Integrity

“PROMINENT GOVERNOR TERRORIZED BY CHRISTIAN PREACHER”

200px-Antonius_Felix

Excerpted from THE TIMES ROMAN, circa A.D. 60.

* “In a shocking series of events this week, a Jew and former member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees, laid into Caesarea’s most esteemed overseer, Felix of Arcadia, with a diatribe about ‘justice, self-control and the supposed ‘coming judgement”, causing the governor great consternation.

As has been provided to us through his transcriptions of all the goings on with respect to the movement known as ‘The Way’, Luke – a Jewish doctor – recorded that Paul, who is also a Roman citizen, has been accused of causing a disturbance in Jerusalem for both Romans and Jews in the area. Though Paul was to stand on trial in Jerusalem before authorities there, an assassination plot was uncovered to take out the Nazarene cult-leader and it was then he was secretly escorted by no less than 270 members of the Roman guard to Caesarea, where he would appear before Antonius Felix, the area governor.

Governor Felix, apparently well acquainted with ‘The Way’, a new religion that combines Jewish beliefs with the understanding that Jesus, a putative healer, self-proclaimed king and saviour of all of mankind, would also have known about the alleged resurrection of this ‘Christ’. (Members of ‘The Way’ continue to claim this resurrection event as being true despite the fact that their Christ was crucified under Roman decree for crimes of insurrection.)

In the Caesarean court at Paul’s preliminary hearing, a representative of the Pharisees, Tertullus, stated that in Jerusalem, Paul had been causing a disturbance. “He agitates trouble in Jewish communities throughout our empire as a ringleader of the heretical sect known as the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple!”

Paul, a weary looking man with poor eyesight – hardly an imposing figure – was then brought before the respected governor and allowed to represent himself in his own defence.

The Tarsus native proceeded to detail his account of events: that he went to ‘worship’ in Jerusalem just twelve days before and while in Jerusalem did not argue publically, stir up crowds or cause civil disorder within the city. He then summarized what he believed was the reason his accusers became aggressive toward him:

“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust, which my opponents also share. … Perhaps my crime is that I spoke this one sentence in my testimony before them: “I am on trial here today because I have hope that the dead are raised.””

After hearing this, the most noble governor dismissed the hearing, promising a decision on the issue when the commandant of Jerusalem arrived to provide his evidence on the matter.

But it was a few days later, when Paul was graciously allowed to enjoy the company of the felicitous governor Felix, that things went south for the radical preacher.

Given an opportunity to speak freely of his faith in the Christ and possibly persuade the governor of the supposed ‘Good News’ message being taught by members of the infant religion, he made a grave error in judgment. Rather than pay homage to the esteemed Felix by complimenting him on his education and knowledge of The Way, Paul expanded on his beliefs by addressing the extreme importance of ‘justice, self-control and the coming judgment’.

Our revered governor was made to feel extremely uncomfortable – fearful, in fact! – due to Paul’s choice of subject matter. How dare this Jew turned Nazarene-follower address a most noble judge and Roman overseer in such a manner! It would have been far more prudent to secure the governor’s interest in (or possible conversion to) the new faith by stating how forgiving of sins the Christ was. Or that if one were to just believe in the Christ, pray a particular set of prayers or provide a specific type of offering, they would be guaranteed a place of honour in the afterlife.

Had Paul remained somewhat reserved with respect to his more incendiary beliefs, he very likely could have secured a shorter stint in Roman custody; the estimable Felix would surely have responded favourably toward him had the more positive aspects of the Nazarene faith been furnished during their time together and if Paul had thought to offer a generous donation to Rome’s interests via the fiduciarily responsible governor.

But such was not to be. Paul remains in prison and most likely will remain there until the esteemed governor Felix steps down and retires with his family to his beautiful summer home in Pompeii, near Herculaneum, in two short years.”

Correspondent for The Times Roman, Martinus Chrestus

© Flagrant Regard, 2015

*Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 23 thru 24

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Integrity, Liberalism, Spiritual, Spirituality, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

C.S. Lewis For The 21st Century

C.S. Lewis

Have you ever, on the recommendation of a teacher, book-review website, or a friend, began to read an old book – a classic – only to discover a few pages in, “I just can’t get into this … the language is so archaic!”

Nancy and I thought it would be a challenging exercise to modernize one of our favourite essays from C.S. Lewis found in his compilation of short works, entitled ‘God In The Dock’.

The essay we chose was “We Have No Right To Happiness”. I set out to rework the article in a way that I thought would align closely with C.S. Lewis’ original style, but with a modern spin via sentence structure and word choices.

Nancy read my modernized version and felt that she too could bring some 21st century life to the piece by structuring it more like a blog post.

Below represents each of our individual attempts to present the powerful, highly prophetic message penned by Mr. Lewis that examines humankind’s pathetic attempts to justify that which is unjustifiable – that we have the supposed ‘right’ to be happy in this world.

Please feel free to provide feedback with respect to our efforts to modernize the essay and, more importantly, share with us your reflections on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts re the society-eroding, self-entitlement posturing that so many among us now eat, breathe and sleep in this present day.


We Have No “Right to Happiness”
by C.S. Lewis
Paraphrased by Martin Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“After all,” said my friend Clare, “they had a right to happiness.”

We were discussing something that once happened in our own neighborhood. Mr. A, had deserted Mrs. A and got his divorce in order to marry Mrs. B, who had likewise gotten her divorce in order to marry Mr. A. And there was clearly no doubt that Mr. A and Mrs. B were very much in love with each other. It was equally clear that they were not happy with their former partners. If the newly formed couple continued to be in love and if nothing failed with respect to their health or financial security, they might expect to be very happy.

Mrs. B had adored her husband at the beginning, but then he was severely injured in the war. It was said that he had lost his virility and had also lost his job. Life with him was no longer what Mrs. B had bargained for.

Poor Mrs. A, too. She had lost her looks was no longer her vivaciousness self. It might have been true what some had said – that she had become worn down by having and raising Mr. A’s children and nursing him through a long illness that overshadowed the early years of their married life. But please don’t think that Mr. A was the sort of man who nonchalantly threw a wife away like the peel of an orange he’d sucked dry. Her suicide was a terrible shock to him. We all knew this, for he told us so himself. “But what could I do?” he said. “A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came.”

I went away thinking about the concept of a ‘right to happiness’. At first, this sounds to me as odd as a ‘right to good luck’. I believe (whatever any particular brand of moralists have to say) that for the most part our happiness or misery hangs on circumstances outside all human control. A right to happiness doesn’t, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to have good weather show up whenever you want to have a picnic.

Now, I get that a ‘right’ is a freedom guaranteed me by the laws of the society I live in, therefore I have a right to travel along the public roads because society gives me that freedom (that’s what we mean by calling the roads “public.”)

