Thursday, June 28, 2012

My prayer for the PCUSA General Assembly

This is my prayer and plea for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. May God over-rule all powers of evil and darkness, lifting up instead his Son, Jesus, our Lord.

Picture-Jodi Craiglow

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinking about the word holistic and divestment

What would the idea of holistic peace mean in the Middle East as far as Israel and the Palestinian territories are concerned? Positively it would mean that the needs of the Palestinians and the Israelis would be met. The Palestinians would have their own state; they would have ample supplies of water, goods for their infrastructure and homes. They would have a right to maintain and be present in their holy places. They would have a form of government that would allow their citizens both freedom and responsibility. They would have the means and ways to flourish.

The Israelis would continue as a Jewish state. They would continue on--working out their democracy—overcoming any racism in the same ways that the democracies of the West continue to do so. They would have the right to their holy sites also. Most of all they would have security with no one sending rockets their way; no one threatening to drive them into the sea. I am sure that others could fill in more blanks for a holistic peace. But this is a great deal of the picture of a holistic peace.

Now move the question backward. What will make for a holistic peace? Good for both sides means working with both-- the Palestinians and the Israelis. And move holistic even farther back; how has holistic thinking affected the urge toward peace? There is a positive side and a negative one.

The positive side takes into account all of the problems on both sides, as well as caring for, loving and working for the good of both. But on the negative side holism has a strange effect. That is, various groups of people and organizations all concerned with only one side—shape the thoughts of all against the other side. That is, those who are extreme influence others who are more moderate. They all begin thinking alike. The consequences accumulate and even those who insist they are not influnced are.

I am sure that the pro Palestinian side could say that those who are called Christian Zionists are doing that. And we could sort that out, but I want to look at all of those on the other side and analyze them since GAMC’s recommendation to GA follows the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI)’s recommendation to divest from  Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar. And all those who are gathered behind them including the BDS movement are counting on the passage of the recommendation in order to affirm their own feelings toward Israel. I will explain. [1]

Several months ago I was informed that Mission Responsibility Through Investment was the sole source of GAMC’s recommendation to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard. And that is technically true; however, there are connections and influences that tend to change the picture

For instance in 2004-5, Carol Hylkema was chairwoman of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee. She at that time along with other members of the committee called for divestment from “Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup, ITT Industries, Motorola Inc. and United Technologies.”[2] No longer the chairperson of MRTI, Hylkema undoubtedly has influence with MRTI as well as many in the GAMC.

Because of her influence and because Hylkema is moderator of the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network, an organization deeply involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, commissioners to the 220th General Assembly should be aware of the activity of IPMN. Those activities include pushing a petition connected to MRTI’s recommendation to divest from the companies. It is aimed at influencing voters.

For the members of IPMN, as well as other members of the BDS movement, of which IPMN is a part, the call for divestment from three companies is a hopeful step toward a denominational move into the BDS movement. Their desire is to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel. While it is important to say that delegitimization is not the motivation of many Presbyterians concerned about the Palestinians and peace the divestment recommendation is the hope of many members and organizations who are a part of the BDS movement including IPMN.

There is a long list of heinous actions taken toward both the Jewish people and Israel by IPMN. And they do influence the PC (U.S.A.). For instance at the last General Assembly the IPMN attached a paper to an item; the paper suggested that Jews in the United States had sent a bomb to Louisville and burned down a church. (Definitely a lie.) Until just recently they had a Facebook page on which they often linked to very anti-Semitic sites. And in a booklet, Steadfast Hope, which they published several years ago they made the statement that most Israeli citizens were not really Jewish but the European children of converts. The list is long. [3]

The point here is that many speaking to Committee 15 will be somewhat influenced by misconceptions—such as everything wrong or oppressive in the Middle East can be laid at Israel’s door. But rather than a negative approach that gathers all up in a one sided focus on Israel, both sides must have care and solutions—but not simply divestment for one side which only feeds into movements that are not helpful. A true holistic approach reaches out to everyone.

[1]For an excellent view about the usefulness of Caterpillar see

[2]Presbyterian Church begins 'progressive engagement' process with five companies - Louisville - Business First

[3]For a longer list see "Bias" by Will Spotts

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pastor Steven Khoury, a Palestinian Christian

This is a video of a Christian Palestinian pastor, Steven Khoury . His church is in East Jerusalem which is under the PLO. You won't agree with everything he says but some (most) of it will uplift you and make you praise God. And it does give a different picture of Palestinian Christians then the recent program offered by Sixty Minutes. You can read about that at "Christians of the Holy Land" A CBS failure to investigate and use all sources." It also contradicts one item of business for the 220th Presbyterian General Assembly. You can read about that at Item 15-09 a flawed document- vote no & pray

The video can be found at

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you

Some good friends of mine have been continually bullied by two members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Teaching elder John Shuck and ruling elder Alan Kiste, are cronies in belittling and vilification. I know how that feels because once they ganged up on me with their vile bile.

