Monday, August 18, 2014

A Recent Interview

I appeared on the Josh Tolley Show on 8/15/2014 to discuss Exorcism, Possession and Demonology. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Progressive Education: Racism and the Dumbing Down of the Masses

Recently I read an article advocating for significant changes in how teachers grade students. The article argued that, because America is so horribly racist, students should be graded differently based on their race. In all their Progressive "compassion", they want to lower the bar for minorities. Implicit in such a position is that somehow minorities are just not intellectually capable of meeting the same standards as the perceived majority. This is an implication I find appalling and reject completely. It is racist and repugnant to even suggest, but that is exactly what is behind such ideas. As with all things Progressive, this also means it is anti-Christian and anti-American on some level as well. These ideas are never static or limited. While such approaches may start with grading systems, the Progressives supporting such "race based" education would undoubtedly find fault with the substance of the education offered as a whole (and have). Why do I say this? Simple.

Progressives also decry what they perceive as a lack of students being taught to use their minds creatively, to think for themselves and to study subjects that are clearly out of the mainstream and perhaps represent alternative lifestyles, spiritualities, and supportive of decidedly left leaning socio-political views. As most Christian colleges and seminaries offer a program of study that is very strictly Biblically based, and which stress the fundamental principles of the Christian faith from the conservative perspective, they most certainly view that as a form of mind control and perhaps (like many Progressive pundits have stated) a method of abuse. Yes, you read that right. While implying minorities are somehow incapable of achieving high standards educationally, they claim Christians are the abusive ones. Don't try to figure out their logic. There is none. They ignore the fact that students in such colleges are strongly encouraged to think things through, utilize their rational faculties and seek personal realization of the subject matter taught. 

And those pesky grading systems where students are scored on their retention of information, proper application, etc. Well they have to go too. Progressives who promote a race based grading system also prefer a more "theoretical" based education as opposed to a "dogmatic" one. In other words, answers to any given problems will be completely subjective and there are no right or wrong (especially wrong) answers. Students are graded on not only a racial basis, but on their intention. If they sincerely tried to arrive at a correct answer, then the answer is given a passing grade no matter how incorrect. We can see this in operation now in many grade schools and high schools in the country where Common Core has taken the place of a real educational curriculum. They claim they want students to use their minds, but truthfully they don't want them to use them too much.
One of the reasons I think Progressives resist students actually using their minds critically and meeting tough goals is that it becomes a sort of double edged sword. Secular universities are well known for their Progressive faculties and the fact that the Leftist Socialist agenda is the predominating and forcefully inculcated one on their campuses. Students who express conservative political or social views, or who attempt to defend their orthodox Christian faith are often ridiculed openly by Progressive professors and even failed based on their Christian faith or conservative worldview. Considering such students are in actuality a minority on campuses the double standard is obvious. That is, to everyone except the Progressive. If Progressive educators were to press the issue of actually using one's mind to think critically and to discern facts from propaganda the inevitable charge of their own abuse in discouraging such freedom of thought would become a hot topic, and one which they are ill prepared to either engage or defend themselves against. 

Beyond that, I suspect the student body at large is growing discontent with the Globalist answers as well (though those students who are remain a minority and still cling to Progressive socio-political ideas). As I wrote in my article Reclaiming the Culture (Intrepid Magazine, Feb. 2013)

"The movement, which is most prominent in our universities, is essentially a "New Age" vision of Globalism/Progressivism. Its stated aim is to equalize all cultures, all nations, and all individuals within a Global socialist system deemed to be some sort of Utopia. The New Age Movement refers to this desire in the terms of a "higher consciousness" that views everyone and everything as interconnected and interdependent, while denying individual freedom and self determination. The college student achieves this higher consciousness, when he no longer views one culture or social outlook as superior to another culture or social outlook. The main effort of the Globalist is to train the student to both view his own culture (i.e.,Western, Christian culture) as one culture among many equally valid cultures and, consequently, assume a mental stance of "openness" to values present in other, non-Western cultures. In fact, this consciousness actually demands the American and the Christian revile his culture and religion, and to constantly apologize for the perceived evils of both. It appears that within the Progressive paradigm all cultures are celebrated except that influenced by Christian thought. In fact, the openness of the Left ends when the American Dream is mentioned, since the American Dream is the polar opposite of the fascist dictatorship the Progressives seek. Put simply, freedom is an obstacle to the Progressive agenda." 

As in all egalitarian efforts, this process of "equalization" amounts to an attempt to "level the playing field" , or make "fair" that which has traditionally been considered to be superior. How is this done? By exalting that which is normally considered to be inferior or defective. Of course, this means these same educators work to remove any pride in country from the student's mind as well. The United States must be seen as evil by design and oppressive of minorities, homosexuals, and any other group they use as weapons of propaganda in order to change the social fabric and empower themselves to advance their essentially Socialist agenda. Progressives achieve this result by introducing courses into the college curriculum which both exalt other cultures and, most importantly, focus on the perceived absolute decadence of Western Christian culture (a decadence they are responsible for, as the increase in immorality, broken families, drug abuse, violence and poverty are a direct result of the introduction of Progressive ideology in media and in governmental policy. The once prosperous city of Detroit, Michigan is an excellent example of what happens when Progressives control policy.

