Monday, December 24, 2012

Right Church, Wrong Rock

As the Muslims took over everything south of Europe, the Roman Catholic church sent missionaries to Ireland, Britain, Germany, Spain, other parts of Italy and other Nordic countries.  Patrick went to Ireland, Columbanus went to Switzerland, Columba to Scotland. 

Boniface, aka, Winfrid, evangelized the Teutons in Germany, Wilfrid, went to Friesland (Netherlands), Gregory I converted the Lombards away from Arian "Christianity," and Christ came to Spain although the Spanish also suffered confusion from the Muslims.

What I find interesting about the Catholicism that spread to Ireland, is that it was not necessarily Roman.  Monks married, they did not always follow the pope, they had different haircuts, and these confusions bothered the Islands.  Germany converted when its leaders accepted Christianity.  Most of them based their belief on their leaders.  The Lombards came to the real faith, and the Spanish were taunted by Islam.  All of these eventually accepted unity under the Roman bishop.

People will deny it, but Christianity has always been divided into denominations.  Some have serious differences, some are just matters of interpretation.  Paul noticed them in writing to the Corinthians.  The world was divided among 5 major bishops and the Roman bishop grew in power while the Eastern bishops sunk into heresy.  It seems also the countries touched by Rome had differences among each other that eventually became cemented when they took the leadership of the Pope who claimed that his Church alone has the keys to the kingdom.

To an extent, men like Gregory the Great were right.  There is no salvation outside of Christ's Church.  You need to belong to a visible church body and all the church bodies must agree on all the important doctrines.  These bodies are ruled by men who interpret Scripture and teach it to the people.  At this time, however, not many people could read the Scriptures, and they had to rely on the leaders for their spiritual nourishment.  The leaders, being human, sometimes interpreted Scripture wrong.

Jesus did give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16.  He said on this Rock he'll build his church.  The problem comes in when people misinterpret said Rock.  Jesus gave Peter access to heaven because he openly professed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Jesus is the Rock on which he builds his Church.  He is the leader, the chief priest, and our ultimate authority for life which people can read in the Bible.  Somehow, people interpreted this passage to mean that Jesus based his Church not on what Peter said, but on Peter.  Then, Rome claimed to have its bishops in succession from Peter.

However, the Church was not built to follow one man's interpretation.  Jesus appointed many apostles who are succeeded by preachers today who are supposed to keep each other accountable to what Jesus teaches in his Word.  Somehow, this accountability became concentrated on Rome until they believed that only their theology was the right one, even when it began to contradict Scripture and impose rules never intended by God, such as priests having to be celibate.

Then again, this is just a repeating picture of what always happens in Christendom.  Rivals show up both outside and inside the church, and people do not verify their facts with Scripture, or as in this time, an accountability system of many men who preached Scripture.  And this is when the Church focuses its allegiance to one man, his ideas, and follows this man without questioning whether he agrees with Christ or not.  And this happens in all divisions of the Church.  We have to remember that Christ is the head of the Church.  He is Adam, the Church is Eve, and he leads us.  While the wife is on the earth keeping house, she should never forget her husband and that he leads the family.

The Rivals of Christ

In the 500s, the Roman church successfully evangelized Europe.  They were united, although their flaw is that they did nor cooperate very well with the patriarchs of other regions.  In the East, the church kept arguing over icons and theology that they could not get along.

Around that time, Arabian tribesmen congregated to Mecca and Medina for commerce.  One of them, Mohammad, met some Christians and Jews while traveling Palestine.  He later married a rich widow, and had time to meditate.  He then began to preach monotheism, and taught against idolatry.  These teachings were why the Eastern church began to argue over icons and graven images.  They were pressured by Mohammad.  He started in Mecca and then fled to Medina, and he converted followers to his faith.

These people of Islam, who believe in complete submission to Allah, eventually conquered Egypt, Jerusalem, and even Persia.  While Christianity thrived in Europe, everybody else was threatened by the Muslims led by Mohammad.  They soon built a center in Baghdad and became acquainted with the classic Greek writings of Aristotle.  In this "Twelfth Century Renaissance," inventions, science, and literature thrived in the Arabic world.  These were the intelligent people with the cool ideas.  These were the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  And like most intelligent people who have great ideas, they also want their ideas to conquer the world.  And when this happens, the Church becomes intimidated and tries to either compromise with them or adjust their message to make it more palatable to the population, or they reexamine their beliefs and practices like they did with icons.  Sometimes this works, but often they compromise so much that they lose their ground in the Word of God and in trusting the Holy Spirit and start to accept ideas that should not be accepted.

