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



Monday, July 29, 2013

Soft Jihad Is More Dangerous .... And More Effective


“We have 50 million Muslims in Europe.  There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.”
Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan Leader, 2006

Statistics to consider:
  • Muslims now make up one-quarter of the population of the capital of the enlightened Europe and they are asking to use the empty churches for Islamic prayers
  • Since 2008, the top seven baby boys’ names in Brussels were Mohammed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza
  • Mohammed is also the most popular name for baby boys in Belgium’s second-largest city, Antwerp, where an estimated 40% of elementary school children are Muslim.
  • Antwerp is also home to Belgium’s first Islamic Sharia law court, which began operating in September 2011
  • Islam is already the fastest-growing religion in Europe, where the number of Muslims has tripled over the past 30 years. One third of all European children will be born to Muslim families by 2025.
  • Islam is the most practiced religion in the United Kingdom. In London, more Muslims attend mosques on Friday than do Christians churches on Sunday
  • In Austria, which was 90% Catholic in the 20th Century, Islam will be the majority religion among Austrians aged under 15 by 2050
  • The total number of mosques in France doubled to more than 2,000 in the last 10 years. The best known French Islamic leader, Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, recently suggested that the total number of mosques should double yet again, to 4,000, to meet the growing demand.  Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in France had only 20 new churches built in the last 10 years, and formally closed more than 60 churches, many of which became mosques, according to research conducted by the French Catholic daily La Croix.
Princeton University’s Bernard Lewis told the German daily Die Welt that “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.” 

Oriana Fallaci was an Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer. A former partisan during World War II, she had a long and successful journalistic career. Fallaci became famous worldwide for her coverage of war and revolution, and her interviews with many world leaders during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.  Before her death in 2006, she said,

“Europe is no longer Europe, it is Eurabia, a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense.”

Soft (also known as stealth) Jihad is slowly but surely bringing about what the Ottoman Muslims were unable to achieve in 1683 at the Gate of Vienna with violent jihad - the Islamization of Europe.  Muslims are exhorted to follow Muhammad’s example and participate in jihad in order to establish the dominance of Islam through adherence to the laws of Islam (Shari'a) [Koran suras 5:48 & 45:18). According to Islamic doctrine, Islamic Shari'a which was dictated by Allah, cannot be subordinate to any other legal system.  Shari'a must reign supreme over every other legal system in the world.

"Soft" jihad seeks to impose Shari'a onto every country by non-confrontational means.  Deceiving its' target population into apathy, it is also much more effective - in the long run - than traditional violent jihad.  Under the banners of "tolerance" and "civil rights," soft jihadists introduce little-by-little in piecemeal fashion, the elements of Shari'a into Western societies and then demand that non-Muslims make allowance for those elements.  Soft jihadists disparage those who dare to discuss the negative aspects of Shari'a (and Islam) as "racists" and "Islamophobes."  Ultimately, they exploit the West’s respect for minority rights and cultures to transform pluralistic societies into Islamic states and gradually sweep away Western notions of legal equality, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and individual rights.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) openly states:

“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.” 

An 18-page memorandum (revealed at Federal trial) written by a Muslim Brotherhood representative in the United States, Mohamed Akramon, dated May 22, 1991 explained this newest kind of stealth jihad as:

“The process of settlement in America is a Civilization-Jihadist process . . . . The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

What kinds of measures does soft (stealth) jihad include?

1.  Stifling free speech.
One of the Islamists’ main efforts has been to make it unacceptable for people to speak about Islam in connection with terrorism. Through the successful lobbying efforts of Islamist leaders the State Department has now forbidden Department employees to speak of terrorism in connection to Islam or Muslims. Moreover, the U.S. government made clear as of May 2010 through the Department for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, in a speech delivered by John Brennan, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that the United States cannot describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” and that the enemy is not about terrorism. The FBI even refuses to report on Islamic “honor killings” and characterizes them as nothing more that domestic violence cases.

2.  Building Muslim enclaves.
Muslims have been working in the West to create communities based solely on Islam and run by Shari'a law.  Americans should be concerned about Shari'a councils operating out of mosques, particularly in Muslim enclaves which provide an institutionalized atmosphere of intimidation that can include sanctioned murder under Shari'a law.  Examples of these Islamic enclaves in the United States is documented here.

3.  Growing a Shariah compliant financial system. 
In a nutshell, this seeks to create a business market involving Islamic police to ensure that businesses are Shari'a compliant.  The Islamization of American businesses is best understood by visiting postings at this blog that deals with issues related to Shariah compliant financial systems.

4.  Engaging in a propaganda campaign through education
“Schools are fertile grounds where the seeds of Islam can be sowed inside the hearts of non-Muslim students,” according to this Muslim website.  Dawa is an Arabic term meaning to invite non-Muslims to accept the truth of Islam. This site, apparently connected with the Council on Islamic Education, promotes Islam in U.S. public schools.  On the web site are various quotes from the Koran that encourage Muslim students to proselytize in their schools. One example is noted under the heading: “Dawa through the school newspaper” in which Muslim students are told to submit an article on Islam in every issue of the school paper.  The website also states that while schools will not allow one to preach in the school paper there are “ways to circumvent this problem.”

Moreover, through the bullying tactics of the Council on Islamic Education, textbook publishers have accepted a whitewash of Islam that fails to portray Shari'a law accurately.  According to The American Textbook Committee’s report, Islam in the Classroom, Muslim oriented activities are part of a concerted effort by Islamic organizations wanting to provide “misinformation” in today’s curriculum. “These activists are eager to expunge any critical thought about Islam from textbooks and all public discourse.”

A recent example of this kind of soft jihad activity is here.

5.  Recruiting and Proselytizing. 
Recruitment and proselytizing occurs in schools, colleges and university campuses, prisons, and the work place. Members of the Muslim community both here and elsewhere have said openly and honestly that the goal is to convert at least one member of every American family to Islam in order to transform America into a Muslim nation-state.

6.  Massive Immigration, legal and illegal
The Islamization of Europe is underway with breathtaking rapidity.  Today, in the United Kingdom, the most popular name given to baby boys is Mohammad. Some of Belgium’s largest cities now have Muslim majorities.   Muslims are rapidly immigrating to Europe. But they are not adapting to European culture; rather many of them are attempting to conform European society to their own ideals.  A poll conducted by the London Telegraph reveals that 40 percent of British Muslims want Sharia introduced in Great Britain. It should be no surprise that the Islamic population in Britain is multiplying 10 times faster than the rest of the society.  Additionally low birthrates among Europeans, and high birthrates among Muslim immigrants are quickly turning Europe into an extension of the Muslim world.  Watch this eye-opening video to see how fast Europe is changing due to Islamic immigration.