But stop and consider, they are simply following the word of God—without intention of course. Jesus promised that his followers would suffer persecution just as he did. Jesus stated that if they had called him Beelzebul they would call his disciples far uglier names. (Mt. 10-25)

Have care, Jesus takes very seriously the harm done to those the Father has given him. In fact, when Paul was on the road to Damascus, eager to jail and kill more Christians, and Jesus stopped him; Jesus’ question wasn’t why are you harming my disciples but why are you harming me. So those awful names and insults are actually flung at Jesus.

John Shuck and Alan Kiste are in reality bullying Jesus. They are throwing hate speech at him.

And I must add that those in leadership who know about the insults and could do something about it, and will not even speak up are also guilty of demeaning Jesus.

"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for your reward in heaven is great: for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:11-12)"

Bonhoeffer wrote of the above verse in his book The Cost of Discipleship. His thoughts include:

“’For my sake’ the disciples are reproached, but because it is for his sake, the reproach falls on him. It is he who bears the guilt. The curse, the deadly persecution and evil slander confirm the blessed state of the disciples in their fellowship with Jesus.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Biblical literalism may be dangerous according to Kenneth Kovacs

Is there anything you are certain about? How about your relationship to Jesus Christ—His love, redemption and promises? Are you certain that Scripture is the word of God and not only useful but necessary for your walk with God. Do you say with the apostle Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord?” According to Teaching Elder and Covenant Network board member, Kenneth Kovacs, in an essay placed on the Covenant site, you may be dangerous, mentally ill and committing religious blasphemy.

Now to be fair, Kovacs in his essay, The Threat of Literalism, is using the term fundamentalist to describe those he is writing about. And he seems to include constitutional and Moslem fundamentalist. But he also calls them literalists and suggests that they have an obsession with “what is actual, literal, with the “letter of the law,” with the need to nail down (sometimes, literally) what is true and not true and then defending that “truth” at all costs.” So, since this is an essay posted at the Covenant Network site by one of its board members I would venture a guess that the essay is aimed at those who take the Bible literally which would include the orthodox of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Therefore, I will make some comments about some of Kovacs thoughts. For instance he states, “It’s [being a literalist] a way of being that is suspicious (maybe paranoid) of anything that smacks of analogy or metaphor, of anything that leaves open the possibility of multiple meanings, of plurality, because according to the literalist, for example, there can only be one interpretation of a text – …” No—I believe it is Kovacs who has the problem; perhaps he could be called a metaphorist?

I will explain. Those who are orthodox in their understanding of both Scripture and theology see the text filled with metaphor as well as plain meaning. The Old Testament, in some places, depicts God as the husband of Israel. That is a metaphor. And a metaphor fills out the meaning of the title God. It adds to our understanding. But we can’t use everything that a metaphor suggests. For example, God did not have a sexual relationship with Israel, but he does care for, tend to and enrich Israel as a husband might a wife.

But notice the word husband is a reality with its own definite meaning. When it is not used as a metaphor it is a reality. Hosea was married to Gomer. Joseph was married to Mary. They were husbands not metaphors.

Another beautiful biblical metaphor for God is shepherd. But as Andrew Purves and Charles Partee pointed out in an article they wrote for Theology Matters, God as shepherd does not use the sheep for food as a shepherd might. God tends to the sheep (another good metaphor). He cares for them and even disciplines them. But notice again, there really are shepherds; they are not metaphors but realities.

So going back to the suggestion that analogies and metaphors give the biblical texts “the possibility of multiple meanings, of plurality,” the answer is yes and no. The metaphor opens the possibility of thinking about God in various ways, for instance as a careful and tender husband but also as a jealous one—yet one may not go beyond that—one comes to the wall of truth, the additional text of Scripture. There is nothing in the metaphor that allows God to be what he is not. There is nothing in the metaphor which changes God’s promises or commands. If the text states “You shall have no other gods before me,” the metaphor of husband does not change the command, it in fact enlarges it.

If the metaphor is of a good shepherd it enlarges our view of Jesus—we know he will lead us, discipline and care for us—but once again we come to the wall of truth, the additional text. Jesus allows for no other shepherd and insists that only the true sheep hear his voice, and they will not follow another shepherd. “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:5) And we know something more—we know that if God, in the Old Testament is shepherd and he is, and Jesus in the New Testament is the good shepherd then we know who Jesus truly is, the eternal Son of the Father.

Kovacs writes, “For Christians to confess that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God the world has ever known or will know (as I do), does not mean we are free to say we possess an exhaustive knowledge of God.” Does anyone say this? Jesus Christ as he is known in the word is God’s revelation of himself. It is all we are meant to know this side of Glory—but it is enough to know that both the living Word and the written word of God are sufficient. And within the pages and the person is certainty; enough to cover any hurt thrown by those who seem to find their safety in insult.

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies who is the one who condemns? Jesus Christ is he who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33-35a)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CodePink & Presbyterians

There is a rumor going around that the socialist activist women’s group CodePink is planning on making an appearance at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 220th General Assembly. They are the group that really likes President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, etc., and are a part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.


The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has some advice for Presbyterians:

[1] Picture of CodePink in S.F. Anti-War Rally in 2010 made up of mostly small communist groups, anti-semites and "truthers," those who believe that 9-11 was an inside job. Picture from Zombietime Some pictures are offensive.

