Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Baptist Sexism In The News

A more than 95-year-old church in Atlanta Georgia is about to be ousted from the Southern Baptist Convention because they have a woman pastor on staff. This is nothing new as it is regular Southern Baptist policy now since The Baptist Faith and Message (2000 version) unabashedly states:
VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3.

Audrey Barrick of The Christian Post reports:
The Rev. Mimi Walker has been serving as co-pastor at Druid Hills Baptist Church with her husband, the Rev. Graham Walker, since 2003. But earlier this month, leaders of the Georgia Baptist Convention recommended cutting ties with the local congregation.

"It seems sad that they decided to go backwards in time," Mimi Walker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm not sure what the value is of trying to go back in time when women were held in subservience."

Ironically Fundamentalists in their zeal for biblical inerrancy and biblical literalism do not take the bible literally enough---as one of the main verses so often abused to forbid female pastors can also be used to forbid single, childless, divorced and remarried male pastors as well as male pastors with one child or adopted children if the text of the verse is stretched enough. The main verses used against female pastors are:
1 Timothy 2:9-14 (King James Version)
9In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

1 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
Qualifications for Overseers (Bishops/Elders/Pastors)
3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer [1] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, [2] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

1 Timothy 3:1-5 of course can be used to forbid single, childless, divorced and remarried male pastors as well as male pastors with one child or adopted children---but all of these have been ordained within SBC churches without question. Also notice that in 1 Timothy 2:9-14 it is the author's or authors' opinion that women cannot teach men not God forbidding female pastors. Looking over 1 Timothy 3:1-5 again a lot of men who are pastors now should be disqualified based upon their failure to uphold any and/or all of these qualifications. So why shouldn't/can't females be pastors now if even males can't keep these so-called "Absolute and literal biblical standards?"

If Jesus Had Anything To Say To The SBC What Might He Say?

Wade Burleson ponders this question in a recent post Grace and Truth to You: Jesus Pronounces Eight Woes on the Southern Baptist Convention (Matthew 23):
It's easy to preach texts when we think Jesus is talking about others in the abstract. It's not near as easy to preach texts when we believe Jesus could be talking about us. This modern edition of Matthew 23 is adapted to cause me to look within myself.

Then Jesus spoke to the Southern Baptist Convention saying: (2) The pastors and self-proclaimed leaders of the SBC have seated themselves in positions of authority; (3) Do not imitate their actions; for they say things that they themselves will not do. (4) They create heavy burdens and lay them on the peoples' shoulders for them to carry, but they themselves are unwilling to even lift a finger. (5) What they do in terms of acts of service they do only to be noticed by the world; for they lie on their resumes and take great pains to dress as the epitome of success.

(6) They love the place of honor at national events and want to be seen next to the powerful politicians, (7) and they cherish being respected and powerful in the eyes of others, even demanding that they be called "Dr." by those who know them. (8) But you, do not allow yourself to be called "Dr." by others, for One is your Teacher and you are all equal in honor. (9) Do no call anyone on earth your "Father" for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (10) Do not consider yourself a leader; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (11) But the greatest among you shall be your servant. (12) Whoever promotes himself will one day be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will one day be exalted.

(13) But woe to you, SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders, hypoocrites, because you emphasize the building of your own kingdom and shut people out of the kingdom of heaven. (14) Woe to you SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders because your love for money causes you to devour the widows' income for your own gain and yet for pretense purposes you act as if your motivations are all spiritual; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation.

(15) Woe to you SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders, hypocrites, because you travel internationally to share your global causes and urge others to partner with you; but when you convince someone to join the efforts of the SBC you make him twice as much a recepient of God's judgment as yourselves.

Read the rest: Here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Karl Barth On Easter

Jesus as Victor:

The war is at an end – even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind – and truly it is burning – but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear.

(Dogmatics in Outline, p. 123)

Romans 13 And Communism

Resuming my Romans 13 series on a tip from Dr. McGrath---here are some thoughts on the Communists' use of Romans 13:

First off communist states developed differently from theocratic states as atheism seemed to have been a larger underlying principle of communism. This is not to say that there were not religious elements within Communist movements and that all atheists are evil but the facts speak for themselves. Any clear reading of history demonstrates for the most part that communist regimes were hostile to religious expressions. Now atheism in and of itself is the belief that no gods truly exist---but just like all systems of thought, there are extremists---such was the case with communistic atheism. Communist atheists were more or less anti-theists and anti-religion than persons who just happened to believe atheism. Put differently communist atheists were fundamentalist militant atheists in the sense that they were using the civil government to bring about a religion and god-free society---a society that functions without the use of god(s) and religious expressions.

Anyways moving on despite the communists' hostility towards religion, they knew of the potency of religion and the power that it had of control over people. Karl Marx is quoted as saying:
Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man—state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.[1]

We commonly hear this quote as being: "religion is the opiate of the masses." This just goes to show that even in their hostility towards religions communists recognized the motivational force of religion and in this way the Communists like the Nazis used and abused religion for their own glory. And in the same way that Nazis used and abused Romans 13 Communist regimes did the same:
By then, the Russian people had the moral right to do whatever they could get away with, like the German people under Hitler, like anyone living under a totalitarian dictatorship. The dictators had cancelled the law, which is a contractual agreement, so the people who had been defrauded no longer were required to perform. If you sign a contract to buy a house, and the owner refuses to vacate, you don't need to make payments.


A word should be said about Romans 13. For many years, pulpit pansies in the pay of the powers that would like to be have preached that Romans 13 teaches unconditional obedience to government. Whatever government does, according to this teaching, we have to endure it, because God has installed government for good.

Yes, He has, but since the men who run government are men, the chance is great that they will go bad. That is why God did the job Himself, through His judges, until His children demanded a king. Through Samuel, He warned them what a king would do. He would eat out their substance, etc. When stiff-necked Israelites would not yield, He gave them Saul. Guess what? God was"is"right. Scripture is full of cases of government run amok. When that happens, God sends someone to overthrow it.

King Jabin, the government, was oppressing the people. Jael lulled Sisera, his commanding general, to sleep and then nailed that old boy to the ground with a spike through his temples. Scripture says Jael is "blessed above women." The children of Israel sang about her in celebration of her exploit.

Eglon, king of Moab, oppressed the people. Ehud parked a knife in his belly. His majesty was so fat his belly closed around the knife, so that for a while the coroner couldn't find the cause of death until crime scene investigators showed him the weapon. Scripture says Ehud was a deliverer whom the Lord had raised up.

Wasn't Paul a notorious jailbird? Wasn't Peter? Wasn't Jesus a criminal? He must have been, according to today's pansy preachers, because the government"the Sanhedrin and the Romans"said He was. Didn't He destroy property and use violence when He kicked the moneychangers out? Didn't He break the law Himself?

If you preach that the government can do no wrong and must be obeyed blindly whatever it does, that is where you must wind up. Romans 13 means that you must obey and defer to government as long as it does what God installed it to do. When government stops doing what God installed it to do"stops clearly and incontrovertibly"your obedience is no longer required. Weren't our Founding Fathers criminals?