You might think that Progressives would be frustrated in their attempt to exalt the "suppressed and oppressed" non-Western cultures and sub-cultures of the U.S., basically because students generally aren't interested. Or one might think students would see the obvious great works and great ideas of Western Christian culture. This obviously is not the case, as again, they are generally disinterested. The National Endowment for the Humanities reports that it is possible to graduate from 37% of American colleges without taking a course in history, from 45% without taking a course in American or English literature, from 62% without taking any philosophy, and from 77% without studying a foreign language. Indeed they state it is now "extremely rare" to find students exposed to a core curriculum in Western civilization, even at major state universities and the elite Ivy League universities. Not only is the average American undergraduate seemingly unfit, and definitely uninterested, in such expanded cultural "awareness," but the very purveyors of Globalism, the university faculties, are themselves obviously uninterested in any serious study of the ideas, habits, and customs which make up the content of Western Christian cultures. They simply do not fit the revolutionary ideology of the Globalist cabal.

If university education is lacking (and I agree it is) then Progressives need look no further than their own socio-political agenda for the reasons.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scientism: A New Paganism

While science is certainly an invaluable tool in helping us understand our environment, fight disease, develop technologies, etc., there is a segment of the scientific community who are every bit the extremists as those religionists they often hate so much. These extremists, whether they would admit the following observations are valid or not, have established a new religion; that of Scientism. For the adherents of this new religion (often militant atheists) science has replaced deity, and it is science that is given omnicompetent and omniscient status. It is fair to ask, can science answer every question, solve every mystery? For example, can science offer concrete answers as to why humanity can often be cruel, hateful, and commit acts of violence and immorality? Indeed can science offer substantive and absolute answers as to why humanity even need abide by rules, codes of conduct, or moral law? Can science really provide absolute answers in their own milieu of relativistic thinking regarding such questions?
This idea that science is some sort of oracle dealing with every kind of question amounts to a humanistic paganism. It enshrines science every bit as much as the Oracle of Delphi was enshrined. We should never embrace its answers without discernment, and certainly not accept their foundation as infallible. Yet it is this very claim of Scientism, a claim that emerged in the 1930s from the same sources that promoted racial eugenics, that has taken on almost unassailable enshrinement today. Faith in it seems to be getting even stronger now as the church continues to abdicate its role in society, moving ever closer to the secular in its worship, morality and even theology. Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey writes in Soul Searching, that Scientism means to offer “a sufficient explanation for everything that is or might be”. And by so doing, it means to replace God.
Two hundred years later this program for a self-sufficient science has succeeded beyond the dreams of its inventors …The major puzzles of existence have been pulled to pieces [by] all-conquering and consuming scientific rationality. Indeed, the basic laws that govern everything have turned out to be fewer in number and, to those who understand them, simpler and more beautiful than anyone originally guessed. So successful has it been that many scientists would now say, and even fear, that there will soon be little left for them to do.”

What does such a boastful claim actually mean? When he speaks of basic laws, he speaks of physics. Lord Kelvin is well known to have been mistaken when he made that claim, and today’s physics – besides being incredibly complicated – is notoriously uncertain how to reconcile its views on two crucial topics: general relativity and quantum mechanics. Physicists, in fact, are not offering any all-purpose key to the universe, nor ought they to. Serious scientists know that their inquiries are endless; any answers always raise a swarm of new questions.
Neither should physicists claim to deal with the “major puzzles of existence”. The very success of 17th-century physics was due wholly to its founders seeing the need to limit its scope – to separate out physical questions from others that were perhaps connected to them. When Isaac Newton said that he felt he was only a child picking up shells on the shore of an infinite ocean, he did not mean merely that it might be a couple of hundred years before physicists managed to discover and explain everything. He meant that the universe, human existence, the origin of all of creation was something science could never hope to probe, that other kinds of questions (questions on the origin of humanity and ultimately God) need quite different forms of “research”, and therefore had very different answers, though both confirm each other.
Humphrey, however, is convinced that the militant atheist religion of Scientism has indeed in some way solved the question of God, origins, mind-body mysteries, etc., apparently by proving that “there is no need for a life-force … no need for a human soul to explain the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness”.
Our real problem is to understand the condition of humanity, the Fall, the problem of sin, and how we can reestablish our connection to the Creator of the universe, and through Whom we can receive that redemptive grace. This is not a physical problem. It is a pervasive spiritual problem that Scientism can never hope to answer. And it is not about to go away, no matter how much Richard Dawkins and his sycophants ridicule the very questions themselves.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Archaeology and the Bible

What follows is just a few of the archaeological discoveries that lend serious support to the historicity of the Sacred Scriptures.

This is the oldest known reference to Yahweh, the personal name of God found in Exodus 3. That is, if the site of Jebel al Lawz is not proven to be the Biblical Mt. Sinai. Thus far scholars have not supported the findings at that particular site. The writing is in hieroglyphs and dates back to 1400 BC. The inscription refers to nomadic people who worshiped Yahweh, and certainly would be the Israelites. This is from a temple built by the Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Soleb, modern day Sudan.

This basalt stone, dating to the 9th century BC, contains an ancient Aramaic inscription referring to the "House of David". Found in excavations in 1993 the stone is known as the Tel Dan Stela.

This inscription found on the Karnak Temple complex depicts the Pharaoh Shishak's military victories, including his invasion of Israel. (ca. 925 BC) This is the same events recorded in the Sacred Scriptures (I Kings 14:25), where Shishak is referred to by name.