Sam Bahour's letter to Commissioners to the 220th General Assembly of the PC (U.S.A.)

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network through their web site as well as Twitter are promoting a letter from an Arab business man, Sam Bahour, encouraging the 220 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to vote to divest from several companies doing business with Israel. The letter, “RE: Divesting from Caterpillar, Inc., Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard,” is addressed to commissioners to the GA.

So who is Sam Bahour? El Shabaka of which he is affiliated has a profile which includes:
Sam Bahour does business consulting as Applied Information Management (AIM), specializing in business development with a niche focus on the information technology sector and start-ups. He helped establish PALTEL and the PLAZA Shopping Center. Until recently, he served on the board of trustees of Birzeit University and was the University’s treasurer. He is also a Director at the Arab Islamic Bank and the community foundation Dalia Association. Bahour is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (Olive Branch Press).
Although born in the United States Bahour is totally pro-Palestinian; there doesn’t seem to be any place for the Jewish State of Israel in his outlook. In an article in The Guardian, “Palestine is the key to Arab Democracy,” Bahour uses the two Palestinian intifadas against Israel as a good example for the Egyptians in their uprising against the totalitarian government of Egypt. As a writer, on the CIF (the Guardian’s Comment is Free) Watch Site puts it in their article, “Translating the Guardian’s Sam Bahour:”
Even when taking into account Bahour’s affiliation with ‘Al Shabaka’ – an organisation which opposes the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations with Israel – one still has to wonder how a born and raised American can be in possession of such warped ideas that he can present the targeted killing of over a thousand Israelis as a ‘popular uprising’ with democracy carved on its standard.
The writer, who writes under the pseudo name, Israelnurse, goes on to state:
Let’s be quite honest here – and we need to, because Bahour is being anything but – those who died in suicide bombings on buses, in restaurants and in shopping centres did so because they were, or were thought to be, Jews. That was their only ‘sin’, but they had been dehumanised and delegitimized to such an extent by the society from which their murderers came that their deaths became a source of pride for that society, which to this day names streets, schools and children’s summer camps after suicide bombers and other terrorists.

Bahour wants readers to identify with those who, like him, refuse to negotiate and compromise and will settle for nothing less than ‘justice’, however much violence it takes to get it. He therefore cynically exploits the real grievances of the Egyptian people in order to throw up a smoke-screen he names democracy, and of course there is no better buzz word around at present.
Bahour has even written a fantasy piece, Press Release World is Waiting For, in which he imagines that “Foreign Minister Shimon Peres committed suicide today in his New York hotel room following a speech that he gave at a gala dinner of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S.” The fantasy holds all of the desires that Bahour holds for a peace that is not negotiated but enforced by hard tactics. And that is what is wrong with his letter to commissioners.

While Bahour insists in his letter that investment in Palestine will not work without divestment of those companies named in item 15-11, “MRTI Report on Engagements with Corporations Involved in Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank,” the report, “Stagnation or Revival? Palestinian Economic Prospects” published by the World Bank in March of 2012 shows a much more complex situation. It does place Israel’s restrictions as part of the problem but also sees need for the Palestinian government to commit to various programs. The authors write about the West Bank:
Ultimately, sustainable economic growth and an end to the fiscal crisis will require unleashing of the Palestinian private sector’s potential. This in turn necessitates a lifting of Israeli restrictions on access to land, water, a range of raw materials, and export markets. But it also requires that the Palestinian Authority improves the business environment and attracts needed investment through such measures as expanding land registration in the West Bank; reforming the current collection of laws governing business; and building its own capacity to regulate the economy and ensure competition.
And about Gaza:
Gaza experienced double-digit growth, demonstrating continued recovery. The high growth in Gaza reflects, in part, the low base from which it is starting – the average Gazan today remains worse off than s/he was in the late nineties. But it can also be attributed to a combination of aid inflows and easing of restrictions by Israel, in particular on entry of building materials for infrastructure projects implemented by international organizations. In addition to increased movement of materials through the tunnels from Egypt, this has led to a construction boom in Gaza. However, the state of Gaza infrastructure is such that massive investments in key sectors such as water and wastewater, electricity, and solid waste remain desperately needed. Such investments would generate short-term employment but also promote longer term growth and job creation. These investments would not fulfill their potential, however, in the absence of a lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
It should be seen from all of this that investment in Palestine along side continued negotiations is the best policy in the troubled Israel and Palestine disputes. One hopes that Commissioners to the 220th PCUSA General Assembly will ignore Bahour’s letter and encourage investment as a means of productive peace making.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jesus and division

ChurchandWorld linked to a blog posting by Presbyterian teaching elder, Herb Swanson. Swanson’s blog posting, Jesus and Dualism, reminds me that slowly but surely the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is sinking under the weight of heresy. How many more PCUSA pastors will defame the word of God, reject the gift of salvation offered by the Lord of the Church, rend the two natures of Jesus apart, and fail to understand the willfulness of the unregenerate? I will explain.