I can also understand a ‘right’ as a claim guaranteed me by the laws, and as it correlates to an obligation on someone else’s part. If I had a right to receive $100 from you, this is another way of saying that you have a duty to pay me $100. If the laws allow Mr. A to desert his wife and seduce his neighbor’s wife, then, by definition, Mr. A has a legal right to do so, and we need not bring in talk of ‘happiness’.

But of course that was not what my friend meant. She meant that Mr. A had not only a legal but a moral right to act as he did. In other words, Clare is (or would be if she thought it through) a classical moralist after the style of Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Hooker and Locke.

She believes that behind the laws of the state there is a Natural Law. I agree with her and I hold this conception to be common knowledge in all civilizations. Without it, the actual laws of the state become an absolute. They cannot be criticized because there is no norm against which they should be judged. The ancestry of Clare’s maxim, “They have a right to happiness,” is high-minded in nature. In words that are cherished by all civilized souls (but especially by Americans), it has been laid down that one of the rights of man or woman is a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” And now we get to the real point.

Just what did the writers of that grandiose declaration mean? We’re quite sure what they did not mean. They did not mean that everyone was entitled to pursue happiness by any and every means including, say, murder, rape, robbery, treason and fraud. No society could be built on such a basis. They meant “to pursue happiness by all lawful means”; that is, by all means which the Law of Nature eternally sanctions and which the laws of the nation shall sanction.

Yet here is where I disagree with my friend: I don’t think it’s obvious that people have some sort of unlimited “right to happiness”, as she has suggested.

For one thing, I believe that when Clare says “happiness,” she means simply and solely “sexual happiness”, partly because people like Clare never use the word “happiness” in any other sense. But also because I never heard Clare talk about the “right” to any other kind of happiness. With respect to her political views, Clare, being rather leftist in her approach, would have thought it scandalous if anyone defended the actions of a ruthless financial tycoon on the grounds that his happiness consisted in making money and he was pursuing his happiness. I also never heard her (a serious non-drinker herself) excuse an alcoholic because he was ‘happy’ when he was drunk.

Clare is, in fact, simply doing what I think the whole western world seems to have been doing for the last forty-odd years. When I was a kid, all the progressive people were saying, “Why all this prudishness? Let’s treat sex just as we treat all our other impulses.” I was simple-minded enough to believe they meant what they said. I have since discovered that they meant exactly the opposite. They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be restrained.

For instance, absolute obedience to instinct for self-preservation is considered cowardice. An ever-increasing desire to collect things will have us in the grip of greed. Even sleep, normally a welcomed respite, must be resisted if you’re a officer on guard duty. But every unkindness and breach of faith seems to be condoned provided that your object is to have “four bare legs in a bed.” It is like having a moral standard where stealing fruit is wrong except if you steal nectarines. And if you protest against this view? You are usually met with rhetoric about the legitimacy, beauty and sanctity of “sex”. You get accused of harboring some Puritanical prejudice against it – that you view sex as something disreputable or shameful. (I vehemently deny being guilty of such a charge: Venus, Aphrodite, Our Lady of Cyprus – I never breathed a word against you!)

If I object to kids stealing nectarines, must I then be thought of as someone who disapproves of nectarines in general? Or even of kids in general? It might be the stealing I disapprove of, you figure?

The real situation is skillfully concealed by saying that the question of Mr. A’s “right” to desert his wife is one of “sexual morality.” If I may continue with the fruit analogy, robbing an orchard is not an offense against some special morality called “fruit morality.” It is an offense against honesty. Likewise, Mr. A’s action is an offense against good faith (to solemn promises), against gratitude (toward one to whom he was deeply indebted) and against common humanity.

Our sexual impulses are thus being thrust into a position of preposterous privilege. The sexual motive is taken to condone all sorts of behavior which, if it had any other outcome in view, would be condemned as merciless, treacherous and unjust.

Now though I see no good reason for giving sex this privilege, I think I see a strong cause, and it is this: the nature of a strong erotic passion, which is completely distinct from any heat-of-the-moment, fleeting appetite, makes more towering promises than any other emotion.

No doubt all our desires make promises, but not so impressively. To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of our beloved will supply us with not just merely frequent ecstasies, but settled, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness. Hence, all seem to be at stake. If we miss this chance we shall have lived in vain. At the mere thought of such a doom we sink into fathomless depths of self-pity.

Unfortunately these promises are often found to be quite unfounded. Every experienced adult knows this to be the case with regard to all erotic passions (except the one he/she is feeling at the moment). We discount the world-without-end pretentiousness of our friends’ romantic liaisons easily enough. We know that such things sometimes last and sometimes don’t. When they do last, it is not because they promised at the outset to make it last. When two people achieve enduring happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also – I must put it crudely – good people; controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adaptable people.

If we establish a “right to (sexual) happiness” that supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience, but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it.

So while the bad behavior is real and works miseries and personal ruin, the happiness which was the object of the behavior turns out again and again to be illusory.

Everyone (except Mr. A and Mrs. B) knows that Mr. A, in a year or so, may have the same reason for deserting his new wife as he did for deserting his old one. He will again feel that all is at stake. He will again see himself as the great lover, and his pity for himself will exclude all pity for the (current) woman.

Two final points remain:

1. A society in which marital infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society adverse to women. Whatever a few songs composed by men and/or satirical offerings might say to the contrary, women are more naturally monogamous than men; it is a biological necessity. Where promiscuity prevails, they will therefore always be more often the victims than the culprits; domestic happiness is more necessary to them than to us. And the quality by which they most easily hold a man – their beauty – decreases every year after they’ve reached maturity, but this does not happen to those qualities of personality we find in women. In the cut-throat promiscuity war that rages on, women are at a double disadvantage – they play for higher stakes and are also more likely to lose. I have no sympathy with moralists who frown at the increasing lewdness of female provocativeness. These are signs of desperate competition and fill me with pity.

2. Secondly, though the “right to happiness” is claimed chiefly for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter will remain there. Once such a fatal principle is condoned in that department (our sexual natures) it will sooner or later seep through into our whole lives. We therefore advance toward a society where not only each person but every impulse in each person claims no-holds-barred permissions. And at that time, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will – don’t even dare add the word “unfortunately” – be swept away.

——————————————————-

We Have No “Right to Happiness” by C.S. Lewis
Adapted from the article of the same name by Nancy Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

So said my girlfriend the other day when we were chatting over lattes. Luke had divorced Laura to be with Michelle who had likewise divorced her husband to be with Luke. They were hopelessly, madly, in love and, barring unforeseen health or employment issues, they were set for life in the happiness department. My friend continued giving her opinion that it was abundantly clear that neither Luke nor Michelle had been happy in their marriages. It didn’t matter that they were in love with their exes at the outset – because life happens, time passes, and looks get lost by the wayside. Things had changed.