Is God a Nazi? That is the question. If you subscribe to the preaching of today's pansy preachers, you believe He is. You believe you must obey Hitler because he is the government. You believe you must defer to whatever crimes the government commits because of what some pansy preacher says about Romans 13.

So you see, pal, the fact that you may put your collar on backward or have three first names, etc., cuts you no slack here. And by the way, those pansy preachers revere Martin Luther King, Jr. Wasn't King in the Birmingham jail when he wrote his famous letter from Birmingham jail (if he wrote it)?

Wasn't he there because he defied the government? Which governments does Romans 13 say we must obey? Regular readers will also remember that today's Christianity has been infiltrated from top to bottom by Communists, starting even before World War II. Could that be the reason today's pansy preachers pervert Romans 13? Are they deliberately trying to neutralize the faithful?

Romans 13 was also used against Christian anti-communist resistance movements:
“While the troops of Mahomet II surrounded Constantinople in 1493 and it had to be decided if the Balkans would be under Christian or [Muslim] dominion for centuries, a local church council in the beseiged city discussed the following: What color had the eyes of the virgin Mary? What gender do the angels have? If a fly falls in sanctified water, is the fly sanctified or the water defiled? It may only be a legend, as concerns those times, but peruse Church periodicals of today and you will find that questions just like this are discussed. The menace of persecutors and the sufferings of the underground church are scarely ever mentioned. Instead, there are endless discussions about theological matters, about rituals, about nonessentials….In formerly Communist Russia, no one remembers the arguments for or against child baptism, for or against papal infallibility. They are not pre- or postmillenialists. They cannot interpret prophecies and don’t quarrel about them, but I have wondered very often at how well they could prove the existence of God to atheists.”

—Richard Wurmbrand, Jewish Lutheran pastor from Romania who spent fourteen years in a Communist prison, quoted in Jesus Freaks: Volume II, page 208

See also: The Suffering Church in Russia, Fr. Popielusko and Communist Poland, A New Religion, Minority Rights Abuse in Communist Poland and Inherited Issues*, Martyrs in the History of Christianity and Is Religion Evil? Secularism's Pride and Irrational Prejudice.

My next posting in my series on Romans 13 will be on Romans 13 and the Religious Right and Left...

Monday, March 29, 2010

The SBC And The Social Gospel

Tim Rogers of SBC Today waxes eloquent about the SBC's possible movement toward a return to the Social Gospel. Here is an excerpt from that post:
Before I articulate my thesis I want our readers to understand a couple of things. First, I am not against doing social ministry. I believe that every church must involve herself in reaching out to community projects and other secular ministries in order to help meet the needs of the poor. Second, I do not discount the power of meeting the needs of someone that is in need of help. It certainly opens a door that otherwise would not be opened. Third, I am by no means insinuating that the ministries mentioned below are pushing for a Social Gospel. With that said, allow me to reveal my concern that we may be heading down a road in a return to a Social Gospel movement within the SBC.

Interesting prospects---one can only hope that there is a future for social ministries within the SBC. Others are worried that the SBC is moving beyond Fundamentalist positions since the Fundamentalists won the war to drive the Moderates/Liberals out of the state and national Conventions. The battle for biblical inerrancy---the hill on which the Fundamentalists set their stakes to die on is no longer an issue within the SBC as they've already fought that battle and declared their self-victory. Inerrancy is pretty much set in stone within SBC life---what with the advent of the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000.

Because of this new battles have sprung up within the SBC---which causes great and major concerns for all Baptists---some Baptists such as the Southern Baptist Peter Lumpkins are worried that the SBC is moving too closely in the direction of legalistic confessional Dortian Calvinism/Semi-Hyper-Calvinism. Critics within and outside of the SBC are wondering what the future of the SBC holds. Can all the competing factions within the SBC ever stabilize? They must learn to in order for the Great Commission Resurgence to move forward. And what of the relationship between Southern and non-Southern Baptists---how will competing factions within the larger Baptist world effect our relations? Only time will tell how all of this will play out---so what are your thoughts?

Christian Terrorists' Plot Discovered

Here is an excerpt from the article:
(March 29) -- Nine alleged members of a Michigan-based Christian militia group were indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit in an alleged 17-month plot to attack and kill local, state and federal law enforcement officials.

On the heels of weekend raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the FBI unsealed an indictment today revealing charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and teaching the use of explosive materials. The charges were filed against nine alleged members of the Hutaree militia, which writes on its Web site that it is preparing for battle with the anti-Christ.

Read the full article here: Militiamen Plotted to Kill Officials, Authorities Say.

2010 CBF-NC General Assembly

Our General Assembly this year was a blast. This year marked the 16th year of CBF-NC. This year is also the last year that my mom helped with the setup of exhibits as she is rotating off of that committee next year.

If you haven't read them yet Tony Cartledge has two excellent postings on the 2010 CBF-NC General Assembly. Here is a snippet from the main posting---Baptists Today Blogs: CBFNC at "Sweet Sixteen":
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) celebrated its sixteenth year March 19-20 by affirming core partnerships, approving a record budget, and looking to a hopeful future. More than 950 persons packed the ornate, historic sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem for the opening session on Friday night, and the house was comfortably filled for the closing worship on Saturday morning.

Built on the theme "Generations Connected: One Family, One Faith, Many Journeys," the annual assembly recognized the founding generation of the CBF movement by hearing from from Cecil Sherman, CBF national's first coordinator, and gave attention to emerging generations with a closing message by Craig and Jennifer Janney, a young couple who serve as both ministers and instructors at Chowan University.

Sherman noted that the national Fellowship movement is now approaching 20 years of organized existence, and reflected on the importance of remembering how CBF emerged from a conflicted Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), even though some younger people "don't want to hear our war stories." Sherman related both the "face of conflict" from in an SBC overtaken by conservatism and credalism, and the "face of growth" that emerged as moderate Baptists coalesced around the historic principles they believed had been violated.

Although some early participants wanted CBF to focus on single issues, Sherman said, its early and continuing focus has been to provide a "missions delivery system for the churches" that defined missions as more than evangelism and church starts, to support Baptist theological education, and "to teach Baptist polity to people who have forgotten it or never knew it."

Sherman acknowledged that his generation will be off the stage as the next generation of CBF leadership emerges, but he advanced three ideas "that I hope some of you will keep in mind" as future decisions are made. "I hope you stay in touch with mainline Baptists," he said -- not just an elite group and big churches, but Baptists across the spectrum of size and locality. "If the decision makers know Baptists, they'll make good decisions," he said.

The second posting is about the presence of female ministers and female ministries within the CBF world in NC. Here is a snippet from that post:
There may be more, but the number of Anglo Baptist churches in North Carolina I know of who have women pastors can be counted on my fingers with some left over. A few others have women serving as co-pastors. There is no question that churches would be well served if there were more. The eleven moderate seminaries established in the past two decades have helped to train and prepare a number of God-called women for ministry roles -- including that of pastor -- but the churches willing to call them are few and far between. I know several women who are convinced of their call and standing ready to serve, but most of the churches willing even to consider them still conclude "We're just not ready for a female senior pastor."

In my more cynical moments, I think they're just chicken. There's no guarantee that all women pastors will be pulpit stars or effective leaders, but there are some real gems out there who could be, if they were just given a chance.

