Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Discernment’s Lack of Discernment

It’s a new season, spring is coming to an end and summer is being ushered in. With that, yet another discernment ministry controversy that shouldn’t be.

It’s not my purpose here to discuss the scandal-of-the-month. Rather I wish to address the core problem that I’ve seen come up time and again with para-church ministries devoted to “discernment.” I’ve been a Christian for nearly two decades, and have seen many rise to national and international prominence, only to crash hard and leave people bitter and angry. As the internet becomes ubiquitous, they spawn acolytes that run blogs and spend copious amounts of time and energy on social media “exposing” every false teacher they can find. Like a child with a hammer, everything they see becomes a nail.

To be fair, I’ve seen many discernment ministries start off strong, and remain that way (sometimes) for many, many years. They’re able to properly spot error, warn believers that it’s there, and steer people away from it. They perform a valuable service to Christ’s church. Sadly, however, most that I’ve seen eventually lose their proper focus. Things quickly go from strong and valuable, to dangerous and ill-serving.

What causes the inevitable fall? Well, there are many possibilities, all ultimately pointing to our common, sinful nature. However, it all often boils down to following. The discernment ministries gather such an impressive following that they must do what they can to maintain and/or grow the following, lest their ministry shrink and die. It’s a loss of focus on whom they serve.

It was easier for me to see the problems with good discernment ministries gone bad by looking at the good discernment ministries that are still good. So which ones do I consider to be good? There are just a few, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say or do. Justin Peters and Chris Rosebrough are two good ones around today, and the late Ken Silva is a third that we’re at a loss not having with us any longer. (Note, I see a difference between apologetics ministry and discernment. Typically, apologetics ministries are good at avoiding the problem I’m about to discuss with discernment ministries. I don’t see any difference between self-described discernment ministries and polemics ministries; they end up being different sides of the same ministerial coin.)

Justin Peters has a ministry that educates people on the heresies within the Word-Faith movement. He will get into other areas that have a lot of overlap with Word-Faith, but Word-Faith is his strength, and he rarely wanders more than arms-length from it.

Chris Rosebrough is very strong on New Apostolic Reformation, Emergent Church, and the Seeker-Driven movements. His daily internet show, Pirate Christian Radio, focuses on comparing bad teaching in churches to what the Bible says, and most often focuses on these areas. Chris, like Justin, knows his strengths, and sticks to them.

Where the good ministries gone bad start their downward trend is burning out on their strengths. They build a sizable following by rightly calling out error in an area they have taken time to become knowledgable in. Eventually, though, they end up getting to a place where they cannot grow any more without making changes. Some of them have put aside past careers, and have become dependent upon the financial support that their ministries generate. To stop growing means certain financial ruin.

The only way to grow is to expand the focus. No longer can they educate only on the area that made their ministries thrive, they have to find more. This is where they inevitably fall apart. They become a hammer, looking for nails. Now, everyone who teaches a squishy (yet not necessarily heretical) teaching is seen as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Articulating a prayer in the wrong way becomes a focus of their attention. No longer do these ministries go after just wolves, they have to turn their attention to wayward sheep (and often the sheep aren’t even wayward, they’re just doing things differently.) At this point, things escalate, and we end up with the seasonal controversy. Heels dig in, and battle lines are drawn. It never ends well, and it never benefits the Lord’s Church.

The alternative to growth into areas outside of their expertise is to account for the growth that comes in your followers over time and their inevitable move onto other things. They’ve gotten as much out of the ministry as they can and they find other ministries that help them grow in other areas. This means that you’re always looking for new followers who aren’t strong in the area that these ministries focus on. I like Chris Rosebrough, but I am familiar with the teachings of the churches that he critiques, and no longer need his commentary to know what’s wrong with it. I listen to “Pirate Christian Radio” only very occasionally. That’s okay. There are many people out there that don’t have the experience or wisdom to see the error in New Apostolic or Seeker-Driven, and they can benefit from time spent listening to Chris. He has a fun personality too, so he can entertain while he teaches.

Apologetics ministries may have problems, but they rarely have the same problem as discernment ministries. It takes time to study a false system and learn how to engage it with the Gospel. Years may be spent learning the beliefs of a cult, or the doctrines of a false religious system. There’s too much invested to start over and try another cult or religion. Apologists more often plant their flag and do their work, they don’t trouble themselves with growth, and most often growth is not necessary to their continued existence.