This cuneiform monument, known as the Kurkh Monolith, was originally carved ca. 835 BC by the Assyrians. It makes reference to King Ahab, who is also spoken of in the Sacred Scriptures. (I Kings 16-22) Why am I sharing these things? I think it is important to demonstrate the historic veracity of the Biblical accounts of events. Thus, I will begin to post articles frequently that not only demonstrate this, but that also demonstrate the fallacious nature of what passes for research in the fringe archaeology and historical revisionist subculture that has spawned programs such as Scott Wolter's program American Unearthed, and literature as dubious as The Exodus Reality, by psuedo-scholars Scotty Roberts and John Ward. In the coming months we will begin a serious and indepth exploration of the archaeology of the Bible both here and in the pages of Vexilla Regis Journal. We can assure you, your faith will be bolstered and your eyes opened to amazing confirmation. And the added bonus is that we will demonstrate the fallacious nature of the fringe archaeology and historical revisionist subcultures. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim: A Theological Examination

I've been asked numerous times recently to detail some of my theological objections to Scotty Roberts' book The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim. I think this is a good request and one I should meet, as I have been an open critic of the author's work. After doing so this will be my final article on this topic, as I've grown quite weary of answering the questions. Roberts attempts to utilize scripture in his writing, but does so within the framework of fringe theology and ancient alien thought, as witnessed by his frequent reference to Nephilim as “aliens” and “lesser gods”. Throughout the book Roberts demonstrates a severe and egregious inability to understand scripture, either within its ancient Hebraic context nor within its Christian context. What follows are some specific theological problems with the book. First is the Serpent Seed Heresy: This theory is most popular in the Christian Identity Movement, a white racist movement that promotes the same heresy in an effort to cast non-whites and Jews as being less than human and children of Satan in a literal sense. A repugnant "theology" at best. However, nowhere in the Genesis account can this idea be supported. One of the problems Roberts faces is that if Cain were indeed the child of Nachash (the Serpent, Satan), he would certainly have been a Nephilim (giant) like the offspring written of in the Book of Enoch. Furthermore, if Cain was a child of Satan, why would he even care that his offering was not acceptable to God? Why would he even make an offering? And finally, why would God place a mark on Cain to protect his life if he was a Nephilim? Christian Identity heretics claim that mark was dark skin, by the way. Then we get to Roberts' idea that The Fall Involved Sexual Activity: The idea that Eve had sexual relations with the Serpent is a key element in Roberts' theology, and one he shares again with Christian Identity. The question is, if Eve’s sin was adultery, what was Adam’s sin? Despite Roberts' Gnostic ideas (which he also shares with Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church cult), Adam’s sin brought death into the world because he sinned willfully; whereas, according to Paul, Eve sinned because she was deceived by the serpent. In other words, she was lied to and fell for the lie. Being deceived and being sexually seduced are two very different things. The totality of scripture is clear that the sin was disobedience and did not involve sex. Next are his oddball comments about Moses: Roberts' version of Moses is bizarre to say the least. Moses comes across in this book as an egotistical, power hungry sociopath who sought to be the equivalent of the Pharaoh to the Israelites. Meanwhile, Sacred Scripture (which Roberts pretends to use responsibly) says Moses was compassionate and willingly gave up his royal position in Egypt, willingly went into exile, and ultimately suffered for and with his fellow Israelites. Rather than being the power hungry person Roberts implies he was, Moses attempted to avoid being the leader of the Israelites. Roberts states that Moses’ “face to face” encounters with God were nothing more than mere political theater, designed to put him in a place of authority with the Israelites that could not be easily challenged. What emerges from such a critique is not an honest approach to scripture, but more Roberts' own psychology struggling with his admitted (in the book itself) lack of faith. Of course, no attack on Christianity would be complete without the claim that Jesus was Married: This is a favorite claim of Roberts'. He offers no proof but claims that Jesus was married. He claims that Jewish tradition maintains a rabbi must be married. Since the publication of the best selling book 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail', authored by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, the hypothesis that Jesus was married has gained considerable attention. This isn't a new heresy, but one taught by some ancient Gnostic sects. Fringe personalities point to this as a central problem that cannot be brushed under the rug. The hypothesis can be simplified to the following; the historical Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, very probably at the wedding feast at Cana mentioned in the Gospel of John, and as a result of this marriage they had children. They claim as evidence the following passages in the Gospel of John: And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what does this have to do with you and me? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”  (John 2:1-11)

From peripheral evidences and this passage the “Married Jesus Hypothesis” posits the following:
  1. To be a rabbi in first century Judea, one needed to be married. This was not a demand of Torah, per se, but strong Israelite tradition.
  2. It was the groom's family that was responsible for providing wine at a first century Jewish wedding. Still is tradition today. Thus Mary going to Jesus when the wine ran out is evidence that this was the wedding of Jesus.
  3. It seems Jesus' mother held some position of authority at the wedding, in that she went directly to her son when they were out of wine. And she was not just complaining. Their interaction indicated that she was addressing him in a tone of both responsibility and admonishment for him to do something about it.
  4. Jesus also seemed to have authority over the servants, as he tells them to do this and that, etc.
  5. And at this point, he is simply “the carpenter's son." He has no rabbinic authority established.
So the pertinent and essential questions before us are, did Jesus have to be married to be a rabbi, and was the wedding feast at Cana his wedding? The answer to both questions is a definite no when we examine the totality of evidences; something Roberts consistently fails to do in his writings. While it certainly would have been the average thing for an Israelite man to do, it was by no means an established must as we will see through an examination of rabbinic literature. We'll look closely examine at this New Testament passage for more clues as to the reality of the situation. Let's examine each of the five evidences given above for the “Married Jesus Hypothesis”.