I've seen, and I believe.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Présente: Remembering Romero

March 24, 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the martyr-ship of Archbishop Oscar Romero who was assassinated while giving Mass on March 24, 1980. Romero:
As an archbishop who witnessed ongoing violations of human rights, Romero initiated and gave his status to a group which spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victims of the Salvadoran civil war. In many ways Romero was closely associated with Liberation Theology and openly condemned both Marxism and Capitalism.[2] In 1980, as he finished giving his homily during Mass, Romero was assassinated by a group headed by former major Roberto D'Aubuisson.
Romero was a champion for the Poor all the way up to his assassination.

Some of his last few words spoke directly to the violent conflict and bloody civil war that shattered families and the country of El Salvador. On March 23, 1980 these stinging words of condemnation by Archbishop Romero rang out from radio airwaves hitting the ears of El Salvadorans on both sides of the conflict including those who shot Romero the next day:
Archbishop Romero made the following appeal to the men of the armed forces:

"Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ...In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression"

The day following this speech, Archbishop Romero was murdered. -- Archbishop Oscar Romero - Caracen

Here is a video of Romero's actual last words:

And here is the English translation of his last words:
God's reign is already present on our earth in mystery. When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.

That is the hope that inspires Christians.
We know that every effort to better society,
especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained,
is an effort that God blesses,
that God wants,
that God demands of us.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, March 24 1980

Archbishop Romero is not only a Salvadoran National hero but a true Christian hero who spoke out on behalf of the Poor, the marginalized, the defenseless and the voiceless. His commitment to justice against injustice, dignity against human rights violations, pacifism/non-violence against violence, the way of the Cross and suffering against materialism are commendable. This is why every March 24th Christians everywhere remember and pay respect to the great man and great Christian soul Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez. His legacy lives on---Viva Romero!---Présente!

I'll leave you with one last video to contemplate Romero's legacy---U2's Bullet The Blue Sky:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Off To The CBF-NC General Assembly

This year there is a heavier emphasis on Social Justice issues. We should have invited Glenn Beck, Todd Friel and John MacArthur to come knowing they wouldn't accept the invitation...haha.

Anyways it should be fun as this year's keynote speaker is Cecil Sherman who was the face of Moderate Baptists during the Conservative Resurgence/Fundamentalist Takeover.

More to tell when I get back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Romans 13 And Conscientious War Objectors

John 18:36- Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." (RSV).

Recently John Armstrong blogged on Christian conscientious objection to war---here's a snippet:
Most of what we know about the early church suggests that, at least generally, Christians did not serve in the military. Over time the church developed what is called a “Just War Doctrine.” This doctrine is rather complex and has been carefully thought out over the course of centuries. But this doctrine is not of one type or expression. There are variations within it and every single Christian should think carefully about what they believe and why.

Modern complexities often create new challenges to traditional just war thinking. I have retained a modified just war position but I admit it is sometimes hard to retain. I have admitted, in public and private, that I have a great deal of respect for those who wrestle with this issue and embrace a different viewpoint than my own. The stance of Christian conscientious objection is not the way of cowards or of anti-Americans. Whole traditions of Christians respect and hold this point of view. Other churches have adopted modern positions that do not reject all combat but challenge the development of a “war mentality” that predominates so much of the world we live in today.

A fatal mistake, often made by many evangelicals, is to assume that only liberal, or politically left leaning, Christians embrace these positions about war. This is a gross over-simplification. When I was at Wheaton College in the late 1960s pacifism was embraced by more than a few students and some on the faculty. At first I found this shocking but I began to read the literature and ask some hard questions. As I say, I am still not a complete convert to pacifism and doubt that I ever will be. But I am persuaded that the current U.S. position on conscientious objection is not right. Our government allows for conscientious objection to all war but not to particular wars. I discovered this in 1968 when I began to question the moral rightness of the Vietnam War. I soon realized that I had to oppose involvement in all war or I could not take a position against this one war. I still feel that stance of our government on this matter is morally wrong. I understand “why” it has been taken, and how it evolved, but I simply do not think that it is right.

This is another issue with Romans 13 as Romans 13 has been used against conscientious war objectors/war protestors to blindly uphold the status quo of the State and support wars at all costs to the detriment of others. My friend John is right that the Early Church was generally against war. Their reasoning was that war was a worldly pursuit and since they were called from the world why would they go back to the ways of the world. Here are a few quotes from the Early Church Fathers themselves on the subject of war:
Marcellus, ?-298 A.D.

“I threw down my arms for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it by earthly injuries.” “It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.”

Ignatius of Antioch, approx. 35-110 A.D.

“Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.”

Irenaeus, approx. 180 A.D.

“Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight.”

Justin Martyr, approx. 138 A.D.

“The devil is the author of all war.” “We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ.”

Tertullian, 155-230 A.D.

“But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts—for there is no agreement between the divine sacrament and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters—God and Caesar…But how will a Christian engage in war—indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For although soldiers had approached John to receive instructions and a centurion believed, this does not change the fact that afterward, the Lord, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”

“Under no circumstances should a true Christian draw the sword.”

Origen of Alexandria, 185-254 A.D.

“We have come in accordance with the counsel of Jesus to cut down our arrogant swords of argument into plowshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take swords against a nation, nor do we learn anymore to make war, having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Lord.”

The Early Church was also antagonistic towards holding political office as well. It wasn't really till Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas came up with and developed a Christian concept of the "Just War" theory that the idea of military service for Christians was deemed to be ok and then it wasn't until the Anabaptists came around that a strong sense and urge for Christians to be pulled towards pacifism over war came back. Anabaptists reignited the long tradition of Christian pacifism and Christian conscientious objection to war in several ways:
Pacifism is one of three historic attitudes of the church toward war. In some form it has existed throughout the entire history of the Christian church. Since the fourth century it has often been overshadowed by the just war theory and the concept of crusade, or aggressive war for a holy cause. The early church was pacifist. Prior to A.D. 170-80 there are no records of soldiers in the Roman army. Following that epoch there are both Christians in the army and also writings which opposed the practice from church fathers such as Tertullian. Some Christian writers sanctioned police functions and military service, provided these did not entail bloodshed and killing. Under Emperor Constantine, who closely identified the interests of the empire with the interests of Christianity, Christian soldiers were common. During the rule of Theodosius II only Christians could serve as soldiers.

When confronted by the barbarian invasions that seemed to threaten Roman civilization and thus the Christianity identified with it, Augustine of Hippo developed the idea, rooted in Roman Stoic philosophy and first given a Christian formulation by Ambrose, which has come to be called the just war theory. It intended not to advocate war but to limit the conditions under which Christians could participate in war, accepting it as an unfortunately necessary tool for preserving the civilization to which Christianity belonged. Since Augustine some form of the just war theory has been the majority position of most Christian traditions.

In the Middle Ages the idea of the crusade developed from another attempt by the church to limit warfare. The peace of God and the truce of God limited times for fighting and banned clerical participation in war. To enforce these limitations the church itself came to conduct warring activity. This act associated war with a holy cause, namely the enforcement of peace. This association developed into the crusades, the holy cause of rescuing the Holy Land from the Moslems. Pope Urban II preached the first crusade in 1095. In either religious or secular versions the crusade has been a part of the church's tradition ever since.

