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Is There a Biblical Reason for There to Be a State of Israel? No. Political? Yes.

October 25th, 2010 1 comment

I picked up this interesting story from Religious News Service, and found myself agreeing completely with the Roman Catholic Archbishop. Many American evangelicals, fundamentalists and well as other well meaning Christians might think that the modern day state of Israel is somehow based on a Biblical foundation for its existence, but it is not. The New Testment makes very clear that there now is only one “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), and it is not the modern state of Israel: it is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Having said that, I think there are compelling reasons to support the modern day state of Israel. They are an important ally of the United States, but their existence has nothing to do with Holy Scripture.

SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER URGES POPE BENEDICT XVI TO DENOUNCE ARCHBISHOP WHO DENIED JEWISH PEOPLE’S LINK TO LAND OF ISRAEL

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is urging Pope Benedict XVI to immediately denounce a statement by Melkite Catholic Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros at a Vatican Synod on the Middle East wherein he asserted that, “We Christians cannot speak about the promised land for the Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people. All men and women of all countries have become the chosen people. The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians.” He added that, “[t]he justification of Israel’s occupation of the land of Palestine cannot be based on sacred scriptures.”
“This political stunt, wrapped in theological garb, not only insults every Jew but flies in the face of the statements and actions of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, both who have visited Israel and expressed solidarity with her people,” charged Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, dean and founder and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, respectively, who have had audiences with both Pontiffs. “The Archbishop’s statement comes at the end of the conference wherein the so-called “Palestine Kairos Document”—which openly denies the right of Israel to be a Jewish state—was presented at the Vatican for the first time. These developments demand immediate action by the Pope. Hopes for peace in the Middle East will only come when both sides recognize the rights of the others. These latest moves, left unchallenged, will damage interfaith relations and embolden anti-Semites and terrorists,” they concluded.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

For more information, please contact the Center’s Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Fathers Speak: No Thousand Year Reign of Christ on Earth!

June 26th, 2010 3 comments

“Christ is the Rock by which and on which the church is founded. And thus it is overcome by no traces of maddened people. Therefore the heretics are not to be heard who assure themselves that there is to be an earthly reign of one thousand years; who think, that is to say, on the same wavelength with Cerinthus. For the kingdom of Christ is now eternal in the saints, although the glory of the saints shall be made known after the resurrection.”

— Victorinus of Petovium
Commentary on the Apocalypse, 16.

“All Religions are Basically the Same” — A Lovely, but Untrue, Disrespectful and Dangerous Sentiment

May 10th, 2010 Comments off

“To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.” This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.”

So says Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University, who wrote this in a Boston Globe newspaper article recently. The article is adapted from his new book, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter. Pastor Alms mentioned this article on his blog.

How many times have we heard a member of our congregations say something to the effect, “Oh, pastor, we are all on the same path.” Or “All religions are striving for the same thing” or “All religions are basically alike.” Despite all our teaching and preaching and best effort, we all know that in many modern Lutherans’ hearts-of-hearts, there resides this lie, a lie we use to comfort ourselves, a lie we use to “fit in” to culture and society that is increasingly pluralistic and becoming every more hostile toward any assertion of truth that rejects error, without compromise.

Here are some more bits of Prothero’s article:

“At least since the first petals of the counterculture bloomed across Europe and the United States in the 1960s, it has been fashionable to affirm that all religions are beautiful and all are true. This claim, which reaches back to “All Religions Are One” (1795) by the English poet, printmaker, and prophet William Blake, is as odd as it is intriguing. No one argues that different economic systems or political regimes are one and the same. Capitalism and socialism are so self-evidently at odds that their differences hardly bear mentioning. The same goes for democracy and monarchy. Yet scholars continue to claim that religious rivals such as Hinduism and Islam, Judaism and Christianity are, by some miracle of the imagination, both essentially the same and basically good.

“This view resounds in the echo chamber of popular culture, not least on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, “Eat Pray Love,” where the world’s religions are described as rivers emptying into the ocean of God. Karen Armstrong, author of “A History of God,” has made a career out of emphasizing the commonalities of religion while eliding their differences. Even the Dalai Lama, who should know better, has gotten into the act, claiming that “all major religious traditions carry basically the same message.”

“Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

“This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.

“The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions.

