IMPORTANT HISTORICAL FIGURES [from church history]
- ANSELM- Over the next few months I will do some brief overviews on important historical figures from church history. They will be under a separate section after the same name. Anselm was born in Italy in the year 1033, he eventually became a very influential church teacher and is famous for a few things; he came up with an argument for the existence of God called ‘the Ontological argument’ ontology is a word that means the nature of being. His idea went like this ‘Because there is no other greater conceivable being than God, that means God must exist’ in so many words he said because humans have this conscious belief in God as the greatest being, that therefore he must be that being. I’ll admit when I first read this argument I had some difficulties with it, I think you can find problems with it. But he nevertheless introduced it and it has become one of the classical apologetic arguments for God’s existence. The second major teaching that Anselm gave us was the teaching on the Atonement; Anselm taught that Jesus died to ransom man back to God, the penalty of death was a penalty paid to God. You say ‘what’s so new about that’? Many other church teachers taught that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil, that at the fall of man satan gained dominion over man and that Jesus death purchased us back from satan. Though there is some truth to man being under the dominion of satan after the fall, yet Anselm was ‘more right’ in the way he approached it. As a matter of fact His teaching eventually became the norm for the church. Anselm introduced Reason into the argument for the existence of God. Many teachers used scripture and appealed to the church fathers to prove the reality of God, Anselm was one of the first to lean heavily on logic when arguing for Gods existence. He is considered one of the greats of church history and we still benefit from the influence of Anselm to this day.
 AQUINAS, THOMAS- Thomas is considered to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. Born in Naples around 1225, he studied in Cologne under the Dominican order. During Thomas lifetime there was a rediscovery of the ancient writings of the philosopher Aristotle. Thomas would write commentaries on the philosophy of Aristotle and he would attempt to introduce reason into the arguments to prove the existence of God. He was a follower of that form of Christian teaching called ‘scholasticism’ this method used reason and logical debate to arrive at truth. Other scholars would reject this method [Bonaventure] they felt that using these rationale methods was a contradiction to faith. Thomas would become famous for his ‘five ways’ also referred to as Natural Theology. Thomas taught that there were 5 basic ways man could examine the natural created order and come to a rational belief in the existence of God; Thomas taught that the first cause of all things had to be God, you logically needed a first ‘causer’ to start the ball rolling [prime mover]. John Duns Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas and he disagreed with the scholastic method. Scotus would become famous among the Franciscans; Aquinas would be famous among the Dominicans. Today many Catholic scholars pride themselves in being ‘Thomistic’ in their thought. Thomas also spoke much about ‘just war’ theory, originally introduced by Augustine. He taught that the means of war had to be just in order for the war itself to be ‘justified’; in today’s wars [Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan] I believe the use of unmanned drone attacks that kill civilians can be considered an unjust method. Thomas’ great works are Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae, Thomas is called the ‘angelic doctor’ of the Catholic faith.
 ARIUS- a priest from Egypt who would challenge the deity of Jesus in the 4th century. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternally the Son. He said Jesus was a created being whom the father ‘bestowed’ son ship upon. He taught that Jesus was ‘like God’ but not God. The emperor Constantine would call the famous council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. and the council would agree with Athanasius and say that the Son and the Father were of ‘the same substance’ [homoousios] and Arius’s belief would be rejected. The debate would still rage on thru out the century as Constantine would die and the new emperor from the east would hold to ‘Arian’ views. Eventually Orthodoxy would win out and Arianism would be rejected by the majority of believers. I should note that many of the oriental churches would go the way of Arianism till this day; some of these churches are not like the modern cults that we would automatically reject, but they do hold to beliefs that Orthodox Christianity has rejected. As I have written about before, it’s easy to see how various believers have struggled with these issues over the years, some of the ways people express things can be deemed heresy a little too quickly in my view. There are believers who express the deity of Jesus in ways that some Arians express it, and they are not full Arians! The point being, yes- Arian went too far in his belief that Jesus was a created being, Johns gospel refutes this belief strongly [as well as many other portions of scripture] but too say that Jesus was/is the full expression of the father, because he ‘came out from God’ is also in keeping with scripture. Today we should be familiar with the issues and also use much grace when labeling different groups of believers; and we should strive for a unity in the Spirit as much as possible. As believers we accept the full deity of Christ, one who is of the ‘same substance’ of the father- true God from true God. He who has seen the Son has seen the father- Jesus said to Phillip ‘I have been with you a long time, if you see and know me, you have seen and known my father’ Jesus is God come down in the flesh to dwell among men, the true Immanuel, God with us.
 FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER [and Hitchens] - Okay, before I get too far behind in our study of Modernity- let’s do another post. F.S. [the guy above- don’t want to keep writing the name] was one of the most influential thinkers/theologians to come at the turn of the 19th century. He too challenged the sterile rationality of Enlightenment thinkers- and tried to craft a way to look at religion that was unique. Instead of religion being this dry approach to the world and existence as mediated thru mans senses [natural religion- Kant, etc.] he said religion was actually meant to be this experience that man has as he interacts with the whole of creation- an ‘intuition- sense’ that is more than something we can dissect and put under the microscope of reason. F.S. was a sort of go between- he was both trained in academia- a true intellectual- and also a ‘man of the cloth’. He knew the arguments that some of the Romantics made against ‘dead religion’ and he challenged their rejection of religion and wrote the famous book ‘On religion- speeches to its cultured despisers’ in 1799. The book was targeted toward his fellow academics in the universities of Germany who scoffed at religion- he appealed to their sense of art and beauty as true Romantics- and made the case that true religion is ‘the sense and taste for the infinite’ that is religion can be an expression [above reason] that seeks to embrace this sense of the infinite, this ‘feeling’ in man that there is more to life than meets the eye- and you can be ‘cultured’ and religious at the same time.
Okay- actually this is a good spot to jump into more of my critique of Christopher Hitchens book ‘god is not great’. Hitchens fits in good with the ‘cultured despisers’ that F.S. was writing to. I have found some points of agreement with Hitchens; he sees the Catholic church’s stance on no condom use as dangerous- especially in places like Africa- because condoms can be an effective way to reduce the AIDS virus. As a Protestant, I am not against condom use/contraceptives- but the flaw in Hitchens argument is he presents the case in a way that says ‘see- if it weren’t for the church’s teaching on condoms- Africa would not be in this epidemic’. Point of fact- one of the major ways AIDS is spreading on the continent is thru the vocation of male prostitution and other promiscuous type lifestyles. Would Hitchens have us believe that as the male prostitutes are getting ready to ‘go to work’ that they look in the drawer- see the condom and say ‘geez- I would really like to use a condom- but my strict adherence to Catholic doctrine will not allow me to do it!’ The reality is the church’s teaching on condom use- if practiced in accordance with ALL THE OTHER TEACHINGS of the church- would not increase the spread of aids [the church teaches monogamous only relationships- these relationships are not contributing to the spread of the virus in Africa]. Hitchens also has an entire chapter on pig meat! Yes, I’ve heard Hitchens speak over the years- and for some reason he has this obsession with pig meat! Anyway he defends the poor pig- makes fun of the Jewish Kosher diet- and then proceeds to give his personal view on why pig meat became a ‘no- no’ to kosher Jews. He actually believes [for real!] that pigs taste and act so much like humans [their intelligence- and their screams when being slaughtered] that the Jews associated eating pig with eating humans [and Hitchens even describes the taste of pig meat tasting like human meat- no joke!] he believes this is the secret reason Jews don’t eat pigs. He also defends pig meat as being healthy. Okay- I’m not a pig meat aficionado- but being I am a student of the bible [including the Old Testament] I can assure you that the Jewish dietary laws of the Old Testament are in fact very healthy laws! For hundreds of years people did not know why pigs, shrimp, etc. were forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish people- and over time science has discovered that these meats were indeed unclean. The prohibition against certain sea food- later these types of fish were found out to be scavengers, they are the ‘trash eaters’ that keep the oceans clean- that’s why they are unhealthy. Pigs- Hitchens favorite meat- pig meat is not good for you [in general- I’m a very happy pig eater- on pizza- with eggs- out of a bag with spices on it- pork rinds] because the digestive tract of the pig is very short, what they eat ‘becomes’ part of their flesh/life without going thru a long digestive process- not like the cow who ‘chews the cud’ [multiple processes of digestion]. Basically pigs are in fact a ‘less healthy’ meat than other types of meat. All in all Hitchens- once again- is just misinformed about stuff- lots of stuff. Geez- I wrote this short critique from basic knowledge gained thru out my life- believe me I did not have to Google ‘is pig meat clean’. So once again we see the ‘brilliant mind’ of Hitchens at work. I’m reminded of an article I read a few years back- it was a column by Maureen Dowd [the liberal columnist]. She gave her conservative brother a free shot to use her column to blast liberals. He went at it- in pure tea party fashion. As he went down the list- hitting all the favorite sore spots- he got to a line where he spoke of his senator- obviously a liberal- he simply said ‘Sheldon Whitehouse- you sir- are an idiot’ and that was that. As I continue to read Hitchens book- this line comes to mind.
 HEGEL [modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.
Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.
When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel's ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.
I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much they differed from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as Protestant Christianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!
I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’s world it is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!
So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christian tradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J. As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.
One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.
 FREUD-NIETZSCHE AND MARX- Today I need to do a little more on our study of Modernity [the thinkers who have influenced Western culture/thought from the 1700’s- 2000’s]. At this time I have 3 separate studies I have started on-line; Classics of literature, Great Christian thinkers of history, and Modernity. As time rolls on- I will gradually post all new studies once a year in a monthly post [most of the time it will be February] and as I update them you can read the most recent ones from the most recent years.
Okay- I am skipping a bunch of stuff to jump into the thinkers who represent the most popular forms of atheism- Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. But first we need to take a look at Ludwig Feuerbach. L.F. [Ludwig Feuerbach] laid the groundwork for these other more famous rejecters of God and Christianity. During the enlightenment period it was rare for the critics of religion to hold an outright atheistic view- men like Hume and Voltaire- though true critics of the church- did not come out openly and deny the existence of God. It was also difficult [impossible?] to hold professorships in the universities if you were a doubter of God. Both Hume and Voltaire did not hold positions. F.S. was Hegelian in a way [he followed Hegel’s idea that ‘God’ comes to self consciousness thru the development of humanity] but F.S. was a Materialist- Hegel was an Idealist. Remember- idealism is the philosophical system that sees reality existing in forms/ideas first- then later comes the material thing. The great ancient philosophers- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all Idealists. F.S. espoused the idea that reality starts with the material existence of man first- and thru religion man ‘projects’ the idea of God/spirit into society- and as man and Christianity develop [all good things for F.S.] that the ultimate truth that we learn on this journey is that man is really all there is- his ‘phase’ of God and religion were simply necessary stages for man to arrive at this self conscious state in which he finally realizes that man is all there is- God was a ‘crutch’- a needed one- but never the less simply a projection of mans mind until he came to full maturity. For F.S. ‘theology [the study of God] is anthropology’ [the study of man]. So in this sense he follows Hegel- the development of man and society is the development of God- but Hegel starts with spirit projecting ‘himself’ into creation- and F.S. starts with man/matter first- and man projects this idea of God/spirit as a secondary reality. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur describes F.S. and his disciples as holding to a system of belief called ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’. This meaning that religion and God are not just things that seem to be irrational [according to certain enlightenment critics] but that religion itself is a mask that adds to the suffering of man- that man is under the dominion of false ideas- ideas that have been developed by those who want power over others- and these taskmasters use religion as a tool to oppress the ignorant masses. This idea will come to full bloom in the mind of Marx. Marx referred to religion as a ‘false consciousness’ that kept man in servitude to others who ruled over them- and religion itself was the tool that kept these ignorant masses in check. Nietzsche thought religion had its roots in weakness and sickness- and that the most decadent used it to control those who were actually more moral than the leaders. Freud saw religion as an effect of repression and the actual cause of mental conflict and guilt- he blamed religion for all the psychosis that man is afflicted with in life. The next few posts in this study [whenever I get to them?] I will try and develop all 3 of these famous thinkers ideas- show the errors in their own thinking- and the aftermath of generations who have tried/fleshed out their philosophies- and have found them dreadfully lacking in the end.