During the Middle Ages it was the sectarians who kept alive the pacifist tradition. Groups of Waldensians and Franciscan Tertiaries refused military service. The Cathari were pacifist. The Hussite movement developed two branches, a crusading one under blind general Jan Zizka and a pacifist one under Peter Chelciky.

The period of the Renaissance and Reformation saw assertions of all three attitudes toward war. Renaissance humanism developed a pacifist impulse, of which Erasmus is one of the most important examples. Humanist pacifism appealed to such philosophical and theological principles as the common humanity and brotherhood of all persons as children of God, the follies of war, and the ability of rational individuals to govern themselves and their states on the basis of reason.

All Protestant churches except the Anabaptists accepted the inherited tradition of the just war. Luther identified two kingdoms, of God and of the world. While he rejected the idea of crusade, his respect for the state as ordained by God to preserve order and to punish evil in the worldly realm made him a firm supporter of the just war approach. The Reformed tradition accepted the crusade concept, seeing the state not only as the preserver of order but also as a means of furthering the cause of true religion. Zwingli died in a religious war; Calvin left the door open to rebellion against an unjust ruler; and Beza developed not only the right but the duty of Christians to revolt against tyranny. Cromwell's pronouncement of divine blessing on the massacre of Catholics at Drogheda illustrates the crusade idea in English Puritanism.

Alongside the wars of religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries arose the pacifist traditions which for the most part have preserved their opposition to war until the present time. Pacifism emerged as the dominant position of the Anabaptists, who rejected not only the sword of war but also refused to engage in political life. Although their identification of two kingdoms paralleled Luther's analysis closely, the Anabaptists denied that Christians could in any way exercise the sword of the magistrate in the worldly kingdom. When Alexander Mack organized the Church of the Brethren in 1708, Anabaptism was the major impulse in dialectic with pietism. While Quakers, who emerged in the midseventeenth century, distinguished the kingdom of God from that of the world, they did not utterly despair of the world and involved themselves in its political processes up to the point of war. Appeals to individual conscience played an important role in Quaker nonviolent political activity on behalf of justice and peace. Anabaptists, the immediate predecessors of the Mennonites, were the most withdrawn from participation in government, with the Quakers the least separated. The Brethren occupied a median position.

Wars in North America, from Puritan conflicts with the Indians through the Revolutionary War to the world wars, have all been defended in religious and secular versions of the just war theory or the crusade idea. For example, World War I, fought "to make the world safe for democracy," was a secular crusade. Throughout the North American experience Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers maintained a continuing if at times uneven witness against war as well as a refusal to participate in it. In the twentieth century they have come to be called the historic peace churches.

The nineteenth century saw the formation of a number of national and international pacifist societies. The Fellowship of Reconciliation was founded as an interdenominational and international religious pacifist organization on the eve of World War I and established in the United States in 1915. It continues today as an interfaith activist force for peace. In reaction to the horror of World War I and buttressed by an optimistic belief in the rationality of humanity, the period between the world wars saw another wave of pacifist sentiment, both inside and outside the churches. These efforts to create peace included political means such as the League of Nations and nonviolent pressure such as the activities of Mohandas Gandhi to influence British withdrawal from India.

Spurred by the growing possibility of a nuclear holocaust and the realization that military solutions do not fundamentally resolve conflicts, the era begun in the late 1960s is experiencing another round of increasing attention to pacifist perspectives. In addition to the historic peace churches, denominations which have traditionally accepted the just war theory or the crusade idea have also issued declarations accepting pacifist positions within their traditions. Two significant examples are Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which for the first time endorsed pacifism as compatible with Catholic teaching, and the declaration of the United Presbyterian Church (USA), Peacemaking: The Believer's Calling.

There were violent Anabaptists as well but the vast majority of Anabaptists were characterized by their strong commitments to pacifism and non-violent resistance. Here is an excerpt from one of Menno Simons' correspondences on on the issue of peace and violence:
. . . they say that we are seditionists and that
we would take cities and countries if we had the power

This prophecy is false and will ever remain so; and by the grace of God, time and experience will prove that those who thus prophesy according to the Word of Moses are not of God. Faithful reader, understand what I write.

The Scriptures teach that there are two opposing princes and two opposing kingdoms: the one is the Prince of peace; the other the prince of strife. Each of these princes has his particular kingdom and as the prince is so is also the kingdom. The Prince of peace is Christ Jesus; His kingdom is the kingdom of peace, which is His church; His messengers are the messengers of peace; His Word is the word of peace; His body is the body of peace; His children are the seed of peace; and His inheritance and reward are the inheritance and reward of peace. In short, with this King, and in His kingdom and reign, it is nothing but peace. Everything that is seen, heard, and one is peace.

We have heard the word of peace, namely, the consoling Gospel of peace from the mouth of His messengers of peace. We, by His grace, have believed and accepted it in peace and have committed ourselves to the only, eternal, and true Prince of peace, Christ Jesus, in His kingdom of peace and under His reign, and are thus by the gift of His Holy Spirit, by means of faith, incorporated into His body. And henceforth we look with all the children of His peace for the promised inheritance and reward of peace.

Such exceeding grace of God has appeared unto us poor, miserable sinners that we who were formerly no people at all and who knew of no peace are now called to be such a glorious people of God, a church, kingdom, inheritance, body, and possession of peace. Therefore we desire not to break this peace, but by His great power by which He has called us to this peace and portion, to walk in this grace and peace, unchangeably and unwaveringly unto death.

One other Anabaptist example is Dirk Willems who:
was a martyred Anabaptist who is most famous for, after his escape from prison, turning around to rescue his pursuer, who had fallen through thin ice while chasing him...After his harrowing escape and recapture upon turning back to save the life of his pursuer, he was burned at the stake near his hometown on 16 May 1569.

Today, he is one of the most celebrated martyrs among Anabaptists, which includes Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish, becoming part of their history[1]. A historical drama based on his life, Dirk's Exodus, was written in 1990 by James C. Juhnke.

Thanks to Pastor I. Todyaso for pointing Dirk Willems' story out to me as he was an Anabaptist that I had never heard of before. Anyways read more documents on Christian Nonresistance and Pacifism from Anabaptist-Mennonite Sources: here.

The Protestant Reformers' Social Gospel: Calvin And Luther On Social Justice

Calvin the social justice advocate:
Calvin was also a strong promoter of social justice—the idea of bringing one’s faith to bear on the inequities in the world.

Calvin on who our neighbors are:
“We cannot but behold our own face as it were in a glass in the person that is poor and despised . . . though he were the furthest stranger in the world. Let a Moor or a barbarian come among us, and yet inasmuch as he is a man, he brings with him a looking glass wherein we may see that he is our brother and neighbor.”

The social activist meets John Calvin:
Activist: All people think about today is themselves—oh, yes, and their possessions. Our lives are tangled up with economic forces that reduce us all to players—mere pawns—in the game of global market. So many—particularly women, children, and refugees—continue to be marginalized, impoverished, and exploited. Don’t these people matter in the overall scheme of things?

Calvin: Our neighbor includes even the most remote person. We ought to embrace the whole human race without exception in a single feeling of love; there is no distinction between uneducated and educated, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated as bearing the image of God.

