Sunday, April 29, 2012

Landon Whitsitt, Open Source Christianity and the sovereignty of God

The Rev. Landon Whitsitt who is the Vice Moderator of the PC (USA) and author of the kindle book, Open Source Church the Wisdom of All, has for some time been visiting presbyteries and giving lectures on his ideas about an open source church. Recently I found a series of videos with his presentation.

Some of his thoughts are interesting, engaging and helpful but I was troubled by his universalism that seems to deny the unique saving grace of Jesus and is probably connected to his views on the authority of Scripture. I found that some of his statements,which were meant to uphold the sovereignty of God, in fact, find him contending with that sovereignty.

Whitsitt uses the criteria for the definition of open source use via computers as a way of defining what he calls open source Christianity. There are six videos that can be watched to understand what Whitsitt means by open source Christianity. My biggest concern is in the sixth video under the principle, “Thou shall not deny the truth and benefits of other religious traditions," which sounds innocuous enough. However for Whitsitt not denying the truth or benefits of other religions includes them finding a relationship with God unconnected to Jesus Christ.

Whitsitt states:
Just because God has called you into relationship through the work and person of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean everybody has to be in relationship with God through the work and person of Jesus Christ.
Attempting to show how God uses context, Whitsitt asks several questions about presenting the gospel in Japan. He states, “Did you know that in Japan sheep are not indigenousness or native? If you were to go to a Japanese person and you were to say “Lamb of God,” they would look at you and go “what “? It makes no sense because that is not a part of their context. It makes no sense; so just on the bases of context alone we cannot assume or require that God is supposed to deal with everyone in the same way.” I am not sure why we can’t explain to the Japanese what sheep are but that is not what I want to write about here.[1]

Whitsitt further states:
But further let’s take a higher tack on it if I believe that to proclaim Jesus Christ is from my freedom and my freedom is to proclaim Jesus Christ I have to believe that this God of sovereign grace alone who acts in freedom can do what ever God wants to do. I have to believe that God is more smarter and faithful than I am and that God is drawing all people into relationship. Who am I to dictate how that relationship works?
This is where the authority of Scripture, God’s word, comes in. Whitsitt is right, God can do whatever he wants to do; however, God has already spoken allowing us to know what he wants to do. To reject his will is to reject his sovereignty. God in his word explains that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life but those who do not have already been judged because of their disbelief. (John 3:16-21) And Jesus in John 14:6 insists “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no ones comes to the Father but through me.”

Jesus is the unique and ultimate Lord—we dare not ignore his life, death and resurrection—he was lifted up for our salvation. To reject the words of Jesus is to try and control God, not honor his sovereignty. It is important to take up the Scripture and listen to what God says.

[1] The truth is there are some, though few, sheep in Japan and Japan's zodiac which is divided into years contains the year of the sheep. All that is need is an explanation of sacrifice. See 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

David Fischler on "Christians of the Holy Land"

I will be leaving early in the morning for the Voices of OrthodoxWomen’s board meeting. But I want to recommend an exceptionally well written and researched piece by David Fischler on last Sunday night’s Sixty Minutes’ program “Christians of the Holy Land.” Fischler’s posting is, “Putting the Hatchet to Israel” and it is at Standing Firm. He begins:
“On Sunday evening, the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes ran a story entitled “Christians of the Holy Land.” It purports to be an objective report on the condition of the Christian community in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is not.

There’s a video of the segment you can watch here, or a transcript you can read here. I’d like to take a look at some of it, and show where the reporter, Bob Simon, went wrong (sometimes humorously so.) We’ll start with a funny:

Here in Jerusalem, the numbers are even bleaker than in Bethlehem.

Theophilos the third, the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox, has lived through the decline. His church, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is the most sacred site in Christendom. He took us up to the roof. You’ve got to know a patriarch to get here.

Actually, you don’t. Pretty much any tourist on the right tour can do so. I’ve been on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I don’t know a single patriarch.

Mitri Raheb: Christianity started here. The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity.

Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian, a Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem. He runs schools, cultural centers and health clinics.

Though you would never know it from Simon’s report, Mitri Raheb is an interesting character. He is a leading exponent of “replacement theology,” or supersessionism, and claims that Christians “have inherited all of the God’s promises, including the Land of Israel.”

Fischler writes and shows how the security wall does not surround Bethlehem. He quotes a Muslim reporter about the harassment of Palestinian Christians by extreme Muslims. And he gives an analysis of the Kairos Document and how it was misrepresented in the CBS program.

All of this is excellent please read.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Christians of the Holy Land" A CBS failure to investigate and use all sources

Having just finished watching the Sixty Minutes segment, “Christians of the Holy Land,” I feel I should make some comments.

The program used, as one of their main experts, Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb. They are evidently unaware of Raheb’s extreme anti-Israel bias. I have written about Raheb and one of his anti-Semitic ideas at Critiquing the theologies and connections of some pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel leaders: a series # 4. He believes that those Israelis who came from Europe are not really Jews but rather ancestors of converts to Judaism.

At the 2010 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in his speech Raheb stated:

I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.

Raheb is using the old ploy of various anti-Semites. I explain in the above post:

Raheb is referring to the Khazars when he writes of an East European tribe that converted to Judaism in the middle ages. And there was such a tribe that did convert. In fact the European Jews were proud that a whole tribe had converted to Judaism. But that does not make every Jew living in Diaspora a member of the Khazars.

