Archive for January 15th, 2007

“WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE BIBLE?” Commentary by Roger Oakland

Monday, January 15th, 2007

I meet many people at conferences who come from a wide variety of church backgrounds. They tell me that the church they had attended for years has radically changed. Their pastor no longer teaches the Bible. Instead the Sunday morning service is a skit or a series of stories. The Bible seems to have become the forbidden book. While there are pastors who do still teach the Bible, they are becoming the exception rather than the rule.

So why is this happening? Is this part of the emerging church agenda to re-invent Christianity? Emergent leaders are often quoted as saying that methods of presenting the message must change if we are going to be relevant to our generation.

However, what happens if the message promoted in the name of Christ is no longer based on a chapter and verse. Sound doctrine seems to be taking a back seat to a teaching that no longer offends those who are listening. The measure of success for many pastors today is how many are coming, rather than how many are listening and obeying what God has said in His Word.

In order to support what I am saying, it would be helpful to examine how Pastor Doug Pagitt uses the Bible at his church (Solomon’s Porch). Quoting from his book Church Re-Imagined: The Spiritual Formation of People in Communities of Faith, Pagitt stated:

At Solomon’s Porch, sermons are not primarily about extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives. In many ways the sermon is less a lecture or motivational speech than it is an act of poetry – of putting words around people’s experiences to allow them to find deeper connection in their lives… So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation. [1]

According to Pastor Pagitt, the Bible is not about truth and doctrine but about hopes and ideas and participation. Besides, rather than a pastor teaching the Bible, Pagitt believes there should be equal opportunity for everyone to dialogue in order to come to a consensus of what the Bible might be saying. Pagitt writes:

To move beyond the passive approach to faith, we’ve tried to create a community that’s more like a potluck: people eat and they also bring something for others. Our belief is built when all of us engage our hopes, dreams, ideas and understandings with the story of God as it unfolds through history and through us. [2]

This potluck brand of Christianity that tends to take the Bible lightly has some serious flaws from a biblical perspective. While certain parts of the Bible may be read as poetry, there is much more to know than putting words around people’s experiences.

The Bible tells us that God is always right and man is almost always wrong. When we rely upon human consensus we will end up with man’s perspective and not God’s revelation. This is a dangerous situation that has the potential to lead people astray.

Original Link.

“The Impossible Book” by Jack Kinsella

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Imagine, for a second, that a collection of several dozen books about the cultural, religious and historical heritage of an historical people began to be composed around the fifth century AD.

That isn’t when the collection was completed, but rather, when it started. Since 500 AD, the work had been taken up by forty different individuals along the way, a book here, two books there, etc., with the final book of the collection hitting the news stands in January, 2007.

So, we have the time frame of sixteen hundred years to deal with. Our first author would have composed his historical and cultural work as the Roman Empire began to collapse and the Goths and Vandals laid siege to Rome.

Mohammed had not yet been born. The world was just entering the Middle Ages. The prevailing science said that the earth was flat. The sun revolved around the earth. England was divided into tiny kingdoms. The Dome of the Rock had not yet been built on Temple Mount.

That is our starting point. Now, imagine that a couple of new books were added to the collection about every century or so. Very few of our authors ever meet, most are separated by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles at a time when few could read or write and libraries were about as common as ATM’s.

A couple of books in 500, a couple more in 600, etc., for about six hundred years. That brings us to the period of the Magna Carta, and our collection of books is about one-third finished. A few more centuries, a few more books, and it is half done around the time of Columbus.

A few more books, a few more centuries, and about the time of the American Revolution, our collection is three-quarters complete. And on we go through history: The War of 1812, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the War on Terror. . .and finally, in 2007, the last of the sixty-six books outlining the culture and historical heritage of our imaginary people is complete.

Now, to make it more interesting. Although our authors don’t know each other, lived centuries apart and never read each other’s works before composing their own, the entire collection must read as if it were penned by the same guy.

If we know anything at all about literary history, it is that values, principles and styles change over time. Even in his own lifetime, an author goes through fundamental changes in his own system of values and principles.

As a writer, I can go back and read what I wrote ten years ago and can track how my views have changed and matured over the decade. It is actually quite interesting to see how much my views have changed.

Societies change and mature as well. The Christian Church of AD 500 is not the Christian Church of 2007. But for the sake of this exercise, we must assume that none of those personal, social or religious changes throughout the ages have any effect on our collection of historical books.