***********

Many, like Giulio Meotti, are now predicting Europe will be inevitably be Islamic before the end of this century ... that the die is cast and cannot be reversed.

As I've mentioned before, there's an excellent book out that approaches the issue of Islamization from the theological perspective, "The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent" warning of the danger Islam (including soft jihad) poses to the church today. The author is not some radical anti-Islamic fire-breathing zealot, but the senior pastor of Moody church in Chicago.  But he goes beyond simply warning us, and exhorts the church to be wise about what's happening and to use the opportunity to share the gospel with those trapped in the darkness of Islam.

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ."  Col 2:8 [NIV]

"A wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust."  Prov 21:22 [NIV]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Glimpsing A Secularist Future

Larry Tomczak has written a thought-provoking article entitled, "The Spirit of Tolerance, Post-Christian America and the Laodicean Church", pleading for a wake-up call in our sinking culture.  He relates his experience in a recent trip to Amsterdam.  Recalling my own visit to that city in the early 90's, everything he portrays is accurate ....

"Not long ago, I returned from Amsterdam, where I had a distinct wake-up call and a preview of where America is headed if we don't awaken and reclaim our nation from encroaching secularism, narcissism and relativism. For Americans who cherish our nation's founding values of faith and freedom, I echo an urgent message: "If we snooze, we can lose!"

Amsterdam, Holland, was the launch pad for our nation. Remember where our first settlers came from? The Dutch explorer Henry Hudson first came to New York, officially called "New Netherlands." New York City was called "New Amsterdam." Brooklyn, Harlem, the Hudson—all derive their names from our ancestors. And what was Holland known for then, which continues today? Tolerance.

Tolerance historically meant "respect for others' beliefs." Today it's come to mean "respect for others' conduct." In other words, there's no absolute standard of morality. "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 17:6, KJV).

Where can this approach lead? In Amsterdam, the following is now legal:

  • Abortion on demand
  • Euthanasia (otherwise known as mercy killings)
  • Forms of infanticide
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Drugs (hundreds of coffee shops sell hashish alongside mochas)
  • Sex shows and open, explicit pornography on the streets
  • Prostitution (27,000 "registered" ladies sit in sidewalk display windows)
  • Public nudity
  • Explicit LGBTQ activity
  • Sex-change operations (called "gender reassignments" and subsidized by tax dollars)
Furthermore, the age of consent is now 12, and burnout—where people drop out and take "leave" from work—is rampant and financed by tax dollars. (Most citizens get their full salary and can renew in five-year cycles.)

Is this America's future? Secularists say, "Why not?""


This is the time in our culture - now more than ever - for authentic Christians to take a powerful stand for truth, righteousness and the gospel, shining the love of Christ into a darkening world.  The church alone is empowered to turn back the tide of evil, and needs to awaken from lethargy. God entrusts us with the light of the gospel which alone has the power to thwart evil and effect real, permanent change in people.

Consider light versus darkness and the nature of each.  Light is energy.  In other words light is something tangible.  In contrast, darkness by definition is the absence of light - in other words, darkness is nothing.  Light always penetrates darkness.  Darkness never overcomes light.  Darkness always recedes before light.  On the other hand, if light recedes, then darkness envelopes.

Scripture exhorts us:
"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." Eph 5:8-11 [ESV]

Larry goes on on in his article to relate an experience in an abortion clinic ....

"This morning I walked into an abortion clinic. In the waiting room were four young men and a young lady who was obviously filling out some forms prior to her potential abortion. I stood in the center of the room, smiling, and slowly swiveled to be seen by them all. Then I turned and squarely faced the young lady, who looked me straight in the eyes. Speaking in a warm, soft-spoken manner, I put my hands in front of my chest as if I was praying and asked her, "Is it OK to ask someone not to take the life of their pre-born baby in here?"

I lingered about five more seconds as the soft explosion filled the silent room, and then I exited, praying silently under my breath. What did God do in their conscience at that moment?"


Truth by itself is powerful. Love combined with the Truth is unstoppable.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On Saturday We Kill The Jews, On Sunday We Kill The Christians

Lela Gilbert, a Christian, has written extensively on the global assault against Christians underway around the world.  Her new book Saturday People, Sunday People details the persecution and pogroms that drove more than 850,000 Jews from Muslim lands between 1948 and 1970—with the experience now repeating itself among Christian communities in those same Muslim countries.

What about the intriguing title of the book?  In Gilbert's own words, 

"It's graffiti from radical Islamists that appears throughout the Middle East. In the best terms it says, "First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday." But there's a flag, a photo of a flag in the book that says, "On Saturday we kill the Jews, on Sunday we kill the Christians." And that's where I got the title."

While prolific throughout the Middle East, you certainly won't see any pictures of those kinds of Islamists in western media.  I haven't read it yet, but I understand in the book she shines a spotlight on the hypocrisy, deceit and libels of the world’s  “enlightened” elite, and pulls back the curtain on jihadist terrorists.  She also highlights the fear of Christians in Palestinian Authoirty-ruled Bethlehem, finding it similar to the fear of Christians throughout the Muslim world–in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

And what was the motivation for producing this book?  As Ruth King reports in her review of the book:

"She watched with concern as, in the following decades (after the 1967 war), Israel’s enemies increased in number, with Muslims joined by fellow travelers throughout the world, including the leadership of the mainline churches who shrugged off the fiercest faith driven diatribes against Jews, Christians and other “infidels.” "

When the church is silent, darkness envelopes.

Many U.S. Protestant mainline churches were mostly silent (with some even astonishingly approving the ruling) when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States in 1973.  Their silence helped unleash a continuing holocaust.  For example, 
  • United Methodism first endorsed abortion rights at their 1970 General Conference, after a 20 minute debate - 3 years before it was even legalized.
  • The 1973 ruling legalizing abortion received the approval of the President of the Southern Baptist Convention at the time - W.A. Criswell. [Criswell, who died in 2002, later reversed his position and became an abortion opponent - but his action in 1973 had consequences.]
  • A 1973 Baptist Press news analysis said there was no official Southern Baptist position on abortion.
  • W.O. Vaught, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., told his most famous parishioner, President Bill Clinton that life began at birth, not conception.  In his 2004 autobiography, My Life, Clinton remembered Vaught telling him that while abortion was usually wrong, the Bible did not condemn it.
  • Wayne Dehoney, SBC president for two terms in the 1960s and longtime pastor of Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., commenting on a Louisville Courier-Journal story in 1976 revealing that one tenant in property owned by his church was running an abortion clinic, said that he personally had “no moral or theological problem with the operation of a legal, ethical clinic.”
Christianity Today Editor Mark Galli termed the argument that evangelicals were once predominantly pro-choice “fake history,” noting that his magazine denounced Roe v. Wade in an editorial as early as 1973.
And now, mainline churches believing themselves secure in their Laodicean mindset, have stuck their heads in the sand, conveniently ignoring that more of their Christian brothers and sisters were martyred for their faith in the 20th century than in all the previous 19 centuries combined ......