There are any number of reasons why marriages fail and people get kicked to the curb but it does always seem to be an outworking of someone in the relationship deciding that they have the right to do what makes them happy.

Sadly, Laura committed suicide some months after her marriage dissolved. Of course, Luke was distraught but never showed regret that he had left the marriage. He always maintained they had grown apart and were floundering in the proverbial loveless marriage. When Luke had serendipitously met Michelle, she was like no one he had ever met before and leaving his marriage was, as he saw it, his only chance – his last chance – at real happiness.

I began to think about the idea of having the ‘right’ to be happy.

We live in a world where our happiness and, conversely, our misfortune is often predicated on circumstances beyond our control. That being the case, it seems that to expect – to have a ‘right’ – to be happy doesn’t seem like something that can or should be depended on; any more than we can expect or depend on perfect weather every Saturday in June so that all brides will be smiling. You pick your date, send out your invites, and take your chances.

I believe we can have ‘rights’ as far as what is legislated and guaranteed by the laws of the society we live in. For example, we have the ‘right’ to basic education because, here in Canada, we are given that privilege through taxation and public policy. That is why it is called ‘public’ education.

I can also understand a ‘right’ as it relates to a contractual obligation. If someone hires me to design a logo for them and I design it and charge them $100, then I have the ‘right’ to expect to be paid $100 for my work.

Back to my friend’s statement – “Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

What my friend was not saying was that, however you need to find happiness, whatever you need to do to be happy, is not to be held up for criticism or judgement beyond a bit of neighborhood gossip – because nobody knows the ‘whole story’.

The American Declaration of Independence laid down at the outset that one of the basic rights of any American citizen is the right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’. That did not mean that people should be entitled to pursue happiness outside of the law (i.e., through murder, rape, robbery, etc.) – but by lawful means. But this is too broad-based for what my friend meant. My friend is not philosophically deep. She watches The Bachelor and thinks the Tea Party is the party at Witzend in Alice in Wonderland. What she simply and solely mused was that people have the right to be happy when it comes to sex. Her view has been ‘trending’ for some time now and you have to look no further than the plethora of partnering change-ups in Hollywood at large.

There is no room for a counterpoint in today’s society. But, if you could get a word in, the counterpoint would be that, happiness aside, Luke’s leaving Lisa for Michelle was done in direct contravention of their marriage vow. That overarching solemn promise made up of subsets of conditions wherein two people promise that they will never leave each other – no matter what. This promissory social contract is sealed either in a civil ceremony or before God and, in both cases, before witnesses. Happiness is not even figured in to the marriage vow which is one of duty of care for the other – again, no matter what.

Today, our sexual impulses and proclivities have been put on a pedestal of preposterous privilege. And where sexual ‘happiness’ is not the order of the day, heinous acts have occurred. When lack of sexual happiness has been the motive behind murderous and unjust actions, the headlines have still – even in this day and age of post-modernism – spoken loudly and clearly in defense of the innocent. We don’t have to look past Susan Smith and the drowning of her two young sons so that she could pursue a relationship with a local wealthy man to find where the utilitarian doctrine of the ends justifying the means is so egregiously lopsided in favor of the means.

The problem with sex is that it makes more towering promises than any other emotion. All our desires make promises – that new car, that new house, that new job, that next You Tube video with over a million views – but none more so than the promise of sex. To be in love involves the irrational yet irresistible conviction that it will last forever and that our beloved will supply us with deep-rooted, passionate, lifelong sexual happiness. Everything is at stake. If we miss the chance to be in love or, as we are speaking of here, to get back in love, life will not have been worth living. Anything in the way has got to go – and fast. So thought Luke and Michelle. So thought Susan Smith.

But, if we establish a ‘right to (sexual) happiness’ which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we are chasing after the wind because the object of our behavior (erotic passion) is illusory and wishful. In the movie, The Life of David Gale, in a soliloquy on happiness, the main character portrayed by Kevin Spacey warned, “Be careful what you wish for. Not because you get it, but because you’re doomed not to want it once you do. Living by wants will never make you happy.”

As time permits, those experienced at long-term relationships know that erotic passion can sometimes last a good long time but that it will most certainly wane. For those relationships that continue long after erotic passion has waned, it is not because of the promises made at the outset. It is because the two people have found true love and contentment outside of the sex act, and have otherwise strived to make their relationship both mutually beneficial and sustainable.

In a few years, it is likely that Luke will leave Michelle to fulfill another last chance at sexual happiness. Or she him. And, again, my friend will say that she believes they have a right to be happy. That is, if her husband, Chris, doesn’t decide in the meantime that he has a right to be happy with that bubbly new hire in the Corporate Marketing Department. That could change her perspective.

For the here and now, the ‘right to happiness’ is predominantly the dominion of the sexual impulse. But, what if this ‘feel good’ principle creeps into other areas of our lives to the point where every impulse in every person has the ‘right’ to be indulged?

I hear the ticking of the doomsday clock …

————————————————————-

For the original article and other incredible essays and thoughts from C.S. Lewis, you can purchase “God In The Dock” at your local Christian book seller or online via any number of online book retailers.

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Creative Writing, Evil, Homosexuality, Human Sexuality, Integrity, Liberalism, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PRIDE! Isn’t It One Of The Seven Deadlies?

Gay-Pride-Parade-New-York

You would think that if one were trying to convey that homosexuality is the ‘new normal’, you’d use words like ‘integration’ or ‘acceptance’ or ‘connection’ when thinking about a name for an annual parade – but, no, the gay community uses the word PRIDE.

The active gay community and the media that propogates their declarations would have us believe, especially in the last decade or so, that they are all ‘born this way’ (thank you, Lady Gaga), so where exactly does pride fit in? If you truly didn’t have a choice in the matter as to what you are or aren’t, how can you be proud? Isn’t one proud when one has had a hand in creating something? “Oh Billy, your Lego fort looks lovely, you must be very proud!” If one is born with webbed toes, they can’t exactly say they’re ‘proud of it’ as if they had a hand in their skin’s odd formation, but they could say, “I have accepted my quirky webbed toes as being part of me”.

So which is it? Are you, as a gay man or woman ‘born that way’ or did you have a hand in the creation you have become? If you were born that way, why boast?

I once sat down with an openly gay co-worker (this was back in the 80’s) and had a frank discussion with him about himself, his sexual orientation and about the gays he was friends with. I asked him, “how many of the guys you’re friends with are gay because they experienced male-to-male sexual experimentation when they were young and/or very poor father-son relationships (if at all)?” His answer? “All of them!” This was in Toronto when the gay community was on the cusp of its big ‘outing’.

Did something change between then and now? My guess is ‘not likely’, except maybe for one thing: the growing media inundation with respect to the whole ‘gay is okay’ agenda via images, homo-erotic relationships portrayed on screen (including kids as young as fourteen) and forced education in the schools. (Not many people are aware that just over 40 years ago, homosexuality was considered sexually deviant and/or aberrant behavior in the definitive publication of psychiatric conditions, the DSM-II *.)

