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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is the biblical doctrine of salvation absurd/illogical?

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." --John 1:29*

"He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." --John 6:56*

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." --Hebrews 9:22*

*All of the above scriptural quotes are from the King James Version of the Bible.

In a piece that was perfectly timed for Christians to reflect on the meaning(s) behind their observance of Easter/Passover, one of the regular commentators over at the blog Banned by HWA (who goes by the moniker "Retired Prof") penned an article entitled "The Meat of the Gospel:  Salvation by Carnivory." You can read the entire article at this address:  http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-meat-of-gospel-salvation-by.html

In the piece, Retired Prof stated that "the doctrine that a god/man had to die to spare us from horrible punishment for our sins is absurd." R.P. then went on to ask:
"How can anyone claim, much less actually believe, that taking the life of an innocent person could restore the lives of guilty ones? Why would the kind of loving creator Christians believe in devise such a convoluted, irrational 'plan of salvation'?"

Retired Prof then proceeds to make some observations about what he characterizes as the "psychological/emotional sense" that the teaching makes when we consider the realities of the world in which we live. Nevertheless, R.P. concludes:  "I can’t see my way clear to turn loose of my preference for the literal over the symbolic, reason over emotion, flesh over spirit. It is impossible for me to believe sincerely that anything, not even a consecrated wafer and a sip of magic wine that represent the nutritive substance of a guy who died two thousand years ago, could keep me alive forever."

Having enjoyed the usually thoughtful.rational/logical character of most of his comments on this blog, I must say that I was a bit chagrined by the condescending tone he adopted in this piece. Fine, Retired Prof has reached a different conclusion from myself and other Christians about the biblical doctrine of salvation - I don't have a problem with that. But don't go on to characterize those of us who accept the doctrine as "irrational" or as employing "convoluted logic"!

For those of us who accept the biblical doctrine of salvation through the person of Jesus Christ, I believe that the professor himself points to a legitimate rationale for such a belief (the one he dismissed as "psychological" and "emotional").

For me, the logic of the biblical doctrine of salvation is found in our experience of the world around us. Consider the following facts as evidence:
1. The universe (including this planet) is governed by a series of fundamental laws (gravity, motion, thermodynamics, conservation, etc.), and the breaking of those laws always has consequences. For instance, if I walk to the edge of the Grand Canyon and jump off, I am going to fall (which will almost certainly result in my injury and/or death).
2. For scientific study, all of the life on this planet is divided into kingdoms:  Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaebacteria and Eubacteria (there isn't complete agreement within the scientific community about the precise divisions, but what is listed here finds wide acceptance there and is sufficient for our purposes).
3. Every organism which is part of the kingdom Animalia (including humans) is a heterotroph (meaning that they obtain their nourishment from other organisms). It should also be noted that, in most cases, this nourishment requires the death of the other organism, which is very often accomplished by the organism doing the eating. You may think it unfortunate/savage/unfair, but the fact is that another plant, animal, fungi or bacteria almost always has to die to sustain and perpetuate the life of organisms within the kingdom Animalia!
4. All of the members of kingdom Animalia have some means of reproducing themselves or perpetuating the existence of their species. In fact, the perpetuation of life seems to be the main focus and preoccupation of all life on this planet. It should also be noted that this activity (as with all others) requires energy, and that energy is once again obtained from the nourishment those organisms receive by virtue of the death of another.
5. In the natural world, need is preeminent. Plants, animals, fungi, etc. are chosen to serve as food because some other organism needs them to sustain/perpetuate its own life. In other words, the plant, animal, fungi, etc. which is chosen to provide the nourishment for the organism in question can be completely innocent of any faults or mistakes - it may simply have been available.

From the above facts, I think that it is both logical and reasonable for a theist to conclude that:
1. God has established some parameters for what is/isn't acceptable behavior, and for there to be some consequence(s) for violating those parameters.
2. A single person's death could sustain and/or perpetuate the life of another. In fact, the symbolism of the Eucharist could be said to be an almost perfect representation/reflection of what happens on a daily basis in the natural world.
3. The innocence of that person is inferior to the need of the others to sustain/perpetuate their lives.
4. The same God who designed the laws which govern the universe, and the natural world of which we are a part, would devise some means to perpetuate the life which "He" created.

Thus, while the biblical doctrine of salvation may offend the sensibilities of some folks, I find it to be very logical and consistent with the world in which I live. What do you think?


   

Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm looking for a church to attend!

I'm looking for a church to attend. And, although my requirements are minimal, they are non-negotiable!

Before listing those, however, I feel that it's only fair to inform folks with potential suggestions of some extenuating circumstances. I live in a small village in the midst of a vast sea of corn and soybean fields in Central Illinois (I am, however willing to travel). To further complicate matters, I work most Sundays.

That out of the way, my requirements of any potential church are few. They are as follows:

1. It must be Christian - profess a belief in Jesus Christ as Savior.
2. It must be caring and friendly.
3. The pastor/priest/elder/congregation/etc. can preach and teach whatever they like as long as I'm not required to believe and teach it.
4. I must be free to make up my own mind about how much money I contribute to it.

That's it! Any takers?

Contact me at lc.hendrix@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Language as a problem for Biblical inerrancy

The Bible has been referred to by many as the "Word(s) of God." And the reasoning goes something like this:  If it is the "Word(s) of God," then it must be perfect - without any flaws.

Many of my readers, however, will at once see a major obstacle to the acceptance of this logic:  It may be the "Word(s) of God," but it is wholly composed of human languages. Now, admittedly, we have found language to be a very effective means of communicating with each other - of conveying ideas, concepts, feelings and their meanings to each other. But could anyone make a reasonably sound argument that human language is perfectly efficient in doing the things which it was designed to do?

