Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal



Thursday, December 19, 2013

There Is No Perfect Model Or Analogy



James Ada has posted in several places on the web, his mathematical "proof" for the existence of God using infinity. Here it is in writing and here is his explanation on YouTube video. It's quite clear that he's coming from the Islamic perspective of God, denying the Trinitarian God and the full deity of the Son.

While he posits an interesting exercise, it has fatal flaws both mathematically and theologically.

But his foundational error is believing that one can prove or model the existence of God with a mathematical equation. There is good reason that God prohibited the Old Testament nation of Israel from making any image of Him - i.e., Exodus 20:4-5 and Acts 17:29 say that the Lord is against anyone attempting to make an image of God.

Why?

Because God is absolutely unique. He stands alone outside space and time. Scripture is adamant that there is nothing else and no one else like Him. God stands absolutely alone. By definition then, any attempt to model Him using an analogy or model must always fall short. Every analogy is fatally flawed. That does not mean that analogies may not be helpful in understanding some aspect of God - i.e., his power, his creative skill, his sovereignty, etc. But we must be very careful with analogies and models of God and be aware they will always fall short. Nothing can perfectly and accurately model God because He stands alone. He is absolutely unique.

This means if we depend upon a model or analogy for our understanding of God, we inevitably end up with a distorted picture of God at best and an erroneous picture at worst. (This is the mistake that many Christians make in trying to grasp the doctrine of the Trinity.) There is no analogy that can perfectly model God.

But there's also another problem: the transcendence of God. Outside space and time, it is impossible for us to know God apart from his willingness to reveal Himself to us. Had God not chosen to reveal Himself inside space and time to us, we could never know God. Locked in space and time, we can see various powerful evidences for His existence (i.e., cosmology, astronomy, teleology, His workings in history, the basis of morality and ethics, etc.), but we can never know God through them alone.

A beautiful mechanical watch gives indisputable evidence for the existence of the watchmaker and insight into some of his attributes (i.e., his skill, manual dexterity, intelligence, etc.) But by itself, the watch can never give us knowledge of the watchmaker himself - i.e., his name, his location, his age, his height, his education, his sense of humor, his appetite preferences, etc. Similarly the evidences within space and time for the existence of God can never lead us to the knowledge of God Himself.

This means we must necessarily depend on God's revelation to us in space and time to gain true knowledge of Him. God's revelation in Jesus Christ gives us accurate and perfect knowledge of Him ... but not comprehensive. No finite man can ever know everything about the infinite God. We can know Him personally, but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven. This means an exciting, dynamic relationship with Him for all eternity, ever growing in our knowledge of His grace, mercy, love, power, etc.

*******

Back to Ada's "proof".

Infinity is a puzzling concept. As an engineer and physicist, I grow increasingly convinced that God is the only actual infinity and that all other infinities are only "partial" or "potential". An actual infinity is beyond our full comprehension. We can intellectually grasp the concept, but as eternally finite beings we can never comprehensively embrace infinity.

So it is with the amazing one true God who has graciously revealed Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Robert Jastrow, PhD (1925 – 2008), founder of NASA's Goddard Institute and Director of the Mt. Wilson Institute and Observatories was a renowned American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's Like Squeezing An Under-Inflated Balloon



There's a new poll here that reveals a recent decline in Americans who believe in the existence of God, down 8% in recent years. Given the decreasing contemporary witness of the church in America and the corresponding rise of a secular, hostile culture, it's reasonable to ask if the American church has reached its zenith and is now in decline to an ultimate position of irrelevance.

This raises an interesting theological question with respect to the durability of the church.

Jesus was adamant that the powers of darkness would not prevail against His Church (i.e., Matt 16:17-19) which some have erroneously interpreted as referring to the Church - whether local, regional,or global - that it will always prevail and triumph. But history clearly shows otherwise. Earlier, I recorded here my observation several years ago in Turkey which was the center of power for the global church in the late 1st century church A.D. (Asia Minor) ... that the church there had all but disappeared. Several other instances can easily be cited from global history of a local regional church, once powerfully witnessing to the truth of the gospel, suffering decline and even disappearing altogether.

Does this mean Jesus was wrong? Of course not.

In context, it's clear that Jesus was referring to the universal church, not a local or regional expression of it. A good analogy is an under-inflated balloon. If you squeeze one part of the balloon, it always expands elsewhere. This is true of the universal church. As the enemy attacks and (sometimes successfully) manages to squelch the church's witness on one part of the globe, the result is the rapid expansion and influence of the church elsewhere on the planet at the same time. As the church waned in Asia Minor, it breathed new life into Europe. As it waxed in Europe, it flashed to life in North America. As it declines in North America, it bursts forth in South America, China and the Orient. Globally, the church is unquenchable.

But it is a mistake to believe that a local or regional church cannot and will not suffer judgment. Jesus warns the church in Ephesus they are in danger of having their lamp extinguished (Rev 2:5) if they do not repent. In Rev 3:1-6, Christ warns the church in Sardis that unless they repent, what little remains of that church will die.

We need to pay close heed to Christ's messages to the churches in Rev chapters 2-3. We're foolish if we naively think our local or regional expression of the church is untouchable because it represents divine light, albeit imperfectly. That was the catastrophic mistake national Israel made in the Old Testament - believing they were exempt from God's judgment because they were, after all, more "righteous" than the surrounding nations.

History provides a sobering warning to the contemporary church in North America which is in danger of having its' lampstand soon removed.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Drugging The Kids Into Insanity



Consumer Reports has an article here questioning the dramatic increase of powerful anti-psychotic drugs in children.

The number of children taking powerful antipsychotic drugs has nearly tripled over the last 10 to 15 years, according to recent research. The increase comes not because of an epidemic of schizophrenia or other forms of serious mental illness in children, but because doctors are increasingly prescribing the drugs to treat behavior problems, a use not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And a disproportionate number of those prescriptions are written for poor and minority children, some as young as age 2. Doctors are prescribing antipsychotics even though there’s minimal evidence that the drugs help kids for approved uses, much less the unapproved ones, such as behavioral problems.

*******

Our culture increasingly depends on powerful drugs to medicate behavioral symptoms into oblivion. Refusing to recognize possible non-physical causes for abnormal behavior (i.e., poor discipline in the home, spiritual influences, lack of physical exercise, unhealthy diets, etc.), society simply increasingly resorts to powerful drugs to subdue the symptoms which then often induce catatonic, zombie-like states. Worse yet, sometimes the kids (and adults) react violently under the influence of these powerful drugs.

Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, executive director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness and author of Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? - Our Serotonin Nightmare is an expert consultant in cases like the Columbine massacre in which anti-depressant medications are involved. Tracy says the Columbine killers' brains were awash in serotonin, the chemical which causes violence and aggression and triggers a sleep-walking disorder in which a person literally acts out their worst nightmare. Shortly before the Columbine shooting, Eric Harris had been rejected by Marine Corps recruiters because he was under a doctor's care and had been prescribed an anti-depressant medication.  Harris was taking Luvox, an anti-depressant commonly used to treat patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Luvox is in a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).  Other SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.  An estimated 10 million Americans take anti-depressant medications.

I believe the majority of kids whose parents consult psychiatrists end up on powerful drugs (true for the vast majority of the cases I've personally been aware of.) The most dangerous of these are major tranquilizers, also known as neuroleptic (nerve-seizing) drugs or anti-psychotics. Of the more than two dozen in this class, introduced in the mid 1950s, the most commonly used are Haldol (haloperidol), Compazine (prochlorperazine), Thorazine (chlorpromazine), Navane (thiothixene), Prolixin (fluphenazine), Mellaril (thioridazine), and Trilafon (perphenazine). Their purpose is to create "maximum behavioral disruption"--a goal clearly reflected in 1950 tests conducted with rats on Thorazine. Through chemicals, psychiatrists sought to sabotage thought processes and thereby deny the person control of his own body.

