with respect to those issues until the General Assembly acted on that Request."

In other words, the suggestion was being given that our Presbytery might just want to put this off until after General Assembly. As it happened mediation broke down without this ploy being used. I am not blaming our Presbytery, I am not blaming the mediating team. I am just saying it seems like Presbyteries are becoming puppets on a string being pulled by others in Louisville. That isn't connectionalism, its madness because it will simply further erode any small bit of trust left in the Church.

(It should be noted that this church asked to be dismissed to the EPC not to a transitional presbytery.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Hymn for Some Saints in the Church

I have searched for and found a good song to dedicate to a list of fellows who follow Jesus Christ faithfully and and have been maligned because of it:

Rev. Jim Berkley
Rev Jim Yearsley
Rev. L. Rus Howard

Rev. David Perry
Rev. James Coone
Rev. Robert Kopp
Rev. Jim Tilly
Rev. Toby Brown
Rev. Mark Hughey

I will add to this a Church in my Presbytery, Sierra Presbyterian Church, in Nevada City and they will know why.

These words were written by Hen­ry F. Lyte, who seems to have been a prolific writer of verse.
The song is In Vain the Powers of Darkness Try.

In vain the powers of darkness try
To work the Church’s ill,
The Friend of sinners reigns on high,
And checks them at His will.

Though mischief in their hearts may dwell,
And on their tongues deceit,
A word of His their pride can quell,
And all their aims defeat.

My trust is in His grace alone;
His house shall be my home.
How sweet His mercies past to own,
And hope for more to come.