“But this lumping of the world’s religions into one megareligion is not just false and condescending, it is also a threat. How can we make sense of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir if we pretend that Hinduism and Islam are one and the same? Or of the impasse in the Middle East, if we pretend that there are no fundamental disagreements between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

“This naive theological groupthink — call it Godthink — is motivated in part by a laudable rejection of the exclusivist missionary view that only you and your kind will make it to heaven or nirvana or paradise. For most of world history, human beings have seen religious rivals as inferior to themselves — practitioners of empty rituals, perpetrators of bogus miracles, and purveyors of fanciful myths. This way of seeing has given us religious violence from the Crusades and the Holocaust to Rwanda and Nigeria. In response to such violence, the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment popularized the ideal of religious tolerance, and we are doubtless better for it.

“I understand what these people are doing. They are not describing the world but reimagining it. They are hoping that their hope will call up in us feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. In the face of religious bigotry and bloodshed, past and present, we cannot help but be drawn to such hope, and such vision. Yet we must not mistake either for clear-eyed analysis.”

Seekers Seeking Churches that Look like Churches: Keeping Holy Ground Holy

June 6th, 2009 3 comments
martinialtar

The high altar at St. Martini Lutheran Church in Braunschweig, Germany. The altar was installed by Lutherans. Beautiful!

I’ve seen more than my fair share of new church buildings that strike me as looking more like big-box discount stores, than church buildings. It is always a bad sign to me when I have to go looking for Christian symbols in a church’s “sanctuary” and all I can see first is the drum set and sound insulating plastic for the praise band. I was in a church recently where I did notice that they had a baptismal font, shoved as far off into a corner as possible. Well, what do you know? Come to find out that seekers really are not looking for churches to look like their local Starbucks or warehouse department store. Here’s the story. Here’s a quote, and to my fellow Lutherans, do note the comment: “a building should reflect the church’s theology.” Lutheran churches probably would do well not to try to imitate those churches that do not believe in the Real Presence or baptismal regeneration! When their is not a clear and keen understanding of what is actually going on in worship: that God is among us with His good gifts, serving us with forgiveness, life and salvation, through objective means of giving His grace, it is no wonder that  the entire of a church will resemble a concert or lecture hall, more than a place where the God of the Universe is working among His people. Note: the photograph in this blog post is a picture of the altar in St. Martini Church, Braunschweig, Germany. It was installed in the church by Lutherans and it beautifully confesses the realities among us during worship. Note the rich symbolism. Click on it to enlarge it.

“Most people in our culture are symbol savvy,” says Torgerson. “The Christian church has adopted powerful symbolism throughout its history, and this has served it well in developing a public presence and nonverbal testimony. … It’s [important] to use such a primary avenue for communication.” Jacobsen says a building should reflect the church’s theology. “If we claim that God is a God of beauty and that humans are the crown of his creation,” he says, “and then build buildings that make humans feel like cogs in a machine, people will wonder if we mean what we say.”

Silly Things Never Actually Said: St. Francis and the Wordless Gospel

June 5th, 2009 3 comments

st-francisOver the years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been irked whenever I hear a Christian repeat an alleged remark by St. Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Nearly every time I hear it used, it is quoted to defend an a-doctrinal view of Christianity. That is, the myth that Christianity is really all about doing nice things and being a nice person, not so much about a set body of teachings and beliefs. Buzzer Going Off Wrong! Now, let’s be clear. Being a nice person and doing nice things is, nice. As Frank Burns of the old TV sitcom once put it, “It’s nice, to be nice, to the nice.” Let’s take it one step further: “It’s even nicer, to be nice, to the not nice.” Granted. Fine. Good. Yes, I agree. But trying to put forward the view that Christianity is really about deeds, not creeds, is just wrong. It is not what Jesus taught, “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free” and “Teach them to observe all I have commanded you.” And so forth. So, whenever I’ve heard that alleged phrase: “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” I have always been tempted to blurt out, “That is just so stupid!” Well, now we know that in fact St. Francis never said it. So, let’s stop repeating it. Here’s the scoop. HT: Extreme Theology. And here’s a quote:

Why is it, then, that we “remember” Francis as a wimp of a man who petted bunnies and never said a cross word, let alone much about the Cross? I suspect we sentimentalize Francis—like we do many saints of ages past—because we live in a sentimental age. We want it to be true that we can be nice and sweet and all will be well. We hope against hope that we won’t have take the trouble to figure out how exactly to talk about the gospel—our unbelieving friends will “catch” the gospel once our lifestyle is infected with it. “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. As blogger Justin Taylor recently put it, the Good News can no more be communicated by deeds than can the nightly news.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html

What the Church Can Learn from Dunkin’ Donuts

March 24th, 2009 5 comments

Dunkin-donuts
Here’s a great article by Michael Kelly, a young adult resource specialist for Lifeway Publishing, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, so, again, he can’t be accused of being a stick-in-the-mud, anti-missional, dogmatic, unloving, confessional Lutheran type of person. If these folks are saying things like this, maybe we folks need to listen, carefully.