I’ve learned, after nearly two decades, never to become too invested in discernment ministries. Support and follow them when they’re strong, but be willing to rebuke them when they lose focus. Don’t put them on a pedestal. Don’t invest in them as super-human heroes. Recognize that they’re sinful humans like the rest of us.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

This post is a bit long. If you wish to skip the story behind the question that instigated this post, feel free to move down to the tweet that is embedded below and begin there.

Last night I went to be in the live audiance of The Late Debate, a local political radio talk show. I walked in a few minutes after the show started, and they were discussing gay “marriage”, which is a hot-button issue right now in Minnesota. (Last November, a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to forever define marriage as between one man and one woman was defeated, and the Democrats took control of both houses of the legislature – already controlling the Governorship, and it’s presumed that they will pass a bill to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples).

As I walked in, their liberal guest, known to the Minnesota politcal world as “Two-Put Tommy” (Google it, I’d rather not reward him with a link), was in the middle of a screed against Christians, the primary opponents to the bill. He was chastizing Christians for cherry-picking the Biblical commands that they wish to “enforce” on everyone. His opinion seemed to be that homosexuality was only really discussed in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament (if I understand his thinking correctly) should have been made null and void by the New, which he asserts doesn’t address homosexuality.

When I got home, I posted a series of tweets addressing my frustration over such argumentation, which certainly isn’t unique to Tommy. It’s actually pretty much standard fare for non-Christians (or nominal Christians) who take issue with the moral views of Christians. There is nothing that frustrates me more about non-Christians than when they make Biblical arguments with Christians. It’s is extremely rare that they’ve ever actually read the Bible, and if they have they don’t make any effort to understand it in any meaningful way. Ask them what kind of Systematic Theology they subscribe to, or the Hermeneutical method they use to understand scripture and you’re likely to get a blank stare as an answer. Clearly they use the hostile Liberal media Hermeneutic of “it means what I think it means,” and their approach to Systematic Theology is similar.

Specifically what I proceeded to address in my Twitter posts was that there are actually three different forms of Law in the Bible: Civil, Ceremonial, and Moral. The Civil Law was their governmental law. It applied to that people at that time, in that place. It does not apply to anyone today, anywhere in the world, not even modern Israel.

The Ceremonial Law was their religious law. It involved things like animal sacrifice, dietary restrictions, and circumcision, among other things. That is what defined Judaism then, and still defines Judaism today. This is the Law that “went away” under the New Testament (it was always intended as a means of showing that we can’t acquire salvation on our own, we’re dependent upon the grace of God – Galatians 3:23-24).

The Moral Law is what Christians refer to in public discourse. The Moral Law applies to all people, at all times, and in all places. The foundation for the Moral Law is the Ten Commandments, though even they are divided in their application. The first tablet (commandments 1-5) reflect the nature of how man is to relate to God. If we’re going to talk about “separation of church and state”, these are the prerogative of the church. The second tablet (commandments 6-10) reflect the nature of how man is to relate to other men (I’m using “man” and “men” generically, of course, women are included). These commandments are: 6) Do not murder; 7) do not commit adultery; 8) do not steal; 9) do not lie; and 10) do not covet (often addressed in civil law under various conspiracy laws).

There is a lot more to be said on this, but my point is to set the stage to answer a question that was asked of me in response to my series of tweets. Jack Tomczak, one of the hosts of “The Late Debate”, and I have been following each other on Twitter for some time, and have conversed on many issues via Twitter. He takes issue with my understanding of morality and moral law (religiously he is a cultural Catholic, and politically he has strong Libertarian sympathies – we’re similar politically, but differ over issues like marriage). Jack subscribes to the main-stream Libertarian view on marriage that marriage is a religious rite and institution, and it would be better for the state to cease involvement in marriage altogether- stop issuing marriage licences and stop offering special benefits to married people such as tax credits. Because he sees it as a religious affair, he sees all arguments for the preservation of traditional marriage, and state recognition thereof as ultimately being religious in nature.

My view is that religion and morality have a lot of overlap, but morality is not necessarily religious in nature. Religious values are a subset of morality. Everything religious should be moral, but not everything dealing with morality is necessarily religious.

