Thursday, May 31, 2007

Matt 24 Watch 20, update: El-Faisal's reputed terrorist "children"

The blog, Western Resistance, has compiled several interesting bits of information on the apparent influence of Mr el Faisal on several terrorism suspects coming out of the British radical Muslim scene in recent years.

While of course, the following is not a blanket endorsement of the blog just linked, we should bear in mind the following, especially given the numbers of enraged youths across our region who are looking for an articulate leader and an ideology that can give focus to their rage:
Aug 16, 2006: 26-year old Assad Sarwar, another High Wycombe suspect, that promotional literature from Abdullah al-Faisal began to be left at a local mosque in High Wycombe.

A friend of 27-year old Shahzad Khuram Ali said that the suspect would travel to Faisal's sermons "most Sundays."

Another suspect from High Wycombe is 29-year old Waseem Kayani, who acted as a volunteer driver for Abu Hamza, whom he had met at the Old Bailey trial of Abdullah el-Faisal . . . .

In May this year, newly-appointed Home Secretary John Reid told the House of Commons that one of the four suicide bombers of 7/7, Jermaine Lindsay [a Jamaican], had been "strongly influenced" by the sermons of Abdullah al-Faisal.

There was a connection with other 7/7 bombers. The Sunday Times reported that Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer had attended the Al-Madina Masjid mosque in Beeston. The imam of this mosque, Hamid Ali, claimed that the 7/7 bombers were al-Faisal's "children". Faisal actually preached at this mosque on three separate occasions.

Abdullah al-Faisal's sermons were placed on audiocassette and DVD by Amar Iqbal, an Islamist from Ashton-Under-Lyne near Manchester. These sermons were sold at Islamic bookshops around the country. Jermaine Lindsay had some of these in his home, which he would regularly listen to.

[Based in part on an August 2006 Sun article.]

No wonder, then that we see that "Sunday Times discovered that Hamid Ali, of the Al-Madina Masjid mosque in Tunstall Road, Beeston had described the bombers of 7/7, who killed 52 people in London Transport last year, as al-Faisal's "children"."

In this same post, February 2006, the blogger goes on to note:

Al-Faisal was preaching at several mosques in Britain. At the Brixton mosque, Zaccarias Moussaui, implicated in the 9/11 US attacks, attended. The shoe bomber Richard Reid [son of a Jamaican father]also was a regular visitor at this mosque.

Al-Faisal gave sermons at a mosque in Tipton in the west Midlands. It is said that the "Tipton terrorist", Munir Ali, was radicalised by his sermons. Ali went to fight in Afghanistan and has now vanished without trace.

Again, perhaps not all of this is 100% accurate [corrections are invited], but sufficient of it is clearly plausible that we should take note and should monitor carefully whether militant Islamism is rising among our youth in the Caribbean. This is particularly so since two of the terrorists in the above list are in fact Jamaicans or Jamaican descendants, and el Faisal is himself Jamaican.

Going beyond this, we need to think about how we can provide positive leadership for h5e region, and hope for its youth, which will drain away the pools of rage that a4re so evident across the region, and that pose such manifest dangers to our stability and potential for development.

That brings us back to the cyber college proposal, as a means of building up leadership, capacity and hope, thus catalysing positive transformation of our region and beyond through the blessing and fullness of Christ. END

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 20: Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is deported to Jamaica -- and why

Over the just past weekend, much of Jamaica's news -- not to mention the BBC -- was taken up with the story of the return of Trevor William Forest (apparently of a Salvation Army-associated family), now known as Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal, from Britain, as the subject of a deportation order.

According to a current Gleaner report, "he [reportedly] converted to Islam at age 16 [an earlier article, several years ago now, said that this was under the influence of a teacher at his High School], and moved to Guyana. After leaving Guyana, he went to Saudi Arabia where he is believed to have spent eight years."

That means that his thought on Islam was shaped in strong centres of Islamic thought regionally and in the heartland of Islam, ie.e. Arabia. So, we can reasonably infer -- absent clear evidence to the contrary -- that his views and behaviour reflect some of the major streams of Islamic thought, regionally and globally.

So, the response of the local Islamic community to the developing case over the past few years is of particular interest, especially the remarks reported by Conrad Hamilton for BBC's regional news, that some Muslim spokesmen said that el-Faisal would be given a "platform."

For, we may track back an interesting pattern, e.g. this from a Gleaner article, of August 27, 2006:

CONVICTED IN Britain three years ago for inciting racial hatred through his doctrine, Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal, a son of Point, St. James, now faces deportation to the land he departed 26 years ago.

The Jamaican Government last week said British authorities have not contacted them about a possible deportation. However, it seems that the Jamaican expatriate will soon be forced to pack his luggage and head home.

The local Islamic community has said they may embrace Sheikh el-Faisal as a brother but that is the furthest they would go if the accusations against him are true.

"If it is true, every Muslim in Jamaica condemns it. We won't associate ourselves with anyone like that," Sheikh Musa Tijani, head of education and Dawah [which means calling people to the religion] at the Islamic Council of Jamaica said.

Sheikh Tijani, however, has asked for Sheikh el-Faisal's side of the story . . . .

"I want to hear the truth - his side, the other side." Sheikh Tinaji said he has never heard any of 'the brother's terror speeches. He said that what he has to rely on media, largely biased toward Christians, to present information on the case.

"If he said it is true then we are not going to accept him. In fact, we would demand a public apology because what he did was wrong."

Now, this makes for a quite interesting comparison with the latest Gleaner-reported comments from leaders of the same community, dated Tuesday May 29, 2007 (i.e today):

President of the [Islamic Council of Jamaica], Mustafa Muhammad, said yesterday that tapes regarding the preaching of el-Faisal are being sought in order to have a proper understanding of the charges that were levelled against him.

"We have spoken with the Muslim community in England who told us that he (el-Faisal) had a lot of tapes and gave lectures, and we are also trying to gather more information about him," said Mr. Muhammad . . . .

