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



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Think Christian Persecution Doesn't Exist in America? Think again.



We are living in some crazy times' (Read about it here.)

On Saturday, we got a text from our sister that our dad had been arrested while ministering at an abortion clinic. She had no idea why, nor did he.

It turned out someone had taken out a warrant for his arrest – without obtaining a police report or any verification of the claim whatsoever. He was released the same day and sent us the below email after he got home.

We’re living in some crazy times.

Dear boys,

I was reading Psalm 28 today, and it became apparent to me what is happening in the streets of our nation. Strange new city ordinances and seemingly little changes in laws are beginning to squeeze out every last breath of liberty we Christians have to be a voice for Him and His precious preborn children. The systematic criminalization of Christianity is not coming to us merely by Supreme Court cases or cleverly crafted pieces of congressional legislation. It is coming to us by seemingly small nuances, changes and alterations of the ordinances and laws in our cities, townships, counties and states.

The strangulation of our First Amendment rights and responsibilities as Christians in America is burgeoning from the bottom up – not from the top down. One would never know this, however, if he were only paying attention to mainstream media, Fox News, conservative radio, et.al.

My recent arrest is a great example. I wrote this in my Bible this morning, February 25, 2018: “I was taken to jail yesterday at an abortion mill (a preferred women’s health clinic) because a foul-mouthed, pro-abortion woman had sworn out a warrant for my arrest, saying I approached her in a threatening manner. She claimed I said, ‘You are dead,’ and that I said it repeatedly so that she, or any ‘reasonable person,’ would fear for his life.’

This supposed “confrontation” took place one week ago, on Saturday, February 17, 2018. That morning, there were between 15-20 uniformed policemen on duty because we had about 250 Christian moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, and boys and girls praying and singing across the street from that abortion clinic. It was a loving example of God’s goodness to give these mommas a choice.

This pro-abortion woman then got on her bullhorn and began shouting vulgarities and epithets at the Christian families across the street. It was at this time that I walked across the driveway, while remaining on the sidewalk, and spoke with her. I asked her to please stop berating these families and saying four-letter words in the presence of children.

I then told her that she was “dead in her trespasses … dead in her sins … and was a dead person walking because from out of the abundance of her heart her mouth spoke such death. I said she was filled with prickles and stings in her heart and needed Jesus.

Yet she continued her harangue.

Interestingly, she communicated not one word of this supposed “threat” to any of the uniformed policemen that day. I wonder why? Because there was no visible, audible or perceivable threat made to her or anyone else. As a matter of fact, there was no threat at all – just an invitation to ask Jesus into her heart so that He could make it brand new.

She waited until she could go to a magistrate, without a police report, and get the magistrate to swear out a warrant for my arrest. Mind you, without a police report, she was allowed to swear out a warrant for my arrest. When the policemen came to arrest me, they were all apologetic and said they had no idea someone could obtain a warrant for my arrest without a police report. It broke all protocol.

My court date is April 17, 2018.

If these things continue unchecked, it won’t be long before warrants will be issued against anyone who stands against the radical left’s agenda. Though they may speak “cordially with their neighbor,” they can’t hide the “malice in their hearts.”

It’s time to pray – and be a voice.


*******

As we shine the light of truth into a world rapidly descending into darkness, expect to elicit an increasingly angry response from the enemy and those that he has enslaved. For exmaple, read here how Facebook removed a posting of a Bible verse and how a well-known actor admits he vandalizes Gideon's Bibles every chance that he gets.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The great secret of the Apocalypse


There is a short, powerful exposition here on the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The author focuses on Christ unveiled in suffering saints. Powerful stuff.

Revelation is the “unveiling of Jesus Christ.” It’s his unveiling because Jesus tells secrets. He gives John a glimpse of heaven, unmasks monsters and harlots, uncovers the bloody foundations of Babylon. Jesus is also the one unveiled. Jesus tells secrets, and secrets are told about him. He is subject and object of an apocalypse.

If Revelation is supposed to unveil Jesus, it seems an awfully lopsided book .......

...... Jesus unveiled in suffering saints, Jesus made fully radiant in the radiance of his bride: That is the great secret of the Apocalypse.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Shielding truth from impressionable young minds


You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, ESV)

If your children’s school tells you they’ll be getting sex education from their peers, look deeper into the group’s connections. This describes how Planned Parenthood not only infiltrates public schools to spread their message, but also successfully lobbies the school system to eject anyone who contradicts their false narrative. This is ultimately about shielding truth from impressionable young minds and using a false gospel to indoctrinate them. Truth is the weapon most feared by the enemy -- and with good reason - because it's the one thing that can set a person free (John 8:32).

A teacher at Ferndale High School in Washington State sent a letter home to all the parents in November, informing them that his health class would be beginning sex ed class and that several of the lessons would be taught by Whatcom Teen Council members. The letter did not note, however, that Whatcom Teen Council is an arm of Planned Parenthood.

The group describes itself as a “peer education program that equips young people to be effective sexual health educators and social justice advocates in their community,” according to its website. It also makes its mission to actively work to build a group that is anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic.

The letter described the council as “a peer education group that consists of highly trained local teens who go into classrooms and teach high school peers with support from their supervisor,” according to a description sent Wednesday to The Daily Caller News Foundation. 

After receiving the letter, parent Jill Sawicki sought to look into what the council would actually be teaching, and asked the teacher if she could sit in one of the sexual education classes. The teacher agreed.

While the student council covered topics like birth control, sexual orientation, and gender identity, Sawicki said they knew almost nothing about the subjects. Sawicki recounted that the students simply read off script cards, and when members of the class asked them questions, they could not answer competently.  

The Whatcom council members also provided faulty information, including listing Natural Family Planning as having a low effectiveness rate, failing to classify which types of contraception protects against STDs and not explaining the risks of using hormonal contraception, according to Sawicki. 

After her experience, Sawicki met with a Planned Parenthood representative to discuss the course. After disagreeing about statistics and teaching methods, the representative successfully lobbied the teacher to get Sawicki kicked out of the classroom. Sawicki was barred from sitting in on subsequent sex education classes, according to Planned Parenthood employee Jill Sprouse.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Catholic Bishop Bars Democratic Senator from Receiving Communion Due to Abortion Vote


Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield responded in a very strong way last week to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) voting against legislation that would’ve banned abortion after 20 weeks, the point at which science increasingly shows unborn babies can feel pain. Paprocki said Durbin could not receive communion until he “repents of this sin.”

“Fourteen Catholic senators voted against the bill that would have prohibited abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization, including Sen. Richard Durbin, whose residence is in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois,” Bishop Paprocki said in a statement here.

“Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes “obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,” the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin,” the bishop concluded. “This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart. Sen. Durbin was once pro-life. I sincerely pray that he will repent and return to being pro-life.”

The pro-abortion views and activities of politicians who claim to be followers of Christ speaks volumes about their faith (or lack there-of to be more precise.)


Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) - Hillsong Worship


Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Biblical & Theological Critique of Theistic Evolution


There is an ETS handout here from Nov 2017 on a Critique of Theistic Evolution by Wayne Grudem. It is excellent.

Proponents of theistic evolution are claiming, in essence, that there are whole areas of human knowledge about which they will not allow the Bible to speak with authority.  They will allow the Bible to speak to us about salvation, but not about the origin of all living things on the earth, the origin of human beings, the origin of moral evil in the human race, the origin of human death, the origin of natural evil in the world, the perfection of the natural world as God originally created it, and Christ’s own personal involvement as the Creator of “all things . . . in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16). These are massive areas of human knowledge,  affecting our outlook on our entire lives.  Yet theistic evolution has decreed that these topics are the exclusive domain of modern naturalistic science, off-limits for God to speak to us about.

Because theistic evolution denies the historicity of twelve creation events, it also denies or undermines eleven significant Christian doctrines.  Belief in theistic evolution is incompatible with the truthfulness of the Bible and with several crucial doctrines of the Christian faith.