Another problem with the Sixty Minutes program is its reference to the Kairos Document. Both the interviewer, Bob Simon, and Raheb who he speaks to about the document made it sound as though it condemns both the Islamic extremist and Israel. But it does not. In fact the document blames acts of terrorism by extreme Palestinians on Israel. And it praises all who have fought for Palestine which would include the suicide bombers.

Undoubtedly the worst problem with the Kairos Document is its insistence that the State of Israel should not be a Jewish State. I have written about the document at Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?

One other failure of the program is their disinterest in the Palestinian Evangelicals. As I pointed out in my posting The Christians of Gaza & questions it is among the Evangelicals of Gaza that Christians have suffered. While many of the other churches are ancient nonetheless the Evangelicals are Christians. Furthermore a few of the ancient church leaders of the Middle East are as tainted with anti-Semitism as some Christians of the Medieval Ages were.   That is simply to say that the interviewer should have applied his skills of investigation in a far wider and deeper manner.

It is certain that Israel is causing many problems for Christians in Palestine, but it is even more certain that all the complexities of Middle East troubles, including extreme Islam, are influencing the Christian community to leave the Holy Land. Sixty Minutes allowed Raheb to turn “Christians of the Holy Land” into a propaganda piece against Israel.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To James Wall ... Up Date

To James Wall,

You have written a posting that uses William Wilberforce, John Newton and John Wesley. You equate the need for the Methodist Church to divest from companies doing business with Israel with the slave trade of England and the United States. You refer to Newton’s call, in the movie Amazing Grace, to “Throw their dirty, filthy ships out of the water.

The ships were dirty and filthy and bearing a load of humanity, suffering pain, despair and untold misery. The men piloting and running those ships were insufferably evil as were those who sold slaves and used slaves. They were also slaves to sin because they loved money and power and cared little for either suffering humanity or the suffering Christ.

That is undoubtedly why John Newton’s song Amazing Grace is so loved by many. When people realize what wretches they are they are open to hearing the words, “t’was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.” But some men, unlike Newton, Wilberforce and Wesley never acknowledge their own hatefulness.

You are the man—who has stated that Gordon Duff of Veterans Today and Debbie Menon of My Catbird Seat are your friends. You praise these people who despise the Jewish people. You praise them and use their material. You do not care that they have blamed untold evil on the Jews including the tragedy of 9-11, the evil of the Nazis, etc., etc. (Please see, Veterans Today: Against the Jewish people, against Christians, and against veterans) So why should the Methodist listen to you about Israel?

We must love both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We must work toward a two state solution. Israel has some actions they need to take. The Palestinians have some actions they need to take as do many of the Arab states and one Persian state. But those who listen to you are listening to someone who has made friends with vileness and unloving bigotry. Why should any person bearing the righteousness and grace of Christ listen? Why should the Methodist Church listen? Why even the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?

Update-James Wall sent this post with a link to my blog to Gordon Duff of Veterans Today. I know that because Duff commented on one of my earlier posts. This is what he said:
 "Jim Wall sent me your site. You would have more comments if you just wrote better.

I could recommend a school for you, perhaps a basic writing class at a local adult education facility in your region.

Please visit one

Gordon Duff"

I quote here so that the reader will understand that James Wall & Gordon Duff are connected. There are people in the mainline churches including the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who should stop using his material.
Duff's comment can be found here: Simply scroll down.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Christians of Gaza & questions

The Electronic Intifada on April the 17th had this news report, “Gaza’s Christians like birds who will always return to their nests”. The article begins with a statement by Dr. Anton Shuhaibar, a physician, “When someone asks me what my identity is, I answer that first and foremost, I am a Palestinian Arab with Arab roots and then last comes my Christian religion.” The author of the article, Rami Almeghari, is seemingly unfamiliar with Christianity. And Shuhaibar is either afraid of his Islamic leaders or does not understand what it means to be a Christian.

No faithful Christian would put his ethnicity and nationality above his Christianity. Christ is either Lord or ethnic identity is lord. (That was one of the problems facing Christianity during Nazi Germany.) The Christian’s first obedience, no matter how hard, must be to Christ and his word. Many Christians in the Middle East are suffering because of their faithfulness.

I am interested in the article because there is an on going argument about whether the Palestinian Christians are leaving the Middle East because of Israel or because of persecution by radical Islamic groups. The author of the article seems to be making a case for the former. His reference to past offences by Islamic groups is rather weak. Almeghari, quoting Khalil Abu Shammala, director of the Al Dameer Association for Human Rights, writes:
“For example, in 2008, we recorded a number of incidents, in which a Christian man was killed and some Christian [-owned] buildings were bombed by suspected Islamic extremists in the territory,” Abu Shammala said at his Gaza City office.

Abu Shammala suggested that for Christians, as a minority, the main issue is psychological pressure.

“For instance, over the past few years, many Christian women in Gaza have been forced to put on a headscarf, something that can be attributed to the change since 2007,” Abu Shammala explained. “But in general, I can assure you that we as a rights group have not received any formal complaint by any Christian group or individual about any kind of harassment or violence by individuals, groups or authorities in Gaza.”
A little more information about the Christian killed and the bombings is helpful. An article, “My Heart is in Gaza” published in Christianity Today in 2008 begins:
Gaza Baptist Church used to draw hundreds of Palestinian worshipers to its two Sunday services. But on a recent Sunday in January, less than 10 people risked attending the only evangelical church in the 25-mile coastal strip.