Because Jack doesn’t see homosexuality as immoral, and I do; coupled with his view of morality and religion being indistinguishable from each other, he asked the following question:

I think Jack meant Luke 18:9-14, which says, in the English Standard Version:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I can only presume that Jack is asking if I’m being a bit self-righteous in my views on homosexuality. I understand that thinking, but let me address it why that is not the case.

First of all, I’d like to point out that this is a parable. A lot of people have opinions on what parables are supposed to mean, but let me quote Jesus himself rather than giving my opinion. In Matthew 13, Jesus’ disciples ask him why he speaks in parables:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

   “You will indeed hear but never understand,
     and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
   For this people’s heart has grown dull,
     and with their ears they can barely hear,
     and their eyes they have closed,
   lest they should see with their eyes
     and hear with their ears
   and understand with their heart
     and hturn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

In other words, it was meant to be confusing. Also, those who do understand it do so not of themselves, but because God himself has gracefully given them understanding. I have no grounds to boast to Jack that I understand this parable while it seems that he does not.

The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is one that goes straight to the heart of the Gospel. The Pharisee represented a religious system that says “do x and you’ll be saved.” That runs antithetical to the Gospel, which says that you can’t do anything to be saved, your salvation is a gracious and unmerited gift from God.

I understand my own sin. Like every other Bible-believing Christian, I hate the sin that is in myself more than anything else in the world. I hate the sin in myself more than the sins of other people. I understand that because of my own sin, I am not righteous, and I deserve the judgment of God.

The people in my discussion with Jack, those who are irreligious, homosexual, and wish to marry, are not represented at all in this parable. The Pharisee is the religious institutional leadership who arrogantly believe that their position within the religious system makes them better than everyone else, and worthy of Heaven. The tax collector is the repentent sinner who knows that he’s got an appointment in God’s courtroom, where he’ll be found guilty and punished. He calls out to the Judge for mercy, which is what the Judge is looking for. The irreligious person isn’t in the parable at all. He just doesn’t care. He lives his life as he sees fit and doesn’t consider the consequences. He’s not up at the Temple praying as these two are, he’s down in his house fornicating with his neighbor’s daughter.

I’m the tax collector in that parable. Not only am I grateful for the unmerited salvation that I have been given through Jesus Christ, I want others to come to the same knowledge of salvation as well.

And Jack, I’d love to explain the Gospel in full to you sometime. Perhaps next time I am able to join the Late Debate crowd on a Friday evening, we can discuss it in more depth.

Happy Reformation Day!

In honor of the 492nd anniversary of the Reformation, I give you the Reformation Polka, and all 95 of Luther’s Theses:

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to penitence in one’s heart; for such penitence is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward penitence) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean “all” in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope’s indulgences;
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.
  31. One who, bona fide, buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means if letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.
  38. Yet the pope’s remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, form as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men’s consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters if indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That these treasures are note temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets to-day which they use to fish for men of wealth.
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favors, are seen to be, in fact, a favorite means for money-getting.
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence;
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in 1 Corinthians. 12.
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity;
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,-why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?
  86. Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect penitence, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he not suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells;
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Is it Really Hatred?

The Christian Worldview is often misunderstood, and often deliberately mischaracterized. The reality is that we begin with an understanding of the inherent evil that is within us all. Every man, woman and child ever born (excepting only Jesus Himself), has within himself a selfishness and desire for the destructive that he cannot avoid. Left to ourselves, without the constraints of Law, we desire to lie, cheat, steal, kill, maim, overpower, plunder, rape, and otherwise destroy everything around us.

On the other hand, God has set up constraints to mitigate those desires to large degree and keep us from destroying ourselves and each other. The first restraint we encounter in life is our families. In even the most dysfunctional families, children learn there are limits they cannot exceed without consequences. Outside the family, God sets up governments to constrain us. Even the most tyrannical governments, such as the one in North Korea, limits are set that keep the people from destroying each other. Ironically, in the tyrannical governments, it is the wickedness of the leadership that keeps the wickedness of the population in check. Gangs and mobsters loath competition.

