En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Posting on a new site!

Posted by Scott on December 9, 2009

Christmas Greetings-

I wanted to share with everyone who subscribes to this blog I will be posting on my new site effective today 12-9-2009. You can go to www.EnGhedi.com and subscribe for RSS feed and direct email notifications there. The new En Ghedi site is colorful and hopefully useful. I have added some of my favorite mentor’s site’s I have gleened so much from in my journey to know God in a much deeper way. I think you will enjoy the new look, the new content, and ease of use. In the future I will post book reviews on both sites, articles I think are important to be on both sites as well, but the main site will be www.EnGhedi.com .

Over the coming months I will be moving many of the post from this site over to the new site, so you may encounter a repeat message.

I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas and most blessed New Year.

Pressing on, Scott

www.EnGhedi.com

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PART TWO…Living in continual sin is not a characteristic of a true Believer!

Posted by Scott on August 1, 2009

This is the second part of this article. The first article can be a jolt to us to make us setup and say “What?” The main point of the first article is we need to take sin very serious…God does. If we find ourselves living in it we need to be extremely concerned, because God hates sin.

Sin has different effects and outcomes depending on whether we are a Believer or not a Believer:

For the Believer in sin:

-God’s wisdom will not come
-His favor will be lifted from your life
-You are spitting on the cross of Christ
-It is Disobedience to God’s call for us to be holy
-Hurts your testimony that God has given
-Severs your relationship with God
-Creates uneasiness in your prayer life
-Creates a stinch from us to the nostriles of a holy God

For the Non-Believer:

-Loves sin much of the time
-Condemns a non-Believer to death
-Puts the non-Believer’s life in peril
-Will be judged based on his or her sin to finality
-Cannot stop sinning…it is a non-Believer’s nature to sin
-Creates hurt in your life and those around you
-Creates confusion in life
-Leads to final destruction
-Cannot recognize sin at times
-Ends up in hell forever, separated from God in turmoil forever

Now, that I have provided such encouraging words (just kidding-I know these are hard words), let me tell there is still hope for both sides of this issue of sin.

For true Believers, we can repent, ask God to forgive us of our sinfulness and to restore to us the joy of our salvation. We can get on our knees in real brokenness before God confessing our sin(s) to Him. God will examine our heart, clean it out, fill it back up with His wonderful hope, joy, and peace. God can take our past sin and use it for His greater glory. We can be forgiven for our sins, but God does not necessarily allow us to forget them (He can take away the hurt and pain of that sin though)…having that memory helps us to not go down that road again, helps us to mentor someone else not to go down the road we have alaready been on, and more. God can and will provide relief from the guilt of that confessed sin. So, for the Believer our lives are not a total loss, but it is certainly stressful times and a life lived in constant sin is not a characteristic a Believer wants to be known for…if that is possible.

For the Non-Believer, if you feel a weightiness pulling your heart that is heavy, if you have a compulsion towards loving Jesus Christ, but your sin is pulling you apart inside, all the sudden your sinfulness has caused you to feel ashamed to the point you want to hide your face, because all of the sudden you realize there is a God and He hates sin and your sin is keeping you separated from Him yet you are torn as to what to do about it, I have a some good news…Jesus Christ wants you to put your complete trust in Him. Today, if what i have described or a variation of it is going on in your life, then God is coming after you…He is drawing you to Himself. You can fight for a while, but eventually God’s will is going to overcome your resistance. Get on your knees in total repentance of the sin filled life no matter how minor or bad it has been, ask Him to forgive you, tell Him you are ashamed, remorseful and cannot stand that you have sinned before Him. Tell Jesus that today, you are putting your complete trust in Him for salvation and eternal life. Ask Jesus to save you today. I believe that if you do this with all sincerity under conditions similiar to this, you will from this day forward be changed as a new Believer in Christ Jesus. Will this new life be easy…No! Will you ever sin again…Yes! Does God still forgive us when we ask for it…Yes! God’s love is still more powerful than our sin and He desires that none of His people end up in eternal punishment in hell, so He is patient with us and comes after us and will overcome us in order to save us. Nothing greater than when the Light comes on and you realize the mighty grace and infinite mercy of our awesome God.

Conclusion, sin is an abomination before our holy God. He hates sin to the core and does NOT overlook our sin…a holy God cannot overlook our unholiness, our disobedience to His calling for Believer’s to be holy…yet Jesus is there to make our case before God that we are one of His once we have come to Him in total repentance, when we have murdered that sin in our life and are looking for a clean start again…God will graciously give us that clean fresh start for His mercies are fresh and new each morning. For those not in the Believer catagory, sin continues to lead you to the pits of hell and unless a mighty work of God happens in your life, eternity is very bleak for you…your sins are your ultimate dstruction. However, for the non-Believer that today discovered that sin is not good, you cannot stand to live that way any longer, you have realized you have a true need to be saved, because sin has made you guilty before God, and you want desparately to fix that situation, but just do not know how…Jesus will save you! Begin calling out to Him for salvation. Trust that He is the Savior, the Messiah. Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He did rise from the grave 3 days after His horrible death on the cross, and that He is at the right hand of God the Father. Believing is a life changing moment that is eternal…whosoever will come, Believe, Trust in Jesus Christ to save you and He will.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

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The Pantheistic World View!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

The Pantheistic World View
by David Clark

 

 

Pantheists’ views of reality have several common threads. Seven of these can be identified.

1. Oneness of reality. All pantheists agree that reality is one. This, of course, distinguishes them as pantheists. Though many modify this oneness in one way or another, in the final analysis, each panthe­ist believes that God (by whatever name he or it is called) is all that exists. (Perhaps the best example is Plotinus, who actually uses the word One to designate this unified ultimate reality. In this respect pantheism shares with naturalism the distinction of believing in only one form of reality. Naturalism, which says that Nature alone is real, affirms only one kind of reality, namely, the natural world described by scientific laws. Although many pantheists deny the reality of mat­ter, with naturalists they affirm the oneness of all things.)

A corollary to this central point is of great importance. Since God is the All, it follows that whatever is real will be found within his being. Therefore, and quite significantly, opposites like good and evil coalesce in God. Or, as pantheists more commonly put it, God is beyond good and evil. Additionally, it is asserted that God is beyond personality/impersonality, being/becoming, and finitude/infinitude. What it means to say God is “beyond” these concepts is an issue we shall raise again. For now, it is enough to recognize that affirming God as the All involves pantheists in saying that God swallows up every pair of conceptual opposites.

2. The independence of God. Pantheists generally assert that the highest reality is in no way dependent. Everything else depends on God; God depends on nothing. Typical of this point of view is Sarvepali Radhakrishnan’s claim that even if the world should pass away, God would remain unaffected. Further, God is in no way limit­ed by the world. The world and its creatures cannot force God’s hand in any way. In general terms, pantheism sides with theism in empha­sizing that God is impervious to outside influence. Both of these views reject various positions (such as Alfred North Whitehead’s pro­cess philosophy) that affirm a finite God who is dependent on cre­ation. In Christian theism, although God loves persons and chooses to answer their prayers, God’s creatures cannot dictate their will to God or force God to be other than he is. God can listen to his crea­tures and willingly act on their behalf, but he is clearly not dependent on the world he has created.

