Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

A Christmas Card That’s Religious?

December 14, 2007

Barbara Walters receives a Christmas card from the White House, and finds it interesting that it is religious in tone. I think, from the emphasis she gives to the word “interesting”, she probably means “nearly incomprehensible.”

Of course, what I wonder is, “Would a non-religious Christmas card even make sense?”

If that question doesn’t make sense to you, try reading it out loud, and pronouncing Christmas with a long I.

Another excellent question, that doesn’t seem to have occurred to Barbara Walters as she ponders how an agnostic might react to receiving a religious Christmas card: Why would anyone be offended that a Christmas card was religious? Wouldn’t that be sort of … expected?

What I do find “interesting” myself is that some question why a Christmas card would have a verse from the Old Testament in it. Apparently, Christmas requires a New Testament verse.

Of course, the New Testament is probably made up of about 20% Old Testament by weight, so to speak. That is, try reading the New Testament some time, and making a note of everywhere the Old Testament is quoted. You’ll be amazed how frequently the Old Testament is quoted and expounded on in the New Testament.

The only reason more people don’t realize this is because they don’t know the Old Testament well enough to recognize where it is being quoted in the New Testament.

Other appropriate Old Testament quotations for Christmas:

  • Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
  • Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
  • Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
  • Job 19:24-25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

And many, many more.

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A Smear Revisited

December 13, 2007

The Huckabee question about whether Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are bothers is still stirring up controversy. As I mentioned in my last post, Mormon doctrine does teach this. Don’t take my word for it: Any decent search engine can turn up the evidence, including from the LDS organization themselves. I posted a couple paragraphs from the LDS publication Gospel Principles (http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-6,00.html ) That one link is enough to settle the question, but there are others.

So when Huckabee asked the question, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?”, any answer that equates to “No” is a lie. Of course, any answer that equates to “Yes” is a little … embarrassing.

The only good answer then equates to “Yes, but let me explain.”

The response of the LDS spokeswoman was a political answer, through and through. She avoided admitting that the answer was yes, but strongly implied that the question was a smear. She didn’t say it was wrong: she let the “smear” word imply it was false. In short, she did a careful non-denial denial of official Mormon doctrine, while claiming the question was a smear.

On the one hand, saying that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers is somewhat less significant than it sounds to Mormons, since Mormons believe that everyone alive is a spirit brother of everyone else.

On the other hand, to Christians, the doctrine is far MORE significant than it may sound at first, because it makes Jesus and Satan equal in nature and power. This flatly contradicts the well-established Bible doctrine that a) Jesus is both God and creator of everything, and b) Satan is a lesser being who was created BY God.

It’s interesting that we now have Mormon spokespeople denying a belief they hold, and calling it a smear. That raises some very good questions:

1) If Mormons actually do believe this, is it really a smear to ask if they believe this? Doesn’t smear at least imply falsehood or distortion?
2) If Mormons want to reject some of the implications of the statement, shouldn’t they at least acknowledge that the statement itself is not inherently false, and just address why it is misleading?
3) Why does an LDS spokeswoman dance around the issue without ever admitting that the question is true?
4) Why does that LDS spokeswoman say that Jesus is the son of God and Satan is the opposite, when according to Mormon doctrine, that in no way disqualifies them as “spirit brothers?”
5) Or is this comment aimed at Christians who read the statement in terms of their own Christian doctrine, never realizing that these phrases they think they understand have been completely redefined in Mormon doctrine to mean something different.
6) And if the statement was made knowing that Christians would misunderstand it, isn’t that deception?
7) And if deception, doesn’t that make Huckabee the subject of a deliberate smear?

I have to say, I was originally leaning strongly towards Romney, especially before Fred Thompson entered the race, but the demonstrated deception and misdirection on this topic alone raises the question of whether Romney’s conversion to conservatism is genuine, or just convenient.

And no, I’m not planning to vote for Huckabee. But this is a smear directed at Huckabee much more than a smear by Huckabee.