Let us consider for just a moment the basic building blocks of language. If we Google the term language, we find that it is defined as "the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way." Now we could talk at some length about the formation of alphabets, and the dramatic differences which are apparent among the symbols used for the various languages of the world; but I think that it would be more productive to focus on the words which those symbols are used to form.

Once again, if we Google the term word, we find that it is defined as "a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing..." And who, we ask, is attaching a meaning to that element? Obvious answer:  we (humans) do. And think for just a moment about just how imprecise that exercise can be!

Within the confines of a single language, we have multiple dictionaries available to us (usually presenting a multiplicity of possible meanings for the object of our query). In fact, for the word word, Merriam-Webster enumerates eleven possible meanings (and that's not taking into account how some of those are further parsed into variations of similar meanings)! In other words, we can (and do) bring some very different meanings to the same word.

As an example:  For those of us who speak/write English, the word chair would conjure up a similar meaning for all of us; but it would not be exactly the same for you and me. An image of a recliner might come to your mind, while I am busy thinking about a wooden folding chair.

We also have available to us other words which can say the same thing (or something very similar. We call these synonyms. For example, when we Google the term word, the following synonyms are listed:  term, name, expression, designation, locution, vocable... And we haven't even addressed the subject of whether we are using the word in question as a noun, verb or some other part of speech!

Can we begin to see just how complex language is? Can we appreciate the different perspectives and shades of meaning which each and every one of us can (and do) bring to this exercise?

What about when we begin to string words together? As an example, let us consider the English "Merry Christmas" and the Spanish "Feliz Navidad." We could say that both are meant to convey, "I hope that you have an enjoyable celebration of the anniversary of Christ's birth." However, a literal break down of the English words would reveal "Merry Christ Mass;" and a literal translation of the Spanish words would reveal "Happy Nativity!"

In the study of the Bible, we must always remember that the original texts were composed using mostly Hebrew, Aramaic, Babylonian and Greek words. In fact, regular students of Scripture will often employ a concordance to help them get the full range of a particular word's meaning. Likewise, most students of the Bible understand that the particular arrangement of words in the original language can have a profound impact on the meaning of some passage.

Hence, we can see that it is ridiculous to suggest that language can be perfectly efficient in conveying what I'm thinking to you. In the end, we all have our individual filters which inform our interpretations of the messages which we receive. Thus, it is the thesis of this post that the very nature of language makes Biblical inerrancy impossible! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why is it so hard for an Armstrongite to return to the fold?

An interesting discussion was launched by a post over at Banned by HWA! The post was entitled "Are the problems in the COG the result of bad leaders or its theology?" It was, of course, no surprise that many of the commentators laid the blame for the problems within the Armstrong Churches of God at the feet of their former/current leadership. For many current and former Armstrongites, it has to be about the flawed individuals who were/are in charge (it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the theology/teachings). As one would expect with such a post, prominent among the commentators was Ian Boyne of the Church of God International.

Mr. Boyne maintains that most of the critics of Armstrongism have focused their attention on the failed leadership within the various groups (he acknowledges that failure) and have ignored what he sees as the fact that Armstrongism provides "the best Christian option" available to believers. In fact, he goes on to say:  "I think after Armstrongism, my philosophical destination is likely to be agnosticism or some form of generic theistic existentialism." In other words, if someone were able to discredit Armstrongism, Ian sees himself as abandoning Christianity.

In fairness to Mr. Boyne, such a conclusion does not appear to be rare among former and current Armstrongites (Dennis Diehl, Gerald Bronkar and others have professed their rejection of Christianity). Moreover, one only has to look at the history of the Worldwide Church of God to see that this type of reasoning is not uncommon among Armstrongites. When faced with a return to the more traditional form of Christianity offered by Joseph Tkach Jr, many of the folks within the WCOG jumped ship. Some went to another Armstrong Church of God, but many decided to abandon religion altogether. In other words, for so many of these folks, it was either Armstrongism or NOTHING!

Why? Why is it that many of these folks will not even entertain the possibility of adopting some other form of Christianity?

The answer lies in the way that they were originally indoctrinated into Armstrongism. It wasn't simply a matter of learning a set of doctrines. A large part of Herbert's and Garner Ted's appeal was their focus on discrediting "traditional" Christianity. They talked at great length about the pagan influences on that religion, and the deleterious effect which that had on Christian theology (things like the immortality of the soul, trinity, Sunday observance, holiday observance and idol worship). They focused on just how unfair and unreasonable the teachings on heaven and hell really were, and only introduced their alternative after they had thoroughly discredited the old model.

The reasoning went something like this:  If we can discredit everything else and demonstrate that we have discovered the only legitimate way to put all of the pieces together, then we have to be the one and only possibility! Hence, for many of these folks, when the Worldwide Church of God crumbled, there were only two alternatives:  find another Armstrong Church of God or abandon Christianity entirely. After all, if Armstrongism was ever truly discredited, why would you return to the other forms which you had previously discredited?

Does this begin to sound a little like circular reasoning? Since we have already concluded that traditional Christianity is a worthless pile of $#&!, why would we ever revisit that conclusion?

HWA was also fond of the all or nothing approach. Believe it all, or you have to reject it all. There was no room for discernment or nuance in his theology. Everything was a package deal. It was all truth or all error. Catholics and Methodists were wrong - period. They couldn't possibly be right about some things. We disproved that system - time to move on! We certainly don't want to be like the dog that returns to its vomit!