........ but they are about to discover they have been "dancing with the devil" as persecution against Christians now begins to rear its' ugly head in the West.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Censoring The Gospel

An Air Force Chaplain at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska experienced first-hand just how hostile to the gospel the U.S. military culture is becoming.  In the land of "religious freedom", the Chaplain posted an online essay entitled, "“No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II.”, a common saying attributed to a Catholic priest in World War II, made famous when President Dwight D. Eisenhower said during a 1954 speech: "I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth that there are no atheists in the foxholes."  His essay was published on the base's web site in the "Chaplain's Corner" section.  (For those not familiar with military chaplains, they are ordained clergyman whose duties are to provide religious instruction and spiritual counseling.)

Shortly after publication, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) contacted the base commander, Col. Brian Duffy, demanding he take action on Reyes’s “anti-secular diatribe.”  Incredibly, MRFF’s letter says that by Reyes’s “use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, ‘no atheists in foxholes,’ he defiles the dignity of service members.” They accuse him of violating military regulations. Only five hours after MRFF’s complaint, the essay was removed from the website and the base commander profusely apologized to the MRFF for not stopping this religious leader from sharing religious thoughts.

Incredible.

 Here is the full text of his essay so you can decide how "bigoted" and "religious supremacist" it is:

“Chaplain’s Corner: No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II” 
By Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes

Many have heard the familiar phrase, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

Where did this come from?

Research I verified in an interview with former World War II prisoner of war Roy Bodine (my friend) indicates the phrase has been credited to Father William Cummings.  As the story goes, Father Cummings was a civilian missionary Catholic priest in the Philippines.  The phrase was coined during the Japanese attack at Corregidor.

During the siege, Cummings had noticed non-Catholics were attending his services.  Some he knew were not Catholic, some were not religious and some were even known atheists.  Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check.  Even the strongest of beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways – people can be drawn to or away from “faith.”

With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, Cummings uttered the famous phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole."  In one of my many discussions with Roy, he distinctly remembered a period on the “Hell Ships” – these were ships the Japanese used to bring POWs from the Philippines back to Japan.  They were unmarked and thus ‘fair game’ for attacks from the allies from the air and sea.

Of the 3,000-plus POWs listed on the ships, only 180 survived the journey.  “When our own planes were attacking us,” Roy said, “I remember Father Cummings calming us down by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and offering up prayers on our behalf.  For a brief moment I did not hear the yells and screams of dying men as our boat was attacked by our own men.”  He went on to say, “There was a peaceful quiet during the attack that I cannot explain nor have experienced since.”  Later on during the trip to Japan, Cummings, after giving his food to others who needed it more, succumbed to his own need and died of starvation.

Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.  Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.  The real question is, “Is it important to have faith in ‘faith’ itself or is it more important to ask, ‘What is the object of my faith?’”

Roy never affirmed or expressed whether his faith was rooted in religion or not, but for a moment in time on the “Hell Ships,” he believed in Cummings’ faith.  

What is the root or object of your faith?

Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?  Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?

What is ‘faith’ to you?"

A "bigoted, religious supremacist" essay?

The Air Force base commander, Col. Brian Duffy, exhibited an astonishing lack of common sense and leadership.  Intimidated by a group adverse to the gospel and a Pentagon increasingly hostile to the gospel, he is the by-product of an increasingly godless culture.

Another recent example of censoring the gospel was the blocking of links to a new Christian movie ("Unstoppable") by both Facebook and YouTube.  The blocks were removed only after several hundred thousand people expressed outrage.  Ludicrously, Facebook blamed the block on "a mistake in their anti-spam system."

John 3:19-20 gives us insight on what's happening ....

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed."  (NIV)

As the culture sinks deeper into darkness, the more fierce its' hatred of the gospel will become, revealing the society's true nature.  We need to remember that as aliens in a fallen world temporarily marred by sin and ruled by Satan, Jesus calls Christians to shine like brilliant stars in an ever-darkening world living with joy and confidence, no matter the difficult circumstances.

Lord, let our light shine.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why I Will Be Celebrating Christmas In Both Sep And Dec This Year

I’ve always marveled at how Christ precisely fulfills the Old Testament Jewish feast days …

1)  Passover (Leviticus 23:5) – Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood would be shed for our sins.  Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover at the same hour that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening.

2)  Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6) – Pointed to the Messiah's sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus' body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.

3)  First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10) – Pointed to the Messiah's resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 15:20 as the "first fruits from the dead."

4)  Weeks or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16) – Occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age (see Acts 2). The Church was actually established on this day when God the Father and God the Son poured out God the Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter's great sermon and his first proclamation of the gospel

5)  Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24) – The first of the fall feasts. Most believe this is a future fulfillment pointing to the return of Christ when the Messiah Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the Church. This eschatological event is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:52).

6)  Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) – Many believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He physically returns to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they "look upon Him whom they have pierced," repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).

That leaves the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) or Booths which some (unconvincingly in my mind) point to a future fulfillment.  The Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long fall festival commemorating the 40-year journey of the Israelites in the wilderness.  There is an excellent overview of the Feast of Tabernacles here.

Messianic Jews (Jews who follow Christ as Lord, Savior and Messiah) have compelling arguments that this feast has been fulfilled – at the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.  Let me preface this by asserting that we cannot know with absolute certainty the date of Christ’s birth.  The important thing is that He was born to ransom us from our sin.  Having said that, I find the arguments that Christ was born on the Feast of Tabernacles both fascinating and compelling.

The actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown; it is not explicitly recorded in Scripture.  Why then do most Christians celebrate it on Dec 25th?  For the church's first three centuries, Christmas wasn't in December—or on the calendar at all.  The eventual choice of December 25 was made perhaps as early as 273, and reflects a convergence of Origen's concern about pagan gods and the church's identification of God's son with the celestial sun.  December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, some believe church leaders simply decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new Christian festival.  In other words, there is no real historical evidence that Christ was born on Dec 25 according to the Gregorian calendar.

On the other hand, what are the arguments that Christ was actually born on the Feast of Tabernacles (in the Fall variously from late Sep to late Oct - remember that the Jewish calendar is tied to Lunar cycles and varies according to the Gregorian calendar) instead of Dec 25?