 CHRIST CHURCH? A few weeks back I was going to write a post from the words of St. Peter found in the New Testament ‘The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God [Christ’s church= house of God] and if it starts there- what will the outcome be for the rest of the world?’ [paraphrased it]. Right after the ‘thought’ the major events off the coast of Japan hit and we have this trilogy of disasters to deal with [Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear meltdown]. I did find it ‘strange’ that the recent events started with Christ Church New Zealand- and seemed to spread from there. I heard a Geologist the other night- he had previously predicted the earthquake that hit Ca. during the World Series a few years ago. He said the sign of the dead fish recently washing up in Ca. was not a coincidence- he said the fish can sense a change in the earth’s magnetic field [prior to an earthquake] and that in Japan these fish kills are actually called ‘earthquake fish’. Wow. You do hear lots of talking heads during these types of events- yet it would be nice to know the truth on these types of things. The last year or 2 we had earthquakes along the Pacific Rim; Chile, New Zealand and of course Japan. If you look on a map you see the Pacific Ocean and you can draw a circle around the perimeter- the part that affects us is the West coast- so they already have a run on Iodide pills [fear of the radiation crossing the Pacific from Japan] and some are predicting an earthquake. The other night I caught a quick news flash of Saudi Arabia sending troops into Bahrain to fight back against the protestors- as it flashed by quickly- I said ‘geez- this is a major event- and it’s getting lost in the media frenzy’. Then O’Reilly spent 15 minutes on a real important life changing story- a stripper who works with a snake- the snake bit the woman on her breast- the snake died from the silicone from the breast implant. Another news show spent almost the whole hour on sports- even the president did another March madness prediction- at a time when the world has protestors in the streets- who thought we would help them [Libya] and they are actually saying ‘Obama- where are you- where’s Bush?’ Now- whatever your view is on intervening [no fly zone- etc.] the fact is if the feeling around the globe is that we are not taking these things seriously enough- then the image of the president doing March Madness picks does not look good. So what do we make of it all? When Peter said ‘judgment must 1st start at Gods house’ he of course was not directly talking about the city of Christ Church, New Zealand. Yet in a prophetic sort of way- these types of things can be signs of what’s to come. One of the important developments has been the fact that the Arab/Persian nations have indeed chosen to ignore the pleas from the U.S. to go easy on the protestors- and they simply have said ‘screw you- look at what you did to Egypt- we are gonna go the Gadhafi route’ [to a degree]. Saudi Arabia crossing into Bahrain- a small Persian Gulf nation where we have lot of troops stationed [and the 5th fleet docked] is a major development. The markets [both Asian and U.S.] have fallen over the fears that the Nuke disaster is already as bad as Chernobyl- and the unrest in the Middle East and Africa is not getting better. So we pray- we show the world that we don’t just throw our hands up and say ‘the end of the world is here’ but we also recognize it is in mans nature to deny the reality of judgment- the reality that mankind faces times where things build up and the planet suffers for it. In the 19th century there was a movement in Christian theology called ‘Liberal theology’- not liberal in politics- but a whole genre of teaching/thought that challenged a lot of the ‘old time’ beliefs [like original sin] and focused on the ability of modern man to rise above the ignorance of the past [even in religious thought] and man was on the road to a true Utopian society that would never fail. This belief was strong- both in the universities of Germany as well as in the politics of the Western world. Then you had the world wars- 8 million people killed in the first one- and 50 million in the 2nd one. Men like Karl Barth [a Swiss theologian- teacher] would challenge the liberal view of mans ‘inner divinity’ and he would blast the Christian world with his famous ‘the epistle to the Romans’ his commentary on Paul’s famous treatise- released in 1918. Though Barth is what some describe as 'Neo- Orthodox’ [the strong Reformed teachers don’t appreciate Barth very much] yet he did bring the church back to the biblical doctrines of original sin and mans inability to ‘save himself’. Barth saw the reality of the WW1 and rejected the Utopian belief that man was so advanced that he would reach for the sky- and grab it! Today we see lots of shaking in the world- some are focused on March madness- some find it profitable to do a story on a stripper- we need to keep our eyes [and bibles] open- mankind is in need of God- man has gone thru stages where he thought the ‘old belief’ in God would fall away- to the contrary- the govt’s of man [apart from God] seem to be the thing that’s falling away.
 LITTLE BOY LOST
The other day we saw the tragic story of the little Jewish boy who went missing on his way home from summer camp. This day he was without a ride, and his mother thought it would be okay for him to walk home the few blocks. After he didn’t show up she called the police.
They eventually discovered that he had been abducted by a member of their own community- and was tragically killed. The Jewish community in this area of Brooklyn is known as an Hasidic community. My mom was born and raised in Brooklyn- and as a boy I remember going to the city and seeing these strange looking guys with funny looking hair and dress.
This community dates back around 2300 years or so. During the Intertestemental period [the time between the last Old Testament book- Malachi- and the book of Matthew] you have quite an interesting history. It was during these 400 years that we saw the rise of the Greek world under Alexander the Great.
In the Greek world you had some very influential philosophers; Socrates most famous student was Plato- Plato’s most famous student was Aristotle- and his most famous student was Alexander the Great.
Alexander sought to implement the ideals of his teacher- he wanted to unify the known world under one people/culture- a belief that Aristotle held- a sort of ‘unified theory’ [Einstein] that would seek to bring all learning/knowledge together under one supreme [Divine] principle.
Alexander’s experiment was called Hellenization- which was the Greek worlds attempt to impose Greek culture/language on all their conquered enemies- and at the same time allow them to hold on to the their own culture too. Alexander did amazingly well at this experiment- at the young age of around 24 he had accomplished most of his mission. The cities were a sort of composite of Greek culture mixed in with their own culture- this is where we get the modern term Cosmopolitan.
Alexander died young and his kingdom was divided between 4 generals- one of them- Ptolemy- would himself make it into the history books because of his keen intellect.
The system of cosmology developed under him would last [and work!] until some 17-18 hundred years later when it was overthrown by the Copernican revolution during the time of Copernicus and Galileo.
Alexander’s generals would do their best to carry on the system of Hellenization- and other nations generals would keep the system going even after Greece fell. One of them- Octavian [Roman general] makes it into the history books by another famous name- Julius Caesar.
Alexander established a great library in the Egyptian city of Alexandria [named after him] and many of the great writings were preserved during this time.
The writings of Aristotle would be discovered again during the time of Thomas Aquinas [13th century Catholic genius/scholar] and this would lead to Scholasticism [a peculiar school of thought developed/revived under Aquinas] and give rise to the Renaissance.
Okay- before the birth of Christ- the Jewish people resisted the imposing of Greek culture upon them- you had the very famous resistance under the Jewish Maccabean revolt- where the Jews rose up and fought the wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanies- and till this day the Jewish people celebrate this victory at Hanukah.
Eventually Rome would conquer the Greek kingdom and the Jewish people were allowed to keep their culture and temple- yet they were still a people oppressed. Hassidism [getting back to the beginning] developed during this attempt to not lose their Jewish roots- the Pharisees of Jesus day came from this movement.
Alexander was pretty successful in his attempt to unify language- even though the bible [New Testament] was written by Jewish writers- living under Roman rule- yet the original bible is written in the Greek language.
Bible scholars till this day study the Greek language to find the truest meaning of the actual words in the bible [I have a Greek Lexicon sitting right in front of me].
It would take a few centuries before a Latin version appeared on the scene [the great church father- Jerome- would produce the Latin Vulgate].
Yet it would be the re- discovery and learning of the Greek texts [under men like Erasmus- and the Protestant Reformers] that would lead to the Reformation [16th century] and other movements in church history.
Of course the tragedy of the little boy lost is very sad- and the roots of Jewish culture are noble and good- Pope Benedict refers to the Jewish people as ‘our elder brother’ because of the Jewish roots of Christianity. The original church was made up of Jewish believers- people who were waiting for the Messiah for centuries [actually Millennia] and they were convinced that this Jesus- this Jewish itinerant prophet- was indeed the one that was to come.
When you read the sermons in the book of Acts- you hear Peter, Paul- and especially Stephen [ Acts 7] relating the person of Jesus to the prophecies that were spoken about the Messiah in the Old Testament- these early Jewish believers were convinced- in no uncertain terms- that Jesus was the Messiah who was foretold to come.
At the Jewish trial of Jesus- the high priest asks ‘are you claiming to be God’s Son’ Jesus- one of the few times he did this- said ‘you said it’. The priest throws up his hands and says ‘what more need do we have of witnesses- he himself has said he claims deity’.
In John’s gospel we read when Jesus said ‘Abraham saw my day- and was gad’. They asked him ‘how could Abraham see your day- you’re not even 50 years old’ Jesus replied ‘BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS- I AM’ They were incensed- the words I AM were the words used to describe God. The bible says they took up stones to kill him.
The great Christian writer- C.S. Lewis- spent many years as an atheist- yet as an intellectual he read all the great writings of history- and he said that no matter how hard he [and other atheists] tried to reject God- that history was filled with writings- both pro and con- about God.
As a matter of fact- there was no other underlying theme- some scarlet thread- woven thru out the entire history of man- that even came close to this testimony of the reality of God.
Many agnostics of Lewis’ day said ‘we believe Jesus was a good person- even a Rabbi- Prophet- great messenger of God’ Lewis said Jesus did not leave this option open to us. Jesus said he was indeed the Son of God- Deity come down- born from a virgin- crucified- died and was buried. On the 3dr day he rose again- according to the scriptures- he is seated at the right hand of God and will come again- to judge the living and the dead.
Yes kingdoms have come and gone- great men and despots have either honored this Jesus- or despised him- but today we still talk about Jesus- King of Kings and Lord of Lords- we have only one option- either we confess him as Lord- or we call him a madman- which one will you choose?
 PEOPLE LAUGHING- PEOPLE SINGING- A MAN SELLING ICE CREAM
These past few days I have been reading scriptures on the influence of the church in the nations- that is God’s original purpose for the church- to have a people/nation that he could reveal his glory though. This morning I read Zechariah chapter 8- it talks about God restoring Jerusalem and that there will be old men and women dwelling in it- little boys and girls playing in the streets once again.
The impression you get is a sort of ‘block party’ atmosphere- all types of people enjoying life once gain- after a season of captivity. As I read the verse on the old men and women- I thought of Aunt Bee.
Bee was the aunt of one of our original church members. Emmet [Senior- I have also talked about his son on the site- Jr.] became a church member early on. I don’t remember if I met him while preaching at the county jail- or through Elias- another friend who struggled with addiction. Both of them were long time drug addicts.
I would pick up Emmet at his Aunt’s house every week for church- and just visit him every so often. The ‘church’ was a little home group I started from scratch. I fixed up my 2 car garage- and the guys I met from the streets- or at the jail- would become the core group.
Over time Aunt Bee- who raised Emmet- started coming to our meetings- and as an older lady- in her 70’s- she would tell me she was learning the bible for the first time- she really liked it.
I was basically filling the slot that she missed out on- the bible study aspect of Christianity. Bee was a good Catholic lady- and she told me her friends said ‘why do you go to brother Johns’ church- your Catholic’ she would tell them ‘because I learn things’.