One of the errors of the “Married Jesus Hypothesis” is it's selective reading of rabbinic literature and ignoring the fuller historical context of Judaism in the first century, which was much more diverse than it is today. While certainly not a common practice, celibacy was not unheard of even within the Pharisaical sect of Judaism as scholar, archaeologist and Biblical historian George Foot Moore tells us:

"Celibacy was, in fact, not common, and was disapproved by the rabbis, who taught that a man should marry at eighteen, and that if he passed the age of twenty without taking a wife he transgressed a divine command and incurred God's displeasure. Postponement of marriage was permitted students of the Law that they might concentrate their attention on their studies, free from the cares of supporting a wife. Cases like that of Simeon be 'Azzai, who never married, were evidently infrequent. He had himself said that a man who did not marry was like one who shed blood, and diminished the likeness of God. One of his colleagues threw up to him that he was better at preaching that at practicing, to which he replied, What shall I do? My soul is enamored of the Law; the population of the world can be kept up by others...It is not to be imagined that pronouncements about the duty of marrying and the age at which people should marry actually regulated practice."
Rabbi Simeon was clearly celibate and considered a holy man because of his focused devotion to the Torah which prevented him from marrying and having children as tradition and culture may have demanded of him. Do note that he was not disqualified to be a rabbi by virtue of his celibacy, nor did it disqualify the Essenes. This precedent is reflective of the Gospel of Matthew which says:

His disciples said to him, “If that is the relationship of a man with his wife, it’s not worth getting married!” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, except those to whom celibacy has been granted. For some men are celibate from birth, while others are celibate because they have been made that way by others. Still others are celibate because they have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Matthew 19:10)

This last reason for celibacy that Jesus taught to his disciples is the exact reason given by Rabbi Simeon and the Essenes. The Essene adherents were described by contemporary historians Josephus, Philo and Pliny as being celibate. In 1st century Judaism a class of individuals who were 'allowed' or 'expected' to be celibate were prophetic figures. This is witnessed to throughout Jewish history. Examples are the prophet Jeremiah, the wilderness prophet Banus (attested to by Josephus), John the Baptist, and possibly even Elijah. Even the 2nd century Chasidic miracle-worker, the Galilean rabbi Pinhas ben Yair taught that celibacy was essential to reception of prophetic wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Rabbinical literature does indeed give witness of other celibates such as Eliezer ben Hyrcanus who said of his celibacy, "My soul is in love with the Torah. The world can be carried on by others". That such a tradition could be enshrined in the Talmud clearly suggests that celibacy, though frowned upon by the rabbis, was not unheard of in Judaism during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. The common rationale for celibacy is an all-consuming commitment to God's will in one's whole life that precludes the usual path of marriage and child-rearing. Certainly a fitting reason for the Messiah. In view of this tradition in early Judaism, it is hardly surprising that the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes views Jesus as celibate in fulfillment of his prophetic ministry. He states, "Against such a background of first-century AD Jewish opinion, namely that the prophetic destiny entailed amongst other things a life of continence, Jesus' apparent voluntary embrace of celibacy, at any rate from the time of his reception of the holy spirit, becomes historically meaningful."

So, although it would have been 'normal' and expected for a young Jewish man to be married, we have examples of where it was acceptable for that not to be the case. Therefore, Jesus would not need to be married even by Pharisaic thought to be a rabbi. Thus ends one myth upon which the married Jesus hypothesis is predicated.

But what of the wedding feast at Cana? Certainly it was the wedding of Jesus, possibly to Mary Magdalene, right? This claim again demonstrates a lack of comprehensive understanding with regard to not only Jewish weddings of that period, but also a dishonest picking and choosing of the totality of scriptural evidences regarding this episode in the life of Jesus. The first point in refuting this myth of Cana as the wedding of Jesus is the report of John that Jesus was invited to the wedding feast.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding.”  (John 2:1-2)

There is no reason why a groom would have to be invited to his own wedding. To even suggest so is not only absurd, but a dishonest rendering of the internal reporting. Furthermore, a groom would certainly not leave with his mother after his wedding, since his primary responsibility would be to his wife at that point. And again, John tells us that Jesus left with his mother and family members.

And after this he went down to Capernaeum, he and his mother and brothers and disciples; and they stayed there for a few days.”  (John 2:12)

Note there is mention of every family member, yet no mention of a wife. Of course there would be no mention since he was a guest at the wedding as demonstrated in the verses previously examined. Rather than this story proving Jesus to have been married, it demonstrates that Mary was a somewhat overbearing mother, who sought to help the bridegroom at this wedding feast save face rather than run out of wine. This is where the claim that Mary going to Jesus regarding the wine is evidence that he was the bridegroom falls apart. Rather than panicking himself or demonstrating concern for what was certainly traditionally the bridegroom's responsibility, Jesus clearly states it is not his nor his mother's concern. The literal translation from the Greek text reads as follows with regard to Jesus' response to his mother. In verse three Mary rushes to Jesus and (paraphrasing here) says, “They've run out of wine! Do something!” To which Jesus responds: “What is that to me and to you, woman?” John 2:4

First, Jesus' use of the word 'woman' in response to Mary was still respectful, but considered at that time to be a maternal rebuke. In essence he was saying, “This doesn't have a thing to do with us, woman!” Hardly the response of the bridegroom, but certainly an expected response of an invited guest. Each time a phrase such as this occurs in the Greek it is always a disengagement from the situation at hand; a denial of responsibility. Rather than substantiating the claim that Mary had authority at the wedding it further demonstrates that she was being a bit of a busy body, overstepping her boundaries with regard to the situation at hand. And yet Jesus still helped the bridegroom, whoever he was, by telling the servants to fill the jars. His directing them to do this does not demonstrate his authority at the wedding, but rather the normative authority that any rabbi would have held, and indeed the panic that must have set in at the thought of running out of wine on the part of the servants and no doubt the bridegroom. And if, as some Biblical scholars believe, Jesus was associated with the Essenes for a period of time (a training period that would account for the exact number of years considered to be lost), there is also no substance to the idea that was not yet a rabbi. In short, the internal textual evidence of the New Testament accounts can only be used to substantiate a married Jesus if one ignores the totality of their reporting as well as the testimony of rabbinical literature regarding the customs of 1st century Judaism. One would have to ignore all evidences available, distort those chosen as proof texts, and avoid the reality of the situation. The net of this is that any reconstruction of the life of Jesus from the New Testament and rabbinic literature must go to great lengths to demonstrate that any traditions it cites actually are descriptive of the situation. So we have established that:
  • Jesus did not have to be married as the witness of the New Testament, Rabbinical literature and history confirm.
  • The Church did not cover up any marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
  • Reconstructions of Jesus' life from critical usage of the New Testament and compared with rabbinic material substantiates the basics of the Gospel accounts.
  • The married Jesus hypothesis fails both the tests of rabbinical history and New Testament critique.
Yet another of Roberts' Gnostic claims bites the dust.