1st)  The cousin of Jesus, John the Baptist, was conceived in mid Sivan (May/June) and born 40 weeks later on Nisan 15, the Passover.  The evidence:
  • John's father (Zacharias) was a Levite who was assigned to serve in the temple during the course of "Abia," the 8th course of the year.  (Luke 1:5, 1 Chr 24:10)
  • Since the cycle of service began on the first Sabbath of Nisan but both Passover and Shavu'ot require all priestly courses to serve, the actual time the 8th course would serve would be during the 10th week of the year. This places Zacharias' service in the Temple at the beginning on the second Sabbath of the month of Sivan (May/June).
  • Scripture records that John was conceived shortly after this tour of duty (Luke 1:23-4). Therefore, John the Baptist was probably conceived shortly after the third Sabbath of the month of Sivan (i.e., late Sivan).
  • This places the birth of John the Baptist around Passover (Nisan 15).  Recall that Jesus said that John the Baptist was a type of Elijah the prophet (Matt 17:10-13, cp. Luke 1:17).
  • Even today it is customary for Jews to set out a special cup of wine during the Passover Seder meal in anticipation of the arrival of Elijah for the festival.  The sending of Elijah was prophesied to be a sign that God would spare/save His people (Mal. 4:5-6).
2nd)  Jesus would have then been conceived in late Kislev (Nov/Dec) and born 40 weeks later during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles)
  • Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist (Luke 1:24-27, 36). Note that the "sixth" month refers to Elizabeth's pregnancy  (cp. Luke 1:36).
  • Six months added to late Sivan is late Kislev, which would have been the time of the conception of Jesus (note that the first day of the Jewish festival of Chanukah (Hanukkah), the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, and Jesus  is called the Light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46)).  (Ironically this would place the conception of Christ very close to Dec 25th.)
  • From the 15th day of Nisan (John's birthday), we add six months to arrive at the 15th day of the 7th month, Tishri – the precise first day of the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles).
  • If the day of his birth were the first day of Sukkot, the day of his circumcision would be the eighth day, Shemini Atzeret/Sinchat Torah, which, like the first day, is a day of sacred assembly (Leviticus 23:39). On this day the Jews complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Bereshit (Genesis). Simchat Torah is considered to be a time of "fulfillment" of the Torah. The circumcision of Jesus  at this time indicates how he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17-18).
3rd)  John 1:14 states that the "Word became flesh and "dwelt" with us. The Greek word "dwelt" [skeinao] comes from the word skeinos, which the LXX (Septuagint) uses for the mishkan (tabernacle). The name given for the feast of Tabernacles itself is called Herotei Skeinon in the LXX.  This is why some study bibles comment that John 1:14 literally means “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”.

4th)  Shepherds would not be out with their sheep in the dead of winter in Israel.  However, they certainly would be in pasture during the Feast of Tabernacles.  (The counterargument sometimes made is that perhaps it was a mild winter.)

5th)  The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is also known as the “Festival of Joy” among Jews.  The angel who appeared to the shepherds said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). Sukkot is also known as the "Festival of the Nations” …… notice how many times the words “nation” and “nations” are mentioned in Zech. 14:16-19.

6th)  Zechariah has a cryptic prophecy in the OT that after Messiah establishes His kingdom on Earth, “all the nations” will celebrate only one festival annually – incredibly, the Feast of Tabernacles  (Zechariah 14:16). Why is that? Could it be that this will be a worldwide celebration of the Incarnation? (i.e., the remembrance of His birth would remain as a celebration)

7th)  We know that Jesus was about 30 years old when He started His ministry (Luke 3:23), and, assuming (as many Bible scholars do) that He ministered for 3 1/2 years, we can count backwards from the crucifixion (during Passover in Nisan) 6 months to discover his birthday in Tishri (Fall on the Gregorian calendar.) 

8th)  The Jewish historian Josephus records the Roman Census mentioned by Luke as occurring over the course of a year, thereby giving plenty of time for residents to be enrolled.  It’s puzzling why Joseph and Mary would choose the end of her pregnancy to make such an arduous journey - unless Jesus was born on the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the 3 mandatory pilgrimage festivals, requiring all male Jews to appear in Jerusalem, making it obligatory for Mary and Joseph to make the trip then.  Bethlehem is 5 miles from Jerusalem, a leisurely 2.5 hour walk.  It would have been almost impossible to find room in Jerusalem itself and even Bethlehem (5 miles from Jerusalem) would have been overflowing with Sukkot celebrants, explaining the difficulty finding lodging.

Even if one believes the census took place over a short period of time and not over the course of a year as recorded by Josephus, King Herod more likely would have used the opportunity of the Festival of Tabernacles  (in Jerusalem) to perform the census - certainly not Hanukkah, since he detested and feared the Hasmoneans whose insurrection was the catalyst for that December celebration.

9th)  Mary and Joseph would probably have been given shelter in a Sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.   The fields would have been dotted with Sukkoths during this harvest time to temporary shelter animals. The Hebrew word “stable” is called a Sukkoth (Gen. 33:17).

10th)  The Jews expected the Messiah (Mashiach in Hebrew) to appear at the Feast of Tabernacles.  This is why Jesus' skeptical brothers taunted Him to go to the festival (Jn. 7:2-3; John 7:1-10)  The Feast of Tabernacles is the time when the Jews look for the coming of the promised Messiah - it was even more the case that year than any other because many believed Jesus may be the One, which would obviously have been the muttering about Him at the festival (John 7:11-12, 7:26-27, 7:40-42).  His brothers (John 7:3-5) didn’t believe Him to be the One chosen by God to restore the Davidic Kingdom, so they challenged Him to prove Himself at the festival when the Messiah was expected to appear. Even though they didn’t believe in Jesus at that time, they knew the right time when the Christ was to set up the fallen Tabernacle of David according to Jewish belief (Amos 9:11).

11th)  The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the “Festival of Lights”.  How appropriate that Jesus, “the light of the world” (John 8:12) would be born then.

*******

Given the precise fulfillment of Passover, First Fruits, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, it strains credulity to believe that the birth of Christ (the very Incarnation of the Son of God) would not fall on a specific OT Jewish Feast day.   All the OT feasts find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ.  For me, the Incarnation is the greatest and most mind-boggling miracle of all where the infinite, eternal God joined His divine nature with a human nature for the rest of eternity.  I find it inconceivable that God would not orchestrate this stupendous event - accompanied even by an angelic host - with a specific OT feast.

Keep in mind that the Hebrew calendar varies each year since it is tied to the Moon’s (lunar) cycles.  This means Jewish holidays, while always the same each year on the Jewish calendar, fall on different days on the modern Gregorian calendar.