*******

While I do accept variation-within-species (powerful testimony to the spectacular diversity of creation imparted via the creative genius of God), sometimes referred to as "micro-evolution", that is a far different thing than macro-evolution which postulates the emergence of new species through random chance and long periods time.

There is a strong, factual presentation here on creationism, theistic evolution and deistic evolution. It is a powerful argument. In my experience, the embrace of evolution in any form (to include theistic) inevitably has an adverse impact on one's faith. At a minimum, it leads to a faulty worldview with an inactive impotent God and greatly weakens one's faith. At worst, it destroys faith.

The Exquisite Beauty of God's Creation


Friday, February 23, 2018

Theology Sucks?


Matthew Cochran over at his 96th Thesis blog makes a good point in his entry here addressing a recent visiting missionary at his Lutheran church. After commending several excellent points the speaker made, Matthew also addresses some of the points he found faulty. Among them was this one --- which also happens to be one of my pet peeves.

Theology sucks. 

Again, this wasn’t an explicit statement, but he repeatedly mocked people who use theological words like “exegetical” as ineffective at best and Pharisaical at worst. Now, I think that what he was trying to do was encourage people without a strong theological background to take up their tasks as missionaries as well—and so they should.

But there are two huge problems with this approach. First, elevating one group of people by tearing down another is not only uncreative, it’s downright cruel and discouraging to the second group who have their own work to do in the Church. More importantly, he was maligning the rigorous study of God’s word in a cultural context of Biblical and theological illiteracy where most Christians have very little conscious knowledge of what they believe and why they believe it. It’s really hard to tell people about something you don’t really get yourself.

We should remember that Christ praised Mary over Martha when the former chose to sit at her Master’s feet and learn from him while the latter busied herself with serving. To be sure, Christianity is not in any way a religion for scholars alone. But everyone should witness according to the knowledge that has been given to them, and learn according to their intellectual aptitude. In other words, be at least as learned and articulate about Christianity as you are about football, Game of Thrones, or whatever your other favorite things happen to be. Theological terminology is there for a reason, and capable people should embrace learning it rather than being made ashamed of it.

*******

Time after time I've made the point that theological illiteracy is crumbling the foundation of the modern church. As I warned in Nov 2016, "Facebook theology is a recipe for disaster ...... We can know the truth and choose not do the truth, but we can hardly do the truth if we don’t know what the truth is."

In Aug 2013, I warned here that we were reaping the fruit of decades of widespread Biblical illiteracy with all manner of heterodox, unorthodox and even heretical teaching rampaging through the church.

Matthew is spot on - God doesn't want us to be theological idiots.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It’s Not Mentally Ill To Be a Gun-Owning Christian


Arkansas Christian Academy, a Christian private school in Central Arkansas armed its staff to protect the students and erected the warning sign above.

Matthew Cochran has an enlightening essay here entitled "It’s Not Mentally Ill To Be a Gun-Owning Christian." Recommended reading in entirety.

You Don’t Know Christianity Very Well, Folks

Within those comments and accusations, Kimmel took aim specifically at Christians—or at least at “alleged Christians,” as he described some prominent Second Amendment supporters. Kimmel’s beleaguered imagination apparently has trouble reconciling legal gun ownership with Christianity, just as it had trouble reconciling it with mental health.

Some people assume that Christians shouldn’t support or participate in gun ownership. Most secular liberals fail to understand Christian ethics on matters like this because so few are familiar with anything Jesus actually said. Their mental image of a good spiritual teacher proceeds from a vague and trite recollection that Jesus thought love was good and judging was bad. It has little to no root in any of Jesus’ actual teachings that his first disciples recorded.

Kimmel isn’t the only media figure plagued with hallucinations of mental illness. Earlier last week, “The View’s” Joy Beher put Vice President Mike Pence in the same category because he, as a Christian, learns Christ’s teachings. She made her diagnosis based on some snide comments (bereft of detail) from a former White House staffer on “Celebrity Big Brother” about Pence believing Jesus tells him things. Plenty of liberals think President Trump is basically the antichrist, but others are apparently more troubled about Pence believing in the actual Christ.

Christians Do Believe Jesus Speaks to Us—In the Bible

As astonishing as it may be to coastal elites who have segregated themselves from ordinary Americans, Christians do generally believe Jesus still teaches his church today. 

..... hristianity does not demand any specific political platform. On the contrary, Jesus made it quite clear that his kingdom is not of this world. Christ founded his church to deliver the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to the world, not to rule over it.

Yes, Christ’s kingdom does not bear arms. After all, sinners like us are saved by faith in Christ rather than relying on our good works. While the edge of the sword (or point of the gun) may coerce outwardly good behavior, it can do nothing to create that faith.

This does not mean, however, that Christians are forbidden from gun ownership, or from being soldiers, police officers, or rulers. Even as we live in the Kingdom of God by faith, we remain citizens of this world as well. Among Christ’s teachings is that God has provided the kingdoms of this world with means to restrain human wickedness, including the use of violence in some circumstances (Romans 13).

So while the Bible clearly condemns murder—the deliberate killing (with any weapon) of innocent or guilty people one is not authorized to kill—it just as clearly grants the sword to civil authorities for the sake of punishing wrongdoers and protecting people from them.

In America, the citizens who govern this country have empowered ordinary people to carry out that role as well by allowing us to arm ourselves. 

... Jesus has not forbidden his followers from being armed or from allowing our neighbors the same privilege. He has not demanded that we ban guns. It is a matter of Christian freedom, and there are innumerable good reasons for Christians to exercise that freedom in a way that preserves our constitutional rights.

Christian Beliefs Are Associated with Better Mental Health

Far more important than the specific issue of gun ownership, however, is the role that Christian faith plays in the way we respond to tragedy—an advantage that likely has some bearing on why so many faithful Christians support the Second Amendment. Rather than a form of mental illness, modern research soundly indicates that religion is associated with both better mental health and better recovery from mental illness. It appears faith in general and the Christian faith in particular (most of that research is done in the largely Christian West) are actually quite helpful to America’s ability to deal with tragedy in a mentally healthy way.

.... Faith, in contrast, is the golden mean between complacency and desperation. Rather than sit idly by in tragedy, we love our neighbors because God first loved us. We also know there is a higher power than humanity at work in the world. This means that the buck does not stop with us, and we are not burdened with engineering a salvation we can never achieve.

... It’s easy to spot desperation in action because it never really cares what is done as long as it’s something. You can see it in the fashionable contempt for “thoughts and prayers.” These people want “real action” instead.

.... the wisest course of action is one prescribed by Christ—mourn with those who mourn. The time will come—as it always does—to make a rational and loving decision about what needs to be done. Liberals claim that waiting does no good because it has consistently failed to produce any action, but the better explanation is that cooler heads have consistently recognized that the actions leftists want are not what is best for our nation. There’s nothing mentally ill or unchristian about recognizing that.

*******

Amen. Well said, Matthew.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

If we really imitate Christ, we will be followed by crowds of sick people


Francis MacNutt writes the following in his book "The Nearly Perfect Crime; How the Church Almost Killed the Ministry of Healing".

If we really imitate Christ, we will be followed by crowds of sick people ...

Indeed. The church, as the Body of Christ, is empowered for comprehensive healing to include spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological, and deliverance from evil.

The Truth About Yoga


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"If anything can be real, nothing is real"


There's an interesting article here on the emergence of  technology that permits the creation of fake videos so realistic that they defy detection as a counterfeit.

"You won't be able to tell," said Hao Li, a leading researcher on computer-generated video at USC who founded Pinscreen in 2015. "With further deep-learning advancements, especially on mobile devices, we'll be able to produce completely photoreal avatars in real time."

The technology is a triumph of computer science that highlights the gains researchers have made in deep neural networks, complex algorithms that loosely mimic the thinking of the human brain.

.... What used to take a sophisticated Hollywood production company weeks could soon be accomplished in seconds by anyone with a smartphone.

.... imagine a phony video of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un announcing a missile strike. The White House would have mere minutes to determine whether the clip was genuine and whether it warranted a retaliatory strike.