I never tried to ‘convert’ Bee- she stayed Catholic- and that was fine with me. Many Protestant bible churches do fill a need that some of the historic churches lack- simple bible study. Yet many of the Protestant ‘bible’ churches lack what the historic churches offer- a historic connection to traditional Christianity.
During the Reformation of the 16th century- the Protestant reformers [who were all initially Catholic] fought with the Roman church over doctrinal issues- and during this fight the reformers stated a few main principles- one of which is called Sola Scriptura- which means ‘the bible alone’.
What they meant by this was on issues where the church could not come to agreement with the dissenters- that at the end of the day- the bible would have the final say.
Now- the common mistake many Protestants fall into- is thinking that this principle means ‘Solo Scriptura’ is a belief that all Christianity is simply a process of reading/organizing your life around the bible. That is the view that the bible is all there is.
This is not the historic Protestant position- the reformers themselves [Calvin. Luther, etc.] referred often to the early writings of the church fathers [Augustine] in trying to prove their points.
I have found it helpful over the years to spend time reading/hearing the voice of the historic church- as well as being up on the bible. The other day I moved a few books from my office into a shelf in the living room- I read an article on how people are selling books ‘by the inch’ just to decorate their homes. What types of books- that didn’t matter- they were just for show [ouch!]
So I figured I’ll move the real McCoy- classics that I have read and re-read over the years.
I was glad to see that I still had the Confessions of Saint Augustine- a classic from the 4th century. Augustine was a Catholic bishop from Hippo- North Africa. He is often associated with the doctrine of Predestination [which he did believe in] and is loved by many Catholics and Protestants alike.
The major reformer who launched the reformation was Martin Luther- a German Augustinian monk- Luther was also a strong believer in the doctrine of predestination- though its common to associate the doctrine with John Calvin, Luther too was a strong believer in it.
One day Aunt Bee shared a story with me- she used to visit her daughter who lived in Alaska- her daughter sort of felt like her cousin Emmet was taking advantage of her mom. I was familiar with the environment- my older sister- who has also been a drug addict for many years- has lived with my mom her whole life.
When addicted people live with their parents [aunts] as they age- they fall into an environment where they manipulate the guardian to get what they want [money- borrow the car, etc..]
So Aunt Bee’s daughter felt like Emmet took advantage of her mom. Aunt Bee told me about an Indian she saw one time while visiting Alaska- he was panning for gold in one of the freezing streams- and was wearing an Indian loin cloth and was in the ice cold water. She said how interesting it was to see how other cultures learn to adapt to their environment.
Bee was an educator- she taught at A&I university [Kingsville- Tx.] for many years [now called A&M] and her students were some of the most famous people in Texas- Senators and congress people. I found it interesting how an influential person like Bee- would wind up learning the bible from some Jersey boy- preaching in a garage [I was around 25 at the time].
Bee was a good person- she died many years ago- as has Emmet. Emmet eventually broke the drug habit and married another church member- Janie. She was s single mom with lots of kids- they made a very nice couple. Emmet died at around the age of 50- his liver went out- too many years of drugs eventually got to him. As a matter of fact- Elias- who I think first introduced me to Emmet- he eventually became a preacher and pastored his own church. He started with me- was the song leader and filled in on the days I had to work- and eventually took a position with a church called Victory Outreach- a ministry to addicts.
One day while working at the fire house- I was riding on the ambulance that day and we got a call. As I got to the house- I realized it was Elias’s house- he had a brain aneurism that day- he went into a coma and died a few days later.
I met Elias around 8 years earlier- preaching to him at the jail. Gave him his first bible- which he would always remind me about- and walked with him for a few years. He was ex-air force. He did at least 4 years before he got out and got hooked on hard drugs- mainline addict.
We had lots of good times together- I see his boys every so many years when I venture into Bishop [a small city around 40 miles from where I live]. I think his wife- Janie- still lives there.
The bible says Gods city [a symbol of the church] has old people having fun in the streets [the aunt Bee types] and little boys and girls playing in the streets [too many names to mention in this one- Elias & Janie alone had around 6 kids- Janie & Emmet too- different Janies!].
God’s church/family is a great one- it consists of the great church fathers [men like Augustine] and it extends to the little kids playing in the streets of some small town in South Texas- it even includes those who society has rejected- those who have failed many times in life- and they know it- more than anyone else.
I read a verse the other day- in Psalms ‘sins prevail against us- yet you will save us from our transgressions’ I thank God that he helps people- people who have things that ‘prevail’ against them- he often uses these people to help others- Gods ways are sometimes very hard to understand- his ways are not ours.
 I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU
Let’s try and close the week with some bible stuff- I might hit on a few news stories that are important- but let’s start with some scripture.
Today I had a good prayer time- If I get up at 3:30- and the morning is nice- it’s easy to pray for a few hours. On Friday [and Monday] I try to do a prayer routine that covers lots of stuff [world events, world leaders- yes I pray weekly for the president- and a bunch of other stuff].
I will walk the yard- and if there is no wind- then it’s kind of muggy- and it just seems like work. But this morning there was a nice wind- a higher ceiling for the clouds- and almost a full moon. Plus it’s raining as I write [I mean we have been in a drought!].
So it went well. Okay this week I read John 1 [as well as other stuff]. One morning I got up and couldn’t pray- and I remembered the verse where Jesus says ‘I have prayed for you’. I felt like the Lord was saying he took up the slack that day. The bible says Jesus is at the right hand of God and prays for us.
Then the next day I was listening to a favorite radio preacher- and he quoted the whole verse- Jesus says to Peter 'Peter- satan has desired to have you- that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not- and when you are turned again- strengthen your brothers’.
This occurred near the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus- he spent 3 years with his men- and then it was time to leave. At this point Jesus is spending whole nights in prayer to God- struggling with the completion of his mission- praying things like ‘God- if it’s possible- let this thing go away- if not- let your will be done’. And it’s an ‘existential’ experience [if I remember- I’ll explain this before the post ends].
Yet during this time of struggle- at some point- the Father reveals something to the Son- he tells Jesus ‘you friend Peter- there has been a request made on his life. Satan has come to me for permission to test him- I am going to allow him to go through some very difficult stuff’.
So during this tough time for Jesus- in the midst of his own personal turmoil- his soul ‘being poured out unto death’. He has only a moment with Peter- and he sees what is going to happen- and he simply relates to Peter what God had said.
In the book of Job we read how one day the angels came before God- and satan came too. He asked God for permission to go after Job- and for reasons that we don’t always understand- God said ‘okay’.
So in Peter’s case- this was destined to happen- he will be broken over the thing- probably hate himself for what he will do- yet it’s going to happen.
In John chapter 1 the religious leaders come to John the Baptist- they ask him who he is- sort of like ‘John- who do you think you are- what’s the end game here?’ John responds that he is not the Messiah- he is just a voice in the wilderness- preparing the way for the Lord.
John quotes the prophet Isaiah when he says ‘the voice of one’. They also ask him ‘are you that prophet that was supposed to come first’. This verse is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi. In chapter 3 the prophet says ‘the messenger of the covenant will come suddenly to his temple’ and it speaks of Christ and John.
But when they ask John ‘are you that prophet’ John says no. Was he the one who was to be the forerunner prophet? Actually yes- he was. How do we know this? Jesus himself will later testify that John indeed is the prophet who was to come ‘in the power and the spirit of Elijah’.
So this is one of those cases in the N.T. where you seem to have a contradiction. I think if we read carefully there really isn’t a contradiction- John might have really not understood that he was ‘that prophet’. John- like Peter- Like Jesus- like all the other ones in this story- they are having real life struggles- tough things they are dealing with- and in John’s case he might have thought ‘that prophet- are you kidding me- I’m barley surviving this thing’.
Now- we will read how John gets himself into some hot water. Not only is he preaching about The Lamb of God- he starts saying ‘Herod [the Roman ‘king’ figure that was over the Jewish people] you have take your brother Phillips wife- you can’t have her!’
Herod was the son of Herod the great- we read about ‘the great’ as being the king at the time of Jesus birth- he was the one who had all the babies killed because he heard that Christ was born and he wanted to wipe out the competition- this Messiah who would be ‘The King of the Jews’.
The funny thing was- Herod wasn’t a Jew. Yet he saw himself as the actual Messiah to the Jews- Rome gave Herod [the great] this figure head authority- and it literally went to his head. Now- Herod died soon after the slaughter of the kids- and his son would ‘reign in his place’.
This Herod would be the king at the time of Jesus earthly ministry. This is the king who John the Baptist was preaching against.
One time they came to Jesus- to kind of intimidate him- they said ‘you know- Herod knows about you- he will get you’. Jesus- you know- we are supposed to respect authority- right? He says ‘go tell that fox- that today and tomorrow I do healings and great works- and on the 3rd day I will be perfected’.
Perfected means ‘come to maturity’. This was a reference to his death and resurrection on the ‘3rd day’.
So Johns out there preaching against what he sees as corruption in govt. and one day they finally had enough- Herod puts John in prison.
Now John’s sitting there in prison- right at the time of this great ministry of Jesus. I mean Jesus is healing people left and right- raising the dead. I mean John must have felt vindicated- right?
John’s sitting in jail- and day after day- in this prison- he starts to think ‘geez- I have been stuck here for a while now- I mean I was the forerunner- Jesus said that about me- I’m the voice of one- the guy who proclaimed the truth when no one else was willing to take the risk- what the hell am I doing here- sitting in prison!’
John must have thought he was getting a bad deal. He sends 2 of his disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one- or should we look for another?’
Was he having doubts? Come on- Jesus is raising the dead for heaven’s sake- John was basically saying to Jesus ‘are you the one? If so- why am I still in the damn jail!’
John was being sifted. Peter will be- Job was too. For some strange reason- this is how things work. The bread has to be broken before it can feed people.
Of course we know the rest of the story- Herod's daughter in law will do a dance for the king- and the wife will get the head of John the Baptist on a platter- she got tired of hearing him.
Soren Kierkegaard- the 19th century Christian/Philosopher is considered to be the Father of Existentialism. Existentialism is the philosophy that says you start with ‘existence’ that is you begin the journey with real life passion- real interaction in life. Your failures and your high points- all these real things we experience in life- these are the things that shape us- that make us real.
Soren lived in a day where the Danish state church was dead and formal- and he spoke out against the dead lukewarm orthodoxy of his day.
One time he would say when he got tired of all the religious formalism- the fake plastic face we all put on so other people can’t really see our struggles- he said he would go read the Old Testament- the stories of murder and adultery and covering up crimes- he said these were real stories- of failure and success- of sitting in jail and thinking you might get out- but instead you get your head taken off.
These are the real stories of some of the most hallowed saints of history- yes- human frailty runs right through it all- like some scarlet thread.
One time Jesus said to Peter ‘I have prayed for you’ that sounds great when it stands alone- but when you see it in the context of the whole verse- then you realize that you just might be in for something that you never expected would happen- you might be getting ready to go through a real existential moment- face to face with your own failures and humanity.
Peter will later write ‘beloved- when you go thru trials- don’t think it strange. Realize your brothers are also going through them’ and ‘it is not only our privilege to believe on the name of Jesus- but it is also our privilege to suffer with him’.
Yes Peter went on to get past the sifting- the memory of being the disciple who denied Jesus. I mean Peter was the only one who walked on water [ besides Jesus]- he raised the dead in the book of Acts- how we remember him?
We remember the day he got sifted like wheat. It’s not easy to forget those days- and even harder to live through them.
 THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING- PLATO.
I caught a show the other night on Link TV. It was a spin off from this famous Platonic quote- it was called ‘The examined life’.
