Friday, March 3, 2017

How Not to Read the Bible

One thing that is true of all human beings is that we learn through experience. We begin life by taking in everything that we can through our senses. Over time we build up an awareness of the people and things that are a part of our environment, at the same time as we learn how to interact with them. This process enables us to develop patterns of behavior that get us what we need and want in life without any thought being given to why we do the things we do. We form these habits because they work, not because they are the right thing to do or even the best way to do it.

As a person matures they may learn that there are good reasons for acting in certain ways and not in others. Virtues may be acquired and bad habits can be left behind, but not always. The virtue of the mind which enables one to judge things rightly is prudence or wisdom. It is linked in many ways to other virtues such as honesty, humility, integrity, and temperance or self-control. Virtues are also acquired through experience. When one is surrounded by people who are honest, and truthful, then not only is it much easier to love and respect these people, it is far more likely that one acquires many of the same virtues through the experience of having seen how these virtues contribute to the goodness of life.

The opposite is also true. If one grows up in a culture which promotes greed, revenge, selfishness, or sexual promiscuity, then it can be far more difficult to acquire the virtues which are in opposition to these vices. With respect to the virtues of the mind, every ideology which promotes a particular agenda and redefines truth as that which conforms to the ideology rather than to reality, is a serious impediment to anyone who seeks the truth. It does not matter whether one is a Marxist, a religious fundamentalist, a materialist, or a radical feminist. Anyone who places some ideology above the truth will not be able to find the truth unless the fundamental disorder present in their mind is corrected.

This is particularly true with regard to how one reads the Bible. If one holds some ideology above the truth, then the truth that the Bible conveys will be rejected whenever it contradicts that ideology. Impose some agenda on the Bible and you will get nothing out of it. Read the Bible with an open mind and you will find the greatest history book ever written and the greatest love story ever told.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jesus' Vision of 2000 Years of History - Luke 21

Luke 21 opens with Jesus and his disciples in the temple when Jesus remarks that the temple would one day be destroyed and not one stone would be left upon another. In amazement the disciples ask, “When will this happen?” Jesus answers their question in the context of revealing to them the series of events which would occur prior to his return in Glory after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.

Jesus first states that there will be false prophets, wars, and insurrections. This was clearly fulfilled by the Jewish revolt and the subsequent destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. Jesus then adds a note of caution when he points out that the end would not follow immediately. Rather there would be many wars, famines, plagues, and great signs from heaven. And even before those events occurred there would be persecution.

In Luke 21:20-24, Jesus speaks again of the destruction of Jerusalem and points out that the Jews would loose control of Jerusalem until the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled. With the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 and the taking of Jerusalem in the war of 1968, Jerusalem is now once again under Jewish control, so that prophesy has also been fulfilled.

In the final prophetic sequence, Luke 21:25-28, Jesus states that immediately before his return there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And that the nations would be distressed and bewildered by the roaring of the sea and waves. If Jesus' reference to the distress caused by the sea is the result of rising sea levels due to global warming, then it will be clear that if sea level continues to rise and this becomes an unrelenting source of world wide destruction that we are near the end of the present age. Finally, exactly what the signs in the heavens are, no one knows but we can be certain that they will be obvious and terrifying to anyone who does not have an unwavering trust in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Salvation History and the Second Coming of Christ

 Jesus told his disciples that before he would return in glory there would be earthquakes, famines, floods, wars, plagues and persecution (Luke 21). In fact these things have been going on for so long that even many Christians no longer believe that Jesus will return to the earth just as he promised he would. What seems like a long time to us however, is in reality a very short time.

Monotheism as we know it began with Abraham some 4,000 years ago. From Abraham to David and the establishment of the kingdom of Israel was one thousand years. From David to Jesus was another thousand years. In about 17 years we will celebrate 2,000 years since the death and resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the Church. So while it is true that God is not bound by any number or specific period of time on earth, it is also true that patterns of harmony and symmetry are both aspects of the very Being of God and of the way in which He reveals himself to us.

Modern forms of communication have made it possible for the Gospel to be preached to the whole world. Hence the task that Jesus gave to his disciples has been fulfilled and the present age of the Church is very close to completion as well. So while is true that no one knows the day or the hour when Jesus shall return, I think that the age of the Church will not extend beyond the end of this century.