What about video of a presidential candidate admitting to taking foreign cash? Even if the footage proved fake, the damage could prove irreversible.

In some corners of the internet, people are using open-source software to swap celebrities' faces into pornographic videos, a phenomenon called Deep Fakes.

It's not hard to imagine a world in which social media is awash with doctored videos targeting ordinary people to exact revenge, extort or to simply troll.

In that scenario, where Twitter and Facebook are algorithmically flooded with hoaxes, no one could fully believe what they see. Truth, already diminished by Russia's misinformation campaign and President Trump's proclivity to label uncomplimentary journalism "fake news," would be more subjective than ever.

The danger there is not just believing hoaxes, but also dismissing what's real.

"If anything can be real, nothing is real," 


*******

This phenomenon is a real-world example of a dangerous philosophy that is quickly permeating the culture - i.e., that one can create their own reality, completely independent of truth. The destructuve consequences speak for themselves. But of course this worldview is ultimately built on a house of cards. For if there is no such thing as absolute truth, then how can we objectively know that there are no absolute truths?

Indeed, all truth is objective truth. There is no such thing as subjective truth. If a speaker in front of a room were to say “the door is on my left” and someone in the back of the room, facing the speaker, say “the door is on my right” is this not a case of subjective truth? No, it is not. It is always true that when you’re in the front of the room the door is on the left. The statement “from the front of the room the door is on your left” is true for all people, places, and times. Likewise, the statement “from the back of the room the door is on your right” is equally true for all people, places, and times.

Thus all truth is objective truth. It might be possible that we cannot agree on some definitions, such as what height constitutes tall, or what temperature constitutes cold, but even if the room were 70 degrees, and Bob says “I am cold” and Mary says “I am hot” then it is always true that at 70 degrees Bob is cold and Mary is hot. This would be true for everyone that Bob is cold at 70 degrees. The same concept applies to tallness…..If one person says “Bill is tall” and another says ”Bill is short” then we have to determine what tall and short mean……..we have to clarify the term. Taller than a midget? Shorter than a basketball player? We might not agree on what makes up tall or short, but once we do, it is very easy to measure Bill and determine if he is tall or short. When we set the boundary for tallness and shortness, we will know objectively that Bill is taller than a midget and shorter than a basketball player.  These statements are always, objectively true for everyone.

All real truth is objective truth, and no real truth is subjective. Thus the statement “True for you, but not for me” is never the case. And in reality, we do not truly believe this. If we go to the bank, and the bank teller tells us that we only have $4.27 in our account, I can never say “That’s true for you, but not for me. My truth is that I have $2,000.” The teller will say, “Can you please step out of line so I can help the next customer?” In reality, the “true for you but not for me” is a way of trying to dodge the hard truths that we do not want to face.

Only God has the power to define and create truth. We can either conform to created truth and live in freedom - or rebel against it and end up living in a concocted fantasy, enslaved to sin.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32, ESV)

Israel figured out how to deter school shootings more than 40 years ago


Lawrence Meyers provides a history lesson here on the fact that Israel figured out how to deter school shootings more than 40 years ago.

In 1974, Israel endured the Ma’alot Massacre in which “Palestinian” terrorists took 115 people hostage at Netiv Meir Elementary School.  Twenty-two children and three others were killed and 68 injured.  Israel now requires schools with 100 or more students to have a guard posted. The civilian police force handles the entire security system of all schools from kindergarten through college.  The Ministry of Education funds shelters and fences, reinforces school buses, and hires and trains guards.

Guards don’t just stand around.  They check everyone entering, and engage threats.

And yeah, they’ve got guns.The lawful purposes for carrying guns are very clear: protect school personnel and students, create a sense of security, deter the ill-intentioned, and provide self-defense. 

Common sense.   Except to the illogical dullards who claim that “adding guns to schools won’t fix anything” and are fixated on the NRA and the ridiculous notions that gun laws magically stop criminals and crazy people from obtaining one of the 300 million guns in our country.

But more to the point, Israel’s Police Community & Civil Guard Department have a preventative care program that encourages safe behavior and offers violence protection strategies in normal situations.  Yet students are also trained in how to respond to an active shooter situation.

... America is the deer-in-headlights.  Gun control debates are a distraction and impractical, and criminals ignore laws anyway.Crazy people are obviously not being dealt with properly – students at Parkland even predicted this would happen.

Monday, February 19, 2018

"Christianity is Europe's last hope"


Hungary's prime minister says that "Christianity is Europe's last hope" and that politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris favoring migration have "opened the way to the decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam." 

.... He conjured the image of a Western Europe overtaken by Muslims, saying that "born Germans are being forced back from most large German cities, as migrants always occupy big cities first."

Orban claimed that Islam would soon "knock on Central Europe's door" from the west as well as the south.

Story is here.

Preparing for death is the fullest, fiercest expression of caring for our loved ones on earth


Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Heb 2:14-15)

There is an interesting review here of Joe Biden's book "Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose" chronicling the story of his son Beau’s death from brain cancer, which occurred while Biden was serving as vice president.

Most telling is the reluctance to accept death because of the fear that it would signal giving up. Most tragic of all, Biden writes,

Near what proves to be the end of Beau’s life, he is hospitalized, frequently disoriented, and suffering a cascade of complications. A Catholic priest stops by the room, to offer any help he can, and in Biden’s telling, “Jill thanked him for stopping by but asked him to please leave. And not to come back. She didn’t want Beau to get the idea he was there to perform last rites. In fact, there would be no discussion about last rites.”

As Roman Catholics, their refusal to accept the inevitable is both tragic and mystifying. As I wrote earlier here,

The wonders of western medical technology can artificially prolong life and morph death from an event into an increasingly lengthy process of years often accompanied by incontinence, impotence, dementia, loss of mobility and significant pain and suffering. (I have been in nursing homes and heard patients pitifully begging to die.) While I can understand the unbeliever grasping at straws in a futile attempt to hold death at bay, many elderly Christians have foolishly brought into the same mindset. Instead of properly embracing their impending death as final victory (1 Cor 15) and release from this fallen world accompanied by entrance into eternal glory, they let the world dictate a prolonged and agonizing end of their lives.

..... It is important to make the distinction between killing someone and letting them die - i.e., letting a process that is underway proceed without interference. In cases where a patient has clearly articulated their desire to die, and where there is no reasonable hope of recovery and death appears imminent - it does not seem morally wrong to allows one to die rather than initiating an artificial life support system or prolong the dying process by artificial means.

It's mystifying to me when mature Christians who are elderly and in failing health approach death with a firm resolve to cling to life for as long as absolutely possible with every possible resource available. Figuratively speaking they hang onto this world by their fingernails and have to be dragged into Paradise kicking and screaming. Suicide and euthanasia are morally wrong. But death itself is a release for the believer - as Paul says, it is far better to depart this fallen world and be with Christ (Phil 1:23). I believe part of the problem is the reluctance of the church to theologically deal with the topic of death head-on, instead of leaving it as a White Elephant that everyone knows about, but nobody talks about. I can understand unbelievers fearing death and availing themselves of every last possible medical option and grasping at the last straw, no matter how painful or expensive, to "buy" a few more moments. 

Sadly, too many Christians adapt the fallen world's view (and fear) of death. As Leah Sargeant so beautifully puts it "Preparing for death is the fullest, fiercest expression of caring for our loved ones on earth". Amen.

The manner in which a Christian faces death should be their most powerful testimony. Sadly for many - it's not.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Misconceptions about the medieval era


Here is evangelical Protestant Chris Armstrong discussing his outstanding book “Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians.” Highly recommended reading.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Theology of Thomas Aquinas

While this video presents the Roman Catholic perspective, there is much to be gained for anyone to immerse themselves in the writings of Thomas Aquinas ...


For those that may be vehemently anti-Catholic, the following powerful video from Gordon Conwell (a strongly evangelical Protestant college), has something to say on Thomism regarding faith and reason. There is good reason that RC Sproul picks Thomas as the most brilliant theologian of all time.