Christians recognize God’s Law as well. We understand that staying within the limits of the 10 commandments (the foundation for God’s Law) benefits us all. It removes from us the notion that we can do as we will, including harming others, but does the same to them so they will not harm us. Furthermore, it really is amazing to consider the often unforeseen consequences of our actions that are avoided when we stay within the bounds of God’s law. For example, if we obey the 7th commandment, You shall not commit adultery (recognizing this is intended to cover all forms of sexual sin including fornication), we will not encounter such consequences as unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. If you think about it, syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, and all other sexually transmitted diseases could be wiped out in a single generation if people would obey God’s order and engage in only one sexual relationship in their lifetimes. While it is possible to contract these diseases in other ways, it is much more rare and controllable.

Because we find ourselves in a position where we are all inclined to evil, and still find ways to commit evil deeds despite the limitations God has placed before us, we are left hopeless, helpless, and without excuse before Him. He has said in His revelation to mankind (the Bible) that sin (violation of His law) requires judgment. Crime requires punishment. If we were to stop there, we would all be facing severe punishment for our deeds, and no one would be left guiltless. Fortunately, God loves us so much that while we were still in a state of rebellion against Him and His law, He sent His only and perfect son, born of a virgin, to stand in our place on Judgment Day. However, there are conditions. First, we are required to repent. That is to say, we must agree with God that what we do is wicked, and we must stop doing it. We can not continue justifying our actions, which we know deep within our souls to be wrong. Second, we must place our trust in the atoning death of Jesus in our place. What that means is that we cannot delude ourselves by thinking that “going straight” and doing nothing but good deeds for the rest of our lives will justify us on judgment day. The simple fact is that once a crime is committed, no good deed will erase it. By trusting Jesus, we acknowledge that we deserve judgment, but also recognize that he stepped in and took that judgment in our place. We did the crime, He did the time, so to speak.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at the state of the world. Wickedness abounds. The Christian has recognized it, and dealt with it. The non-Christian continues unabated. Christians, filled with the love that it took for God to rescue us from our situation, in turn love God and fellow man. It is from that love that we we endure mocking, scorn, loss of friendships, division of families, and general persecution from a wicked world in order to share the Good News that God has provided a way out. He has given us salvation from not only the eternal consequences of our wickedness, but also an appreciation for the benefits of obedience to His law in this life.

I recently posted a Youtube video by comedian/magician Penn Jillette. Despite being an avowed atheist, and thoroughly rejecting the claims of Christianity, including what I’ve laid out here, he had the intellectual honesty to admit that it would be downright hateful of a Christian to believe what I’ve stated above, and do nothing to share it with others. I was a bit surprised by his understanding of the Good-will of the Christian he encountered.

On the other hand, Jillette is in a small, and shrinking, minority among the vocal unbelieving world. The more common response is much more antagonistic, if not violent. That of homosexuals is perhaps easiest to point to as exemplary. As a Christian, I don’t see homosexuality as any lesser or greater a sin than those which I am guilty of myself. However, it’s quite visible. I know of no other sin that has parades, festivals, or benefits to highlight it. In addition, opposition to it is painted as hatred. But is it really? If I firmly believe a sin (or in this case a lifestyle of sin) to be destructive, not only within this life, but in the next as well, is it really hatred to speak up about it?

Setting aside the eternal aspect of sin, there is a ton of truth about homosexuality to suggest that it should be avoided at all costs. Disease rates among homosexuals are off the charts in comparison to heterosexuals, even among the promiscuous. (I note at this point that, as a Christian, I see heterosexual fornication as just as much a sin as homosexual sex). I have never talked to a homosexual who didn’t know someone who has been infected by the HIV virus, and most know someone who has died. Domestic violence rates are much higher as well. These statistics, and others, are explained in much more detail in a report by the Traditional Values Coalition (pdf).

Why would it be considered hatred for my to want the best for my fellow man, including homosexuals? I don’t want them dying of avoidable diseases. I don’t want them victimized by domestic violence. And above all, I don’t want them to face judgment for their sins before God without a savior.

On the other hand, there are millions of people who wish that sinners, including homosexuals, would be left alone. They want to be left to contract deadly diseases. They want to be left to be physically abused by the people around them. They want to go unchallenged in their destructive behavior. It is like a blind man walking toward a 1,000-foot cliff, calling those who warn him of the dangers ahead “hateful.”

As Penn Jillette said, how hateful would we have to be to remain silent?

Followup: God’s Corrective Action

It’s been two weeks since the events of my previous post. In that time I have had the opportunity to discuss it more with others. I have found some people that whose opinions I greatly respect, and often influence my own, take exception to my view as expressed on August 21. I would like to address it and reflect upon it.