The local council had obtained tapes of el-Faisal's teachings and preaching. However, Mr. Muhammad noted that on these tapes there was no preaching of ill or death to another race or religion.

"All we heard from the tapes is what you would expect to hear from someone who is an Islamic, teachings of the religion," said Mr. Muhammad . . . .

"We are definitely trying to get some of those tapes which he was accused of," said Mr. Muhammad.

In the meantime, the president said plans were being made to speak with el-Faisal within a week's time.
Why is this an interesting comparison?

First, because of what the Aug 27, 2006 Gleaner article went on to say, by way of quoting from some of the taped sermons taught over the course of several years in Britain, tapes that according to a January 23, 2003 CNN report -- a media house that is not exactly biased towards Christianity! -- were reportedly on sale in the UK under titles such as""Jihad," "No Peace with Jews" and "Them Versus Us"."

These tapes, according to the Guardian on February 24, 2003 -- yet another secularist progressivist media house that is not exactly pro-Christian -- played a central role in el-Faisal's trial and conviction under the under the UK's "1861 Offences Against the Person Act of soliciting murder without a specific victim."

The taped remarks "on audio and video cassettes and DVDs" cited by the Gleaner last year are revealing (despite a local Muslim leader's attempt to soften the meaning of the term, Jihad, which was duly also reported):
el-Faisal urged Muslim women to "bring up your male children in the jihad mentality."

"So when you buy your toys for your boys you buy tanks and guns and helicopter gunships and so forth. The way forward can never be the ballot. The way forward is the bullet."

"How wonderful it is to kill the Kuffar [unbeliever]. You crawl on his back and while you push him down into hellfire you are going into paradise."

Another of his jihad tape contains the words: "So you go to India and if you see a Hindu walking down the road you are allowed to kill him and take his money, is that clear?" [According to another BBC report, they were sold "at specialist Islamic bookshops" (itself highly telling!)]

Other remarks from the tapes may be gleaned from other media sources, through even a simple web search. The already cited 2003 Guardian article is especially revealing:

[An] Old Bailey jury found El-Faisal guilty of three charges relating to inciting racial hatred as well as three charges of soliciting murder. He was remanded in custody for sentencing on March 7.

El-Faisal had denied five charges of soliciting the murder of non-believers, Jews, Americans and Hindus, and four charges relating to inciting racial hatred . . . .

Jamaican-born El-Faisal, who converted to Islam at the age of 16, was arrested by police investigating British links with al-Qaida. He had been acquainted with James Ujaama, who is accused of setting up a terrorist training camp in America. Mr Ujaama was heard asking questions at two lectures.

Tapes of El-Faisal's study circle lectures, given around the country, went on sale at specialist bookshops. In them, he was heard calling for the death of nonbelievers, and making references to training schoolboys to shoot Kalashnikovs.

He was heard quoting the words of Osama bin Laden and backed the use of nuclear and chemical weapons. On the cover of one recording was a picture of the burning World Trade Centre.

El-Faisal, a father of three from Stratford, east London, said he was interpreting and updating the words of the Koran. He said his references to killing were limited to the religious battlefield.

But David Perry, prosecuting, denied his claim that the Koran was on trial and accused the preacher of hiding behind a "cloak of religion" to mask his hatred.

"This is not some crank in Speaker's Corner," Mr Perry told the jury. El-Faisal was addressing young, impressionable Muslims "from a position of authority" and was a "fanatic and extremist".

Mr Perry said El-Faisal was encouraging Britons to go to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan before and after September 11.

El-Faisal told his audiences: "You have to learn to fly planes, drive tanks and you have to learn how to load your guns and to use missiles."

In another reference, he said boys of 15 were soldiers and asked them: "Is it sensible for you to be a soldier and you don't know how to shoot a Kalashnikov?"

El-Faisal promised that those who died during a holy war would not feel pain and would go to heaven, where they would be given 72 virgins.

"We believe in the bullet not the ballot," he told them. In another speech, El-Faisal told youngsters: "People with British passports, if you fly into Israel, it is easy ... Fly into Israel and do whatever you can. If you die, you are up in paradise.

"How do you fight a Jew? You kill a Jew. In the case of Hindus, by bombing their businesses."

Such remarks, of course, give pointed force to el-Faisal's term "the religious battlefield." Nor, was such plainly violent jihadi teaching, without apparent effect. For instance, a recent UK Sun, reports:
ONE of the [recent] bomb-plot suspects made a weekly trip to the mosque where caged Islamic preacher Abdullah el-Faisal delivered his hateful sermons, it was revealed last night.

Car salesman Shazad Khuram Ali, 27, would travel from High Wycombe, Bucks, to the East London Mosque in Whitechapel every Sunday.

Cleric el-Faisal, who had close links to hook-handed Abu Hamza, would tell British Muslims it was their duty to kill non-believers. He was jailed in February 2003 for nine years — reduced to seven on appeal — for inciting murder and stirring race hatred.

Abid Zaman, a close pal of Ali and a former driver of Hamza, said: “He’d be there most Sundays. It must be a 100-mile round trip.

So, while regional Islamic leaders such as Mr Muhammed as cited above in today's Gleaner, may be in what we have to in all fair comment term denial, we cannot afford such luxuries. For, we must never forget the bloody 1990 Abu Bakr coup attempt in Trinidad. (Cf. also the troubling opinion piece here, and note the issues it raises on links onward to Venezuela and Libya.)

Nor, can we ignore the force of certain classic Quranic texts and the associated history of repeated surges of conquest in the name of Islam, starting with the life, teachings and example set by the founding prophet of Islam himself. For instance, here are two key cites from Surah 9, which have played a key role in the long -- and, sadly, as yet unfinished -- history of Islamist militancy from the days of Muhammed to today:

The Sword verse [Q9:5, Yussuf Ali, a "standard" version in English]: “. . . when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them. [translator: “When war becomes inevitable, it must be prosecuted with vigour … The fighting may take the form of slaughter, or capture, or siege, or ambush and other stratagems. But even then there is room for repentance and amendment on the part of the guilty party, and if that takes place, our duty is forgiveness and the establishment of peace. “] For God is oft-forgiving, most merciful.”