I could go on and on, but these few items listed demonstrate the obvious academic shortcomings and lack of Biblical research Scotty Roberts' book possesses. Throughout the book he disparages orthodox Christians who believe in the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, referring to them collectively as “fundamentalists”. He states, that for such fundamentalists “nothing exists outside the bounds of written scriptural text”. Roberts, coming as he does from a fundamentalist Baptist background, has no grasp of Christianity outside the very miniscule boundaries of that paradigm, and thus has no appreciation for Apostolic Tradition. Indeed, were he familiar with it he would undoubtedly attack it as well. Beyond this, Roberts seems ignorant of the contribution of Christianity to archaeology, anthropology, etc. Of course, to recognize the debt owed to such “fundamentalists” would not fit the fringe theories offered in his book. Though expressing doubts, at the time of writing the book Roberts says,I still cling to my Judeo-Christian roots”. I would have to ask, in what sense? Roberts' more recent comments with reference to Christianity leave one with the impression he is agnostic at best. All in all this is a book (along with his follow up book on Moses) Christians should not waste their money on. Far better to read more academically sound and Biblically orthodox literature than to support the rantings of heretics.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Treatise on the Priesthood by St. John Chrysostom (Part 1)

1. I had many genuine and true friends, men who understood the laws of friendship, and faithfully observed them; but out of this large number there was one who excelled all the rest in his attachment to me, striving to outstrip them as much as they themselves outstripped ordinary acquaintance. He was one of those who were constantly at my side; for we were engaged in the same studies, and employed the same teachers. We had the same eagerness and zeal about the studies at which we worked, and a passionate desire produced by the same circumstances was equally strong in both of us. For not only when we were attending school, but after we had left it, when it became necessary to consider what course of life it would be best for us to adopt, we found ourselves to be of the same mind.
2. And in addition to these, there were other things also which preserved and maintained this concord unbroken and secure. For as regarded the greatness of our fatherland neither had one cause to vaunt himself over the other, nor was I burdened with riches, and he pinched by poverty, but our means corresponded as closely as our tastes. Our families also were of equal rank, and thus everything concurred with our disposition.
3. But when it became our duty to pursue the blessed life of monks, and the true philosophy, our balance was no longer even, but his scale mounted high, while I, still entangled in the lusts of this world, dragged mine down and kept it low, weighting it with those fancies in which youths are apt to indulge. For the future our friendship indeed remained as firm as it was before, but our intercourse was interrupted; for it was impossible for persons who were not interested about the same things to spend much time together. But as soon as I also began to emerge a little from the flood of worldliness, he received me with open arms; yet not even thus could we maintain our former equality: for having got the start of me in time, and having displayed great earnestness, he rose again above my level, and soared to a great height.
4. Being a good man, however, and placing a high value on my friendship, he separated himself from all the rest of the brethren, and spent the whole of his time with me, which he had desired to do before, but had been prevented as I was saying by my frivolity. For it was impossible for a man who attended the law-courts, and was in a flutter of excitement about the pleasures of the stage, to be often in the company of one who was nailed to his books, and never set foot in the market place. Consequently when the hindrances were removed, and he had brought me into the same condition of life as himself, he gave free vent to the desire with which he had long been laboring. He could not bear leaving me even for a moment, and he persistently urged that we should each of us abandon our own home and share a common dwelling:–in fact he persuaded me, and the affair was taken in hand.