An important result of this stress on God’s independence surfaces in pantheists’ descriptions of God. Precisely because God is so magnificent, pantheists wish to avoid ascribing any characteristics to him. To define is to “finitize,” to make finite, to delimit. Even if we compliment God by ascribing to him what many take to be positive qualities like personhood or goodness, our concepts limit him. We have used our thinking and our logic to force God to be this way and not that way. But God cannot be so limited. He explodes all our puny concepts. Thus, pantheists typically avoid such descriptions altogeth­er, preferring rather to leave him or it nameless. This method of emphasizing God’s greatness and independence will become especial­ly relevant in later discussion.

3. God as impersonal. Although theists may agree with pantheists on God’s independence, the two positions differ significantly on the personhood of God. Is God personal or impersonal? Theists, of course, conceive God in personal terms. God is ultimately and maximally personal; humans are personal only in a derivative, finite, and trun­cated manner. Thus, God is far more than humanly personal; he is not merely personal as we experience personhood. Pantheists, howev­er, generally argue that personhood is simply another of those delim­iting concepts that reduce God to the level of our thought.

Additionally, personhood entails twoness, for to be personal is to be in relation to another person. (You cannot live personally by your­self, which is why solitary confinement is such a debilitating punish­ment.) Since pantheism militates against any form of duality, God must rise above personality into the impersonal. Many pantheists will use personal metaphors like Father to speak of God, and some will even allow for the worship of a personal God among unlearned people. But in the final analysis, the concept of personhood does not appropriately describe God.

4. Necessary creation. While pantheists and theists both speak of creation, they mean quite different things by that concept. When the­ists speak of creation, they mean that a personal God chose to bring other beings, his creatures, into existence. But pantheists view cre­ation as a necessary event that occurs because it is God’s very nature to do it. Creation is not freely chosen; it occurs by necessity. Indeed, if only persons can choose freely and God is not personal, then God could not freely choose to create. Remember Spinoza’s statement that God “exists from the necessity of its own nature alone and is deter­mined to action by itself alone.”( Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. James Gutmann, based on the White-Sterling edi­tion, The Hafner Library of Classics (New York: Hafner, 1963), pt. 1, def. 7.) This Spinoza calls freedom, but he cannot mean the sort of freedom in which an intelligent being chooses among several options. God acts “freely” only in that cre­ation is not caused by something other than God. In reality, creation is necessary.

5. Creation out of God. In contrast to theists, who believe in cre­ation out of nothing (ex nihilo}, pantheists hold that creation is out of God (ex Deo). The universe (nature) is of the same substance as God. In fact, it is God. Whether it is spoken of as an emanation, a manifes­tation, or a dimension of God, the real world is not simply like God;

it is God.

6. The divinity of humans. Pantheists naturally argue that every aspect of finite existence is an expression or extension of the divine. As part of this finite reality, humans are manifestations of God. This idea finds its classic statement in the Hindu doctrine, tat tvam asi (“that art thou”). Commenting on this theme, Shankara notes that union with God is not something to be sought. It only needs to be realized since it is already true—it is “self-established.”( Shankara, The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana with the Commentary by Sankara, trans. George Thibaut, 2 parts (New York: Dover, 1962), 2.1.14; 1.1.)   Each person contains the spark of the divine.

7. The world as a lower level of reality. Though critics sometimes contend that pantheism claims the world does not exist, this does not apply to all pantheists. Some explicitly reject this conclusion. In some cases they state rather emphatically that the world is real. Generally, pantheists try to ascribe to the world at least a rudimenta­ry form of reality. For example, Radhakrishnan says that we must not infer the non-existence of the many from the higher existence of the One. At the same time, pantheists do affirm that the kind of reality they are talking about in reference to this world is at a lower level of being than the ultimate.

If the world has some sort of reality and it depends upon God, how does this differ from theism? Theists also assert that this world is dependent and yet real. The difference is that theists hold the world to be really different from God while pantheists do not. Though the­ists believe that creation is dependent, and in that sense a lower form of reality, they also affirm that the world is distinct from its creator. (The other possible position is held by deists, who, in contrast to both theists and pantheists, declare that the world is both distinct from and independent of its creator.) Pantheists believe that the world is neither independent of nor distinct from God.

8. Levels of reality as perceptual ignorance. Though pantheists often protest that this world is not completely denied, they also com­monly affirm that it is real only from a certain point of view. Spinoza tells us that the solution to Descartes’s perplexing mind-body prob­lem is that mind and body are the same reality viewed under different attributes. Idealistic Buddhists will say that the objects of this world are simply states of consciousness. Initially, Hindus like Shankara will not accept this interpretation. The world is real from a certain, lower point of view. One should not say the world is like the horns on a toad, entirely non-existent. Yet at the same time, Shankara tells us, the lower point of view is the perspective of ignorance.

We may summarize Shankara’s claims in this way: (1) reality is one beyond the multiplicity of everyday life, (2) yet empirical reality is not nothing, (3) empirical reality is real from a certain point of view, and yet (4) that point of view is ignorance compared to the greater truth of the union achieved through mystical insight. Despite protests, the effect of this set of beliefs appears to be that the world we live in each day is not, as such, real.

We turn now to relate these historic pantheistic themes to the claims made in the current manifestations of pantheism in the New Age movement. In what ways do New Agers promote these meta­physical ideas? Teaching about the unity and independence of God is omnipresent in New Age circles. The impersonal nature of the ulti­mate is emphasized by the Force of Star Wars. The little guru, Yoda, teaches us that the Force is within each of us, just as The Karate Kid informs us that ki is within. The divinity of each person is reinforced repeatedly. For example, Jack Underbill of Life Times magazine says, “You are God. Honest. I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the DMV know?”( Quoted in Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Waco: Word, 1988), p. 29.)

Since each of us is God, our innate human potential can solve world problems and holistic health can yield a higher degree of well-ness than ever before. Because of the connection with the divine, New Agers promote human potential for stress reduction, increased productivity, and personal transformation at weekend seminars and in corporate executive suites. The various elements of a “New Medicine” that taps inner energy sources are taught in several leading nursing and medical schools. The claim is that these can achieve a level of healing unavailable through traditional medical care.( See Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986), pp. 57-91.) Both soul (through the human potential movement) and body (through the holistic health movement) can achieve impressive new heights of wellness through the recognition of the organic nature of reality. Clearly, the pantheistic world view lies behind many New Age claims.

The Knowledge of Mystical Consciousness

Most pantheisms depend on mystical experience as the primary mode of consciousness. Mystic insight provides access to the divine in a way qualitatively different from sensuous experience. Seven com­mon themes can be identified in this mystical mode of knowing.

1. The abandonment of the senses. Pantheism tends to turn away from knowledge that depends on the observations of the senses. Instead, pantheists often use a mystical epistemology. But even when they use a more rational way, pantheists warn that naive dependence on the senses can be misleading. Typical of mystical pantheists’ claims would be Shankara’s statement that since ignorance is due to dependence on the senses, Brahman is empirically unknowable. Those who write in modern times, Radhakrishnan particularly, do incorporate the validity of science, which obviously depends on sen­suous observation. At the same time, they believe that knowledge is inadequate if it is based only on the senses. Even though he believes that perception has a legitimate role, Radhakrishnan places it at a lower level than intuition.