Armstongism is a mental straitjacket. It was designed by its founder to be a self-reinforcing/self-perpetuating system. It is, therefore, no wonder that so many of its victims find it almost impossible to find their way back to the fold.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

God, Christians and the Jewish Bible

In numerous posts, this blog has explored the question of whether or not the Christian Bible has any value in our quest to understand the Divine. Longtime readers of this blog know that the author has commented on the authorship, writing processes, editing, inspiration, reliability and internal consistency of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
In that tradition, I found a Roman Catholic study of the relationship between Jewish Scripture (the Old Testament to Christians) and the New Testament (writings of the early Christian era) to be very interesting. Hence, I am including a quote from the preface to the results of that study which was written by the man who eventually became Pope Benedict XVI:

"From this viewpoint, the Fathers of the Church created nothing new when they gave a Christological interpretation to the Old Testament; they only developed and systematised what they themselves had already discovered in the New Testament. This fundamental synthesis for the Christian faith would become problematic when historical consciousness developed rules of interpretation that made Patristic exegesis appear non-historical and so objectively indefensible. In the context of humanism, with its new-found historical awareness, but especially in the context of his doctrine of justification, Luther invented a new formula relating the two parts of the Christian Bible, one no longer based on the internal harmony of the Old and New Testaments, but on their essential dialectic linkage within an existential history of salvation, the antithesis between Law and Gospel. Bultmann modernised this approach when he said that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ by foundering. More radical is the proposition of Harnack mentioned above; as far as I can see, it was not generally accepted, but it was completely logical for an exegesis for which texts from the past could have no meaning other than that intended by the authors in their historical context. That the biblical authors in the centuries before Christ, writing in the Old Testament, intended to refer in advance to Christ and New Testament faith, looks to the modern historical consciousness as highly unlikely.
As a result, the triumph of historical-critical exegesis seemed to sound the death-knell for the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament initiated by the New Testament itself. It is not a question here of historical details, as we have seen, it is the very foundations of Christianity that are being questioned. It is understandable then that nobody has since embraced Harnack's position and made the definitive break with the Old Testament that Marcion prematurely wished to accomplish. What would have remained, our New Testament, would itself be devoid of meaning. The Document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission introduced by this Preface declares: “Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be an unintelligible book, a plant deprived of its roots and destined to dry up and wither” (no. 84)."

-- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 2001, from the preface to The Pontifical Biblical Commision's The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html#INTRODUCTION

What do you think? Did the Jews introduce God to the rest of the world? Can Christianity's appropriation and interpretation(s) of their Scriptures be justified?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Is God responsible for this shit?

Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (NKJV)

Isaiah 45:7 - " I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." (KJV), "I make peace and create calamity" (NKJV), "I bring prosperity and create disaster" (NIV), "I send good times and bad times" (NLT)
The English word "evil" was translated from the Hebrew "ra" meaning bad, evil, wickedness, misery, calamity, adversity, etc. (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H7451&t=KJV)

Proverbs 16:4 - "The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." (KJV)

John 1:3 - "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (KJV), "God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him." (NLT)

I Corinthians 8:6 - "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." (KJV), "But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live." (NLT)

Ephesians 3:9 - "God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (KJV)

Colossians 1:16 - " For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible..." (KJV)

Revelation 4:11 - "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (KJV)

In the light of this impressive list of scriptures, a few questions come to mind:

Does all things/everything really mean all things/everything?

How did bacteria and viruses originate?

How do genetic mutations arise?

How did cancer and disease originate?

Did God create hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?

Did God design humans, lions, bears, alligators and sharks to eat other animals?

Is God the author of war?

Is God the author of death?

How do birth defects arise?

What is the origin of neuroses, psychoses, other pathological behaviors and insanity?

And, if we allow that humans and angels have the ability/potential to pervert or corrupt that which is good and whole, who gave them that ability/potential?

And, if we answer that question in the affirmative, does that have any implications for how we define evil?

Is it possible that many of the things which we consider to be evil might not be characterized as such by Almighty God?

In other words, is it possible that we cannot discern the ultimate purpose of some things?

And, if we are living in a hologram (as some cosmologists, philosophers and theologians have suggested), doesn't that imply that someone/something has placed/programmed the "bad/evil" stuff into the equation/system/projector?

In other words, if God truly is the First Cause/Creator/Master Programmer, doesn't everything that is exist at "His" pleasure?

In the light of these questions, we have to ask:  Did God really create all things/everything?

And, if we answer that question in the negative, what does that imply about the reliability of the scriptures quoted above?

What do you think?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Is My God Your God?

There was an interesting editorial yesterday in The Charlotte Observer. Isaac J. Bailey's viewpoint is summarized in the title of the article:  "Franklin Graham's God isn't mine; is he yours?" -- http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article134819004.html In that editorial, Mr. Bailey points out that "There’s a long tradition of conservative Christian leaders making it plain that Christians don’t serve the God Muslims serve, because there is only one God, and you can’t get to him by following Muhammad, only Jesus." However, instead of excoriating the premise, Mr. Bailey accepts it and declares "I don't serve the God Graham serves."

But, if there is only one God, doesn't that make "him" the God of everyone? Isn't Franklin Graham (and his conservative allies) really arguing against alternative conceptions/perceptions of God? Likewise, Mr. Bailey points out the unloving, petty and spiteful nature of the God whom Graham and his associates worship. Don't atheists often make the same argument about the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible? In the final analysis, does our conception/perception of God change the reality of who and what God is?

Personally, my own perception of God is much closer to Mr. Bailey's view; but I don't believe that implies/means that Mr. Graham worships a different god. On the other hand, it does suggest to me that Graham and his associates have a distorted/flawed view of God. Nevertheless, isn't it a wee bit arrogant and self-righteous to suggest that someone isn't worshiping the TRUE God because their conception/perception of "him" isn't perfect? If perfection is truly the standard, aren't we all in trouble?