The most compelling argument against viewing weather-related events the way I did in my previous post is that we have no reliable and consistent way to exposit the weather. It has also been noted that it falls under the logical fallacy known as Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc. This fallacy states that because A follows B, B must have caused A. This is an excellent point to be made about events such as a tornado hitting a church denominational meeting in which the members are about to vote to endorse sinful acts and lifestyles as acceptable. However, one cannot just assume that this fallacy is in play here.

The same person that suggested Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc has taught for years that truth can be gleaned from General Revelation, that is revelation through nature. In fact, he received a college degree in Chemical Engineering, which depends on consistent scientific principles learned through general revelation. A follows B observations are at the heart of scientific observation, and the hypotheses that lead to established norms within the scientific realm. Thus, it is not unreasonable to ask questions based on consistent observations that when people do X, God seems to react by sending natural or otherwise uncontrollable disaster (it could be something like a stock market crash, which is certainly not an act of nature). Ironically enough, such disasters are often referred to as Acts of God. In other words, were this an isolated incident, accusations of Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc would be justifiable. Even is such ‘A follows B’ observations are consistent and repetitious, Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc may be at play, but we will never know if we refuse to ask the questions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming that Acts of God are something that can necessarily be investigated through scientific (naturalistic) inquiry. However, the principles of scientific inquiry, in conjunction with theological examination could lead to a proper conclusion. While I cannot exposit the weather, the proper response to curious weather events, from a Christian perspective, would be to look to the Bible for answers. A tornado hit Central Lutheran Church and broke the cross off from the roof – at the very hour the ELCA (of which the church was a member, and which was using the church) was to deliberate the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals. The questions to ask are:

  1. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
  2. What does the Bible say about church leadership
  3. Is what the ELCA did consistent with what the Bible said about both homosexuality and church leadership?
  4. If the answer to (3) was ‘Yes’, then this is a clear case of the Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc fallacy
  5. If the answer to (3) is ‘No’, then it is safe to ask further questions, such as: If the ELCA acted inconsistently with the Word of God in regards to homosexuality and church leadership, is it possible that the tornado that hit their church at the very hour that they discussed the issue was God’s way of encouraging the ELCA to reconsider their view?

This same friend that exhorted not to try to exposit the weather pointed out that after the tornado broke the cross off the top of the Central Lutheran church steeple, it lifted, the clouds broke, and the sun shined on downtown Minneapolis. If we were to try to glean special revelation from the weather, the ELCA may have reason to believe that the sun shining so quickly after the tornado hit was God’s way of saying that judgment is over and He is instituting a “new beginning” in regard to the issue at hand. Fair enough, but if both sides use the event as a reminder to look to the whole of scripture, what will be the lesson learned? Is there scriptural precedent for God changing His moral Law? (Of course not, He has changed His ceremonial law, but never His moral law.)

When I see such events, I see two different views of scripture rushing to judgment. The Liberals, who are quick to diminish the significance of scripture by allegorizing everything, will cast off such events as this as irrelevant to the issue they are facing, or will reinterpret the allegory to fit the occasion. On the other hand, in an attempt to be true to the scripture (reading with authorial intent in mind), many conservatives are afraid to even ask the questions. While I certainly respect their allegiance to the scripture, and find their view much more convincing than that of the Liberals, I would hate to miss the lesson in front of us. I think even the conservatives that disregard weather events like this one will agree that we should all heed the command of the scripture to examine ourselves to see that we are in the Faith. Are we doing anything that is inconsistent with scripture? Is there any reason to avoid the question based on the nature of the reminder to do so?

Piper clarified a few days after writing his piece on the tornado:

Three years ago God sent the tornado of cancer into my life. It split the steeple of my health and shredded the tents of my sexual life. I wrote an article to myself: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. It could have been titled: Don’t waste your tornado. God’s message to me in my tornado was essentially the same as to the ELCA in theirs…

My tornado was a call to repentance. Yours will be too. But that is not Satan’s design. Only God’s. Satan’s design is that you approve your sin. God’s is that you let him forgive it and overcome it.

Regardless of whether God actually sent the tornado, or if it merely happened as an act of nature, using it as a call to repentance will not get anyone in trouble.