The Verse of Tribute [Q 9:29]: “”Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. [Translator's comment: “Jizya = the root meaning is compensation. The derived meaning, which became the technical meaning, was a poll tax levied from those who did not accept Islam, but were willing to live under the protection of Islam, and were thus tacitly willing to submit to its ideals being enforced in the Muslim State, saving only their personal liberty of conscience as regarded themselves … It was an acknowledgment that those whose religion was tolerated would in their turn not interfere with the preaching and progress of Islam … there were exemptions for the poor, for females and children, for slaves and for monks and hermits. Being a tax on able-bodied males of military age, it was in a sense a commutation for military service.”]” [Cf discussions here and here for far more on this.]

These titles, of course, are not mine -- they are "standard."

So, while indeed the militants of today are a minority of Muslims, and indeed many Muslims are decent, law-abiding, peaceful people, the militant ten percent are a serious problem, and one that we must face realistically, including when they make the step over into advocating or carrying our violence. That especially holds in a Jamaica and wider Caribbean in which we have many thousands of angry young black men, looking for a spokesman and leader to give focus to their inner volcanoes of rage.

The Jamaican and regional security forces would therefore be well advised to take this sign of our times seriously indeed, or we may pay a bitter price in both blood and treasure for our negligence. END

Thursday, May 24, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 44: Cyber College 1 -- training for change and transformation of our region

As we consider how to develop a discipleship and Christian service-focussed Cyber College that works through an online campus and local micro-campus centres, our educational focus must not only be to inform, but to by God's grace help to change and transform: individuals, families, churches, institutions, communities.

This is in accord with the powerful spiritual education and transformation principles outlined by Paul:
2 Tim 3:14 . . . continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
TIT 2:11 . . . the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good . . . . TIT 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.
As well as:
EPH 4:17 . . . you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

EPH 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness . . . . 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

EPH 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God . . . . EPH 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them . . . . EPH 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is . . .
Such passages -- and, we could go on citing more and more on the point! --make it plain that the gospel, through God's grace, by his Spirit and the workings of the Word of God, is intended to change, transform and bless us, utterly filling all things with Christ's grace and glory.

A glance at the gap between the numbers of professing Christians or even church attending ones in our region, and the various social indicators of sin/righteousness, starting with our headlines, shows that such change towards blessing is sorely needed, and too often wanting. (And this is before we touch the even more glaring but too often unnoticed gap between the potential of our church and region in carrying forward the mission of the church in the wider world and what we are actually doing to advance the mission of the church in, and from the region.) In turn, that suggests the need for capacity-building through a well-structured training and mentoring based discipleship programme that focusses on the three phases that were previously highlighted:

Level I -- Consolidating Life-foundations and associated Commitments: helping people work through the basic issues, challenges, decisions, changes, healings and liberations, learning, perspectives, commitments, relationships, attitudes, skills and habits involved in taking up one's cross and following Jesus. [Matt 16:24 - 27.]

Level II -- Basic Service and Leadership, as the focus gradually shifts to basic ministry/service processes and skills, training can stress the church's mission, our part in it, handling of issues agendas and challenges, and basic leadership and ministry in dyad (one-to-one) and in the small groups oriented to outreach, nurture or specific ministry areas (such as drama or social welfare).

Level III -- Community Service and Leadership. The third phase stresses specific gifts, knowledge and skills for lifetime service and leadership in the family, church, workplace, community, region and world, as we work to fill each of its aspects with Christ. This last phase therefore prepares disciples for proactive, prophetic community, cultural, intellectual and institutional service and leadership under Christ. And, once the cross-cultural aspect is added, we will mobilise the whole church for global missions.

The KCASH model, constructed in light of 2 Tim 3:14 - 17, will help us crystallise how to move beyond merely informing towards transforming:
K - KNOWLEDGE -- as Timothy, we need to be informed, thus learn and understand, key facts, ideas, principles, etc., not just to be learned, but to put them to work

C- COMMITMENTS -- Timothy learned commitment from the example set by those who taught him, and was called to sustain that commitment even in the face of death

A - ATTITUDES -- Timothy's way of seeing the world, and what he expected from it was shaped by the viewpoint of the Scriptures and their Author. E.g., he knew that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," [2 Tim 3:12] that his lifestyle was to be shaped by the truth in love leading to good works, that many would turn aside from the truth to myths, and that his principal mentor, Paul, was "already being poured out like a drink offering" [4:6]

S- SKILLS -- To do good works, we must know how. Indeed, Timothy was encouraged to be one who "correctly handles the word of truth." [2:15]

H - HABITS -- such discipleship and service skills need to become automatic, ingrained into our pattern of acting, even when we are caught by surprise or are under pressure. That requires sustained practice, and the discipline to go through that practice.
In turn, this logically leads us to emphasise the spiral curriculum approach. This curriculum design strategy identifies a cluster of key points ["key themes," KT in the below] that mark expert practice, and then sets out to go through the scope and sequence of content in such a way that a wholistic view of what is needed is always in mind [i.e. through the use of key case studies and examples]. Thus, it builds understanding and skill step by step through a spiral path that highlights the application of the key ideas and skills to basic then increasingly challenging exercises as proficiency develops.

In further turn, this suggests that profiling of learning, achievement and observed practice done in the main through portfolio based assessment based on agreed learning tasks and projects would be a logical way to help develop the competencies and to provide objective evidence of achievement. For instance, each module of training can be structured through a course manual that identifies learning targets that the learner "can and does" practice, with associated evidence as summarised. Then the certificates of participation and achievement for the units would summarise the achieved learning targets as certified by the local mentors and community-based learning centre. Units would accumulate through credit banking into certificates, perhaps:
Level I: Core discipleship skills,

Level II: Core leadership and service skills,

Level III: Community service and leadership skills. (Perhaps, at basic, intermediate and advances stages of proficiency.)
The first level is of course foundational, perhaps using stages such as in this course [for new disciples] or this one [for deepening the level of discipleship and service], with this basic evangelism training module, or any reasonable course of basic discipleship that is substantially equivalent to the cluster just linked. An example of a Level II course would be this one, developed for training Cell Group leaders on Campuses in the Caribbean and applicable to many areas of small group or ministry team oriented service and leadership. At the second and third levels, through negotiated agreements, appropriate achievement should also be acceptable for transfer credits at the relevant level in the region's Bible Schools and even Seminaries. (For instance, cf. this apologetics sub-course, this one in basic philosophy, and the content in the briefing notes on transforming Government here, that on sustainable development here, as well as that on the current Intelligent Design controversy here.].