Friday, February 16, 2018

Every Day Together Is A Gift


A Texas woman shared a heartbreaking photo on Valentine’s Day appearing to show a man dining at a restaurant seated across from his late wife’s ashes. The unidentified man is neatly dressed and appears to be crying into a folded napkin. There are two place settings on the table and two glasses of wine. There also appeared to be a Valentine’s Day card on the table that reads “You & Me.”

Chasidy Gwaltney, of Corpus Christi, shared the photo on Facebook. She said she first thought the man was waiting for his date, according to Fox 8 Live. She said she soon realized that nobody would be showing up.

"I saw something today that has made me remember that we won't always have each other to hold, talk to, love, play with or even just aggravate every now and then," Gwaltney said in her message. "This man looks like he is spending Valentine's Day alone at first glance but that is actually his wife in that very beautiful bottle sitting on the table."

The Role Of Anti-Psychotics in Fostering Cultural Violence


In 2013, I warned here that the culture was creating drug-induced insanity. As I wrote then,

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.

.... 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.

In 2017, I chronicled here the explosion of mental illness in the west.As I wrote then,

While I do believe there are a small number of cases where anti-psychotic drugs may be appropriate short-term (i.e., where pathology indicates a true imbalance or disorder such as an overactive thyroid in contrast to the popularly-diagnosed "brain diseases" such as "bipolar" or "schizophrenia" for which no pathology exists), for years I've increasingly believed that doctors are largely over-medicating patients into severe mental illness with anti-psychotics (drugs which can ironically actually produce severe psychosis), anti-depressants, stimulants, etc. ...... and especially children who are given powerful medications like Ritalin. In 2013, I warned here that we were creating drug-induced insanity. (Indeed, my own twin brother was provided deadly cocktails of mind-altering drugs for years by numerous doctors; genuine insanity ensued and they eventually took his life.)

In this video, medical journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Robert Whitaker discusses the widespread use of psychiatric drugs. He also makes the case that illegal drugs are often the gateway into drug-induced insanity. His research indicates more than 50% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia used illicit drugs before diagnosis. He points out that diet and exercise are almost always far more effective than anti-psychotics and anti-depressants.

As information emerges about the perpetrator of the recent tragic school shooting in Florida, a relative confides to a newspaper that the “troubled youth” who committed the mass murder was on psychiatric medications.

In the case of Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old Florida mass-shooter, his mother’s sister, Barbara Kumbatovich, told the Miami Herald that she believed Cruz was on medication to deal with his emotional fragility. This is strikingly similar to reports right after the 2013 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, when Mark and Louise Tambascio, family friends of shooter Adam Lanza and his mother, were interviewed on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” during which Louise Tambascio told correspondent Scott Pelley: “I know he was on medication and everything, but she homeschooled him at home cause he couldn’t deal with the school classes sometimes, so she just homeschooled Adam at home. And that was her life.” And here, Tambascio tells ABC News, “I knew he was on medication, but that’s all I know.”

Fact: A disturbing recent number of perpetrators of school shootings and similar mass murders in our modern era were either on – or just recently coming off of – psychiatric medications. A few of the most high-profile examples include:


  • Columbine mass-killer Eric Harris was taking Luvox – like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor and many others, a modern and widely prescribed type of antidepressant drug called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Harris and fellow student Dylan Klebold went on a hellish school shooting rampage in 1999 during which they killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 24 others before turning their guns on themselves. Luvox manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals concedes that during short-term controlled clinical trials, 4 percent of children and youth taking Luvox – that’s one in 25 – developed mania, a dangerous and violence-prone mental derangement characterized by extreme excitement and delusion.
  • Patrick Purdy went on a schoolyard shooting rampage in Stockton, California, in 1989, which became the catalyst for the original legislative frenzy to ban “semiautomatic assault weapons” in California and the nation. The 25-year-old Purdy, who murdered five children and wounded 30, had been on Amitriptyline, an antidepressant, as well as the antipsychotic drug Thorazine.
  • Kip Kinkel, 15, murdered his parents in 1998 and the next day went to his school, Thurston High in Springfield, Oregon, and opened fire on his classmates, killing two and wounding 22 others. He had been prescribed both Prozac and Ritalin.
  • In 1988, 31-year-old Laurie Dann went on a shooting rampage in a second-grade classroom in Winnetka, Illinois, killing one child and wounding six. She had been taking the antidepressant Anafranil as well as Lithium, long used to treat mania.
  • In Paducah, Kentucky, in late 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal, son of a prominent attorney, traveled to Heath High School and started shooting students in a prayer meeting taking place in the school’s lobby, killing three and leaving another paralyzed. Carneal reportedly was on Ritalin.
  • In 2005, 16-year-old Jeff Weise, living on Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation, shot and killed nine people and wounded five others before killing himself. Weise had been taking Prozac.
  • In another famous case, 47-year-old Joseph T. Wesbecker, just a month after he began taking Prozac in 1989, shot 20 workers at Standard Gravure Corp. in Louisville, Kentucky, killing nine. Prozac-maker Eli Lilly later settled a lawsuit brought by survivors.
  • Kurt Danysh, 18, shot his own father to death in 1996, a little more than two weeks after starting on Prozac. Danysh’s description of own his mental-emotional state at the time of the murder is chilling: “I didn’t realize I did it until after it was done,” Danysh said. “This might sound weird, but it felt like I had no control of what I was doing, like I was left there just holding a gun.”
  • John Hinckley, age 25, took four Valium two hours before shooting and almost killing President Ronald Reagan in 1981. In the assassination attempt, Hinckley also wounded press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and policeman Thomas Delahanty.
  • Andrea Yates, in one of the most heartrending crimes in modern history, drowned all five of her children – aged 7 years down to 6 months – in a bathtub. Insisting inner voices commanded her to kill her children, she had become increasingly psychotic over the course of several years. At her 2006 murder re-trial (after a 2002 guilty verdict was overturned on appeal), Yates’ longtime friend Debbie Holmes testified: “She asked me if I thought Satan could read her mind and if I believed in demon possession.” And Dr. George Ringholz, after evaluating Yates for two days, recounted an experience she had after the birth of her first child: “What she described was feeling a presence … Satan … telling her to take a knife and stab her son Noah,” Ringholz said, adding that Yates’ delusion at the time of the bathtub murders was not only that she had to kill her children to save them, but that Satan had entered her and that she had to be executed in order to kill Satan.Yates had been taking the antidepressant Effexor. In November 2005, more than four years after Yates drowned her children, Effexor manufacturer Wyeth Pharmaceuticals quietly added “homicidal ideation” to the drug’s list of “rare adverse events.” The Medical Accountability Network, a private nonprofit focused on medical ethics issues, publicly criticized Wyeth, saying Effexor’s “homicidal ideation” risk wasn’t well publicized and that Wyeth failed to send letters to doctors or issue warning labels announcing the change.And what exactly does “rare” mean in the phrase “rare adverse events”? The FDA defines it as occurring in less than one in 1,000 people. But since that same year 19.2 million prescriptions for Effexor were filled in the U.S., statistically that means thousands of Americans might experience “homicidal ideation” – murderous thoughts – as a result of taking just this one brand of antidepressant drug. Effexor is Wyeth’s best-selling drug, by the way, which in one recent year brought in over $3 billion in sales, accounting for almost a fifth of the company’s annual revenues.
  • One more case is instructive, that of 12-year-old Christopher Pittman, who struggled in court to explain why he murdered his grandparents, who had provided the only love and stability he’d ever known in his turbulent life. “When I was lying in my bed that night,” he testified, “I couldn’t sleep because my voice in my head kept echoing through my mind telling me to kill them.” Christopher had been angry with his grandfather, who had disciplined him earlier that day for hurting another student during a fight on the school bus. So later that night, he shot both of his grandparents in the head with a .410 shotgun as they slept and then burned down their South Carolina home, where he had lived with them. “I got up, got the gun, and I went upstairs and I pulled the trigger,” he recalled. “Through the whole thing, it was like watching your favorite TV show. You know what is going to happen, but you can’t do anything to stop it.” Pittman’s lawyers would later argue that the boy had been a victim of “involuntary intoxication,” since his doctors had him taking the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft just prior to the murders.