In the meantime we should recognize that this is a time of preparation. Those who are not in a right relationship with God will be terrified by the events that will happen at the close of the present age. Only those who trust in Jesus and have taken up their cross and followed him will be able to lift up their heads and rejoice at the coming of the Lord.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Global Warming and the Second Coming of Christ

Anyone who lives near one of the Great Lakes knows that summer cannot get started until all the ice melts. Temperatures away from the lakes are often much warmer in the spring because so much of the heat from the sun is absorbed by the melting ice. Once the ice is gone the temperature increases rapidly until the average temperature is only slightly lower than the surrounding area.

The same principle applies to global warming. Changes will at first be small, but if all the ice melts, the increase in temperature world wide will be dramatic. The first and most important sign of this happening will be the melting of nearly all the ice in the Arctic Ocean. If that happens, then warming temperatures in the North Atlantic could lead to the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, and that would trigger events of Biblical proportions. The sudden shift of weight off Greenland and into the ocean basins would crack loose the earth's plates and produce a level of earthquake and volcanic activity far greater than anything any human being has ever experienced before. The resulting political and economic chaos will be even more catastrophic.

Now one might dismiss all this as mere speculation, but then again it was Jesus who told us of the events that would signal his immanent return. So along with earthquakes famines and plagues Jesus stated that “there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations bewildered by the roaring of sea and waves.” (Luke 21:25)

While one might wonder about these other events, the idea that nations would be distressed and bewildered by the sea is something that would only happen if sea level rises enough to inundate coastal areas around the world. If cities around the world are destroyed one after the other, nation will be distressed by their shear inability to cope with such an unprecedented level of destruction.

How likely it that any of this will happen? The models currently being employed by climate scientists point to an increase in sea level of 3 to 6 feet before the end of the century. However, if all the ice on Greenland were to melt the sea level would rise 22 feet. In any case, anything over 3 feet would be extremely destructive and anything over 6 feet would be apocalyptic.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Gate

Of all the metaphors that Jesus uses to explain who he is, Jesus' claim that he is the gate is probably the most under appreciated. Nevertheless, the meaning of the metaphor is abundantly clear. Those religious leaders who do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God are thieves and robbers who do not enter through the gate but come teaching their own doctrines and end up leading the people astray. A true shepherd recognizes Jesus' authority for he is the Word of God, co-eternal with the Father, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepard, and the Light of the world. Finally Jesus plainly states, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the Gate. If you want to know the Father and enter the Kingdom of God you must go through him.

The Gospel of John is the greatest theological treatise ever written because it presents the awesome truth of who Jesus is in conjunction with accounts of all those events which prove that Jesus really is who he said he was. If you do not believe it is all true, exactly what are you putting in its place?

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Real God Delusion

There are not many people who will come right out and say that they think that they are God. However, there are lots of people who will tell you that they think that they have the right to make up the moral rules by which they live, and then in an astonishing act of sheer arrogance, expect everyone else to respect their rules as if they were objective universal absolute moral laws. These people apparently think that they are God even if they do not say so in public.

The recent attacks on Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame illustrate this point exactly. Mr. Robertson stated his belief that homosexual acts are sinful based on what the Bible says and his intuitive grasp of the natural moral law. The reaction was swift and predicable in terms of the level of outrage and condemnation it expressed. But what is the basis for this reaction? Those who disagree so violently with Mr. Robertson must surely have some well thought out moral principles to justify their claim that homosexual acts are not sinful? As it turns out the entirety of their position is based on the claim that people should be allowed to do whatever they want in terms of their sexual activity as long as the are not directly hurting anyone else.

Interestingly enough this claim has such wide appeal that those who hold it see no need to back it up with anything more substantial. But is it true? Ethics and morality have historically been given the task of explaining to people why they should not do some of the things that they might be tempted to do. Certainly the harm that one’s action might do to others is one good reason for avoiding certain actions, but is it the only reason for accepting restrictions on what we do? Most certainly not.

Self-destructive behavior like drunkenness and gluttony are irrational and immoral and ought to be avoided. Individual acts of polluting the air or water may not directly harm anyone, but when many people do the same thing great harm can result. Hence polluting the physical or the social environment is unethical and immoral. This means that lying cheating and stealing are wrong even if no is directly harmed in any one particular case. In the same way the ethical principles that prohibited every form of sexual immorality are still sound, and they shall endure long after the current cultural milieu of decadent liberalism and moral relativism has passed away.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Will the Holy Spirit Choose the Next Pope?