5. But the continual lamentations of my mother hindered me from granting him the favor, or rather from receiving this boon at his hands. For when she perceived that I was meditating this step, she took me into her own private chamber, and, sitting near me on the bed where she had given birth to me, she shed torrents of tears, to which she added words yet more pitiable than her weeping, in the following lamentable strain: My child, it was not the will of Heaven that I should long enjoy the benefit of thy father’s virtue. For his death soon followed the pangs which I endured at thy birth, leaving thee an orphan and me a widow before my time to face all the horrors of widowhood, which only those who have experienced them can fairly understand. For no words are adequate to describe the tempest-tossed condition of a young woman who, having but lately left her paternal home, and being inexperienced in business, is suddenly racked by an overwhelming sorrow, and compelled to support a load of care too great for her age and sex. For she has to correct the laziness of servants, and to be on the watch for their rogueries, to repel the designs of relations, to bear bravely the threats of those who collect the public taxes, and harshness in the imposition of rates. And if the departed one should have left a child, even if it be a girl, great anxiety will be caused to the mother, although free from much expense and fear: but a boy fills her with ten thousand alarms and many anxieties every day, to say nothing of the great expense which one is compelled to incur if she wishes to bring him up in a liberal way. None of these things, however, induced me to enter into a second marriage, or introduce a second husband into thy father’s house: but I heldon as I was, in the midst of the storm and uproar, and did not shun the iron furnace of widowhood.
My foremost help indeed was the grace from above; but it was no small consolation to me under those terrible trials to look continually on thy face and to preserve in thee a living image of him who had gone, an image indeed which was a fairly exact likeness. On this account, even when you were an infant, and had not yet learned to speak, a time when children are the greatest delight to their parents, you afforded me much comfort. Nor indeed can you complain that, although I bore my widowhood bravely, I diminished thy patrimony, which I know has been the fate of many who have had the misfortune to be orphans. For, besides keeping the whole of it intact, I spared no expense which was needful to give you an honorable position, spending for this purpose some of my own fortune, and of my marriage dowry. Yet do not think that I say these things by way of reproaching you; only in return for all these benefits I beg one favor: do not plunge me into a second widowhood; nor revive the grief which is now laid to rest: wait for my death: it may be in a little while I shall depart. The young indeed look forward to a distant old age; but we who have grown old have nothing but death to wait for. When, then, you shall have committed my body to the ground, and mingled my bones with your father’s, embark for a long voyage, and set sail on any sea you want: then there will be no one to hinder you: but as long as my life lasts, be content to live with me. Do not, I pray you, oppose God in vain, involving me without cause, who have done you no wrong, in these great calamities. For if you have any reason to complain that I drag you into worldly cares, and force you to attend to business, do not be restrained by any reverence for the laws of nature, for training or custom, but fly from me as an enemy; but if, on the contrary, I do everything to provide leisure for your journey through this life, let this bond at least if nothing else keep you by me. For even if you could say that ten thousand loved you, yet no one will afford you the enjoyment of so much liberty, seeing there is no one who is equally anxious for your welfare.
6. These words, and more, my mother spoke to me, and I related them to that noble youth. But he, so far from being disheartened by these speeches, was the more urgent in making the same request as before. Now while we were thus situated, he continually entreating, and I refusing my assent, we were both of us disturbed by a report suddenly reaching us that we were about to be advanced to the dignity of the episcopate. As soon as I heard this rumor I was seized with alarm and perplexity: with alarm lest I should be made captive against my will, and perplexity, inquiring as I often did whence any such idea concerning us could have entered the minds of these men; for looking to myself I found nothing worthy of such an honor. But that noble youth having come to me privately, and having conferred with me about these things as if with one who was ignorant of the rumor, begged that we might in this instance also as formerly shape our action and our counsels the same way: for he would readily follow me whichever course I might pursue, whether I attempted flight or submitted to be captured.Perceiving then his eagerness, and considering that I should inflict a loss upon the whole body of the Church if, owing to my own weakness, I were to deprive the flock of Christ of a young man who was so good and so well qualified for the supervision of large numbers, I abstained from disclosing to him the purpose which I had formed, although I had never before allowed any of my plans to be concealed from him.
I now told him that it would be best to postpone our decision concerning this matter to another season, as it was not immediately pressing, and by so doing persuaded him to dismiss it from his thoughts, and at the same time encouraged him to hope that, if such a thing should ever happen to us, I should be of the same mind with him. But after a short time, when one who was to ordain us arrived, I kept myself concealed, but Basil, ignorant of this, was taken away on another pretext, and made to take the yoke, hoping from the promises which I had made to him that I should certainly follow, or rather supposing that he was following me. For some of those who were present, seeing that he resented being seized, deceived him by exclaiming how strange it was that one who was generally reputed to be the more hot tempered (meaning me), had yielded very mildly to the judgment of the Fathers, whereas he, who was reckoned a much wiser and milder kind of man, had shown himself hotheaded and conceited, being unruly, restive, and contradictory.
Having yielded to these remonstrances, and afterwards having learned that I had escaped capture, he came to me in deep dejection, sat down near me and tried to speak, but was hindered by distress of mind and inability to express in words the violence to which he had been subjected. No sooner had he opened his mouth than he was prevented from utterance by grief cutting short his words before they could pass his lips. Seeing, then, his tearful and agitated condition, and knowing as I did the cause, I laughed for joy, and, seizing his right hand, I forced a kiss on him, and praised God that my plan had ended so successfully, as I had always prayed it might. But when he saw that I was delighted and beaming with joy, and understood that he had been deceived by me, he was yet more vexed and distressed.