Dunkin
Donuts is creaming Starbucks right now. Dunkin won the taste test, it’s
3 times cheaper, and the company is actually expanding whereas
Starbucks is closing stores every day. Dunkin is about to roll out a
$100 million marketing campaign to trumpet the results of the taste
test and try and put the dagger into the heart of Seattle. Some people
are saying that Starbucks has seen its better days, and that this is
just the beginning of the downhill slide.

I would propose that the church has something to learn from Dunkin Donuts.

The
reason we have something to learn is that we have tried to be
Starbucks. We’ve tried to be slick, trendy, and hip. We’ve tried to be
a place that is non-threatening and easy to come to. And when you walk
in, you see beautiful people in holy jeans and black glasses, all
looking very intellectual and hair-frosty. Additionally, we have tried
to make church a low-demand environment, much in the same way
Starbuck’s is. It’s low demand in that even though the basic premise of
the store is selling coffee, some people don’t even go there for coffee
at all. And nobody’s going to pressure them about the coffee. That
sounds familiar, too.

But guess what?

People like Dunkin
Donuts. They like that it’s not trendy. They like that it’s not hip.
They like that it’s not cool. You know why they like it?

Because it’s simple: It’s good coffee at a reasonable price.

It’s not fru-fru, latte, grande, frappa-whatchamacallit. IT’S COFFEE. And at Dunkin Donuts, they call it what it is. COFFEE.

Seems
like there’s a lesson in there for us as Christ-followers somewhere.
Now hear me say this – I’m all for contextualizing the gospel. But I’m
also for simply proclaiming what we have to “sell” rather than trying
too hard to at it.

And you know what else? The thing that we
have? It actually tastes good. Maybe the problem is that we don’t
really believe the gospel tastes good. We don’t believe it tastes good,
so we feel the need to pile alot of stuff ontop of it to make it more
palpable. Maybe if we really believed it tasted good, we would have the
courage to let it speak for itself, like Dunkin did, rather than trying
to help out the product so much.

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If Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was Published Today in Popular Magazines

February 28th, 2009 Comments off

Jesus Optional or Musings on the Conspicuous Absence of Christ in Pop-Christianity

April 12th, 2008 4 comments

Christ_2
Christ should be the main point of Christianity. Is He?

I recently attended an event involving a number of key leaders of Protestant church organizations, all established to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ: to proclaim and publish His good news. Speaker after speaker gave lectures and workshops with a lot of "God talk," as I’ve come to call it, much talk about love, peace, justice  and God. But, I noticed a conspicuous absence of one word: Christ.

Now, I’m quite certain that most of the speakers had Christ in mind as they talked about God and the Bible and the Church, but…no Jesus. It is not a fluke. Anyone who spends much time examining popular Protestant literature and listening to popular so-called "Evangelical" preaching, quickly realizes that, apparently, in much of Protestantism, the Name above every Name, Jesus, is optional: the specific articulation of the Gospel appears to be optional in much Protestant church culture, unless it is some kind of evangelistic rally. I know that generalizations always fail, but, it is something I continue to notice across all sorts of media: books, magazines, videos, blog sites: Jesus optional. Christ should be the main point of Christianity. Is He?

And lest we Lutherans begin to pat ourselves on the back, let us instead confess our own sins of omission and commission on this point: is Christ the center and focus of al that we say and do? Let us take warning from this and strive all the more to proclaim the Gospel and to preach and teach and confess, in all our vocations in life, the Name above every Name: Christ.

And let us also pray that the Lord would bless and protect all our faithful shepherds in Christ who are leading us to the green pastures of Christ’s holy Word and Sacrament. God bless these faithful men.

 

Here is an interesting blog post by Michael Spencer, an Evangelical blogger, who always gives me something to think about:

Recently I listened to a sermon. Preached by a Christian, a Baptist,
a minister at a church, a graduate of a Christian school training
ministers to serve and communicate Jesus.

This preacher gave a message that he had worked hard to prepare; a
message he had presented before. A message he deeply believed in.

It was a message well organized, passionately delivered and
completely sincere. It was a message with an application about having a
purpose in living that many people need to hear.