The book written in AD 500 and the book finished in 2007 must flow together as seamlessly as if they were written by the same guy on the same week.

Impossible? Sure. If one compared a book on US history published in 1907 with one published in 2007, one would wonder if the two books were even relating the history of the same country.

That’s only a period of one hundred years. To fit within our analogy, they would have to read as if they were written by the same hand.

The first five books of the Bible were written by Moses. Moses was a Hebrew who was raised and was well-versed in what was a thriving Egyptian culture. He was reared in Pharaoh’s court and “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).

It would be natural to imagine that his writings would be heavily influenced by Egyptian thinking—yet they aren’t. Instead they reflect thoughts and principles that remain unchanged after more than 3,000 years.

The Books of the Law contain, for example, considerable information about health and sickness. Notes Dr. S.I. McMillen in his 1972 book, “None of These Diseases”:

“From the record we discover that Moses had so much faith in God’s regulations that he did not incorporate a single current [Egyptian] medical misconception into the inspired instructions … The divine instructions were not only devoid of harmful practices, but had many detailed positive recommendations.”

Now imagine a book of medicine penned in AD 500 in complete harmony with existing medical knowledge in 2007. How amazing is that?

Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible. All the other authors to come later faithfully reflected exactly the same values, despite the cultural, linquistic and scientific advancements that are part of 1600 years of history.

These writers would consist of people from the most diverse backgrounds. Amos was a sheepbreeder and fruit caretaker. David was a shepherd who became a mighty king. Others, such as Daniel and Nehemiah, held high positions in foreign governments.

In the New Testament, the writers consist of several former fishermen (Peter and John), a tax collector (Matthew), a physician (Luke) and several others of different professions.

Few, if any, ever read what had been written before. Even fewer, if any, of the Bible’s authors ever met one another.

One of the foremost Bible scholars of the past century, F.F. Bruce, wrote in his book, “The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible”:

“The Bible is not simply an anthology [a collection of books]; there is a unity which binds the whole together … Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible.”

The narratives are historical, faithfully reflecting society and culture as history and archaeology would discover them thousands of years later. And while there may be disputes among archaeologists about certain details of the accounts, there is a general consensus of the Bible’s accuracy.

Dr. Norman Geisler, professor of theology, summarizes the findings of Biblical archaeology:

“In every period of Old Testament history, we find that there is good evidence from archaeology that the Scriptures speak the truth. In many instances, the Scriptures even reflect firsthand knowledge of the times and customs it describes. While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics.”

Not only is the Bible historically accurate, but when it deals with scientific subjects, it is also reliable. This is one of the reasons the Bible can be accepted as a trustworthy document that should be taken literally.

Although it was not written as a textbook on history, science, mathematics or medicine, when the writers of Scripture touch on these subjects, they were inspired by God not to make mistakes, but to write what was true—sometimes stating facts that scientific advancement would not reveal or even consider for thousands of years.

Isaiah knew the earth was round a thousand years before Columbus set sail for the New World. (“It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth . . . ” Isaiah 40:22)

Job explains the global hydrological cycle three thousand years before science ‘discovered’ it.

Hebrews 1:10-11 confirmed the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (all things deteriorate with time) nineteen centuries before Einstein:

“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment. . .”

How many times has an unbeliever picked up a Bible and sighed to himself, “If I just had proof that God exists, then I would believe.”

How much evidence does one need?

Original Link.

Stand Up for Your Faith, Convert From Islam Urges Christians

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Excellent article from a former Muslim.

(CNSNews.com) – Muslims respect certitude and disdain weakness in exchanges with Christians and are more responsive to principled individuals who are unapologetic in defending their world view, according to a Catholic convert from Islam.

Addressing a seminar in Alexandria, Va., Iraqi-born Daniel Ali, who converted in 1998, discussed some of the key components of his former religion, such as jihad and Islamic views on God.

At a time when Islam is gaining strength worldwide, Ali told fellow Catholics in attendance that the “first line of defense is to know to your faith.”

Catholics must be willing to speak up when their faith is under assault, Ali said.

When Christians engage Muslims, they must avoid the temptation to equivocate in their beliefs in order to appease or keep the peace.

“You cannot flush out Jesus for the sake of getting along with Muslims,” Ali said. “They do not like wishy-washy people. They are much more respectful of those who stand by their convictions.”

Ali advised Catholics to carefully weigh arguments about points of convergence between Christianity and Islam — for instance, the fact the Koran affirms the virgin birth of Jesus and expresses a high regard for Mary.

