June 26, 2010 § 5 Comments
One of the things I keep hearing is that I ought to turn the other cheek when someone does me wrong, because I’m a Christian. That I ought to love a bad person and make amends for him or her, because that’s what God would do, and that’s what we’ve been told in the Bible.
Really? I don’t think so.
Only a superficial reading of the Bible, or as most Christians do, a non-reading of the Bible, coupled with what a minister or priest or preacher once said, lead to that sort of understanding.
A Christian in doubt need only consult his or her Bible to see how God deals with the wicked, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Even Jesus Christ, while on Earth, didn’t waste His time with the wicked. Look through the Gospels to see how he dealt with the pharisees and the moneychangers in the temple. And see His instructions to the disciples regarding the cities that would not listen to His message.
Why then do pastors keep clinging to the same clichés when it comes to Christian behavior? Perhaps they love the touchy-feely message of the New Testament, which would be a wrong reading of the gospels. Perhaps they’re not comfortable with judging others. Perhaps they themselves are superficial and haven’t taken the time to read through the Bible properly. Who knows… What I do know is God doesn’t waste His time with bad people. Jesus condemned their behavior constantly, berated them, judged them and warned them to change, then left them to their own devices. Remember free will? It still applies, for both good and evil.
What then of turning the other cheek and all the rest of it? Yes, we ought to, when it’s someone we love, or when it’s someone who we see is trying to lead a good life but has stumbled, someone who’s made a mistake but wants our forgiveness. Jesus constantly forgave His disciples’ shortcomings and glaring defects, because they were trying to obey Him, and He wanted to work with them. He went into Matthew’s house (the tax collector) because he wanted to be good in spite of his bad lifestyle. He associated with good people, stayed with them, spent time with them, but only tolerated the bad ones, or eliminated them from His daily walks altogether.
Some might say we don’t have His insight into the human soul, so we can’t tell who’s truly good and who’s truly bad. Perhaps, but I don’t think He’d begrudge us if we eliminated someone from our lives who is constantly gossiping about us, or making things up about us, or lying to others about us, or lying to us. And He’d definitely not mind if we had nothing more to do with someone who’s tried to cause us harm, physical or financial or some other kind. It’d be foolish of us to continue to associate with those kinds of people, both from a worldly and Godly point of view. You can keep turning the other cheek to those people, and they’ll keep on slapping you. They don’t deserve our kindness, nor our time, nor our consideration.
Keep this in mind the next time someone says you ought to turn the other cheek… And if you don’t believe me, search your Bible.
February 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Mary Ann Brussat wrote in “Spiritual Literacy”:
“People go to religious services and yet continue to pollute, take excessive profits, encourage wars, oppress, foment political division, maintain racial injustice, and promote their own moralistic agendas at the expense of a deeply moral responsiveness to a world in trouble.”
What’s worse, those people often use religion as a badge of honor in their own materialistic quests for power, glory or money. That’s not the kind of religion and those are not the kind of people I want to know. And on top of all that, they’ll think themselves righteous. Instead of focusing on the intended spirituality of religion, they focus on theology and fundamentalism, as if those are God’s saving graces. They go through rituals forgetting the meaning of the word, which is “correct action”, not compulsion. Instead of experiencing God in their lives, they focus on devotional discipline, legalism, righteousness by works, and moralism.
They end up leading tortured lives, committing acts that create pain and suffering for others, all the while thinking they are bravely bearing their crosses and achieving righteousness, oblivious to the wrong path they’ve taken a long time ago. Yes, it is possible to lead that kind of a life, and as the Bible teaches, “by their fruits ye shall know them”. They may think they’re doing God’s work, and doing the “right thing for this country”, while they’re paving a quick way to destruction for all involved in the mess they’ve made.
I don’t even need to mention names, because you can quickly spot those people using the criteria outlined above. Many of them are prominent politicians, authors, pastors and TV show hosts, and they’re all doing their darnedest to achieve their misshapen, defective goals without regard for true morality and the rights of others. They’re “moralists”.
Robert J. Ringer described what he called “the Absolute Moralist” as:
“… looking deceptively like any ordinary human being, who spends his life deciding what is right for you… If he believes in Christ, he’s certain that it’s his moral duty to help you ‘see the light’. In the most extreme case, he may even feel morally obliged to kill you in order to ‘save’ you.”
Yes, folks, we have many deranged and prominent people like that in this country of ours.
Quotes obtained from a wonderful book which you should read, called “The Art of Serenity” by T. Byram Karasu, MD.