Far more significant than the question being asked is the deliberate misdirection from the LDS spokeswoman. That is, that you can ask a question which can only be answered truthfully with, “Yes,” and an LDS spokesperson ducks answering the question, makes misleading statements that imply the opposite of the truth, and accuses the questioner of a “smear.”

Oh, and if you’ve read this far, you’re a bigot. Apparently, bigotry is the only reason anyone would ever criticize or argue against Mormon beliefs.

Smear or Inconvenient Truth: Do Mormons Teach Jesus and Satan are Spirit Brothers?

December 12, 2007

So Huckabee questioned whether Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers, and some are accusing him of smearing Mormons … again.

I’ll grant that I’m not a Huckabee fan, but is this really a “smear?”

Allahpundit on hotair.com quotes an “LDS spokeswoman.”

The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, does not refer to Jesus and Satan as brothers. It speaks of Jesus as the son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel, which is a Biblical account.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Huckabee’s question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.

”We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all,” said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. ”That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.”

I realize it’s not easy being a spokesman for any organization, but the quote above is extremely misleading. The LDS publication called “Gospel Principles” (http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-6,00.html) states, at the beginning of Chapter 3, in the 4th paragraph:

We needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27).

The next paragraph describes the first brother, Jesus Christ. The paragraph after that describes the 2nd brother, Satan.

Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). Satan wanted to force us all to do his will. Under his plan, we would not be allowed to choose. He would take away the freedom of choice that our Father had given us. Satan wanted to have all the honor for our salvation.

So yes, official LDS doctrine is that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. Yet the LDS spokeswoman says the “authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism” describes Jesus as the son of God, and Satan as a fallen angel, giving the distinct — and very false — impression that they believe the same thing as Christians. The spokeswoman herself describes this as “a Biblical account.”

But here’s the misleading part. When they describe Jesus as the son of God and Satan as a fallen angel, Christians understand this to put Jesus and Satan into two totally different categories: Creator and creature (created thing).

But Mormonism has redefined the doctrine of God and of angels, so the above statement does NOT contradict the Mormon doctrine that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. Now, you would think someone who would “wish to … clarify doctrine” might clarify that. But instead, the spokeswoman leaves that false implication hanging.

Ironically, it’s the Mormon spokeswoman who needs to apologize for smearing Huckabee!

Judging from the comments at hotair.com, many of the readers believed the statement of the Mormon spokeswoman, and believe that a) Huckabee is ignorant, b) Huckabee is smearing Mormons, c) this is typical behavior of Christians, and d) Christians who criticize Mormon doctrine are bigoted.

Okay, so option a may not be so wrong. But a smear is typically a false or at least misleading statement, and that came from the Mormon spokeswoman, not the politician.

Will the spokeswoman apologize? Don’t hold your breath…..

 

Correction: Following the “LDS spokeswoman” quote back to its source, it appears the paragraph about the Encyclopedia of Mormonism came from the Associated Press itself rather than from the spokeswoman herself. This makes the LDS spokeswoman much less misleading, except that she still backs away from admitting that yes, that is official Mormon doctrine. So she’s still guilty of smearing, rather than clarifying doctrine: the exact thing she accuses others of doing by asking the question.

Did Ann Coulter stir it up again?

October 12, 2007

Not exactly.

What Ann said.

Reading the interview, it looks like Donny Deutsch pushed as hard as he could to get Ann to say something really controversial, and the best he could get was that Ann thinks all Jews should be Christians, and that she compared a Jew becoming a Christian as being “perfected”.

Which is why I think that it’s not Ann Coulter who “stirred up” this latest controversy, but Donny Deutsch who pushed her to say why she thought Jews should be Christians, then called it “hateful” and “anti-Semitic”.

News flash: All Christians believe Jews should become Christians. Also Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, “Jehovah Witnesses”, Mormons, and Muslims. In fact, the push to convert everybody is a little thing often called the “Great Commission”.

But we see here that Ann’s comments are being proclaimed an “outrage.” Why? Because if all Jews became Christians, there would be less diversity in the world in terms of religion. And to modern liberals, “diversity” is far more important than any religion, or than the concept of truth itself.