They interviewed some of the most prominent philosophers of our day. Cornell West, Peter Singer- a few others [I think the name is Singer?] I found it interesting that Singer- who specializes in Ethics- tried to make the case that you really don’t need religion/God in order to do ethics- all you need is to work from the basic principle that says ‘try to treat others like you too want to be treated- and then you will have a foundation for morals’.
Now- I caught the contradiction right away- do you see it? Who is he quoting? This is the great moral principle- given to us by Jesus himself- called the Golden Rule.
This actual principle- in Theology [the study of God] we call Natural/Moral law. The Argument is based on the reality that all people [not animals- Singer- get to it in a moment] have within them this moral compass [Romans 1] and that this in itself is proof that there must be a higher moral being- a transcendent being- who has put it in man.
I just found it funny that Singer- who is supposed to be a prominent atheist/agnostic thinker- would fall flat on his face like this.
Singer advocates for legal Rights for animals- and has also argued that viability of the new born baby should determine its personhood- he says that we should be able to abort babies up until around the age of 1- because they can’t really survive on their own until that age.
Okay- why do Philosophy- or Physics- or any other of a number of schools of thought? Because too often Christians abandon these fields- and then when someone from that field says ‘this is why we don’t need God’ we usually have no answer.
When we think about philosophy- most of us think about the 3 great big shots- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. While it is true that these guys were the major guys at right around the 5th century B.C.- yet we actually date the beginning point to the early 6TH Century B.C. to a man by the name of Thales.
Thales accurately predicted a solar eclipse in the year 585 B.C. and he gained notoriety because of this. Thales was the first Greek thinker to grapple with the idea that there must be one reality that makes up all things.
He would argue that Water was this element- that contained being and Motion and life. Many of these pre Socratic thinkers were obsessed with the idea of motion- where did it come from?
Thales observed that streams and rivers- and all types of water sources flow- so to him this was a logical source of motion.
This idea- that only one element makes up all reality- is called Monism. Monism is not be confused with Monotheism- the belief in one God- Monism actually leads to another religious view- called Pantheism- the belief that God is everything- and everything is God.
This is not the historic Christian view.
Now- the pre Socratic guys- Parmenides, Zeno, Heraclitus- these guys would challenge Thales view that water was the main thing.
Some said ‘maybe it’s Air’ another said ‘Earth’ and some Fire. These 4 elements [Earth, Air [wind] Fire and Water- are the 4 basic elements of the early Greek philosophers.
We see these things in the naming of musical groups [Earth Wind and Fire] as well as the themes in movies [fantastic 4- based on 4 basic elements- powers].
Now- one of the thinkers said ‘wait- maybe the reality behind all things is not any one of these elements- maybe there is a 5th dimension [another musical name- and also the famous Bruce Willis flick- called the 5th Element] a Boundless being- outside of time and matter- maybe this 5ht element is the foundation for all things.
Of course this view would lead to the more developed view of God that Socrates and his followers would embrace- an early view of God- much like the later Christian view [absent the Trinity].
By the way- the view that 2 or more elements make up all reality is called Pluralism- not to be confused with religious Pluralism [that all religions lead to the same God]. The most common form of Pluralism is Dualism [2 realities equally true] but all non Monists who embrace more than one reality are Pluralists.
Okay- maybe a bit much with the 10 dollar words- but it might spark the interest of some.
The church has debated for centuries on whether or not Philosophy should be taught to Christians. One of the early church fathers- Tertullian- said no- his famous quote is ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’.
Meaning what does Philosophy have in common with Christianity [Athens- Greece was the seat of philosophy in Jesus’ day].
For the most part- the early church fathers would embrace the study of philosophy- and try to make arguments for the Christian faith by presenting Christianity as ‘thee’ philosophy that best answers the questions of man.
These early Christian thinkers are called Apologists- men like Justin Martyr are in this class.
Apologist is a word we use to describe those who defend the faith- it comes from the Apostle Peter’s letter in the N.T. where Peter says ‘give an answer to those who ask you about the faith’. In the Greek language- the original language the N.T. was written in- this phrase is talking about a defense- an ‘apology’ in the sense of ‘making the case’ not in the common sense of apologizing.
In the book of Acts- chapter 17- we read the famous sermon of the apostle Paul- given at Mars Hill. He was in Athens at the time- and he was debating with all the philosophers of the day. He tells them ‘as I was looking around town- I saw that one of your altars is addressed to The Unknown God’.
He would go on and declare unto them that this Jesus is the true God- the one raised from the dead.
Paul also said ‘in Him we live and MOVE and have our being’. Kind of a popular verse quoted by preacher’s today- but we often overlook the significance of the MOVE part.
I mean- why say we MOVE in him too? Paul was a smart guy- he knew these children of Socrates questioned where motion came from [Remember Thales?] So he was basically saying ‘I am declaring to you the one true reality- the true 5th Element- the missing God particle from your system’ and he went on and preached Christ- being raised from the dead.
Paul knew that you can’t really do true philosophy- to grapple with the questions of life and being and ‘motion’ without realizing that God is indeed the ultimate answer to all things.
Even Peter Singer- who claimed that you don’t need God or religion in order to do Ethics- even he unknowingly quoted Jesus in attempting to give a basis for his Philosophy- yes- he quoted a God- one unknown to him- just like the altar at Athens- but a God never the less.
An inescapable 5th element- the missing part to the whole puzzle.
 GO SPARTANS?
I really have too much to cover for one post- so let’s see what we can squeeze in.
I have a catalog sitting here- from the company that I order courses from. A few years ago I got on their mailing list [How- ?] and ever since I have been bombarded with monthly catalogs.
I mean every month- a bit much. Then I realized that one month out of the year they put a bunch of courses ‘on sale’ for around 70% off the regular price- and that’s probably where they do their best business [I now only buy from the discounted monthly catalog].
Anyway- I read the intro to their course on Dark Matter/Energy- these teachers are really good- they are professors from the premiere universities of the world [Oxford, Harvard, etc.] and to get the courses at this price- well it’s really a bargain.
But over the years- studying various disciplines [Theology, Apologetics] it’s easy to see when some smart men- make really bad mistakes.
Especially when dealing with the whole ‘proof for/against God’ type stuff.
In this short intro to the Dark Matter course [Physics- these courses cover everything- history- science- religion- the whole 9 yards] they start out okay- they explain that according to the standard theory of modern physics- that there is about 95 % [wow- that number has jumped these last few years!] of matter ‘missing’ in the universe.
What do they mean by ‘missing’? They go on to explain that the effects that we see in the universe- the gravity and function of the universe- well according to standard theory- there is simply not enough matter to explain how all this is held together- how everything actually works.
Okay- so they admit that there are a whole bunch of phenomena- that we see taking place- that modern science has no idea how it’s taking place.
Now- as the intro continues- they say in order to ‘fill the gap’ they have come up with the idea of Dark Matter.
Dark Matter is simply a name given to nothing- that is nothing that we can detect thru the means of modern science.
Okay- by definition- it is a Metaphysical reality- something that science has espoused as a possible cause for the effects we see in the universe- and by their own definition- its invisible- undetectable and unseen- it is metaphysical [just like the argument for the existence of God].
So they go on to say ‘we know that this matter exists- because how else could you explain how everything works’- now- to those who get into these debates- the guy who wrote the intro- I’m sure he means well- but his whole argument is a materialistic one.
He is saying that there is no chance that some type of ‘non matter’ can be making this happen.
So he then says ‘because WE KNOW that there has to be a material explanation for this- no ‘God stuff’ here- therefore its Dark Matter.’
Okay- and what is Dark Matter again? O- it’s this non detectable- unseen matter- that just happens to make up 95 % of the universe.
Okay- Mr. smart guy- you don’t go for those Intelligent Design guys- the ones who argue that some non material force might be behind this- you rejected their argument because you say they are arguing from a non material realm [called metaphysical].
So how again have you proven that your idea- all this missing matter- exists? O- easy- because we see the effects OF IT all around us.
Actually- no we don’t. We see the effects of SOMETHING- that is- modern science has this huge gap- there are effects taking place in the known universe- that have no materialistic explanation for- we can’t find a material, observable cause for these effects.
The Christian says ‘Okay- I stick God in that gap’ [which many materialists accuse us of doing- they call it the ‘God of the Gaps’ approach].
But the materialistic scientist [one who says there can only be a detectable- material cause to things- in order to classify it as science] he then comes up with the whole Dark Matter argument- an argument based on non detectable- unseen- unproven matter.
And he then says ‘it must be there- because how else can you explain how everything is functioning?’.
The point is- your argument is based just as much on ‘unseen- unproven’ ideas as the Christian. You assume that this matter ‘must be’ simply because you leave no room for a non material explanation.
Then you say ‘yeah- but our idea is based on science/matter’ actually it is not- you argument is based on an idea- non proven by your own standards of modern science- and your idea- your Dark Matter- as of today is nowhere to be found.
These debates can go on forever- and my point is to simply challenge the believer- and the scientific community- to try to be more honest in the approach of seeking for truth.
In the last post I mentioned the pre Socratic philosophers- the 6th century B.C. guys who came before Socrates.
In the 5th century B.C. you had Socrates [born around 468 B.C.] and he would become one of the titans of Western thought.
He had a famous student by the name of Plato- and Plato would follow in his master’s footsteps. Plato founded a famous school at Athens- the land was donated by a man by the name of Academe- and till this day- that’s where we get the modern term for Academia.
Socrates started well- his ideas are not to be confused with Christian belief [he taught that the soul of man always existed- even before he was conceived- not a Christian belief] yet he did have lots of ‘Christianized’ ideas.
Socrates was of the school of thought that wanted to seek for absolute truths- to find out the purpose and meaning behind things.
Like his student Plato- they were what you would call Idealists- that behind this natural world- there exists Ideas- principles that are ‘more real’ than what we see [he would too laugh at the dark Matter intro I hit on at the top].
Socrates lived at a very advanced stage of the city/state of Athens- Greece. For their day- they had quite an advanced society- Jury system- somewhat of a Western style Democratic process- pretty good for the day.
But something happened during his lifetime that would change the whole direction of Athens [and Greece]. They would suffer a huge military defeat by another city/state that seemed to be no match for the Athenians.
Do you remember their name? Do you Remember the Spartans? Yes- we see these brothers in the famous movie ‘The 300’. The Spartans were indeed a fighting machine- just like depicted in the flick [one of my favorites by the way].
They had a famous motto ‘either come back holding your shield high [in victory] or come back lying on it’ [dead- like a stretcher].
So when Athens fell at the hands of the Spartans- they went through a sort of depression- a malaise came over them. They began to resent the thinkers who were always searching for ultimate answers to things- and they embraced a new type of philosophy- called Sophism.
The Sophists were thinkers who said ‘lets just learn the most pragmatic approach- how to get things to work- and how to win the argument’ and they didn’t really care a whole lot about whether they were ‘right’ or wrong- they just wanted to master the practical side of life.
Socrates and his crew thought this approach would ruin Athens and he continued to fight for the search for ultimate truth- the real reasons behind things.
He went around town debating the other thinkers- he had a system- called the Socratic method- where he would engage you in a debate- ask you questions- and let you too ask them back- sort of like the Detective Columbo.
After a while this got him into trouble with the authorities and they sentenced him to death.
He was given his choice of execution- and he chose to drink the Hemlock.
We are told that his famous student Plato visited him on the eve of his execution- and he was surprised to see his master relatively at ease with his impending death.
Socrates believed that the unseen things- the non material realm- was actually more real than the seen- detectable realm. He did not need some Dark Matter idea to explain how things worked- he believed there existed unseen things- God- Soul- etc. and that these things were more real than his own natural life.
Plato would make his teacher famous through his school- and thru his many writings about his teacher. We know these writings as Plato’s Dialogues- he wrote these papers in dialogue form- having Socrates debating the other schools of thought- just like he did in real life.