As well, a procedure would be developed to calibrate and integrate other courses for integration into the system, which would thus encourage the mutual recognition of capacity building efforts across the region. It would also encourage the further development of existing courses and programmes, or even the creation of novel training courses that can then be brought under the umbrella of a regional network of training and recognition of achievement.

Overarching all of this, through the use of the Internet, web sites, blog technologies and the like, access to such integrated training would be improved and increased.

Step by step, a regional cyber college would ten emerge, with a focus on both an online campus and local micro-campus learning centres based in communities and churches. I believe this is a plausibly achievable, and plainly desirable, goal that emerges from our present and by practically achievable and affordable steps, transforms our reality into a better state.

A vision, in short.

So, let us again ask ourselves, under God: Why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END

UPDATE, May 25:
Slight clewanup, addition of links "missed" on original posting.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 report 43 revisited: Further thoughts on Mr Falwell's remarks

This is indeed the hard-to-address issue that simply will not go away until it has been fully and fairly addressed!

A concerned observer (and long-standing, highly regarded friend!) has submitted some important criticisms on my just past post, which I think require a re-opening of the discussion under a new head, not a mere editing of the before.

The core concern is the issue of finger-pointing, self-defeating hypocrisy on Mr Falwell's part in his post 9/11 and similar remarks, and whether it is proper to make an onward link from what he was (apparently) trying to say, to the reflections of Lincoln and the US Founders. (Lurking beneath, is the deeper issue, how do finite, fallible, fallen, often ill-equipped sinners like us stand up in public on matters of moral import, without simply defeating ourselves through our own moral failures?)

And, if we choose instead to be silent in public, are we falling afoul of the stricture by Edmund Burke, that all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to stand bay and do nothing?

In short, are we to be deservedly hanged if we do, and will we be haplessly strangled if we don't?

Let's look back at the specific remarks, noting again [cf the Tinky Winky example, and the conference with Soulforce] that sometimes, despite what his detractors often had to say, Mr Falwell was actually right.some of the time, at least on some of his points.

But, to the key case we must go, if we are to learn a lesson from a classic failure:
. . . "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this [attack] because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" [NB on the difference in transcription here, as well as hte somewhat more extensive excerpt.]
This is, as I noted, quite literally finger-pointing rhetoric, and I described it as "clumsy and offensive," noting how it proved to be self-defeating regardless of the validity on the merits of some of what was said.

For, it invited the shift in subject from a serious matter of how nations that turn their backs on God in order to indulge their sins thereby face the consequences of such foolish decisions, to the question of Mr Falwell's obvious judgementalism and apparent hypocrisy. (And, in our day, "hypocrite!" is just about the ultimate in shut-up rhetoric. Not to mention, if we really are being hypocritical, we invite God's judgement. Going by the Gospels, the judgement on moralising hypocrisy is harsher than that of even those literally caught in the act of the most scandalous sins! [Cf the classic case in Jn 7:53 - 8:11.])

We need to add that Mr Falwell went on to attempt to clarify as follows, as we may see from a CNN report:
. . . in a phone call to CNN, Falwell said that only the hijackers and terrorists were responsible for the deadly attacks.

"I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23 [actually, 34], which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame,'" he said.

Falwell said he believes the ACLU and other organizations "which have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded."

"I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812" . . .

The report begins:
LYNCHBURG, Virginia (CNN) -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell said late Thursday he did not mean to blame feminists, gays or lesbians for bringing on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington this week, in remarks on a television program earlier in the day . . .
In short, the core point he was evidently trying to say was the ever-unwelcome and unpalatable but sound one, that nations and leaders who turn their backs on God invite the consequences of their choices and sins. Thus, by direct implication, the road back is through repentance and reformation. Why then did he fail to make his point effectively, if that was it? And, what does that imply for the discussion in this blog over the past few days, and from now on?

The observer put his finger on the key issue very well.

Lincoln's remarks were an act of contrition, first and foremost. The US Founders, for all their interestedness and own moral challenges, were wrestling with the question of whether insurrection was warranted under God in their own situation. By contrast Falwell focussed primarily on the sins of others, and so came across as one-sided and hypocritical -- I here hesitate to judge (though I do have questions about . . .) his actual motives and attitudes, given his onward remarks, and also being sure that a far more able Judge is now addressing the case.

So, we come right back to a certain familiar scene in an imaginary carpenter's shop in which a log is being sawed the old-fashioned way: one man on top, the other down below the log in a pit, making planks with the aid of a two-man saw. Let us therefore see again, how Jesus -- himself a carpenter -- discussed the case in his famous Sermon on the Mount:
MT 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

MT 7:3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Too often we stop the story at the acid comment "you hypocrite." But that is premature, for Jesus goes on to give instructions on reformation and (by implication) reconciliation:
STEP 1: Take the plank out of your own eye, which implies looking in the mirror for a while, or maybe asking for inputs from a trusted counsellor.

STEP 2: Let your vision clear, which doubtless requires a time of healing and perhaps growth.

STEP 3: Help you brother get the sawdust out of his eye

STEP 4 (implicit . . .) : maybe, the circumstances that lead your brother to be always getting sawdust in his eye need to be changed, too. Arguably, this is an extension to steps 1 and 2.
So, we have to start from the point that we are all finite, fallen, fallible, and potentially hypocritical.