July 14, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I was reading Ezekiel 33 this morning, and verses 7-9 state perfectly why I feel the need to write here at Dignoscentia.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”
As a believer in God and in God’s Law, I feel the need to share what I have learned from the Bible with others, in the hope that if they’re doing something that may be wrong, they might learn it’s wrong and turn from it. I’m not saying what I write is necessarily right — who knows, I could be wrong too — but at least I’m trying to shed light on the truth. I’ve always said that it’s each person’s responsibility to seek out the truth for themselves. It’s not about forcing people to believe in certain things or behave in certain ways. It’s about letting them make free, yet informed choices about their beliefs. If I can only get someone thinking and searching for the truth and for the right path in their life, then I’ve done my job.
Here’s how God feels about it:
“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’
“Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right — if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.”
“None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.”
Those were verses 11-16 in the same chapter (33) in Ezekiel. Now isn’t that something to rejoice about?
January 22, 2009 § 9 Comments
I have always been pro-choice. As a Christian, I can’t see it any other way. It’s about free will, and it’s about tolerance. Those two notions are clearly set out in the Bible, and if you’re a Christian who tries to love your fellow human beings, as the Bible says you should do, then you should also be pro-choice.
This is why I love this video I found on YouTube. A young man went to a group of pro-lifers who were demonstrating on the streets and asked each of them this question:
“If abortion were illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?”
It’s a simple question, but one which gets back to the principles of compassion and tolerance so entrenched in the Bible. Watch them struggle to come to grips with what sort of punishment these women should receive, and you’ll see they can’t answer.
I’m glad someone had the courage to go out there and ask this question, because people who try to impose their religious beliefs on others are not doing God’s will. The pain that women suffer through after aborting is greater than any sort of pointless legal action that could be taken against them. They have pangs of remorse and go through bouts of depression for years or even decades. It’s not something I’d wish on anybody, but I strongly believe that they should have the option to do this if they feel it is necessary.
[via Unreasonable Faith]
September 5, 2008 § 1 Comment
That sounds like a strong statement to make, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I have the Bible to back me up on this. Here’s a search for the word “religion” in the NIV. And here’s a search for the word “faith“, also in the NIV. There are 6 instances where the word “religion” is mentioned, and 422 instances where the word “faith” is mentioned.
Let’s look at those six verses where religion is talked about:
- Jeremiah 6:1 The verse itself is not relevant, but the chapter heading is. It says “False Religion Worthless”.
- Acts 12:19 “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Here Festus, the Roman ruler over the region, discusses Paul’s case with King Agrippa. Paul, if you remember, was about to be killed by the Jews because he strayed away from the religion, when the Roman soldiers intervened. Paul was then put in prison for his safety, to await a hearing by Festus and later King Agrippa.
- Acts 26:5 “They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.” Here Paul defends himself before King Agrippa.
- 1 Timothy 5:4 “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
- James 1:26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
- James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Religion is not something that God cares about. If it were, we’d see a lot more verses about it in the Bible. Religion is a man-made concept, introduced as a differentiator, or, if you prefer, a discriminator. Certainly, if you look at history, you’ll see how the term has been used through the ages, and it seems it’s always used to polarize, differentiate or discriminate. Organized religion always seems bent on influencing or controlling governments in one way or another.
Instead, we see that “faith” is something God cares about. “Church” is another concept that is important, but it is only introduced in the New Testament and mentioned 112 times. Most of all, God cares about “people“. There are 2221 instances of that word found in the Bible.
Why am I writing this post? James 1:27 is a verse that stuck to me when I read it. There it is, spelled out in black and white. The only religion that God accepts is to look after orphans and widows, and to keep from being polluted by the world.
Any time some religion or other claims to have some exclusive benefit over another, or worse, claims that they’re in the right and others aren’t, beware! That’s not Biblical, that’s not Godly, and it’s certainly not something you should be involved in, unless you want to get further away from God.
Want to do the right thing? Care about your faith, and care about people. That’s what’s important. That’s what’s Godly. That’s also what’s right, thank God!
August 23, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Hebrews 11:1 has one of the best definitions of faith in the Bible. Of all the English Bible translations (and I’ve looked at that verse in all 22 of them), the NIV (New International Version) says it best:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” [reference]
Not even my favorite translation, the NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) comes close to capturing the heart of that definition. (You can read the NJB version here.) It’s surprising how many translators missed the boat when it came to the meaning of this verse, and the meaning of this very important idea. Who knows, given that these translations were written at different times in history, perhaps the language used in them made more sense to their contemporaries than it does to me or you.