So you never really know who to attribute the famous quotes to- Socrates- or Plato? Was Plato putting his own words in the mouth of his beloved teacher? We don’t always know for sure.
Okay-maybe a bit much for today- actually had more I wanted to do- but we’ll call it quits for now. Maybe do a quick search on some of these subjects- see how they affect the contemporary arguments for the existence of God.
See how modern science is a noble field- but one in which the Christian does have a say- and how we should challenge the assumptions that are passed down to us.
Socrates refused to settle for the purely practical outlook on life- he continued to seek truth till his last day- he dialogued with those who had other ideas- he listened to them and they heard him- and at the end of the day society was better off for it.
 LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD?
I read an article the other day- some guy got busted for assault- because of Facebook. It went on to say how he posted a status update when his mom died- and he was waiting for his estranged wife to ‘like’ it.
She never responded- so he did what any normal person would- he jumped in the car and drove over to her house. Okay- I’m gonna ad lib here ‘knock knock’ she comes to the door and he says ‘go into that damn computer room right now and Like the status’!
One thing lead to another- and he got busted.
What’s wrong with this picture? I mean he was talking to her- in the ‘real world’ face to face- yet instead of saying ‘ex- are you sad that mom died’- no- he says ‘go like the post!’
Okay- this will be the last post for a while on philosophy- I think I did about 3 or 4 the last week or so- I used to do one subject and stick with it for around a month.
Then at the end of the study [Physics, History, etc.] I would stick them all together on the blog as a single study.
But I realized that new friends who are just reading the site- post by post- they might think that’s all I write about- so now I’m trying to just do a few at a time.
Okay- we made it all the way to Plato and his famous school that he founded at Athens [Greece]. Though Socrates was his teacher- yet Socrates never founded an actual school.
Like I said earlier- Plato had a view of Reality that was a bit strange. He was an Idealist- not in the way we use the term today [mostly] but he believed that Ideas themselves were the real world- and what we see/experience in the material world are not ‘as real’.
Plato believed that knowledge was A Priori- which means the actual knowledge about a thing exists before the thing comes into being.
The famous example he used was a Chair. He would ask ‘what is that’ pointing to a chair. The student would respond ‘a chair’ Plato would say ‘and how do you know this- how did you obtain that knowledge’ and he argued that in the Idea realm- there is a perfect form of Chairness that exists- and that’s why we can identify ‘the chair’ in the material realm.
Now- Plato’s most famous student was a man named Aristotle. He actually respected his teacher a lot- but there was some tension between the 2. Plato was more of a down to earth type guy- liked to wear plain clothes- did lots of his teaching by walking around the classroom- interacting with people.
Aristotle was more of a ‘Fancy Pants’ type guy. He had a little bit of the elitist thing going on. He was more of a book worm than Plato- and he would eventually start his own school to compete with Plato’s Academy.
Aristotle’s school was named the Lyceum. Aristotle was more of a Realist than an Idealist. He believed that this material world was more than just a copy of the Idea world. He taught that Substance and matter were very real- and that contained within the thing is the actual form and future potential of ‘that thing’.
For instance- the Acorn has within it the actual form of the Oak Tree. This form did not come from an Idea world- it came from the thing itself- the Acorn.
So matter has within it both the potential of its future form- as well as eventually becoming that thing.
For Aristotle- knowledge is more A-Posteriori- that is we obtain knowledge about a thing- from the very thing itself. We see/touch and experience that thing- and by our senses interacting with the substance- we get knowledge- after the fact.
Okay- to Aristotle all substance has both Form and Matter. Then what he called substance- had 2 categories as well. The ‘substance’ [actual thing it is] and the Accidens [not accidents- not a typo].
The Accidens was simply the outward appearance- what we see on the outside. It might not be what the substance really is- or it might.
This teaching would eventually become a major way that our Catholic friends would come to define the doctrine of Transubstantiation- during the 13the century the great thinker Thomas Aquinas would re-discover [and introduce] Aristotle’s teaching back into the church.
In his theological works [Summa Theologica] he would use Aristotelian thought to explain how the Bread and Wine become the actual Flesh and Blood of Christ. Thomas explained that the actual substance of the thing was Flesh and Blood- but the Accidens- what you’re seeing on the outside- looks like Bread and Wine.
Catholic scholars have debated for centuries on whether or not they should stick to the hard line teaching from Thomas on this. They are not challenging the belief in the Real Presence [that Jesus is really there at the Eucharist] they simply wonder whether or not explaining it this way is right.
Finally- after many years of certain Catholic scholars asking this question- in 1965 the Pope [I think it was Paul the 6th?] put out a Papal Encyclical [an official Vatican teaching] and he stated clearly that the way Aquinas taught it is the official doctrine of the church- so that settled that.
Okay- Plato was an Idealist [Dualist] and Aristotle was a Realist. That’s the major difference.
I will note that Aristotle’s most famous student was Alexander the Great. And during the great conquests of Alexander he took with him a whole team of scientists who brought back all types of specimens of things and he gave them to his famous teacher Aristotle- to advance the cause of learning at the Lyceum school.
It has been said that Alexander’s efforts at collecting and bringing these things back after their victories- that this was probably the most expensive scientific endeavor of all time- right up until the modern space Era.
Note- I try to avoid too many ‘big words’ in these posts. Not because people don’t understand them- but because I forget how to spell them! And in this post- there are around 10 words that my spell check has no idea how to spell- so just a warning- there might be a few misspelled words in this one.
 IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Was gonna do one last post [for now] on Libya- we will need to cover the whole development of how we began to view/and act over a 6 month period- we acted [as a nation] contrary to our public statements. We swore- over and over again- that we were not targeting the man [or his family] and he swore [before the U.N. - by his rep.] that we were lying- and did indeed already kill a few of his grandkids [which was true] and were going after him.
Then- on national T.V. - we saw him flee Sirte [his hometown] and get bombed by both NATO and American planes [ours were Drones]. We destroyed a bunch of vehicles- left a lot of dead bodies- but he made it to a tunnel.
Then he got pulled out- ended up with a bullet in the head. O- forgot- this happened a day or 2 after Hillary Clinton visited Tripoli [her first visit] and said ‘we are waiting for you to capture or kill him’ [oop’s!] She later had to ‘clarify’.
She also was caught on tape- laughing and rejoicing over his death- okay- many people did- but if your saying publicly- ‘that’s not what we want’- then it looks bad.
Of course the other Arab nations want the U.N. to investigate- they were being told- by us- that we were not going after him. He begged for a peaceful resolution [he did do this!]. But we basically said no.
There are lots of questions to still be answered on this thing.
Okay- yesterday I wrote a quick note about a conversation I had with a new friend who just joined my site. She was into some new age stuff- we talked a little- I defended historic Christian belief- then she blocked me.
Let’s talk a little about Apologetics/Theology. Apologetics is the field where Christians Defend the Faith.
In our day- it is common for believers to be ‘left in the dust’ when they bang up against an atheistic scientist [they not all are!] or someone versed in Philosophy [Sartre or Camus- atheist thinkers- or Hitchen's and Dawkins].
Many times these various fields of study are too much for the average believer to feel like he can engage in- in an intelligent way- and ‘win’ the argument for the Christian view.
But church history has a long- and very successful- track record doing this very thing.
A few weeks back I did about 5 posts or so on Philosophy- a field I like to study. But if you do too many of those posts at one time- then it can get a little heavy [and boring!] So I try to break it up by only doing so many at a time. The same goes for Theology- Church History- etc.
But over time- if we become well versed in these various fields- it will help us defend the Christian view- in an intelligent way- without being mean about it [I try!]
But sometimes you will offend people- even if you try to be nice- because you’re engaging in a conversation that says ‘yes- as Christians we believe in ultimate truth- and that truth is in the person of Jesus Christ’ yes- that will offend some.
My approach to these types of debates is I’m what you would call Ecumenical- I believe that Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox- and all the other ‘churches’ that profess Christ- I believe they are all Christian.
Now you might say ‘well John- doesn’t everybody?’ Actually no- many of the most knowledgeable Apologists do indeed go after the other groups. Quite often you will have a strong protestant defender [usually from the Reformed faith] that will really hit the Catholic church- in my view- too hard.
While it is true that historically Catholics and Protestants have differences- I have often found that Many ‘average’ Catholics/Protestants are not really aware of the real differences- they often have very limited perspectives about the ‘other side’ and these limited ideas [often wrong] seem to stay with the people- for most of their lives.
One example- the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception- what is it?
The teaching became Official- only in the last 2 centuries of the Catholic church- though it was held by many- it finally became official in the last 2 hundred years [ 1854 for the Immaculate Conception- 1950 for the Assumption of Mary doctrine].
The doctrine teaches that the Virgin Mary- Jesus Mom- was born ‘without the taint of original sin’. Now- what does that mean?
Some Protestants think the Catholics teach that Mary was ‘sinless’ in the same way Christ was sinless.
Actually- that’s not the official doctrine [see- it’s important to know the official teaching when we engage like this]. The actual teaching- that has the churches Imprimatur on it- is that Mary WAS A SINNER- just like the rest of us- but in order for Jesus to have been born from a pure vessel- that the actual work of the Cross- Redemption- it was applied to Mary ‘ahead of time’.
Yes- the official teaching is that Mary ‘was saved’ from her sin- just like the rest of us- thru the Cross. The difference is the forgiveness that came to Mary- came to her before she was born- yes- the teaching does teach that Mary was born ‘without sin’ but not like Jesus was without sin- but she was ‘without sin’ because her salvation was applied ahead of time- way ahead of time- before she was born.
Okay- do Protestants believe in this teaching? No. But is it ‘so way out of line’ to the point where we should view our Catholic brothers and sisters as ‘non Christian’ because of it? No- not in my view.
Plus- many Catholics don’t even realize that this is what the doctrine teaches- many think it is talking about the birth of Jesus- being born without sin- by the act of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Virgin Mary and Mary conceiving.
No- this is what we call ‘The Virgin birth- conceived by the Holy Ghost’. Jesus being born from a virgin with no earthly father.
This is not the Immaculate Conception.
So right here alone [trust me- there are many more examples that I could give] Both Catholics and Protestants usually get the doctrine wrong- yet they remain divided their whole lives- over something that they are not even right about.
So I have found this type of stuff to be a problem while striving for Christian unity- and many Christians prefer to see the ‘other side’ in a negative light- and will continue to view them that way- till they die.
I always feel bad when I lose a friend from the site- sometimes you can’t help it [other times it is my fault!] but sometimes it’s because we have views about things- strongly held views- and when others hold to a different view- well we try and avoid them.
One day I received a Friends Request- to my surprise- it was from a young Catholic priest- I did not know him but he must have read a few posts of mine and liked them. He often gave me Thumbs Up comments on the posts- and at times would tell me he loved the posts.
Most were my Theology/Church history posts.
Often times Catholics and Protestants can agree and enjoy these types of studies. I love studying and teaching on the Church Fathers and early Christian history- and these sources all have a very strong Catholic flavor to them- so I see my fellow Catholics as being a part of a long tradition of Christian history.
Many famous converts to the Catholic Church [Bishop John Newman- converted from the Anglican Church] convert because they read the Church Fathers- and when you read them- it’s obvious to see the catholic nature of the early church in these men’s writings.
So anyway I was very happy to have a Catholic priest as one of my ‘on line students’ [and honored].
But one day- during one of my studies [covering one subject for a month or so] to my surprise I saw he was gone [yes- the dreaded block]. I thought- geez- wonder why?
I realized it was right in the middle of a study I did on Islam- and while I was doing the posts- I was also going thru a study on Islam- by the same guy who teaches it to the U.S. govt. - yes- it was a prof. [I think named Espinoza?] who teaches Islam to our govt. employees [sort of like a tolerance type thing].