That "oops factor" also includes that even when we are patently the victims of injustice, we too may be partly guilty. We who have been the target of a finger-pointing rebuke, or even just a clumsy cry of the hurting heart, may divert attention to the sins of the one crying out for help, or out of his/her pain. Or, shifting perspective again, as we look on on such a scene, we the onlookers may also be tempted to ignore our own guilt in our quick finger-pointing on the hypocrite who cries foul. And so on . . .

Pardon the personal observation: Ouch, ouch, ouch. (Jesus' parables do have an all-around punch. This moment of penitence brought to you courtesy the Holy Spirit and concerned brothers . . .)

What is certain is that none of us can consistently live up to the obviously proper standard here, and are at best going to struggle clumsily to live up to this one -- this is indeed a classically hard saying of Jesus. But that does not excuse us from trying all our lives long, by God's grace. [Cf Rom 2:5 - 11.]

At the same time, there is the point that public leadership and advocacy, thence policy and law, have not only moral and spiritual consequences, but that apostasy and sin do indeed bring disgrace to the nations:
PR 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.
So, while being acknowledged penitents under reformation ourselves, if we are to exert prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership, we must courageously stand up for the truth and the right, even in the face of clever objections, ridicule, slander and worse. Yes, we must first address the planks in our own eyes, but also once we see clearly, we should try to help our brothers with the sawdust in theirs. And, sometimes, that calls for strong words, like Nathan's "Thou art the man" to David, or Jesus' "Go tell that fox" to Herod's messengers.

Or, there is even the case in which an indignant Jesus knotted a whip and marched into a Temple turned into a den of thieves -- perhaps twice. (This case is one in which one and the same act confronted a hypocritical religious elite, challenged exploitation of the poor, and challenged the politically powerful but unjust. Not exactly the mild squeakings of a shy and inoffensive church-mouse, either.)

So, if we face the hanged or strangled dilemma, we must be hanged for doing, but having first taken the plank out of our own eyes.

That brings us full circle back to Messrs Falwell and Robertson, and the apostasising forces in Western culture that they tried to address, clumsily, unnecessarily offensively and perhaps even in part hypocritically. For, it is plain that powerful, hard hearted, clever and determined apostasising forces have been at work, and that they have indeed in some cases piled up unconscionable blood guilt -- the number of questionable abortions in the USA now nears 50 millions, at the rate of more than a 9/11 a day. It is plain that there is much moral confusion, decadence and perversion -- and indeed an air of defiance of God -- across Western culture, which they are exporting to the world; including the Islamic world. So, as we discussed in recent days, it is inherently credible that in part the consequences of that tidal wave of willful cultural sin are coming back to haunt the American nation and the wider West.

But equally, we the Christians of America and in the wider west have had more than a small part in the apostasy, and in failing to repent and lead in truly penitent reformation. Some Bible-based leaders have been more than clumsy and offensive, they have sometimes been finger-pointingly hypocritical, I take that correction. (NB: In the particular case in view, hypocrisy is arguable, but also it seems that clumsiness and want of good sense are major factors.) Others, have unfortunately, compromised with or been silent in the face of massive sin and injustice.

American Christians are absolutely un-exceptional in this regard: we the Christians of the Caribbean are at least as guilty, now and across time.

That means just one thing: we need to repent and seek reformation, then stand up in leadership in that reformation, always realising that on this one, we are all trainees who will stumble perhaps more often than not. That holds for me, for us, for this blog, and generally. (I guess, that is in part what it means to be fallen and to be penitent sinners under renewal and reformation from God.)

But such does not excuse us from seeking moral clarity and courage, including when we face the challenge of confronting the powerful and the clever with a message they don't want to hear and are eager to silence. In that, we need to seek the leading of God by his Spirit to give us wisdom so that we do not shoot ourselves in the foot, defeating ourselves by our folly, ineptness, clumsiness, sin and hypocrisy.

Equally, it means that those who can spot the hypocrite and throw a dismissive spotlight on such hypocrisy, equally, do not excuse themselves in sin that can in come cases amount to inviting God to shut his umbrella of protection over our communities and nations. There is more than enough guilt to go around, so let us all make sure that "today, if [we] hear his voice, [we] do not harden [our] hearts . . ."

A sobering thought.

May God help us all to seek, find, recognise, submit to and penitently do the true and the right. END

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 43: BBC on Mr Falwell's passing and the challenge of prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership

Yesterday, Rev'd. Dr. Jerry Falwell -- grandson of an atheist and son of an agnostic who ran an illegal liquor business, outspoken founder of the 9,600 student Liberty University, founding and senior pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist church [started fifty years ago in an abandoned bottling plant for liquor in Lynchburg Virginia] and many other initiatives -- went to work, ate breakfast with a colleague, and then unexpectedly did not turn up for a meeting.

He was found in his office, slumped over at his desk, without a pulse.

In remarking on his passing, BBC made an inadvertently telling observation: that he will be remembered for saying that the blame for the 9/11 attacks in the USA were due to the "liberal
views" taken by Americans in recent years.

In fact, in the aftermath of the suicide attacks, he was trying to say, clumsily [some would say, as usual . . .], what Abraham Lincoln said ever so eloquently and aptly in his Second Inaugural Address:
. . . four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it . . . Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Nor is this sort of thinking a mere oddity of Mr Lincoln. For, he here echoes the sentiment in the US Congress' call for national prayer just before the 1776 Declaration of Independence:
In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity . . . Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies . . .
Such thoughts, as a rule, now sound ever so strange to our ears. Too often, that is because we have forgotten the lesson in the very name, Daniel (not to mention, in that prophet's book): God is my Judge -- and not just at the end of history, but also in the here and now. Indeed, let us hear King Nebuchadnezzar, after God mercifully lifted his hand of judgement on that monarch's overweening pride:
Dan 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
Why then is such a teaching -- that if a nation turns its back more and more on God and insists on its own perverse ways, part of its judgement is that God has given us the power of choice and consequence, so we should not be surprised to find the umbrella of blessing and protection lifting from us, and to receive chastenings, or even destructive judgements instead if our sins pass all measure -- so strange to our ears?