I have a close, homosexual friend who does not like being identified with the gay community because of the shenanigans that go on (like lewd, open sexual behaviour that would most likely have any heterosexual arrested for public indecency) and because he feels one’s sexuality is private. At one time, I believe he thought of himself as straight. But because he suffered terrible abuse at the hands of three different priests (God help them at judgment!), he was most likely swayed into his sexual orientation because of the kind of abuse he endured; as is the case with many who’ve suffered such assaults. Yet here’s the thing: he cannot identify with ‘gays’ because he thinks the ‘Pride Parade’ approach and other overt, public manifestations within the framework of society – forgive the play on words – is out-and-out wrong. Disrespectful, even. He deems his sexuality as a private issue – I respect his thoughts here. After all, MY sexual inclinations are not something I plan on building a parade around. It’s personal what goes on in the bedroom, no? But, of course, if I and the hetero community at large planned to openly parade to celebrate traditional marriage, heterosexuality if you will, would we be regarded as intolerant homophobes and shut down? I wonder if such an event were to occur, would the liberal media go so far as to label our parade a form of hate crime and our placards and banners hate speech?

In stark contrast to homosexuals, heterosexuals don’t feel the need put their sexuality ‘on parade’. Sure, there’s raucous, inappropriate sexual imagery foisted upon us repeatedly on TV and in film, but such does not close down a large metropolitan city’s main street for the day. Opposite-gender relationships are generally not defined by sexuality on the surface. It would appear this is NOT the case for the active gay community. Case in point: Maybe you’ve watched one or two episodes of the near-dozen talent competition shows on television. Invariably, in almost every competition, some guy or gal introduces themselves thusly: “Hi, I’m ___ and I’m gay and I just came out to my parents a week ago,” or something along these lines. How conflicted must you be to present your raison d’etre as being that of your sexual proclivity OVER your voice or other talent on a show meant to judge such talents?!

Just once, I’d love to see some contestant on national TV lean over and say into the mic: “Hi my name is _____ and I’m straight. I’ve just come out to my two dads in the last few weeks.” Wouldn’t that be just mind-blowing?

Again, for a group of individuals trying to identify themselves as a new normal, they’re doing it in a strange way. If gay really is a new normal, why toot your horn so loudly? In this era of ‘gay is okay’ and marriage equality, what’s the deal with all the shouting about your sexuality? Keep it to yourself and have some self-respect. Heterosexuals generally choose to identify themselves via their minds, their talents, their gifts and abilities, their sexual proclivity not coming into play with such in-your-face declarations.

I well-realize that pride, in the context of the many gay parades held worldwide, may once have had more to do with the once-closeted homosexual no longer needing to feel ashamed of their sexual nature; that their taking the leap of making a public declaration about their true identity merited the applause of those who would deem such an ‘outing’ as brave (and that such bravery was something to be proud of). But the truth is the Pride Parade is not about that anymore. In the here and now, the Pride Parade is all about, “Hey – this is who we are! We’re in your town and here to make some noise – like it or lump it, b!#ches!”

Since that disposition now appears to be the more dominant reason to dress like your sexual opposite and sashay (or openly fornicate) in the streets, then it seems to me that gay pride is based on the fact that, well … you’re gay. 

My wife claims that I am a natural musician and blessed with a far better than average singing voice. My parents never spent a penny on lessons for me so, yes, I guess I was ‘born this way’. I know lots of other natural-born talented people and the last thing they do is flagrantly boast about it …

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

* https://sites.google.com/site/psych54000/early-dsm

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Homosexuality, Integrity, Religion, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pope Francis Is A False Teacher … Seriously?

 

tim-challies-big

A Facebook friend posted a link to a recent article by well-known Christian blogger Tim Challies. The essay is one in a series dealing with false teachers in the Christian church.

I have read Challies’ work before and have always found his writing smartly-provocative and worthwhile.

Till today.

THE PROBLEM
A few short hours ago I learned that Mr. Challies believes Pope Francis, head of the entire Roman Catholic Church, is a false teacher or a heretic. This of course implies that Francis is not a bona fide Christian and, by extension of this, neither are his denomination’s millions of members.

For an individual supposedly committed to sharing the Gospel of Christ and God’s love, Mr. Challies just shot himself in the proverbial foot the same way fundamentalist hard-liners have been doing for hundreds of years.

A bit of background on Mr. Challies: he is a pastor asociated with Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto and has been blogging away for over a decade. He’s written three Christian books and states he is, “Christian, Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and Unfinished”. Unfinished? According to him, on his About Mepage, this means, “Though I find great beauty in traditional Protestantism, I realize that in some areas traditions may not be fully Scriptural. Where that is the case I am eager to change as the Spirit convicts me through the Word.”

Let’s start there – Mr. Challies’ ‘traditions’. His theological leanings may be one of those traditions that could use a healthy dose of re-examining.

Here’s the article in question:
THE FALSE TEACHERS: POPE FRANCIS

In summary, it’s a diatribe against Roman Catholic doctrine; Pope Francis is simply used as a prop for his platform and the Catholic Church is wrong about everything. The Pope is the messenger of – not just the poster-boy for – the religion.

To his credit, Challies states, “Those within the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced salvation (and I sincerely believe there are those who have) have done so despite the church’s official teaching, not through it.” Having come from a Catholic background myself and after meeting a munificence of souls in love with Jesus, via several church/prayer-meeting settings, I couldn’t agree more. It barely has to be stated that in any church, Protestant or Catholic, you’ll find fakes or non-followers; as Larry Norman once said, “God’s not fooled by those who believe and those who say they do.” Mr. Challies is also correct in stating that there are still many old-world traditions and practices (known as catechism) that deny (or at best, fail to fully endorse) the all-sufficient grace of God in favour of works-plus-faith-based salvation, and granted, that is not a good thing.

But that’s not what’s wrong with Tim Challies piece. The problem is that he has called out one man – Pope Francis – as a ‘false teacher’ and uses very little evidence to back up such a serious claim. How serious? Based on his strict fundamentalist leanings, the next step (not taken – gee, I wonder why?) would have been for Challies to imply that Pope Francis is bound for hell, will suffer eternal punishment and is taking a ton of folks there with him. Wow.

Now, I’d like to take the opportunity to first state that I would have appreciated the chance to address Mr. Challies’ thoughts directly on his blog, but apparently ‘comments are closed’. Bit of a chicken—– move, if you ask me, but just maybe he has some comment-limitation policies in place so ‘my apologies’ if this is the case.