It's long past the time to ask serious questions about effectiveness of powerful modern antipsychotic medications. While they may have some short-term success in moderating and suppressing underlying impulses and feelings, the long-term effects now appear to far outweigh any short-term advantage. At the heart of the matter is the failure for modern psychology to often recognize underlying spiritual issues as the root of the problem, and cart-blanche ascribe all abnormality to a physical cause. As such they are Don Quixote futilely tilting at windmills. But in this case, instead of a comedic outcome, lives are being destroyed.

We are not merely advanced animals, we are made imago Dei - in the image of God, and that must shape the foundation of psychology. Yet, psychology today denies this foundation and thus its' treatment and solutions are not working - how can it? For example, sin, because it mars the relationship of God and grace in our life, will naturally have an effect on our mental health. Of course, psychiatry and addressing chemical and physiological issues are one thing, but treating a patient with an improper and reductive understanding of that human being is destined to result in less than optimal results. A Biblically-based Thomistic (Aquinas) worldview must replace the woefully deficient psychology of Freud, Jung, and others with a cogent one.

Truth is what is needed to combat the growing demonic influence in the West. Not the drugs - which ironically often exacerbate the problem.

RC Sproul on the most brilliant theologian of all time


Evangelical Protestant RC Sproul authored a masterpiece here on his perspective of the most brilliant theologian of all time. It is must-reading in entirety. Interestingly, his choice is someone that increasingly draws my attention, respect and admiration - Thomas Aquinas - the premier theologian of Roman Catholicism. It's noteworthy that Encyclopedia Britannica (no friend of Christianity) includes his writing among the 50 greatest works of Western Civilization. It's unfortunate that so much of the Protestant church ignores Aquinas. Allergic to anything that remotely smacks of Roman Catholicism, no matter how tenuous the relationship, we foolishly surrender some of the most powerful truth that God has graciously illuminated a dark world with through mere mortals in the church. Bravo for RC Sproul speaking out so eloquently. As noted earlier here, I'm currently reading "The Science of Mental Health" which draws heavily upon Aquinas.

Aquinas believed that truth is well revealed through both natural revelation and supernatural revelation - through faith as in the scripture. For these two elements, Aquinas was careful enough to separate them in a complementary rather than contradictory manner. He argued that although God's existence and His attributes may be easily deduced, specific aspects such as the Trinity and Incarnation may only be revealed through special revelation. His two outstanding works are the "Summa Contra Gentiles" translated and published in English as the "On the Truth of the Catholic Faith", and the "Summa Theologica" known as the "Compendium of Theology". The former piece was broadly intended for non-Christians; while the latter significantly addresses Christians and is more of a philosophical work on Christian theology. Faith and reason are the two fundamental tools necessary for processing and interpreting the raw data of of theology (Scripture and tradition) with an aim of obtaining the true knowledge of God.

To really understand Aquinas, it's best to view him as presenting an expansive unity of knowledge with a theological center. The division between faith and reason, religion and science was not present during Thomas' time and in many ways that division is the result of the subsequent reaction to Thomas' writing. 

As Ryan Reeves at Ligonier writes,

A proper historical perspective should allow us to lay down our arms against Aquinas. Protestant theologians may never be fully comfortable with Aquinas’ teachings on natural law or reason—and they may have sharper words for his teachings on celibacy, Mary, and purgatory—but he nevertheless stood at the headwaters of a theological resurgence in medieval thinking that would, in time, play a vital role in shaping the landscape of Protestantism.

...... Thomas’s teachings on epistemology, justification, and ethics are among the most interesting and important subjects that continue to draw theologians to his many writings. Indeed, though Protestants have rejected not a few of his teachings since the Reformation, we can nevertheless look back—as did John Calvin, Philip Melanchthon, Martin Bucer, and even Luther in his quieter moments—and respect the heroic efforts of a theologian who has shaped our thinking for nearly eight hundred years.

In case the link to Sproul's essay dies, I've reproduced Sproul's perceptive essay in entirety below.

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R.C. Sproul on Thomas Aquinas – Was He The Most Brilliant of All the Theologians?

Recently I was asked to identify my favorite theologians of all time. I quickly named them: Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards. Then I was asked to rate them according to their brilliance. Being asked a question such as that is like being asked to compare Babe Ruth with Mickey Mantle, or Johnny Unitas with Dan Marino.

How does one rank the greatest minds of Christendom? Scholars tend to differ in style and scope. The magnitude of their brightness is as the stars in the Big Dipper. Luther was not systematic, yet he gave awesome flashes of insight, powerful vignettes of vision that changed the course of church history. Calvin possessed a systematic mind with the comprehensive grasp of theology that was unprecedented. Augustine was surely the greatest theologian of the first millennium of church history. Though his inconsistencies are well documented, he is distinguished by being one who didn’t have the shoulders of giants to stand on. Rather, his shoulders bore the weight of later giants, and some dwarfs as well.

Though it is fashionable to contrast Aquinas and Augustine as following the disparate paths of Aristotle and Plato, it is vital to remember that Aquinas leaned heavily on Augustine. It is probable that Aquinas quoted Augustine more frequently than he quoted any other theologian. Which theologian did Calvin quote more often than Augustine? None. Luther was an Augustianian monk and Edwards is sometimes referred to as a neo-Augustinian.

The historic debt of all these men to Augustine is so evident that it guarantees a special place to the bishop of Hippo in the gallery of stellar theologians. But who, we ask, was the brightest? Whose mind was most acute, most keen, most penetrating? If the question is posed in this manner, then I am forced into a corner with a two-forked exit. I cannot choose between the two men whose intellects most intimidate me, Edwards and Aquinas. To choose between them is to choose between Plato and Aristotle, of whom it was said that in the realm of philosophy all subsequent work achieved by men like Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, and others, is but a succession of footnotes.

So who was the most brilliant ever? I don’t know. I know the question cannot be raised without the name of Thomas Aquinas being brought to the fore. And I know that he deserves my salute.

Those individuals whom history honors tend to receive awards or titles never pursued or coveted. Such a man was Aquinas. Of the many titles lavished on him, the D.A. degree stands out in particular. We are familiar with degrees and titles of Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Laws, and Doctor of Literature. We have Ph.D.’s, D.D.’s, M.D.’s, and Th.D.’s. But Thomas Aquinas alone bears the title Doctor Angelicus.

That Thomas was to be the Doctor of the Angels was not readily apparent to his school chums. His physique was unlike that of the stereotype theologian. Scholars are supposed to fit the mold of the frail, diminutive recluse, with bodies underdeveloped because of a sedentary life. Not so Thomas Aquinas. He was a big man, portly, suntanned, with a large head. He towered over his companions, no less in his massive physical bulk than in his titanic intellect. His appearance was so ungainly as a youth that he was dubbed “The big dumb ox of Sicily.”

The best estimates of historians set the date of Aquinas’ birth early in the year 1225. He was born in a castle near Naples, of noble parentage. He was the seventh son of Count Landulf of Aquino and Theodora of Theate.

His early years show indications that the hand of Providence was on his life. His predilection for theology was marked in childhood. At the tender age of five, an age when the modern child would be glued to the television set watching “Sesame Street,” Aquinas was placed as an oblate in the abbey of Monte Cassino. There he mused on the nascent questions of ontology that gripped his mind for his entire life.

Thomas’ father had big plans for his precocious son. Deeply embroiled in the political machinations between the Emperor and the princes of the church, Count Landulf sought the title of abbot for his son. Thomas politely but steadfastly refused. He borrowed a page from the life of his Lord and said, “It is better to obey the Father of spirits, in order that we may live, than the parents of our flesh.” Thomas was committed to the service of God through the pursuit of an intellectual life. He was driven by an almost monomaniacal passion to answer the question, “What is God?”