The historical record of lunar eclipses is intriguing (found on the NASA web site, Catolog of Lunar Eclipses, Catalog of Lunar Eclipses: -0099 to 0000 ( 100 BCE to 1 BCE ):

     6 B.C. - No Total eclipses
     5 B.C. – No Total eclipses
     4 B.C. - Total eclipse, Mar 23 at 9:17 p.m.
     4 B.C. - Total eclipse, Sep 15 at 23:07 p.m.
     3 B.C. - No Total eclipses
     2 B.C. - No Total eclipses

The Jewish calendar for 4 BC can be found on these two web sites:

http://www.shirhadash.org/calendar/holidays.cgi?y=3757
http://www.shirhadash.org/calendar/holidays.cgi?y=3758

Comparing these references, we see that the total eclipse that occurred the night of Mar 23 in 4 B.C. occurred almost 3 weeks (20 days) before Passover on Thu Apr 12, 4 B.C., when John the Baptist would have been born according to this chronology.  The total eclipse that occurred the night of Sep 15 in 4 B.C. occurred exactly 3 weeks (21 days) before the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles on Sat Oct 6, 4 B.C..  How likely that God would use these two rare astronomical events to mark the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. 

Consequently, with all the circumstantial evidence, I believe that John the Baptist may have been born on Passover, Nisan 15, Thu, Apr 12, 4 B.C., and if so, then Jesus Christ was born six months later on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Tishrei on Sat, Oct 6, 4 B.C. 

If true, then incredibly at the expected time and place of God’s choosing, on the Festival of Sukkot  (Feast of Tabernacles), in a succah (tabernacle, temporary dwelling) where Passover lambs were raised in the city of the shepherd David, a Son was born to a virgin descended from King David. At an angel's command, He was named Jesus, meaning "YHWH (Jehobvah - the one, true God) is Salvation." God would dwell with us in a succah of humanity that would be bruised by the serpent, and ultimately crush the serpent.  The Feast of Tabernacles is the seventh and final festival and in it we see the culmination of God’s purpose in Time and Space - the time in which God will finally restore and renew the totality of Creation from the ruin of sin, under His sovereign control in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Again, we cannot be dogmatic about what day Christ was born on.  But this year I will be putting up a small Christmas tree on Sep 18-25, marking the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and what I believe is the true likely birth date of our Savior Jesus Christ.  But I will also be marking the traditional period of celebration in Dec - since late Dec is when Christ was amazingly conceived if He was born on the Feast of Tabernacles (in fact, counting backwards with a normal gestation period from the Feast of Tabernacles, you arrive at a conception date close to Dec 25).  Additionally, late Dec/early Jan may have been a likely time for the visit of the magi if Christ were born on the Feast of Tabernacles.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). "  Matt 1:23 [ESV]

Merry Christmas!

Moving Past The Finger-Pointing Stage

A Tennessee Lawyer is suing Apple for millions for not protecting him from pornography that destroyed his marriage.  (And lawyers wonder why they have such a bad rap?)  While ridiculous, his action perfectly conforms to the commonly accepted standard of our culture - blame someone else if at all possible!

Japanese culture has one admirable attribute sorely lacking in American culture:  Accepting Personal Responsibility:
  • After Japan Airlines flight 123 crashed in 1985, killing 520, the President of Japan Airlines (Yasumoto Takagi) accepted responsibility (though he had nothing to do with the accident) and resigned.  In addition, a maintenance manager working for the airline killed himself to apologize for the accident.  (When have you seen the CEO of an airline in the U.S. resign after a crash?)
  • On March 11, 2011 a disastrous earthquake and tsunami struck Japan followed by a subsequent nuclear crisis in the nation, with a meltdown occurring.  In August the Japanese Prime Minister accepted responsibility and resigned.  When he resigned, he was the fourth Japanese Prime Minister to do so since 2007.  (How many U.S. politicians resign for failure?  Better yet - how many cling to office despite failure?)
  • In 2007, Japan's scandal-embroiled agriculture minister resigned, taking responsibility for a shattering election defeat for the ruling party.  (How many U.S. Cabinet Members resign for failure?)
In Japan's hierarchical and conformist culture, it is considered fitting that leaders take responsibility for failures by resigning.  Contrast that with the American culture where the overwhelming vast majority of U.S. politicians excel at finger-pointing - as deft at it as a Musketeer with a blade.  Google "American politicians finger-pointing" and peruse the 11,000,000+ results you get.  Then Google "Japanese politicians finger-pointing" and examine the 1,610,000 results (less than 15% the count for American politicians) - and most of the Japanese counts are irrelevant.

The tendency for finger-pointing goes hand-in-hand with the rise of narcissism in our culture.  Narcissists, eager to take credit when things go right, refuse to accept responsibility when things go wrong, and cannot engage in constructive self-criticism.  These destructive tendencies had their origin of course in Eden.  After the Fall when confronted by God, we see Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the serpent (the Devil made me do it.)

What's really frightening though is that we are quickly moving past the "finger-pointing" stage to the "I'm proud of it" stage.  As bad is finger-pointing is, at least it signals an inner awareness that something wrong/immoral happened.  When a culture no longer feels the need to assign blame, it inevitably - and dangerously - begins to celebrate evil as good.
  • Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Congresswoman and a self-proclaimed Roman Catholic, recently pronounced abortion as "sacred ground."
  • When Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage, state politicians celebrated it as a "beautiful thing".
Take a hard look at what is currently on prime-time television in the U.S. and you will see topics glorified that would have horrified Americans 30 years ago - i.e., infidelity, homosexuality, abortion, exhibitionism, profanity, vulgarity, etc.  In 1988, Karl Menninger admonished us that we were headed down this road in his book Whatever Became Of Sin? Unfortunately, we didn't heed his warning.

The celebration of evil as good is terminal for both individuals and cultures.  Once a society begins to celebrate evil as good, it is in the final stage of disintegration.  Barring a move of God and subsequent reawakening, collapse of the culture is inevitable.

Some verses come to mind here:
  • The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men (Ps 12:8)
  • Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isa 5:20)
  • But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim 3:1-5)

God help us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Signs in the sky?

The heavens are God's great canvas, testifying to His power and glory (Ps 19:1) and God often uses signs in the sky to signal key events in His Kingdom (i.e., the Star of Bethlehem - Matt 2:1-2; Joshua and the Sun standing still - Jos 10:13; Hezekiah and the Sun - Isa 38:7-8).

Many Bible verses refer to signs in the heavens.  For example,
  • Joel 2:31 - The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come
  • Acts 2:20 - The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come
  • Rev 6:12 - And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sack-cloth of hair, and the moon became as blood
  • Since the Creation, God made the sun and the moon "for SIGNS and for seasons" (Gen 1:14)
  • "And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath..." (Acts 2:19)
The reference in Scripture of the sun turning to sackcloth likely refers to a total solar eclipse (the next total solar eclipse is on March 20, 2015), while the moon turning red is an almost certain reference to a total lunar eclipse.