At the time the major tranquilizers were introduced, the lobotomy was touted highly and widely used by psychiatrists. With the procedure, the shredded brain was damaged forever, generating objections from family and friends of the patient. The major tranquilizers were able to create a zombie state, identical to that seen after a lobotomy, in a person whose brain remained intact. For this reason, Thorazine became known as a "chemical lobotomy."

"[On Thorazine] my thoughts spun and never got too far. My hands were rubber and I could hardly hold a fork," said one patient who had been put on the drug by a psychiatrist. "After six weeks . . . I felt like my mind had been put through a meat grinder. No longer could I think clearly; no longer could I speak articulately; no longer could I act confidently."

Another stated that, after a week on Haldol, "I was unable to speak. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't say anything out loud and spoke only with the greatest difficulty.... It was as if my whole body was succumbing to a lethal poison."

A Harvard Medical School study of 55 Boston-area rest homes published in the Jan. 26, 1989, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 55% of the 1,201 nursing home residents it surveyed took at least one psychiatric drug with 39% being given anti-psychotics.

These are not prescribed to "treat" any condition. They are administered solely to turn the patient into a zombie incapable of complaining or presenting problems to staff Concerning their use on the elderly, Jerome Avorn, director of the program for the Analysis of Clinical Strategies at Harvard, pointed out, "Drugs do work. They do quiet them down. So does a lead pipe to the head." Larry Hodge, administrator at the Life Care Center in Tennessee, described the impact on the elderly of these drugs: "Too often they were so zonked out during their meals that their heads were in the mashed potatoes."

Wilda Henry told The Arizona Republic that her 83-year-old mother became "a vegetable" five weeks after taking Haldol. This powerful mind-altering chemical, which the Soviet Union used for years to control dissidents, left her mother babbling, drooling, shaking, and unable to control her bowel functions.

Anise Debose of Washington, D.C., said her 76-year-old father entered a nursing home active, laughing, and talking. Four days later, after taking Mellaril and four other drugs, "He was restrained to a chair as rigid as a board when I saw him. His head was thrown back and his mouth was limply hanging down. Both eyes were closed. The impression all of us had was that he was dead."

We're creating drug-induced insanity.

These chemicals, capable of throwing the minds of users into chaos, have a long and well-documented history of creating insanity in persons who take them. In 1956, two years after the introduction of Thorazine, researchers reported that the drug caused psychosis, hallucinations, and increased anxiety. They speculated that this drug-induced insanity arose from the chemically straitjacketing effect of the drug.

In 1961, researchers reported the case of a 27-year-old man who was given Thorazine, after which he "complained of 'feeling like an empty shell, floating around in the air,'" and said that he heard voices coming "from two small men standing on his chest." The researchers concluded that Thorazine was the cause of the man's "toxic psychosis."

Yet another paper, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 1964, found that major tranquilizers can "produce an acute psychotic reaction in an individual not previously psychotic." A 1975 paper described a negative effect called akathisia, a drug-induced inability to sit still comfortably.

Researcher Theodore Van Putten reported that nearly half of the 110 persons in the study had experienced akathisia. "[One woman] started to bang her head against the wall three days after an injection of [a major tranquilizer]. Her only utterance was: 'I just want to get rid of this whole body."' A woman who had been given these drugs for five days experienced "an upsurge in hallucinations, screaming, even more bizarre thinking, aggressive and also self-destructive outbursts, and agitated pacing or dancing." A third woman stated that, while on the tranquilizer, she felt hostile and hated everybody, and heard voices taunting her. Others complained of an "abject fear or terror" that was difficult for them to explain.

Such drug-induced symptoms are far worse than any underlying problems a person might have. Even more damning is the evidence that the damage caused by these drugs can be permanent.

Many types of psychiatric drugs, including the major tranquilizers, can cause lasting, grotesquely disfiguring nerve damage known as tardive dyskinesia or tardive dystonia. The muscles of the face and body contort and spasm involuntarily, drawing the face into hideous scowls and grimaces and twisting the body into bizarre contortions. These horrifying effects occur in more than 20% of persons "treated" with major tranquilizers and currently affect 400,000-1,000,000 Americans.

Psychiatrists theorize that these drugs damage the muscle-control portion of the brain in a way that makes it permanently "supersensitive" to messages passing down nerve pathways into the brain. The result is that this portion of the brain becomes permanently deranged. While the precise location of this brain damage is not known with certainty, there is no question that it exists. It is clearly visible in the faces of its tragic victims.

In the same way that major tranquilizers can throw the muscle-control portion of the brain into chaos, they also can make the thought-control area of the brain supersensitive, driving the person permanently insane. A 1980 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry described 10 patients who suffered from this condition, which has been labeled "supersensitivity psychosis."

In the first stage, the individual becomes psychotic for a few days immediately after he or she stops taking the drugs. In the second, the insanity that emerges upon withdrawal from the psychiatric drug is persistent and may be irreversible. In the third stage, the psychosis is evident even while the patient is taking the psychiatric drugs. The study notes that, when this stage is reached, "in most cases" the person is doomed to be insane for life. This condition has created thousands of tortured victims, permanently destroyed, cast out of mental institutions to forage in garbage cans while wrestling with inner terrors implanted in their minds by psychiatric drugs.

There also is persuasive evidence that these psychiatric drugs can cause people to become violent. A Canadian research team that studied the effects of psychiatric drugs on prisoners found that "violent, aggressive incidents occurred significantly more frequently in inmates who were on psychotropic [psychiatric or mind-altering] medication than when these inmates were not...." Inmates on major tranquilizers were shown to be more than twice as violent as they were when not taking psychiatric drugs. The researchers attributed the marked increase in violence to akathisia.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, four days after a patient started taking Haldol, "he became uncontrollably agitated, could not sit still, and paced for several hours." After complaining of "a jumpy feeling inside, and violent urges to assault anyone near him," the man attacked and tried to kill his dog. The researcher noted the irony that the chemical could cause violence, "a behavior the drug was meant to alleviate."

Published reports from researchers at Harvard Medical School, Yale University, Columbia University, the State University of New York, and the Veterans Administration have presented persuasive evidence that Prozac causes intense, violent, suicidal preoccupation. A study at the University of South Carolina had to be terminated abruptly when five subjects developed intense, violent, suicidal, and homicidal thoughts.

In the U.S. alone, approximately 4 million children are currently on the psychiatric drug Ritalin, a drug which the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) places in the same category (a schedule ll drug) as opium, morphine and cocaine.

Psychotic episodes and violent behavior are associated with chronic Ritalin abuse. Ritalin is the amphetamine-like drug widely prescribed to children for the contrived mental disease, "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD). Even Ritalin's manufacturer warns that "frank psychotic episodes can occur" with abusive use. And even the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists the major complication of Ritalin withdrawal is suicide.

Every time a child (or adult) commits an act of senseless violence, kills or commits a violent act, the first question that should be asked is what psychiatric mind-altering drugs was the child on? Who was the psychiatrist treating the child? If the child was not on psychiatric drugs at the time of the killing, when was he last on psychiatric drugs? Was he experiencing withdrawal effects from the drugs?

*******

The Greek word “pharmakia” literally signifies the use of medicine, drugs, and spells. It appears five times in the New Testament: in Gal 5:20, Rev 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, and 22:15. “Pharmakia” is usually translated in English Bible translations as either “witchcraft” or “sorceries”. It's noteworthy that the English word “pharmacy” derives from the Greek word “pharmakia”.  Of course modern pharmaceutical drugs can provide wonderful relief and even much-needed cures. But drugs - both legal and illegal - are also one of the enemy's most potent weapons for destroying lives. Steadily refusing to even try time-tested methods for handling behavioral problems such as discipline, exercise, diet-modification, productive work or spiritual warfare, the church plays into the enemy's hands by dishing out powerful mind-altering drugs like candy, creating insanity. While there may be cases where the use of such powerful medication is beneficial, it should always be the last resort after alternative therapies have been tried and failed - not the first option.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Swordplay In The Backyard Doesn't Mean You Can Take On The 3 Musketeers



William Lane Craig offered the following observation in response to a Christian who had been shaken in his faith from reading books by atheists and listening to Richard Dawkins ...

