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 16, 2009 § 5 Comments
In a new encyclical, entitled “Caritas in Veritate”, or “Love in Truth”, Pope Benedict XVI calls for the formation of a “true world political authority”, which would enforce global economic, environmental and immigration policies in order to construct a new world order that “conforms to the [Catholic] moral order”. He’s wrong to do that, on many levels, as explained in more detail here.
Most of the encyclical sounds nice, and most Christians would agree with at least some of the things he’s saying, except I, along with others, believe he has no God-given authority to call for such an order — in spite of the assumed authority that Catholic popes have granted themselves historically. The Pope calls himself Christ’s representative on earth. If so, he would do well do remember Christ’s words (quoting from source):
“Jesus Christ, whom the Pope claims to represent here on earth, very clearly said that [His] “kingdom was not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight . . . but my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). A political body “vested” with “power” to ensure “security” and “compliance,” as the Pope recommends, will obviously have to use a police or military force. What qualifies the Pope to make recommendations or suggest policies for the creation of such an entity?”
Furthermore, “some may argue that the Pope is not suggesting he or his church be in charge of such an authority, but rather proposing that some other body take these steps to stabilize our world economy. And yet this cannot be the full argument. The letter makes clear that the policies carried out by the entity would be to construct a “social order” that “conforms to the moral order.” The Pope’s choice of words is telling. He does not say “some moral order,” or “a moral order,” but “the moral order.” He clearly has a certain moral order in mind. Could this be any other moral order than the one articulated and taught by the Catholic Church?”
Second, we must always remember the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, and all of the countless millions killed at the hands of that putrid religious zealotry. All of that was done in the name of the Pope and allegedly in the name of God, and the reason they could do it was the Catholic church’s control of Europe’s various governments. We cannot ever let history repeat itself like that.
Third, most may have easily forgotten or not even been aware of the Catholic church’s recent efforts to reinstate the Sunday Law, under the guise of a “national day of rest”. If that were to happen, it would be a form of religious persecution, where those who choose to worship on another day, like, for example, on Saturday, which is the true Biblical Sabbath, would slowly but surely be ostracized and persecuted for their disobedience of the legal day of rest, namely Sunday. If the church got its hands on a world government, you can only begin to imagine the measures of persecution that would be introduced, one after the other, in the name of the new “moral order”.
We must continually strive to dissuade any church or group of churches from attempting to control or influence world governments. World governments should be “worldly”, guided by a set of generally accepted moral rules and left to themselves, not controlled by a church. The churches would do well to remember their kingdom is in heaven and is to be ruled solely by God, not by fallible human beings. If they’re dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in this passing world, they’d better get on their knees and pray for the faster return of Christ, not try to build empires of their own.
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]
November 15, 2008 § 1 Comment
During this past presidential election, I saw, beyond any doubt, how the right has managed to marry their cause to religion, and how they continually played that angle for the past couple of years. Churches and religious organizations told their members, in no uncertain terms, that they should vote for so-and-so because they’re Republican, and they’re going to stand up for “what’s right”.
It didn’t, and it doesn’t, seem to matter that’s what’s being put forth as “what’s right” isn’t necessarily what the Bible says is right. No, as long as you can marry a candidate to the church, you can rally the troops and call for jihad against the infidel that dares to go against your cause. It doesn’t even matter if that choice candidate of yours is far from being a real Christian. As long as they secure the endorsement of the right, church members are bullied into voting for them.
This is due, in part, to the two-party system that dominates US politics. When your choice for a candidate boils down to A or B, it’s incumbent upon A and B to polarize you and make your choice easier. Moderates are not what this two-party system wants. It wants frothing leftists or rightists that can be counted on for full support. Other countries where governance is shared among multiple parties tend to be more centrist, more moderate. Election winners have to build coalitions, otherwise they get nothing done. Here in the US, extreme views seem to be par for the course, and are encouraged from pulpits everywhere, particularly in the Bible Belt states.
Another reason for this governmental fallacy is the desire to bring religious views to bear upon political/public policy, when in fact the two should be kept completely separate. Sure, be a Christian in your private life. Go to church, pray to God, read your Bible, but don’t make the mistake of wanting others to do the same. Don’t force people to believe what you believe. Don’t legislate your beliefs. Civic matters should be kept completely separate from religious matters. That’s the principle of separation of church and state at work.
As a citizen of the US, I think there should be equal rights for homosexuals and they should be allowed to marry one another if they so choose. That’s because I choose to keep my beliefs to myself, and I realize that from a civic point of view, everyone is entitled to the same rights as citizens of the same country. One of the most important principles of our Christian faith is that of free will, which says everyone is entitled to choose whether to serve God or not. Unfortunately, others don’t feel the same way, and want to legislate their religion, not realizing that is one very slippery slope toward persecution and injustice on a grand scale.