Palestinian evangelicals, a group of hundreds living among 1.5 million Muslims, have been fleeing the Gaza Strip for the West Bank in response to increased violence and threats from Islamic extremists. In October, Rami Ayyad, the 29-year-old manager of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, was kidnapped and murdered. Then on February 15, a group of 14 masked gunmen forcibly entered the ymca offices and set off a bomb in the library, burning thousands of books.[1]
These two events happened after Hamas took control of Gaza. And it is true that both Muslim citizens as well as Christians have suffered because of Israel’s security features. As the author, Jeremy Weber, put it, “Conditions have also worsened due to Israel's security efforts, which have constricted the incoming flow of food, electricity, and fuel. Israel tightened security in response to ongoing Hamas rocket attacks and the first suicide bombing in Israel in three years [In 2008].” But many Evangelical Christians left Gaza because of radical Islamic persecution.

"Suffocating the Faithful” written by David Aikman, a year earlier, covered the problems of many Christian communities in the Middle East. Aikman had this to say about the Palestinian Christians:
In Bethlehem, now under Palestinian authority, Christians have shrunk from 85 percent in 1948 to around 15 percent today. Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian Christians are caught between growing Islamic fundamentalism and Israel's quest for security. In Palestinian-controlled areas, Christians number about 60,000, less than 2 percent of the overall population of 3.9million. Many of these believers live in Christian villages with debilitated economies.
But going further afield and looking at the whole situation for many Christian communities in the Middle East, an atheist gives the clearest report and the greatest plea for tolerance. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written an eye opening article, “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.” Written in February 2012 it looks carefully at every area in the Muslim world where Christians are persecuted. Hirsi Ali calls it Christophobia, writing, “… we also need to keep perspective about the scale and severity of intolerance. Cartoons, films, and writings are one thing; knives, guns, and grenades are something else entirely.”

In another place she writes:
No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.
And for this reason alone, “a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions and ethnicities,” all Christians in the Middle East must be feeling wary and perhaps alone. While Hirsi does not mention persecution of Palestinian Christians it behooves the West including mainline denominations to speak with care toward and about Christians in the Middle East. Sunday night CBS’, “Sixty Minutes” will be televising a show about the shrinking Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. I am praying that they are honest with their questions, understanding the hard situation of the Palestinians.

[1]See also

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Divesting from Israel, lying about history and David Fischler's excellent information

Both the United Methodist Church’s General Conference and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) are facing recommendations to divest from companies doing business with Israel. The UMC and the PCUSA are meeting this summer; the UMC April 24th to May 4th and the GA of the PCUSA June 30th to July 7th.

Bypassing any understanding of Israel’s need for security as a nation, the recommendation for the PCUSA GA to divest from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions came from Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI). A large group of mostly leftists activists and organizations are pushing on commissioners to vote for the divestments. Even members of the Communist party are involved.

David Fischler of Reformed Pastor provides both Presbyterian and Methodist commissioners with good information on those who are trying to influence both denomination’ votes. He has written three very helpful posts and will post a final tomorrow on the 19th. The three now posted are:

1. Infiltrating the Churches: Part 1

2. Infiltrating the Churches: Part 2

3. Infiltrating the Churches: Part 3

The information is very important; please read it. In the second posting Fischler writes about one of the activist groups which is really an umbrella organization for many other groups, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, (USCEIO) among other information about this group Fischler states:

That the USCEIO marches in lockstep with the far left is no surprise. Among the organizations that are members of this anti-Israel umbrella is a veritable Who’s Who of the American extreme left. Among the member groups are long-time Communist fronts like the US Peace Council and the National Lawyers Guild, the International Socialist Organization, Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Council for the National Interest, the International Solidarity Movement, the U.S. Green Party, the Institute for Policy Studies, We Are Wide Awake (a project of anti-Semitic web site Veterans Today‘s Eileen Fleming), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the War Resisters League, If Americans Knew, the Rachel Corrie Foundation, and the U.S. Campaign fro Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.[1]

I lifted out this particular bit of information by Fischler because I want to add some further information. The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has an Advisory Board. One of the members of the board is Presbyterian Teaching Elder and former Moderator of the GA of the PCUSA, Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel. This means that in this very serious matter the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) is being guided by influential Presbyterians who are a part of an organization with some very mixed and troubling agendas. Although the MRTI made the recommendations to the GA, and the GAMC voted to send a recommendation to the GA-nonetheless outside influences have prevailed.

As Fischler has shown it is important to look at the organizations within the USCEIO. One organization which he highlights is extremely troubling; that is American Muslims for Palestine. One of their members, Kristin Szremski is on the Steering Committee for USCEIO. In one resource, on the AMP web site, “Jerusalem: Reclaiming the Palestinian and Muslim historical narrative in the face of Zionist repression,” the author links the Palestinians to the ancient Canaanites, while insisting that the Ashkenazi Jews are only descendents of converts who were not really Jews.

Writing of the Jewish people exiled from Arab lands after the birth of the State of Israel the author writes, “Contrary to popular notions, Jews in Arab lands immigrated to Israel – not because of harassment and persecution by Muslims – but because of covert operations by the CIA and the Mossad in Cairo and Baghdad.” But the historical data contradicts this with exacting firmness.