I find myself utterly baffled by the cavalier way in which many ill-equipped Christians expose themselves to material which is potentially destructive to them. It’s like someone who doesn’t know how to swim deciding to take the plunge in the heavy surf. Wouldn’t it be the sensible thing to do to first prepare yourself before venturing into dangerous waters?

Precisely.

Just because one may have been playing with pretend-swords in the backyard, does not mean he is prepared to take on the 3 Musketeers. While new Christians certainly have no business engaging such powerful foes of the faith, even a long-time Christian who has never bothered to educate himself is not "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). While there is a place and time to engage potent enemies of the Faith, it must be done by those that are properly prepared and equipped, not by recruits still in Basic Training.

A Christian who does not have a solid grasp of Trinitarian theology based on Scriptural revelation, has no business discussing it with the Jehovah's Witness who shows up at his front door and who will most likely make minced meat out of him.

If you haven't acquainted yourself with the classical Kalām cosmological argument for the existence of God, or the increasingly powerful Teleological argument (which led Antony Flew, the most notorious atheist in the world for decades to change his mind at the age of 81 and renounce atheism), or the defense for God's existence on the basis and reality of morality and ethics - you're foolish to immerse yourself in the writings of someone like Richard Dawkins.

If you haven't attained a solid grasp on the essential, cardinal doctrines that define who is a true believer, you're insane to read the works of the likes of John Shelby Spong.

It's often asserted that the best defense against counterfeit currency is a thoroughly intimate and detailed knowledge of the real thing. One who has spent considerable time studying genuine currency, learning the intricate nuances of each particular denomination, the kind of ink that is used in printing and even the special paper that is used, eventually reaches the point of knowing by sight, smell, feel and even sound the real thing and will not be easily fooled by the counterfeit. As Craig points out to those foolish enough engage the enemy unprepared,

Do we forget that there is an enemy of our souls who hates us intensely, is bent on our destruction, and will use anything he can to undermine our faith or render us ineffective in God’s hands? Are we so naïve?

The New Testament often uses military metaphors to describe the Christian with good reason. We are engaged in a cosmic war with an unseen enemy who is a master of deception and does not hesitate to use devastating weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  [Eph 6.10-17]

Sadly far too many Christians take lightly the war in which we are all engaged (whether we realize it or not) and while dressed as for a Sunday afternoon barbeque, suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in the confusion of combat on the receiving end of powerfully destructive weapons.

Craig is correct that all Christians "are called to be disciples, which in the Greek means “learners.” " He penetratingly asks those who ignorantly stumble onto the battlefield ill-prepared,

"Is what you’re doing your idea of what Christian discipleship looks like? Is this the path to transformation by “the renewal of the mind” (Romans 12.1-2)?"

Amen. If you doubt the seriousness and ferocity of the war we are engaged in, watch this video in entirety.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Rise Of Mental Illness



In “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” (New York Review of Books, 2011), Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses her rational for the dramatic rise of mental illness which she attributes to over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, pathologizing of normal behaviors, Big Pharma corruption of psychiatry, and the adverse effects of psychiatric medications. In July of 2013, Dr. Bruce Levine authored an article entitled, "Why the Rise of Mental Illness? Pathologizing Normal, Adverse Drug Effects, and a Peculiar Rebellion" offers other reasons,

"... our belief in “progress” has increased expectations that life should be more satisfying, resulting in mass disappointment. For many of us, society has become increasingly alienating, isolating, and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, a**-kissing, s***-eating, and inauthenticity. So, we want to rebel. However, many of us feel hopeless about the possibility of either our own escape from societal oppression or that political activism can create societal change. So, many of us, especially young Americans, rebel by what is commonly called mental illness."

There is no question mental illness is dramatically on the increase in the United States, ironically the most powerful and wealthiest nation in the world with the best medical care (until Obamacare.) Severe, disabling mental illness has dramatically increased in the United States. Marcia Angell, in her 2011 New York Review of Books piece, summarizes:

“The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from 1 in 184 Americans to 1 in 76. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades.”

And there are other indicators. In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, spoke to the National Press Club about an American depression epidemic:

“We discovered two astonishing things about the rate of depression across the century. The first was there is now between ten and twenty times as much of it as there was fifty years ago. And the second is that it has become a young person’s problem. When I first started working in depression thirty years ago… the average age at which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5… Now the average age is between 14 and 15.”

In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently-used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44 years. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), on May 3, 2013, reported that the suicide rate among Americans ages 35–64 years increased an alarming 28.4% between 1999 and 2010 (from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 population in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010).

The New York Times reported in 2007 that the number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder had increased 40-fold between 1994 and 2003. In May 2013, CDC reported in “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children—United States, 2005–2011,” the following: “A total of 13%–20% of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year, and surveillance during 1994–2011 has shown the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing.”

There are unquestionably multiple factors influencing the striking rise of mental illness in the United States (i.e., over-prescription of medication [i.e., Ritalin for children], adverse effects of medication, breakdown of the family unit, loss of societal order, debt, hopelessness, poor health, the rise of terrorism, etc.) But I believe there is one powerful factor in play, increasingly ignored in our "enlightened" secular culture.

Demonic activity.

Certainly not all mental illness is demonically-related. But Scripture clearly and emphatically declares that some is (i.e., Matt 17:14-18). Historically for most of the 20th century, demonic activity of this type was encountered in nations overseas where the gospel had not yet significantly penetrated.

Why?

Light, by nature, drives back darkness. Darkness is literally nothing; it is the absence of light. The presence and influence of the gospel, by its very nature, drives back the darkness of demonic activity. In other words, where the gospel of Christ is prevalent, demonic activity is suppressed. The increasing influence of the secular, liberal agenda in America, combined with an expanding rejection of the Christian worldview and an an embrace of the occult, along with a dramatic immigration increase of peoples from foreign countries where the gospel is not central in the native culture have all contributed to a rise in demonic activity. The rejection of the Biblical worldview together with an enveloping secular worldview, skyrocketing drug use, escalating violence, increasing prevalence of homosexuality, more diverse forms of sexual debauchery and perversion, rise in suicides, rabid embrace of abortion by some on the left (i.e., Nancy Pelosi calling it "sacred ground"), addiction to pornography, and loss of a moral compass are all symptoms of a culture drifting deeper and deeper into moral darkness and becoming more susceptible to the demonic.

The Roman Catholic Church, with its formal rite of exorcism reports a sharp increase of demonic activity in America over the last 4 years. So great is the demand for exorcism, the Roman Catholic Church’s top exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth (88 years old) is calling for relaxation on the current limits on priests performing exorcisms. In Roman Catholic theology, only certain priests are trained in the rite for a formal exorcism under Section 13 of the Rituale Romanum. Amorth wants rank and file priests trained to perform the rite and lift the requirement of approval from church leaders.

In contrast to the Roman Catholic perspective though, in the evangelical Biblical worldview (mine), any believer is empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to confront demonic activity. However effective confrontation requires spiritual maturity in Christ, wisdom and discernment. Earlier I addressed confronting the demonic here. As I concluded there, many Christians in the Western church don’t know how to recognize and respond to subtle forms of demonic activity — let alone the more increasingly prevalent open forms as our culture abandons the Judeo-Christian ethic and openly embraces paganism. But all Christians, whether they know it or not, are equipped to confront the demonic with the authority they have in Christ.

As evil rears its ugly head ever higher amidst our culture, expect the problem to worsen. Only the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ is empowered to drive back this tide of darkness. Everything else is futile.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We Have To Choose One Or The Other



I have an engineering degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and have always been a firm admirer of true science. Contemporary thought often mistakenly believes that science and Christianity are incompatible. But, nothing is further from the truth. The historical list of noteworthy scientists who were also Christians is staggering.  Here are just a very few of the dozens and dozens of Christian scientists who made significant discoveries and advances in the various fields of science.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
Brahe "not only designed and built instruments, he also calibrated them and checked their accuracy periodically. He thus revolutionized astronomical instrumentation." His work is considered to have been essential for the discoveries of Johannes Kepler. Brahe was a Lutheran.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Is considered among the fathers of empiricism and is credited with establishing the inductive method of experimental science via what is called the scientific method toda.