Note that Ann, sharp as she normally is, walked right into this. Diversity was brought up by the host when he tried to argue that Ann’s perfect world would be less diverse, and Ann defended against this accusation by saying that diversity of race and nationality were more common in many megachurches than in the more liberal cities in blue states.

But Ann, as a Christian, is not a believer in diversity of religion, therefore she’s intolerant.

Of course, that radical Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”

So here’s the bottom line: To Donny Deutsch and others, “diversity” of religion is a more important value than the Christian faith, and refusal to agree with that is intolerant.

P.S. The perfection thing: Perfection in the Bible most often means “completion” or “fullness” or “maturity”, not “flawlessness”. For example,

2 Chron 8:16, “… until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was perfected”.

Acts 23:15 “… enquire something more perfectly” If perfect means flawless, then more perfectly means more flawlessly, which doesn’t make sense. If perfect means complete, then “enquire … more completely” makes sense.

It’s not just the Bible, though. In the Preamble to the Constitution, one goal is “to form a more perfect union”. A more flawless union? Doesn’t make sense. A more complete or full union? Makes a lot of sense.

So in this sense, when Jesus dies on the cross, he fulfills the Law’s demands for a sacrifice on sin, as well as prophecies of the Messiah, thereby “perfecting” the Law. As in Matt 5:17, “I am not come to destroy [the law], but to fulfil”. Which is almost certainly what Ann Coulter meant about “perfecting” Jews who become Christians. They become believers in a faith that has been perfected by Jesus Christ. Col 2:10, “And ye are complete in him…” (I could find lots more verses, but this is not a tutorial, just a brief explanation)

That might sound like political spin, but it was fairly basic Christian doctrine long before Ann Coulter’s first book.

Fundamentalism: Not a Bad Thing

January 5, 2007

Why, why, why, say a thing like that? Everyone knows that fundamentalism in its various forms is the biggest threat we face. Rosie O’Donnell on The View said that Christian fundamentalists are every bit as big a threat as Islamic fundamentalists, and the audience cheered.

Why did the audience cheer? Because they were ignorant and/or thoughtless.

I’ve long been suspicious of the labeling of Islamic radicalism as “fundamentalism”. It appears the label was applied to suggest these radicals were the Muslim equivalents of Christian Fundamentalists. Apparently, the label was applied based on the fact that the Muslim radicals rejected the modern world in favor of 7th century Islam, which was considered similar to the way Christian Fundamentalists rejected modern science and culture.

The problem with this “analysis” is that it misunderstands both Christian Fundamentalism and Islamic Radicalism. Besides, it distorts the real meaning of the word “fundamentalist” into “anti-modern” and “strict” .

This is a bigger topic than could possibly be addressed in a short post by someone who Actually Has A Life, but I’ll hit on the three problems listed in the above paragraph anyway. Of course, I may have to continue the topic across several posts, since it’s already past my bedtime …

Topic One: What does fundamentalism mean?

At its heart, fundamentalism means a focus on the fundamentals. Basically, until you answer the question, “Fundamentals of what?”, you have no specifics on what a fundamentalist is or believes or practices. That’s why it’s unfortunate that so many use the term as if it has a distinct and universal meaning, as if a Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist are basically the same thing. By extension, we should also be able to speak of “Hindu fundamentalists” and “Buddist fundamentalists” and “Shinto fundamentalists.”

But fundamentalism really refers to a focus on the fundamentals of anything. I’ve known basketball coaches who were big fundamentalists, primarily at the junior high and high school levels. Essentially, a basketball fundamentalist is one who says you win basketball games by doing the fundamentals of the game better than the other guys. And at the foundational level of sports, the fundamentalist coach is hard to argue with. At the college or professional level, of course, the fundamentals of the game are a given, and the focus usually moves beyond that.