What is a blood-red Moon?  When the Earth passes between the Sun and a full Moon, blocking the sun's light, a total lunar eclipse occurs.  Often during a total lunar eclipse, the moon is not completely dark, but is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth's atmosphere which filters out the blue rays.  In modern times, a higher density of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere contributes to a spectacular red moon such as the photograph below.  (The un-retouched photo below is the Blood Red Moon seen on the night of September 26, 1996 photographed in Jerusalem.  This moon appeared on "Sukkot," the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles which Messianic Jews believe is the true birthday of Jesus Christ.)




The Jewish Talmud (book of tradition - not Scripture) has an interesting comment reference blood-red moons:  "When the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel... If its face is as red as blood, [it is a sign that] the sword is coming to the world..."

What is intriguing is that four, blood moons will occur on the Jewish Feast days of Passover and Sukkoth in 2014 and 2015.  According to NASA, four 'blood-red' total lunar eclipses will fall on these feast days back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.  This is very rare and has only occurred seven times in the last 2000 years, twice being in the 20th century - 1948 (the year for statehood for Israel) and 1967 (six day war and capture of Jerusalem).

Interesting.

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

An estimated 10,000 years ago, a comet left the far-distant shell of our Solar System, known as the "Oort" cloud, and began its' long journey towards our sun.  It was discovered in Sep 2012 by two Russian astronomers inbound just beyond the orbit of Jupiter and named "ISON" after the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) telescope used to first see it.  The size of a mountain, it is believed to be approximately 3 miles in diameter.

Soon after discovery, astronomers mapped its' trajectory as a "sungrazing" comet, bringing it perilously close to the sun - the most spectacular of all comets.  Comet ISON will make its closest approach to the Sun on Thanksgiving Day 2013 at a distance of  only 1.2 million km from the surface of the Sun, actually passing through the Sun’s outer atmosphere. If the comet survives this very close encounter, it should emerge glowing as brightly as the Moon, visible even in daylight sky and its tail an unforgettable sight by night.  Some speculate it could become the brightest comet in recorded history.  If it doesn't survive its' passage by the sun, the comet’s nucleus will disintegrate into a cloud of rubble and ice.

If ISON survives the close encounter with the sun, its' closest approach to Earth will be Dec 25-26 2013.

Interesting.

Even more intriguing is the journey this comet will take through the constellations from the viewing perspective of Earth:
  • During its anticipated peak brightness period in 2013, Comet Ison will appear like a "scepter" passing though the full length of Leo (the Lion) from October 4th-November 3rd
  • Then it moves on to Virgo (the virgin) during the day as it enters this constellation on November 4th and departs November 24th.
  • It will then move down and tip by the (balance scales) of Libra on November 24-26
  • Next it cuts through the head of Scorpio (the Redeemer’s conflict) on November 27-29
  • Then it also cuts through the center of the constellation Serpens Caput (the Serpent) on December 6-11 2013.
  • It will then move through the club of Hercules as it heads toward the center of Draco (the dragon) on December 29 to 31st during the mid-day hours as seen from Jerusalem.
  • On January 1, 2014 it enters (the twins) of Gemini and remains there until Rosh Chodesh, the "new moon" of March 12th.
This is an amazing 8 constellation journey for this scepter of light. Although it may no longer be visible to the unadided eye after March as it moves away from the Sun it's position will hover just outside the Gemini constellation during Passover.  Then it "returns" to the constellation of the two siblings on Pentecost-Shavuot May 15th and remains there until the new moon (Rosh Chodesh) of August 6, 2014.

In Jan 2014, the Earth will pass through ISON's tail.  From the NASA web site:

"For several days around January 12, 2014, Earth will pass through a stream of fine-grained debris from Comet ISON," says Wiegert. "The resulting shower could have some interesting properties.

According to Wiegert's computer models, the debris stream is populated with extremely tiny grains of dust, no more than a few microns wide, pushed toward Earth by the gentle radiation pressure of the sun. They will be hitting at a speed of 56 km/s or 125,000 mph. Because the particles are so small, Earth’s upper atmosphere will rapidly slow them to a stop.

While the dust is “up there,” it could produce noctilucent clouds (NLCs).

NLCs are icy clouds that glow electric-blue as they float more than 80 km above Earth's poles. Recent data from NASA's AIM spacecraft suggests that NLCs are seeded by space dust. Tiny meteoroids act as nucleating points where water molecules gather; the resulting ice crystals assemble into clouds at the edge of space itself.

This is still speculative, but Comet ISON could provide the seeds for a noctilucent display. Electric-blue ripples over Earth's polar regions might be the only visible sign that a shower is underway.

Wiegert notes another curiosity: "The shower is going to hit our planet from two directions at once."

When Earth passes through the debris stream, we will encounter two populations of comet dust. One swarm of dust will be following the Comet ISON into the sun. Another swarm will be moving in the opposite direction, pushed away from the sun by solar radiation pressure. The streams will pepper opposite sides of Earth simultaneously.

"In my experience, this kind of double whammy is unprecedented," says Wiegert."


Interesting.

Monday, July 22, 2013

8 Things The Church Needs To Understand About Islam

1.   The word Islam does not mean "peace".
Arabic words have only one root.  The root word for "Islam" is “al-Silm,” which literally means “submission” or “surrender.”  There is no disagreement about this among Islamic scholars. "al-Silm" (submission) does not mean the same thing as "al-Salaam" (peace).  Submission is a different  concept from peace, although a form of peace may be enacted through forcing others into submission.  Islamic scholar, Ibrahim Sulaiman, says,  "Jihad is not inhumane, despite its necessary violence and bloodshed, since its ultimate desire is peace which is protected and enhanced by the rule of law (shari'a)."


*******

2.  Islam permits lying to non-Muslims (Kafir).
Islam permits two forms of lying to infidels (non-believers) under certain circumstances:  taqiyya and kitman.  These circumstances are typically those that advance the cause Islam - in some cases by gaining the trust of non-believers in order to draw out their vulnerability and defeat them.
  • Taqiyya - Saying something that isn't true.
  • Kitman - Lying by omission. 
Islamic support for the use of deceit against unbelievers is found in the following references:

The Qur'an:  (16:106), (3:28), (9:3), (40:28), (2:225), (66:2), (3:54
From the Hadith:  Bukhari (52:269), (49:857), (84:64-65)
From Islamic Law:  Reliance of the Traveler (p. 746 - 8.2)

*******

3.  It is the will of Allah and duty of all Muslims to bring the entire world under Shari'a (Islamic Law). 
Islam decrees that all non-Islamic civilizations and cultures must be brought under the Islamic Shari'a legal system.  According to Islamic Sharia law, once subdued by the “soldiers of Allah,” the non-Muslim has only three options:

1) convert to Islam;
2) submit and live in servitude (Dhimmitude), acknowledging the superiority of Islam by paying annual jizya which is “protection money,” or
3) fight to the death.