Mr. Bailey quotes Franklin Graham as saying:  "Jesus wasn’t real loving sometimes. He called the Pharisees vipers, snakes, white-washed tombs.” Mr. Bailey goes on to point out that the Pharisees were the religious conservatives of that age and that they "didn't notice the Messiah in their midst." He concludes his editorial by pondering what Christ might call Graham if he were walking the Earth today.

Once again, while I agree with Mr. Bailey's implication that Jesus may have some choice words for the good reverend, I do not agree with the underlying premise that "Jesus wasn't real loving sometimes." Scripture tells us that Christ had great compassion and love for the people who killed him. He was, after all, still willing to die for them (despite all of their misconceptions, ignorance and maliciousness. Shouldn't that give all of us some pause about suggesting/making statements that people who hold alternative viewpoints about the nature of God are not worshiping THE ONE AND ONLY GOD? What do you think?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

God, Earth and Those Pesky Exoplanets

We earthlings have harbored an exalted/distorted image of ourselves and our place in the cosmos for a long time. Our ignorance in this regard is underscored by our history and the current pace of exploration and discovery. The discovery of 3,453 exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) in the last twenty-five years underscores the fact that we are just beginning to truly understand our place in the cosmos. -- https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/ And, to place our comprehension of the cosmos in the proper perspective, we still don't know for sure how many planets/planetoids are orbiting our own sun!

Many ancient cultures pictured the earth as being flat and existing under a great dome (or "firmament" in biblical language. In this view, the sun, moon and stars were positioned in the firmament exclusively for the benefit of us folks here on earth. The account of creation in the book of Genesis is a classic example of this view:  "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so...And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:6-9 and 14-18 -- https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=KJV)

Eventually, man came to understand that the earth was a sphere - that it wasn't flat. Even so, the ancients still saw mankind and earth as being at the center of everything. In this view, the sun, moon and stars revolved around the earth. Later still, we realized that this Geocentric Model was also incorrect.

On this 25th day of February in the year 2017, we understand that our solar system is not unique - that there are other planets orbiting other stars. In other words, we now know that those stars do not exist just to help us distinguish between night and day, serve as signs, demarcate seasons/times or provide light here on earth. Moreover, the very existence of those 3,453 planets beyond our solar system suggests that we have much more to learn:  There are bound to be more of them out there. And, as we find more of them, it becomes more likely that some of them will be able to harbor life.

This possibility (probability?) was underscored earlier this week when NASA announced the discovery of seven "Earth-sized" planets orbiting Trappist-1. According to NASA, "Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water." -- https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/news/1419/nasa-telescope-reveals-largest-batch-of-earth-size-habitable-zone-planets-around-single-star/ To be clear, we don't know yet that these planets have liquid water on their surface (and we don't know whether or not they harbor life). However, once again, the very existence of these worlds makes these things a possibility. We may still be engaging in speculation, but don't these discoveries necessarily make our ability to speculate more intelligent?

All of this brings to mind a few questions about the subject of this blog:  Does your concept of God depend on outdated understandings of the cosmos? Could God have other children elsewhere in the universe? Does it matter that we may not be as unique as we formerly understood ourselves to be? Does God have the ability to care for and sustain more than one world at a time? If there is life on other planets, is any of it intelligent? If so, do they have the same spiritual potential that we do? What do you think? 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Implications of Extreme Life

Yesterday (17 February 2017), Victoria Jaggard published a piece for National Geographic entitled "Weird Life Found Trapped in Underground Crystals." (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/crystal-caves-mine-microbes-mexico-boston-aaas-aliens-science/) As related in that article, scientists have apparently discovered microbial life within fluid that has been trapped inside of giant crystals for millennia. The crystals were found inside of caves which lie deep beneath the Naica Mine in Mexico. Scientists have also noted the extreme environment in which the microbes were discovered (the caves are so hot that explorers have to wear special insulated ice suits that permit them to stay in the caves for only minutes at a time). Moreover, after successfully extracting the microbes and culturing them, scientists discovered that they were genetically distinct from any other life on earth.

As the article points out, these microbes suggest once again that life on earth can exist in extreme conditions/environments and can remain dormant for long expanses of time. Think about the implications of that for the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, and the likelihood that our own exploration could contaminate other worlds!

We know that there has been much speculation in the genre of science fiction (literary and film) over the years about how life on earth began. Did life on earth get its start from microbes that originated on other worlds? Did a meteorite or asteroid crash into this planet and seed life here? Did aliens either intentionally or unintentionally seed our planet with life in the distant past? Could our own exploration of the universe unintentionally seed other worlds with earth life? What would happen to these microbes if the earth exploded one day and hurled debris into space? If the microbes survived on a piece of debris or some man-made spacecraft, could they seed life on some distant planet or moon that provided an environment which was hospitable enough for its survival? Over millions and billions of years, would such life evolve into more complex forms (maybe even humanoids like us)?

And, finally, if the discovery of these microbes makes all of these scenarios seem a little less far-fetched, does that suggest anything about the purpose of life itself? If so, does that imply some design or designer? At any rate, I believe that the existence of these microbes on this little orb we call home gives us a few more things to think about and possibilities to consider. After all, why is life so tenacious? Does the impetus toward self-perpetuation suggest any answers to some of the most profound questions that we have? What do you think?  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Godly perspective on REVENGE?

It has been widely reported in the press that Donald Trump recently offered to destroy a Texas Senator's career for opposing certain policies which he supports. (http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2017/02/07/trump-offers-destroy-texas-senator-help-rockwall-sheriff) By now, most of us have also heard about his reaction to the judges who ruled against his so-called "Muslim Ban." This brings to mind many past Trump statements and actions which have been focused on attack and revenge.