Though the teacher was Catholic- yet he was VERY much pro Islam- I mean to the point where I had to reject some of the stuff he was saying- and finish the study from my own education on Islam.
At one point- he taught that the spread of Islam thru out the world had a wonderful- liberating effect on all the women in the lands where Islam spread. I mean it was so obvious that the man had no idea what he was talking about [in this area] that I realized he was not a good source [this happens every so often].
And it was more troubling that this was the guy Obama picked to teach Islam to our govt. employees [don’t get me wrong here- he teaches our govt. workers- not to convert them- but more of an informative type thing- just like you would teach any other course about sexual harassment- or whatever].
Anyway- in one of my posts while teaching on my site- I did refer to Mohamed as ‘the prophet’- now- I don’t receive Mohamed that way myself- but because I was teaching some Muslims who did recently join the site- well I used the title in this way.
I think that might have been the ‘last straw’ for my student/priest- he ‘went on Pilgrimage’ right after that post.
Okay- today’s point is we all should try our best to be ‘tolerant’ that is- we should give people as much grace/mercy as possible- but at the same time we also need to be honest about the Christian faith.
Yes- as Christians we believe salvation comes thru Christ- he was not just ‘one religious leader among many’ no- we believe he is the Way- the Truth- the Life/light- no man comes to the Father- but by him.
Sometimes we do our best not to offend- we might even go out of our way to receive people- other religions and systems that are not Christian- that’s okay- I have Muslim and Jewish and all types of friends- I’m glad they are my friends!
But we also have to be honest about our beliefs- and every now and then that might- just might- earn you a BLOCK.
 Philosophy and Politics.
This last week the media circus has centered around the Herman Cain ‘sex scandal’. Yes- it does seem like good old brother Herman [Christian ‘brother’ to you racially sensitive types] has a little problem with the ladies.
Yes- I have heard both sides on the thing- the conservatives [Limbaugh] have used Cain as an example of how the ‘left’ castigates Black conservatives- while they cover up for liberal ones.
And the left wing media types- well they sure do like to go thru every detail of the Repub candidates lives [no- the sex harassment issue is a real issue- I’m talking about all the other stuff]. It’s funny [sad?] to see some of the commentary on how Cain’s ‘worst’ mistake was in the way he handled it- that it was his mishandling of the scandal that worries folk.
Look- I like good old Bill Clinton- and for those who remember- Bill also had quite a few dalliances with the ladies. Paula Jones even sued Bill- And won!
Yes- the pres settled for 800 thousand and paid the girl. How did Clinton deal with his sex scandals? Those who say ‘see- Bill knew how to deal with them’ they seem to forget that his defenders- they ridiculed all the women- Kathleen Wiley [he groped her]- Jones- well- he pulled an Antony Weiner one day when Jones walked into the office- and oh yeah- lest we forget [well- actually I do forget the name] one woman had some very credible claims that Clinton did indeed rape her.
And of course- he ‘received’ oral sex from Monica in the oval office- and all these women were described as ‘off balance’ or greedy women seeking a pay day- or these women ‘asked for it’. Yes- this was the way the Clinton defenders went about it- yet these same media savvy folk [Carville] are saying ‘Clinton knew how to deal with scandal- Cain does not’.
Would they be happy if Cain’s people went after all the women? Not only have they not revealed the name of the lady who got a settlement but they have been pretty silent about all the women.
Not Clintons people- you know- the ones who handled it ‘right’ oh yeah- they had his ladies looking like a bunch of trailer park bimbo air heads- even a young intern- who worked for the govt.- even she was demonized at first- for engaging in an act that would have called for the firing of any CEO who was caught doing this with any young female staffer- yet in his case- the women were all at fault.
So it’s just a sad thing to see this play out. Do I think Cain ‘did it’ of course he did!
‘How do you know John’- one statement- from Cain himself. He was asked by Hannity ‘did you ask this girl to come to your hotel room’ his answer ‘I don’t recall’ yeah- if someone says ‘did you string up that Black man in the south 40 years ago’ and if you say ‘I don’t recall’ well that’s a problem.
Okay- enough of that.
I really want to cover a little bit more on the few Philosophy posts we did last month.
If you remember we stopped at the 4th-5th century B.C. and we left off with Aristotle. Now- Aristotle [and Plato and Socrates] ruled the day for hundreds of years- most Western thinkers were shaped by their ideas.
So for that reason- lets skip about 800 years forward- to the time of Saint Augustine. Augustine lived in the 4th/5th century [A.D.]. When studying Philosophy you will study this man. But you run into him in the fields of Theology and church history as well- he’s considered by many to be the ‘best’ theologian of the 1st thousand years of Christianity- and to some- the best ever.
I have covered Augustine before- so let’s go light right now and hit a few high points.
Augustine had early influences that led him to the philosophy of ‘Neo Platonism’ [an offshoot of Plato’s thought] and he dabbled [well more than dabbled] in a sort of early metaphysical cult called Manichaeism [like a 3rd century type of Christian Science- the movement in our day].
As Augustine carried out his traveling teaching ministry [he was a teacher who was skilled in Rhetoric- and these traveling teachers would charge for their services] he eventually converted to Christianity [the Catholic Bishop Ambrose played a major role in Augustine’s conversion] and became the Bishop of Hippo- North Africa.
Augustine came to defend the Christian world view against his former belief in Neo Platonism. Platonism taught a Pantheistic view of God and creation. This view teaches that God and creation are one in the same. Many eastern religions still hold to this view in our day.
Augustine argued that God was the creator of all things- but that he himself was not created- or a part of the created world.
He developed a very sound theology on creation- which most Christian traditions hold to this very day.
He had a few theological battles in his day. With Pelagianism and Donatism- these were early Christian movements that broke away from the standard teaching of the church- they derive their names form the Bishops/priests who espoused these ideas.
Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin- and he taught that men were indeed capable of obeying Gods law- out of their own moral integrity- and thus ‘save themselves’. Augustine rejected this view and taught that men were saved only by the grace of God- that men were indeed sinful and corrupt- and if left to their own designs would end up in hell.
There were various adherents to Pelagius’ view- and his ideas have carried down thru the centuries to varying degrees- sometimes you will hear [read] the term ‘Semi- Pelagian’ this refers to those who have various ideas about man’s ability to save himself through good works.
Some in the Reformed church [the original Protestant belief system that came out from the 16th century Reformation] accuse the Catholic Church of this very thing- yet the Catholic Church has made it clear that they do reject Pelagianism- and they agree with Augustine on the matter.
The Donatists taught that the Sacraments were dependent upon the ‘holiness’ of the Priest who ministers them. That if you were in a Parish where the priests were bad- lived in sin- rejected a holy life- then if you were Baptized by these men- that the Baptism didn’t ‘stick’.
The Donatists formed there own break away church in the 3rd century- and a few very influential men would join the group. A well respected early church father- Tertullian- eventually joined their ranks.
Augustine argued against the Donatists teaching- and taught that Gods grace- and the grace given to believers thru the sacraments were not derived from the holiness of any priest or preacher- but if a believer in good conscience received the sacraments- that that’s what really counted.
Saint Augustine is one of the titans of church history- he is loved by Protestants and Catholics alike. He is famous for his belief in the doctrine of Predestination [that those who are saved were chosen by God before they were born] and for this reason he is loved by the original protestant theologians [Luther, Calvin, etc.]
He also taught a very ‘Catholic’ form of Ecclesiology [church govt.] and is well loved by many Catholics as well.
The Catholic Church refers to him as the Doctor of Grace- later on in the 13th century we will meet Saint Thomas Aquinas- who the church refers to as the Angelic Doctor.
Both of these men played a major role in the development of western thought and Augustine made an effort to distinguish true Christian thought from the philosophy of Neo Platonism which was very strong in his day.
When reading Augustine [he wrote a lot] you need to be careful to distinguish some of his earlier writings from his later ones.
Early on you still see forms of Platonic thought in Augustine- but as the years rolled by his thinking progressed more and more towards historic Christian thought.
For those of you who are interested- the Confessions of Saint Augustine is considered one the classics of Christianity- you can pick up a short version at most good bookstores- it’s well worth the time to read.
 I’M JUST NOT ONE OF THOSE ‘WORD TALKERS’
Caught the debate last night- didn’t go to well for my gov. I mean I still thought he had a fighting chance- not any more. I mean even Cain started looking good compared to Perry.
When Perry could not remember the 3rd govt. dept. that he wanted to shut down- that was it. Even Ron Paul tried to throw him a lifeline ‘the E.P.A.’ Yeah- that’s the one! I even guessed ‘maybe he means the energy dept.’ [you know- that’s always been kind of a joke- like having a ‘sky dept.’].
Sure enough- the next time Perry ‘spoke’ that was the one.
I read a Conan joke the other day- he was mocking Perry because he was going to start skipping the debates- he said Perry’s excuse was he was not a skilled debater- you know- he wasn’t one of those ‘word talkers’ yeah- guess he’s right.
I went thru a few news articles the other day- when I read the papers during the week I cut the articles out that I think are important- and then in the morning before I post I’ll look them over to see what looks relevant.
Out of the 2 I saved- one was on a possible looming crisis in Italy. Sure enough- yesterday everything hit the fan.
The reason the stocks took a big hit was out of fear that the European debt crisis might spread to Italy. Italy has a big economy- not like Greece. The main reason Greece was important- was that many observers feared that if Greece went bankrupt- that the ‘contagion’ might spread to the other Euro Zone nations- like Italy- and that would be bad- very bad.
Well- that looks like what might be happening. Greece’s Debt to GDP ratio is 144 %- not good. Italy is at around 120%- not as bad- but still not good. This coming year they have about half a trillion dollars coming to maturity [bonds they must pay out on] and they owe 2.6 trillion [not like our 14 trillion- but for the size of their nation- it’s a lot].
So the interest rate just went up for Italy- it will now cost more for them to borrow- and when you’re paying a little over 7 % on 2.6 trillion- well that hurts.
Italian bonds are not like Greek bonds- Italian bonds are in all of the big banks that we are familiar with- many of our investments are in the same banks that hold Italian debt- so if Italy goes bust- that’s a huge problem- that will indeed drag the U.S. down.
I mean Greece already seems to be a lost cause- even their own people are pulling all their money out of the Greek banks and putting it in Swiss banks. Geez- if your own citizens don’t trust you- forget the other nations bailing you out.
I find it funny [sad] that a few weeks ago- Fahreed Zakariah [a CNN guy] was mocking the Tea Party crowd- because he said that the Europeans were handling their debt crisis well- like adults- and that even the Europeans were saying ‘geez- cant you be mature like us- you stupid Tea party Repubs’!
He said it in the same mocking way that Martin Bashir [I think they are both Brits? I know they of course are both foreigners] made an on air accusation the other day. I mean- it was bad. Bashir said a certain Repub referred to injured Iraqi war vets as injured ‘dogs’.
Now- for the life of me- I could not imagine this charge to be true. Then I heard the rest of the story. Some Repub said the occupy protestors were leaving a huge mess at the camps- ‘like dogs’.
And Bashir applied this to the Iraqi war vet. who was hit with a gas canister in Oakland- so yes- this Iraq war vet was a wounded protestor. But to then go on national TV and say that Repubs are referring to wounded Iraqi war vets as wounded dogs- I think this network [MSNBC] is very dangerous for the country.
We need to hear both sides of all arguments- but this stuff is incendiary.
Being I already mentioned Italy- let me finish with some history/philosophy that might be relevant.
In the last post I mentioned saint Thomas Aquinas- and after Augustine [and Anselm- 11th century] he is the next main character I wanted to cover [in our ongoing philosophy study].