Johannes Kepler (1571–1630)
His model of the cosmos based on nesting Platonic solids was explicitly driven by religious ideas; his later and most famous scientific contribution, the Kepler's laws of planetary motion, was based on empirical data that he obtained from Tycho Brahe's meticulous astronomical observations, after Tycho died in 1601. He had wanted to be a theologian at one time and his Harmonice Mundi discusses Christ at points.

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)
Scientist who had many problems with the Inquisition for defending heliocentrism in the convoluted period brought about by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

René Descartes (1596–1650)
He was a key thinker of the Scientific Revolution. He did important work on geometry and is honoured by having the Cartesian coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra named after him. His Meditations on First Philosophy partially concerns theology and he was devoted to reconciling his ideas with the dogmas of Catholic Faith to which he was loyal.

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)
Jansenist thinker; well known for Pascal's law (physics), Pascal's theorem (math), and Pascal's Wager (theology).

Robert Boyle (1627–1691)
Scientist and theologian who argued that the study of science could improve glorification of God.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727)
He is regarded as one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians in history. Newton's study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were among his greatest passions. He wrote Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (Nontrinitarianism). He invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits.

Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1787)
Mathematician and major contributor to the development of Hydrodynamics. The Bernoulli Principle was named after him.

Lord Kelvin (1824–1907)
He gave a famous address to the Christian Evidence Society. In science he won the Copley Medal, the Royal Medal, and was important in Thermodynamics.

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
George Washington Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Carver believed he could have faith both in God and science and integrated them into his life. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.

Max Planck (1858–1947)
He won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and is considered the founder of Quantum mechanics. He had been raised an observant Lutheran and was an elder in his church from 1920 to his death. In 1937 he delivered the lecture, "Religion and Natural Science", stating that both religion and science require a belief in God.

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One of the biggest obstacles today, in the minds of many, is the relationship between Darwinian evolution and Christianity. There are only 3 options:
  1. reject Darwinian evolution in favor of Biblical creation (intelligent design)
  2. reject Biblical creation is favor of Darwinian evolution
  3. incorporate Darwinian evolution into Biblical creation (theistic evolution)

After studying the issue for decades, I came to the conclusion that option 1 has the strongest objective evidence and is the only logical avenue of belief for a Christian. While I understand the support for option 3 in some quarters of the church - adapting it tends to be devastating to the Biblical worldview, inevitably disintegrating one's Biblical belief system until only tatters are left.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution - A Theory In Crisis

Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis in light of the tremendous advances we've made in molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics over the past fifty years. We now know that there are in fact tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems on the cellular level. Specified complexity pervades the microscopic biological world. Molecular biologist Michael Denton wrote, "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 grams, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world."

And we don't need a microscope to observe irreducible complexity. The eye, the ear and the heart are all examples of irreducible complexity, though they were not recognized as such in Darwin's day. Nevertheless, Darwin confessed, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."

*******

In 2009, I noted Wayne Grudem adapted the same position as the one I had gravitated towards and advocated that "it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution" Below are his comments on the subject in a forward he wrote for the book, "Should Christians Embrace Evolution".

Ultimately, you have to choose one or the other - evolution or creation. Without exception, virtually every Christian I've encountered who adapted a position of theistic evolution, eventually began compromising other key Biblical doctrines until ultimately their faith in God was shattered.

FOREWORD to: Should Christians Embrace Evolution
edited by Norman Nevin (Nottingham, UK: IVP, 2009)

This is a highly significant book because it persuasively argues that Christians cannot accept modern evolutionary theory without also compromising essential teachings of the Bible. It may at first seem easy to say ‘God simply used evolution to bring about the results he desired,’ as some are proposing today. That view is called ‘theistic evolution.’ However, the contributors to this volume, both scientists and biblical scholars, show that adopting theistic evolution leads to many positions contrary to the teaching of the Bible, such as these: (1) Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, but they were just two Neolithic farmers among about ten million other human beings on earth at that time, and God just chose to reveal himself to them in a personal way. (2) Those other human beings had already been seeking to worship and serve God or gods in their own ways. (3) Adam was not specially formed by God of ‘dust from the ground’ (Gen. 2:7) but had two human parents. (4) Eve was not directly made by God out f a ‘rib that the Lord God had taken from the man’ (Gen. 2:22), but she also had two human parents. (5) Many human beings both then and now are not descended from Adam and Eve. (6) Adam and Eve’s sin was not the first sin. (7) Human physical death had occurred for thousands of years before Adam and Eve’s sin – it was part of the way living things had always existed. (8) God did not impose any alteration in the natural world when he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin.

As for the scientific evidence, several chapters in this book show that deeper examination of the evidence actually adds more weight to the arguments for intelligent design than for Darwinian evolution.


What is at stake? A lot: The truthfulness of the three foundational chapters for the entire Bible (Genesis 1 – 3), belief in the unity of the human race, belief in the ontological uniqueness of human beings among all God’s creatures, belief in the special creation of Adam and Eve in the image of God, belief in the parallel between condemnation through representation by Adam and salvation through representation by Christ, belief in the goodness of God’s original creation, belief that suffering and death today are the result of sin and not part of God’s original creation, and belief that natural disasters today are the result of the fall and not part of God’s original creation. Belief in evolution erodes the foundations.


Evolution is secular culture’s grand explanation, the overriding ‘meta-narrative’ that sinners accept with joy because it allows them to explain life without reference to God, with no accountability to any Creator, no moral standards to restrain their sin, ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:18) – and now theistic evolutionists tell us that Christians can just surrender to this massive attack on the Christian faith and safely, inoffensively, tack on God, not as the omnipotent God who in his infinite wisdom directly created all living things, but as the invisible deity who makes absolutely no detectable difference in nature of living beings as they exist today. It will not take long for unbelievers to dismiss the idea of such a God who makes no difference at all. To put it in terms of an equation, when atheists assure us that


matter + evolution + 0 = all living things, 

and then theistic evolutionists answer, no, that

matter + evolution + God = all living things, 


it will not take long for unbelievers to conclude that, therefore,

God = 0

I was previously aware that theistic evolution had serious difficulties, but I am now more firmly convinced than ever that it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution. We have to choose one or the other.


Wayne Grudem
Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies
Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Importance of Sexual Intercourse In Marriage



While I'm not Roman Catholic, I do admire their stance on the importance of consummation of the marriage (having sexual intercourse after marriage.) It is so important in Roman Catholic theology where divorce is prohibited, that an unconsummated marriage can be dissolved by the Pope. And an inability or intentional refusal to consummate the marriage is probable grounds for an annulment. Roman Catholic canon law defines a marriage as consummated when the "spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh."

In our sexually-saturated culture, much of the church has foolishly lost the beauty and importance of sexual intercourse between husband and wife. Some Christians mistakenly believe sex is the result of the fall of man. Nothing is further from the truth. God instituted sexual relations between the husband and wife before the Fall (Gen  1:28) and pronounced it along with everything else He created as “very good” (Gen 1:31).  In contrast to sexual immorality, when we engage in a God-sanctioned sexual experience with our spouse and become one through the act of sexual intercourse, we can actually glorify God through the experience (1 Cor 6:18-20). As John Piper's book "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ" so powerfully clarifies - our sexuality should glorify God and is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully. Inviting Christ into your sexual appetite is an amazing journey. The misuse of our sexuality distorts our true knowledge of Christ and all misuses of our sexuality derive from us not having the true knowledge of Christ.

As I wrote earlier, sexual intercourse is not only a physical act, but also the powerful spiritual union of the man and woman. Sexual relations inevitably and fundamentally alter the relationship between a man and a woman; after this most intimate of acts and communication that can occur between two people, the two will never look at each other or be able to think about one another the same way again.