The question as to whether the Holy Spirit will choose the next pope cannot be answered as simply as either yes or no. To paraphrase St. Thomas (Summa Theologica I Q. 22 aa. 3-4.) God wills contingent things to happen contingently. This means that the Holy Spirit can and in fact will choose the next pope, but will do so in such a way that fully respects the deliberations of the conclave. If the Cardinals are open to the Holy Spirit they will concur in that choice. If not, they will choose someone else and the Church will suffer, and yet it will survive. All of human history follows the pattern of God commanding or proposing the best course of action in every situation, with humans sometimes saying yes to God and sometimes saying no. Why should this situation be any different? I invite everyone to pray that like Mary the Cardinals say YES to God.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Moral Relativism

A common misunderstanding is that a moral relativist rejects morality. However, just because someone is a moral relativist does not mean that he or she cannot have strongly held moral values. A moral relativist believes that any society can create and enforce whatever  moral laws it needs in order to function and survive. So if  some people feel the need for a right to abortion, pornography, divorce, contraception, same sex marriage, etc. in order  to pursue life and happiness as they see it, without the inconvenience and unpleasantness of having to deal with criticism and restrictions from those who disagree with them, then they also believe it is their right to silence their critics by any means necessary to achieve their goals.

A nation that no longer respects Divine Law nor Natural Law is a nation in which there is no basis for any consensus as to what constitutes a good life or a good  person. So it is that in a relativistic society there is no basis for any agreement between left and right, progressive and conservative, or secular and religious. There is only power politics and the principle that in a relativistic society might makes right.

This is what Pope Benedict meant by the “dictatorship of relativism”.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Atheism and Skepticism

Since atheists are fond of using skeptical arguments to attack theism, I think it is appropriate to apply a little skepticism to atheism itself. So I ask the following question: How could anyone know if they were deceived by an evil demon into believing that God does not exist? Furthermore, if a person was trapped inside a matrix of evil lies and deception, is there anyway to escape and come to know the truth about God?

Certainly it is more likely that an atheist could be deceived by an evil spirit into not believing in God, than it is that all of us could be completely deceived about everything as Descartes proposed in his Meditations. Hence, this is an argument that the atheist should take seriously.

It should also be noted that the empirical sciences are of no help here because for the deception to be successful demons could not leave behind any testable evidence. If there was proof that demons existed, that would constitute strong evidence for the existence of God. So demons must  remain hidden and work through nonphysical means. 

So what would the deception look like? It would begin by asserting that all knowledge is acquired through the senses with the aid of the scientific method. Scientism, materialism, and naturalism provide the foundation for the deception. Knowledge of God is ruled out a priori.

Secondly, it would promote immorality as normal. Nothing keeps the mind from thinking about God any better than the vices of greed, lust, and pride.. A culture that promotes mindless consumerism, sexual promiscuity. and  narcissism is perfect for this.

Finally it would mock religion in general and seek to place restrictions on religious speech and expression. Militant secularism and freedom from religion would be promoted as necessary for a healthy society.  If a person never hears about God, then it is much less likely that they will think about God or believe in God.

Since all the elements of the deception are already in place, only a fool or a willing participant in the deception would refuse to investigate the unthinkable alternative. Maybe God actually exists.

Escape from the deception can come about in many ways. The first step is for the atheist to acknowledge the fact that he might be wrong and may have been deceived.

A second step is to consider the fact that everything that actually exists either came from something that actually exists or, is self-existent and exists eternally and immutably. The material things that science studies are all made of parts that can be put together to make something and broken apart and reformed to make something new. There is nothing in the material world that is eternal or unchangeable. The universe that we know is not eternal, it came from something else. That eternal something else that produced our universe cannot itself be composed of material parts for then it would not be self-existent or eternal. It must be immaterial. The immaterial, eternal, and immutable something else is what  philosophers call God.

But what sort of being is immaterial and eternal? The one thing that we know of that is like that is our own minds or souls. Our minds are not bound by time. We can think of the past, the future, and the timeless. Our minds are not bound by space. Our bodies and our brains are in one place and our experience is limited to that place at that time. Our minds however, can be anywhere and we can think about anything that we choose to think about including abstract immaterial things that are not in any particular place or time. Most importantly we can choose to think about God.

Religion is the result of our thinking about God, and even though most of our thoughts about God may be wrong, it is possible that God is also thinking about us and wants us to know him. That is a possibility that is worth investigating. I believe that everyone who seriously seeks to undertake this investigation will eventually know the truth about God and be freed from all deception, but first you have to want the truth and nothing but the truth. Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Who do you say that I am?"