Just before the election last year, David Corn of Mother Jones reminded all of us that "Donald Trump Is Completely Obsessed With Revenge." (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/donald-trump-obsessed-with-revenge) In his article, he pointed out that:  "Following the first presidential debate, he spent days of valuable campaign time (and hours of valuable sleep time) slamming Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe. At other times during this contest, he could not let go of his feud with Rosie O'Donnell. He tried to smear Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the American-born federal judge hearing a fraud case against Trump University, as a "Mexican" unqualified to preside over this litigation. For days, he derided Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, after Khizr criticized him during a speech at the Democratic convention. He launched misogynistic attacks against Carly Fiorina and Megyn Kelly. Rather than attempt to unify his party after a divisive primary fight, he threatened to finance future campaigns against GOP rivals, most notably Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies. And there were the mean and nasty nicknames: Lyin' Ted, Little Marco."

Corn went on to point out that these incidents were not random or isolated events, but that they represent an integral part of the man's philosophy and modus operandi. Indeed, Corn used Trump's own words to make his point. At the National Achievers Congress in Sydney (2011), he said:  "Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it." The following year, Trump said:  "One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you've got to hit 'em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You've got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can't take advantage of you." In 2013, Trump tweeted:  "Always get even. When you are in business, you need to get even with people who screw you. – Think Big." In 2014, he referenced a famous quote by Alfred Hitchcock:  "Revenge is sweet and not fattening."

So we know what Donald Trump thinks about revenge, but we would do well to ask:  What does the Godly perspective on revenge look like." Throughout history, there have been a good many statements on the subject that most of us would characterize as inspired. Here are just a few examples:
“The ultimate revenge is living well and being happy. Hateful people can’t stand happy people. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”-- Confucius
"The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury." -- Marcus Aurelius
"Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." -- Martin Luther King Jr.
"Revenge... is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion." -- Jeremy Taylor
(https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes)
"When another person wrongs you, your typical first thought is one of revenge. We think that by inflicting similar pain onto this person, we’ll make ourselves feel better. While that may make our sick-minded selves feel better for a little while, it most likely will not in the long run. Seeking revenge doesn't cancel out the behaviors that hurt you. It just perpetuates the cycle of pain." -- Ashley Fern (http://elitedaily.com/life/why-we-need-to-stop-seeking-revenge/)

And then there is this one attributed to Jesus Christ:  "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles...You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:38-45, NLT)

A little later, in that same Gospel, we read:  "Then Peter came to him and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' 'No, not seven times,' Jesus replied, 'but seventy times seven!'" (Matthew 18:21-22, NLT)

Hmmm, sure seems like God is not in agreement with Mr. Trump on this one. What do you think?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thanksgiving is a pagan holiday, and Clinton and Obama are the Two Witnesses of Revelation!

We all know that God's Word says:  "You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2 - King James 2000 Bible) Moreover, secular history tells us that: "In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November." (http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving) We also know that "Lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims' menu." (same source)

Hence, it is clear that the celebration of Thanksgiving is a holiday which was ADDED by men - it was not instituted or commanded by Almighty God! Moreover, secular history teaches us that the people who engaged in that first Thanksgiving were deceived by Satan the Devil! (Revelation 12:9) The Puritans were the ultimate Protestants (daughters of the Great Whore, Revelation 17:5), and the Native Americans were PAGANS! We can also see that they ate unclean foods which God has declared unfit for human consumption! (Leviticus 11) Moreover, the holiday was made a national holiday by a secular leader - a President of the United States who was then engaged in one of the bloodiest wars in human history! Knowing these things, how can any of us ever celebrate this holiday again with a clear conscience?

Having dispensed with Thanksgiving, we all need to be aware of what's going on in the world around us. (Mark 13:35) We all know that at the time of the end there are going to be Two Witnesses whom God will use to warn the world. (Revelation 11:3) We are told in Scripture that:  "4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire." (Revelation 11:4-6, New King James Version)

Notice that these individuals are described as olive trees and lampstands who STAND "before the God of the earth." Olive trees are indicative of those who feed the people, and lampstands are indicative of those who give light to the people. It is clear that these are actual humans who are standing on the earth and performing these functions. Hence, these verses make plain that these are human leaders who are responsible for "feeding" people and supplying them with information (or light). Notice that we are also told that "fire proceeds from their mouths and devours their enemies." This makes clear that these individuals have the ability to use wit and sarcasm to defeat their political enemies in debate. Likewise, reference is made to the fact that they have power to influence the weather and control the spread of disease.

Think about the way these two individuals are described in God's Word! Who can you think of that is skilled in the use of sarcasm and sophisticated arguments to defeat their enemies? Who has been responsible for taking care of the people of this country for eight years and controlling the dissemination of information to them? Who has been involved in attempting to focus everyone's attention on climate change and impose policies that will impact global weather? Who has been actively involved in overhauling the nation's medical system and was over the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for eight years? Of course, the two people who come immediately to mind are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton!

Isn't this amazing! See what a little proof-texting and creative thinking can accomplish! And, only those of you who are reading this post have been given this understanding! You are special! You have been called by God to understand these things! Send in your money right away - WE MUST GET THIS MESSAGE TO THE WORLD!

If you've finished reading this post, you should check out the post by Dennis Diehl over at Banned by HWA! You can see it at this address: http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2017/02/musings.html  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A man after God's own heart!

Among the comments about my last post, Dixon Cartwright made an astute observation about the double standard inherent in the insistence of many Christians that David was "a man after God's own heart." Moreover, if one takes the time to survey the many Christian commentaries and sermons on the subject, the truth of this observation becomes apparent. Dixon's point also suggests some other questions:  Does God use adulterers, murderers, child molesters and incestuous fathers as "His" ministers? Is David an appropriate model of Christian leadership? These questions demand answers, not justifications or apologies!