As important as consummation of the marriage is, it is just as important that sexual relations continue between the husband and wife for the duration of the marriage (barring physical injury or disease). Why? Think about this - the sacrament of Communion within the Body of Christ is important not only as a memorial of the Atonement, but a sign of continuing fellowship with the Church. To receive communion is to signify continuing oneness with the Body of Christ. Similarly, the act of sexual intercourse between husband and wife can rightly be considered the repeatable, ongoing demonstration of the continuing oneness of the husband and wife (1 Cor 6:16-17). This is why continuing sexual relations between the husband and wife is important. Just as it's not normal for a Christian to suddenly abstain from receiving Communion within the church, it is not normal for a physically-capable husband and wife to stop regular sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse should continue throughout the life of their marriage.

While sex is clearly not the most important thing in marriage, neither can we say that it is of no importance.  Scripture clearly affirms the importance of sexual relations within marriage (1 Cor 7:3-5) – ironically, this passage was penned by Paul, a celibate, as instruction to married couples.  Barring physical reasons (i.e., injury, disease, etc.), a marriage where regular sexual relations has ceased is in trouble.

Because sexual intercourse is the intimate physical expression of the spiritual union between a husband and a wife, the sexual experience can and should actually intensify in pleasure through the years as the bond between the two of them deepens.  Sexual intercourse between a husband and wife can actually be far more powerful and gloriously intense decades after marriage as the bond between them strengthens, than at the start of the marriage.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Who turned out the lights?"



Thirty years ago my job required several trips into Turkey over the course of 3 years.  I was privileged to visit the ruins of Ephesus and several other sites of Biblical interest. I remember thinking that in the 1st Century A.D., this was Asia Minor and the hotbed of Christianity with all 7 churches of Revelation located in what is modern-day Turkey.  As I interacted with the secular culture and found very, very few Christians, I remember thinking it was just like someone "turned out the lights."

David Nienhuis, associate professor of New Testament Studies at Seattle Pacific University, penned an excellent article at Modern Reformation several years ago entitled "The Problem of Evangelical Biblical Illiteracy".  If anything, his observations are more pertinent today as evangelical illiteracy continues its downward slide in the American evangelical church.

" I often begin my survey of the Christian Scriptures course by asking students to take a short biblical literacy quiz, including questions of the sort mentioned above. The vast majority of my students--around 95 percent of them--are Christians, and half of them typically report that they currently attend nondenominational evangelical churches. Yet the class as a whole consistently averages a score of just over 50 percent, a failing grade. In the most recent survey, only half were able to identify which biblical book begins with the line, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Barely more than half knew where to turn in the Bible to read about the first Passover. Most revealing in my mind is the fact that my students are generally unable to sequence major stories and events from the biblical metanarrative. Only 23 percent were able to order four key events from Israel's history (Israelites enter the promised land; David is made king; Israel is divided in two; and the people of Judah go into exile), and only 32 percent were able to sequence four similarly important events from the New Testament (Jesus was baptized; Peter denies Jesus; the Spirit descends at Pentecost; and John has a vision on the island of Patmos). These students may know isolated Bible trivia (84 percent knew, for instance, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem), but their struggle to locate key stories, and their general inability to place those stories in the Bible's larger plotline, betrays a serious lack of intimacy with the text--even though a full 86 percent of them identified the Bible as their primary source for knowledge about God and faith."

He relates the conversation with one student who told him, "Reading a lot is not a part of my learning style." She went on to inform me that students today learned more by "watching videos, listening to music, and talking to one another." She spoke of the great growth she experienced in youth group (where she no doubt spent a lot of time watching videos, listening to music, and talking with people), but her ignorance of the Bible clearly betrayed the fact that the Christian formation she experienced in her faith community afforded her little to no training in the actual reading of Scripture.

Unfortunately, the same is increasingly true today of many adults in evangelical churches - while strong relationships may be formed in small groups, the "learning" is confined largely to "talking to one another".

His recommendations at the end of his detailed analysis of the problem?

"(1) schooling in the substance of the entire biblical story in all its literary diversity (not just an assortment of those verses deemed doctrinally relevant); (2) training in the particular "orienteering" skills required to plot that narrative through the actual texts and canonical units of the Bible; and (3) instruction in the complex theological task of interpreting Scripture in light of the tradition of the church and the experience of the saints."

I couldn't agree more with him.  But his recommendations are not something that can happen in informal small groups, as important as those gatherings are (i.e., see here.) They require a formal, adult education program with knowledgable and gifted teachers.  But unfortunately many churches today increasingly consider formal adult education to be detrimental to the church body and foolishly cast it aside as irrelevant replacing it with only home small groups.  Regarding small groups and formal adult education - it's a mistake to cast it as "either/or", it should be "both/and".

While I'm a strong supporter of both small groups AND formal adult education, here's an article by Brian Jones that presents some of the inherent weakness of small groups.  Not pulling any punches he hits the nail on the head with his observation that,

When I attended my very first church growth conference in 1992, a nationally known small group “expert” stood up and said, “The way we say it at our church is, ‘If you can read, you can lead.’ If a Christian can read the questions in our study guide, he can lead a small group at our church.”

That’s easy, I thought. Too easy, in fact. And ridiculous.

“If you can read, you can lead” is a great slogan for people who organize a rugby team from your church, or your knitting circle, or the Saturday morning llama-riding group. But not for someone recognized by the community of faith as a mentor of new disciples.

The Achilles’ heel of the modern-day small group movement is simple: Small groups don’t create disciples; disciples create disciples. And modern-day small groups are led, for the most part, by people who have attended the church, had a conversion experience, led a reasonably moral life, and can read the study-guide questions, but are not disciples themselves.

Dennis McCallum in his article theorizing why home groups fail, postulates that ....

"pre-planned curriculum often actually scripts the meeting and requires little creativity or expertise on the part of group leaders. Indeed, the main reason for scripting the meeting is usually the feeling that group leaders have no expertise of their own. Such lack of expertise points in turn to a weak equipping ministry in the church."

He goes on to assert,

"For many churches, the first step toward a successful home fellowship ministry would be to establish a full year-long course of in-depth theological and practical ministry training for the proposed leadership group. We find that most churches try to get by with a five or ten week training series which is inadequate for sophisticated leadership responsibilities."

***********

Unless American evangelicalism comes to grips with its puzzling aversion to studying theology, I fear our Biblical Illiteracy rate will continue its inevitable downward spiral until one day someone else asks ...

"Who turned out the lights?"


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15 [ESV]



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Men No Longer Know How To Treat Women

One of the casualties in the culture's war on Complementarianism is that men no longer know how to treat women. Embracing Egalitarianism, the culture for the most part now recognizes no gender-based limitations of what functions or roles each can fulfill in the home, the church, the military and society. As a result, young men brought up under this worldview no longer know how to treat a woman.

And women generally don't like it.

I know a young man in his late 20s that desperately "wants a girlfriend." He's a nice-enough, good-looking, young man, with an engineering degree and a good job. But he doesn't have a clue how to treat a woman. On one of his first dates where he asked a woman out to dinner, he ordered separate checks at the conclusion of dinner. Needless to say, that was the last time that particular woman went out with him.

On another occasion, he took a flight to a distant city with a different woman for an event. They were staying in different hotels (he didn't want to stay at her hotel because it was "too expensive") and they shared a taxi from the airport. He had only one bag and she had a large suitcase, a garment bag, and a carry-on. He had the taxi take them both to his hotel, from where he expected her to walk to her own hotel (close-by) with all her luggage. And he wonders why she ultimately rejected him. He's been rejected by every woman that he tried to establish a relationship with.

He's not alone. Many young men I observe don't open doors for women, don't pay the check, don't buy women gifts, don't compliment women, don't do the heavy lifting, don't feel an obligation to protect a woman, and aren't interested in what SHE wants to do. Being taught there is no difference between them and a woman, they consequently treat women as just another guy - and are then puzzled why women want nothing to do with them.

The truth is that while men and women are created equal in value, each is better at some roles than the other.  Men and women simply do not do everything well despite the claims of the culture. Men are better than women at some things, and women are better than men at other things. Anyone with a lick of common sense knows this. The best resource I've encountered on this subject is Wayne Grudem's Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Strongly recommended.