With Islam, all this happened, plus they wanted to conquer every corner of the known world.  So, they lured the Church with their bright new ideas and then began to take advantage of them, and finally used force to conquer their lands.  The Western tried to negotiate with them first with missionaries, then with the Crusades, but the Muslims would not budge.

It makes me wonder about missionaries today.  There are so many brilliant people with great ideas and personalities who we want to impress for Christ.  We want it so bad that we will do anything to get them in Church, even if it means using unbiblical means.  They're tired of waiting on the Holy Spirit to do his work and try to get faster methods, and in this way they weaken their base in Scripture and the non-believers soon conquer them.

The good news is that there is still Europe.  There is still a remnant Church.  Our job is to reeducate our people on what we actually believe, the good, bad, and uncomfortable, and then resist non-believers while still loving them as people.  You can love people without accepting their beliefs.  Really, Christians should just witness to people by living in the world.  Not with tracts or evange-cubes, but with just meeting people and living life.  Perhaps it will spark a conversation that will lead someone to church.  It's God that saves them anyway, not our schemes.

Christmas thanks

1. I don't have to do anything in church next week.  Yay!

2. I'm thankful for a yard Nativity scene that's accurate.  Not a Magi to be seen, but there are two Josephs.

3. I'm only spending one night at home this week.

4. I'm looking forward to a nice, quiet New Year.

5. I think we should introduce a nativity scene where Mary and Joseph live in a house, Jesus is two, and more than three Magi give him gifts.  I think Creation Museum has tried real hard to do that.

6. Despite inaccurate facts, "We Three Kings" is one of my favorite songs.

7. I got to go to four Christmas parties.  3 of them were 3 days in a row.  I look to one more this week.

8. You know that song by Mariah Carey? "All I Want for Christmas is You"?  I have someone to sing it to this year!

9. Thankful that my boyfriend and I are both involved in our respective churches b/c, hey, I have a boyfriend who is involved in church!  We can't go to church together tonight, but he's involved and so am I.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pondering the Source of Pathalogical Violence

This post is inspired by this post by the Anarchist Soccer Mom.  I do not agree with it, but I do sympathize with it.  She considers Adam Lanza who shot all the children in CT last Friday and compares him, the shooters of Columbine, and her own son, only 13, who sometimes acts out violently when upset.  These people even threaten suicide.

"No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”"

This woman knows that pathological violence needs to be stopped at an early age, but that some folks have this mental illness where they snap irrationally and threaten to harm people or themselves for something as simple as not being able to wear a certain pair of pants because of dress code.

So, how do I analyze this situation while still supporting my notion that mental disorders are not disorders but just personality differences caused by schools trying to teach all kids as if they were the same.  ADD is not a disorder, it's just a difference neither good nor bad.  Same with OCD, Tourette's, and other such situations.  There is some kind of biological occurrence corresponding to these people, such as lack of seratonin causes people to react according to Bipolar Disorder.  A long time, my Tourette's, when I still had it, was treated by blood pressure medicine even though now I realize that it just comes from me being nervous year after year, a psychosomatic symptom of my self-consciousness.  It turned out my ADD was nothing more than teachers not knowing how to teach and turning school into an ennui experiment. Aspberger's Syndrome is totally a prejudice of people who just have bizarre social skills and obsessions.

However, I would like to find solutions to stem this violent streak in young people while they are still young, leaving jail as a last resort.  Did Adam Lanza, for example, experience tragedy as a young man?  Were his parents divorced, was his dad AWOL, did he have a sibling die and church members saying stupid things to "help"?  I still trace all my mental anxieties to my infant sister's death, my trouble making close friends in elementary school, and Dad often being gone due to medical school, and later residency.  I kind of grew out of them in college but last year they manifested again.  I can never take these solutions for granted.