Another resource, “The Catastrophe El Nakba: How Palestine Became Israel,” casts the whole story of the birth of the Jewish State of Israel in an untruthful historical narrative. The word Holocaust never appears, the understanding that the Palestinians as well as the Jews committed atrocities is not told, and reading the material one would not know that five Arab states attacked the new state of Israel. Many of the political views and understandings are not only confusing they are anti-Semitic. The author does not even understand correct historical time lines. He writes:
By turn, Zionists approached the Ottomans, the British, and the United States to further their cause. While the Ottomans turned them down, the British acceded after the Zionists promised that American Zionists would push the U.S. to enter World War I on the side of England. The United States, whose major politicians like Harry Truman feared they’d lose elections if they didn’t back the Zionists, also acceded.
As Fischler has pointed out most of these organizations are insisting on a one state solution. Many of them include all of Israel in their version of occupation. And as can be seen above the historical accounts they are working from are not just faulty but are also lies. But this is only a small part of the material—click on the links above and read Fischler’s posts. They help the reader understand how absolutely driven the many leftist organizations are to bring an end to the Jewish State of Israel.

[1] if you click on Fischler's links you can go to almost every organization he has mentioned in this paragraph.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Veterans Today: Against the Jewish people, against Christians, and against veterans

In a time when so many veterans have so many needs a web journal that seemingly provides boundless information for them is a hoax without any morality. Veterans Today is subtitled “Military Veterans and Foreign affairs Journal.” It is also listed as a web network that “is a conglomerate of online U.S. Veteran web sites providing information, news, jobs, benefits, and advocacy for U.S. Military ...” And if you go to the Network site that will seem like a reasonable statement. But if you go to the journal site, Veterans Today, the words will be contrary to what most United States military men & women expect from a helpful service site.

On the web journal there is constant diatribe against both Israel and the Jewish people. You will also find diatribes against Christians. And if you are a veteran there are articles with dishonest historical accounts that will cause you to recoil.

Veterans Today and the Jews: In an article entitled “Zimmerman does NOT represent all Jews” there is a false suggestion that the man, George Zimmerman, who recently killed an unarmed African American, is Jewish. The article sarcastically has lines such as “We cannot repeat too often that Judaism is a religion of peace. Yes, there are a small number of Jewish extremists out there who support child-murdering terrorist organizations like the State of Israel; who shoot innocent black kids down in cold blood; who call for the murder of the President of the United States; and so on and so forth.”

The author, Dr. Kevin Barrett, continuing with his sarcasm writes, “But most Jews are law-abiding citizens, not terrorists – even though parts of their Talmud do exhibit a vastly greater reverence for Jewish life than for non-Jewish life.”

VT is an organization that simply hates Jews and uses hate speech in many of their articles. They believe that the State of Israel was behind the 9-11 tragedy, that the Jews control banks, government and Media. The Chair of their board and Senior Editor, Gordon Duff, uses the old conspiracy theory that the Rothschilds have for hundreds of years controlled the world financial systems and caused most wars. In an article written in 2010 he wrote:
Federal Reserve” means “Rothschild.” “Rothschild” means poverty, hunger, ignorance and, most of all, war. This is all you really need to know. Everything else, the Pentagon, Wall Street, the corporate news, congress, the Supreme Court, the arms industry bandits are nothing but their henchmen, cowards and thieves that sold their souls for cash, the perception of power and vice.
Veterans Today and Christianity: It is clear that VT vehemently despises traditional Christianity. In an article on Coptic Christians in Egypt, Dr. Ashraf Ezzat uses the horrible persecution of Coptic Christians as well as the death of the Coptic Pope, Shenouda III, to point to alleged past evil deeds of the Christians of Egypt. Writing of the early history of the Copts in Egypt Ezzat states:
And if the valley of the Nile was blessed by the gods, one wonders what use did Christianity possibly have for the religious Egyptians? What were the chances of Christ to compete with the mighty Amun-ra or Osiris? How was a multi-faith environment to reconcile with a foreign religion whose followers exclusively believed in one humiliated god? … Well, This proved to be both the challenge and the tragedy for Ptolemaic Alexandria, the cosmopolitan city that combined the wisdom of Thoth and the capriciousness of Dionysus.
Ezzat them blames the Copts for the death of the philosopher Hypatia and the burning of the library of Alexandria.

In an article by Eileen Fleming, “The Jefferson Bible: A rational Christianity and Earth Day 2012,”, the author glories in the idea of a Bible devoid of all its miracles.[1] And one should note that this includes a Bible which has totally lost the Old Testament and this leads to some understanding of how it is that VT hates traditional Christianity.

For many of the writers at Veterans Today Christianity’s connection to the Old Testament and Judaism is, not unlike earlier Nazis, anathema. Bob Johnson in his article, “Hanukkah: A celebration of Superstition over Wisdom,” attributes the holiday to the desire of the Jewish leaders to control their people. (It is truly celebrated because God supplied oil for the lamp in the Temple.) Johnson writes:

At the time, around 200 BCE, many individual Jews were being attracted away from the fear based superstitions and ignorance of Judaism over to Hellenism which is based on nature, reason and progress.

Johnson later writes:
The irreconcilable difference between “revealed” religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and science and real natural progress is that the “revealed” religions believe wisdom comes from fear of God as Proverbs 9:10 falsely claims. The Hellenistic idea is that wisdom comes from wonder, as Socrates said.
And then, in a manipulative way, Johnson uses the Jewish scholar Leo Strauss. He asks this question:
Strauss asks us a very important question – is our allegiance with Jerusalem and religious ignorance and violence promoting superstitions or is it with Athens and free thought and free inquiry along with the science and progress they produce?
Veterans Today and veterans: With the admittance that a small number of United States service people have committed terrible crimes in war, an article, Scoundrel Media Afghan Massacre Cover-up,” that starts like this, “Viciousness defines US wars. No crime’s too great to commit. Human lives are valueless. Only winning matters, then on to the next war. Lies, deception, unspeakable brutality, and cover-up define them,” is a clue about how Veterans Today really feels about veterans.