Muslims are exhorted by their jurisprudence and code of living to follow Muhammad’s example and participate in jihad in order to establish the dominance of Islam through adherence to the laws of Islam (Quran suras 5:48 & 45:18), that is, to the Islamic Shari'a. According to Islamic doctrine, the Islamic Shari'a, dictated by Allah, cannot be subordinate to any legal system conceived by man; therefore, Shari'a must reign supreme over every other legal system in the world.

UPDATE Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to Coptic Christians: Convert to Islam, or pay ‘jizya’ tax.  (Keep in mind the Obama Administration supports the Muslim Brotherhood.)

*******

4.  Jihad (holy war) is the obligation of every Muslim. 
Islam historically was and is a religion spread primarily by the sword.  The "official" Koran published in Saudi Arabia by the “King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, Madinah, K.S.A.” has a footnote on page 39 commenting on Surah 2:190 that every Muslim on earth is mandated to participate in holy war (jihad) and that no one but Allah is to be worshipped.  Muslim theologians, when speaking in their native tongue to their faithful, make it very clear that Jihad means a holy war undertaken by Muslims against non-believers.  When speaking to westerners in English, they deceitfully describe jihad as a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline, the inner struggle of good against evil; refraining oneself from the whispers of Shaitan (Satan).

It's important to understand that Muslims who undertake Islamic jihad are not “radicalized,” they simply become religious Muslims who are carrying out Islam’s fundamental purpose, which is to Islamicize the entire world through imposition of Islamic Shari'a law.  Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia (the world’s most populous Muslim country) in an essay titled “Right Islam, Wrong Islam,” agrees that a literal reading of the Koran leads to what is popularly called Muslim extremism.

*******

5.  Jihad is ultimately the fault of the infidels.
For Islam, the whole world is a wakf - that is, a territory belonging to Allah that must be brought under Islamic rein.  The conquest of non-Muslim territory is described in Muslim legal and historical texts as the "return" of lands to the Muslims.  Thus, Muslims are never guilty of unjust aggression because Allah has granted them the whole world (explaining Islamic aggression during the Middle Ages.)  Jihad returns to the Muslim what is rightfully his.  Islam is therefore, never the aggressor (Kor 9:33; 4:144) and jihad is the fault of the infidel who refuses to accept the will of Allah.

On Jul 27, 2013, MAJ Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter in the U.S. who killed 13 and injured more than 30 others, released this statement:  "My complicity was on behalf of a government that openly acknowledges that it would hate for the law of Almighty Allah to be the supreme law of the land".  His statement clearly reveals the perspective of Islam that Allah wills all the world to be under Shari'a law, and to resist incurs the righteous wrath of Muslims.  MAJ Hasan is not a "radical" Muslim; he's simply a religious Muslim following the clear teachings of his faith.

*******

6.  500 years of Islamic aggression precipitated the crusades.
Modern-day Muslim apologists condemn the medieval Crusades from 1095 to 1291 as unprovoked aggression against Islamic lands.  But in fact, history is crystal clear that the Crusades were launched to stop 500 years of Islamic aggression wherein 2/3 of formerly Christian lands had been forcibly and violently conquered by Muslims who were then threatening southern France and Italy.  The Crusades, contrary to the Islamic distortion of history and contemporary political correctness, was a just war launched by the West to stop 500 years of Islamic aggression.  You can read historically accurate details of Islamic aggression in the Middle Ages here and here.

*******

7.  Islam is not tolerant of other faiths.
Many apologists defend Islam against the charge of intolerance by pointing to the “tolerance” exhibited by the Muslims during the Middle Ages. To claim Muslims of that era were tolerant or open-minded is false. During this era, Jews and Christians living in Muslim lands were reduced to the position of dhimmis. Dhimmitude entailed allowing non-Muslims to remain non-Muslim, so long as stringent rules were adhered to, rules that were designed to humiliate the dhimmis and to "demonstrate" the superiority of Islam over the religions of the conquered peoples. Dhimmis were not allowed to engage in any outward show of their religion, praying or reading their Scriptures in public, nor were they allowed to dispute religious matters with a Muslim. They were also not allowed to build any religious buildings such as churches or synagogues, nor could they repair those already existing that wore down with age. They were most often reduced to a position of economic privation and near-slavery. Dhimmis had to wear distinctive clothing that marked them as clearly non-Muslim. Further, the distinctive clothing was often meant to humiliate the wearers. At various times, Jews and Christians would be compelled to wear badges in the shapes of apes and pigs, drawn from the quranic description of unbelievers as these animals (Suwar 2:65, 5:60, 7:166).

Coupled with this position of dhimmitude was the requirement for non-Muslims to pay the jizyah, the religion tax levied specifically upon non-Muslims, usually Christians and Jews.  Paying the jizyah was the only life-preserving alternative to outright conversion to Islam. The jizyah was designed to "encourage" subject populations to convert to Islam, since conversion meant being relieved of a heavy financial burden.

Other faiths have not “flourished” under Islamic rule.  In fact, they have dwindled to mere shadows after centuries of persecution and discrimination - i.e., consider the plight of Christians and Jews in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, etc.  One of the great ironies of Islam is that non-Muslims are treated according to the very standards by which Muslims themselves would claim the right to violent self-defense were the shoe on the other foot.  Islam is its own justification.

*******

8.  Islam permits husbands to beat their wives (Kor 4:34).
Islam views the woman as inferior to the man and as such, places her in a subservient and subordinate position in the marriage relationship. The man is allowed to discipline his wife because he is her superior and responsible for her. He has the authority to beat his wife if he feels she is being disobedient.  (In a Christian marriage the husband is given the role as head of the household and the wife is expected to submit to the husband’s leadership. However, she is his equal in terms of social status; she is not inferior to him.  Their status is equal while their functional roles differ.)


Friday, July 19, 2013

Talking Heads talking nonsense

Ancient Athens is credited with laying the foundation for western civilization five centuries before Christ in addition to birthing democracy.  Famed for literature, poetry, drama, theatre, schools, buildings and government, it also produced some of the finest minds the world has seen such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras. 

We find an intriguing comment written around 62-62 A.D. regarding Athens…  

“Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” [Acts 17:21, NASB]


History tells us that by the time of the 1st century when Luke recorded this observation, the city was in decline from the Golden Age of Athenian Democracy.  The best philosophers of Athenian wisdom had all lived and died.  Luke’s impression of the city speaks volumes.  Apparently, the Athenians were caught up in the ancient version of talk shows.  Living on the borrowed time of its’ past glory, it was a culture in decline that “spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” (NIV)   

The Intervarsity Press commentary on Acts 17 informs us that ....
"The prevailing philosophies of the West's post-Christian era--secular humanism's scientific empiricism and the New Age pantheistic type of postmodernism--are remarkably similar to the Epicureanism and Stoicism Paul encountered at Athens ..... When Paul arrived at Athens in the province of Achaia, he came to an anomaly. Though its population was no more than ten thousand and it had been reduced to poverty and submission by its war with Rome (146 B.C.), it was granted the status of a free city in view of its illustrious past. "Accordingly, although the time of her greatest glory was gone forever, Athens could still boast of her right to be called a great center of philosophy, architecture, and art"--and, we might add, religion (Madvig 1979b:352). In fact, what assaulted Paul's spirit was the ubiquitous idolatry (Livy History of Rome 45.27.11). Guarding the entrance to houses and shrines was a square pillar with the head of Hermes, the god of roads, gateways and the marketplace. What Paul met in Athens was "a forest of idols" (Wycherley 1968:619)." 