So why am I writing about that sermon? Did it change my life?

I’m writing about that sermon because it was a perfect illustration of Christless preaching.

There was not a single mention of Jesus. Not once. Not in any way. Nowhere.

It was as if Jesus had never been born. It was as if Jesus never existed.

Jesus made no difference, made no contribution, determined no truth,
solved no problem, offered no hope, performed no miracle, never
interceded, never atoned, never taught, never lived the truth. Jesus
made no claims, offered no invitations, defined no choices.

In fairness, the sermon was on an older testament story, but I am
holding the preacher responsible for somehow preaching a Christian
sermon, not a motivational talk. Christian preaching, no matter where
it comes from, is necessarily oriented to the person, work and gospel
of Jesus Christ in some way.

This was a talk about human motivation, with no more salvation than
knowing God wanted you to change your own life, find a purpose and
accomplish more in the future than you did in the past.

In short, here’s what we heard:

Your big problem is that you are tired, stressed and not doing much with your life.

What you need is a passion for the dream of what you can do with your life.

God wants you to trust him so that you’ll have a dream and a purpose.

The story of Joshua illustrates this.

And the premise: I’m going to tell you how to have a great life.

“Great life?” Sound familiar, anyone? Think “blinking teeth.” Think “Best Life Now.” Think “Becoming a Better You.”

People ask me all the time why I call myself post-evangelical.
Reformed watchbloggers routinely refer to the term “post evangelical”
with contempt. Many others seem to prefer some other term to more
accurately map themselves on the journey of faith. Are critics of the
term “post-evangelical” paying any attention to evangelicals?

Let me suggest that if the sermon I heard represents what we have to
look forward to in evangelicalism, then being post-evangelical means
that Jesus matters, the Gospel is the Biblical good news and
faithfulness to either requires an intentional removal from what is
happening in evangelicalism. Post-evangelicalism is a place to stand in
the midsts of a tide that has washed everything out and left the
flotsam and jetsam of a crumbling, degraded culture on the beaches of a
vacillating, deluded church.

When a preacher can stand in the pulpit, hold the Bible, represent a
significant church and the training of a major school, claim to expound
the meaning of the Bible and never even once mention Jesus or the Christian good news at all, there’s something monumentally wrong at work.

“Houston, we have a problem….Jesus has left the sermon.”

Were this the latest version of the new age or even the leftist
fringe of the mainlines, I’d not waste five seconds of my life pointing
out such a sermon. But this preacher stands in the heritage of
centuries of Baptist and Protestant preaching, a heritage that has been
relentlessly Christ-centered and zealous for the Gospel. This was
supposed to be Christ-centered Protestant preaching, preaching that
answered the sign I have up in the back of our chapel: “Sirs, We would
see Jesus.”

Yet that heritage was nowhere to be found in either style or
content. The influences here were entirely stand up comedians and
motivational speakers. The audience’s love of entertainment and felt
need of amusement and motivation were sovereign. The motivation was
self-improvement with God’s help.

What kind of Christian life was this speaking to? What kind of need
for evangelism? Nothing I recognized. This was human effort to solve
human problems, all done as a way of saying “I’m trusting God for a
great life.”

Was Jesus less than clear on what he thought was a “great life?” Is
the New Testament obscure on the “life” we’re talking about. It IS a
sin to waste your life, but for Christians the value that’s added to
life is JESUS and JESUS alone. There’s no way to relegate Jesus to the
category of “no need of further mention” so we can get on with the
motivational talks.

Where is the Kingdom of God and its crucified, risen and exalted
King? Where is the centrality of Jesus Christ and his distinctive call
to discipleship? Where was the uniqueness, the beauty, the worthiness
and the radical revolution of Jesus? Where is the community Jesus is
building and the New Creation Jesus is bringing?

I can no longer protest, or even properly lament, when those set
aside by the “church” with the intention of proclaiming the Word so
easily abandon and exchange it for a completely Christless motivational
talk.

At the moment that preacher stood up, one person in that room needed
desperately to hear the hope that is mine in Jesus. Despair stalks me.
Satan and life dominating sins war against my soul. Religion,
motivation, church, music, the pretense of piety, the rituals of
synergistic schemes of salvation- all offer me nothing. Christians have
failed me. Institutional religion mocks me. Friends do not know me.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus, one soul cries.

Can someone sing “In The Cross of Christ I Glory” as I turn my back
and walk away from this kind of religion? I’m looking for the one who,
when asked for a great life, said sell all you have and come follow me
to the cross.