Another article, “Let your Life be a Friction to stop the Machine” posted by Debbie Menon is supposedly the history of the United States starting with the American Revolution.

It is portrayed as continuous evil controlled by a small elite concerned only with wealth & power. It is the usual kind of propaganda—take all of the evils, true or imagined, never mention goodness or victory, thereby creating a national history that is a monster. The author who is anonymous encourages total rebellion. Veterans should understand that many of the articles on VT leave the impression that US veterans of all eras in all wars were conned into fighting for a corrupt small group of elites.

Sister sites of Veterans Today. Some of the writers for VT, and there are many, have their own particular web sites and/or radio shows. But more importantly VT has sister sites with the same authors and the same articles. Here is a list of some of the more important ones:

My Catbird Seat- Administrator and Editor is Debbie Menon who also writes for VT –she lives in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. [*] Tim and Bonnie King of Salem Oregon are the main staff and Tim King is also an editor for VT. Eileen Fleming writes for this site.

Intifada Palestine- Elias F. Harb is a Palestinian based in Mexico.

While all of the VT writers write for other sites these four sites, VT and the other three sites, consistently use most of the same writers.

There are also writers with their own web sites who also write for these sites. They include:

Alan Hart who writes at

James Wall who writes at Wallwritings

Stephen lendman hosts The Progressive Radio News Hour on The Progressive Radio Network and blogs at Steve Lendman Blog

Veterans Today is a fraud scamming too many people. Although many of its producers and writers are progressive on social and political issues they are so tied to conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and hate speech they walk in step with the extreme far right. Their sites, articles, writers and future plans should be avoided by those who hold to decent and righteous principles.

[1] See also "Eileen Fleming & IPMN: forgetting the redemptive work of Jesus. " Fleming has responded in a comment on this post.
[*] Today is Sept. 13, 2012--I have noticed that there is no longer a link between VT and My Catbird Seat. Menon has removed any references to VT from her site and Duff any references to the Catbird site. I will leave the link there until I know the division is permanent.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heresy in a hymn

I wasn’t going to look at the new Presbyterian hymnal, “Glory to God” because I have never attended a PCUSA Church that used one. I have despaired in the past at GAs and PWs gatherings of the use of hymns with the beautiful confessional words replaced by inferior words. I just didn’t want to know what was there. But then someone posted a song from the hymnal on Facebook so I looked at the list of songs. They can be found at the Presbyterian Hymnal Project.

Of course there are many well known and well loved hymns, but I think it can now be truthfully stated that the PCUSA has a written document containing heresy. The song (I can’t use hymn here) "Bring Many Names Beautiful and Good” by Brian Wren is not biblical, confessional or Christian. The second and third verses begin by using consecutively the names, “Strong mother God” and “Warm father God.” But going further—much further, the wording is:

Old, aching God, grey with endless care,
calmly piercing evil's new disguises,
glad of good surprises, wiser than despair:
Hail and hosanna, old aching God!

Young, growing God, eager, on the move,
saying no to falsehood and unkindness,
crying out for justice, giving all you have:
Hail and hosanna, young, growing God!

While the author might be referring to Jesus when he uses the words, “Young, growing God,” that cannot be done. Jesus was both fully human & fully God. Jesus’ humanity does not change his divinity. One cannot ascribe human frailties’ to God. As John Flavel, speaking of the two natures of Christ, writes in his book The Fountain of Life:
Ye know he is, 1. True and very God; 2. True and very man; that, 3. These two natures make but one person, being united inseparably; 4. That they are not confounded or swallowed up one in another, but remain still distinct in the person of Christ. Hold ye the sound words which cannot be condemned. Great things hang upon these truths. O suffer not a stone to be loosed out of the foundation. [1]
God is eternal, not old and in that eternally God is not young and certainly not growing; the word growing implies that God is changing and not perfect:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.” Isaiah 40:40

“Your years are throughout all generations. Of old you founded the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. Even they will perish but you endure; and all them will wear out like a garment; like clothing you will change them and they will be changed. But you are the same and your years will not come to an end. “ (Psalm 102:25-27)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13: 8)

Forgot to write, Hat tip to Adel Thalos

Picture by Ethan McHenry

[1] Flavel also writes, “Yet we do not believe that one nature doth transfuse or impart its properties to the other, or that it is proper to say the divine nature suffered, bled, or died; or the human is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent; but that the properties of both natures are ascribed to the person, that it is proper to affirm any of them to him in the concrete, though not abstractly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Kairos Document, The Bethlehem Call & the 220th GA of the PCUSA

This posting is meant to help those who will be voting on Middle-East issues in the 220th Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. For instance ovt-021 "On Recognizing that Israel’s Law and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against Palestinian People" and in particular, ovt-068 On Responding to the Call from Palestinian Christians for Economic Solidarity.

In 2009 a paper entitled The Kairos Document was written and signed by various Christian leaders in the Middle East. It was voted on at the 219th GA of the PC (U.S.A.) but only one section was emphasized and it was received as a document for study.[1] The document is clearly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, I wrote about it at 'Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?." It is not a fair document even insisting that Israel should not be a Jewish state.