Activist: Our communities need social programs! Both in North America and around the world, international financial institutions are influencing economic decisions that set the stage for our governments to cut social programs and public services.

Calvin: During my time in Geneva, what mighty works were done! The City Council organized ministries to care for the needs of all people: the poor, the sick, the aged, those unable to work, the widows, orphaned and abandoned children, those suffering the plague, and refugees who had fled persecution in France and Northern Italy.

Activist: We don’t need tax cuts paid for by reducing social and educational services! We don’t need tax cuts that benefit the “haves” of our society! We want a fairer system of taxation. We need to find ways for lower income people, not for higher income people, to have more.

Calvin: In my mind wealth possesses dangers and involves serious responsibilities. Let us then that have riches . . . consider that their abundance was not intended to be laid out in intemperance or excess, but in relieving the necessities of the brethren.

Activist: The debts of poor countries must be cancelled! In these countries the poor are paying for most of the country’s debt. They are oppressed by stiffer taxes, higher prices, removal of subsidies on staple foods, and the lack of basic health and educational services.

Calvin: I can accept lending money for risk capital, provided one charges no more than 5 percent interest, but one must not charge any interest when lending to the poor. Indeed, it would be better, in the face of the distress of the poor, to give them the necessary money outright. And I don’t care what society may say is legal by way of lending rates; if it’s unjust, then it is prohibited to the Christian.

Activist: We need less talk and more action on the issue of homelessness! The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the homeless are joined by more homeless.

Calvin: What with the social hardships of the day and the influx of refugees, there was a major housing shortage in Geneva when I was there. If someone with a large household uses a large house, he cannot be blamed; but when people, swollen with ambition, make superfluous additions to their houses so they may live more comfortably, and when one person alone occupies a habitation that would be enough for several families, this would be empty display and must be condemned.

Activist: Consumerism is killing humankind and the earth! Twenty percent of the world’s population consumes over 80 percent of the world’s resources. The gap between rich and poor has more than doubled in the last twenty years.

Calvin: I believe it is a major plague ruling the world that people have a mad and insatiable lust for possessions. Like Martin Luther, I relate this to the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” We will duly obey this command . . . if we are zealous to make only honest and lawful gain; if we do not seek to become wealthy through injustice, nor attempt to deprive our neighbor of his goods to increase our own; if we do not strive to heap up riches cruelly wrung from the blood of others; if we do not madly scrape together from everywhere, by fair means or foul, whatever will feed our avarice or satisfy our prodigy.

Activist: Look around us. This world is divided into “haves” and “have nots.” The disparity is increasing daily. Who with power really cares? Who will advocate for justice? Who will stand firm against oppression?

Calvin: We must recognize that God has wanted to make us like members of one body. Our Christian faith must invade every avenue of life—money, property, work were all meant to be used not to deprive our neighbors, but to serve them. The economic life of the world is bound up with our faith. We Christians and our churches must give ourselves to ministries of social justice. We must be compassionate advocates of justice for all! The church must be the implacable foe of tyranny!

Activist: Right on! Let’s begin! The time is now!

[John Calvin and the social activist walk up to each other, “high five” each other or shake hands. The activist gives out placards; Calvin gives out pages of his writing to those nearby. Then they exit together, arm in arm.]

See also: CALVIN, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DIAKONIA, A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE, The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition, The Many Faces of John Calvin: The Historiography of Calvin's Political Thought over Five Centuries, John Calvin at 500: From Theocrats to Marxists, Calvin’s Vision of Joy and Cruelty Left Complex Legacy and John Calvin: Comeback Kid.

Not only was Calvin an advocate of social justice but Luther was also:
Protestant theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides, saw the call to social justice as inherent in the Scriptures. Catholic theologians Augustine and Aquinas noted that there was a social component to God's call to righteousness.

Luther published tracts on social justice:
Luther’s name was becoming well known throughout Germany and Europe. By the end of 1520, he had published at least 81 pamphlets calling not only for religious reforms, but also for more political and social justice. Translated into many languages, Luther’s words found resonance with people who were suffering under the unjust social and econonomic conditions of the time. There was also growing tension between the various principalities and the central powers of Europe.

Martin Luther bringing the monastery to the world:
Luther taught that working in the service of God was the moral duty of all Christians, not just those called to serve the church in the clergy or Holy Orders. Where work was traditionally viewed simply as a means to worldly ends (i.e., survival), Luther argued that individuals must treat their labor as a gift to God. Thus, claims Weber, Luther brought the "monastery into the world," motivating ordinary believers, whatever their worldly occupation, to work hard in the service of God.

The Reformation brought social empowerment:
Once the Reformation is under way the common people perceive it as a means of social empowerment. The peasant class senses the potential for secular, though not necessarily spiritual, freedoms. The Peasants War, which begins in 1524, is a response to Luther's urgings of democratic reform and a reaction to an unbalanced social system. Luther, initially sympathetic to the peasants, is eventually appalled by the war and angrily addresses the warring faction in his pamphlet, Against the Thieving and Murderous Gangs of Peasants. To Luther the sectarian groups represent an attempt not at spiritual elevation, but at an easy redemption. The social revolt has unfortunate consequences for Luther's reformation. The humanist view that human beings might be brought to higher spirituality through education and innate ability, is a source of contention for the Reformers. Instead the Reformers depend on the concept of man's embodiment of original sin and his incontestable need for redemption and the Grace of God.

Luther against "big banks:"
Interestingly, Fuggerei was established by Jakob the Rich as a settlement for the indigent, upon criticism by Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, claiming that the banker's massive fortune was somehow sacrilegious. Clearly that was not God's will, not to mention the fact that charging any interest during that time was considered usurious. Luther would've been pleased to know that Fugger's empire took a serious hit over the next 150 years or so, thanks in large part to a string of wars and significant loan defaults. Even so, over the centuries, the family has ensured that Fuggerei remains, a symbol of the benevolence which has eluded far too many for far too long. I'll eat my words if anyone can apprise me of an investment banker in these parts worth praying for.

See also: Taxation in the History of Protestant Ethics, Lutheranism and Calvinism, Martin Luther's Doctrine on Trade and Price in Its Literary Context, THE REFORMATION ROOTS OF WESTERN CIVILISATION, The Reformers: Martin Luther and César Chávez and A Second Protestant Reformation.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Glenn Beck Attacks Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis invited Glenn Beck to engage in civil dialogue about the issue of social justice. Here is Beck's threatening response to Wallis:
"So Jim, I just wanted to pass this on to you. In my time I will respond — my time, well, kind of like God’s time, might be a day, might be a week to you, I’m not sure. But I’m going to get to it in my time, not your time. So you go ahead and you continue to do your protest thing, and that’s great. I love it. But just know — the hammer is coming, because little do you know, for eight weeks, we’ve been compiling information on you, your cute little organization, and all the other cute little people that are with you. And when the hammer comes, it’s going to be hammering hard and all through the night, over and over…"

[H/T] Wes Ellis.

Read the whole story at Sojourners.

Romans 13: Patriotism Vs. Nationalism

Henry Neufeld quoting from David Black Online:
*True patriotism is love of country, not love of government. Neo-patriotism is mindless worship of the state.