7. And when he had a little recovered from this agitation of mind, he began: If you have rejected the part allotted to you, and have no further regard for me (I know not indeed for what cause), you ought at least to consider your own reputation; but as it is you have opened the mouths of all, and the world is saying that you have declined this ministry through love of vainglory, and there is no one who will deliver you from this accusation. As for me, I cannot bear to go into the market place; there are so many who come up to me and reproach me every day. For, when they see me anywhere in the city, all my intimate friends take me aside, and cast the greater part of the blame upon me. Knowing his intention, they say, for none of his affairs could be kept secret from you, you should not have concealed it, but ought to have communicated it to us, and we should have been at no loss to devise some plan for capturing him. But I am too much ashamed and abashed to tell them that I did not know you had long been plotting this trick, lest they should say that our friendship was a mere pretence. For even if it is so, as indeed it is–nor would you yourself deny it after what you have done to me–yet it is well to hide our misfortune from the outside world, and persons who entertain but a moderate opinion of us. I shrink from telling them the truth, and how things really stand with us, and I am compelled in future to keep silence, and look down on the ground, and turn away to avoid those whom I meet. For if I escape the condemnation on the former charge, I am forced to undergo judgment for speaking falsehood. For they will never believe me when I say that you ranged Basil amongst those who are not permitted to know your secret affairs. Of this, however, I will not take much account, since it has seemed agreeable to you, but how shall we endure the future disgrace? For some accuse you of arrogance, others of vainglory: while those who are our more merciful accusers, lay both these offences to our charge, and add that we have insulted those who did us honor, although had they experienced even greater indignity it would only have served them right for passing over so many and such distinguished men and advancing mere youths, who were but yesterday immersed in the interests of this world, to such a dignity as they never have dreamed of obtaining, in order that they may for a brief season knit the eyebrows, wear dusky garments, and put on a grave face. Those who from the dawn of manhood to extreme old age have diligently practised self-discipline, are now to be placed under the government of youths who have not even heard the laws which should regulate their administration of this office. I am perpetually assailed by persons who say such things and worse, and am at a loss how to reply to them; but I pray you tell me: for I do not suppose that you took to flight and incurred such hatred from such distinguished men without cause or consideration, but that your decision was made with reasoning and circumspection: whence also I conjecture that you have some argument ready for your defence. Tell me, then, whether there is any fair excuse which I can make to those who accuse us. For I do not demand any account for the wrongs which I have sustained at your hands, nor for the deceit or treachery you have practised, nor for the advantage which you have derived from me in the past. For I placed my very life, so to say, in your hands, yet you have treated me with as much guile as if it had been your business to guard yourself against an enemy. Yet if you knew this decision of ours to be profitable, you ought not to have avoided the gain: if on the contrary injurious, you should have saved me also from the loss, as you always said that you esteemed me before every one else. But you have done everything to make me fall into the snare: and you had no need of guile and hypocrisy in dealing with one who was wont to display the utmost sincerity and candor in speech and action towards thee. Nevertheless, as I said, I do not now accuse you of any of these things, or reproach you for the lonely position in which you have placed me by breaking off those conferences from which we often derived no small pleasure and profit; but all these things I pass by, and bear in silence and meekness, not that thou hast acted meekly in transgressing against me, but because from the day that I cherished thy friendship I laid it down as a rule for myself, that whatever sorrow you might cause me I would never force you to the necessity of an apology. For you know yourself that you have inflicted no small loss on me if at least you remember what we were always saying ourselves, and the outside world also said concerning us, that it was a great gain for us to be of one mind and be guarded by each other’s friendship.
Every one said, indeed, that our concord would bring no small advantage to many besides ourselves; I never perceived, however, so far as I am concerned, how it could be of advantage to others: but I did say that we should at least derive this benefit from it: that those who wished to contend with us would find us difficult to master. And I never ceased reminding you of these things: saying the age is a cruel one, and designing men are many, genuine love is no more, and the deadly pest of envy has crept into its place: we walk in the midst of snares, and on the edge of battlements; those who are ready to rejoice in our misfortunes, if any should befall us, are many and beset us from many quarters: whereas there is no one to condole with us, or at least the number of such may be easily counted. Beware that we do not by separation incur much ridicule, and damage worse than ridicule. Brother aided by brother is like a strong city, and well fortified kingdom (Proverbs xviii). Do not dissolve this genuine intimacy, nor break down the fortress. Such things and more I was continually saying, not indeed that I ever suspected anything of this kind, but supposing you to be entirely sound in your relation towards me, I did it as a superfluous precaution, wishing to preserve in health one who was already sound; but unwittingly, as it seems, I was administering medicines to a sick man: and even so I have not been fortunate enough to do any good, and have gained nothing by my excess of forethought. For having totally cast away all these considerations, without giving them a thought, you have turned me adrift like an unballasted vessel on an untried ocean, taking no heed of those fierce billows which I must encounter. For if it should ever be my lot to undergo calumny, or mockery, or any other kind of insult or menace (and such things must frequently occur), to whom shall I fly for refuge: to whom shall I impart my distress, who will be willing to succour me and drive back my assailants and put a stop to their assaults? Who will solace me and prepare me to bear the coarse ribaldry which may yet be in store for me. There is no one since you stand aloof from this terrible strife, and cannot even hear my cry. Do you now see what mischief you have wrought? Now that you have dealt the blow, do you see what a deadly wound you have inflicted? But let all this pass: for it is impossible to undo the past, or to find a path through pathless difficulties. What shall I say to the outside world? What defence shall I make to their accusations?
8. Chrysostom: Be of good cheer, I replied, for I am not only ready to answer for myself in these matters, but I will also endeavor as well as I am able to render an account of those for which you have not held me answerable. Indeed, if you wish it, I will make them the starting-point of my defence. For it would be a strange piece of stupidity on my part if, thinking only of praise from the outside public, and doing my best to silence their accusations, I were unable to convince my dearest of all friends that I am not wronging him, and were to treat him with indifference greater than the zeal which he has displayed on mybehalf, treating me with such forbearance as even to refrain from accusing me of the wrongs which he says he has suffered from me, and putting his own interests out of the question in consideration for mine. What is the wrong that I have done to you, since I have determined to embark from this point upon the sea of apology? Is it that I misled you and concealed my purpose? Yet I did it for the benefit of you who were deceived, and of those to whom I surrendered you by means of this deceit. For if the evil of deception is absolute, and it is never right to make use of it, I am prepared to pay any penalty you please: or rather, as you will never endure to inflict punishment upon me, I shall subject myself to the same condemnation which is pronounced by judges on evil-doers when their accusers have convicted them. But if the thing is not always harmful, but becomes good or bad according to the intention of those who practise it, you must desist from complaining of deceit, and prove that it has been devised against you for a