Rom 1 gives a fearsome answer, one which should give us pause:
RO 1:28 Furthermore, since [men who once knew but were ungrateful to God and turned their backs on him] did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
In short, moral reprobation is itself a judgement on nations that willfully reject the knowledge of God, by light of nature, by attested word of prophet and last of all in the dear Son he sent to us in love.

But, let us focus: a key step in the process of reprobation and decadence is the rejection of God ftom the field of knowledge -- a very, very familiar pattern not only in the lands of the North, but increasingly among the educated elites of our region. That means that one key step in stemming the tide of apostasy is that we need to rebuild the domain of knowledge on a godly foundation. That requires serious, well-thought-through, articulate, insightful, uncompromising but lovingly empathetic prophetic, intellectual and cultural leadership. A capacity that we sorely lack in our region.

That is why, several weeks back now, I observed in this blog, that "
a well-implemented cyber college campus supporting local micro-campus centres in a regional network, can materially help to transform the Caribbean church's capacity to lead in community transformation, regionally and internationally."

One of my reasons was the point that:
. . . on our TVs, in our DVD rental shops, in our libraries, in our bookstores and magazine stands, in our streets, on our computer screens, in our newspapers, in political meetings, in our offices, in our schools and on our college and university campuses -- and indeed in our churches -- an informal cyber college is already in full bloom, serving the cause of de-Christianisation. A second one is being created as we speak, serving the cause of islamisation.
As the recent case of the Metropolitan Community "Churches" in Jamaica, and the pattern of "standard" evasions and distraction exchanges during a blog visit at the Barbados Free Press shows, this is all too clearly evident. By default, the process of apostasy, arrogant rejecting of God from the field of knowledge and resulting intellectual and moral decay are already well-advanced in our region. (We need only look to the North to see the likely outcome of such a path.)

So now, let us turn to the issue of how we can use the foundation of a solid Christian Cyber College in our region, rebuild the field of knowledge on a godly base, while equipping God's people across our region for effective prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership.

DV, that will be the task of the next several posts in this 1 Chron 12:32 report blog series. END

UPDATE, May 17 - 18: Ms Coulter's appreciation here on several of Mr Falwell's more controversial remarks helps set a balancing context that should be noted.

For instance, it appears that Tinky Winky of the Tele Tubbies, a male voiced character toting a red handbag by Ms C's account, was in fact notoriously "gay" and was noted as such in many media sources before Mr Falwell's remarks. In other words, sometimes Mr Falwell was right, despite what his detractors had to say.

Second, she gives a transcript of the clumsy and offensive portion of Mr Falwell's notorious post 9/11 remarks:
"the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians – who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle – the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "
Now, of course, such poorly thought-through remarks quite predictably led to denunciations and rage against such "hateful" finger-pointing speech, subverting their intended purpose. They were therefore plainly unwise, ill-considered and unhelpful.

(NB: A hint of the intended purpose can be seen from Ms Coulter's further -- unfortunately, also acid-as-usual -- comment: "
Falwell later stressed that he blamed the terrorists most of all, but I think that clarification was unnecessary. The necessary clarification was to note that God was at least protecting America enough not to allow the terrorists to strike when a Democrat was in the White House . . . . I note that in Falwell's list of Americans he blamed for ejecting God from public life, only the gays got a qualifier. Falwell referred to gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle . . . . There have always been gay people – even in the prelapsarian '50s that Jerry Falwell and I would like to return to, when God protected America from everything but ourselves. What Falwell was referring to are the gay activists – the ones who spit the Eucharist on the floor at St. Patrick's Cathedral, blamed Reagan for AIDS and keep trying to teach small schoolchildren about "fisting." Also the ones who promote the gay lifestyle in a children's cartoon.")

In other words, we should not let the key point be lost in the explosions of rage and denunciations.

For, the repeated, insistent public parading and media trumpeting of decadence and perversion and the associated subverting of the language of liberty and rights in the cause of licence, amorality and perversion, have indeed helped lend credibility in much of the world to the Islamist denunciation of America as "The Great Satan."

Lest I seem to exaggerate, let's take a look at how all too many homosexual activists and their fellow travellers have unfortunately responded to Mr Falwell's passing -- even while his family is yet in deep mourning:
Homosexual activist Wayne Besen, the former spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the world’s largest “gay” lobby group, wrote on his site, next to an altered photo of Falwell (how mature, Wayne…): “Won’t the good preacher be shocked when he finds himself at the gates of Hell this morning! Man, I would love to post that video on YouTube. I must go now and mourn, as I can hardly contain my sorrow” . . . .

Some homosexual activists in San Francisco even held a public celebration of Falwell’s death – a spectacle that more savvy “gay” leaders warned would backfire.

The latter were right. As libertarian Bill Barnwell writes in a piece titled, “Celebrating the Death of Jerry Falwell”: “I cannot recall a time I read about Falwell making statements where he laughed off or celebrated the death of a gay person.”

And yet, the real Mr Falwell, as Mr La Barbera goes on to testify from experience of a meeting with Soulforce activists in 1999, was quite different:
. . . under the threat of a large protest from from Mel White — founder of the “gay” group Soulforce and an evangelical writer who left his wife and family to pursue a sexual relationship with a man – Falwell agreed to host a joint media event with White at his famous Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. There was a contingent of mostly homosexual students and activists there to cheer on White, and a corresponding crowd of Liberty University students and pro-family advocates, including myself, backing Falwell’s position.

After the media event, the main participants and the “gay” Soulforce activists and kids went to unwind at a banquet room where pastries and drinks were served. And that is where the stereotype of Jerry Falwell as “homophobe” and “hatemonger” fizzled before everyone’s eyes, but especially those of the young “gay” activists.