At age fourteen Aquinas left the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino and was sent to Naples to study at the Faculty of Arts. There he came under the influence of the Dominicans and entered their order in 1244. His parents were not pleased by this decision and were further agitated when the Dominican General sought to send him to the University of Paris. On the way, Thomas was kidnapped by his own brothers and forced to return home. He was held captive by his own family for a year, during which he refused to abandon his habit and diligently kept the observances of his order every day. His zeal was so contagious that his sister was converted and his mother so impressed that, like the biblical Rebekah, she assisted her son in escaping from a window.

Thomas made his way to Paris where he first came under the tutelage of Albert the Great. Albert (Albertus Magnus) was to Aquinas what Socrates was to Plato. Albert poured his own titanic knowledge into the head of his most able disciple and followed his career with fatherly love. At the death of Saint Thomas, Albert was deeply grieved. Thereafter when Thomas’ name was mentioned in Albert’s presence, Albert would exclaim, “He was the flower and the glory of the world.”

After three years of study in Paris, Albert took Thomas with him to begin a house of studies in Cologne. In 1252 Thomas returned to Paris. In 1256 he received his licentiate to teach in the faculty of theology. In 1259 he went to Italy and taught theology at the studium curiae, attached to the papal court until 1268. In 1268 he returned to Paris to take up the mighty controversy of his day, the controversy with Arab philosophy. In 1274 Pope Gregory X summoned him to assist in the Council of Lyons. On the journey Thomas’s mission was interrupted by the angels. They came to take their Doctor home. At age forty-nine the earthly ministry of the dumb ox of Aquino had ended.

The most familiar title given Thomas Aquinas is that of “Saint.” Though Protestants are likely to use the word “saint” as a synonym for any believer, following the New Testament usage, there are times when the most zealous Protestant will make use of the term to refer to someone who has achieved an extra level of spiritual maturity. In Rome the title is conferred by the church to a highly select few who have achieved a godliness considered above and beyond the call of duty.

When we think of Aquinas, our first thoughts are usually of his extraordinary gifts of scholarship. His was indeed a prodigious intellect, but his greatness at this point should not overshadow the spiritual power of the man. We might conjecture that his canonization was prompted by his intellectual contributions alone, but the record belies such an idea. Thomas was as noteworthy as a spiritual leader as he was for his theological acumen.

Within fifty years of the death of Aquinas the church conducted careful investigations into his personal life and teachings. Strong opposition to Aquinas’ teaching set in early, and insults were hurled against his memory. But on July 18, 1323, at Avignon, Pope John XXII proclaimed Thomas a saint. The Pope said of Aquinas, “Thomas, alone, has illumined the Church more than all the other doctors.”

The modern theologian-philosopher, Jacques Maritain, was jealous to restore a high regard for Aquinas in the twentieth-century church. In his book titled simply St. Thomas Aquinas, Maritain rehearses the traditions of Aquinas’ spiritual power and provides several anecdotes of alleged miracles that surrounded the saint. It was said of Thomas that though he contended fiercely in theological debates, he was able to bear personal attacks with a tranquil humility. Maritain relates the following:

One day a Friar in a jovial mood cries out: “Friar Thomas, come see the flying ox!” Friar Thomas goes over the window. The other laughs. “It is better,” the Saint says to him “to believe that an ox can fly than to think that a religious can lie.”

Witnesses who were summoned to testify at the canonization process of Saint Thomas described him as “soft-spoken, affable, cheerful, and agreeable of countenance, good in soul, generous in his acts; very patient, very prudent; all radiant with charity and tender piety; marvelously compassionate towards the poor.” If we examine these virtues carefully, we see in them a litany of what the New Testament calls the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Saint Thomas was also a gifted preacher. He would sometimes become so moved during his own preaching that he was forced to pause while he wept. During a Lenten series that he preached in Naples, he had to stop in the middle of his sermon so that the congregation could have time to recover from their weeping.

It is the mystical life of Saint Thomas, however, that has sparked the interest of biographers. Immediately after Thomas’ death, his disciple Reginald returned to Naples and declared:

As long as he was living my Master prevented me from revealing the marvels that I witnessed. He owed his knowledge less to the effort of his mind than to the power of his prayer. Every time he wanted to study, discuss, teach, write or dictate, he first had recourse to the privacy of prayer, weeping before God in order to discover in the truth the divine secrets … he would go to the altar and would stay there weeping many tears and uttering great sobs, then return to his room and continue his writings.

A similar testimony comes from Tocco. He said of Aquinas, “His gift of prayer exceeded every measure; he elevated himself to God as freely as though no burden of flesh held him down. Hardly a day passed that he was not rapt out of his senses.”

Being daily “rapt out one’s senses” is hardly the routine we expect from abstract scholars and philosophers, particularly from someone like Aquinas who was given to the pursuit of logic.

The habit of passionate prayer is crowned by the extraordinary claims of miraculous visitations granted to Saint Thomas. Such incidents raise the eyebrows of Reformed theologians and we mention these accounts with the due reservations of our trade. Maritain recites the following episode as part of the Catholic record of Thomas’ sainthood.

Another time it was the saints who came to help him with his commentary of Isaias. An obscure passage stopped him; for a long time he fasted and prayed to obtain an understanding of it. And behold one night Reginald heard him speaking with someone in his room. When the sound of conversation had ceased, Friar Thomas called him, telling him to light the candle and take the manuscript On Isaias. Then he dictated for an hour, after which he sent Reginald back to bed. But Reginald fell upon his knees: “I will not rise from here until you have told me the name of him or of them with whom you have spoken for such a long time tonight.” Finally Friar Thomas began to weep and, forbidding him in the name of God to reveal the thing during Thomas’ life, confessed that the apostles Peter and Paul had come to instruct him.

Another event occurred in Paris when Thomas was lecturing on the Eucharist. As he went to the altar the brethren suddenly saw Christ standing before him and heard Him speak aloud: “You have written well of the Sacrament of My Body and you have well and truthfully resolved the question which was proposed to you, to the extent that it is possible to have an understanding of it on earth and to ascertain it humanly.”

That sober philosophers like Jacques Maritain report such incidences as simple historical fact is itself testimony to the extraordinary impact Aquinas’ spiritual power had on his contemporaries as well as his future disciples.

One anecdote about St. Thomas is virtually beyond dispute. Toward the end of his life he had a powerful mystical experience that dramatically affected his work. Again we turn to Maritain for his account of it:

Having returned to Italy after Easter of 1272, Friar Thomas took part in the General Chapter of the Order, at Florence, and then he went to Naples again to continue his teaching there. One day, December 6, 1273, while he was celebrating Mass in the chapel of Saint Nicholas, a great change came over him. From that moment he ceased writing and dictating. Was the Summa then, with its thirty-eight treatises, its three thousand articles and ten thousand objections, to remain unfinished? As Reginald was complaining about it, his master said to him, “I can do no more.” But the other was insistent. “Reginald, I can do no more; such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now, I await the end of my life after that of my works.”

After this experience Thomas Aquinas wrote no more. On his final journey he asked to be taken to the monastery of Santa Maria. As he was dying he asked for Viaticum. When he saw the consecrated Host, he threw himself on the floor and cried out:

I receive Thee, Price of my redemption … Viaticum of my pilgrimage, for love of Whom I have studied and watched, toiled, preached, and taught. Never have I said anything against Thee; but if I have done so, it is through ignorance, and I do not persist in my opinions, and if I have done anything wrong, I leave all to the correction of the Roman Church. It is in this obedience to Her that I depart from this life.

There is a strange progression in the achievement of titles of honor and status in the theological world. A freshman student begins his pursuit of knowledge simply with his given name. When he graduates from college, some may now call him “Mister.” When he graduates from seminary and passes his trials for ordination, he is granted the title “Reverend” or “Father.” If he continues his education and achieves a doctorate, he is called “Doctor.” If he is fortunate enough to secure a teaching position on a faculty, he must wait to progress to a full professorship. Then he can preface his name with the coveted title of “Professor.” The irony is this: if he makes it really big and achieves a widespread reputation for his learning, he will achieve the highest honor, that of being known simply by his name. We do not usually speak of Professor Barth or of Doctor Calvin or Professor Kung. The leaders in the field of theology are known by their names. We speak of Barth, Bultmann, Brunner, Kung, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, and Rahner. A man doesn’t seem to make it until his title returns to where he started, with his own name.