God’s Corrective Action

It’s been a few years since I’ve written about the amazing correlation between large-scale events that defy God and corresponding disaster. Back in September 2004, I wrote about Bill Koenig’s research into the U.S. Government putting pressure on Israel on the same day that hurricanes hit our country. Many pass these off as coincidences, but it’s hard to do so when such things are so consistent and so often repeated. In August 2005, he linked Katrina to the Gaza withdrawal. If I remember correctly, there was also a major gay-pride festival going on at the same time, in New Orleans – a bit of a double wammy. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, fires, etc. often occur at the same time the U.S. government is pressuring Israel to give up land, or when there are major events or legislation going on in regards to homosexuality, pornography, or abortion.

With that said, it not only didn’t surprise me to read an article written yesterday by John Piper; I was kicking myself for not having figured it out myself. The ELCA was in town with their annual convention this week. On the agenda was a discussion on whether or not the synod would (or should) allow open homosexuals to serve as clergy. During the very hour the discussion was on the agenda, a tornado formed unexpectedly just south of the convention, moved north to where the convention was being held, then lifted. Fortunately (as far as I know) no one was hurt.

In and of itself, it seems a strange coincidence. However, there is a clearly established history that suggests this was no coincidence. I, for one, praise God that He would interfere in our lives in such a way as to make it clear we are doing wrong. I also praise Him for doing it in such a way as to make Himself clear without hurting anyone, giving them chance to repent.

As Jesus said after a tower fell and killed 18 people, and Piper quoted “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5) Let us not ignore such events, or pass them off as mere coincidence, lest we likewise perish.

How Much Do You Have To Hate Someone…?

I’ve heard that Penn Jillette has said this in the past, but it was refreshing to hear it from his own lips, on video. I certainly pray that one day, someone will share their faith with him, and the Holy Spirit will lift the veil from his eyes, grant him repentance, and he’ll believe. Clearly, he’d be one to spread the Good News of the Gospel if he’d first believe himself.

Bad People Go to Heaven and Good People Go to Hell

Have you ever heard the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” Have you ever wondered the opposite? Why do good things happen to bad people?

The problem is our point of view. Proverbs 20:6 says “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” We all think that we are good people. I have even seen interviews with hardened criminals serving life sentences for horrible crimes say, with a straight face, that they consider themselves to be a good person. Psalm 14:3, speaking of us all, says “There is no one who does good, not even one.

But, you ask, how can that be? People do good all the time. Motorists pull strangers from burning cars, philanthropists give up riches to help needy families, people give kidneys to save the lives of total strangers. Isn’t that good? In a sense, yes! It is good. However, is it enough to say that giving a kidney to a stranger would make a serial rapist a good person in the end? Certainly not, his good deed, being the right thing to do, does not wipe out his crimes. In the case of civil law, as well as God’s law, we are expected to do what is right, but doing right does not erase our evil deeds.

So let’s approach the question of good from God’s point of view. He has given us a simple measure that most people learn about before entering elementary school: the 10 Commandments (also known as “The Law”). Follow along with me to see how you will do on Judgment Day. The 9th commandment, do not lie. Have you ever lied? Even disregarding small, white lies, such as “that outfit looks great on you” when it doesn’t, who among us hasn’t told a whopper? The 8th commandment, do not steal. Have you ever stolen anything? Even something small? Before you say “no”, think about it for a minute. Have you ever downloaded music from the internet? Have you ever gotten paid for time you didn’t work? It is a rare person that can say “no.” How about the 7th commandment, do not commit adultery. This includes fornication. Actually, it’s much stricter than that. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Ouch!! This one gets most people. Have you ever looked at someone with a lustful eye? I won’t ask about every commandment, but let’s end with the 3rd; do not take the name of the Lord in vain. Have you ever used the name of God in place of a four-letter word banned by the FCC? Have you ever said the name of Jesus Christ, not in reverence, but in anger or disgust? Do you realize what you’re doing? What would you say if someone used your mother’s name to express disgust? You are doing that with the God who gave you life, and blesses you with good food and a warm bed.

When I go through the 10 commandments, I fail on every one of them. Even the 6th (murder)? Yep, even the 6th! Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

So, like me, you will have to stand before God one day and give an account of your life. Like me, you won’t do so well. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Isaiah 64:6 says “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Actually, the original Hebrew doesn’t say “filthy garment”, it says “menstruation cloth”. And that’s speaking of your GOOD deeds! Imagine how God sees your sins!! Is it any wonder that Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death“? (Death referring to the spiritual – Hell!)