I don't think I've ever met someone who has a predisposition to get violent.  I do not know the backgrounds of Adam Lanza or Dylan Klebold.  Klebold dabbled in Satanism for a while, which did not help.  Those are real evil powers that really ruin their followers.  Were they betrayed by hypocritical Christians somehow?  Or did they never find ways to channel their anger in creative ways such as piano, drawing, music.  Did mom just let them be raised by their TVs or daycare centers and take no role in being a parent?  From what I can tell the Anarchist Soccer Mom is active in her son's life, but he still reacts with violence.

The main thing, is these mom's of these shooter boys need to be aware of their potential, and they need to get them help.  It is no shame to go to a psychiatrist or counselor.  It is no shame to get them involved in extracurricular activities.  I don't remember hearing any previous school shooters being involved in activities apart from school until they came to high school and dabbled in satanism.  They had no one standing by their side, so when a girlfriend broke up with them, it devastated them to the point of taking a gun on innocent people.  Does anybody know people like this or how they can be treated?  Do they need more supervision, counsel, or other care?  Maybe they just need a different education system that fits their needs and not this processed version in the public schools.

Christmas songs

I decided to write this for a bit of humor and also because people seriously don't think of what they sing at Christmas b/c they've sung it their whole lives. 

First, has anyone ever noticed how stupid "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" is as a song?  One, we're telling kids to watch out for Santa who rewards kids based on merit.  That is a blasphemy to both Jesus and to the real St. Nicolas.  It already has a whole nation thinking we must be good to receive eternal salvation from God.  If you consider the real Santa Claus, the bishop who lived in Turkey around the same time as Augustine, he would not have given gifts based on merit either.  Those are not gifts.  Santa gave gifts to poorer children b/c he wanted to, the same reason Christ gives salvation to his elect.

This next song has been one of my favorites for years but thanks to Tim Hawkins, has now been ruined for me.  What song?  "Do You Hear What I Hear."  I still like the song and sing along whenever it plays, but have you really thought about the words?  There's seriously little about Jesus.  when they finally talk about him, the King tells the people he will bring us goodness and light.  Really, what does that mean?  And the only king that interacted with the infant Jesus was King Herod who was not happy to hear of his birth and who killed all the 2-year-old boys in Bethlehem in a rage of jealousy.  I suppose, they're thinking of the Magi, who are called kings but who actually weren't kings.  They were just astrologers who came to Jesus, bringing him silver and gold instead of a blanket.  Oh well.

This one really drives me crazy: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  Relient K, Amy Grant, and Jaci Velazquez all have recorded the song singing "if the fates allow."  The fates?  Seriously?  Just because the world sings it does not mean we have to.  New Song sang "the Lord" instead of the "fates."  Even Francesca Battistelli was considerate and sang "the Lord."  We don't believe in fates.  Granted, I say "Good Luck" way too often, but Christians really need to consider what they are singing.  I think the fates v. the Lord debate has had enough air-time for more people to start being aware of it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meet Gregory

Earle Cairns discusses many places where historians believed the division between ancient and medieval church history occurred.  He settles on the time when Gregory I became Bishop of Rome.

At this point, the Catholic church grew more Roman, but Gregory laid down the main theological idea that reigned until Thomas Aquinas started writing.

I intend to read more about Gregory as he is a key figure.  He, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine are considered the four doctors of the Western church.  He is a man I greatly respect. 

He began major doctrines I do not agree with that still exist.  Like his peers, he took too much time finding allegories in Scripture that were not necessarily intended.  Although he liked Augustine, he softened his predestinarian view by saying that man is not guilty because of Adam but only sinful.  He took the Church in a semi-Pelagian direction.  He is the one that began to base God's grace not on God, but on man's merit.  He honed the Purgatory doctrine and reinterpreted the Mass as an ongoing sacrifice of Jesus.  He also did not take time to learn the Bible in its original languages.  Having not done that myself, it makes me wonder if I should.

Things I like about Gregory: despite his skewed soteriology, Gregory did believe in salvation through Christ's blood.  He also converted many regions of the world to Christianity, including England.  I loved the story of how he noticed the Anglo-Saxon slaves being sold and decided that they were not "Angles" but "Angels".  That is how he started to evangelize he Celtic world.  He also fought to stop Arian influences and disapproved of the bishop of Constantinople claiming a universal bishopric for himself.  He did not believe in such a thing.  Hopefully, as history continues and winds down, the Church can remember this passion for evangelism and regain unity under a historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Geeks in Love

This song came out in either 2005 or 2006.  It came when I was going through many friend transitions in college and had now found friends who I did not have to impress.  In fact, I showed this to Derek and Adam and we sang that too each other often.  We wished that we were Geeks in Love.