There is a special sense in which this strange progression reaches its acme with the titular honor paid to Aquinas. He is known not only by his famous last name, but in the world of theology and philosophy is recognized by his first name. No one speaks of Aquinasism. We talk about Calvinism, Lutheranism, Augustinianism, but with Aquinas it is Thomism. One need merely mention the name “Thomas’ and every scholar of theology knows of whom we speak.

Think of all the Thomases there have been in the world. Think even of the Thomases who have been famous in Christendom. There is “Doubting Thomas,” Thomas a Kempis, Sir Thomas More, and a host of others. But only one theological giant is recognized instantly by the simple mention of the name “Thomas.”

In 1879 a papal encyclical was issued in Rome by Leo XIII that praised the contribution of Thomas Aquinas. Leo declared:

Now far above all other Scholastic Doctors towers Thomas Aquinas, their master and prince. Cajetan says truly of him: “So great was his veneration for the ancient and sacred Doctors that he may be said to have gained a perfect understanding of them all.” Thomas gathered together their doctrines like the scattered limbs of a body, and moulded them into a whole. He arranged them in so wonderful an order, and increased them with such great additions, that rightly and deservedly he is reckoned a singular safeguard and glory of the Catholic Church. His intellect was docile and subtle; his memory was ready and tenacious; his life was most holy; and he loved the truth alone. Greatly enriched as he was with the science of God and the science of man, he is likened to the sun; for he warmed the whole earth with the fire of his holiness, and filled the whole earth with the splendor of his teaching. There is no part of philosophy which he did not handle with acuteness and solidity.

In the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Benedict XV, Catholic school teachers were ordered to “treat in every particular the studies of rational philosophy and theology, and the formation of students in these sciences, according to the method, the doctrine, and the principles of the Angelic Doctor, and to adhere religiously to them.” Here Thomism is elevated to a supreme theological role in the church. Thomas moves beyond the scope of being Doctor Angelicus to the realm of being the Doctor of the Church par excellence, the Common Doctor of the faithful.

What then, is Thomism, the philosophy attached to the name of Aquinas? Is Thomism a philosophy or a theology? Was Thomas himself primarily an apologist or a theologian? Was he a biblical thinker or a speculative scholar who merely warmed over Aristotle and baptized his pagan philosophy? These are some of the questions that are evoked by the sound of Thomas’ name.

The twentieth century has ushered in a revival of interest in Saint Thomas among Roman Catholic scholars. At the same time there has been a deepening cleavage between Roman Catholic Thomists and Evangelical Protestants. As Vatican Council I in 1870 looked to Protestantism as the fountain from which all modern heresies and distortions of truth flow, so modern Evangelicals have looked to the work of Thomas as being the poison that embittered the springs of truth.

The Protestant apologist, Norman Geisler (who at crucial points is pro-Thomas) is fond of quipping that “the new theme song of Evangelicalism is ‘Should Old Aquinas Be Forgot, and Never Brought to Mind.’” On the other hand the late Francis Schaeffer was sharply critical of Saint Thomas, seeing in his work the foundations of secular humanism. He sees in Thomas’ development of natural theology the magna charta of philosophy. With Thomas, philosophy was liberated from the controls of theology and became autonomous. Once philosophy became autonomous, separated and freed from revelation, it was free to take wings and fly off wherever it wished. Since Aquinas let the bird out of the trap, it has flown in the face of the faith. No longer is philosophy regarded as the handmaiden of Queen Theology but as her rival and possibly her destroyer.

Such an evaluation of Aquinas meets with resistance in some quarters of Protestantism. But the debate goes on. I, for one, am persuaded that the Protestant Church owes a profound debt to Saint Thomas and the benefit of a second glance at his contributions. I remind my Evangelical friends that when Saint Thomas defended the place of natural theology, he appealed primarily to the Apostle Paul and to Romans 1 for its classical foundation.

There is a sense in which every Christian owes a profound debt to Saint Thomas. To understand his contribution we must know something of the historical context in which he wrote. To gain a fair reading of any thinker, past or present, we must ask such questions as “What problems was he trying to solve? Why? What were the vibrant issues at stake in his day? What were the dominant controversies?” We know, for example, that throughout church history the development of theology has been prodded in large part by the threat of serious heresies. It was the heretic Marcion who made it necessary for the church to define the canon of sacred scripture. It was the heresy of Arius that provoked the council of Nicaea. It was the distortions of Nestorius and Eutyches that made the Council of Chalcedon necessary. The heat of controversy has been the crucible by which the truth of theology has been made more sharp, more lucid.

The threat to the church that awakened Saint Thomas from his own dogmatic slumber was one of the most serious challenges that Christendom has ever had to endure. Our present condition in the western world makes it a bit difficult to imagine the enormity of the threat. It was the rise and sweeping expansion of Islam that threatened Christianity in the thirteenth century. Our awareness of the threat tends to be limited to the more colorful and adventuresome element of it chronicled in the Crusades. Knights with crosses emblazoned on their chests riding out to free the Holy Land from infidels has a certain romance to it.

Saint Thomas also sought to rescue the Holy Land. Its walls were made of philosophical mortar. His lance was his pen and his coat of armor a monk’s garb. For Thomas the war was a war of ideas, a battle of concepts.

Islamic philosophy had achieved a remarkable synthesis between Islamic religion and the philosophy of Aristotle. The powerful categories of Aristotelian thought became weapons in the arsenal of the two great Arab philosophers, Averroes and Avicenna.

The Islamic philosophers produced a system of thought called “integral Aristotelianism.” One of the key points that flowed out of this was the concept of “double truths.” The double truth theory allowed that certain ideas could, at the same time, be true in philosophy and false in theology. It was a remarkable achievement: the Arab philosophers were able to accomplish what no schoolboy could ever do despite the universal desire of schoolboys to do it—to have their cake and eat it too.

The problem with having one’s cake and eating it too is obvious. If I save my cake, I cannot enjoy the taste of it while I am saving it. But if I eat it, then it is gone. I cannot save what is already gone. Seems simple enough. Philosophers, however, like lawyers, often have astonishing powers of making simple matters extremely complex, to the point that they think they can actually transcend the cake eating-saving dilemma. What’s worse is they often have the rhetorical power to convince other people of their magic.

To translate the double truth notion into modern categories would look something like this: a Christian might try to believe on Sunday that he is a creature created in the image of God by the sovereign purposive act of a Divine Being. The rest of the week he believes that he is a cosmic accident, a grown-up germ that emerged fortuitously from the slime. On Wednesdays, however, he adopts a different standpoint. Wednesday is “Double-Truth Day.” At a prayer meeting on Wednesday, the Christian attempts to believe both viewpoints at the same time. One day a week he devotes himself to intellectual schizophrenia. He tries to believe and to live a contradiction. If he enjoys the game he might shoot for a long weekend of it until he gains the ultimate bliss and security of permanent residence in a lunatic asylum.

Aquinas was concerned not only to protect the Christian church from the attacks of Islam, but to protect mankind from intellectual suicide. He insisted that all truth is coherent. Reality is not ultimately chaotic. What is true in philosophy must also be true in theology. What is true in science must also be true in religion. Truth may be analyzed from different perspectives. Various disciplines may have specialized fields of inquiry, but Aquinas insisted that all truth meets at the top.

This cardinal principle of Aquinas presupposes some rather basic, though vitally important, axioms. It is based upon the prior conclusion that there is a God and that he is the creator of this world. The world is a universe. That is, the world is marked by diversity which finds its ultimate unity in God’s sovereign creation and rule. The word “universe” as well as the term “university” comes from this mongrelized union of the two terms “unity” and “diversity.”