*True patriots refuse to honor government above God. Neo-patriots gladly deify government.

*True patriots understand loyalty as adherence to the ideals upon which the country was founded. Neo-patriots believe in blind submission to the bureaucrats currently running it.

*True patriots believe that eternal vigilance is necessary to keep politicians under check. Neo-patriots are willing to entrust their lives to politicians thinking this means loyalty to the ideals spelled out in the Constitution.

*Neo-patriots think that if you criticize U.S. foreign policy or the country’s obsession with security you are “unpatriotic.” True patriots believe that the exercise of critical judgment is absolutely necessary to any civilization that is to stand or forge ahead, and that it is both their right and duty to criticize their government.

In the final analysis, I concur with President Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country.”

Romans 13 is usually used to support Nationalism: blind patriotism rather than upholding True Patriotism which allows for the right to dissent from and critique government positions.

Sex Scandals Not Limited To The Roman Catholic Church Alone

Sex scandals have rocked Protestant churches as well. Sin and "satanic" influence are all over the board. Here are some Protestant sex scandals:

This one comes from my local paper:
A Leland pastor facing child sex charges recently sent a friend request to his alleged victim on the online social networking site Facebook.

There have been at least 260 Protestant sex abuse cases a year:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The three companies that insure the majority of Protestant churches in America say they typically receive upward of 260 reports each year of young people under 18 being sexually abused by clergy, church staff, volunteers or congregation members.

The figures released to The Associated Press offer a glimpse into what has long been an extremely difficult phenomenon to pin down — the frequency of sex abuse in Protestant congregations.

Religious groups and victims' supporters have been keenly interested in the figure ever since the Roman Catholic sex abuse crisis hit five years ago. The church has revealed that there have been 13,000 credible accusations against Catholic clerics since 1950.

Protestant numbers have been harder to come by and are sketchier because the denominations are less centralized than the Catholic church; indeed, many congregations are independent, which makes reporting even more difficult.

Here is a link to Lutheran sex crimes:

Sex crimes in the SBC and other Protestant churches:
there is an important story here, one linked to clergy sexual abuse — in Protestantism. To be specific, there are important reasons that it has been hard for activists to gain much traction trying to bring more attention — justifiable attention — to the subject of clergy sexual abuse among Southern Baptists and other free-church denominations.

The problem is real. And there are also very real legal problems facing those who want to clean the situation up, complications that are different from those facing, for example, Roman Catholic reformers. I have been interested in this topic for some time and here is a piece of a Scripps Howard column from five years ago:

“The incidence of sexual abuse by clergy has reached ‘horrific proportions,’ ” according to a 2000 report to the Baptist General Convention of Texas. It noted that studies conducted in the 1980s found that about 12 percent of ministers had “engaged in sexual intercourse with members” and nearly 40 percent had “acknowledged sexually inappropriate behavior.”

Sadly, this report added: “Recent surveys by religious journals and research institutes support these figures. The disturbing aspect of all research is that the rate of incidence for clergy exceeds the client-professional rate for both physicians and psychologists.”

So why is it hard for reformers to attack this problem? Why can’t Southern Baptist authorities crack down?

Ah, there’s the problem. In a free-church movement — one with no bishops, no authoritative central structure — the local congregations are pretty much on their own when it comes to this kind of work. Let’s go back to that Scripps piece:

Where does the buck stop, when sexual abuse hits Protestant pulpits? The Southern Baptist resolution calls on local churches to discipline sex offenders. Yet the most powerful person in modern Protestantism is a successful pastor whose preaching and people skills keep packing people into the pews. Can his own church board truly investigate and discipline that pastor?

Once that question is asked, others quickly follow. If the board of deacons in a Southern Baptist congregation faced an in-house sex scandal and wanted help, where could it turn? It could seek help from its competition, the circle of churches in its local association. Or it could appeal to its state convention. In some states, “conservative” and “moderate” churches would need to choose between competing conventions linked to these rival Baptist camps. Or could a church appeal for help from the boards and agencies of the 16-million-member national convention?

Everything depends on that local church and everything is voluntary. One more question: What Baptist leader would dare face the liability issues involved in guiding such a process? … Some state conventions might have the staff and know how to create a data bank of information of clergy sexual abuse. But for Baptist leaders to do so, they would risk clashing with their tradition’s total commitment to the freedom and the autonomy of the local congregation.

Do you see the point? For lawyers, the goal is to find a structure to sue, yet in the free-church way of doing things, there often is no structure larger than the local church or there are real questions about the authority and clout of the larger regional or national structures.

Everything is voluntary. There is no there, there. Things get even more complicated in the rapidly growing world of totally independent megachurches, both evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist.

There are activists working on all of this, including a Southern Baptist branch of the SNAP network that has received so much coverage in the Catholic crisis. Also, Southern Baptist journalists have also taken on the topic and you can pay attention to the ongoing coverage of this issue at the site. Check it out.

This is an important — although frustrating — story worthy of more coverage. Let us see if you see stories worth passing along.

Needless to say the list goes on---which is why we need to be careful on the issue of sex abuse and seek to implement tighter restraints towards safety and accountability within churches and denominations.

Satan In The RCC The Vatican's Chief Exorcist Says

The Chief Exorcist of The Vatican says that Satan is in the Vatican. David Knowles reports:
(March 10) -- The Rev. Gabriele Amorth, the man who has served as the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years, says the signs are there: The devil has infiltrated St. Peter's.

Specifically, Amorth cites recent sexual abuse and pedophilia scandals as well as what he deems a cover-up in the shooting deaths of two of the Vatican's Swiss Guards and one of the guard's wives as proof that the Catholic Church's most famous site is less than pure.

"When one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true -- including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia," Amorth was cited as saying by The Times of London. The smoke of Satan references a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI.

The Vatican, according to Amorth, was also home to "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus and bishops who are linked to the demon."

Many of Amorth's claims are made in a new autobiography, titled "Memoirs of an Exorcist."

Giulio Napolitano, AFP / Getty Images
Rev. Gabriele Amorth, who served as the Catholic Church's chief exorcist for 25 years, claims the devil has infiltrated the Vatican

(Read on: Here).

See also: Anyways Amorth's new book looks like it will be an interesting read. The whole concept of "demonic possession" and the Rite of Exorcism is one that both fascinates and terrifies people at the same time so on that account Amorth's book shall prove interesting---but on the other hand his book is nothing new on the subject of "satanic infiltration" of the Vatican as others (Fundamentalist Protestants excluded as they are obvious in their views) have been making similar claims over the years.

Malachi Martin was one such person and William H. Kennedy (one of Malachi Martin's friends) is another. Most of their concerns are with individual Catholics involvement with Freemasonry given the Vatican's strict anti-Masonry stance. Accusations of involvement in Freemasonry not only include lay Catholics but run all the way from the top to the bottom even including those within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church---infiltrating even the Vatican itself.

There are also concerns that actual "Satanists" have infiltrated the Vatican and that many Catholics have allegedly participated in "Satanic Black Masses" whether a High or Low "Black Mass." Jay Nelson notes:
A most telling clue that seems to confirm this comes from a journalistic peek through the crack between the basilica’s doors. The following is excerpted from a book called Pontiff, a colorful insider’s view of the Vatican from the last days of Paul VI through the assassination attempt on John Paul II. This scene deals with the Pope’s daily paperwork in July, 1978.