In beginning to answer these questions, I think that it is important to acknowledge that most of the folks who hold David up as a fine example of Christian leadership view Scripture through the lens of Fundamentalism. For them, there can't be any contradictions or intrusions of political/cultural bias in "God's Word." However, for those of us who do not share that perspective, it is obvious that the folks who wrote the history of the kingdom period were partisans of David. In other words, they were clearly writing in the capacity of apologists for the man and his actions. If we are willing to acknowledge this and look at the material recorded there with this in mind, we can begin to get a better understanding of David, the men who wrote about him and God's perspective on both.

In short, the folks who wrote the "history" which appears in our Bible had a powerful incentive to justify David's acquisition of the throne and embellish his reputation and accomplishments for the sake of his successors and their continuing rivalry with the northern kingdom. After all, one has to explain the displacement of God's original choice as king:  Saul. And, as all serious students of history know, kings have always been interested in justifying their legitimacy as ruler - their right to rule.

With these considerations in mind, we begin to see that God was one of many props that were employed to buttress the claims of the House of David to the throne. Hence, while David may have been God's choice, it does not follow that God approved of everything he did or supported him in every instance. Indeed, if we give any credence whatsoever to these accounts, we are forced to admit that the chronicler(s) acknowledged that God was displeased with David's adultery, murder and continuous warfare. After all, according to the biblical account, God allowed David's child with Bathsheba to die, permitted him to be temporarily displaced (Absalom) and didn't allow him to build the temple (that honor was reserved for his son).

It also occurs to me that most of the folks who like to talk about David being "a man after God's own heart" fail to look at the context of these remarks within Scripture. In the book of Acts, we are told that Paul was speaking to a Jewish synagogue in Antioch (13:14-16). In this account of his remarks there, we are told that he briefly summarized the history of the Israelites to introduce them to Jesus (verses 17-23). It is in the midst of this summary that Paul quotes from the book of I Samuel about David, Christ's ancestor.

Paul told them that God himself had testified:  "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart." (verse 22). In the remarks that follow this quote, Paul makes clear that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God's choice - that he (not David) was God's ultimate choice to complete his plans for Israel (verses 23-41). In other words, David is part of a more important story and is really only incidental to the central figure of that story (Jesus). Paul makes David the means to an end.

Now, let's take a closer look at the place in the Old Testament from which Paul extrapolated this quote. In the book of I Samuel, we read that Samuel told Saul:  "Thou has done foolishly:  Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee:  for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue:  the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee." (verses 13-14)

Notice first that Paul has attributed to God something that was originally attributed to Samuel. In this passage from the Old Testament, it is Samuel who is describing what God has done. In other words, "Because of your disobedience (Saul), God has decided to find someone who is closer to him - one who thinks more like he does." A little later in the story (chapter 16), we are told that God chooses Jesse's youngest son, David. So Paul gathers all of this together and puts it into the mouth of God (not an illogical conclusion, but the original author does not tell us that these were God's own words).

More importantly, look at the timing of these remarks. Aren't they made at the beginning of David's story - at the time God chose him to be king? In other words, this remark was made prior to the adultery, deception and bloodshed! As a young man - as a shepherd, David was a man after God's own heart. It does not say that the corrupt and lecherous old man who occupied the throne of Israel many years later was a man after God's own heart!

As a matter of fact, the only way that we could possibly hope to make this statement continue to apply to the man he became is by appealing to his willingness to acknowledge his many sins and REPENT of them! Thus we return to the point which Paul was making to the Jews at Antioch: David is not the model/example/end - Christ was/is! According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ was the only man who has ever lived who was truly "a man after God's own heart." Hence, it is inappropriate for Christians to hold this man (David) up as a model for anything other than an example of the way that we should face our sins and repent of them.

In conclusion, my answer to both of the questions which were asked at the beginning of this post (Does God use adulterers, murderers, child molesters and incestuous fathers as "His" ministers? Is David an appropriate model of Christian leadership?) is NO. David was a secular leader - he was not a priest or minister. Moreover, even in the biased accounts of his life which we have received via the Bible, it is clear that YHWH expressed "His" displeasure with this man on a number of occasions - most notably in the fact that "He" did not allow David to build "His" temple. We can say that God used him as an example of what not to do and of the way to acknowledge sin and repent of it, but I believe it is a perversion of Scripture and logic to make David a model for what a Christian leader should look like.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

What should a Christian minister look like?

Over at Banned by HWA, several of the most recent posts on that blog have provoked a great deal of thought about what constitutes a genuine Christian minister. While most of us would readily admit that an adulterer and murderer would not qualify, agreement seems to break down when other issues are considered. In other words, what are the things that qualify a person as a legitimate minister of Jesus Christ? How important are things like gender, training and credentials?

For many Fundamentalists, Paul's statements in some of his epistles about female participation in church services exclude the possibility of that gender serving in the ministry. Of course, that assumption ignores all of the scriptural evidence that contradicts such a conclusion. What about Mary? What about Priscilla? What about Lois and Eunice? Is it correct to exclude half of humanity from participating in the ministry of the church because Jewish society in the First Century had a strong misogynistic and paternalistic bias?

What about the training of the ministry? How did Christ train his apostles? Did he send them to colleges and seminaries? Weren't most of the apostles and ministers of the early church mature individuals who had years of exposure to Christ's teachings and more years of life experiences under their belts? How many young men or recent converts were elevated to the ministry? Is Christianity a spiritual or intellectual exercise? Can love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, patience, kindness, compassion, etc. be learned in a college or seminary? How important is one's understanding of complex theological, philosophical and doctrinal matters to being a successful/effective minister of Jesus Christ?