2. Two levels of knowledge. In most pantheists the minimizing of sensuous knowledge leads to some sort of two-truth theory. This view affirms the correctness (at least initially) of two different modes of knowing, even though those two modes may ultimately lead to vastly different conclusions about the nature of reality. Very com­monly, pantheists will acknowledge a rudimentary adequacy of every­day knowledge and language. But intuitive knowledge must transcend this level. Generally the intuitive is described metaphorically as high­er knowledge; one rises above sensuous and logical knowledge to the heights of truth.

The higher levels of knowledge perform several functions. In gener­al, all the pantheists believe that the higher knowledge corrects the distortions of the lower. More specifically, Shankara uses the two-lev-els-of-truth idea to resolve apparent problems in the Hindu scriptures: difficulties arise when we suppose that contradictory statements in scripture operate at the same level, but in fact they do not. Radha­krishnan uses the two-truth theory to support his pluralism: all reli­gious doctrines, despite greater or lesser adequacy, point to the same God.

3. Knowledge by direct apprehension. Pantheists in general depend on a direct, first-hand grasp of reality. The lower levels of knowledge, which depend on the senses, give at best a knowledge based on logical steps. Since this knowledge must use logic to move from a sense experience to knowledge of the object of experience, it will always be indirect. But this lower knowledge gives way to a higher knowledge based on an immediate, direct, and intuitive experience. Even the rationalist Spinoza considers intuition the highest knowledge. Intuition depends on reason, but is “more potent” for it gives a knowledge that is clear, distinct, and perfect.( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium; props. 25, 28.) A claim more typical of mystical pantheists is one by Plotinus, that we may achieve a kind of knowing where knower and known are one. Here one knows the One by becoming the One.

4. The self-certifying nature of mystical intuition. Since some experiences mislead us, many philosophers are interested in whether we have warrant for accepting certain experiences as genuine. For example, we might check our own experiences against those of others to minimize the chance that we might be misled by an unknown illu­sion. But mystics do not accept any factors external to their experi­ences that could certify the genuineness of their intuitions. They believe the mystical intuition carries its own stamp of authenticity. To someone who has experienced the mystical union, external verifi­cation procedures are no more necessary than fins on a cat. As D. T. Suzuki says, a mystic who has experienced the highest knowledge can say with assurance, “I am the Ultimate Reality itself” and “I am absolute knower.”( D. T. Suzuki, “Zen: A Reply to Dr. Hu Shih,” in D. T. Suzuki, Studies in Zen (New York: Delta, 1955), p. 147)

5. The inadequacy of logic. Pantheistic epistemologies of various types typically give logic a preliminary validity at best. Logic always involves a division between A and not-A. But the unifying thrust of pantheism seeks to overcome this distinction at the ultimate level. Shankara surprises us by his admission that logic plays a vital role in knowledge. In fact, he argues that to insist on an absolute distinction between self and Brahman opposes true logic. At the same time, Brahman is clearly beyond logical distinctions. Plotinus says the same of the One. And Suzuki, in his desire to achieve shock effect, provides the most extreme example of this tendency when he says that Zen can “serenely go its own way without at all heeding . . . criticism” about logical contradictions.( D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957), p. 49.)

6. The inadequacy of language. Pantheists generally agree that the self-certifying knowledge of direct union cannot be expressed in words. Language necessarily depends on the either/or of logic. Without A/non-A, language would not communicate content. If A = non-A, if black equals white and cat equals dog, what would The cat is black communicate? To accept the essential correctness of linguis­tic description is to acknowledge that the law of noncontradiction relates to reality. This they believe suggests that reality is made up of more than one thing, of A and non-A. This conclusion the pantheist cannot accept. So language is universally thought by mystical panthe­ists to be a distortion. Speaking of the holistic knowledge of the One, Plotinus reminds us, “we are forced to apply to the Supreme terms which strictly are ruled out.”( Plotinus, The Six Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page, 6 vols. (Chicago and London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), 6.9 [3, 10, 11]; 5.3 [13].)

7. The ineffability of mystical objects and intuition. The inadequa­cy of language leads to an important corollary, ineffability. Ineffability means that since linguistic description must break things into logical opposites, things that cannot be so broken must be indescribable. As Radhakrishnan explains, “God is too great for words to explain. He is like light, making things luminous but himself invisible.”( Sarvepali Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life (London: Alien and Unwin, 1932), p. 97. ) When mystics, whether Western or Eastern, do use language, they often limit themselves to negative language. That is, though they will not say what God is, they may try to say what he is not.

To what degree are these themes reflected in New Age affirma­tions? New Age advocates commonly denigrate logical, conceptual, and empirical ways of knowing. Instead, they practically deify mysti­cal and intuitive knowledge. For example, Shirley MacLaine places the hero of a novel in an acupuncture session where the “doctor” says, “Now relax. . . . Let your mind go. Don’t evaluate and don’t let the left brain judge what you are thinking. Give your right brain more space. As a matter of fact, don’t think.” (Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (Toronto: Bantam, 1985), p. 312.) Ironically, as this quote sug­gests, New Age proponents are fixated on the right brain/left brain research. The irony lies in the fact that the distination depends on the rational, left-brain methods of science. New Agers use the rational, left-brain distinction between left and right brains primarily to pro­mote holistic, immediate/ intuitive right-brain thought to the exclu­sion of dichotomistic left-brain thought.

Many New Agers also defend the self-certifying and ineffable char­acter of the higher consciousness. The author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, Marilyn Ferguson, says that you reach genuine knowl­edge “only when you get yourself out of the way. You have to be will­ing to have experiences and not have words for them.”( Interview with Chandler, Understanding, p. 38) When we shut down the analytical left brain, reach beyond the logic-chopping words inherent in all conceptuality, and open ourselves to Mind-at-Large, then the Higher Consciousness breaks in. For those who hope to apprehend true knowledge, this is the New Age party line.

The Religious Dimensions of Pantheistic Mysticism

The pantheists’ views of religious experience and of salvation fol­low closely their epistemology. The mystical experience that pantheists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.

1. Knowledge is salvation. In the classic question of faith and rea­son, several positions have been proposed. For most theists, faith (that is, our trust in and relation to God) and reason (that is, our cognitive knowledge about God) are different. Some have said that faith and reasoning about God are mutually exclusive. Seren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth have taken this position. But many theists believe that they are mutually supportive. Pantheists generally hold that the two are the same; there is no substantive difference between faith (salva­tion) and reason (experiential knowledge). Salvation is knowledge, though this knowledge is intuitive, not rational. To be enlightened through mystical intuition or higher consciousness about the true reality of our oneness with God is in itself to be saved from our false experience of pain in the world.

2. Ignorance as the source of evil. If knowledge is salvation, the cause of the problems from which we are saved is our own ignorance. We languish far from our heavenly home because we do not realize our true identity. Oriental writers tie their view of reincarnation to this problem of ignorance. If we fail to realize our oneness with God, we suffer through the debilitating series of lives full of pain and sor­row. Enlightenment enables us to begin walking the path toward God. Through this ascent we can overcome the evil caused by ignorance. Similarly, Spinoza tells us that viewing God as a mysterious person who controls things by an omnipotent will leaves unexplained all the absurd and evil things that happen to us. This false view of God leads to spiritual blindness.