In December of 2011, another document, connected to the Kairos one, was published entitled, “The Bethlehem Call.” In this document the Israel occupation is referred to as lasting sixty years, meaning that the writers consider all of Israel the occupation. In this second document the derogatory comments toward Israel, the West and religious organizations are indefensible:
As witnessed with our own eyes, the treacherous conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation on Palestinians and their land have reached a level of almost unimaginable and sophisticated criminality. This includes the slow yet deliberate and systematic ethnic cleansing and the geo-cide of Palestinians and Palestine as well as the strangling of the Palestinian economy. The brutality in the “violence of silence” internationally provides an almost impenetrable shield for the Israeli government to implement its evil designs in blatant disregard for human rights and international law. Silence is an opinion. Inaction is an action. We witness decidedly spineless cowardice in failure to resist the Israeli government by the majority of governments, political parties, media outlets, businesses, most of organized religion -- including Christianity -- and the silence of prophets worldwide.
The Bethlehem Call which is heavily involved in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement and looks for connections to South American also has this statement in its text:
We pray and plead for a radical change of hearts, policies and practices of the Israeli government and those governments that support it. If this does not happen, we pray in trembling and hope if it is God’s will…. for these governments to fall.
I am writing this to point out that much of this has influenced the attitude of the PCUSA toward the Jewish State of Israel. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA has pushed the first document, even writing their own study guide, and linked to and advocated for the Bethlehem Call when it was released.

As a counter to both of these documents I am linking to a paper published by the Council of Centers in Jewish Christian Relations in 2010. The paper is entitled “Cautions to US Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document.” The paper points out where the Kairos Document is correct but where it is also faulty because of what it leaves out or misstates. For instance:
The Kairos Palestine document states that “[the Palestinian] connectedness to this land is a natural right.” (Sec. 2.3.4) We agree . . .

• But the Jewish connectedness to the land is also a natural right. Both Jews and Palestinians have legitimate claims to the land which can and must be accommodated through a negotiated two-state solution.
The Kairos Palestine document professes that “an end to Israeli occupation . . . will guarantee security and peace for all.” (Sec. 7) . . . But is that true?

• There was no security or peace prior to the occupation. During the British Mandate period, Arabs responded to Jewish immigration with violent attacks.

• More violence broke out after the November 29, 1947 U.N. partition plan which separated the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Increasingly violent attacks by Arabs against Jews were followed by violent Jewish reprisals. This was twenty years before the occupation and prior to the creation of the state of Israel.

• One day after Israel declared independence, five Arab states attacked the new Jewish state. The 1948/49 war ended with Armistice Agreements. But there was no peace. All of Israel’s borders were closed and every Arab country boycotted Israel. Hundreds of Israelis were killed and wounded in terror attacks launched mostly from bases in Jordan and the Syrian Golan Heights.

• In 1964 — three years before the occupation — the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded. The PLO established a Palestine Liberation Army in order “to attain the objective of liquidating Israel.”

• There is no reason to believe that ending the occupation alone would bring security and peace to Israel and Palestine.
It is important for any person involved in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 220th General Assembly to be aware of all of the facts of the history of the Jewish State of Israel as well as the needs of the Palestinians. The article I have linked to is extremely helpful because it does not leave out either side’s story. Please read-“Cautions to US Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document.”

[1] What was mainly rejected was the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Monday, April 9, 2012

An answer to "Apologia for a Marriage"

The organization More Light Presbyterians is offering a paper for the use of commissioners to the 220 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Written by Ken Cuthbertson a minister in the PCUSA, "Apologia for a Marriage" is a paper explaining why it is supposedly proper for him and his partner, Doug Calderwood, an elder, to be married. The ceremony was preformed in New York on March the 25th. Because the paper will undoubtedly be read by some commissioners I will respond to several of Cuthbertson’s views about same gender marriage.

Much of Cuthbertson’s foundational views do not come from the biblical text but Western secular culture. After explaining that most of Christianity views the marriage relationship between a woman and man as a reflection of God’s image Cuthbertson writes:
A more modernist and humanistic approach to marriage looks to the evolution of life, and of the sociocultural modalities of civilization, and notes that perhaps the divine imprimatur may be not so much inherent as assigned, and more assumed than discerned.
He includes the modern view of marriage as “a fully mutual consensual union of equals.”

However, attempting to prove his point from Scripture anyway, Cuthbertson states that as a gay progressive Christian he wishes to come to the issue “from a scripture-honoring perspective.” He lists eight statements he believes are important. I will look at each one.

“1. While the Bible forbids particular homosexual activities (rape, idolatory [sic], prostitution, etc.) in several instances, it never actually speaks to same-gender mutual, consensual, sexual relationships. (And, by the way, rape, idolatry, and prostitution are also equally forbidden for heterosexuals.)”

It is simply not true that the Bible “never actually speaks to same-gender mutual, consensual, sexual relationships.” Probably Romans 1:26-27 is the clearest of the texts as far as consensual sex is concerned. Verse 27 states, “And in the same way also the men abandoned the natural functions of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their own error.”

“2. On the other hand, the Bible strongly affirms affectional relationships (see #5, below) between persons of the same gender. But (again) does not speak to the sexual aspect of such relationships.”

Yes, certainly, the Bible does affirm affection between persons of the same sex. And of course the Bible does not speak to the sexual aspect of such relationships because the Bible does not affirm same gender sexual relationships. So those relationships it affirms are not sexual. The great antinomian heresy of this time has caused unspeakable damage to the understanding of friendship between men and friendship between women. Friendship is a beautiful gift given by God and it should not be confused with sexual desire.

“3. The emphasis of both Jesus and Paul concerning morality and ethics was on “love” and on just and caring relationships in the community, not on ritual “purity” or “clean” vs. “unclean” behaviors.”