Swanson’s first problem is that he has rejected the authority of God’s word, bowing instead towards what seems to be monistic Buddhism. He is shocked by Jesus’ division of humanity “into opposite categories of good and evil, saved and damned.”Swanson has failed to understand that that division hinges on the very person of Jesus. In the gospel of John, one reads:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

But John goes on to write, “He who believes in him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Swanson tries to correct Jesus’ supposed problem by referring to Matthew 25: 31-46. Here he rejects the grace of Christ; his work on the cross. He believes that Matthew 25: 31-46 proves that Jesus at least judged the good and the bad according to their works of compassion. But this is poor exegeses.

As John Calvin points out in his commentary, Jesus has already named the children of God before his judgment. They are called blessed of his Father. They are the ones who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and for this reason they are blessed and do the works that God has prepared for them, Eph. 2:7-10:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared before hand so that we would walk in them. (10)”

Swanson third problem is his insistence on rending the two natures of Christ apart. That is he separates the humanity of Jesus from his deity. He writes, “While the human Jesus reflected the dualistic heritage of his time and culture, the Spirit that filled him turned his teachings and his ministry in a different direction.” Here Swanson is doing two things: he is admitting that the Jewish faith is dualistic and he is insisting that the “Spirit” is not. (And as an aside, Swanson, given his thoughts about dualism and religion, not only rejects Jesus who is both human and God, he slams the Jews, first century Judaism and the whole word of God.)

This is interesting since Swanson must split the two natures in order to hold on to his pantheism or non-dualistic faith. In other words Swanson becomes dualistic in order to say that the human Jesus and the Spirit are not of the same mind. Pantheism always creates philosophical problems because it is an attempt to be too simplistic. C. S. Lewis saw pantheism as Christianity’s one great rival. In his book Miracles he writes:
Pantheism is in fact the permanent bent of the human mind; the permanent ordinary level below which man sometimes sinks, under the influence of priestcraft and superstition, but above which his own unaided efforts can never raise him for very long. Platonism and Judaism, and Christianity (which has incorporated both) have proved the only things capable of resisting it. It is the attitude in which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself. No wonder we find it congenial. If “religion” means simply what man says about God, and not what God does about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. (112-113) (Italics author)

Lewis went on to write about the particularity of God. He is not some beautiful ideal or some abstract idea, nor is he impersonal flowing energy. He is the personal God who confronts humanity in their brokenness and evil. He is that particular One who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son, Jesus, took on flesh and redeems by his death on a cross. His resurrection gives everlasting life. And when a broken humanity rejects their Creator and Redeemer, judgment will follow. It will be God’s judgment not humanity’s. Because of that the judgment will be just and righteous.

There is a Creator distinct from creation. There is I and thou as well as good and evil. There will be the blessed and the dammed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Asherah an old goddess & the biblical text

The first comment on my posting Heretical evangelicalism merges with progressive goddess worship ended with, “I’m afraid there will soon be a new market for Asherah poles.” Yes, and only several links away from the Facebook site for Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns. After you click on their link “WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Rituals) and then click Feminism and Religion [1]in WATER’s link section you will see the article, “Where Did the Gods Come From?” by Barbara Ardinger. And there she explains, among other things, about the goddess Asherah. Ardinger writes:

Before Jehovah arrived in Abraham’s camp and spoke to him, the people at the eastern end of the Mediterranean worshipped Asherah, a Ugaritic mother goddess who gave birth to something like 70 gods. Asherah was, alas, conflated with Astarte, given a sex-change operation in the Old Testament, and turned into a demon named Ashteroth.[2] But Asherah was also worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem for many, many years.

Ardinger explains that tribes from the Russian Steppes and the Caucasus Mountains rode into the lands where the goddess had been worshiped and destroyed those civilizations bringing with them their male gods which included, according to Ardinger and most radical Feminist myth, the God Jehovah. Of Jehovah, Ardinger writes:
More recently, during the last two or three millennia, one of those gods has inspired his prophets and preachers to roar about sin and hell and idol-worship and punishment. The new gods and their carriers thus planted the seeds of warfare in society and its literature.
And there you have the most radical of feminist thinking and attitude toward Christianity. Most radical feminists know, (but not all), that this is all myth meant to undergird the radical view of some in the feminist movement.[3] And reading the article, one can see the likes and dislikes of radical feminism. The emphasis is on the worship of various goddesses minus any real ethic except that which bows to the world of nature. And even though nature is “red in tooth and claw,” the need to ignore words about sin or hell is important to the movement. Accordingly and supposedly all things peaceful belong to the goddess.

But returning to Asherah was she worshiped in the temple at Jerusalem? Yes, several times. The last time the reader of the biblical text is made aware of the Asherah in the temple is in Ezekiel when God takes Ezekiel and shows him all of the sins being committed in Jerusalem. Ezekiel begins this horrendous journey at the north gate of the inner court where “the seat of the idol of jealous, which provokes to jealousy, was located.” (Ezekiel 8: 3b-4) After showing Ezekiel the idol, the Lord explains that the idol is the cause of God’s absence from the Temple.

And John B. Taylor in his commentary points out that the idol was an insult to God, to the Temple and to the people of God. But the history of this idol is horrific. In 1 Kings 21: 7 one of the wickedest kings of Israel, Manasseh, had put a “wooden image of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess, in the house of the Lord.” Taylor points out that although Manasseh, undoubtedly when he repented, got rid of the Asherah idol; it reappeared again before Josiah’s reign and when he was king, he burnt the idol.