3. Salvation through human effort. Pantheists affirm various tech­niques for arriving at true knowledge, the mystical experience of enlightenment that is salvation. Generally, however, achieving higher consciousness involves human effort and discipline. Although Spinoza is unique among the pantheists we have discussed in his use of geometry to achieve knowledge, favorites in the East are yoga and other forms of meditation. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism leaves nothing either to chance or to the will of a capricious personal God. Through the use of koan (those maddening mental puzzles that bring reason to a standstill) and zazen (sitting meditation) the Zen novice begins the journey toward enlightenment. The Vedanta Hindus usually permit the three avenues to salvation: meditation leading to intuitive con­sciousness, good works of service, and devotion to a personal God. But the latter two are given legitimate status only grudgingly; the real path to Brahman is mystical union. Here most emphatically can we theists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.  Only through experience is that indescribable sweetness by which we rise above this world of pain and find union with God.

4. The mystical ascent. Pantheists often describe the path to salva­tion as an ascent. We have “fallen,” metaphorically speaking, and we need to rise again to our true oneness with God. Although this fall is sometimes given moral overtones, the pantheists’ use of the metaphor is not identical to the Judeo-Christian idea of a fall into sin. Instead of holding to a moral fall, pantheists teach a fall into igno­rance. Salvation reverses this fall, and for this reason the concept of an ascent into something higher (both a higher point of view episte-mologically and a higher reality metaphysically) dominates panthe­ists’ descriptions of salvation. In Plotinus the language of ascent is prominent, for he speaks most directly about the descent from God in his idea of emanation. Matter and this world are things that weigh us down. Through mystical devotion and ethical living we cast off this excess baggage like sailors throwing weight off their ship during a storm. Thus lightened, we move back up the ladder to Mind and finally to the One, our home.

This aspect of Plotinus finds parallels not only in the other panthe­ists who speak often of the higher and lower points of view, but also in many medieval Christian writers. We should note, however, that in the majority of cases, Christians speak of ascending to a personal union with God. The culminating stage of the Christian’s climb is the two-in-one union of personal love, not the absolute oneness of imper­sonal identity.

5. The peace of salvation. As with any religious philosophy, pan­theism claims to give a solution to life’s problems. This solution includes a sense of peace, tranquility, and repose. Although it is sometimes heavily philosophical, the whole point of pantheism is not philosophical in the traditional sense in that pantheists do not seek rational truth for its own sake. Pantheism’s goal is the religious sense of assurance, peace, and contact with God that religions seek.

Put another way, pantheists do not seek primarily to explain our experiences of the world and of evil; they seek instead to resolve our problems with evil. Consequently, each pantheist in this study ends his chain of thinking by promising a sense of peace and release from tension and worry. Even the rationalist Spinoza believed that knowl­edge brought the tranquility we need for living; he argued for a blessedness that he described as “constant and eternal love toward God.”( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium.) Similarly, each pantheist, no matter how philosophically ori­ented, finds the purpose of his philosophy fulfilled in this religious goal.

6. Pluralism of beliefs. The pantheistic emphasis on experiential knowledge leads very naturally to religious pluralism, a perspective that has gained a firm foothold in this century. Because pantheists deem our experience to be so important, they imply that the concepts we use to describe God, ourselves, and the world are correspondingly less important. Historically, Western pantheists have not generally followed this logic; they affirmed instead that differences in religious beliefs are important. Certainly Spinoza, at least, thought that certain concepts about God (say, the idea of miracles) were both philosophi­cally false and religiously dangerous. But Oriental pantheists do com­monly hold that differing religious beliefs can all be “true.” Suzuki’s Buddhism does not really accept any doctrine. Actually, he affirms that no religious doctrines are ultimately true. This is within the spir­it of the original Buddhist teaching.

Hinduism, however, most emphatically states that contradictory theoretical conceptions can be accepted as true. This all-embracing religious pluralism of Hinduism is at home in a modern world where the mood is characterized by the statement, “Your faith is good for you; mine is good for me.” The willingness within Hindu faith to accept alternative conceptions means that Hinduism includes pan­theism, polytheism, and even theism. In fact, scholars generally concede that Buddhism no longer survives in India, the land of its origin, because Hinduism’s inclusive nature simply swallowed up Buddhism’s distinctive teachings. Radhakrishnan, the modern Hindu, explicitly affirms this pluralism in his belief that various religions are all acceptable paths toward the religious goal of happiness and good­ness. Even though Westerners historically have been more exclusive, this aspect of Hinduism is increasingly becoming part of the domi­nant religious perspective of our time.

How does the New Age movement today display these ideas? Salvation from the suffering of reincarnation and the pain caused by ignorance are common pantheistic themes. These find expression in the writings of typical New Age proponents. That ignorance causes pain and requires a change in consciousness is a primary theme of the many seminars that promote the new awareness necessary for enlightenment. Famous examples include the est training sessions of Werner Erhard (he now has a new group called Forum) and the Esalen Institute in California. The Esalen Institute has attracted a number of famous psychologists, including Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and Abraham Maslow. These seminars preach the same message: you are ignorant of your true divinity, so gain a new perception through (insert one of a number of techniques here) and experience a trans­formed personal consciousness.

 

 

Pantheism’s Self-Defeating Character

Pantheism’s analysis of our individual experience of the world brings up a final point: pantheism is unaffirmable and self-defeating. The principle of self-defeat comes into play whenever a statement does something that it affirms cannot be done. Though it can be uttered or said, such a statement cannot be affirmed meaningfully because of its self-destructive character. The statement is philosophi­cally suspect, for it tries to do something that it says cannot be done. If the sentence were meaningful, it would destroy itself. Therefore, it is unaffirmable.

A well-known example of this problem is found in our own centu­ry. Philosophers known as logical positivists developed what they called the Verification Principle. This axiom of positivist thinking stated that only two kinds of statements could count as meaningful:

definitions and facts, with facts defined as statements that are empiri­cally verifiable. On this criterion, logical positivism considered state­ments about theological, ethical, or esthetic realities meaningless because they were neither definitional nor factually verifiable. But here is the catch: the Verification Principle is self-defeating for it is neither a definition nor a fact. If the Verification Principle were some­how correct, it would be meaningless on its own criterion. The his­toric collapse of the positivists’ agenda shows the power of this prin­ciple of self-defeat.

This principle makes it difficult to affirm pantheism meaningfully. A pantheist usually claims that he was once blind, lost in ignorance due to the dominance of the logical, empirical view of things. But now he has regained his sight, the ability to see the truth that only God exists and that the finite perspective of sensuous observation is essentially misleading. He is saying, in effect, “I came to realize that I don’t exist. I came to see that I was always God.” This raises an appropriate question: Who is talking? What does I refer to in these sentences?

Several possibilities confront us. Perhaps I in this statement refers to a finite individual. The pantheist is speaking from a limited per­spective as an individual person. But in this case, his statement is self-defeating. He is saying, “I am telling you that I don’t exist.” What sense can we make of that? If someone exists to tell us this, the state­ment must be false. If the statement is true, there could be no speaker to utter it. If I means a finite individual, then the pantheist’s affirma­tion declares that he does not exist as such, and in this way he pulls that rug out from under his statement.