Have you ever wondered why Jesus healed so many people? Why he raised some from the dead? Why he changed water into wine and multiplied the loaves and fish? Why he walked on water and calmed the storm? There are some who think most if not all of these miracles did not happen, but were made up by his disciples in order to create the myth of the god-man. The skeptics and the modernists think that Jesus was just a good man who tried to teach others how to be more kind, more generous, more forgiving, etc. They think that everything else that we find in the gospels is pure fiction.

If these people are correct then the apostles were a strange bunch who were willing to travel to the ends of the earth and eventual die for a story they knew was not true. I think that there is a better way to understand the gospels that makes far more sense, at least to me. I believe that Jesus knew from the very beginning of his ministry that his mission in life was to do something far more than to tell people that they should be nice to one another and try to get along. The reason why Jesus came into this world was to bring salvation to a world that was lost in sin. Everything that Jesus said and did was directed toward the goal of demonstrating the fact that he had the power to bring new life to those who were dead in their sins.

When Jesus healed people it was not just because he felt sorry for them and did not want to see them suffer. Every miracle that Jesus did was done so that people in everyplace and for all time would know that he was who he said he was. He was the Son of God who through his death and resurrection would take away the sins of the world and give eternal life to everyone who believed in him.

There is one catch to all this. If you think that you have not sinned and do not need to be forgiven; or, if you think that you are basically a good person and that going to church once in awhile is enough, then I would suggest that you need to read the gospels and find out what Jesus actually said to the walking dead who thought that they did not need a savior.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Suffering - God's Gift to Mankind

One of the most common arguments against the existence of God is that an all powerful and good God would not allow so much evil and suffering to exist. But think what it would be like if no one ever had to suffer. If everything we ever needed was immediately available to us such that we could get whatever we wanted as easily as picking fruit from a tree, then we would be virtually self-sufficient. We would not need anyone else, including God, for anything. In such a world people would soon come to think of themselves as like God or as equal to God.

 Now consider the fact that for there to be many different individuals, each one has to be different in some way from everyone else. Hence, there would have to be different degrees of intelligence, beauty, or strength for there to be different individuals. In such a world, some might think of themselves as better than everyone else. This might lead to them wanting everyone else to honor or even worship them. The most powerful of them might even try to force others to worship them. Some might resist and join with others to fight against those who would try to dominate them. Soon this perfect world with no suffering would become a world of constant conflict or even outright warfare as competing parties sought to impose their will on others.

 I submit to you my conclusion that a perfect world with no suffering is an illusion that cannot possibly exist in reality. Suffering teaches us the truth about who we are. Suffering teaches us that we need God and we need one another both for our existence and our happiness. Suffering is not a good in itself, but it is necessary for us to learn how to love God and our neighbor. Without suffering love is just a word for an emotion that we may or may not feel. It is suffering that forces to love others in deed and in truth. Suffering forces us to make sacrifices for the good of others with the full knowledge that others have made sacrifices for us. Suffering builds relationships that can last into eternity. Apart from suffering there would only exist isolated individuals who would have no opportunity to fully share in the lives of others.

 Suffering is a great gift even if we find it difficult to accept.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Ascension - One of the Most Important Events in Salvation History

There are those skeptics and modernists who claim that the resurrection is a story told by the early Christians to communicate the way in which they experienced Jesus as alive in their hearts and still present in the community of believers after the crucifixion. Despite the fact that many highly educated people think that this is what really happened, there is one thing that simply does not fit. That is the ascension.

If the disciples were so caught up in their emotions and imagination that they experienced Jesus as still being present with them, where does this story about Jesus being taken up into heaven only 40 days after the resurrection come from? Psychologically it makes no sense. If the memory of Jesus was so strong that it empowered the apostles to go out and preach the gospel to the whole world, that memory would have lasted far longer than 40 days. In fact the New Testament should be full of stories reporting how Jesus appeared wherever the apostles went. But that is not what we find.

What we do find is that the resurrection was followed by the ascension which itself was a bridge to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As fantastic as that may seem to some, it makes perfect sense if that is what actually happened. As a story that is supposed to tells us about what the disciples were feeling, but is not an accurate account of the actual historical events, it makes no sense at all.

I personally find the attempt to explain away the most important events recorded in the New Testament to be incoherent and unbelievable. What do you think?