WHAT DOES THE POPE SAY? (No, not a new song by Elvys)
I have to ask outright here: Mr. Challies, have you yourself ever heard a definitive statement from Pope Francis that denies the complete and total saving work of Christ? Have you heard him advocate that the Catholic Church, “officially damns those who believe anything else”? Don’t think so, sir. Therein lies the problem. You yourself quoted Francis as stating, “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying—and this is the fundamental thing—that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart.” Seems very unjudgy to us. Looking at it another way, the pope himself doesn’t appear to fully subscribe to his religion’s subset beliefs! And if this is the case for the head of the R.C. church, how likely is it that your average church-attending Catholics also aren’t apt to buy into every doctrine tossed out during catechism class?

The remainder of the Pope Francis’ quote found on Challies blog appears to be a fairly close paraphrasing of Paul’s letter to the Romans, specifically a few verses found in Chapter 2 of the missive. Compare:

“The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Pope Francis

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
Romans 12:14-16, NASB **

JUST HOW DOES THE BIBLE DEFINE A FALSE TEACHER?
A false teacher – the type Christ warned us about – is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Whether from a spirit of ignorance or deliberation, he/she lives to deceive and draw people away from Christ’s Gospel of grace. Paul wished that any such ‘false teachers’ (or any angels teaching false gospels) be ‘forever accursed’. 1

In Jude’s one-chapter letter, Christians are warned,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Jude v.4 NIV

Paul warns of the latter days (which some Christians believe are upon us now) where,

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
1 Timothy 4:1-4 NIV

Mr. Challies, do you really feel Pope Francis is a ‘hypocritical liar’, ‘ungodly’, a sensuality-driven ‘grace-perverter’ or a ‘demon-influenced’ man? Has the Pope said anything about people refraining from marrying or stopped anyone from eating certain foods? Do you think him worthy of being ‘eternally cursed’? More to your point – have you personally heard him attempt to draw people into works-based religion while dismissing the doctrine of grace via his teaching?

Don’t think so.

Call me stupid, but I just don’t see Pope Francis as a false teacher. His life seems to embody the outworking of a life devoted to faith in God and Christ. I certainly don’t see him pushing anything contrary to the Gospel.

But should we even be judging the man?

THE CHRISTIAN JUDGMENT DILEMMA
Tim Challies, like a lot of fundamentalist watch-dogs out there, feel they have the right to expose false teachings and judge the men/women purveying errant doctrine. As Christians, we technically understand that there’s a very fine line to watch for when it comes to judging. But for some reason, some evangelicals like to hurl themselves across this line like a pole vaulter. Just as in a court of law there’s a difference between judging the evidence of a case and determining what judgment awaits a defendant on the stand, there is a difference with respect to how we Christians are to evaluate certain people and the things they believe. Sadly, we often get this quite wrong.

According to Scripture, we are not to judge those who are ‘outside the church’ – in other words, those who are outside of our faith. So if Mr. Challies believes Roman Catholics are basically ‘another religion’ due to their doctrines of works-plus-faith (which would be similar to Islam or Mormonism), then he technically has no right to pronounce judgment on Pope Francis (calling him a false teacher) or anyone else claiming to be of the Catholic religion!

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV

Oh but wait. ‘Roman Catholics claim to be Christians’, Mr. Challies might say, and therefore has the right to call the Pope a False Teacher.

Uh, no – no he doesn’t.

“You never know another man until you’ve walked in his moccasins”, say the indigenous peoples of North America. Without personally knowing Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Mr. Challies has no right to assume how God will judge him. But that’s not the impression you get from Challies’ blog-post.

Jesus tells us,

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17 NIV

But rather than do this, Mr. Challies fires off his digital bullets that wound and maim, saying things like:

–  “… he (Francis) … remains committed to a false gospel.”
–  “He (again, Francis) is the head of a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone …”
– “Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul …”

And worst of all, Challies states,

“Even while Francis washes the feet of prisoners and kisses the faces of the deformed, he does so out of and toward this false gospel that leads not toward Christ, but directly away from him. Good deeds done to promote a false gospel are the most despicable deeds of all.”

If this isn’t a heavy-handed implication that Pope Francis and his followers are bound for eternal punishment, I don’t know what is. Remember what we noted earlier; Paul warned that anyone teaching a ‘false Gospel’ should be forever accursed.

This kind of rant by Mr. Challies reminds me of a bully who throws stones at you from a distance. There’s nothing remotely Christ-like in Mr. Challies approach or evaluations.

WHY MORE CATHOLICS MIGHT BE CHRISTIANS THAN CHALLIES BELIEVES?
Ignorance is a funny thing. Sometimes it works in our favour and at other times it works against us (see John 15:22-24). On the issue of ‘Grace alone’ vs. ‘Works-Plus-Faith’, I propose a different view of things that may be considerably more gracious (and biblical) than the judgments offered by Mr. Challies who is ironically a pastor associated with ‘Grace Fellowship Church’.

Let’s assume the lady living next door to you is a Catholic. Believes baptism keeps babies from Purgatory, prays to Mary as well as Jesus and maybe calls upon a few saints now and then. She has crosses over every doorway in her house and believes in transubstantiation when taking communion at mass. She’s faithful to light a candle for her husband who has passed, and has a mass said for him once a year, hoping it’ll get him closer to God in the next world. Now as protestants, we realize a lot of this is just nonsense – to us. To them, however, it’s an important part of their religious practice. But aside from all of these rituals or practices, the dear woman truly loves Jesus. She believes He is The Saviour of all mankind. Believes He rose from the dead. And believes every word of the Apostles Creed when she offers it aloud and with her whole heart and soul on any given Sunday.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

Can anyone state with absolute certainty that this woman’s Christianity is false and more importantly, should anyone even venture down that trecherous road of judgmentalism? No. Sure, some of the church’s religious observations are questionable or out of whack with Scripture to most protestants, but that does not afford them the right to assume that the majority of adherent Roman Catholics are – as Challies states – heading in a direction “directly away from Him (Christ)”!

STOP THE BULLYING
Mr. Challies, I appeal to the grace of God that lives in you to be more considerate and less judgmental of individual souls while dealing with false teachers/false teachings through your essays. Yes, some wrong teaching out there needs to be exposed and it’s an important topic to delve into. But at present, your careless approach affects your quality of ministry and undermines the credibility of the all-encompassing grace you claim to believe is offered to us in Christ. I sincerely hope you take time to re-evaluate your thoughts on the matters discussed and leave judgments of an eternal nature in the safe and outstretched hands of the Eternal.