Does a license from a man-made organization make one a minister of Jesus Christ? Does an appointment by some board or some single individual (like someone claiming to be an apostle or prophet) make one a minister? Does obtaining a degree or completing some course of study qualify one to be a minister of Jesus Christ? Does recognition by the State entitle one to perform the functions of a minister of Jesus Christ? Does the vote of a congregation entitle one to be recognized as such? What kind of official credentials did Peter, John, Barnabas or Paul have?

Didn't Paul say that exceptional character was an essential element in one qualifying to be considered as a legitimate minister of Jesus Christ? Did he have anything to say about the marital status of the individual and the harmony evident within his/her household? Did he say anything about the candidate's reputation in the community at large and within the church? Did he say anything about how the person conducted him/herself in public (e.g. displays of temper and the consumption of alcohol)? Didn't Paul say that the candidate must be able to teach and provide a hospitable/friendly environment? Indeed, even if Paul hadn't (or didn't) write those epistles to Timothy and Titus, wouldn't common sense demand that a minister of Jesus Christ exhibit exceptional character (over and above that of his/her brothers and sisters in the faith)?

And, perhaps the most important consideration of all:  What is a minister? Doesn't the very word evoke the word servant? Didn't Christ say that those of his disciples who wanted to be in leadership positions would have to become the servant of the others? Didn't Christ make clear that he didn't want the leaders within his church lording it over each other? Doesn't he use the symbolism of the care and nurture of a shepherd for his/her flock over and over again? Didn't he tell Peter three separate times to feed/take care of his sheep? Were ministers intended to rule? Were minsters intended to be repositories of authority and discipline? What does servant leadership mean?

Hmmmm, when we begin to ask ourselves a few questions about what a Christian minister should look like, it becomes clear to me that many of the denominations, sects and cults who call themselves Christian don't have a clue! Maybe it's time we all take another look at this topic and rethink some of the traditional attitudes that have developed about it? What do you think? 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Recommended reading for students of the Bible

As with many of his previous posts, Paul Davidson's recent analysis of biblical alternatives to the Exodus story of Israelite origins is fantastic! You can read the post here:  https://isthatinthebible.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/the-story-of-ezer-and-elead-and-what-it-means-for-the-exodus/

I have speculated for some time (see past posts on this blog) that the account of the exodus from Egypt may only be suggestive of the actual history of the Israelites. In particular, the fact that they were dominated by the Egyptians for many years. This would make much more sense than acceptance of the story in the Bible as literal history. Archaeological findings and contemporaneous accounts simply do not support a literal understanding of the Pentateuch account of Israelite origins. There is almost always, however, a few grains of truth present in any myth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A few more observations about God's Festivals

In my final comments on the previous post, I issued a challenge regarding the impact of the Roman's destruction of the Temple in 70 AD:  "My point is: No one told them to adapt and change the modalities when that happened. Can you cite any scriptural or historical evidence to contradict that?" A friend replied "No" to that question and proceeded to explain why that was impossible.

He pointed out the dearth of writings from the period following the destruction of the Temple, including the fact that most of the documents in our canon were written prior to that event. For the sake of my argument, I will not speculate about when the gospels or epistles were authored. Nevertheless, I would argue that the epistle to the Hebrews attempts to explain many of the Old Testament religious symbols (including the Sabbath, Temple, sacrifices and Day of Atonement) in the light of Christ's life, work and death. For me, this epistle demonstrates the continuing significance of these symbols even if a Christian was not actually observing them anymore.

As for the account of the Jerusalem Council in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, I think that the text makes very clear that Jewish Christians decided to exempt their Gentile brethren from any obligation to keep the Mosaic Law. In fact, we are told there that it was those Jewish Christians who belonged to "the sect of the Pharisees" that insisted on Gentile circumcision and had commanded them "to keep the law of Moses." (verse 5) Later, we are told that Peter pointed out that God had given Gentiles the same Holy Spirit which he had previously given to them. (verse 8), and that He had made no distinction between the two groups (verse 9). He concludes with this statement:  "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." (verses 10-11) After confirming that it was God who made the decision to call Gentiles into His Church, James reminds the assembly that there are still plenty of synagogues extant where Moses is preached every Sabbath (verses 13-21). In other words, it is unnecessary to introduce that subject into the new circumstances. Moreover, it is made very clear in the letter which was sent out to the Gentile congregations summarizing the Council's decision that the Jewish Christians did NOT expect Gentile Christians to observe the tenets of the Mosaic Law (verses 22-19).

My friend went on to point out:  "When I read that he <Christ> fulfilled the law, to me the plain meaning is that he kept it." Yes, it means the same thing to me. Christ fulfilled the Law by perfectly keeping and personifying every aspect of it - something that NO MAN before him or since him has EVER done! This is the very thing that enables us to be reconciled to God and saved! Christ's complete innocence before the Law enabled him to pay the penalty that our breaking of it incurred! It was/is HIS WORK which has saved us - the only thing our works have earned us is DEATH! That does not give us a license to go out and intentionally violate the Law, but it does free us from the fear of facing the punishment which would otherwise await us. There are many scriptures which also make clear that Christians are still obligated to adhere to the SPIRIT of the Law - the two great principles behind all of it (love for God and love for each other).

I also agree with my friend that there is nothing wrong with shadows. I wish to reiterate my conviction that all Christians would benefit from a greater familiarity with the festivals and other features of the Mosaic Law. I believe that a greater awareness of these things would invariably lead to a greater appreciation/understanding of Jesus Christ and the role which he plays in God's plans to save mankind. Likewise, I agree with the Apostle Paul:  whether one attempts to observe these festivals or observes some other holidays, he/she should do so to the honor and glory of God; and that we shouldn't be judging each others actions in this regard.