Manasseh combined idol worship with the killing of children and the bloodshed of many innocents. He practiced a black form of witchcraft which included setting up the Asherah idol in the Temple. The text states that Manasseh “shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another…” and the greatest sin was that he caused Judah to sin.

The Asherah idol was not just connected to women; it was not a gender based deity. Asherah worship led to ruin, death and exile. It was ruinous to the people of God, both men and women. Jeremiah also deals with Asherah. In the 44th chapter of Jeremiah after Babylon has already captured Judah, the women left in Judea insisted on making cakes to the Queen of Heaven, the men gathered wood to bake the cakes. So in the midst of ruin and the unholy desire to run to Egypt, the people persist in idol worship.

Yes, it is but a link to a link—or is it a link to a site honored because it thinks lightly of the Lord Jehovah but thinks highly of those who worship false images of faith. On all these sites, abortion is upheld, same gender marriage and the ordination of LGBT person’s is encouraged. The worship of false goddesses and gods is a symptom of great spiritual brokenness.

Connecting purposely to those who push such deadly nonsense has extreme implications for the Christian organizations that are involved which would be both the Presbyterian Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns as well as WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Rituals). One either flees the darkness or proclaims winsomely but with a loud voice the wonderful news of a Savior.

And of course Feminism and Religion which is suppose to be a sophisticated woman’s organization connected to a well known university does not claim the name Christian but using modern feminist myth as a means of trashing a faith that has existed for thousands of years seems to me to be both a failure of intellect and integrity.

A cautionary tale might help. Many years ago, well maybe about 17 or 18, I took a class on the search for the historical Jesus by a professor who was a non-voting member of the Jesus Seminar. My paper for the class was on biblical women versus Gnostic ones. When I received my paper back with the words “Awesome,” written across the top I could only guess that this particular professor was weary of the women in his class who attempted to take every myth they could gather and apply it to the biblical text as a reality. Non-Christian women still must take the texts they work with seriously—even the Bible which they seem to despise.

[1]Feminism and Religion is affiliated with the Women’s Studies and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University.

[2] This is a mistake- the goddess Ashteroth is not the same as Asherah- See Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books, EDs. Bill T. Arnold & H.G.M. Williamson, "Canaanite Gods and Religion."A.H. W. Curtis.

[3]Two books that give the true history of the goddess religion, one by a history professor and one by a religion professor involved in women's spirituality Are:

Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford University Press 1999). & Cynthia Eller. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America (Boston: Boston Press 1993, 1995).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Boycott- a history- thinking of Item 15-06

One particular item for the General Assembly, 15-06, “On Responding to the Call from Palestinian Christians for Economic Solidarity—From the Presbytery of Scioto Valley,” uses the Palestine Kairos document, “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith and Hope from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering,” as the foundation for their recommendations.
They ask the GA to (1)“say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land”(2) examine the ways in which our economic power as consumers and investors may be complicit with the abuses of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land;(3) and consider how to respond to the call of the Palestinian Christian Kairos document to engage in “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace, and security for all.”

The first request presupposes that the entire Kairos document is acceptable, when in truth, (pun intended), it is full of misleading information. That is it fails to give complete information but only holds up one side of the complex struggles and debates within the Israeli and Palestinian debacle. Not only that, it pushes the West to reconsider the right of Israel to be a Jewish State and blames all the problems in that region on Israel. Even Iran’s attempts to build nuclear weapons is blamed on Israel. I have written about the problems contained in this document here, Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?

The second request is simply a pointer to the primary goal of item 15-06. That is, in number 3, to have the 220th GA vote for the boycotting of Israel products. However, one of the reasons the 219th General Assembly did not approve but received for study the Kairos document was its call for boycott and divestment. There are several reasons why the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should not vote to boycott Israeli products. Boycotting entails punishment rather than peacemaking. It is the easy way out-because it fails to deal with all problems.

But there are other important reasons for not boycotting Israel. David Torrance gives a clue in his chapter in the book, A Passion for Christ. He reminds his readers that “The Holocaust is now regarded as the third most significant event in the Jewish Calendar, not simply because six million Jews (one third of their entire number) perished violently, but because it was an attempt to obliterate everything Jewish, once for all.” This leads to thoughts about the history of Boycotts and their effect on the Jewish people.

The Jewish community has told us that economic leverages push a certain button with the Jewish community, especially when used by Christians. There is a long memory of Christian boycotts of Jews-dating from medieval times and continuing through the Shoah (Holocaust). There is the memory of the Arab boycott, which continues in some forms today and which – some- including the Kairos authors and the Sabeel center, seek to revive.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, boycotts and divestment just drive everyone further apart. The 2009 Presbyterian panel found that almost 80% of Presbyterians feel that a strong relationship between Presbyterians and Jews is important for PCUSA’s work in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.[1]

It is important that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) keep working with the problems of the Middle East, but neither boycotting nor divestment is the right way. We must stay friends with the Palestine people and the Jewish people.