To evade this glaring problem, he could claim that I in this state­ment is God. He is speaking from the ultimate point of view. But although this alternative solves the problem of self-defeat, it raises two more pressing questions. First, why is he trying to express this to me? Presumably, I do not exist either. But he is treating me as a real entity by recognizing my presence and responding to my questions. Second, how is it that the infinite mind of God was once deceived and has now come to see the truth? This implies both that God’s understanding was once wrong and that it changes through time. If / denotes the ultimate being God, then the pantheists’ statement implies that God is a limited being, not infinite, as pantheists claim.

The rational pressure these problems create puts stress on panthe­ism’s view of the reality of the finite individual’s perspective. For example, Shankara says that the lower perspective of the sensuous realm is true. In that perspective, my individual existence is real and God is personal. But from the higher perspective, my individual exis­tence is not real, and God is beyond personhood. Both viewpoints, he says, are true. Yet from the higher perspective, the lower point of view confuses a coiled rope with a snake. In other words, we assume, the lower perspective is not really true. Yet here is the pantheist, writing as a finite individual to convince us in our finite perspectives that finite egos are part of that coiled-rope point of view.

So which is it? Do pantheists speak from the finite, individual per­spective of empirical egos or not? If they do, it appears that the state­ments they utter concerning the unreality of their own finite exis­tence self-destruct. If they do not and if they claim instead to speak from God’s ultimate perspective, it seems that they are introducing into God hefty doses of fallibility and mutability. Shankara paints himself into a corner. Mutism, the refusal to say anything, would be better. But that, too, has problems, as we shall see in chapter 8. In a word, the noble desire to compliment God as the All negates the very reality of the one who compliments. God therefore cannot get com­plimented at all. This dilemma, it appears, is a powerful challenge to the coherence of the pantheistic philosophy.

Personal existence may have some reality in modified forms of pantheism. As our descriptive survey revealed, not all pantheists call the world absolute nothingness. They have various means for ascrib­ing some sort of limited reality to individual persons. One would run roughshod over the pantheists’ actual beliefs by considering only the extreme illusionist view of the world. But we can state the objection in another way to incorporate this fact: to the degree that the perspec­tive of the experiencing/thinking person as an individual is claimed to be part of an illusion, pantheism is self-defeating. If the finite point of view is admitted, then the self-defeat is mitigated. However, to the degree that the pantheist admits the reality of the individual experi­encing/thinking person he abandons his fundamental pantheistic premises and moderates in a theistic direction.

As a response, a pantheist might try to maintain his own existence just long enough to assert that he does not exist. But if he does this, we can only think that it is somehow ad hoc and unfair to exempt that one statement from the broader premises of his philosophy. This reminds us of the psychological determinists, who exempt their own rational choices that lead them to accept their deterministic theory from the general principles of that theory. The ad hoc nature of these self-licensed exceptions to the rule reveals basic conceptual flaws that, in our view, can be corrected only by major structural changes. In pantheism’s case, this means the affirmation of the real existence of the person who affirms a world view. It means a modification in the direction of theism.

Conclusion

Discussion of pantheistic metaphysics has revolved around the pantheists’ persistent resistance to the predication of concepts to God. Pantheists have claimed that using concepts to describe God both divides what is unified and limits what is infinite. Concepts are always defined in terms of opposites. We know black because it is the opposite of white and good because it is the opposite of evil. So using concepts for description always divides unity and entails that what is so described is limited to only one of the two concepts. Therefore, if God is personal, then he is not impersonal, and there is something that he is not.

This fundamental pantheistic urge arises from noble motives. But it also entails certain consequences that cannot be ignored. Some of these create problems internally in that they run up against the tests of consistency and coherence. If we cannot describe God at all, then the word God loses any intelligible meaning. If we cannot describe God as personal, then creation is necessary, and he must create.

Other consequences concern external problems in that they run into the criteria of comprehensiveness and congruence. If God alone exists, how do we explain the vast wealth of experience had by every person alive that apparently leads us to believe that selves, others, and the real world actually exist? And if God alone exists, how could we ever affirm his existence from our individual, presumably nonreal point of view? Judgment then, says that these rational tensions make pantheistic metaphysics, despite its positive contributions and noble motivations, a poor choice if we are seeking the world view that best explains the total experience of our lives.

 

See his book, “Apologetics in the New Age.”

Email Dr. C. Matthew McMahon (Curriculum Vitae and Bio):  © A Puritan’s Mind, All Rights Reserved, 1998-2008

Scott Bailey 2009

 

 

 

 
 

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Swords Are for Killing!

Posted by Scott on January 7, 2009

Swords Are for Killing
 By: John Piper

In New Testament times swords were not for digging, shaving, or whittling. They were for killing. The only reason Peter cut off Malchus’s ear was that he missed (John 18:10).

But Herod didn’t miss: “He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2).

Many saints have felt the full force of the sword: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:37). So it was and will be: “If anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain” (Revelation 13:10).

That’s what swords are for. So when Paul calls the word of God the “sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17, he is serious—something must be put to death. And it is not people. Christians don’t kill people to spread our faith; we die to spread our faith.

The link in Paul’s mind is given in Romans 8:13.

If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit. The Sword is for putting to death. And by the Spirit we put to death our sinful deeds. So I conclude that the way we kill our sins is with the Spirit’s sword, the word of God.

All temptations to sin have power by lying. The are “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They tell us that the pleasure of the sin is worth it. The killing blow against these lies is the power of God’s truth. Hence the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, is the weapon to use.

As John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” That is what swords are for, especially the Bible.

www.DesiringGod.com

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John MacArthur on Lordship Salvation

Posted by Scott on December 9, 2008

The following “Question” was asked by a member of the congregation at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, and “Answered” by their pastor, John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape, GC 70-8, titled “Questions and Answers–Part 36.”  A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE. Copyright 2001 by John MacArthur Jr., All Rights Reserved.

Question

I know that you take a Biblical view of salvation by faith alone.

John Macarthur: Yes, by grace through faith–not by faith alone. By grace through faith.

Question (continued)

Ok, but I’m a little confused as far as the implications of that Lordship to the non-Christian at the point of salvation. How much of it can they really comprehend in terms of the Lordship issue? And then along with that, are you saying through your series on the Lordship that the call to salvation is synonymous with the call to discipleship?

Answer

I am saying that explicitly, that a call to salvation is indeed a call to discipleship. I am saying that it is obvious that a person coming to faith in Jesus Christ will not fully understand the implications of his Lordship. They will not fully understand the reality of their sin, but there must be a call to that. In other words, when you call a sinner to repentance and you call a sinner to submit to Christ, they don’t fully understand the implications of that. But, they will understand as much as they can understand.

Now, let me say something that is very, very important for you to understand. I do not believe that an incomplete presentation of the gospel–in other words, if you just present the gospel that Jesus died for your sin and rose again and graciously offers you forgiveness by faith in his name; if that’s all you presented, and you didn’t talk about Lordship, and you didn’t talk about being a disciple, and you didn’t talk about repentance, and you didn’t talk about turning from sin-even an incomplete presentation of the gospel-now listen-could not prevent someone from being saved whom God was saving. Got that? Because if you didn’t talk about sin, they’d be feeling the conviction. And if you didn’t talk about submission, they’d be coming to that submission.