6 or 7 years later, after not listening to this song for a while, I decide to play it again.  It has the same effect on me.  It makes me fall in love for absolutely no reason, even now when I have someone to love.  And again, it is after a time when I had friendship transitions.  I am both amazed at how history repeats itself even within a decade.  I went through a confusing time of trying to impress people and found true friends and then realized that no one else matters.  I'm just happy to have real friends.

I also sit and think, do I have similar testimony about Jesus that I have for this song?  Jesus really is the only one who matters.  And thinking, yes I do.  It was 6th grade and I had friends for the first time, and I wanted so hard to stay cool and maybe even impress the new people in my middle school.  Somehow, Jesus became more important to me that year and people noticed.  Some people asked, "Why are you so into Jesus here lately?"  Most just acted like I was some kid.  However, my faith in Jesus has kept me alive even when people were mad at me, I felt alone, I lost friends, or I even messed up.  It shows me that there is no end to anything, just transitions.  And people who don't like it just wish that they were geeks in love.

Many Thanks

Last Wednesday, my Granny passed away.  This Saturday, we will have a  memorial dinner for her.  I have been more sad this week as she was a big part of my life.  I am thankful that she lived as long as she did and for the legacy she has left behind.

I am thankful that there are two less Christmas parties to attend, but also mad b/c for one of them I had the perfect white elephant gift.

I thank the Lord for Prozac.  It really does make a difference in my demeanor. 

Thankful for my sweet boyfriend who took me on a day trip to Helen last Saturday.  He was also there for me when I took my brother and myself to see Granny in the hospital.  Also thankful for his family which has all its members.

I'm thankful for the people God has put in my own family.  They may drive me crazy, but that's what makes God so good. 

I'm thankful that I finally am getting my cats to behave.

I'm thankful for my cats.  They make going home even better.

I thank the Lord for my expanding community of people on the internet and in real life.

I'm thankful that this is the second Christmas I have Blogger.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who Invited Them?

This part in Church history not only recalls the point when the one Catholic church became Roman Catholic by focusing more on the bishop of Rome as its leader.  Now we see the beginning of contextualization which led to liturgy, which I love, and veneration of beings other than the Triune God, which I despise.  This will be a more negative post.

More barbarians came into town, and the people wanted to convert them to Christianity.  They took the seeker sensitive route and tried to gradually slide them into monotheistic worship by saying they could still simply talk to dead heroes and people in the Bible.  This created a chaos.  This also caused a rift between clergy and laity.  The elders became priests and developed a sacerdotal system of worship.  The same system that ended with the fall of the Jerusalem Temple because we did not need it anymore; Jesus is forever our perfect high priest.  All believers have direct access to God through Jesus.  But they developed a priest system again with some having more access to God than others. 

Back to the saints, the church also started to develop the doctrines about Mary that they are known for: her perpetual virginity and her sinless life (not dogma till 1854).  They decided that we can pray to her because Jesus would like to hear from his mother.  This is when the "Mother of God" title became known, at the time of the Nestorian controversy. 

All the same, Mary did give birth to Christ.  And he happens to be God the Son.  And she was a virgin at the time.  However, the whole Church is the new Eve to Christ's Adam as we all bear Christ in our souls, his blood in our bodies, and are all his Bride.  Mary just obeyed the Lord.  We can too.  Any good attributed to her is the credit of God alone and she would hate the attention she gets today. 

This was the beginning of many of their rituals and customs, some good, some not.  All churches do this, not just the Roman Catholics, but they made it popular, so they get the attention.

Then there was Rome

"Between 313 and 590 the Old Catholic church, in which each bishop had been an equal, became the Roman Catholic church, in which the bishop of Rome won primacy over the other bishops." -- Earle Cairns, 157.

Starting out, the Church had many bishops who governed different geographical regions of Christendom.  Five bishops had the most leverage: Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome.  When Constantine made Constantinople the capital, the political attention moved east, but the Roman bishop had the most influence in the west.  Also, the eastern empire struggled with heresies such as Arianism, Donatism, and other isms.  Rome did not have such divisions in the west.  Therefore, the Roman bishop was the most theologically sound bishop in the known world.