It would take a very long paper to unpack all of Cuthbertson’s implications. Jesus’ ethics were based on the commandments which he insisted were fulfilled in his own person. Jesus never turned away those who came to him with real needs, but he also insisted that they no longer continue in sin. Paul was very clear about what sin was and what was not sin. But he did not preach reform he proclaimed repentance and transformation in Christ.

And to take this further, as I believe Cuthbertson intended, the issue of same gender sex is not about “ritual ‘purity’ or ‘clean’ vs. ‘unclean’ behaviors.’ The Old Testament purity codes existed for the Hebrews until the time of Christ. But Christ took them to the cross. (See Col. 2:16-23)But sexual sin is something else. It must be repented of—given over to Jesus Christ. Just as a thief, a liar and a gossip are still required to repent and live righteously so those who commit sexual sins such as adultery and same gender sex are also required to repent. Then the Scriptural outlook is “Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11) That is good news.

“4. In the second creation story (Garden of Eden) it is said to be “not good” for the man to be alone, and the focus is on the creation of a “companion” and “helper” for the first human, not on procreation and reproduction. Human companionship lies at the essential core of the “good” in marriage.”

Cuthbertson is right in suggesting that rather than procreation being at the heart of marriage God created Eve because of Adam’s need of a companion. But he has made a mistake, as another theologian recently did; the emphasis is on both companionship and ‘man and woman.’ Jesus goes back to the original story when speaking about divorce. (Matthew 19:3-7) And Jesus did not leave out the fact that God created a woman to be the companion to Adam. Scripture cannot be so easily broken and misused.

“5. Various biblical accounts of same-gender relationships (the covenantal relationship of Jonathan and David, the affirmations of Ruth to Naomi, etc.) remarkably resemble egalitarian “marriage” as our society has come to understand it.”

Cuthbertson is perhaps suggesting one of two things. Perhaps that the friends he has mentioned are in a sexual relationship or perhaps that marriage is simply a friendship with sex added. Neither is right and the model falls apart. The relationship between Johnathan and David as well as Ruth and Naomi do not resemble marriage since there is no sex involved. If this is Cuthbertson’s meaning the beauty of friendship once again is wiped out by the sinful insistence that all such relationships must be sexual.

Of course as C.S. Lewis pointed out friendship between a man and a woman can lead to romantic love and marriage. But there is certainly a difference between romantic love and friendship. And that is why the idea of marriage as friendship with sex added is also wrong. It wipes out the very thing Cuthbertson is trying to establish. That is, marriage as a covenant relationship. The marriage of a man and woman fill out that covenant changing even the contours of friendship. The new relationship is molded by the difference of man and woman.

Once again Ruth and Naomi as well as David and Jonathan are not good models even for modern egalitarian marriage. In fact, the picture of Ruth, Boaz and their marriage is a healthy and beautiful picture of marriage. It is indeed a covenant and one that leads to the birth of David whose seed, Jesus, would sit on his throne forever.

“6. The progress of revelatory understanding about God and the extent of God’s realm is repeatedly shown to be directed away from exclusive categorizations toward inclusivity and the breaking down of divisive barriers between people. (See Isaiah 56, Acts 10, Galatians 3:28, etc.)”

First the idea of “the progress of revelatory understanding about God” needs to be addressed. The Bible is God’s written word—it does not change. Jesus Christ is the living Word of God; he does not change. The biblical text in Isaiah 56, Acts 10, and Galatians 3:28 speak of God’s desire to bring the broken, sinful and needy into his kingdom. But even in Isaiah God does not open the gate unconditionally; speaking to the eunuchs God says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases me and hold fast my covenant, to them I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial, and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.”

We are drawn to Christ in repentance and he makes us children in his kingdom. We are all sinners but God calls his children to acknowledge their sin and turn from it.

“7. Although specific gender roles are noted according to the socio-cultural norms of the times, the basic underlying teaching concerning Christian marriage in the New Testament is about mutual submission, mutual esteem, and love, undertaken out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21, etc.)”

The New Testament does not shape marriage gender roles according “to the socio-cultural norms of the times.” There were same gender marriages in New Testament times. The New Testament writers insisted that Christians should follow the Hebrew Bible in matters of sexual ethics which forbade same gender sex. More importantly, basic New Testament teaching about marriage is based on Christ’s relationship to the Church, which includes both respect and love. The image is of a bride (the Church) and groom (Christ), not of two brides or two grooms.

“8. The vows and promises of the historic Christian marriage covenant – “to love, honor, and cherish, to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live” – are neither gender-specific nor gender-exclusive. They are simply about how two people relate to one another. (And nowadays most couples omit the woman’s archaic “obey” vow.)”

All I can say about the eighth statement is that it is a non-sequitur. It has nothing at all to do with Cuthbertson's conclusion that same gender marriage is an acceptable Christian practice.

The author goes on to the conclusion that “The core ‘meaning’ of Christian marriage thus seems to be pretty consistent with the modern sociocultural expectation of a mutual consensual union of equals, grounded in love, mutual esteem, and a commitment to sharing the journey of life together. The one distinctively Christian aspect being the undertaking to do this ‘out of reverence for Christ.’”

With that statement Cuthbertson kills his whole argument. Christian marriage is to be biblical. That means it must be and can only be between a man and a woman. A celebration, ritual, whatever it could be called between two same gender persons cannot be done out of reverence for Christ. It can only be done with disregard for Christ and the word of God written.