[1] I asked a Jewish friend to help me make this posting more acceptable to those working for peace in the Middle East- as well as upholding the Jewish State of Israel

Friday, June 8, 2012

Opening the next dark door: pedophilia (Update)

The doors of darkness keep opening in Western society, and once they are open it is hard to close them. There is a movement to redefine pedophilia as a normal sexual orientation. I have for many years received weekly an online paper entitled Apologia Report: Tracking Spiritual Trends in the 21st Century. The latest one has a small article directing the reader to an article in the new magazine, Salvo. That is a magazine with some connections to Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. The article in Apologia “Morality” starts:

Coming Attractions: Is Pedophilia the Next Sexual Perversion to Become Normalized?” by Judith Reisman — a report from the “B4U-ACT” conference in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 17, 2011. Riesman attended a conference symposium called “Pedophilia, Minor-Attracted Persons, and the DSM: Issues and Controversies.

The organization B4U-ACT is attempting to get pedophilia changed from abnormal sexuality to a normal sexual orientation. The name pedophilia would be changed to Minor-Attracted Persons (MAP). Reisman writes about a conference that supposedly had to do with helping mental health professionals better understand the pedophile as well as change the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders put out by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Reisman reports that the main speaker at the conference, Fred Berlin, M.D., Ph. D. was discipled by John Money who founded the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma; Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic and who also was “a pedophile advocate who called for an end to all age-of-consent laws.”

One of the speakers at the conference, Nancy Nyquist Potter, Ph. D, Professor of Philosophy, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY writes about how others listen to the testimony of the pedophile. Potter’s summary of her speech includes”
Genuine listening is a virtue, and one that is necessary if the voices of those attracted to minors are going to participate in the construction of the new DSM. Such participation is required in order to ensure that we have good science and ethical grounding that can go forward for diagnosis and treatment, while minimizing stigma and damage toward minor-attracted persons.

To this end I make a distinction between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’ and argue that those creating DSM-V [defining disorders] need to cultivate a virtue in order for genuine listening to occur.
All of this sounds very familiar. One of the speakers actually connects feminist's concepts, homosexuality and the need for changing the terms and diagnosis connected to pedophilia. In his description of his paper, “Pedophilia, Minor-Attracted Persons, and the DSM: Issues and Controversies, Jacob Breslow, B.A. writes:
The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders is currently under its sixth revision, and the current proposed changes put forth major revisions on how pedophilia is defined, diagnosed and understood. This paper approaches these revisions from within the critiques made by queer youth activism as well as feminist and anti-racist scholarship, framing the upcoming changes to the DSM with apprehensive praise and critical ambivalence. Within I shall challenge normative assumptions about sexuality, personal and political identity, and childhood, both within the DSM and within wider society.

One of the major changes attempts to establish a clear distinction between pedophilia as a non-diagnosable ascertainment, and pedophilic disorder as a diagnosable, distressing and non-normative disorder that requires psychiatric intervention. Allowing for a form of non-diagnosable minor attraction is exciting, as it potentially creates a sexual or political identity by which activists, scholars and clinicians can begin to better understand Minor Attracted Persons. This understanding may displace the stigma, fear and abjection that is naturalized as being attached to Minor Attracted Persons and may alter the terms by which non-normative sexualities are known. Furthermore, this paper argues that this distinction is potentially another step towards the complete re-thinking of paraphilias within the DSM – a step that follows historically and theoretically from the removal of homosexuality.
My first thought of response to the ending of this posting was God have mercy on his people. But quickly following is, yes, but in that mercy help us to have mercy on those who need the mercy of the cross. May we proclaim with greater intention and fervent love the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Update: I found an article similar to the one at Salvo by Judith Reisman at her web site, Sexual Sabotage. See "They're mainstreaming pedophilia: Judith Reisman attends confab pushing orientation 'Minor-Attracted Persons'

And this:
"Time to Normalize Pedophilia: Firsthand Report on B4U-ACT Conference"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Heretical evangelicalism merges with progressive goddess worship

Sometimes heretical evangelicalism merges with progressive goddess worship. While it may, sadly, inspire some, it should leave Jesus’ disciples first in shock, then shame and sorrow and finally lead to prayer and intersession for the lost. It should also lead to thankfulness since Christ has promised that no one may remove Christ’s own from the Father’s hand. We are safe in his keeping. (John 10:27-30)

In the gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples to abide in his love, ‘Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love.” (John 15:9) Called to abide in the love of Jesus—what greater calling is there than this. But abiding in the love of the One who is truth means holding onto truth-in particular to the truth of Christ, to the truth of his word, to the truth of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the first chapter of John, we are reminded that Jesus is God, the word who was with God and was God. And how do we know God, how can we be faithful to the truth of who God is, John also tells his readers in 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained him.” So in our relationship with Jesus, in our union with the eternal Son of the Father, we learn through the Holy Spirit by means of the word of God about God. If we love Jesus we will be truthful about the Holy One.

Is the Holy One—goddess? Because God is El Shaddai is he the voluptuous God and erotic? Or Sophia, Shakti, Shiva, Kali”? Never! On the Facebook page “Feminist Agenda Network,” linked to by Advocacy Committee for Woman’s Concerns, Presbyterian, Sonnie Swenston-Forbes, has linked with some delight to Mike Morrell’s blog and his article, “Weeping with the Goddess in Jake’s Kitchen.” There we learn all of these names for God and more.