What I am saying is that when we present a shallow gospel, we don’t prevent the elect from getting saved; we make people think they’re saved who aren’t. That’s the issue. Do you see the distinction? That’s the issue. And so what we have-just imagine this now!-what we have then are a lot of people who think they’re Christians. And we have a lot of churches that are run by congregational rule, which means that a lot of churches are being run by what? Non-Christians! That’s a frightening reality. I’m quite sure there are Christian organizations being operated by non-Christians.

So, I don’t want to say that… You know, somebody said to me, “Well, I didn’t know all about Lordship when I was saved. Am I not saved?” No. The issue is, “Do you understand that Jesus is Lord and is it your heart’s desire to love Him and serve Him?” And if the answer is yes, then you understand it. So, that’s the point you have to understand.

Now, Jesus called men to follow Him in discipleship. He called them to obey Him. We’ve shown all of that and we’ll even go into more detail when the book comes out.

I believe that when you present the gospel-now listen carefully to this-you can make it as difficult as possible! That’s what Jesus did. He made it as difficult as possible. Why? Because salvation is a work of God, not based on the cleverness of the one giving the gospel, but based on the power of God. So, if a person is being saved by God, then you want them to fully understand their salvation. And if God isn’t doing it, you want to make sure that they’re not coming in on some illusion.

Added to Bible Bulletin Board’s “MacArthur’s Questions and Answers” by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 119
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986

 

 

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Americans have gone crazy over Christmas!

Posted by Scott on November 29, 2008

Alright, the title is strong, but after you read the story you will understand.  Of course not all of us are crazy over Christmas, but I would say the majority are.  For Christians, this time of year should hold a very special meaning for us, but does it really for all the right reasons?

I watched and listened to a news report this afternoon about a security guard being trampled to death in a Walmart in America this morning.  A group of about 2000 people rushed the store this morning wanting in and the most popular item was TVs.  I could not believe this actually happened. 

Folks, our materialistic society that has been produced over the past 100 years is now coming full circle.  People so obsessed with “things” killed a 34 year old man storming a Walmart for TVs!  Can you believe this?  People, we must return to our forefathers way of thinking and living.  Money is something you need in order to eat, keep a roof over your head, provide for your kids and grand-kids, and possibly help out a neighbor that has fallen on hard times.  Our grandparents put the money aside…you would have never experienced them storming a store for any item with the exception of food.  Our grandparents saved their money, paid their bills, and did not run up debt.  What is wrong with the TV you have?  What is wrong with going without a TV for a while?  If Christmas gifts was the purpose for the purchases these Walmarters were rushing for, what is wrong with everyone simply enjoying family for Christmas one year rather than buying a bunch useless, depreciating “things”?  I am not saying if you buy a TV you are wrong…you have missed my point if you think that.

Ok, stay with me folks for just a moment more.  Christmas has always been taught as a celebration for Jesus’ birthday, right?  Well, Christmas for the past 50 plus years has been very little about Jesus or His birthday.  Sure, He gets a token prayer here and there, or maybe a nativity scene put up in peoples traditions with little acknowledgment to what it really means.   As Christians we need to stop dead in our tracks today before we move forward in a pagan society acting as they do, going into debt as they do, buying things we really don’t need as they do, serving no one but ourselves and our family.  These thoughts have been floating around in my head for days, but the fact that a fellow human being was killed trying to do his job at Walmart because selfish ignorant people trampled him like sheep running into the slaughter pen, just boiled these comments and thoughts to the forefront this afternoon.

Here are some thoughts from John MacArthur about questioning our typical American Christmas:

“Questioning the typical Christmas celebration isn’t unreasonable.  After all, mistletoe, holly, Yule logs and ivy were all ancient, pagan symbols.  Even the date we celebrate Christmas does not originate from Scripture, but rather is tied to an ancient pagan Roman holiday honoring winter – not the person of Christ.

Then there’s the insane, commerce-driven, marketing machine that gets cranked up earlier and earlier every year.  It’s no secret that secular culture continues to use Christmas as a vehicle to drive a shameful celebration of the worst kinds of self-indulgences and materialism.  Even the more refined aspects of our culture’s Christmas traditions are often little more than sappy sentimentalism.  You’re not alone if you wonder if we’re doing the right thing in our celebrations with our families, friends and churches.

Over the next few months you’ll hear many attempts to justify all the indulgence, wtih much said about the “real meaning of Christmas.”  Unfortunately, almost none of it will focus on the birth of CHrist or the reason for His incarnation.  And what little does focus on Christ, is such a tiny part, that it’s overshadowed by the massive emphasis the rest of the time on decidedly un-Christ like behavior and practices!  At best, the “Christmas” emphasis becomes peace, sharing, family, togetherness, or some other humanistic value.  Those values aren’t wrong, of course, but considered apart from the incarnation of Christ, they have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.”

Now, here is the dilema.  We as Believers have an opportunity to show those around us who Christ is and what He is about.  Gorging ourselves on a steady diet of “things” especially at Christmas does not show anyone who Christ is…rather the opposite opinion occurs.  I am as guilty as anyone in years past for over spending on gifts to my kids and other family members….but, in the past few years we have been pulling back the reigns to get Christmas back into focus as Who the “Holy-Day” is suppose to be about.  The world needs to see that we as Believers are more about celebrating Christ coming to earth, dying for our sins, and defeating death to rise again.  We are to prove by our life actions that we serve an almighty sovereign God that is in full control of all that we do.  It is hard to put into words the disgust I have right now with this retail-Christmas.  This borders on blasphemy to the name of Christ in what this holiday has become, but I will not go that far…yet.

I want to share an eye opening short story by an unknown author concerning Christ birth:

Mary’s Dream

author unknown

“I had a dream, Joseph. I don’t understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for our son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They’d gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts.

It was peculiar, though, because the presents weren’t for our son. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree, Joseph, right in their house. They’d decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on the top of the tree. It looked like an angel might look. Oh, it was beautiful.

Everyone was laughing and happy. They were all excited about the gifts. They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our son. I don’t think they even knew him. They never mentioned his name. Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someones birthday if they don’t know him? I had the strangest feeling that if our son had gone to this celebration he would have been intruding.

Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so full of cheer, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus – not to be wanted at his own birthday celebration. I’m glad it was only a dream. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real. “

So, I will leave us with the thought here out of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15,17:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a Believer have in common with an unbeliever?  Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

 

Listen up closely now, I am not saying don’t celebrate Christmas, however, when or if you do this year, keep the focus on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…all of it.  Give something to Him first and foremost…take nothing away from Him.  Make each get-to-gether a celebration honoring the Lord above all others.  Keep Christ on every breath you take…in every prayer uttered.  This can be the most memorable Christmas your family has ever experienced if we would all cut down on the spending for ourselves and make a tremendous increase in the honor and celebration of Jesus as Lord.  If you want to spend, help someone that needs your help and cannot help themselves.  Invite someone over this year for a Christmas meal that you would not normally invite over.  Give someone some clothes that really needs clothes.  Serve at a homeless shelter, food line or something of this kind.  This is the real Christmas story if we get right down to it.  Being about the Fathers work has nothing to do with us and especially us getting “things”.  Take time out to explore the Scriptures thoroughly about who Christ is, who our God is, what is it that our heavenly Father really wants from us, what this life is really all about.  We need clothes, food, shelter, possibly medical attention, and transportation…everything else is really wants more than needs.  I encourage you to get out of a small section of the New Testament and explore the entire Bible…this is the only way you will understand just how BIG our God really is this Holy season.