Many young men are not honoring, cherishing, sacrificing for and respecting women today. They merely echo the values of their dying culture:  selfish, self-centered, and narcissistic.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  1 Peter 3:7 [ESV]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Be Afraid To Stand Contra Mundum

Sometimes, as the culture descends deeper into darkness, it will seem as if the whole world is against you if you take a stand for righteousness and orthodoxy.

One of the greatest theologians of the early church, Athanasius, was born in AD 298 in Egypt and became the bishop of Alexandria on June 8, 328 at the age of 30.  He died on May 2, 373 at the age of 75. He is best known for his lifelong battle articulating and defending Christ's deity and worshiping Christ as Lord and God. There were times when it seemed the whole world had abandoned orthodoxy, giving rise to the phrase "Athanasius contra Mundum" (Athanasius against the world). He stood steadfast against overwhelming defection from orthodoxy.

Athanasius fought a war for orthodoxy lasting 45 years - all his life.  The orthodox victory was just over the horizon when he died in 373.  Although he didn't live to see final victory, history records that Athanasius clearly was the sword God used win that particular victory for orthodoxy. The outcome was the result of his courage, consistency, thoughtful work and writing. No one comes close to his influence in the cause of biblical truth during his lifetime.

A. W. Tozer wrote, "So skilled is error at imitating truth, that the two are constantly being mistaken for each another. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which is Abel."  Ultimately, the sign of an apostate church is that it departs from the truth of God’s Word and His righteousness. Once a church abandons the truth of Scripture, the acceptance of sin is not far behind. As churches deny the truthful witness of Scripture regarding God and the unique atoning work of Christ, bowing before cultural trends is inevitable:  embracing homosexuality, condoning abortion, proliferating divorce, etc.

We need to remember that our actions in this life will echo on long after our death - either for good or evil.  The life of Athanasius still powerfully resonates for good an astounding 18 centuries after his death.  This is certainly one of the reasons that God reserves final judgement for everyone until history is consummated at the return of Christ. Our lives can continue to bear fruit - good or bad - after death.

Don't be afraid to stand Contra Mundum for Christ, just as Athanasius did.  The cost may be great but your impact will be incalculable lasting well beyond your death.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." Matthew 5:13  [NIV]

Monday, August 19, 2013

When Should A Christian Say "Enough" And Leave?

There's an intriguing article about Californians leaving the state in droves for Texas because of high taxes, bad business climate, oppressively bad government, ridiculously encumbering laws and increasing persecution of Christians.  California state lawmakers introduce an astounding 2,000 new laws each year.  Examples of the ridiculous laws from an out-of-control state government:
  • In Ventury County, California, cats and dogs are not allowed to have sex without a permit.
  • In California, dogs may not mate within 1500 feet of a church, tavern or school. 
  • In San Jose and Sunnyvale it is illegal for grocery stores to provide plastic bags.
  • You may only throw a frisbee at the beach in Los Angeles County, CA with the lifeguard’s permission.
  • Women may not drive in a house coat.
  • In Carmel, a man can’t go outside while wearing a jacket and pants that do not match, and women may not wear high heels while in the city limits.
Christians increasingly feel unwelcome in California.  As one departing Christian said,

"You could have a friendly, productive, deeply spiritual conversation about the monkey god Hanuman, but you could not talk about Jesus Christ.  Buddhist, Hindu, whatever - 'yay!' Christian - 'boo!'"

This raises an important but difficult question.  When does a Christian say "enough" and leave?

Some would argue that it is "never" time to leave and that Christians have an obligation to stay and be a witness (i.e., Dietrich Bonhoeffer who did not leave Nazi Germany during WW2 and was martyred for his faith.)  But to apply such a mandate carte blanche to every Christian in every situation is both unwise and unbiblical.  While there are obvious arguments for sometimes the need to stay as a witness, there are also some strong counter-arguments that at a certain point, it is time to leave - especially if others are involved for whom you are responsible (i.e., your children).

In 70 AD, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions of Titus after a devastating, protracted siege of the city.  Josephus records that more than 1,100,000 Jews were slaughtered and nearly 100,000 were taken captive.  Of those spared death: thousands were enslaved and sent to toil in the mines of Egypt, others were dispersed to arenas throughout the Empire to be butchered for the amusement of the public. The Temple's sacred relics were taken to Rome where they were displayed in celebration of the victory.  The Jewish temple was burned and completely destroyed.  Josephus also records that the famine was so severe during the Roman siege that mothers were reduced to eating the deceased remains of their own children.

Yet, the Roman historian Eusebius records that virtually all of the Christians fled Jerusalem before the Roman legions encircled the city:

"The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers form the earth." (Eusebius, 3:5.)

Epiphanius of Salamis records:

"The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea near Coele Syria, in the Decapolis near the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called Cocaba, which in Hebrew is called Chochabe. That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged. For this reason they settled in Peraea and there, as I said, they lived. This is where the Nazoraean sect began." (Panarion 29:7:7-8)

"Their sect began after the capture of Jerusalem. For when all those who believed in Christ settled at that time for the most part in Peraea, in a city called Pella belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the gospel, which is next to Batanaea and the land of Bashan, then they moved there and stayed.." (Panarion 30:2:7)

"For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis " (On Weights and Measures 15)

In the Old Testament, Lot chose to stay in Sodom despite gross iniquity that ultimately resulted in the judgment of God.  As a result of his decision to stay, while he and his daughters were saved, they literally lost everything:  their possessions, his daughters lost their husbands and Lot lost his wife.  Why did Lot stay?  One can only surmise that Lot stayed because he did not want to give up the financial prosperity that he apparently enjoyed there.  Genesis 13 chronicles that Lot chose to live in the regions of Sodom because of the rich grassland that was there before the region was destroyed by God.  The New Testament records that Lot recognized the sin of the city and was distressed by it (2 Pet 2:7-8), but apparently not enough to leave.  Lot stayed - when he clearly should have left - and it cost him dearly.

The story of the most famous shipwreck of all - Titanic - is especially tragic when you understand that it did not carry sufficient lifeboats for everyone yet most of the launched lifeboats were not full as the majority of the passengers were initially reluctant to leave the warm, comfortable ocean liner for a rickety, open, small lifeboat adrift on a freezing ocean.  For instance, the first lifeboat to launch, Lifeboat 7 from the starboard side only carried 24 people, despite having a capacity of 65 (two additional people later transferred to Lifeboat 7 from Lifeboat 5). However, it was Lifeboat 1 that carried the fewest people - only seven crew and five passengers (a total of 12 people) despite having a capacity for 40.  Some 1500 perished when a significant number of those could have been saved had they recognized it was time to leave.

Unquestionably, the decision to leave can be difficult, especially if one has been there a long time - perhaps even their entire life.  But to simply accept a constantly deteriorating cultural environment without ever prayerfully considering if/when "it's time to go" is unwise.

Romans chapter 1 indicates that people (and by extension, cultures) can reach a point in their willful rebellion against God where He "lets them go" to bear the full fruit and consequence of their insurrection.  Noteworthy, it highlights homosexuality as a key signpost that a person/culture is in the endgame of their apostasy.  Unless God has clearly and unequivocally made clear in protracted prayer that one should stay, continuing to sojourn in such an environment is foolhardy - especially if one is responsible for others.

Our children are now grown and married with children of their own.  All of them attended public school in the United States and I've always been a proponent of the need for Christians to be a witness for truth and light in public schools.  However, today, I would not let my children stay in public school in California.  When state law mandates that "transgender" students can use the restrooms and showers of their choosing, when homosexuality is celebrated as a lifestyle, when Christians are ridiculed by teachers for their faith ... it's time to leave.