Grace and Peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ,

© 2014, Flagrant Regard

1. Galatians 1:8-9

___________________________________________________________________________________

** In our experience, this passage in Romans is one of the least explored or talked about parts of the New Testament. Many evangelicals shy away from it because it seems that Paul is indicating there is a separate and distinct judgment for those who haven’t received the salvation of Christ in their lifetime on earth. This is, in fact, EXACTLY what Paul was outlining. If one looks at the structure of Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is clear that right up until chapter 3 and verse 20 of his letter, Paul is providing a running commentary on the world ‘as is’ – a world that hasn’t been made aware of Christ, is unaware of His atonement via the cross and living without the assurance of eternal life the Christian believer is in receipt of, through faith. (From Chapter 3, verse 21 onward, Paul then explains to the Romans the nature of the Gospel and why it is superior to anything ‘law-based’, Jewish or otherwise.)

This passage clearly shows that God’s mercy, in Christ, is in some way extended to those who’ve not accepted the Gospel or (if you’re of the Calvinist ilk) who are not predestined to receive Christ’s unique, all-encompassing salvation through faith. These individuals, however, live with NO assurances of the coming rewards and/or punishments due them. Just as there are levels of reward in heaven based on one’s works while in the body, it would appear the same goes for souls that do not step into eternity’s glory at the moment of death. Apologists such as C.S.Lewis understood this; and his sentiments on justice in the afterlife were creatively expressed in his fictional books ‘The Last Battle’ and ‘The Great Divorce’.

Other authors – considered evangelical protestants – have also addressed the issue of the unsaved:

“The great prophetic discourse (Matthew 21-25/Mark 11-13/Luke 19:29-48 Chap. 20 & 21) worthily ended with a solemn representation of the final judgment of the world, when all mankind shall be assembled to be judged either by the historical gospel preached to them for a witness, or by its great ethical principle, the law of charity written on their hearts; and when those who have loved Christ and served Him in person, or in His representatives, – the poor, the destitute, the suffering, – shall be welcomed to the realms of the blessed, and those who have acted contrariwise shall be sent away to keep company with the devil and his angels.”
The Training of the Twelve, A.B. Bruce

“On a trip to Japan I found myself late at night in a pastor’s study in one of the largest churches in Tokyo (which isn’t saying much, since the average congregation numbers thirty in a nation where Christians claim only 1 percent of the population). … I wanted to check into my hotel room and go to sleep, but Japanese hospitality required this courtesy visit. For the next twenty minutes without interruption the pastor poured out the agony he felt over the 99 percent of Japanese who had not accepted Jesus. Would they all burn in hell because of their ignorance? He had heard of theologians who believed in people having a second chance after death and knew the mysterious passage in 1 Peter about Jesus preaching to those in Hades. Some theologians he had read seemed to believe in universal salvation although certain passages in the Bible indicated otherwise. Could I offer him any hope? Thinking aloud, I mentioned that God causes the sun to rise on the just and unjust and has no desire that anyone should perish. God’s Son on earth spent his last strength praying for his enemies. …

“I do not know the answer to your questions,” I said at last. “But I believe strongly that at the end of time no one will be able to stand before God and say ‘You were unfair!’ However history settles out, it will settle on the side of justice tempered by mercy.””
PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey

My wife and I have, over the years, conferred with several pastors from different backgrounds. Three of them – a Free Methodist, a Presbyterian and an Anglican – all concurred that there will be a fairness in a person’s judgment even if they’ve never accepted the Good News of Christ. None of these ministers supported the idea of ‘Universalism’ or ‘Inclusivism’, they just concluded – from Scripture alone – that God will be righteous in His judgments of every man’s soul.

We sincerely feel that those Christians who continue to assert that everyone who’s not a believer automatically burns in the fire of hell and suffers eternal torment in a lake of sulphur study the scriptures more deeply in order to determine and highlight the depth of God’s amazing grace, through Christ – Lord and Judge over all.

Some Bible verses to consider:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.”
John 15:22-24 New International Version

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. …

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:6,11-15 New International Version

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“And Who Is My Neighbour?”

I’ll tell you who – she’s an annoying old bat who wants nothing to do with you until the day she drops by to tell you how much you’ve ticked her off.

“Hello,” says she. Then with barely a breath between her saying hello and the ensuing plaint,
“Are you the people who are feeding the squirrels? Because they are getting into my plants!”
“That’s too bad”, I says. Apparently she didn’t hear me …
“I have many flowers at the back and the squirrels come and dig up my plants. It’s because you’re feeding them.”
“Have you tried raising your plants off the ground into planters?” I says.
“Yes, and they still get in there!” she moans.
After we suggest a few other rodent-discouraging remedies, Mrs. In-a-you-face then proceeds to gripe for 5 more minutes about her squirrel-affected garden. She ends the spiel with a request that we don’t feed the squirrels any more. My wife and I assure her with pleasant smiles,
“Sorry, we like the squirrels – we don’t plan to stop feeding them”.
And then the old lady walks away in a peevish huff.

Was that unchristian? Were we supposed to turn the other cheek? How would we do that … let me see. We could go and buy her plants to replace any damaged ones. Uh, no. We could not only stop feeding the squirrels, heck! we could put out poison and kill them all – that’d keep the old lady’s plants in pristine condition! No again.

That’s simply not what being Christian is all about.

Being Christian – loving one’s neighbour – has nothing to do with acquiescing to another’s gluttony. Our neighbour (in the literal sense of the word) wanted us to satisfy her selfish interests, her penchants. She didn’t ask us to walk a mile with her (presumably to aid her with something) nor did she ask us for a cloak or coat in order to make her life more livable through keeping her warm.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (1.), we read of a guy who got taken down by robbers while travelling down a road. In the story, the victim of the assault was a bloodied mess and left without a penny to his name after the incident. After two religious sorts passed by the injured man without as much as a word, a man of Samaritan background came along who didn’t ignore or avoid the injured soul and met all of his needs. The victim needed healthcare and wound-dressing. Done. He needed a place to heal; “Here you go hotel-guy, here’s some cash for a room and for continuing care costs until this dude’s out of your hair”. Going the ‘extra mile’? Done! The Samaritan comes out of this story smelling like roses, and rightly so!

In similar fashion, an opportunity to love our neighbour should stem primarily from our wanting to address serious, life-impacting types of concerns. But if we come to believe that serving the Lord means pandering to others’ selfish wants and tastes, we’ll end up as sycophantic masochists – not martyrs – and that’s really not what Jesus was calling us to do when he said, “love your enemies” or “love your neighbour”.

Paul the apostle, writing to Roman Christians stated, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (2.). In other words, Christians should do whatever it takes to come up with a peaceful or ‘mutually beneficial’ solution but it’s clearly implied that though this is the ideal, sometimes it just isn’t possible.

If Mrs. Squirrel-hater fell down in the parking lot outside her building we wouldn’t hesitate to help her to her feet. If she was short on change at Tim Horton’s we’d cover her whole tab. We relish opportunities to help others in need. But what we don’t have to do is make everyone feel good by giving in to their petty wants. Christians should not be about making people feel good but should be focused on caring for others sincerely whenever the authentic opportunity arises; and that may often mean doing so while carrying our differences, idiosyncrasies and personal disagreements in tow.