Well that sounds pretty doom-and-gloom!! Yeah, it does. But there is good news! Remember the title of this post “Bad People Go to Heaven…” While it was intended as an attention grabber, it is also the truth. If all bad people go to Hell, and we are all bad, then we would all go to Hell. So how do bad people go to Heaven? This is the good news of the Gospel. God so loved the world, that He gave his only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Another way of saying this is that you committed the crime, but 2,000 years ago, Jesus stepped in and paid your fine when He died on the cross. It’s an amazing transaction! God must punish sin, but we cannot pay the price of even one sin, and most of us sin every day, no matter how good we try to be. He would not be a just judge if he simply forgave people for their sins and let them go. Imagine if someone raped and killed your mother, and the judge simple forgave him and let him go. You would rightly consider that judge a corrupt person with no sense of decency. But there is no reason the judge cannot pay the penalty on behalf of the accused. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8.

So what must you do? You must do the obvious, Repent! Stop sinning. Forsake your sins! You must also place your trust in Jesus Christ, the way you would trust a parachute when jumping from an airplane. Recognize that it was his death that turns away God’s wrath against your sin.

I know most people who read this will blow it off, but thanks for reading it anyway. Please think about it though. I spent the time writing this because I care about everyone who would read it, and hope to see you all in Heaven with me some day!

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Birth of the Reformation

In honor of the 491st anniversary of the Reformation, I give you all 95 of Luther’s Theses:

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to penitence in one’s heart; for such penitence is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward penitence) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean “all” in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope’s indulgences;
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.
  31. One who, bona fide, buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means if letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.
  38. Yet the pope’s remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, form as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men’s consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters if indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That these treasures are note temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets to-day which they use to fish for men of wealth.
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favors, are seen to be, in fact, a favorite means for money-getting.
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence;
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in 1 Corinthians. 12.
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity;
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,-why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?
  86. Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect penitence, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he not suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells;
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Disproving Gravity

I had a little fun playing around with Google Earth today (work is really slow). I remembered hearing from some Creationists (I think Answers in Genesis) that the elevation of the terrain at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (the top of the canyon) is higher than the terrain outside the canyon. Google Earth seems to suggest that that statement is accurate.

Why is this interesting? Well, let’s start by taking a look at what Wikipedia has to say about how the Grand Canyon was formed:

The longstanding scientific consensus has been that the canyon was created by the Colorado River over a period of six million years, but research released in 2008 suggests a much longer 17 million year time span. The canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles (6.4 to 29 km) and attains a depth of more than a mile (1.6 km). Nearly two billion years of the Earth’s history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. The “canyon started from the west, then another formed from the east, and the two broke through and met as a single majestic rent in the earth some six million years ago. The merger apparently occurred where the river today, coming from the north, bends to the west, in the area known as the Kaibab Arch.”

If the Colorado River carved out the Grand Canyon, then it stands to reason that at one time there was no canyon there at all, just a river flowing along from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. But in order for the river to carve out the terrain where the entrance is now located, it would have had to flow up hill!!! In addition, if Google Earth is accurate, the rim of the canyon increases in elevation at several places in the canyon. It had to go up hill several times!

In other words, to believe the “scientific consensus,” you must suspend logic. You must believe that water is not bound by the laws of gravity. You have to disbelieve the laws of fluid dynamics that state that water will always take the path of least resistance. Take a look on Google Earth. You’ll see that the canyon is carved in a more-or-less east-west direction. As you move your cursor south of the canyon, the elevation drops. So why is the canyon where it is, and not several miles to the south? Folks, the river may have carved the bottom few feet of the canyon, but there is no way that canyon is the work of the Colorado River and nothing else. That canyon has been there at least as long as the river that flows through it, if not longer.

But why, you ask, would the scientific community tell us something that is so easily disproven? The only answer I can come up with is to maintain their story of “millions of years”. I believe that canyon was carved out in a matter of hours, maybe days. I believe it was created as the waters of a global flood receded. The “scientific community” wants to keep all discussion of a global flood within the doors of religious institutions, even if it can explain things much better than can men in pith helmets and lab coats.