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. Prov 22:3 [NIV]

UPDATE:  08/23/13  A Wisconsin school district will teach 4th graders about such topics as masturbation , sexual intercourse, sexual orientation, abortion and contraception.  "Students, according to the handbook, will “be encouraged to talk to parents in order to help them develop their own values and beliefs about masturbation.” " ...... uh yeah .....  Time to leave.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It's A Battle For Islam - Not Democracy

The vast majority of Western politicians and journalists gullibly believe that uprisings such as the Arab Spring will result in the ascent of peaceful democratic Islamic nations.  In fact, the uprisings in the Arab world have nothing to do with democracy.  Rather they ominously signal the awakening of a potential restored Islamic Caliphate.  The last Caliphate was located in Istanbul, Turkey where for 400 years, Istanbul was the political center of the Muslim world.  From there, the Turkish sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire as caliphs from 1517 until the empire fell after World War I.  In 1924, the Turkish leader Attaturk abolished the Caliphate and established a secular government in Turkey. Since then, many Muslims have dreamed and worked for the return of the Caliphate.  The major aim of a restored Caliphate is for Islam to rule the world under the leadership of one caliph through jihad.

The Muslim Brotherhood, now so prominent in Egypt was established in 1928, four years after the disbanding of the Muslim caliphate by Ataturk,  Their specific mission was to restore the caliphate just four years later and they have been pursuing that mission ever since.  Their goal remains to set up a one world Islamic government.

Fighting between the Egyptian military and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood this week to date left hundreds dead and thousands injured.  Some Middle East experts are now predicting open civil war in Egypt is inevitable.  Andrew McCarthy is one of the few western journalists willing to pull the mask off the real face of Islam, chronicling the torching of Christian Coptic churches by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt..  He reports,

"In the familiar pattern, the Western media are focused on the military raids against Islamic supremacists in Egypt but ignoring the latter’s use of violence and of women and children as human shields. After all, the “protesters” say they are “peaceful." ....... The Brotherhood is not “retaliating” against Christians. Islamic supremacists are persecuting Christians . . . which is what they do in Muslim-majority countries."

Regarding the situation in Egypt, Mike Evans (with astute political incorrectness) insightfully observes,  "This is a battle for Islam.  It's not about Democracy.  It never was."  Not pulling any punches, Evans goes on to note the current American President Barack Obama "wants Islam to have their equal rights" but "doesn’t understand what they will do with those equal rights."

Islam successfully continues to pull the wool over the eyes of the church, the current American administration, and others in the west.  To wit - British Schools will be required to incorporate Islamic teaching in their history curriculum beginning in 2014 according to PressTV (Iran's 24-hour English language news organization.)  This is more ongoing successful soft jihad on the part of British Muslims.  Responding to the report of Islamic history to be incorporated in the British curriculum, an ex-Muslim at Islam Watch wryly predicted,

"As things continue as it is now, we foresee that the Quran will likely become a mandatory subject in school curriculum across Europe in next 10 years. And in another 20-30 years, things may turn out as it is now in Pakistan, Egypt or Somalia -- mass unrest, bombings, beheadings and much more."

It's not that Islamic history should not be studied; the problem is that the Islamic "history" to be taught in British schools will certainly be the fanciful Islamic version - based not on historical fact - but Islamic deceit.  (Islam is the only major religion in the world that permits its adherents to practice deceit.)  For examples on how Islam revises history, check out the truth on numerous claimed Islamic inventions.  One of the most notorious examples of their historical revision is Islam's repeated (even comical) denial that a Jewish temple ever existed in Jerusalem - an assertion clearly refuted in both archeological and secular historical records..

In the United States, a group calling itself  the "American Muslim Political Action Committee" (AMPAC) is planning a "one million Muslims march" in Washington D.C. on September 11th of this year. The march is scheduled for the anniversary of the worst domestic massacre in American history perpetrated in the name of Islam (the 9/11 attacks).  In typical Muslim fashion, portraying Islam as the victim, AMPAC issued the following "demands" to the American government:

"We at AMPAC (American Political Action Committee) are planning an historic event for 9.11.13 where one million Muslims will march to Washington D.C. and demand that our civil rights be protected by our government.
 

We are demanding that laws be enacted protecting our 1st amendment . We are asking President Obama to fulfill his promise from his first campaign for Presidency of a transparent government. Lastly we are asking for the release of the 9/11 commission report to the American people."

AMPAC goes on to claim that the media has been lying to the American people with regard to the role Islam played in the 9/11 attacks:

"On 9.11.01 our country was forever changed by the horrific events in New York. The entire country was victimized by the acts done on that day. Muslim and Non Muslim alike were traumatized but we as Muslims continue 12 years later to be victimized by being made the villains. To this day every media outlet and anti Islamic organization has committed slanderous and libel statements against us as Muslims and our religion of Islam.
 

Yet our Government either sits idly by and does nothing to protect our freedoms or it exacerbates the problem with its constant war on terrorism in Islamic countries, congressional hearings on Islam in America, and its changes to the NDAA law.
 

These lies told to the American population has made it impossible for us to do true Dawa. Why do we have to defend our religion while doing Dawa? Why can’t we just share the perfection of the Quran and the beauty of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SWS)?"

This is nothing new.  In the Muslim mindset, Islamic Jihad is always the fault of the unbeliever.

In 2010, Joe Hargrave posted on the American Catholic an accurate editorial entitled, "Enough is Enough: The Crusades & The Jihad Are Not Equivalents".  It's recommended reading for those interested in the historical truth versus the propaganda disseminated by Muslims and the politically-correct hogwash of the mainstream media.

We ignore at our own peril the clarion call sounded by Erwin Lutzer in his new book, "The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent: An Informed Response to Islam's War with Christianity",

"Only the church possesses moral and spiritual resources to stand against the rising tide of secularism and false religions that are engulfing us.  Very likely the next generation will be even more overwhelmed, unless the levees remain strong and unyielding.  I write this book for the current generation of Christians in America, but I am more deeply concerned for the generation that will follow us.  Out children and grandchildren will most assuredly fight battles that we've only heard about in other parts of the world but have never had to confront.  The legal and social restrictions to prohibit us from exercising our faith are growing continuously, and the battle will only intensify in the years ahead.  The day of casual Christianity is rapidly coming to a close, and the call for Christians to display courage is becoming more pressing than ever."

Having spent time in some of the strictest Islamic countries in the world, I experienced firsthand how Islam treats the media, the entertainment industry, women, and people of other faiths.   Ironically, many (most?) of the same people in these categories in the west rise to the defense of Islam, or at least regard it as benign, and naively welcome it with open arms.  Scripture uses a word to describe them ... fools. 

A battle for democracy?  No - it's a battle for Islam.

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."  Prov 18:2 [ESV]

Thursday, August 15, 2013

For Whom The Bells Toll?

When the Washington National Cathedral rang bells at noon on June 26, 2013 to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings that signified the end of the Defense Of Marriage Act and Prop 8 (rulings legitimizing gay marriage), it sounded its' own death knell.

The shocking rapidity in the rise of our post-Christian culture was born in the Biblical illiteracy of our own churches.  Shifting the emphasis from foundational theological truths to feel-good, motivational messages worthy of Tony Robbins, the church jettisoned its' anchor of truth and set adrift with the changing tides of the culture.  Afraid of "offending", the church largely abandoned objective truth and for the most part, "idiotized" itself.

Biblical literacy within the church is directly proportional to the effectiveness of its' witness.  A church with strong, solid Biblical literacy is a light in the darkness and a catalyst for positive change in the surrounding culture.  But a church saturated with Biblical illiteracy will inevitably succumb to the surrounding culture.  How ironic that in an era where the common man has unparalleled access to Scripture (printed, digital, and online), the appalling biblical illiteracy worsens day-by-day.

Our own Biblical illiteracy is directly impacting not only our own worldview, but the surrounding culture.  Dr. Woodrow Kroll, President Back to the Bible International recently observed,

"I don't believe Bible illiteracy is a problem in the church; I believe it is the problem in the church. Failure to read God's Word is impacting our view of the world around us. This year saw increases in the proportions of people who believe that cohabitation (60%), adultery (42%), sexual relations between homosexuals (30%), abortion (45%), pornography (38%), the use of profanity (36%) and gambling (61%) are morally acceptable behaviors."