Aquinas is referred to as the Doctor Angelicas [angelic doctor] by the catholic church. Aquinas lived during the time of a cultural/philosophical reawakening that was beginning to take place in the Western world- the Renaissance.
Renaissance means ‘re-birth’. It was a rebirth of the ancient Poets and philosophers of days gone by. Men like Cicero and Aristotle were once again brought to the fore front of many thinkers and lovers of culture.
The catch phrase for the Renaissance was Ad Fontes- which meant ‘back to the sources’ [source- Fountain- Fontes]. In the 14th century a famous and influential Catholic family- the Medici’s- were a catalyst for mixing this cultural movement in with the church.
The Renaissance sort of challenged the historic view of education- up until this time most learning was done thru the prism of the church. In the universities of the day Theology [study of God] was called the Queen of the sciences- and philosophy was referred to as her Handmaiden.
Well the Renaissance thinkers said they wanted to study things for what they are- they did not want to see everything thru the lens of the church.
Eventually the theme of the movement [back to the original sources] would play a major role in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Men like Erasmus [the famous 16th century Catholic Humanist] would re discover the original Greek New testament- and it was thru the study of the Greek text that many of the Reformers made their case to get ‘back to the bible’ and eventually break from Rome.
This was also the beginning period of modern capitalism. Recently when Libya had her ‘civil war’ and the new leaders started talking about a new constitution- one of the interesting things that came up was they wanted to do away with interest on loans.
Why? Well Muslims teach that interest itself is a bad thing. ‘Gee- wonder where they get that idea from John’ Oh- from a little book- called the bible.
Yes- to the surprise of some- this is very much taught in the Old Testament. Now- it was God’s law governing the nation of Israel- but they were forbidden to charge interest.
‘So John- is it wrong for us today to make interest’? Not really- Jesus used interest [usury] as an example in some of his parables- and overall- we as believers are not under the Old Testament laws that govern natural Israel.
But- for many centuries- the world did not see interest on money as a legitimate way to earn a living. So during the Renaissance you also had the rise of exploration- and explorers like Columbus would go on their voyages with the financial backing of investors.
The normal rate for these voyages was a 75/25% cut. When the explorer returned- the investor [Spain- or whoever] got 75% of the goods- and the explorer kept 25.
So there were a lot of changes taking place in the world at the time- and the rise of modern capitalism was one of them- money of course existed way before this time- but as a commodity- this was a new way of viewing the world.
Okay- just thought I would throw in a little history along with the current events of the day. As we see the current turmoil in the Italian markets [the original renaissance started in Florence- Italy] maybe seeing money/interest as a commodity- and ‘usury’ as a major way to increase ones wealth- well maybe that’s not such a smart way to do things after all.
When Jon Corzine's global investment firm went bust the other day- it was a direct result of taking a gamble on the ‘gullibility’ of the common man.
What his firm did was they took a huge risk by investing in European bonds- bonds from Greece that everyone knew was a terrible 'bet’. Then why did he do it?
The risk was so high- that the interest [usury] on the bonds was also high- you would make lots of money- if you got your money back.
But how would you get the money back- if the company [or nation- or bank] is in such bad shape that they might go bust? Your basically betting that the other nations around them [and the 1% crowd] would never let this happen [too big to fail] and when the nation [or company] gets ‘bailed out’ well then you get the money back- at a huge gain- all at the expense of the ‘99’ %.
‘Gee John- that doesn’t seem right to me’. That doesn’t seem right to me either- and to the legitimate ‘occupy Wall st. guys’ that’s not right to them as well.
Basically Corzine did the exact same thing that the big banks did during our 2008 bail out crisis- the banks can’t do that anymore- we did pass regulations that forbid this. But private investment firms can- they take a risk if they do- but that’s their choice.
Corzine took the risk- and lost [besides the fact the there is also about 600 million dollars ‘missing’ from private investors money!].
Okay- that’s it for now. We will keep an eye on Italy for the next few days [Germany is already talking about bailing out of the Euro Zone] and if things keep going downhill like this- well we might all be better off if we moved our money into less interest bearing accounts- safe places to ‘park’ your money- and after the dust settles- then maybe get back into the market.
But right now- I would trust getting a bigger return from a Columbus voyage than the market- yes- maybe ‘usury’ is not all that’s it’s cracked up to be- maybe the Libyans are right [and the Old Testament]. Yeah- maybe they know something we don’t.
 ‘LIL’ KIM- LUTHER AND HITCHENS
Okay- we had the passing of some famous folk these last few days. Havel [former Czech President] - a great man indeed.
Then we had ‘lil’ Kim die [not the singer- the leader of North Korea. Though there was an on line rumor it was Lil Kim- yeah the fans cried- until they realized it was the crazed leader of one of the world’s most dangerous countries- you know- the hair trigger Nuke. Well when the fans found out it was him- not the singer- they relaxed]
Actually- the surreal video of the North Korean people crying in the streets- the look of shock and despair on their faces- I mean I haven’t seen the followers of any political leader act this way in a long time- not since the Perry debates.
Then old Hitchen's kicked the bucket- yeah- he was a famous atheist.
I really do not hate atheists- some are nice people- most don’t know the real case for the existence of God. But Hitchen's- well when I reviewed his book- ‘God is not great’ I did get into the many distortions and misrepresentations that he made.
He simply lied- and often. He was mean and arrogant and insulted people often- he has referred to princess Diana as a ‘land mine’ [she had a charity that worked for the abolition of these weapons] he said she was like a land mine ‘she was laid all over the country- and when you stepped on her everything blew up’.
No- many Christians and leaders have come out and done the ‘we respected him for his views’ type thing- not me- I’m not gad he died- but won’t make him sound like he was a ‘good’ man- he was not.
I read a piece form the N.Y. Times- they went into Libya and investigated the reports of the deaths of many civilians caused by NATO and the U.S. during the ‘no fly zone’ debacle.
They found evidence of many civilians that were killed. They presented the report to the new leaders of Libya- they could care less.
In Benghazi- the main city in the eastern half of Libya- they were openly flying the Al-Qaida flag. We just spent 10 years and many lives fighting in Afghanistan. Why? Because they gave territory to Al-Qaida- they gave them a place to work out of.
We fought the Taliban for 10 years over this. Yet in a few months NATO and the U.S. gave Al-Qaida their own capitol to fly their flag- I mean the terrorists must be thinking ‘if we knew these guys were this stupid- we would have never bombed the towers’.
In Tripoli- the real capitol of Libya- the various militia groups [terrorists] are all claiming they are the security/armed forces of Libya. I heard a doctor- on N.P.R. - not a right wing radio show- he said in his hospital these various militias are all trying to take charge- they walk around with guns- sometimes walk into a room and shoot a patient who they think is not on their side- and the doctors say they have no security at all.
Under Gadhaffi things ran well- like a normal society- now their country is a terrorist haven- run by these guys.
I could go on and say the same for Egypt- and tell the stories of how the military have been killing protestors in the street. All these things are being done under people that the West [we- NATO- France] have enabled by removing their former leaders.
And France this week passed a law making it a crime to deny the genocide that took place in Turkey in the early part of the last century.
Yes- the Ottoman Turks did slaughter many Armenians- Christians- at the time. And getting Turkey to officially admit this has been a problem for years. But France passing a law to make it a crime to deny it- while they just finished committing ‘crimes against humanity’ themselves- by killing all the Libyan civilians- it’s just too much.
Okay- let’s start a brief overview of some church history. Over the next few weeks I want to hit on the 16th century Protestant reformation and try and cover some of the key figures of the movement.
Martin Luther- the German reformer who had the most influence in the movement was born and raised in Germany.
As a boy his parents were peasant farmers and eventually his dad became a miner and became a very successful businessman- he would go on and eventually own 6 foundries.
He sent his son to law school- and young Luther excelled. At the age of 21 he accomplished more than many of his peers. One day on his way home from the university a thunderstorm broke out and Luther was almost struck by a bolt of lightning.
In fear he cried out to Saint Ann [the mother of Mary] and said ‘Saint Ann- if you save me I will become a monk’ [Ann was the patron Saint for miners- thus Luther was familiar with her].
He was spared and off to the monastery he went. Luther eventually became an ordained priest and even though his dad initially was upset that his son became a priest- yet he was proud of his boy later on.
Luther would eventually make a Pilgrimage to Rome- on foot [a few month walk from Germany to Rome!] and what he saw devastated him. Rome- and the Vatican- were in bad shape. Many of the priests lived in open sin- and the city that he saw as his headquarters for the faith- well it was a mess.
Luther made the famous penitent walk/crawl up the stairs of the Lateran church [this church was the most famous church before the construction of St. Peters. The actual stairs of the church are the same stairs that Christ walked up during his trial under Pontius Pilate. Yes- you hear many ‘stories’ while studying church history- things like the relics or left over pieces of the Cross- well these stories are usually fake. But the stairs of the Lateran church are indeed the same stairs that Christ walked on- the early ‘church’ builders dismantled the stairs at Pilate’s court in Jerusalem and installed them at this church building in Rome].
When Luther got to the top of the stairs- it is reported that he questioned the faith- he had a crisis of faith and thought that maybe the whole thing was a sham.
Okay- as we do a few more posts over the coming weeks- I want you guys to see that the main players of the Reformation were sincere Catholic men who had many questions about what they saw as corrupt in their own church. These men did not want to start a breakaway church- they simply wanted to reform the church they loved.
Keep in mind that Luther excelled during his legal studies- he had a keen legal mind- this will be important later on when we see the debates he has with Rome over the doctrine of Justification by faith- the letters of the apostle Paul [Romans- Galatians] use lots of legal language- and his early education will help him in these debates.
Okay- that’s it for today. Maybe do a Google search on Luther and familiarize yourself a little with the history.
The ‘readings’ for this week are 2nd Samuel 6-7 and Psalms 89. See what they have in common.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
 LUTHER- THE TOWER EXPERIENCE
Let’s start with some church history. In the last post I covered the early years of Martin Luther- probably the most significant figure of the Protestant Reformation.
Luther studied for the priesthood in Erfurt, Germany. He would eventually wind up in Wittenberg- one of the major university cities of the Reformation. Wittenberg was actually a small insignificant town- but the political leader over the region- Frederick the Wise- sought to put it on the map.
He wanted to turn Wittenberg into a German ‘Rome’. He wanted it to become a major Pilgrimage city where Christians would see Wittenberg as a destination- just like they saw Rome.
So Frederick embarked on this plan and he searched thru all the Catholic learning centers of the time and finally recruited 3 top scholars to teach out of the university at Wittenberg- Luther was one of the 3.
Just as a side note- Frederick would succeed at making Wittenberg a major catholic center. He would eventually obtain over 19,000 Relics for the Cathedral church there [Relics were used in the ancient system of buying indulgences and making special pilgrimage trips to important Churches. If the church/city that your making the Pilgrimage to has a lot of Relics- bones or other famous material objects from church history- then the value of the Pilgrimage was high. In theory Frederick collected so many that if you added up all the ‘time off’ from Purgatory- you would get 1 million, 900 thousand years off! Some of the famous relics at Wittenberg were a hair from the beard of Jesus- straw from the manger Jesus was born in- and even a branch from the famous burning bush of Moses! As you can see- there was a lot of commercializing going on- even back then].
When Luther arrived in Wittenberg- he made a name for himself as a top scholar. Many protestants- who revere Luther- usually are not aware that he was a master Linguist [sort of like Rick Perry!]
Yes Luther mastered language- and he showed it in his teaching on the book of Psalms.
In 1515 he began his famous study on the book of Romans and as he went thru the very first chapter- something shook him. He came across the passage that says the Just shall live by faith. This verse first appears in the O.T. book of Habakkuk- and is quoted 3 more times in the N.T.