In the corner of the room, Mel White conferred with his strategists — probably upset that the event did not turn out to be as useful a “gay” propaganda event as he had hoped. White nervously looked over at Falwell in the center of the room, but the contrast between the two men’s demeanors could not have been more pronounced. For there was the gregarious Falwell, wearing a huge smile and laughing, putting his big arms around the Soulforce kids as he posed for one souvenir “celebrity” photo after another.

This was not just a show for the crowd — the media weren’t even present — this was the real deal. Falwell was like a big teddy bear having a genuine good time playing host and showing Christian love to the confused Soulforce kids who, I’m sure, were experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance . . . .

Falwell later claimed that some of the pro-Soulforce youth who attended the media event began attending his church and left the homosexual lifestyle – which White disputed. The determined White, who once edited Falwell’s autobiography as a ghostwriter before “coming out” as a homosexual, later moved Soulforce’s headquarters to Lynchburg to facilitate his religious brand of “gay” activism.

So, why the hostility?

Falwell was far from perfect — who isn’t? — but even if he had never uttered a single controversial public statement, such as that about 9-11 for which he was roundly criticized, he would be hated and vilified today by those who talk show host Michael Savage calls the “Immoral Minority.”

They despise Falwell not because of how he preached against their lifestyle, but because he dared to speak out at all. The Left has re-defined the ancient Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin as “hate” itself. Anyone who disagrees publicly with homosexuality, no matter how nice, is now a “hater” or a “homophobe.”

The proud homosexuals believe the Gospel does not apply to them because they have decided — all evidence in the Word of God and in Nature’s design to the contrary — that homosexual behavior is not sinful. Nope, because they “feel” that “being gay” is “who they are,” then that’s the way it is, and “we don’t need your Jesus, thank you!”

Or, worse, like Mel White and Soulforce, they set about redefining Christ and the Bible (or other religions such as Islam) to accommodate their particular “orientation,” which is actually a bent toward perversion that must not be indulged – just as “heterosexual” men must not indulge their seemingly inborn and natural “orientation” toward lust for women (pornography, etc.).

Do you, dear reader, see why, even in more moderate Islamic [note, not just "-ist"!] circles, such blatant misbehaviour and such God-defying attitudes lend strong support to the feeling that many in the decadent West are at minimum the spiritual heirs of those people of covenant under God whose defiance of God's commands caused him to turn them into pigs and apes? [For, this is what a traditional Islamic story (alluded to several times in the Quran: Q 2:65, 5:59 - 60, & 7:166) states.]

In short, the insistent, in-your-face failure to properly distinguish liberty and licence, rights and perversions, is plainly inadvertent enabling behaviour for those who hate the West and seek to gain support for their own otherwise indefensible bloodthirstiness, by highlighting the decadence of those whom they hate. Borrowing Mao's celebrated metaphor of guerrilla warfare: the stench of the West's moral decay is a factor in creating the "sea" of passive -- or even sometimes active -- support in which the Islamist terrorist "fish" swim.

That is a factor that, frankly, has not been properly and squarely addressed or reckoned with over these past several years, in prosecuting the War on Terrorism. And yet, unless the West can take and hold the global moral high ground, it can never defeat global Islamist terrorism.

So, hard and painful though it is to have to say it -- much less, for many to hear me out without exploding into unjustified but understandable rage -- we all need to think hard about the consequences of our culture's arrogantly and insistently globally paraded civilisational decadence and moral confusion.

For, we live in a world that, understandably, is not exactly appreciative of in-your face flaunting of such sins; a world that also has long memories of the oppression and injustice cast across the whole globe by Western imperialist projects.

So, by God's loving grace, let us listen to his corrective voice and repent then seek reformation from the path of rebellion, reprobation and suicidal decadence.

For, by that grace, we will thereby return to those blessings of Abraham through the Seed of Abraham and conveyed to us through the Spirit of God, that include that God will be our rearguard and that we will possess the gates of our enemies. As the even more unjustly maligned Paulo, Apostolo, Mart, put it:
Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
So now, by God's grace, let us seek Divine blessings and protection, under those wings where we may safely abide, both now and forever.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 19: On Marcion, the Barmen principles and the new Metropolitan Community "Churches" in Jamaica

In the 140's, Marcion of Sinope arrived in Rome, presented a lavish gift to the church there, and then sought to re-establish the Christian faith on a new foundation, in effect an "edited" version of the New Testament based on the asserted principle that only Paul truly understood the Gospel. In particular, Marcion -- drawing on Gnostic thought -- sought to wedge apart the God revealed int he Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, and tried to dismiss the former as an inferior, hateful deity to be shunned by the enlightened.

As Tertullian reports, on realising that deceptive heresy was being promoted, the leaders of the church in Rome returned the gift of money, and stood firm against the attempt to wedge apart Old and New Testaments, and to set a distorted version of one Apostle against the others. All of this fits in all too well with Paul's and Peter's warnings to the churches in their care.

First, Paul, to the Elders of the church in Ephesus, 57 AD:
AC 20:17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears . . . 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus . . . .

Ac 20:26 . . . I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
And, Peter, in his second epistle to the churches, about 65 AD:
2PE 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

2PE 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2PE 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up . . . .

2 Pet 3:11 . . . You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming . . . . 2PE 3:14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2PE 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Sadly, over many centuries, these grim warnings have been all too tellingly on target.

So, again and again over the years, the faithful leaders of the Faith have had to take costly, painful public stances against errors and distortions. Among these, an outstanding case in point is the Declaration of Barmen, in 1934, when the Nazis had set up a new order for the churches in Germany on coming to power, the so-called German Christians. In properly repudiating the heresies connected with the underlying destructive idolatry of political messianism, the declarants of Barmen courageously wrote, inter alia:
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God's people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Therefore, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." . . . .

Article 1. The inviolable foundation of the German Evangelical Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is attested for us in Holy Scripture . . . The full powers that the Church needs for its mission are hereby determined and limited . . . . 8.10 - 1. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14.6). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved." (John 10:1, 9.)

8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

8.12 We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation . . . . 8.15 We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

8.16 - 3. "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together." (Eph. 4:15,16.)

8.17 The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.

8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions . . .

In short, it has ever been a challenge in the church, to stand up for the truth of the gospel in love, against the tides of opinion and agendas of the day. And, however modestly and lovingly such a line is drawn, that will always be offensive and angering to at least some of those who find themselves on the wrong side of it. So, while in our day in the region, thankfully we do not currently face the sort of raging and violent deceptions as Nazism posed, it is no surprise that we, too will find ourselves having to make a costly stance for the truth in love, personally and even publicly.

The recent rise of the Metropolitan Community Churches in Jamaica, so-called, is a case in point.

For, as an alert reader in Jamaica has warned based on current newspaper reports, here we see yet another heresy in our midst, one which rejects the basic principles of Christian morality, in the name of the sadly false, unbiblical -- and indeed unscientific -- concept that "God made me gay [or, the like]." Thusly, an alien and deceptive concept is imposed on the scriptures, subverting the gospel, leading the gullible away form costly obedience to the God who calls us to the truth in love, spiritual power and purity, and walling off areas of our lives from the Lordship of Jesus.

For, the scriptures are plain on proper order for sexuality, and the implications of distorting or perverting that order:
1] Jesus, on the proper, Creation-anchored marital order for sexuality:
MT 19:4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
2] Paul, on the implications of refusing thanks to God and rejecting his truth:
RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

RO 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another . . . . RO 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death [i.e are under the power of separation form God by their sin, which is spiritual death, and if continued ends in eternal death, the second death], they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
3] Again, Paul (on a note of hope):
1CO 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
4] And, Peter:
1 Pet 4:3 . . . you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. . . . . 1PE 4:7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
So, let us now walk by the truth in love, refusing to yield to sinful deceptions, but at the same time reaching out to those who are caught int he devil's trap with the only true hope of deliverance, the Gospel of him who is able to lift us up out of the miry clay, put our feet on the right and sound way, and keep us from falling.

So, let us pray for and lovingly and courageously reach out a helping hand to those who are caught up in a horrible morass of sins and perversions beyond their ability to save themselves. END

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blog visits note, 10: On wrapping up two [hopefully . . .] extended visits

As usual, when I have been blog visiting and things get hot [as they have over at Barbados Free Press, with a thread that now stretches to 197 posts] , the rate of posting at this blog goes down. And of course, the exchange on thermodynamics in this blog, has now extended beyond seven dozen comments, which did not help matters over the past week.

Now, I have wrapped up the latter, and hopefully the former is winding down.

A few notes:
1] Now of course thermodynamics and related stuff are horrendously complex and Mathematical subjects, but they are central to the issues that have circulated in recent years on whether Science is in effect applied materialism, i.e atheism in a lab coat. (In fact, by making an unwarranted philosophical imposition, many atheism advocates have been able to pass off their philosophy as "Science." As a trained scientist who knows a little thermodynamics -- which happens to be relevant to the question of whether we may reasonably infer to design as the cause of certain key observed things in our world, e.g life -- I have therefore paused over the past several years and have looked at the issue. My findings are summarised and reported here, hopefully not too abstrusely.)

2] Over at the thermodynamics thread in this blog, the discussion has unmistakably gone back full circle, without making clear progress -- spirals progress, circles don't. I have therefore closed off the now rather long thread -- almost 4/5 Mbyte! -- and I have updated my above linked reference page on the design inference as a scientific matter to incorporate not only the thought experiment on nanobots and micro-jets, but also related stuff on the underlying statistical thermodynamics.

3] Points from an earlier exchange on the probability form of the argument from fine-tuning of the cosmos, have also been added, under the list of typical observed objections and responses. I have also incorporated a link to Robin Collins' interesting work on that issue.

4] Over at Barbados Free Press, the March 30 thread on how Barbados Muslims won't kill anyone "unjustly" " still refuses to die out, after 197 comments so far. Unfortunately, it continues to be marred by commentary that resorts to attacking the man.

5] However, the arguments made by these commenters plainly reveal that the same sort of claims and arguments I have previously met in dealing with skeptics in the North, are filtering into our region. In short, in an increasingly global and Internet linked age, we have to be prepared to handle issues that we would never have dereamed of previously.

6] Noteworthy in this regard is Rumpel's attempt on May 6th to use an obscure 1922 speech by Adolf Hitler in which he claimed to be a Christian. (Of course Rumpel never came back to my exposing the next day, how that notorious liar distorted the NT to make his claim, or the sharp response of the leading Churchmen of Germany in 1934 through the Barmen Declaration that -- once Hitler had risen to power -- formally and even creedally called Nazism and its intended tame "German Christian" church in effect an apostasy and messianic idolatry.)

7] Similarly, a well-known Bajan journalist, Ian Bourne, intervened on May 9th. What is interesting about that intervention, is the [im]moral equivalency and even turnaround accusation comparison he tries to make: "There are “terrorists” in all faiths, ok? Did not Buddhist monks in Vietnam treat themselves as their own hostage? Then burn that victim? Ariel Sharon & Moishe Dayan victimised Palestinians constantly and only Yasir Arafat stood his ground!" (Not having time to follow up yet another rabbit trail in details, I simply noted to him today that he would profit by looking at some balancing information, here. But it should be plain that Mr Arafat has been a career terrorist and mass murderer who has done far more harm to his own people than good. Second, the Jewish claims to some of the land of Palestine are at least as good as the Arab claims, and the Arabs have no proper right to claim a right to all of it or to threaten and set out to murder and massacre to have their way in the teeth of attempts to reach a compromise position over the past ninety years. So, while Mr Sharon and Mr Dayan are doubtless not without their own faults and sins, Mr Arafat is not in any way even morally comparable to them, much less can he fairly be viewed as the hero of the situation! )
I close with a question: What is this patrtrn telling us about the typical level of public understanding ans addressing of issues in our region, including on the opinion shapers and leaders? END

PS: A reader in the UK communicates a very interesting link to a site, on the 1967 Six-Day War, here. Well worth bookmarking and following up. I am finding the key quotes page here very interesting though quite sobering and very sad.