“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 become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Jesus Christ our Lord is risen

“Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go make it as secure as you know how.’ And they went and made the grave secure, and along with a guard they set a seal on the stone.” (Matthew 27: 65-66)

Pilate allowed the Jewish leaders and Roman guards to secure the tomb of Jesus—as secure as they knew how. Amazing that humanity would try even at the end to thwart the plan that God had set in motion before the foundation of the world. How could God’s love seen in the sacrifice of Jesus be undone? The power of the resurrection was God’s undoing of every evil purpose proposed by sinful humanity. As C. S. Lewis put it, with such a death, “Death itself would start working backwards.'”

Humanity does not know how to secure the tomb when it holds the Lord of Glory. Hid in Jesus we will live in his life giving power and walk on into a thousand—thousand tomorrows, kept forever in his love.

This video begins with the birth of Christ and goes on to the resurrection.
He is risen!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My thoughts on John Vest's posting about the death of Jesus

In the gospel of Matthew we have the beautiful words given by Jesus at the Last Supper, the Passover, which he and his disciples ate together. “And when he had taken a cup and given thanks, he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it all of you for this is the blood of my covenant which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.’” One may not understand any of the theological theories of atonement and yet understand from the Scripture that Jesus died for the sins of others. John Vest in his posting “Ockham’s Atonement,” writes:
The crucifixion is a fact of history that was given a theological explanation by followers of Jesus who were so stunned by what happened to their master that they assumed it must have been part of a grand scheme. But what if we don’t make that assumption? What if we don’t need a theological explanation?

The cross is a human tragedy, like so many tragedies we encounter every day. ... But the really important part of the story is the resurrection. The resurrection gives us hope that nothing—no tragedy, no mistake, no sin—is beyond the redemptive power of God’s love. (Bold the authors)
I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have called that cheap grace. That is our receiving of such grace without acknowledging the death of Christ as the work of redemption cheapens the gift. If redemption is simply God’s love minus his gift of Christ we leave both Abelard and Anselm behind. There is no sacrifice and there is no model of redeeming love. And absurdly we leave a great deal of the New Testament out.

Yes, it is the power of the resurrection that completes and finishes that gift giving us eternal life in Christ. As Paul put it without the resurrection we would be of all people most miserable. But the great work of redemption is so much more than a theory. It is after all the great theme of all Scripture. The Seed whose heel is bruised while bruising the serpents head, the provision of the ram as a substitute for Isaac, the blood on the door post of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, the sacrifice of animals on the temple altar, the suffering Servant of Isaiah who “was pierced through for our transgressions” and “was crushed for our iniquities.”

How do you throw out so much Scripture? Paul & Peter agree, “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us.” Eph 1:7-8a) “…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1: 18-19)

As for Ockham’s atonement, Vest points out that he didn’t have an atonement theory but a philosophical concept called Ockham’s razor which suggested the simplest answer is the best. In philosophical terms it is considered the most elegant answer. That is like the clearest answer or design. But consider, doing away with so much Scripture one has to come up with some very complex theories and strategies so Ockham’s razor does not really fit.

One should end with the new song of the Elders:

Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Eileen Fleming & IPMN: forgetting the redemptive work of Jesus

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) evidently likes Eileen Fleming who holds some rather strange religious views but is also an anti-Semite. She not only writes for the anti-Semitic Veterans Today, she is also a staff member of a sister site of Veterans Today. IPMN of (PCUSA) on Tweeter connected to her article, “Christ Was Never A Christian But He Was Tortured By Occupying Forces. that is posted at Of course she makes connections to the cross of Christ and the Palestinians. But most of her comments are, well, not really Christian:

"Jesus was never a Christian, for that term was not even coined until the days of Paul, about 3 decades after Jesus walked the earth a man.

Jesus was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation."

Something happened to the redemptive purposes of Jesus here. In fact, something happened to the understanding that Jesus is the great sacrificial Lamb of God. And there is a reason that in Fleming’s writings this should be so.

In an article on Veterans Today, “The Stages of the Soul and How Religiosity-Fundamentalism is Holding up Evolution,” Fleming proves her decidedly unchristian perspective. She reaches into the world of Theosophy and the idea that humanity is developing into higher spiritual beings. This also means that different souls have reached different stages. Fleming writes:

"Stage two souls have not yet been set fully free and prefer the security of a higher human authority than themselves for guidance. They submit to institutions, scripture, dogma, ritual, ministers, or gurus. This is the most appropriate stage for older children and most adults who live busy lives just trying to keep bread on the table and a dry roof above.

The difference between a stage one and stage two soul, is that a one wouldn’t even notice a neighbor in need, while the two has awoken to the fact that we are to be our neighbor’s keepers and they will respond to a friend-and like the good Samaritan, even to a total stranger in need."

Most theologians would agree that the opposite of faith is not disbelief: the opposite of faith is fear. Stage three souls have not just fearlessly awoken, they have evolved! This evolution has led them to the realization of what Christ was really talking about in the Sermon of the Mount AKA: The Beatitudes which sound like crazy promises, but are all about waking people up to The Divine within themselves and all others!"

Now the combination of theosophical ideas and anti-Semitism is not at all unusual. In fact, historian George L. Mosse in several of his books on racism and anti-Semitism list theosophy as one of the contributing factors, not in its original form, but as it developed and merged with other ideas. (The Jews were holding the evolution back.) But an important point here is that heretical ideas about the Jewish people and about who Jesus Christ is have historically traveled together.

In this latter essay Fleming believes it is Christians who hold to dogmas and creeds that are holding the evolution of humanity back. She does not understand it is a Jewish man, fully human, fully God, who died on the cross that truly matters. No he was not called a Christian, but a King. He was the Christ, the unique begotten Son of the Father. He was God from God, Light from Light. Only in his resurrection are we made new creatures.