And this bit of language is one of the biggest problems in the foolish equivalence of Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism: The fundamentals of each are very different. To take one obvious difference — and possibly the core difference — one of the fundamentals of Islam is jihad, while one of the fundamentals of Christianity is evangelism. Though there have been offences in the past of those who named themselves Christians but sought to expand the “kingdom of God” through conquest, history is pretty clear that this is not a core value, if you will, of Christianity. That is, jihad is not one of the Christian fundamentals. Neither is evangelism a core value of Islam. It is somewhat practiced, particularly in non-Muslim countries with a history of religious freedom. I have in fact encountered at least one Muslim who tried to “proselytize” me, and made about as good a case for his beliefs as your typical “Jehovah’s Witness”. Still, no Muslim countries make any practice of proselytization, and it seems more an accommodation to the reality that jihad is not always practical.

Having outlined what “fundamentalism” means and given at least one example where the fundamentals are very different between Christianity and Islam, we’ll pick up the discussion of Christian fundamentalism and where it came from. With that background, we can then proceed to Muslim radicalism and really ask the question, can it be fairly described as “fundamentalism”?

Next post: What is Christian fundamentalism?

But not tonight: I’m going to bed. As aforementioned, “I Have A Life”, and it’s going to be knocking on my door in the morning….

Ding, Dong, the Dictator’s Dead

December 30, 2006

And all the world rejoices, right!

Well, not exactly.  It’s unequivocally a good thing that the monster with a human face, Saddam Hussein, has finally met his Maker.  Justice was done.  I think the whole world should breathe a sigh of relief and feel a certain … satisfaction.

In spite of that, God himself says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live.”  (Ez 33:11)  We should always feel a little saddened when we see a Saddam Hussein put to death, even as we nod our heads and say, “Justice.”

The Times in London has a piece worth reading for its description of Saddam’s infamous career, though it veers into silly bias and near-slander when it says, “But a new American President, George W Bush, determined to find a scapegoat for the Muslim terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001, was in no mood to abide by the niceties of international law. ”

But the death of Saddam, sad or not, should be a very sobering thing.  Saddam was the ultimate survivor.  He waded in blood to reach the top, but had multiple enemies who would have gladly killed him many times along the way.  The full measure of his ability to survive can be seen in the fact that he stayed in power after the first Gulf War.  If he hadn’t been dragged from his hole in the ground, if he had still been missing at this point, if the U.S. finally pulled out of Iraq … he might have actually managed to hang on long enough to be restored to power.

But for all his reign of terror, he was pulled from the ground like a homeless beggar.  And for all his bluster in the courtroom during his trial, and his fearsome reputation, he was just, in the end, another criminal fearing death.

Death, in fact, was the one foe he was really not ready to face.

At this point, there  are conflicting reports about whether he met his death bravely or not.  Settling that question may require actually watching the video of his hanging.  But it doesn’t really matter.  He still died.

I guess there are limits to being a survivor.

Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment

Saddam Hussein was a walking argument for the death penalty.  He was also a walking argument for the existence and justice of Hell.

Sobering indeed.  But for now, at least, a horrible murderer and torturer received justice.  His victims and their families, of course,  even now do not have real justice.  Saddam’s death can never atone for all the lives he took or destroyed.

But it’s as good as we’re going to get…

In Everything Give Thanks

December 29, 2006

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

It doesn’t say to give thanks for everything — I can think of a few things not to be thankful for.  But in everything, we are to give thanks.

Sometimes, that’s a strain.  Sometimes, the only thing I can find thankfulness for is that it could be worse!

But maybe that’s OK.  Maybe the whole point in every circumstance is to just be thankful, because it turns your eys to God.

Psalm 107:2-8

  2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of
the enemy;
3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from
the north, and from the south.
4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to
dwell in.
5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out
of their distresses.
7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of
habitation.
8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful
works to the children of men!

Selah.

By His Name Jah

December 29, 2006

Side note: One of the posters on Hotair.com Tzetzes, called it a conflict between Jah and Allah. I don’t think that’s at all right, since I think only one side wants it to be a religous war. But another poster says that Jah is a Rastafarian term for God.