Morrell, who has to do with the Wildgoose Festival, has traveled a long road from early charismatic, mystical beginnings to progressive mystical goddess’s positions. He equates the goddess with the Hebrew God of the Bible and with Jesus. But some of his names, Shakti, Shiva, and Kali are Hindu. His Sophia is Gnostic and his form of El Shaddai pagan. In fact throughout his posting are shades of panentheism and pure paganism. With an erotic cartoon Morrell writes:
So for me, seeing the sacred feminine as Sophia in Proverbs, or El Shaddai in the Old Testament, or Jesus-as-Mother in several New Testament depictions (not to mention in the writings of mystics like Julian of Norwich) gives me back something I’ve never had as a man: the Voluptuous God, the female creator and nurturer who is comfortable with the space she inhabits. El Shaddai is self-possessed with a powerful, seductive eroticism, one that can both initiate and follow. When I spend time with God, she can ignite my senses with insight and proposition; she can also receive everything I have to give. When our workers [leaders over some kind of house church] encourage us to “Make love to your Lord,” guys, it’s worth reframing this!
In Proverbs God’s wisdom is personified as is lady folly. However, in the New Testament we are allowed to see that Jesus is the complete personification of God’s Wisdom. Paul tells the Church that because they understand the mystery of God, “Christ himself,” they know the one in whom “is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2: 2-3) Paul also warns the Colossians that they should not allow anyone to take them captive to the world’s deception. Goddess worship is as old as pagan cultures and as empty and deadly as any sin that has ever led the people of God astray.

Instead we abide in the pure love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit knowing that in Jesus Christ we know God.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Afraid to say 'heresy'

A book I just finished reading, Faith and Fatherland: Parish Politics in Hitler’s Germany has some comforting lines that are often repeated in one form or another.[1] In differentiating between the German Christians and the Confessing Church the author, Kyle Jantzen, for instance states, “The Emergency League [forerunner of the Confessing Church] bound together Protestant ministers who vowed that they would base their teaching solely on the Bible and Reformation Confessions.” (my italics) 

This emphasis on the Bible and Reformation teaching is the dividing line. And that is why I am so troubled by the constant heretical content of the teaching of leaders and pastors in the Presbyterian Church (PC (U.S.A.).
Picture by Penny Juncker

In just a few months time various Presbyterian leaders and teaching elders have offered heretical teaching about the person of Christ. Most of their teaching involves ideas about pluralism and revelation. That is, Jesus is only one of several revelations and he is not the unique Savior of humanity.

In the last century, in Germany, church doctrine was disparaged for the sake of nationalism. Biblical revelation was either placed along side national revelation or totally discarded. Jesus and the Church were made to serve false religion. But it isn’t always nationalism or racism which demeans and attempts to overpower biblical faith—through the centuries various cultural interests have nearly overcome the Church. Both biblical standards and biblical doctrines have come under attack for various reasons. But at the root of all reasons, human egotism is a basic factor.

The German Christians, those who gloried in German nationalism and Hitler, intensified a push for church unity. Their reason; they wanted to unify the churches in Germany as a way of undergirding National Socialism. And at that time National Socialism was a means of reinforcing German egotism.

Some Christians in Germany, who were unaware of the issues of the church struggle, and who were patriotic, believed such unity was biblical. It was about Christian fellowship and love-or so they thought. But a German Christian rally at the Berlin Sports Palace Stadium in 1933 changed that understanding. Even Hitler was unhappy because the speech given that day starkly clarified the difference between orthodox Christianity and the heterodoxy of the German Christians.

The speaker at the stadium, Reinhold Krause, a German Christian, standing before an audience of 20, 000 denounced the Old Testament and the apostle Paul. A pulpit declaration, written by Confessing Church members, put it this way, “'men who call themselves Christians’ repudiated the divine revelation of parts of the Holy Scripture and advocated the setting aside the ‘offense of the cross.'”[2] The German Christians were adverse to any idea of atonement, or redemption on a cross. Jesus was remade into a non-Jewish Aryan hero, one whose cross held no importance.

The Church struggle went on, even at times intensified, throughout the Nazi years but German Christianity was never as popular after the rally. Reinhold Krause lost his job. When pastors and even the laity began to understand what it was the German Christians denied they left the organization. A pastor who had been a member of the German Christians wrote to his parish superintendent after the Sports Stadium rally:
Pastor Gotthelf Müller of Heidenau notified Zweynert that he was so offended by the German Christian Sport Palace assembly in Berlin that he had withdrawn from the movement. After a fruitless discussion with Saxon bishop Coch [a German Christian] Müller had promptly joined the Pastor’s Emergency League [an organization formed by Martin Niemoller]. [3]
Jantzen, records the same church district superintendent’s words in a letter when he had read that the name Church of the Atonement was banned by the German Christian leadership, “This decree has shaken me and filled me with great concern. If the Church of the Atonement is no longer suited to the times, will Redeemer Church and Church of the Cross suffer the same fate, which logic would say they must suffer? Can anyone still answer for that in good conscience?”