bad purpose; and as long as this proof is wanting it would only be fair for those who wish to conduct themselves prudently, not only to abstain from reproaches and accusation, but even to give a friendly reception to the deceiver. For a well-timed deception, undertaken with an upright intention, has such advantages, that many persons have often had to undergo punishment for abstaining from fraud. And if you investigate the history of generals who have enjoyed the highest reputation from the earliest ages, you will find that most of their triumphs were achieved by stratagem, and that such are more highly commended than those who conquer in open fight. For the latter conduct their campaigns with greater expenditure of money and men, so that they gain nothing by the victory, but suffer just as much distress as those who have been defeated, both in the sacrifice of troops and the exhaustion of funds. But, besides this, they are not even permitted to enjoy all the glory which pertains to the victory; for no small part of it is reaped by those who have fallen, because in spirit they were victorious, their defeat was only a bodily one: so that had it been possible for them not to fall when they were wounded, and death had not come and put the finishing stroke to their labors, there would have been no end of their prowess. But one who has been able to gain the victory by stratagem involves the enemy in ridicule as well as disaster. Again, in the other case both sides equally carry off the honors bestowed upon valor, whereas in this case they do not equally obtain those which are bestowed on wisdom, but the prize falls entirely to the victors, and, another point no less important is that they preserve the joy of the victory for the state unalloyed; for abundance of resources and multitudes of men are not like mental powers: the former indeed if continually used in war necessarily become exhausted, and fail those who possess them, whereas it is the nature of wisdom to increase the more it is exercised. And not in war only, but also in peace the need of deceit may be found, not merely in reference to the affairs of the state, but also in private life, in the dealings of husband with wife and wife with husband, son with father, friend with friend, and also children with a parent. For the daughter of Saul would not have been able to rescue her husband out of Saul’s hands except by deceiving her father. And her brother, wishing to save him whom she had rescued when he was again in danger, made use of the same weapon as the wife.
Basil: But none of these cases apply to me: for I am not an enemy, nor one of those who are striving to injure thee, but quite the contrary. For I entrusted all my interests to your judgment, and always followed it whenever you bid me.
Chrysostom: But, my admirable and excellent Sir, this is the very reason why I took the precaution of saying that it was a good thing to employ this kind of deceit, not only in war, and in dealing with enemies, but also in peace, and in dealing with our dearest friends. For as a proof that it is beneficial not only to the deceivers, but also to those who are deceived; if you go to any of the physicians and ask them how they relieve their patients from disease, they will tell you that they do not depend upon their professional skill alone, but sometimes conduct the sick to health by availing themselves of deceit, and blending the assistance which they derive from it with their art. For when the waywardness of the patient and the obstinacy of the complaint baffle the counsels of the physicians, it is then necessary to put on the mask of deceit in order that, as on the stage, they may be able to hide what really takes place. But, if you please, I will relate to you one instance of stratagem out of many which I have heard of being contrived by the sons of the healing art.A man was once suddenly attacked by a fever of great severity; the burning heat increased, and the patient rejected the remedies which could have reduced it and craved for a draught of pure wine, passionately entreating all who approached to give it him and enable him to satiate this deadly craving–I say deadly, for if any one had gratified this request he would not only have exasperated the fever, but also have driven the unhappy man frantic. Thereupon, professional skill being baffled, and at the end of its resources and utterly thrown away, stratagem stepped in and displayed its power in the way which I will now relate. For the physician took an earthen cup brought straight out of the furnace, and having steeped it in wine, then drew it out empty, filled it with water, and, having ordered the chamber where the sick man lay to be darkened with curtains that the light might not reveal the trick, he gave it him to drink, pretending that it was filled with undiluted wine. And the man, before he had taken it in his hands, being deceived by the smell, did not wait to examine what was given him, but convinced by the odor, and deceived by the darkness, eagerly gulped down the draught, and being satiated with it immediately shook off the feeling of suffocation and escaped the imminent peril.
Do you see the advantage of deceit? And if any one were to reckon up all the tricks of physicians the list would run on to an indefinite length. And not only those who heal the body but those also who attend to the diseases of the soul may be found continually making use of this remedy. Thus the blessed Paul attracted those multitudes of Jews (Acts 21): with this purpose he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), although he warned the Galatians in his letter (Galatians 5:2) that Christ would not profit those who were circumcised. For this cause he submitted to the law, although he reckoned the righteousness which came from the law but loss after receiving the faith in Christ (Philippians 3:7).  For great is the value of deceit, provided it be not introduced with a mischievous intention. In fact action of this kind ought not to be called deceit, but rather a kind of good management, cleverness and skill, capable of finding out ways where resources fail, and making up for the defects of the mind. For I would not call Phinees a murderer, although he slew two human beings with one stroke (Numbers 25:7): nor yet Elias after the slaughter of the 100 soldiers, and the captain (2 Kings 1:9-12), and the torrents of blood which he caused to be shed by the destruction of those who sacrificed to devils (1 Kings 18:34). For if we were to concede this, and to examine the bare deeds in themselves apart from the intention of the doers, one might if he pleased judge Abraham guilty of child-murder (Genesis 22:3) and accuse his grandson (Genesis 27) and descendant (Exodus 11:2) of wickedness and guile. For the one got possession of the birthright, and the other transferred the wealth of the Egyptians to the host of the Israelites. But this is not the case: away with the audacious thought! For we not only acquit them of blame, but also admire them because of these things, since even God commended them for the same. For that man would fairly deserve to be called a deceiver who made an unrighteous use of the practice, not one who did so with a salutary purpose. And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Terminally Ill Child's Birthday Wish

This website is designed to serve Christ the King. And while we do our best to see to it this is done, if we have the chance to actually reach out and touch a life in the Holy Name of Our Lord and Savior and don't do so, then this website is fruitless. This news story came to my attention this evening. I was so touched by it that I've struggled each time I share it on Facebook, Twitter and here with tears. This is an opportunity for all of us to make a simple, beautiful wish come true. Please, if this website has meant anything to you, if you value Our Lord's words when he said, "As much as you've not done it unto the least of these, you've not done it unto me." (St. Matthew 25:40), then please read the link, send this baby a birthday card and share this with as many as you can. And then join me in prayer for this child and his family.