The double truth theory destroys in principle the fundamental notion of a universe. The universe becomes a multiverse with no ultimate harmony or cohesion. Chaos is ultimate. Truth, as an objective commodity, becomes impossible. Here contradiction may be freely embraced at any time, and every day becomes Double-Truth Day.

One of Francis Schaeffers’ most serious charges against Saint Thomas is the allegation that Thomas separated philosophy and theology. The charge is heard from other quarters as well, that Thomas separated nature and grace. Schaeffer’s lament is that, since the work of Aquinas, philosophy has been liberated from her role as handmaiden to the Queen of the Sciences (Theology) and has now become theology’s chief antagonist.

It is the prerogative of the theologian to make fine distinctions. One of the most important distinctions a theologian can ever make is the distinction between a distinction and a separation. (This is the kind of distinction that yields Excedrin headaches.) There is a crucial difference between distinguishing things and separating them. We distinguish between our bodies and our souls. If we separate them, we die. We distinguish between the two natures of Christ. If we separate them, we fall into gross heresy.

To separate philosophy and theology, nature and grace, was the last thing Thomas Aquinas ever sought to do. It was precisely the issue he was combatting. The double-truth theory separates nature and grace. Such a separation was the dragon Aquinas set out to slay. Aquinas was concerned to distinguish philosophy and theology, nature and grace, not to separate them. He came to bury Averroes, not to praise him.

Aquinas maintained consistently that ultimately there is no conflict between nature and grace. His posture was that grace does not destroy nature but fulfills it. What God reveals in the Bible does not cancel out what he reveals in nature. To be sure it adds to the knowledge we can glean from a study of this world, but it does not contradict it.

Thomas taught that there are certain truths that can be discovered in nature that are not found in the Bible. To use a modern example, we cannot discover a blueprint for the circulatory system of the bloodstream in the Bible. Second Chronicles tells us very little about microchip computers. On the other hand, science can never teach us of the Trinity or of God’s plan of redemption. The work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of a human soul cannot be detected with a microscope or x-ray machine.

Saint Thomas was simply stating what should be obvious, that we learn some things from nature that we can’t learn from the Bible and we learn some things from the Bible that we cannot learn from nature. The two sources of information can never be ultimately contradictory. If they seem to contradict each other, then a warning buzzer should sound in our heads to alert us that we have made an error somewhere. Either we have misinterpreted nature, or misinterpreted the Bible, or perhaps we have misinterpreted both.

So far, so good. What has really raised the hackles of many modern Evangelicals is what Thomas said next. Thomas insisted that in addition to the specific information one can learn from nature and the information found only in the Bible, there is a field of knowledge that overlaps. There are truths that Saint Thomas called “mixed articles.” The mixed articles refer to truths that can be learned either by nature or by grace.

The most controversial of the mixed articles is the issue of the existence of God. Clearly the Bible teaches that there is a God. Aquinas argues, however, that nature also teaches there is a God. There can be, therefore, a kind of natural theology. Natural theology means that nature yields a knowledge of God.

The question of natural theology and of proofs of God’s existence drawn from nature has been a raging controversy in the twentieth century. We recall, for example, Karl Barth’s rigorous rejection of natural theology in his debate with Emil Brunner. Theology in general and evangelical theology in particular has reacted severely to natural theology, seeing in it an intrusion of Greek philosophy into the household of faith. The dominant approach in our day is that of some variety of fideism. Fideism, which means literally “faithism,” maintains that God can be known only by faith. God’s existence cannot be established by philosophy. Nature yields no theology. The heavens may declare the glory of God, but such glory is never perceived except through the eyeglasses of faith.

Thomas appealed to the Bible for his defense of natural theology. He carefully reminded the Christians of his day that the Bible not only teaches us that there is a God, but that same Bible also teaches us that it is not the only source of that information. The Bible clearly and unambiguously teaches that men in fact not only can know, but do know, that God exists from his self-revelation in nature. Thomas simply reminded the church what the Apostle Paul labored to teach in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

When the modern Evangelical rejects natural theology in toto and adopts fideism as his standpoint, he becomes guilty of the very thing for which Aquinas is accused; he becomes guilty of separating nature and grace.

What is at stake here? Aquinas understood that fallen men and women will repeatedly seek to use the tools of philosophy and science against the truth of the Bible. However, he refused to surrender nature to the pagan. He refused to negotiate philosophy and science. Fideism is a policy of retreat. It hides behind a fortress of faith while surrendering reason to the pagan. It separates nature and grace in the worst possible way. The church becomes a cultural dropout; it seeks the sanctuary of the Christian ghetto. It seeks to reserve a safe place for the practice of worship, prayer, Bible study, and the like. In the meantime, art, music, literature, science, the university, and philosophy are surrendered to the pagan. If a Christian happens to be laboring in those endeavors, he is politely asked to live by a double-truth standard. Like the scientist who can’t decide whether light is a wave or a particle, he is asked to believe that it is a “wavicle” or to believe that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday light is a wave; on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday it is a particle. (Of course on Sunday it rests.)

We are acutely aware that the church in our day has staggered under the assault of philosophers and scientists. There are few philosophers who see their task as being servants to the truth of God. There are few scientists today who see their task as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Secular universities are not known for their gentle nurturing of Christian faith. The popular music charts do little to promote the kingdom of God. Modern art and literature are not communicating the beauty of holiness. No wonder that the church seeks a safe place of solace far removed from the battleground of culture.

We need an Aquinas. We need a titanic thinker who will not abandon truth for safety. We need men and women who are willing to compete with secularists in defense of Christ and of his truth. In this regard, the dumb ox of Aquino was heroic.

About the Author: Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books (including some of my all time favorites: The Holiness of God; Chosen By God; Reason to Believe;  Knowing Scripture; Willing to Believe;  Intimate Marriage; Pleasing God; If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists?, and Defending The Faith) and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as Senior Minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL.  The article above was adapted from the chapter entitled “Thomas Aquinas” in the book Chosen Vessels: Portraits of Ten Outstanding Christian Men. Charles Turner, ed. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 1985.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

They called Jesus "crazy" too


If we are "out of our mind," as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you (2 Cor 5:13, NIV)

Recently on the television show 'The View,' the liberal hosts displayed a sudden respect for fired White House staffer Omarosa Manigault, after the controversial figure took her fame to reality television to spread malicious gossip about the Trump White House. With the exception of Meghan McCain, the hosts touted Omarosa's supposed "leaks" about Vice President Mike Pence's "scary" Christianity on CBS's Celebrity Big Brother this week, as gospel-truth.

After playing the clip from Celebrity Big Brother, where Omarosa trashes Pence as an "extreme Christian" who has conversations with Jesus, the panel took turns taking shots at the vice president's faith.

Hostin, who identifies as Catholic, called Pence's Christianity "dangerous:"

When you have a Mike Pence who now puts this religious veneer on things and who calls people values voters, I think we're this a dangerous situation. Look I'm Catholic. I'm a faithful person, but I don't know that I want my vice president, um—speaking in tongues and having Jesus speak to him.

While Joy Behar decided to mock Pence instead, suggesting he had a "mental illness."

"Like I said before, it's one thing to talk to Jesus. It's another thing when Jesus talks to you," she warned.

Hostin agreed as the audience clapped. "Exactly. That's different!" she gushed. "That's called mental illness, if I'm not correct. Hearing voices," Behar quipped.

Guest host Sherri Shepherd added to the mockery, saying, "What concerns me is how long is the conversation with Jesus ... anything that's too much is concerning."

Behar wasn't done with the jokes. "Can he talk to Mary Magdalene without his wife in the room?" she grinned, referencing Pence's admission last year that he does not go on dinner dates with women without his wife present.

*******

It's wise to remind ourselves that they called Jesus crazy too - And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him (Jesus), for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21, ESV)

CS Lewis went to the heart of the matter in Mere Christianity by presenting the Trilemma that Jesus was either Lord, Liar of Lunatic:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

He did not intend to.”

As the culture descends into barbarism and paganism, those who choose to remain faithful to Christ will be increasingly mocked and deemed insane. And that's not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it can be quite good.

"God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. (Matt 5:11, NLT)