What about you? Do you agree? Do you think we should have tried so work out something with our grousing neighbour? How do you go about loving your (literal and figurative) neighbour when differences arise?

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question:

“Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jesus replied with a story:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.
“Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37
New Living Translation

2. Romans 12:18, New International Version

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Neo-Pacifism The New Christianity? Part I

Does anyone remember pacifism?

You know, that fairly extremist position of non-violence held by certain Christian faith-groups who endorse that their members absolutely refrain from joining the military (for combat service), becoming a cop (as all police agencies mandate the use of lethal force when required) or even using self-defence to protect oneself or loved ones if it might lead to killing another human being in order to do so?

Well, it’s apparently back with a ‘non-vengeance’. This time around, however, pacifism’s re-emergence is no longer the theological territory of aloof, simple-life religious communities, but can be found in modern churches equipped with all manner of technology, multimedia tools and eye-catching backdrops. In these places of worship, passionate, enthusiastic preachers are making waves in the Christian community by extoling the virtuousness of old-world pacifism. At first, this might seem like not such a bad thing … after all, what’s wrong with a growing bunch of peaceniks, right? But here’s the rub: those delivering this message of ‘non-violence-at-all-costs’ are stating, in no uncertain terms, that unless all Christians everywhere submit to pacifism, they are failing to fully comprehend or represent the life, character and principles of Christ.

We believe that there is something very disconcerting about this latest push towards a collective peace-initiative – something we’ve dubbed ‘Neo-Pacifism’ – and contend that it’s just one more ‘ism’ that hampers our efforts to spread the true Gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ.

What Does Neo-Pacifism Teach?

Answering this question accurately required quite a bit of reading/listening to several sermons from prominent figures associated with the movement. What we discovered proved to be both interesting and sometimes kind of disturbing. As already noted in the first paragraph of this article, Christian pacifism (which is rooted in the Anabaptist tradition that began about half a millennium ago) means a person does not engage in any act of retributive aggression or defensive violence that could cause harm or especially the death of another human being. Pacifism’s adherents believe their position represents the truest fulfilment of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (or Sermon on the Plain) with respect to His followers loving their enemies and taking the command of Christ to ‘turn the other cheek’ quite literally. It matters not an iota what the prevailing circumstances may be. You simply do not take lethal action against anyone – ever. The concept of ‘just war’ is regarded as scriptural and spiritual error. Though a nation could be taken into captivity by an invading force and its people suffer unnameable atrocities at the hands of evil men, pacifism demands that you are not to become a soldier in order to defend the oppressed or the innocent. Applying for a job in government? Not in the plan. Joining a police force is out of the question (for reasons already mentioned) and it can be assumed that signing up for Mixed Martial Arts doesn’t score any points with pacifists either.

(Why Neo-pacifism misrepresents Christianity will be covered in Part II of this article.)

Who’s Behind Neo-Pacifism’s Rise To Acceptance?

Several popular ministers, we discovered.

One individual who’s covering a lot of territory (and time) with respect to pacifism is Bruxy Cavey, a gifted, charismatic speaker and primary ‘Teaching Pastor’ for the far-reaching, momentum-gathering church known as ‘The Meeting House’. The Meeting House doesn’t hide the fact that it is rooted in the Brethren In Christ (BIC)/Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition, but is of late making a significant push to ensure that the pacifist agenda is tremendously close to being front and centre along with the Gospel message. In 2010, Bruxy engaged his congregation/listeners with a teaching series called, ‘Inglorious Pastors: Waging Peace in a World of War’, which was a seven sermon lecture on how to (and why all Christians should) get on board with pacifism. Right up there with Cavey are other proponents of neo-pacifism such as famous author/speaker Tony Campolo, Woodland Hills pastor Greg Boyd and ‘visionary leader’ Shane Claiborne. All of these speakers/church-leaders are connected with (and are scheduled speakers for) the most recent Christian peace-initiative venture called PEACEWORKS.TV, a group self-described as “a youth movement for peace bringing people from all over the world together for a single purpose…to turn every church into a peace church.” 1

Why You Should Be Concerned About The Neo-Pacifist Movement

When it comes to presenting your church’s doctrines, it’s one thing to state, “What we believe and teach has proven to be effective” but quite another to stress that everyone else not doing what you’re doing or believing what you’re believing has got it all wrong. What’s far more disconcerting is when any church group/denomination – their growth, solid doctrinal foundation or good intentions notwithstanding – comes right out and says that “Jesus is the model for our system of living and anything short of this model fails to fully represent Christian character”. Well, the Christian neo-pacifists are doing just that.

Here’s what Bruxy Cavey, author of the successful and provocative book ‘The End of Religion’, states with respect to those inquiring into pacifism:

“Something else we should think about just before we dive in … this is for those of you who are having to answer questions of others as we process through this … You should be aware that some of the questions people ask are asked ‘genuinely’ and some are asked just because they’re looking for an excuse not to have to listen to the teachings of Christ. In other words … people ask questions of Jesus’s peace-teaching in two ways, sometimes, first of all, in order to find an excuse to disregard it or sometimes to better understand and apply it.” 2

This statement shows Bruxy is making the assumption that those who question pacifism are questioning the way of Jesus. That kind of approach strikes us as ‘our way or the highway’ and has that familiar stench born out of theological arrogance; something I’ve been known to struggle with myself. (‘Takes one to know one’, as they say!)

It’s fine to detail your own position on pacifism and teach what it means; that it’s ‘okay to die for a cause, just not kill for one‘ or that it is ‘not a success strategy but a love strategy‘ etc., but Bruxy takes it to a whole other level by pretty much ordaining it as a religious
obligation for true Christians (which is kind of strange when you consider the title of his book).

Though Bruxy says that pacifism isn’t necessarily the best strategy in a situation where violence could be used as a solution, he states that “WE (the church’s members, leaders etc.) still believe it is the right choice because we choose this way because Jesus ‘called for it, commanded it, modelled it and then calls us to be the body of Christ – today – filled with his spirit – living as Jesus lived, presenting him to the world.’ In the same sermon he also elaborates, ” … we don’t follow the way of peace because it works, we follow it because it’s like Christ.” 3

Again, he infers that ‘the way of peace’ as per the pacifist’s stance is Christ-like, clearly intimating that one’s not being a pacifist is a failure to be Christ-like.

Not wanting to misinterpret the pacifist position of The Meeting House, I spoke to a representative of the church. I asked, “Would we not be allowed to be church members if we did not subscribe to your strong, pacifist leanings? The individual stated that we could be members, but that if we’d climbed the ladder into church leadership by any degree, we would not be allowed to voice our disfavour of or lack of allegiance to pacifism. That information revealed to us just how deeply entrenched the doctrine was. When I asked, “Do you think that those who do not subscribe to pacifism are deficient in their Christian walks or lives?” the person on the other end of the line – as politely as they could – acknowledged that you would be numbered along with those who ‘struggle with Christ’s teachings’. Upon my probing into the issue a bit further, the church representative strongly implied that you wouldn’t be as mature in your Christian faith without being a pacifist.