Merry Christmas to all of you…may the Lord richly bless your efforts to know Him better this holiday season.

 

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving!

Posted by Scott on November 27, 2008

In a time to be most thankful it brings me to Psalm 136.  We are to be most thankful to God in all things…why?  “His mercies endure forever.” 

Be thankful for His providence in our lives.

Be thankful for His love for His chosen ones before the foundations of the world.

Be thankful for His Son, Jesus, taking the punishment for His peoples sinfulness once and for all.

Be thankful for God’s love of His creation that He has provided a way unto salvation.

Be thankful for His revelation from Genesis to Revelation.

Be thankful for our God’s mighty hand that is our defense at all times.

Be thankful for each breath you take everyday.

Be thankful for sovereign grace on our life.

Be thankful that He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him during our most trying storms of life.

Be thankful that our God is good.

Be thankful that our God is above all others.

Be thankful that our God reigns supreme.

Be thankful that by His great wisdom the heavens were created.

Be thankful that He created the splendor of the colors in the Spring and Fall.

Be thankful that He gave us the Sun for both light and warmth.

Be thankful that He gave us the Moon and Stars to gaze upon at night.

Be thankful that our God is the one who sets Kings, Presidents, and other leaders in their positions and not man.

Be thankful that our God is the one who removes the same Kings, Presidents, and other leaders for His greater purposes.

Be thankful that our God gave us this land called America to worship Him freely and without hindrance.

Be thankful that our God rescues His people from their oppressors.

Be thankful that our God provides each and every meal that we will eat from beginning to end.

Be thankful that our God is the one Who brings about our salvation based on His Sovereign Will and not mans.

Be thankful to our God that He is firmly on His throne today and nothing surprises Him or is out of His control.

Be thankful in all things, for all people, at all times…for His mercy endures forever!

May anyone reading have a most blessed Thanksgiving!  May God’s blessings be upon your family this Holy season of the year.

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

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Happy Reformation Day! 499th Anniversary of the Great Reformation Beginning!

Posted by Scott on October 28, 2008

This October 31st, 2008 marks the 499th Anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Catholic Church in Germany. Through his sacrifice and courage to challenge the church at that time he made known that we can go before God without any human “go between”. Jesus Christ is our “go between” now. Please, enjoy the short article below as we celebrate another year this great reformation has survived.

Martin Luther

Luther Brings Faith and Grace to Everyday Life. Martin Luther’s great evangelism tool was the written word. Though Luther was famous as a preacher and teacher, he believed that everyone needed to build his or her own personal relationship with God through God’s word.

He translated the entire Bible into German (his native language), believing that every single person should be able to read well enough to read the Bible on his or her own. He also wrote the explanations in the Small Catechism, so that parents would have an simple way to teach their children the basics of their faith.

Luther had a complex and interesting life. The definitive biography is Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton (New American Library). John Osborne’s Luther (a play published by Criterion Books) was filmed in a version starring Stacey Keach, which is still available. But the important part of Luther’s life is the legacy he left to us of his overwhelming fascination with the study of God and God’s relationship to us. He based his view of God on a thorough rereading of the New Testament, from which come the key Lutheran beliefs of priesthood of believers (Hebrews 7, 9 , and 10) and justification by faith (Romans 3: 23).

The priesthood of believers includes all of us who are believers, and it means that each of us has the right to approach God directly through prayer and study without go-betweens and without wondering which of us is the most important to God: each of us is equally important to God. And in Christian community, we serve as priests to one another.

Justification by faith means that God loves us and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because he created us and we are his. Luther wrote, “In baptism, our sinful selves are drowned, and day by day a new self arises.” He encouraged us to remember our baptism every time we take a shower or wash our faces; God’s removal of our sins is that close and that constant. The knowledge of the closeness of God to us in every thing we say and do every day of our lives is Luther’s great gift to Christian life.

During Luther’s lifetime, he was the best-selling writer in Europe. What would our lives be like if Luther’s Small Catechism was at the top of the list of best selling books week-in and week-out?

More resources can be found at SundaySchool Lessons.

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The End of the Nation? Russia Chooses Death Over Life

Posted by Scott on October 7, 2008

Reports out of Russia indicate that the recent military clash with Georgia may have represented something more like desperation than opportunism.  Murray Feshbach of The Washington Post reports that, all things considered, Russia is actually close to a national collapse.

“Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power,” Feshbach reports.  “Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.”

The health crisis turns out to be a barometer of sorts — and a warning of a far greater disaster that looms.  Russia is falling into the rank of nations with the lowest life expectancy and highest rates of early death.  No one appears concerned enough to do anything.

As Feshbach reports:

Recent decades, most notably since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, have seen an appalling deterioration in the health of the Russian population, anchoring Russia not in the forefront of developed countries but among the most backward of nations.

This is a tragedy of huge proportions — but not a particularly surprising one, at least to me. I followed population, health and environmental issues in the Soviet Union for decades, and more recently, I have reported on diseases such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging the Russian population. I’ve visited Russia more than 50 times over the years, so I can say from firsthand experience that this national calamity isn’t happening suddenly. It’s happening inexorably.

According to U.N. figures, the average life expectancy for a Russian man is 59 years — putting the country at about 166th place in the world longevity sweepstakes, one notch above Gambia. For women, the picture is somewhat rosier: They can expect to live, on average, 73 years, barely beating out the Moldovans. But there are still some 126 countries where they could expect to live longer. And the gap between expected longevity for men and for women — 14 years — is the largest in the developed world.

The recent military incursion into Georgia, brutal as it was, may represent a futile attempt to show force while Russia still has force.  The number of young men of military age in the population is crashing — as is the number of young women who could give birth to future soldiers.

In order to understand this, consider this shocking headline from the St. Peterburg Times [Russia]:  “Experts — 64 Percent of Russian Pregnancies End in Abortion.”

As the paper reports:

The low birth rate remains one of the key reasons behind Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. According to official statistics, every fourth teenage girl in Russia has some form of gynecological ailment or reproductive health disorder.

Each year in Russia, more than 64 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, while in Western European countries the level is below 25 percent. By comparison, there are 10 to 15 abortions per 100 pregnancies in the U.K. and 5 or 6 per 100 in the Netherlands.

One in ten women who undergo an abortion in Russia is below 18 years of age, doctors say. Gynecological disease rates for teenage girls in 15-17 age group, have jumped by an alarming 30 percent in the last five years.

In a twist only Fyodor Dostoevsky might understand, Russian authorities, alarmed by the population collapse, declared 2008 as the ‘Year of the Family.’  Government campaigns to encourage bearing children were launched, but with no apparent impact.  In a stunning disconnect, the government still offers free abortions.

What country can live with aborting 64 percent of its babies?  How can such a nation survive?  It has brought death into its own wombs.  The babies who are born are the lucky few.  The vast majority never see life outside the womb.