So, the people in Rome began to see its bishop as a first among equals.  They assumed that their bishop was in a line of succession from Peter based on Matthew 16:16-18, Luke 22:31-32, and John 21:15-17.  This was fully accepted by 590.  At that point, Rome still had good theology.  She had giants like Augustine and Ambrose who fought for truth in the empire even to the extent of rebuking popes.  Even the missionaries would create converts and tell them to yield allegiance to the bishop of Rome.  Leo I was the first Roman bishop to view himself as the top bishop in the world.  Gregory the Great was the first one to really use the title "pope."  When barbarians attacked the empire, the popes were the ones who led them n battle and defeated the Vandals and Goths, etc. 

Such faith in the Roman bishop began a downward spiral of humans sitting in Christ's seat and proclaiming to be the ultimate authority in the Church, even when they contradict the Bible.  At that time, most people could not read a Bible, so the Church did need men to interpret for the people and to lead them in worship.  However, Christ is the only head of the Church.  His human representative is the whole Church that worships Him, not one guy in Rome.  Christ is also the only source of special revelation, the Bible, not the Church or the Pope.  This experiment started out okay but then began to focus on just one person at the expense of what the Bible actually said.  At this point, the pope was still humble enough to accept instruction from Augustine and the like, but it is never a good thing to place your faith in one human that is not Christ, no matter how honorable.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where Was that Manger?

I think this month in Children's Church, I will teach from sections of our Christmas play.  In this play, Santa writes to the kids hoping that they'll understand that Christmas is about Jesus and not about Santa and toys.  The first letter, Santa talks about Luke 2:1-7.

I read this passage again, and I recalled the article by Answers in Genesis about the inn.  The following will be my notes that hopefully will be a more interesting lesson on Sunday.

In those 7 verses, where does it mention Jesus being born in a stable?  Okay, what does it show Jesus being born in?  What was an inn like in Jewish culture?  Did it mean the same thing that it does today?

1. Jesus is born in history.
What words from the first 3 verses show this?  Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, their decree to register all the Roman empire in their home towns.
At this time in history, Caesar had told all the people to go to their hometowns, pay a tax, and register.  This was when Mary was expecting Jesus.
2. Jesus is born in David’s birthplace.
Verse 4.  Why did Joseph have to go to Bethlehem?  King David was a great great grandfather to him.  He was from Bethlehem.  All his family was there.  He took Mary with him.

If somebody comes to your house, where would you normally put them?  In a guest room.  Where was there no room because of the census?  The inn, which is a word that meant simply a guest room in a house.

So, Joseph came to Bethlehem to obey Caesar.  He was there because that’s where David’s descendants lived.  His family lives there.  And there are too many people there obeying the census.  Where are we going to put all those people?  Looks like the family put them in the guestroom, known as the inn.

3. Jesus is born into hardship.
“Notice what’s missing? First, there’s no urgency. Joseph wouldn’t have taken a ready-to-deliver Mary on such an arduous journey. Instead, “while they were there, the days were completed for” Jesus to be born (in other words, they stayed a while). Also, there’s no begrudging innkeeper (in fact, there was no inn at all, as you’ll see). Now-a-days families might stay at a hotel, but not in Israel at that time. Back then, family stayed with family—especially pregnant family members.”
I just quoted the Answers in Genesis article.

Still, why did they lay him in a manger?  Sometimes if a night was cold, or in this case, tons of people were in town, families would put their guests upstairs and then bring their animals into the living room to either keep them warm or from being stolen.  So Joseph’s family would not have shut a woman in labor out onto the streets, especially Joseph’s bride.  They could not let her rest upstairs, but they did let her lodge in the living room with the animals.

4. Jesus still suffered hardship.  I mean, why didn't one of Joe's relatives offer up their bed for Mary to birth Jesus in a more sanitary fashion?  Why did she have to have her baby in basically the living room of the house?  Did she already have some stigma from being pregnant before marriage?  Were Jesus and his new Church which consisted of Mary and Joseph already receive ostracism?

Then again, I wonder, did houses have different rooms like they do now?  We take so much for granted.  Probably the family slept in the living room with the animals while guests stayed upstairs.  People just did not have privacy then.  So, I still don't know.  But I do like the Answers in Genesis article.