Finally, I think that it should be pointed out that Purim (see the book of Esther in our canon) and the Feast of the Dedication (see the books of I and II Maccabees) are not observed by most of the Christians who attempt to observe the Holy Days. While it is true that these two festivals are not listed among those in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, it is clear that Christ observed them. Doesn't it seem a little inconsistent or odd that one would observe seven of the festivals given to the Israelites and dismiss two others as Jewish? In the final analysis, aren't all of them Jewish? If we admit that Jewish Christians of the First Century kept the Jewish festivals, how likely do you think it would be that they ignored Purim and Hanukkah?

Thus, for all of these reasons and more, observance of these festivals cannot and should not be regarded as a tool for evaluating who is/is not a TRUE Christian! I am confident that Almighty God will bless anyone who seeks to worship "Him" with a sincere and adoring heart. What do you think? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Another look at the Law of the Central Sanctuary

In previous posts regarding whether or not Christians are obligated to observe the Holy Days of Leviticus 23, I have discussed the importance of the Law of the Central Sanctuary to that issue. However, as some have suggested that this is not a valid theological argument against such observance because of Israelite practice prior to the establishment of Jerusalem as "the place" which God eventually chose to place his name, I thought it would be appropriate to study the issue in more detail.

Some folks have pointed out that the Israelites observed these festivals prior to the establishment of any central sanctuary, and that they (the festivals) are consequently not dependent on this requirement which was added much later. They cite the fact that the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were observed by them in Egypt (Exodus 12 and 13). Likewise, they point out that the festivals were observed by the people throughout their sojourn in the wilderness and for many years after they actually arrived in the Promised Land (see Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and I Samuel). So what about this argument? Does this demonstrate that the observance of the Holy Days was/is not linked to the Law of the Central Sanctuary?

In this regard, I think that it is instructive to note what the widely respected theologian Dr Peter Pett had to say about this issue:  "This fact that Yahweh is present where He chooses is important to their understanding of Him. They cannot make Him appear anywhere that they want by erecting images and making altars. They can only meet Him where He chooses. He had chosen to do it at Sinai. Now He does it in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp. In the future it will be in a suitable place chosen by Him as He wills. But there must only be one sanctuary because He is one (6.5).
That such an idea could be established while travelling together in the wilderness, with the focal point of all the tribes being on the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh and the sacred tent containing it in their midst, makes good sense. There would be less of an incentive once they were spread over a wide area facing problems in their own localities, but the fact that they did maintain their Central Sanctuary at all emphasizes the fact that the idea had been so firmly implanted within them well before they actually reached the land and spread over it, that it never died out." --http://www.angelfire.com/ok/bibleteaching/centralsanctuary.html

In other words, the concept of a central sanctuary was present from the beginning. Even in the observance of that first Passover in Egypt, we can argue that the Israelites were assembled together in one place (Goshen), the place which YHWH had chosen for the observance (For the sake of this argument, we will assume that the events recorded in Exodus are actual history as opposed to representative history). In similar fashion, throughout the period prior to the establishment of Jerusalem as "the place," we can see the principle being employed by YHWH through the Tabernacle, Ark of the Covenant, and at Shiloh. Thus, for the Israelites, the principle was clearly established:  YHWH wasn't like other Gods - it was NOT OK to worship him wherever THEY chose to do so - it had to be at the place of HIS choosing - the place where he was present.

Moreover, it is made very clear by the scriptures already quoted in Deuteronomy, Kings, Chronicles, Lamentations and Zechariah that the place which was eventually designated to fulfill this requirement was JERUSALEM. The "history" of what happened prior to that event cannot negate or nullify the fact that YHWH designated Jerusalem as "the place" which HE had chosen to place his name - the only acceptable site for festival observance. Thus, the link to the Law of the Central Sanctuary is shown to be inviolable.

We must also not forget that the principle was carried forward into the New Testament as well. Please note that there is NO answer from the critics of this argument to the challenge that Jesus Christ and his disciples ALWAYS observed these festivals AT JERUSALEM. Remember too that we see this principle at work even at the founding of the Christian Church! In the book of Acts, we read:  "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord IN ONE PLACE." (Acts 2:2, emphasis mine)

Finally, the scripture which many regard as the foundation of this principle, Deuteronomy 12, clearly dismisses all activity prior to its implementation. Notice that we read there:  "Ye shall not do after the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes." (verse 8) The implication is clear:  After the establishment of "the place," all other observances would cease to be valid or acceptable to YHWH! There is no wiggle room on this one! Many folks (Herbert Armstrong among them) have attempted to reason around this principle, but human reasoning is still human reasoning in the final analysis. What do you think? Where is the Scripture based challenge to the Law of the Central Sanctuary's claim on the Holy Days?

Is the theological argument against this principle to be grounded in Christ's statement recorded in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew? We read there:  "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) For the sake of argument, let's put aside the fact that many folks have taken this scripture out of context (Christ was purportedly speaking of how to handle a brother who offends you). If we are to accept this verse as sanctioning festival observance at any place where Christians may choose to gather together, what is to stop us from making the same argument for the observance of Sunday as the Christian day of worship? Philosophically, theologically and logically YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS! As my grandmother used to say, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander!" If this is an acceptable argument for dismissing the importance of the place, it is an acceptable argument for dismissing the importance of the time!

If you have an argument to present that refutes the points I've made here and elsewhere concerning the Law of the Central Sanctuary, please do so in the comments section. I am more than willing to entertain a scripture based argument against linking the Holy Days to this requirement, but I don't expect any takers.