We English speakers are very fortunate. We have over twenty translations of the Bible that we can look through and compare verses in order to arrive at the best understanding of a certain passage or concept. And online tools like the Bible Gateway make it incredibly easy to do this.
Other people are not so fortunate. If you look at other languages, you’ll see they have only a few translations, and some only one. They’re left at the mercy of that single translator or group of translators when it comes to understanding the Bible. As well intentioned as that one person or persons might have been, it is impossible to translate every verse correctly in a single translation, particularly when that translation draws upon not the original, but a secondary source.
And yet faith, this powerful, but hard-to-define concept, which I can only find clearly explained in a single version of the Bible (out of over 20) is so hard to find in action in English-speaking countries — the very countries that have the incredible benefit of so many translations and so much learning to illuminate the meaning of the Bible to them.
Should you go to a country where the translations are scarce or even non-existent, you’ll find that faith is abundant there. You see it on the faces of simple people and in their behavior. They understand it implicitly and put it into practice. Back here, it’s not fashionable to have faith or to talk about it — unless one is a politician and is stumping for public office, in which case we all know (or should know) that they’re lying.
Why is that? How can we so readily throw away the privilege of so much understanding and not apply it in our lives? I’m reminded of the following verse from Luke 12:48:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
That’s a sobering thought.
March 24, 2007 § Leave a Comment
I have a deep mistrust of TV evangelists. So many of them are all flash and no substance. I can see through their masks to the shallowness of their faith and morals. It comes as no surprise to me to learn that my intuition is correct on this. ABC News has a great article on how money donated to TV evangelists gets used. I recommend you read it. What’s more, I think you ought to bookmark the website of MinistryWatch (a not-for-profit organization which examines how religious charities use the money given to them) and do a bit of research on the people who receive your hard-earned money.
Don’t think that only TV evangelists misuse funds. Some churches are every bit as guilty of that as well — in particular the mega churches. Wherever there’s plenty of money floating around, people will misuse it, and it matters not that they profess to be Christians or other religious folk. That’s why it behooves you to know exactly how your money gets used. Hold the people where you donate money financially accountable. Ask to see financial statements. Insist on financial transparency, otherwise you will be guilty of tempting them to sin by encouraging their profligate spending through your silence.
January 27, 2007 § Leave a Comment
The author of this psalm remembers the times of God’s tremendous miracles — the times (then) of old, when God had delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, and took them through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. He wonders if God will ever act like that on behalf of Israel.
It’s obvious the nation of Israel was going through hard times when this psalm was written, and this psalm is a plea for action from God. The author is afraid that the Lord abandoned them forever, and His anger with them will not cease. It’s interesting that the psalm is open-ended. There is no final plea, simply a remembrance of the times of old: “You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” It befits the psalm. It gives the impression that the author expects God to make the next step, whatever that will be.
The questions asked in this psalm apply to all of us. After we do something bad, after we sin, we feel terrible, too. We begin to wonder, was this it? Has God now abandoned us? Will He never again “show favour” to us? But the answers depend purely on us, you see. That’s because God is constant. He always loves us. His anger with us ceases. He wants to show us favor. But we must do our part. Even if we have fallen, we must continue to come to Him. We must ask confess our sins in prayer and ask forgiveness.
Then the healing process begins. As we continue to walk with Him, we feel His presence in our lives once more. We begin to discern the blessings He pours out on us. We feel His love encircling us, protecting us from danger, taking us through our days and strengthening us. We begin to know He exists again, and His wonderful Holy Spirit makes its dwelling place in our souls once more. But we must stay close to Him. The moment we stray, we fall again, and depending on the gravity of our sin, we must start from scratch again. It’s a painful process for us, and it’s even more painful for God, because He loves us and every one of our sins hurts Him, no matter how little they are. The most important thing though, is to continue in our walk with Him. If we seek Him earnestly, we will find Him. He will be there for us, always.
December 11, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm praises God for the power He displays in battle with Israel’s enemies. Various military events are recounted, and God is given the credit for the wins. The futility of human anger is also set in contrast to the awesome power of God’s wrath: “You, you alone, strike terror! Who can hold his ground in your presence when your anger strikes?” The psalm is ended with an entreaty to all people to “make and fulfill [their] vows to Yahweh [their] God”.