St. Paul MN’s Woodland Hills pastor, Greg Boyd, recently spoke at the Sunday service for The Meeting House here in Canada. In his sermon, entitled, ‘From Baptist to Anabaptist’ he stated:

“… the true Kingdom always looks like Calvary. … All over the place people are getting this vision … that what Jesus came to do and that it always has this humble, servant, self-sacrificial feel to it. And these folks are looking for … a tribe and a tradition – something that’s anchored and has witnessed in the past. And the only folks who have the tradition are the Anabaptists, the Brethren in Christ/the Mennonites. God’s doing a new thing … is pouring out new wineskin … a new tradition that they can call home and the only ones who have it are you guys!” 4

Once again, there is a definitive ‘us and them’ vibe going on that – I hate to say it – reminds me of a cult mentality. We are NOT SAYING THE NEO-PACIFIST MOVEMENT IS A CULT – please do not misinterpret us. But as it currently stands, the neo-pacifist leaders we are hearing from are stating that all branches of Christianity outside of their own are failing to fully meet the objectives of the Gospel by their not subscribing to pacifism. This is just not the case and is a much uncalled for sweeping generalization. There are many peace-loving, self-sacrificing, love-oriented and ‘mature’ Christians from ALL denominations who are fantastically Christ-like and yet are not pacifists. But try and get a neo-pacifist church leader to accept that and you may find you’re beating your head against a wall. I remember encountering this very same spirit in some evangelical protestant churches where they believe that all Roman Catholics are lost and bound for hell – an inane, judgmental position that’s doctrinally unfounded. It’s this very spirit of judgment, borne out of a faith group’s egotism, which subjects the Kingdom of God to public disgrace by the disunity it ultimately fosters.

The funny thing is that a great percentage of the time (here in the west especially) your pacifist or non-pacifist disposition exists almost solely in the realms of the abstract or theoretical. What I mean is that there is hardly ever a time where you’re provided an opportunity to live out your pacifist views in the same way a trained martial artist almost never finds himself going all Jackie Chan on a bunch of thugs after leaving the dojo. As this is the case, I have to wonder why the neo-pacifists are pushing the peace-agenda so hard?

And so, we would really like to ask the neo-pacifists out there to contemplate the possibility that you’ve let a doctrinal side issue become an agenda that takes precedence over the Gospel. The Gospel is about God’s grace extended to a broken world through the death and resurrection of Christ and about our living a life ‘worthy of the calling’ first and foremost. How you live your life in Christ and how I live mine is bound to be different, but the Spirit of God has given us both a measure of faith and will convict us of our shortcomings, including those that have to do with peace, love and practical real-life application. Harping on anything outside of this – the heart of the Christian life – will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. Things turn ugly when an interpretation of the Gospel (or some aspect of it) is presented as if it were the Gospel itself. Please, don’t make that mistake.

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. http://peaceworkstv.wordpress.com/ & http://youtube.com/peaceworkstv

2. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 6:42min)

3. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 5:10min)

4. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/one-church-2013/week-1-from-baptist-to-anabaptist-5475 – SERMON TITLE: “FROM BAPTIST TO ANABAPTIST … (at 29:02min)

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Matter of Some Integrity – Unfortunately, Not My Own

After hearing a sermon on ‘The Integrity of Joseph’ at church last Sunday and then my meeting up with a dude this week who demonstrated ethics and/or integrity that superseded my own, I hereby feel it is my solemn duty declare myself an abuser of God’s grace.

What I mean is that even at the best of times I know my goodness doesn’t add up to a hill of holy beans. I live with that – maybe a bit too comfortably – because I’m ‘covered’ by Christ’s work on the cross to ‘save a wretch like me’. But when I encounter a fellow who hasn’t declared himself to be of any notable faith-based disposition/persuasion behaving or acting better than I do, I am bugged. My spirit becomes irritated because it’s then I realize how badly I’ve been using God’s grace as a free pass to write off my less-than-perfect attitudes, behaviours or actions; labelling them ‘growth areas’ or things that ‘God’s still working on’. Cop-out!

So THIS is what the Holy Spirit’s job is then – to ‘convict me of short-comings’ and ‘guide me into all truth’. What better way to do this than to show me up with a man who displays integrity in an area I do not. It’s like I’m being told, “Martin! You see that? That’s what you should be doing but you ain’t. What are we going to do about that?”

Being put in one’s place by a person who hasn’t professed any religious affiliations is like my considering myself a pro-ball player, only to have a guy who specializes in making doughnuts step up to the plate and hit a home run first time at bat. That kind of thing catches you off guard because you think YOU’RE the one with experience and know-how and then boom – you’re blown away by the contrast created by a single, remarkable act performed by someone you’re not expecting it from.

The day before I met up with ‘Mr. Integrity’, I had been reading in the Bible about the story of a particular individual Christ encountered in his travels way back when.* It’s a sure bet that the ‘people of the promise’ (those of the Jewish faith) who began to comprehend that their Messiah was among them thought that they were the most blessed and holiest people, had the right God, were full of all the right beliefs etc.. Then Jesus meets a Roman official – a nobody as far as the Jews were concerned – but of whom Jesus remarked, “In all of Israel I haven’t found faith like this” … all because he did the right thing at the right time with the right Man watching. As the story goes, the Roman official had a sick servant he cared about and whom he wanted to see healthy again. No biggie: go find this Jesus guy because he’s known to have a one-hundred per cent success rate with miracles and because He’s a no-nonsense authority on lots of things. Because our Roman friend believed in such a matter-of-fact way, Jesus healed the servant from an untold distance – a first as far as we know with respect to the wonders done by the Messiah. I wonder how many of the Jewish folks standing around hearing Jesus remarking about the Roman official’s unique, exemplary faith, looked down at their feet at that moment feeling somewhat teed off with either Jesus or themselves?

This past Sunday, pastor G. opened his sermon with, “Integrity is the kind of thing you expect from other people“. How true: we often want to see authenticity in others first before we offer it ourselves. But that will not do for this believer. It’s not a pride thing that drives me to better myself or to shoot for a higher standard, but the desire to be more Christ-like and to be, as Paul the apostle said, “above reproach” in the sight of believers and non-believers alike.

Who’s with me? Who wants to shine a little brighter in the light of the Son? Time to get out the polish (God’s word) and also to learn from every example of goodness we see that sets the stage for changes toward the better in our own lives.

© 2013 Martin D. of Flagrant Regard

* Matthew 8:5-13

1 Tim 3:1-13
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women — same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Categories: Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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