In recent days The Los Angeles Times has reported that a small pro-life movement has begun in Russia, but without much influence as of yet:

A fledgling antiabortion movement is beginning to stir in Russia. Driven by a growing discussion of abortion as a moral issue and, most of all, by a government worried about demographics, doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to lower what is believed to be one of the world’s highest abortion rates..”

 

“The attitude has changed,” abortion practitioner Alexander Medvedev said. “Even in community clinics, doctors are trying to dissuade patients from abortion. Now teenagers come to see us with already two or three abortions, and it’s horrible.

The report indicates that some medical authorities and social observers are truly concerned, and exceptions for late-term abortions are harder to obtain. Nevertheless, the sheer number of abortions defies comprehension and appears unlikely to fall.  A reluctance to define the issue in moral terms means that authorities try to argue from the grounds of public health and population needs.  But once the moral ground is abandoned, so is the hope of any recovery.

Lincoln Steffens, an American apologist for the Bolshevik Revolution and the early Soviet regime, once infamously declared of the Soviets:  “I have been over to the future, and it works!”  Well, the current crisis in Russia may well be a warning of the future collapse of civilization.  Once a nation takes the Culture of Death into its heart, what rescue is possible?

________________________

The more familiar form of the quotation from Lincoln Steffens (“I have seen the future and it works!”) was not made known until after his death and may be a misquotation supplied by his widow.

 

 

For more on the article go to Al Mohler  and other articles by Dr. Al Mohler Jr.

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Serious Holiness in an Unholy World!

Posted by Scott on September 23, 2008

God takes worship towards Him from us very seriously.  The Israelites found this out some 2500 years ago.  In Malachi 3:16-18 God is stating His promise to return to His people if we will return to Him in unabashed holiness before Him.

Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I do not change”.

God does not like to be cheated, lied to, lied about, or talked badly about from anyone.  Today we have many inside and outside the church that think God is an old man with a hearing and seeing problem.  However, I testify to you today that God is no old man with a hearing or seeing problem.  He is seeing and hearing everything we do for Him and against Him.  Rest assured, our heavenly Father will not be mocked.

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

 17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. [a] I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.   Malachi 3:16-18

What is God calling us to do today?  “Repent of wickedness, habitual sinful life styles, filthy minds and mouths, our prideful attitudes, money hungry habits, our spoiled selfishness, and the theft of what is rightfully His.”  His calling is to return to Him in holiness, purity, righteousness, and all godliness.  God will return to us in favor if we will return to Him in holiness.  God is looking for us to honor Him with our very best, not our rags.  He wants us to serve Him with our very best, not what is left over. 

The Lord has promised mercy for those that remain solidly pure and holy before Him as we walk this land today.  This is a time of great defection from the ways of God and towards a philosophy of man centered salvation.  God has always preserved a remnant that will stoke the fires of holiness for His chosen people.  In these final days, we will witness a return from the few to holiness and purity.  As that desire planted long ago is stirred into a raging inferno of godliness in the midst of a vile and crooked land.

Even as the judgement and wrath of God falls down upon our country and people around us, God’s protection will be magnified even more.  Those caught up in desparate turmoil will wonder how and why we come through unscathed.  The testimony of the saints will find greater opportunities to be exposed. 

As Ezekial 18:1-32 tells of the contract between God’s holy people who will live verses the wicked who will die…7 points emerge for the righteous men of God to observe:

The righteous man….

1….does not worship idols!  The righteous man lives each moment of every day to honor and glorify God with his all.  Money, cars, houses, vacations, loose women, Vegas, clothes, retirement plans, jobs, businesses, travelling, sports, etc…..anything that can become an idol, the righteous man forces himself to be focused on God.

2….is not an adulterer!  He does not sleep around with other women other than his wife.  This is that simple.  The righteous man is a one woman man with eyes and heart for his wife only.

3….is merciful in all things.  The righteous man is merciful is the way he extends credit to people.  He does not take advantage of people especially the poor.  He acts with dignity and integrity at all times with people.  He exudes grace upon the people he deals with.

4….does not rob from the poor.  He seeks to feed and cloth the poor if financially capable.  His heart has sympathy or empathy for those with less than him.  He does not seek out to take from them as easy prey.

5….when capable and asked to loan something to someone, he does so without interest.  The righteous man does not loan money to his brother and charge him interest…he extends grace to his brother in need without charging him into the poor house. 

6….is honest and fair when passing judgement on someone.  The righteous man looks at the entire circumstances, listens to the person and renders a judgement based on the truth and wisdom given to him.  The righteous man has a gift called discernment empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to sift through what is being said to see what is really being done.

7….faithfully obeys the commands or decrees of his God.  The righteous man is like a well trained soldier receiving his commands from his General and carrying them out without wavering.

As our times get grossly worse the holy ones of God will become even more obvious to all those around.  As God draws us to Himself the desire in our hearts to be holy will become stronger.  I can sense that in my own life and many of those around me.  God takes His hand and places it upon my head and turns me in the direction He desires….that direction is towards Him.  

In this time of great apostasy us men need to remember a few things:

1. Be careful not to live closely to the world’s ways.  Yes, we live here, but we are to be a strange people.  We are to be looked upon like we are aliens from another planet.  Living too closely to the world will alter our minds to thinking like the world and ultimately killing our zest for Christ and a life of holiness.

2. Commit to serve God and Him alone.  Choose truth over philosophical lies of this worldly system.  This takes commitment like you have never experienced. 

As Thomas Watson has written, “Hypocrites are good only out of worldly designs.  They embrace the gospel for secular advantage and these will in time fall away.” 

This commitment to serving God starts within our family first.  We have a living breathing mission field within our home’s walls, yet, we usually neglect it in order to travel to some foreign land (nothing wrong with foreign missionaries).  When we arrive in heaven before our Lord He will not mention at first the ministry outside our home….He will address our success or failure within our home.  It is important to Him that we nurture, teach, and father our children in the ways of God.  Living out the holiness we are called to live before their young eyes.  They will know us warts and all, but they need to an example of their heavenly Father shining through towards them daily.

3. Be sincere in our faith in Jesus Christ.  Speak the truth, but also live it out before the world.

4. Love the Lord with the same kind of love that held Him on the cross.  This is a love that carries the believer beyond the fear of death and is the deliverer of true life.  The love mentioned here is a love that is not deterred by suffering if it will honor and glorify God.

5. Harden our hearts towards evil and wicked desires.  The devil will throw out “reproaches” in our path.  These are temptations that are to draw us in. 

Thomas Watson puts it this way:  “Reproaches are but assulae crusis, splinters of the cross.”

These failed temptations or reproaches upon the believer are as “crowns around our heads”.  Remember it is far better that men condemn us for holy and righteous than to have God damn us to hell for being wicked and vile like the unbelieving world.

6. Become a solid wall of grace.  This is an exciting grace that is contagious to other believers around us.  This type of grace is firm yet on the truth, but gracious in its delivery to others.

Men, we have only two real choices in this short life on earth:

Godliness or Worldliness

Which one will we choose.  As Joshua stated in 24:15:

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

The calling is clear, but will you choose to serve the Lord?

Great 2 part message on the holiness of God by Pastor Paul Washer (enjoy)!

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

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