Those of you who think all this has somehow gone away just because Obama won the election are in for a surprise. The past couple of years has been a warm-up exercise. There is some nasty stuff afoot, stuff that will do away with some of our most basic religious freedoms. Misguided churches are gearing up everywhere in order to polarize their members and begin what I would call a campaign of religious oppression against anyone that does not agree with they way they see life and government.
One of the things that this misguided religious right plans to get passed is a Sunday Law, under the guise of a “National Day of Rest”. This is not a new concept, but this time, its execution will be enforced more severely. The concept has been bubbling up in discussions lately, and unfortunately, no solid proof (other than opinion from groups and organizations) has emerged that something is in the works, but I, along with others, believe there are things going on that are laying the groundwork for it. You can choose to believe me or not on this one, and if I’m wrong, I’ll eat my crow, but I don’t think I am — time will tell for sure.
In the past, Blue Laws were passed to force people to worship on Sundays, and thankfully, they were repealed. Now, a whole groundswell of support is building up from Protestants and Catholics alike. What will make this attack on our collective religious freedoms more effective is they’re working together, thanks to the decades-old ecumenical movement, which I wish did not exist. Various reasons will be offered in its support, such as the economy, the environment, our societal morals, lifestyle choices, etc.
This is a small sample of sources I dug up this afternoon:
- Pope and Christian Coalition met to discuss the Sunday Law and other topics
- Some Democrats are calling for a National Day of Rest
- Christian Coalition proposes National Day of Rest
- Catholic church urges National Day of Rest (this is something that Pope John Paul said numerous times, and his successor wants to see it come to fruition)
This small sample of articles is by no means representative. I invite you to search for the terms “Sunday Law” and “National Day of Rest” on your search engine of choice and see what comes up. Or, you could do nothing but wait and see. I don’t think you’ll have to wait for long.
A few months ago, a certain number of closed-door meetings were held between high-ranking members of Protestant and Catholic churches when the Pope visited the US. No one can say what went on during those meetings, but given that both sides of the table want to see a “National Day of Rest”, it’s not impractical to assume that it was one of the items discussed there.
I for one was shocked when I heard President Bush exclaim that he “saw God in [the Pope's] eyes”. Wasn’t he supposed to be Protestant? Has he forgotten that countless people died, by sword, torture, or burning, in order to win the right to worship God apart from the Catholic Church? That’s not something you forget, unless you have a different agenda.
Some may say we shouldn’t worry about Bush, because he’s a lame-duck president. To that, I say this so-called “lame duck” is signing bill after bill while he still can, while he’s still in office. Also, let’s not forget all the stuff he did during his two terms in office. Will he try to sign some sort of National Day of Rest legislation into law before he leaves the White House on 1/20/09? I don’t know, but it is possible. Even if Bush doesn’t sign such legislation, that’s not to say it won’t happen. We have a good combination of economic, societal and religious factors that are creating a situation where a Sunday Law can pass, especially one couched in such nice terms as a “National Day of Rest”…
What bothers me in all this is that somehow forcing people to worship on Sunday is supposed to make everything better. Why? How? It’s ridiculous when you think about it.
Never mind that the Bible, when you study it, says quite clearly that Sabbath is the proper day of worship. Never mind that the Bible talks about religious tolerance. Never mind that other religions worship on the Sabbath or on Friday. Never mind that forcing people to worship the way you want them to worship never works out. Never mind that God doesn’t force people to believe in Him, but He gives them free will to choose what to do with their lives. Never mind that the US is a country whose very foundations were built on the precepts of religious freedom. No, somehow legislating a day or worship will make everything better. And of course, Sunday is picked because it is the day when most people in this part of the world go to church (or would go to church, if they did go to church) even though it is not the Biblical day of worship.
In effect, when that law gets passed, and it will get passed in the near future, because the Bible prophesies that it will get passed, what will have happened is that government will have effectively entered into an unholy marriage with religion. It means a return to the days of religious persecution that have haunted our collective histories as countries of this world. Sure, the National Day of Rest sounds good, but make no mistake about it, it is, at its core, as evil as the Inquisition. It is the start of religion once more dictating how governments will behave.
Don’t believe me? Read up on Bible prophecy and make up your own mind. I recommend the following resources:
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.