This historical description of 1st century Athens is strikingly similar in many regards to our contemporary culture:  similar philosophies, a "free" citizenry taking pride for past glories, an arrogant culture in decline and full of idols.  And the Athenian version of talk-shows were all the rage.  Minus the technical wonders of modern communications, their interaction occurred in public forums such as the Areopagus.  Picture a 1st century version of Oprah Winfrey on Mars Hill in Athens and you’ve got the idea.

In the 21st century amidst a culture in decline we’ve taken the art of dispensing drivel (foolish talk, babble, balderdash, blather, bunk, double-talk, gibberish, gobbledygook, hogwash, hooey, jabber, nonsense, poppycock, prating, rot, rubbish, tripe, twaddle) to a whole new level, bombarding a stupefied populace via talk radio, talk-show television, cable and internet virtually 24 hours a day without ever having to leave the comfort of one's home.  One can spend literally every waking moment listening to self-proclaimed “experts” dole out their “wisdom” on every conceivable subject under the sun - inventing news, usually presenting their opinion as settled fact and often contradicting themselves.  The emergence of 24-hour news exacerbates the problem as networks scramble to fill airtime, and often have to resort to meaningless "fill" pieces.


I wonder if Luke’s observation in Acts 17 isn’t, in part, a warning for future generations.  The older I get, the more I realize the majority of contemporary Talking Heads are simply intellectuals talking nonsense, filling up air time until the next commercial break.  As Thomas Sowell so insightly observes in his timely book Dismantling America,

"“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.”


My time is much better spent in productive activity, listening to music or reading the classics rather than listening to the nonsense.


“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”  (1 Cor 3:19)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Christian Civilizational Collapse Disorder

There is a growing chorus warning of descending darkness in our times. 

With keen foresight in 2006 Al Mohler warned the real struggle "is between Christianity and Post-Christianity."

The late Chuck Colson along with other notable leaders such as Beeson Divinity School Professor Timothy George warned the church in Nov 2009 that it was time to draw battle lines with their publication of the Manhattan Declaration.  “We’ve always said that we will never compromise what we believe,” Colson said, “but this is the first time that all of us have come together across confessional lines and said, ‘We’re prepared to pay the price. You cannot cross this line, otherwise we will pay the price – we will suffer if we must to avoid doing evil.’”  Chuck Colson said in a speech at Harvard Business School in 1991, “A society without a foundation of moral absolutes cannot long survive.”

Os Guinness warned, "Western culture is marked at the present moment by a distinct slowing of momentum, or perhaps, more accurately, by a decline in purposefulness and an increase in cultural introspection. This temporary lull, this vacuum in thought and effective action, has been created by the convergence of three cultural trends, each emphasizing a loss of direction. The first is the erosion of the Christian basis of Western culture, an erosion with deep historical causes and clearly visible results. The second is the failure of optimistic humanism to provide an effective alternative in the leadership of the post-Christian culture. And the third is the failure of our generation’s counter culture to demonstrate a credible alternative to either of the other two — Western Christianity and humanism."  He went on to warn of the possibility of "technological barbarism."

Pope Benedict XVI warned Christians against loosing the ability to differentiate between good and evil last April on the eve of  Easter 2013, using a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican to underline his message that mankind was groping in darkness.

In a recent interview with Tim Keller and Gabe Lyons, Eryn Sun, the Christian Post reporter observed, "No longer under the umbrella of the early church, where faith had once shaped much of the culture and not vice versa, the new generation is witnessing a more multi-dimensional world where different faiths are celebrated, vocational success is rampant, individuality is pushed, and the gospel is becoming increasingly more and more irrelevant."


Sadly, the growing Darkness is not restricted to a secular culture, but is also impacting the church.  According to a recent Barna Group study, in America, seven of 10 people describe themselves as Christian. Yet consider the following statistics cited:
  • 57 percent have not read the Bible in the last week
  • 41 percent agree that Jesus committed sins
  • 29 percent disagree that the Bible is accurate
Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli tell us, "Americans revere the Bible--but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates."

The Vatican estimates 100,000 Christians are killed annually because of their faith and several human rights groups claim such anti-Christian violence is on the rise in countries like Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt.  "Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year," Vatican spokesman Monsieur Silvano Maria Tomassi said to the United Nations Human Rights Council.  "Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders, as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo [Syria]," Tomassi said.  "Two-hundred million Christians currently live under persecution. It’s absolutely on the rise," said Jeff King,Voice of the Martyrs president.

Hilary White recently penned a provocative commentary from Rome coining a great phrase - "Christian Civilizational Collapse Disorder".  It's worth reading in entirety.  She's yet another voice of a growing chorus within the church warning of the descending darkness and return of barbarism in our times.  Here's an extract:

"Christian Civilizational Collapse Disorder, a lethal combination of materialist utilitarianism, nihilism, cultural Marxism, relativism, secularism - was moving out of the confines of medical ethics and law, and metastasizing into every conceivable aspect of our social existence. And in nearly every country in the world.

The social order that Christendom created is giving way, and the barbarism it replaced 200 centuries ago is coming back. ......

I don’t know if Christendom, the Shire that I remember, can be saved as a global social order. If it can, I don’t know how. I don’t know what is going to happen next or what all this is going to lead to. I just know what my job is. The news we cover gets darker and more like a dystopian novel every week. And there’s more and more of it all the time. The slide into the Pacific is gaining speed.

I have lived in Europe now for six years and have watched closely as the disease has taken down structure after structure, eaten through legal, cultural and social edifices  built centuries ago, that had held up our whole world. It’s been my job to write about as much of it as possible, blaring away on Ezekiel’s Trumpet as hard as I can. I keep thinking of a line from one of those movies, Ian Holm played a scientist who discovered the Catastrophe and his last words to the hero were, “Save as many as you can.”   "


Indeed, Hilary.  Save as many as we can.

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

UPDATE on 08/20/13.  ERLC President Russel Moore declares "The Bible Belt Is Collapsing" and Christians have lost the culture war - which may be a good thing for the church as it moves from "moral majority" to "prophetic minority".