Another word, ‘heresy’ was banned by the German Christians who didn’t care for church doctrines:
In February, 1934, Christian Kinder, at the time German Christian Reich leader, explained at a rally in Berlin. That “quarrels about dogmas and forms of the Confessions of faith” only frightened people away from the church. The following year, Minister of Church Affairs Kerrl tried to legislate anti-doctrinal Christianity: in an attempt to impose peace in the church struggle, he banned the use of the word heresy (Irrlehre) for two years.[4]
As, Doris L. Bergen, the author of Twisted Cross, points out “Opposition to church doctrine facilitated German Christian efforts to synthesize Nazi ideology and Christianity because it implied denial of the sanctity of biblical texts.”[5] But as I have pointed out above there was opposition and this is the correct reaction to heresy. Denounce, continue to uphold the truth, and in some cases move to more solid ground.

Today, Christology, the atonement and all other Christian doctrines are under attack—but this time for the sake of antinomianism. The old desire to do as one pleases; the insistence on worldly rights within the confines of what is meant to be holy is our particular church struggle. What surprises today is the few who are shocked and turn away from organizations and people who spout such heresy.

The Church Superintendent I have written about above, belonged to neither the German Christians nor the Confessing Church, and yet he worked to keep the German Christians out of offices and pastorates. He set up a fellowship for pastors and would neither invite nor allow German Christians to join. He was troubled by their disregard for the essential truths of Scripture. Yet, who today, in the PC (U.S.A.) cares?

There is a general call for unity, in fact, another great push for unity, not to bolster nationalism but to legitimize diverse opinions about Christology, atonement-the nature of God, biblical authority and sexuality.

Those living in 1933 during the time when Hitler took power, were wise enough to say heresy when a movement started suggesting that parts of Scripture are not inspired or that the cross is a poor symbol of God’s purposes. Pastors took a chance and had their pay cut, or were dismissed and even went to prison for reading statements from the pulpit about the German Christian’s heretical speeches. So, simply a question, why are we afraid in this age of freedom to say, with conviction, it is heresy?

[1] I have used this book before in some of my postings, but for the first time I made a point of taking time to read it straight through. It is an excellent book.
[2]Kyle Jantzen, Faith and Fatherland: Parish Politics in Hitler’s Germany, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2008) 149.See also Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich.

[3]Ibid, 140.
[4]Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press 1996) 146-47.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Will Spotts, David Fischler & Ry Cooder

For the weekend I am pointing to two blogs and then pointing to a great video-if you like Ry Cooder and steel guitar.

Will Spotts who often comments on Naming His Grace and who has blogged in the past is once again blogging on issues to do with the PCUSA and Israel and Palestine. His blog is The PC (USA) on Israel and Palestine.  His latest post is Disneyland For Presbyterians: A GA Overview.

Spotts begins:

 In a little less than a month, Presbyterians from around the country – commissioners from 173 presbyteries, young adult advisory delegates, ecumenical representatives, national staff, denominational officials, observers, interest groups, activists, and seminarians – will descend on an unsuspecting Pittsburgh. A General Assembly is an event. Even in years of controversy and high drama, it has a festive element. I have heard it aptly described as “Disneyland for Presbyterians”.

Alas, in the midst of the festivities, commissioners will face a daunting slate of proposals and business items to consider. For those unfamiliar with the PC(USA)’s version of Presbyterianism, a GA works something like this. Commissioners will spend most of their week focused on a fraction of the total assembly business. That business is divided among several committees with names like, “Mission Coordination”, “Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations”, “Social Justice Issues”, and “Church Polity”. Each commissioner is assigned to serve on one. The committee will have the only in depth opportunity to consider the issues before it, and that committee will recommend a course of action to the whole assembly. Now the whole assembly will have to vote, but in most cases they will follow a committee’s lead.”

You can find that link on the side of my blog.

David Fischler, an EPC pastor, who also comments here, has recently been blogging on the StandFirm site. At one time that was only an Anglican site but now they are branching out. Fischler is covering Reformed issues. Here is a posting that points to some of the same issues I wrote about when writing about the actions of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns. It is “Shut Up They Explained (PC (U.S.A.) Edition.” Fischler begins:

“Last summer, the Presbyterian Church (USA), upon receiving a majority from its 173 presbyteries, removed a provision in its ordination standards that required celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage. This opened the door for the ordination of sexually active homosexuals. This was achieved only after many years, multiple votes in which advocates lost, and endless talk. Now that they have gotten what they wanted, some of the advocates have a new message for this who disagree: sit down, shut up, and bow down to the New Order.

One such collection of advocates resides in the denomination’s Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns, which is not an interest or issue caucus, but an official body reporting to the General Assembly Mission Council, the PCUSA’s “mission and ministry” agency, from which it receives its funding and support. It speaks, not simply as a random collections of activists, but as one of the official voices of the denomination. It has taken positions that are suggestive of what the future holds for dissent from the New Order.” I

I will be placing a link to Stand Firm on the side of my blog.

So after reading all of that you will need some good music, and even if you don’t I do.