That’s news to me. But I can confirm that Jah is very much an appropriate term for the Christian God. It is a shortened form of Jehovah or Yahweh (in the Hebrew, YHVH) used often in names and in songs or praise. Curiously, no one can seem to agree just how to pronounce the full name of Jehovah, or Yahweh, or Yahveh, (your pick), but the shortened form seems to be pretty safely pronounced as “Yah”.

The only place in the Authorized or King James Version where JAH appears is in Psalm 68, verse 4:

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.

So one would think it wrong to say the name JAH is used often in praise. However, that’s just because it is usually translated as God in the book of Psalms. In the one exception noted above, the verse says, “by his name JAH”, so it really would not make much sense to translate it there as, “by his name the LORD”.

We do see the word used in many Hebrew names, e.g. Isaiah, Jeremaiah, Hezekiah, Obadiah, and even Micah (a contraction of Micaiah). In such cases, the word shows up spelled with an I, but apparently still pronounced as “Yah”.

The most obvious use of the name JAH, though, is in the word, “Hallelujah.” Or, “Hallelu” to “JAH”

Jihad for Me but Not for Thee

December 29, 2006

So on HotAir we read the story about the Ethiopians routing the Islamic Courts movement of Somalia in about 9 days. The Islamic Courts movement is a radical Islamist movement intent on imposing Sharia law in Somalia. One of their recent pronouncements promised vengeance against all lackadaisical Muslims who pray only 4 times a day instead of 5. They had given the real government of Somalia fits, and basically controlled somewhere around half the country.

But they apparently were not as invincible as they considered themselves. After making threatening noises against Ethiopia, the Ethiopians decided not to wait to be attacked. Nine days later, the Islamic Courts have surrendered to the Ethiopian army.

Ethiopia, to most Americans, is known as the country that suffered famine and was sent tons of aid in the 80’s. It’s also the country which had a eunuch come to Jerusalem in the early days of the churches of God to worship with the Jews, who was converted to a Christian by Philip the evangelist. Ethiopia saw churches established and prospering long before the first one in France, Spain, or Britain.

So yes, you could argue that we just saw another conflict between Islam and Christianity, and that, once again, Islam came out a very poor second. But that is to frame the conflict the way that radical Muslims want to frame it.

There is nothing in Christianity that calls for Christians to war against Muslims, radical or otherwise. Christianity advances through the Great Commision, not conquering. Defense against threats by radical Muslims is a function of government, not of the Christian faith.

Muslims, radical or not, are used to their religion calling for Jihad to advance. They must see the Christian disinterest in fighting back as a great weakness, and as a sign that the best days of Christianity are behind them and that Islam will conquer all.

Which might explain why the Islamic Courts were unprepared for an actual fight from Ethiopia.

When Jesus stood before Pilate, he said, ” My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of
this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the
Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (Jn 18:36)

Here we see two things: 1) Christianity is not of this world, and 2) kingdoms that are of this world, naturally, fight to defend themselves.

Which Ethiopia did. More power to them.

The Seventh from Adam

December 27, 2006

Enoch, the Seventh from Adam, said this:

Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.

To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among
them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all
their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Little harsh there, Enoch. And yet, as much as he hated wickedness and called for judgment, he was a man who came so close to God that at one point, God just took him to heaven without dying.

It’s interesting to read this quote from Enoch that pops up out of nowhere. In no scripture in Old Testament or New is this quote from Enoch recorded, except in the Epistle of Jude.

All Genesis tells us of Enoch is this:

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

It falls to probably the single most obscure book in the New Testament to fill in the gaps from one of the best recognized. Jude reminds us that Enoch was the 7th from Adam (Adam -> Seth -> Enos -> Cainan -> Mahalaleel -> Jared -> Enoch), and tells us furthermore that he made this prophecy.

Hebrews also speaks of Enoch’s faith, in the famed “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11, which makes it clear that “God took him” means that God “translated” him from this world to heaven, without death.

The Westminster Confession says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Apparently, for Enoch, it was as simple as walking with God.

Maybe it should be that simple for us as well…