July 5, 2006 § Leave a Comment
Dishonest judges, out to profit and cause harm, are severely chided and threatened with divine punishment in this psalm. The punishments David (or the author of the psalm) has in mind for them are quite un-Christian, and truly violent. Here’s a sample: “The upright will rejoice to see vengeance done, and will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.” I doubt a truly upright person would wish this sort of vengeance, or would share a desire to bathe his or her feet in blood.
As disgusting as this psalm gets in its imagery, it is interesting to follow the Psalms. Unlike any other book of the Bible, each is different. It’s a self-contained prayer to God, and the author is usually unknown. Sure, David is thought to be the author of most of them, but when one compares his life with the words of these psalms, it’s hard to believe he wrote them. Some, like this, are so violent, so un-Godly, so unlike the David that Samuel describes, that I have to believe the author is someone else, someone less knowledgeable of God and His ways. And that’s what’s captivating about the Psalms. You get to see the point of view of various people who wrote their prayers down. You get to shudder in disgust, or feel the joy of a shared experience with God. You see all things, and you get to critique what you find is wrong. You can compare and see where different people were in their relationship with God at different times in their lives. At the very least, it’s insightful, and usually, it’s inspiring. Sometimes, it’s truly awesome. This psalm, however, is just plain misguided.
May 20, 2006 § Leave a Comment
I read this psalm repeatedly, over multiple days, before I wrote about it. Every time I read it, what I’m going to talk about stuck out at me like a sore thumb. I just couldn’t get past it. Fair warning: what I’m going to say will go contrary to what you might believe about this psalm – after all, this is known as David’s great confession.
Well, I think it’s David’s not so great, quite incomplete, confession. There are two verses that illustrate this point. Please understand I’m not judging him. Read till the end, and you’ll see my point – that the onus is ours to make our prayers better, in particular when confessing something. David’s omissions in this psalm are used as illustrations.
Verse 4: “Against you, you alone, I have sinned, I have done what you see to be wrong…” Did he? History shows that he not only sinned against God, he sinned against many people. First, against Uriah by killing him, against Bathsheba by drawing her into adultery, against their unborn son, who later died because of his sin, and finally, against his nation, to whom he should have been a better example. There is no mention of this in the psalm, unfortunately.
Verse 5: “Remember, I was born guilty, a sinner from the moment of conception…” That’s like a criminal saying in court that he did it because of original sin. It’s a poor excuse at best, and it’s a shame that he brings it into what’s supposed to be a prayer of contrition for some dastardly acts. He makes matters worse by saying this in the next sentence: “But you delight in sincerity of heart…” Yes, that is true, but I am hard pressed to find true sincerity in this prayer. I’d really like to know what God thought of this prayer when He first heard it.
Can you see how much better and complete this prayer would have been if he had admitted all to God, and not played the blame game? These two things were so important to his prayer, and they’re just as important in each of our own prayers.
Let’s face it, we alone decide whether to sin or not. We have complete freedom of will – unless we’re mad – and so we can’t blame others or Adam and Eve for what we ourselves do. What’s more, we owe it to God – if we are to expect full pardon – to make a complete confession, where we don’t skirt the real issues. We can’t fool God – He sees right through us. It’s not as if we’re less guilty if we confess less. It only makes us look worse in the end.
May 8, 2006 § 1 Comment
I’ve read this psalm in the King James Version and in the New Jerusalem Bible, and it just doesn’t read like a normal psalm to me. It reads more like praises sung by a fawning scribe to some king on the occasion of his wedding.
It seems my opinion is shared by others – in the footnotes of the NJB, it says: “According to some scholars, this Psalm may be a secular song to celebrate the marriage of an Israelite king, Solomon, Jeroboam II, or Ahab (whose bride was a tyrian princess, 1 K 16:31). But the Jewish and Christian tradition understand it as celebrating the marriage of the messianic King with Israel…” (NJB, p. 859).
I just can’t see this is a Messianic psalm, tradition or no tradition. It simply doesn’t have the reverence due God. Instead, it has plenty of flattery, and I would even say the writing borders on blasphemous. In the KJV, verse 6 reads: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.” One would think from reading this that we’re talking about God here. Yet verse 7, the very next verse, reads: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Clearly, we’re talking about a human being, otherwise the term “fellows” wouldn’t be used. Furthermore, the process of anointing with oil was traditionally used on prophets and on kings, not on God. God doesn’t need to be anointed, He is God. When He was on earth, Jesus was never anointed, He was baptized, and that only to fulfill prophecy and set an example for us.
Yes, some parallels can be drawn between the other verses in this psalm and similar Bible passages, but I believe they’re simply that: similarities. At this point in time, I’m of the opinion that this psalm isn’t addressed to God. I welcome your feedback though, perhaps you’ll manage to change my mind by pointing out your insights.