Several years ago professor Gary Burge from Wheaton College reported the results of a Bible literacy test his Christian college gave to incoming freshmen.   The results were shocking because most of these students grew up in "strong" evangelical churches.  One-third of those students didn’t know that Paul’s missionary journeys were recorded in the book of Acts.  They didn’t know where in Scripture the birth of Christ is found.  He asked 45 seniors who were in an advanced class to paraphrase, from memory, the Ten Commandments. Only one student could do it.   The problem, according to Burge is the trend towards a therapeutic emphasis in preaching. He said, “There’s not an educational dimension any longer. We’re all about the experience, not the facts.”

Statistic after statistic and survey after survey all affirm the burgeoning problem of biblical illiteracy in the church today.  Secular unbelievers are not expected to know Biblical truth.  But when a study of conservative Protestant churches reveals,

“About half of their teens say that many religions may be true; more than one-third say it is okay to practice multiple religions; more than one-third believe people should not try to evangelize others; more than one-third say it is okay to pick and choose one’s religious beliefs and not accept the teachings of one’s faith as a whole, and nearly two-thirds say a person can be truly religious and spiritual without being involved in a church.”

... the bells are tolling.

Dr. Duffy Robbins, Professor of Youth Ministry at Eastern University, St Davids, PA is a 35 year veteran of youth ministry who is widely respected as one of the leading voices in youth and family ministry.  Reflecting on the possible causes of the appalling Biblical illiteracy among evangelical youth, he says:

“The church in general, and youth ministry in particular, has demonstrated more of an appetite for goose bumps than for God’s truth, more interest in how our young people feel than how they think. … But where are Christian teenagers learning basic tenets of the Christian faith? And if they don’t understand those basic truths or doctrines … then how does that impact their long-term faith? I’m concerned that too much of our teaching is reduced to what can … be communicated by a worship band illuminated by stage lighting and well-placed candles.”

We're now reaping the fruit of decades of widespread Biblical illiteracy with all manner of heterodox, unorthodox and even heretical teaching rampaging through the church.  When congregants of a Texas megachurch can be suckered into believing their pastor heard the Holy Spirit say "tell your special partners who have special transportation needs and their obedience will release favor for their needs and desires" for a “breakthrough favor” within 52 days or 52 weeks, for the low, low price of $52 ...... the bells are tolling.

When the overwhelming majority of "mature" Christians I encounter can't give a simple orthodox definition of the Trinity, can't provide a rudimentary explanation of what it means to be justified by faith, have never even heard the term "propitiation", have no idea how sanctification works, can't explain in simple terms the Atonement that happened on the cross, cannot elaborate on how Jesus is both God and man .... the bells are tolling.

Dr. William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and one of the greatest living apologists today for Christianity, finished his doctorate in theology at the University of Munich under the famed theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg.  With his doctoral dissertation already approved, all that remained was to pass the oral examination in theology (ominously called the Rigorosum) under Pannenberg himself.  Convinced he was prepared, he was devastated when he hopelessly failed the oral examination and was denied his doctorate.  Craig spent the next entire year preparing again for the Rigorosum.  The second time he passed with flying colors and Pannenberg awarded him a Doctor of Theology, Magna Cum Laude.  Reflecting on his experience, he offers some hard-earned wisdom:

"I discovered a sobering truth. Like so many other American students, I had been woefully trained in seminary in the history of Christian doctrine. The training in systematic theology that American evangelical seminaries generally give their students is but a pale shadow of what German university students in theology receive. Is it therefore any wonder that skeptical German theology leads the world? How can we ever hope that evangelical theology will become a leading model unless we begin to train our students with the same rigor and thoroughness that characterize German theological instruction? I can say without hesitation that during that year of intense study I learned more about systematic theology than I did during my entire seminary training. So although I would never want to relive my experience, I can honestly say that I’m glad I failed. It was for the best, because as a result of that failure I became theologically equipped for the Lord’s service in a way that would never have been possible if I had passed."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *

God doesn't want us to be idiots.

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."  2 Timothy 3:14-17 [ESV]


Saturday, August 10, 2013

His Excuse? - "Transient Global Amnesia"

Just when you thought things couldn't get any more bizarre comes this story about a male journalist who decided he was a woman and left his wife of 17 years, but then decided he's really a man who suffered from a form of amnesia.

"ABC News editor Don Ennis strolled into the newsroom in May wearing a little black dress and an auburn wig and announced he was transgender and splitting from his wife. He wanted to be called Dawn.

But now he says he suffered from a two-day bout of amnesia that has made him realize he wants to live his life again as Don."


He's blaming the whole thing on "transient global amnesia".  Rather than admitting he made a mistake and asking his wife for forgiveness, he conveniently blames his bizarre behavior on a malady that I suspiciously believe is fictitious and created to justify unacceptable behavior. While the Mayo clinic lists it as real , it also says that transient global amnesia is "rare, seemingly harmless and unlikely to happen again. Episodes are usually short-lived, and afterward your memory is fine."

Hmmmm ....... sounds suspiciously convenient to me.  It's yet another convenient (and laughable) excuse for a culture that incessantly denies the reality of sin. Most revealing is Ennis's statement that,

“Even though I will not wear the wig or the makeup or the skirts again, I promise to remain a strong straight ally, a supporter of diversity and an advocate for equal rights and other LGBT issues including same-sex marriage.”

Actually, Ennis's behavior is the logical byproduct of a society that is shredding any role difference between male and female, insisting either can perform any role as well as the other (egalitarianism). The predictable result has been increasing gender confusion within our culture of the sexes. To wit, we see such insane decisions as federal officials mandating that transgender students can use the restroom (and shower!) of their choosing.

In contrast to this, I believe Scripture clearly affirms the complementarian nature of the sexes - i.e., that while men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and on a military battlefield.

Competitive ballroom dancing is a good analogy.  The man always leads and the woman always follows, but the dance is never about the man - it's always all about the woman who is the center of attention.  The man focuses his attention on his woman partner, being the frame for her beautiful picture.  He serves her throughout the dance.  She usually has more technically difficult moves but cannot execute them without his strength and foundation.  The man does not lead by pushing and pulling the woman around the floor; rather he dances his body and the woman reacts to what he is doing.  The better the lead, the more gentle and precise it is - but it is entirely up to the woman to follow; she is never forced.  The man and woman do not have the same steps; they have different, but complementary, parts.  The two combine their respective parts to produce beautiful movement down the floor as one.  An experienced high-level competitive ballroom couple is a sight of breathtaking beauty to behold.

Likewise, Christian marriages that model the Biblical truth of complementarianism shine like brilliant stars in our darkening culture.  For those seeking a better understanding of this issue, I recommend Wayne Grudem's excellent book "Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth".

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  Gen 1:27 [ESV]

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Separating The Chaff From The Wheat

The Church of England is being sued for refusing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, less than one month after Britain officially legalized gay marriage, but explicitly excluded the Church from being forced to conduct the ceremonies.  British authorities were adamant that churches and religious institutions would not be forced to perform same-sex marriage.

That lasted all of about a month.

There's very little doubt the same thing will eventually happen in the United States.  Already florists and wedding planners in the U.S. who refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies are being sued.  Given the downhill slide our culture is on, I can easily foresee a time in the very near future when churches in the U.S. who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies will, at a minimum, lose their tax exemption.

Billy Graham is now warning the United States has become a nation in which “self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle."  Graham compares America to the ancient city of Nineveh, the lone superpower of its time.  The Old Testament records the wickedness of Nineveh was so great that its stench had gone up to Heaven, precipitating judgment.  There is a growing chorus of Christians warning of judgement upon America if the nation does not repent.

Barring a nationwide spiritual revival, the days of easy-believism for Christians in the West are rapidly fading.  Just as believers in many other parts of the world have experienced for decades and even centuries, soon it will cost Christians in the West dearly for their faith.  At first, the cost will be little more than inconvenience.  Quickly, the price to follow Christ will escalate until the chaff is separated from the wheat.