The writer of the psalm is certainly correct in attributing Israel’s military victories to God. However, as we’ve seen with past psalms, Israel blamed God when their military pursuits failed, forgetting that in order to receive God’s much-needed help in battle, they needed to live their daily lives in accordance with His will. This was something they didn’t often do, and then they wondered why when God abandoned them. Perhaps this is what makes the entreaty in the last verses more poignant. There was a covenant between Israel and God, and that covenant had two parts: one which described what God was responsible for, and one which described what Israel was responsible for. As we examine the biblical record, we see how often Israel strayed away from the covenant, and every time they did so, they suffered for it. Did they learn their lesson? No. Single generations might have, but later generations managed to repeat their parents’ mistakes anew.
The futility, the powerlessness of human anger is another theme dealt with in this psalm. Nowadays, when we have all sorts of machines that amplify our anger and let us do damage, like guns, vehicles and bombs, it’s hard for us to see how impotent we really are. But during those times, when all people had were swords, lances and arrows, a single human being couldn’t do too much. I think it made them a little humbler, at least on the whole. What we need to learn these days is that none of our weapons, none of our anger can win us a war or affect God in any way. His power is what counts, and His anger is what destroys. With a single utterance or gesture, He can raze us from the face of the earth. Without Him on our side, we have nothing but “heroes”, “sleeping their last sleep”.
November 29, 2006 § Leave a Comment
There are certain clear prophetic elements in this psalm that make me believe the author was inspired by God when he wrote it. However, there are also certain phrases that make me think he corrupted the message with his own weak thoughts instead of relying solely on God for inspiration. Let’s have a look at it.
The beginning is formulaic, and the author then writes in God’s voice from verses 2-5. I have no quarrel with verses 2 and 3: “At the appointed time I myself shall dispense justice. The earth quakes and all its inhabitants; it is I who hold its pillars firm.” The language sounds right, and refers directly to prophecies made in Daniel and the Revelation. God promises that He will hold the final judgment. We know not the hour. Only He knows when that will be. Furthermore, at that time, the earth will quake in a very specific way, as described in Revelation 6:12-17:
“In my vision, when He broke the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake and the sun went as black as coarse sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over, and the stars of the sky fell onto the earth like figs dropping from a fig tre when a high wind shakes it; the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places. Then all the kings of the earth, the governors and the commanders, the rich people and the men of influence, the whole population, slaves and citizens, hid in caverns and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the retribution of the Lamb. For the Great Day of His retribution has come, and who can face it?’”
Unfortunately, I think the psalm’s author improvises in verses 4 and 5. Here he supposedly continues to speak in God’s voice: “‘I said to the boastful, “Do not boast!” to the wicked, “Do not flaunt your strength! Do not flaunt your strength so proudly, do not talk with that arrogant stance.”‘” Given the strength and calamity of those end-time events, do you really think that’s all that God will say to the wicked? Do you think He’ll bother to open His mouth to say such things? Sure, clearly this is symbolic language, but it’s so weak in its strength, so lacking in authority when compared with what will happen, that I have to believe the psalm’s author made it up by himself.
Verses 6 and 7 establish that God’s judgment will extend to the entire earth, and won’t just stop at the heathen nations surrounding Israel, which is once again inspired, and furthermore, verse 8 is clearly prophetic, because it refers to the cup of indignation that God will pour out over the entire earth (metaphorically speaking) during the time of the end. Here’s what Revelation says about this. Keep in mind that while God is described as holding the cup here, the “great prostitute” is shown as holding that cup in Revelation. This is because God knows the exact moment when that will happen, and will allow it to happen, in order for prophecy to be fulfilled. But He is not causing it to happen. The people, fallen into apostasy, are doing it on their own. Here is the passage:
“One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute who is enthroned beside abundant waters, with whom all the kings of the earth have prostituted themselves, and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery.’ He took me in spirit to a desert, and there I saw a woman riding a scarlet beast which had seven heads and ten horns and had blasphemous titles written all over it. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold and jewels and pearls, and she was holding a gold winecup filled with the disgusting filth of her prostitution; on her forehead was written a name, a cryptic name: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of all the prostitutes and all the filthy practices on earth.’ I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I was completely mystified. The angel said to me, ‘Do you not understand? I will tell you the meaning of this woman, and of the beast she is riding, with the seven heads and the ten horns…” (Revelation 17:1-7)
The author of the psalm then goes on to proclaim his faithfulness in verse 9, then messes up again in verse 10: “I shall break down all the strength of the wicked, and the strength of the upright will rise high.” There is no indication that he is writing in God’s voice again, since there are no quotes around that verse. So I have to assume that he means to do that himself, although we all know that a single human being has no such powers. Either the quotes were lost as this psalm was transcribed through the centuries, or the author of this psalm is pulling words out of his pocket again, and managing to sound awful, just like he did in verses 4 and 5.