Much of the work near the bottom of the tray requires no more than careful reading and initialing. The Apostolic Penitentiary handles complex problems of conscience:... It also advises the penalties a pope may impose for such a dire crime as a priest saying a black mass. Every year there are a number of such cases; they frighten Paul more than anything else. He regards them as proof the devil is alive and well and hiding inside the Church. Cardinal Giuseppe Paupini [the Major Penitentiary]... is the Vatican’s resident expert on sorcery of all kinds. His work is adjudged so important and urgent that he will be the only cardinal allowed during the next Conclave to remain in contact with his office.[9] (Emphasis added.)

This has some very interesting and horrible implications. At the very least it should be rather disconcerting that the Pope, as part of his day-to-day job, is far more aware of the extent of true evil “hiding inside” the Church than even the most cynical outsiders can even imagine, and takes it very seriously.

Since John Paul II has retained such arrangements for the conclave after him, then it seems that it was no co-incidence that Paul’s point man on clerical black magic was the chief pardoner of the Church. It makes sense that the Major Penitentiary would merit such consideration only if the papacy takes the threat of wicked clergy most seriously indeed and believes constant vigilance and total secrecy are necessary. One may further infer from the language used in the anecdote that this is not a new situation at all, and that such “dire crimes” seem to have grown throughout Paul’s pontificate, at least.

Perhaps it is easy to read too much into all this. But if the current clergy sexual abuse crisis has revealed anything about the Roman Catholic Church, it’s that the hierarchy can and will go to great lengths to hide its dirty laundry. It has millennia of experience, and it just may be covering up even more monstrous secrets than anything revealed so far.

Issues of alleged "Satanism" in the Vatican aren't limited to the sex scandals but involve even more bizarre and far sinister abuse: human sacrifices to "the devil." Most of this stuff sounds like the pure scare tactics cooked up by "hellfire and brimstone" Fundamentalists in the 70's and 80's to scare kids away from certain books, toys, games, people, etc. and to scare them into a relationship with Christ albeit an unhealthy one. However there have been cases of "ritualistic" slayings within the RCC. One such case is that of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl who:
was strangled, then stabbed up to 32 times April 5, 1980, in what has been described as a ritualistic slaying in the sacristy of a chapel in the former Mercy Hospital.

Mark Reiter further reports that:
An unidentified woman claims she was the victim of bizarre demonizing ceremonies conducted by the Rev. Gerald Robinson and other clergy nearly 40 years ago in the basement of St. Adalbert Parish on Warsaw Street.
She also claims that she identified Mr. Mazuchowski as an alleged abuser after seeing his photograph as part of an article that was published in The Blade on Feb. 20 that reported on the murder investigation and ritual abuse ceremonies involving church clergy.

Mr. Davis said the newspaper report in which Mr. Mazuchowski's admitted his involvement with the group know as Sisters of Assumed Mary, or SAM, stirred memories of conversations in which she recalled her abusers using names of women.

The woman said the abuse included chanting of Satanic verses, cutting her with a knife as a sacrifice to Satan, drawing an upside-down cross on her abdomen, and forcing her to drink the blood of sacrificed animals, such as a rabbit.

She said the men dressed in nun's clothing and performed the rituals while she was on a table. They restrained her if she tried to leave.

In addition to being raped and molested, the woman also alleges that she was forced to perform sexual acts on the men.

She said the abuse escalated dramatically as the sessions continued ,to the point of including putting lighted matches to her feet and the corner of her eyes.

She said the abuse took place in the basement of the church until 1972 when it was moved to an undisclosed wooded area.

Other concerns of the mostly Traditionalist Roman Catholic critics of the Vatican include: the Banda della Magliana and Mafia influence within the Vatican, the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, the mysterious disappearances of Emanuela Orlandi and Mirella Gregori, Propaganda Due, the Swiss Guard Murders and the "mysterious" death of Pope John Paul I among other sordid affairs.

See as well and A Dark History: The Popes: Vice, Murder, and Corruption in the Vatican for further insights into some of the darker chapters of Papal history.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Biblical Inerrancy: From the Bible, or the Enlightenment?

Aaron Rathburn has an interesting post (dated March 14, 2009) on biblical inerrancy and it's connection to the Enlightenment. Here's a quote from that post:
What if a supremely powerful God wanted to reveal himself with a text? Can we give him the freedom to do it how he wants, and not have to bend to our expectations? I mean, he’s the god, not us—right?

If you are expecting the Bible to be a a propositional-style manual of ethics, then it is wildly and completely errant. But similarly, if you are expecting a science textbook, it is wildly errant. If you are expecting it to be a 21st-century history book, it is wildly errant. But is God capable of using human mistakes for his divine purposes? I would say absolutely.

The Bible is perfect, but it is perfect for God’s will and purposes, according to his standards and expectations—not our preconceived notions of how it “should” be. I can’t help but hear the echo of Paul—who are you, oh man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “why have you made our Bible like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay? (Rom 9)

The Bible is not the 4th-member of the Trinity, and the Bible didn’t climb up on the cross and die for our sins. But it is his text that he has used to reveal himself to us—and we should take it very, very seriously, as the fully inspired, fully divine, authoritative and infallible word of God.

I agree with Aaron that the scriptures are very important but only as they point to Christ. However, I'm more partial to ScottL's comment on Aaron's post:
Unfortunately, I feel that, due to the influence of the Enlightenment, scholars and most Christians alike have now tried to push onto the Bible a 20th/21st century idea of accuracy and inerrancy. ‘Inerrancy’ seems to be a word that has only come about in the last 100+ years.

Therefore, coming to the Gospels, we see contradictory passages where there were either one (Matt 28:2) or two (John 20:12) angels at the tomb of Jesus’ resurrection. Some (more liberal) see this and claim the Bible as ‘inaccurate’. Some (more conservative) see this and therefore think of all sorts of explanations so the Scripture can maintain its status of inerrancy. But I can’t see this being a problem in the days that the Scripture was being recorded. But for us westerners who love our empirically based ‘inerrant’ evidence, it becomes a problem.

The Scripture was first and foremost recorded as the story of God’s redemptive acts, summed up in Jesus Christ. To that, I believe it is completely faithful and that God has communicated faithfully through these human authors, though there might be a handful of places which seem contradictory from the perspective of our day and age, but were of no consequence in the day when the Scripture was being recorded.

I’m glad the Scripture authors weren’t dictated to as their eyes rolled back in their sockets and they foamed at their mouths. I am so glad God delights in the personality, historical and cultural context of those to whom and through whom He communicates.

Both are excellent quotes all the same.

Vatican denies celibacy rule led to sex scandal

Nicole Winfield reports:
VATICAN CITY -The Vatican on Sunday denied that its celibacy requirement for priests was the root cause of the clerical sex abuse scandal convulsing the church in Europe and again defended the pope's handling of the crisis.
Suggestions that the celibacy rule was in part responsible for the "deviant behavior" of sexually abusive priests have swirled in recent days, with opinion pieces in German newspapers blaming it for fueling abuse and even Italian commentators questioning the rule.
Much of the furor was spurred by comments from one of the pope's closest advisers, Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who called this week for an honest examination of issues like celibacy and priestly education to root out the origins of sex abuse.
"Part of it is the question of celibacy, as well as the subject of character development. And part of it is a large portion of honesty, in the church but also in society," he wrote in the online edition of his diocesan newsletter.