Luther was very aware of the concept of the righteousness of God- he struggled for many years trying to reconcile his own sinful nature with Gods holiness- but he never really ‘saw’ the biblical concept of righteousness as a free gift that God ‘imputes’ to the sinner.
Yes- for the 1st time in Luther’s life- after his years training for the priesthood- the pilgrimage he made to Rome- the thousands of hours he spent confessing his sins while a monk in Erfurt- he never really understood that the righteousness of God was a free gift given to those who have faith.
It was a giant weight lifted from his shoulders- Luther did not need to try any more to live up to the standards of God- in a way that would earn for him forgiveness- but he would simply believe- and the righteousness of God would be counted to him as a gift.
Luther would go on to call this an Alien Righteousness- that is it is not found within the person who tries to do all the church works he can- or buying all the indulgences- or any other of the many religious actions he was practicing- but this free gift of being right with God- it came to those who had faith- the Just shall live by Faith- this was indeed good news for the scholar.
As time went on- Germany would get embroiled in the political machinations of the day- Luther’s top political cover was Frederick the Wise- hardly a Protestant Reformer! He spent lots of time trying to make Wittenberg the major Catholic center in Germany.
But at the time there was a political fight raging between Rome and some of the other nation/states. There was a figure head office called the Holy Roman Emperor. This office was really in name only- but it rose up during the first Millennium of Christian history and sought to replace the influence that Rome was losing.
So you had France, Spain and England all vying for the title. Eventually it would go to King Charles of Spain- but the Pope- who played a major role in nominating the person- he did not want any of these top 3 to get the position. Henry the Eighth was the king of England at the time- and these ‘3 kings’ were sort of in competition with Rome- so the Pope tried to get Fredrick the Wise to throw his hat into the ring.
Frederick just happened to be one of the Electors of this position.
His actual title was The Elector of Saxony.
So Fredrick had lots of influence- and as Rome would eventually but heads with the stubborn bull of Wittenberg [Luther] Frederick would become the major protector of Luther.
Okay- I think we’ll stop here for today. The experience that Luther had- the enlightenment that came to him while teaching the book of Romans- this is often called The Tower experience of Luther- it took place in the year 1515.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
 TREASURY OF MERIT
Let’s pick up where we left off 2 posts back. We were talking about Martin Luther and the events that led up to the Protestant Reformation.
In order to understand the key act that caused the protest- we will have to teach some Catholic history/doctrine.
In the 16th century Pope Julius began the effort to build St. Peters basilica in Rome. He got as far as laying the foundation and died. Pope Leo the 10th would pick up after him.
The church needed to raise money for the project- and the German prince- Albert- would play a major role.
It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant scholars agree that the Popes of the day were pretty corrupt. They came from what we call the Medici line of Popes.
If you remember last month I wrote a post on the Renaissance- I talked about the Medici family and how they played a major role in supporting the Renaissance that took place in the 13th century in Florence Italy that would spread to the region.
Well this very influential family also played a big role in who would get top positions in the church.
At the time of Luther and prince Albert- if you had the right connections and the money- you could literally buy a position in the church.
Albert already held 2 Bishop seats- and there was an opening for an Archbishops seat in Mainz [Germany] and he wanted that one too.
It should be noted that official Canon law [church law] said you could only hold one seat at a time- Albert was bidding on his 3rd one! And he was too young for all of them.
So even the Pope and the officials held little respect for what the church actually taught at the time.
So Albert opens up negotiations with Leo- and the bidding starts AT 12,000 Duckets [money] Albert counters with 7,000- and they agree on 10,000. How did they justify the numbers? 12- The number of Apostles. 7- The 7 deadly sins. 10- The 10 commandments.
Yes- the church was pretty corrupt at the time.
So Albert works out a plan with Leo- he will borrow the money from the German banks- and pay the banks off by the Pope giving Albert the right to sell Indulgences.
What’s an Indulgence?
Okay- this is where it gets tricky.
The ancient church taught a system called The Treasury of Merit. This was a sort of spiritual bank account that ‘stored up’ the good deeds of others over the years.
You had the good deeds of Jesus at the top- but you also had Mary and Joseph- the 12 Apostles- and other various saints thru out time.
The way the ‘bank’ worked was you could tap into the account by getting a Papal indulgence- a sort of I.O.U. that had the Popes guarantee that it would get so much time out of Purgatory for a loved one.
The actual sacrament that accesses the account is called Penance [confession].
When a penitent does penance- he confesses his sin to the priest- and he is absolved by the authority of the church that the priest has. The priest usually tells the person ‘say so many Hail Mary’s- Our Father’s’ and that’s a form of penance.
One of the other things the church practiced was called Alms Deeds. This term is found in the bible and it means giving your money to the poor- it is a noble act that Jesus himself taught.
In theory- part of the sacrament of penance was tied into Alms Deeds- you can access the account thru the practice of giving to the poor- which also meant giving to the church that helps the poor- and in the hands of the Medici line of Popes- meant outright giving money to the Pope.
So now you see how the abuse worked its way into the pockets of the faithful.
Albert now had the permission from Leo to sell these indulgences in Germany- and he would pick a certain corrupt priest to sell them in a place called Saxony- the region where Luther operated out of.
It should be noted that the Catholic Church never taught the crass act of ‘buying your way out of Purgatory’. The practice of including giving money as a part of the sacrament of penance was tied into the biblical principle of giving to the poor- a good thing.
But Tetzel and others abused the official meaning of the indulgence- and did make it sound like you could by your way out of Purgatory [in theory- a loved one might be in Purgatory for so many years- and through the indulgence you are actually getting time off for them- because the good deeds of others are now applied to the account].
The money Albert would raise- half would go to Rome for the building of St. peters- and half would go to pay off the banks in Germany- it was a sad system- and a sad time for the church as a whole.
It would be wrong to judge the entire church at the time as being corrupt- you did have many sincere Priests and Catholic men and women who saw the abuses and did not take part in them.
But there was corruption at the top- and this would eventually lead to the breakup of the church- and the launching of what we now call the Protestant Movement.
As a side note- it should be said that many Catholics and Protestants are not aware of the whole treasury of merit system- and the church never officially changed her position on the doctrine.
There were 3 Church councils since the time [Trent- 1500’s, Vatican 1- 1800’s and Vatican 2- 1962-65]. The Treasury of Merit never came up for change.
Obviously Protestants don’t believe in Purgatory- and it’s not my purpose in these posts to change Catholics into Protestants or vice versa- but to give all sides a clear view of the issues that divided us- and to try and be honest- and respectful during the process.
Does the bible teach anything like a Treasury of Merit? Well actually it does. The bible teaches that the righteousness of Christ is the treasury that people can access- by faith- and become righteous in the sight if God.
The idea- applied to Christ- is good.
But in the hands of the Medici Popes- and the ambitious prince of Germany- it would lead to disaster.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
1782- PROTESTANT REFORMATION CONCLUSION
Today let’s finish up the study on the Protestant Reformation. We left off on Luther disputing with the church over the doctrine of how a person becomes just in the sight of God- is it by works or faith?
Now- to the surprise of many Protestants [and Catholics!] both sides agreed that a person cannot be justified by works.
Yes- the Catholic Church rejected what was known as Pelagianism. In the early centuries of the church there was a Catholic priest- named Pelagius- who taught that people had the ability within themselves to obey Gods law and become saved that way.
He rejected the doctrine of original sin and another famous bishop- Saint Augustine- would refute Pelagius and teach salvation comes by the Grace of God. The official Catholic position was to reject Pelagius and accept Augustine.
Okay- then where’s the difference?
The church council that spells it out is the Council of Trent [named after the Italian city where the council took place in the 1500’s- Trento].
This council is often referred to as the Counter Reformation. The church rejected the Protestant line- but also acknowledged the need for reform and made some changes.
This is the council where the church rejects Pelagianism- and also says the position of Luther [Justification by Faith ALONE] was flawed.
The church appealed to the New Testament letter of Saint James- where James uses an example from the life of Abraham [found in Genesis 22] where Abraham obeys God and is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar.
Of course this never happens- God was simply testing Abraham- but James says this act of obedience justified him in Gods sight.
James says ‘see how a man is justified by works- and not by faith ALONE’.
The argument from Rome was Faith played THE major role in justification- but was not sufficient by itself- there had to be righteous works eventually associated with it in order for God to say ‘you are just’ [saved].
Luther disagreed and said God justified Abraham before he had good works- we find this in Genesis 15. God says to Abraham ‘look- count all the stars- so shall your offspring be’ and Walla- the bible also says Abraham was justified in God's eyes the moment he believed the promise.
Actually they both are.
I have taught this a few times over the years- and it would take too much time to re-do right now.
But I believe James and Paul [the 2 who debate this in the bible] are simply looking at different aspects of salvation/justification.
Paul emphasized faith- and James showed us how true faith always has works with it.
When you read the statements that came out from the council of Trent- some of them do seem to indicate that both sides might have been talking past each other at some points.
In the heat of the day they were too quick to condemn the other side- without really trying hard to achieve unity [like politics!].
The 6th session of Trent was the one where the church dealt with justification [how we become saved in Gods sight].
Rome made a distinction between mortal and Venial sin in the council- the church said that Baptism is the INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE of justification. Yet faith is the Root- Foundation and Initial act that justifies.
Rome also taught that Mortal sin kills the grace in the soul that brings justification- and when a person commits a mortal sin- they need the ‘2nd plank of justification’ in order to be brought back into a state of Grace.
This 2nd Plank is the Sacrament of Penance [confession]. Catholic Moral Theologians use an example to show the difference between Mortal and Venial sin.
Drinking- if you take a drink [alcohol] not a sin. If you get tipsy- Venial- and if you get flat drunk- mortal.
This is a true teaching by the way- not making this up.
Catholic scholars are not in total agreement on all the Mortal/Venial sins.
Some teach that missing Mass on Sunday is a Mortal sin.
I just threw this in to show you the debates that take place.
The teachings from Trent are referred to as Tridentine.
The Protestants [early on] rejected the belief that a person can lose Gods grace once he has it- later on the Protestants would divide- severely- over this teaching- Predestination and the Perseverance of the Saints.
But early on all the major Reformers did indeed teach this.
Luther believed in the doctrine of Predestination just as much- if not more- than John Calvin.
But sometimes in these history shows they get this wrong and say Luther and Calvin disagreed on it- that’s a common mistake that you hear every so often.
Luther actually wrote a book dedicated to the subject [The Bondage of the Will] Calvin never wrote a book solely on the subject.
Okay- as we end this brief study of the Protestant Reformation- you could also call it a primer on Catholic doctrine [short one].
Why is it important that we study this?
In John chapter 17 Jesus said that he desired unity for all of Gods people- and many of these divisions- which date back 500 years- are commonly misunderstood on both sides.
It is common in our day to run across an ex Catholic who might say ‘you know- I left the church because I don’t believe I need to confess to a priest’ or ‘the Catholic church teaches you are saved by works’.
The original Reformers did not have a problem with confession- the Lutherans carried the practice over into their communion.
And like I just showed you- the Catholic church rejected the doctrine of being saved ‘by works’ [Pelagianism] and simply emphasized the teaching found in the bible- the book of James- and focused more on James than Paul [who the protestants focus on].
So yes- there are still differences- but if we are not informed- then it makes it harder to strive for unity- and at the end of the day God does desire unity for all his people.
The other day I quoted the great Civil rights leader- MLK. In one of his famous speeches that’s played when we celebrate his life- you hear Martin say that not only was he seeking unity among the races- but also in the church.
He said he wanted to see Catholics and Protestants- as well as Blacks and Whites- sit down together- he referred to us all as Gods kids.
I think we should strive to achieve the desire of Martin- and Jesus.