“Every sentence that comes from Muslims includes a ‘but,'” Ali said. “The beliefs are not the same.” (emphasis mine. -ed)

Ali is co-author of “Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics,” which outlines some of the distinct beliefs of Muslims and what this means for Catholics.

A key point raised in the book, co-written with Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer, concerns Islamic beliefs about Jesus. Although Muslims consider Jesus a prophet, the Koran condemns those who view Jesus as being divine. Muslims also deny Jesus died on the cross.

In his talk, Ali touched on the different meanings of “jihad” and how they relate to contemporary politics. The internal struggle individual Muslims face daily in practicing their faith is described as “greater jihad,” while the combat between Muslims and enemies of Allah is called “lesser jihad.”

It is this second definition that should concern Christians and other non-Muslims, Ali said.

“It is very sad that tragedy makes us pay attention to most challenging moment of our time,” Ali said in reference to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. “When Muslims say they want to take the West, they are not joking. I know their minds, and I know they mean what they say.”

Ali told Cybercast News Service Catholics should seek to “neutralize” Muslims by being unyielding in their defense of Christian principles.

“It is so American to stand up for what you believe in,” he said. “But when it comes to Christian faith, people are so afraid to speak out.”

Also joining in the discussion was Father Joseph Kenny, a professor at the Dominican University in Nigeria, a country that has seen frequent violent clashes prompted by Muslim extremists’ attempts to promote Islamic law despite the existence of a large Christian minority.

The success Islam is enjoying currently is driven more by a desire to live safely and productively in Muslim-dominated regions than it is by “conviction of truth,” Kenny argued.

Original Link.

Lawmakers Demand Gov’t Action as Border Patrolmen Prepare for Jail

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Continue to pray for these two men, and a letter to your congressperson would be helpful too.

(CNSNews.com) – Two U.S. Border Patrol agents who were “prosecuted for doing their job” in the view of many members of Congress, will begin long jail terms next week unless President Bush or the Department of Justice intervenes.

More than 20 lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Wednesday, expressing their concern about the case and asking him to act.

Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean face sentences of 11 and 12 years in federal prison respectively after being convicted on a range of offenses arising from the shooting of a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler.

The lawmakers asked Gonzales not to oppose a motion filed in court that aims to keep the two from having to report to prison next week.

On Feb. 17, 2005, Ramos and Compean were on duty near El Paso, Texas, when they encountered Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila in a van carrying 743 pounds of marijuana. When the agents tried to stop him, he fled. Unable to shake the pursuing agents, he abandoned his van and continued toward Mexico on foot.

The agents’ version of what happened next contradicts Aldrete-Davila’s testimony. The one thing all agree on is that, while fleeing, the illegal alien and drug smuggler was shot. Aldrete-Davila was treated at a hospital in El Paso and then returned to Mexico.

After learning of the shooting, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton sought out Aldrete-Davila in Mexico and offered him immunity from prosecution if he would return to the United States to testify against the two agents.

Ramos and Compean were convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with serious bodily injury, discharge of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, willfully violating Aldrete-Davila’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure and obstruction of justice for intentionally defacing the crime scene, lying about the incident, and failing to report the truth.

The initial immunity offer covered Aldrete-Davila’s illegal entry into the U.S., the drug smuggling and his unlawful flight from the agents to avoid arrest. Sutton subsequently expanded the immunity to include a subsequent drug offense, when Aldrete-Davila tried to smuggle another 1,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States.

“These two border agents were basically prosecuted for doing their job,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

He called the government’s actions “very disturbing,” claiming that the government chose the side of drug smugglers not “the American people.”

“The government chose sides in this issue, and they chose the wrong side when they decided to prosecute these agents,” Poe said.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who has led efforts to urge the president to pardon Ramos and Compean, called the two agents “heroes.”

“This is one of the worst examples of injustice,” he said. “I am very, very disappointed in the indifference by this White House as it relates to these two men and their families.

“They are an example of being crucified by the federal government, quite frankly,” said Jones.

The congressmen also encouraged the Justice Department to investigate Sutton and allegations that he has a history of pursuing border patrol agents.

Sutton’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment for this article, and a spokesman for Gonzales’ office declined to comment.

Original Link.

Martin Luther King, Jr

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had been graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.

In 1954, Martin Luther King accepted the pastorale of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “l Have a Dream”, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

Original Link.