(Read on: Here).

I agree in part with the Vatican that celibacy in and of itself isn't the cause of all the sex scandals within the Roman Catholic Church but it is most likely one of several factors involved. Eventually it would behoove the Vatican to reform it's "celibacy rule" for Priests---but I wouldn't hold my breath just yet.

Homegrown Terrorism

Another "Jihad Jane" found:
(Mar. 14) -- The mother of a second American woman arrested in a terror probe says she's worried her daughter is raising her 6-year-old son on the tenets of terrorism.

Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 31, a nursing student from Colorado, was arrested in Ireland on Tuesday in connection to an alleged plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, her mother told The Associated Press. Her arrest came days after news hit that a Pennsylvania woman, Colleen LaRose, (nicknamed 'Jihad Jane,') was indicted in Philadelphia on a plot to recruit terrorists and commit murder in Sweden.

Irish officials said Saturday that they had released an American woman and three others arrested in the alleged plot, but would not confirm if Paulin-Ramirez was among those released.

Her mother, Christine Holcomb-Mott, is heartbroken and worried about Paulin-Ramirez's son, Christian, who she says is being exposed to her daughter's radical Islamic values.

"He said that Christians will burn in hellfire," Holcomb-Mott told The New York Post of a phone conversation with her grandson. "That's what they are teaching this baby."

Read the rest: Here.

Romans 13 And Civil Religion

I'll return to the main points of my Romans 13 series soon which I hope to cap off with Romans 13 In Baptist Thought: A Call for Separation of Church and State which is what all these posts lead up to. The past 2 posts on Thomas Jefferson that I posted are related to issues with Romans 13 in some sense. I have a few other short posts dealing with issues with Romans 13 and other things before returning to my Post Series Proper. Thanks to a tip from Dr. McGrath, I'll post next in my Post Series Proper on Romans 13 and The Communists in Romania before posting on Romans 13 and the Religious Right and Left and then finally ending the series off with Romans 13 In Baptist Thought: A Call for Separation of Church and State.

Anyways here's a quote from Bruce Prescott's latest post on Civil Religion---Mainstream Baptist: Make Up Your Mind Al Mohler (revised):
Al Mohler has posted a blog praising the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for affirming the constitutionality of using the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance and "In God We Trust" on our coinage. He writes,
This decision is good news, and comes as something of a relief -- especially considering the fact that the Ninth Circuit is involved. There is no substance to the claim that these two phrases violate the Constitution. Furthermore, they represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to such questions. This kind of language pervades official discourse - extending even to the phrase "the year of our Lord" in the dating of many government documents.

Mohler then notes that the court determined that the phrases have "no theological significance:"
The court has ruled, in effect, that the language of these contested phrases represents what is rightly called "civil religion." In essence, civil religion is the mass religion that serves the purposes of the state and the culture as a unifying force -- a rather bland and diffused religiosity -- an innocuous theology with little specificity.

Christians must never confuse civil religion with the real thing. When our fellow citizens recite the pledge, it is not to be taken as a statement of personal faith in God. In that sense, Christians are rightly concerned that we make clear what authentic faith in God requires and means. Confusing civil religion with Christianity is deadly dangerous.

On the other hand, Christians are well aware of the constant danger of idolatry, and no entity rivals a powerful government in terms of the idolatrous temptation. In that sense, it is healthy and good that we employ language that relativizes the power and authority of the state. It is both important and healthy that our motto places trust in God, and not in the state. And the knowledge that the nation exists "under God" is no small matter.
Mohler is obviously obfuscating here. Civil religion is deadly and dangerous. Civil religion fashions a god that is subservient to the State and uses religion to bolster an idolatrous form of nationalism. Mohler clearly perceives that this is what the Supreme Court has done in this ruling, yet he praises it as "good news."

This decision is not good news, it is bad news for people of genuine faith and conviction. It makes Christians not only complicit but active promoters of a sin for which God warns he will not hold us guiltless.

Only a false prophet eager to accomodate the itching ears of an idolatrous people could find anthing commendable in news that one of the highest courts in the land has officially declared that the name of God has no theological meaning.

The 9th Circuit, following the U.S. Supreme Court, has legalized what the third command of the Ten Commandments expressly prohibits: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

This relates to Romans 13 as Romans 13 is often used to support Civil Religion.

Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly And The NRA More Important Than Thomas Jefferson?

The ongoing "textbook wars" and the battle for the precept of Separation of Church and State in Texas and elsewhere rages on. A commentator on the blog The Moderate Voice left the following comment:
NotFullyBaked 1 day ago

Interesting that when reading the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEK) themselves, they do not seem all that radical--this coming from someone whose politics have described as "somewhere to the left of Mao. See:

To fully understand the changes, I think one would need to compare and contrast the Old TEKS with the New TEKS. But with just the New TEKS to scan, I have two comments:

1. I never knew that Ronald Reagan was such an important HISTORICAL figure, and

2. What is Celebrate Freedom Week, anyway, and why does it occupy such an important place in Texas Schools' History curriculum? (Or, did I miss the establishment of Celebrate Freedom Week as the most important event of the school year?)


Politics Daily weighs in with the following information:
In a matter of days last week in Austin, the majority of the 15-member board, insisting they were only trying to offset liberal bias in textbooks, questioned Darwin's theory of evolution and the constitutional principle of separation of church and state; debated hip-hop and genocide in Darfur; deleted Albert Einstein and Thomas Alva Edison from textbooks; emphasized Christian teachings and fundamentalist values; adopted conservative articles of faith like American exceptionalism; promoted right-wing leaders and organizations like Phyllis Schlafly and the National Rifle Association; and refused to give adequate attention to Hispanic and African American contributions to U.S. and Texas history.

To no one's surprise, on the final round on Friday, the conservatives pulled a decisive victory, 10-5 -- a tally that broke along predictable party lines, Republicans to the right, Democrats to the left. Ethnic minority members stood on the losing side. According to published reports, no experts on the social sciences were consulted. Given the conservative cast of the board, whose members are elected, the changes it has proposed will stand when the final vote is taken in May.

Leaving the meeting, a Democratic board member, Mavis Knight, of Dallas, was fulminating, saying, she could not be a party to "perpetrating this fraud on the students of this state." It was not a pretty sight. The board will surely become, or has already become, the butt of jokes on late-night shows and "Saturday Night Live."

But this is not a local squabble or a local issue. It's not a colorful shoot 'em up in the Texas corral. It so happens that the Texas board is perhaps the most influential in the country. Its guidelines will affect not only the 4.7 million Texas public school students but will likely spread to many other states, from kindergarten to 12th grade for the next 10 years. Texas textbook standards are usually adopted by publishers because the state will buy 48 million of them every year, and many other states -- 47 by some counts -- will follow that model. In light of those figures, publishers will happily take their cue from the Lone Star State.

All in all, it has been a turbulent few weeks for public education in America.