Saturday, April 14, 2018

Is Abusing Children Sexually A Spiritual Encounter With God? Identifying & Responding To Fake News

            What do you do when a church leader describes sexual abuse of children as a spiritual encounter with God? What do we do when abuses against the Christian church goes viral on the internet?

            Recently a news flash accusing the Archbishop of the Catholic Church went viral on the internet. Apparently, this man claimed that Pedophilia Is ‘Spiritual Encounter With God:’1

One of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic Church says sexually abused children can experience “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” while being molested.
Australia’s most powerful clergy, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, says the Catholic practice of confession is satisfactory for dealing with pedophilia in the church as it helps priests absolve “their own guilt” after sexually abusing children.
Asked whether he was prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by Catholic pedophile priests, Archbishop Hart confirmed he was willing to serve prison time.  He also claimed the right to cover for pedophiles in the church is an “absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order.“
He made the shocking statement in response to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which stated there should be “no excuse, protection nor privilege” for Catholic clergy who failed to alert police of abuse within the church.
But Archbishop Hart disagreed and insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.

            Online news is gaining popularity. Harvard University quotes Pew Research Center’s finding that “people under age 50 get half of their news online. And for those under 30, online news is twice as popular as TV news.”2 But not everything that we read online is factual.

            Let us be diligent when we encounter derogatory news against Christianity. Beware of fake news websites and the detractors of Historic Christianity, whose intent is to spread lies in order to abuse Christians and Christianity.

            In fact, the news about the Archbishop of the Catholic Church is fake/false news. Take time to verify the credibility of the news that you read. Do not share anything and everything that you read. Respond only to the credible news items.

            There are quite a few fact-checking websites that identify fake news; some of which are:

            (1) www.snopes.com

            (2) HoaxSlayer.com

            (3) TruthOrFiction.com

            These fact-checking websites will enable us to verify the high-profile and international news. These websites may not be of much help in verifying the credibility of the local news – local church politics, accusations against your church leaders etc. Double-check or triple-check your local news with credible sources.

            Snopes.com has determined the news about the Australian Archbishop as fake, “Fake news web sites gave a blatantly manufactured account of a statement by Archbishop Denis Hart.” Furthermore, Snopes offers a detailed description of this fake news:3

In 2017, after a five-year investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Australia, a specially-appointed Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse published their findings.
The report included a section on criminal justice reform, including a recommendation that clergy members become legally-mandated reporters of abuse, even if they obtain the information during the rite of confession.
The notorious fake news web site Neon Nettle reported that Archbishop Denis Hart, a leading member of the Catholic hierarchy in Australia, had rejected the confessional proposal and shockingly, described sexual abuse as a spiritual encounter:
Australia’s most powerful clergy [member], Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, says he’s prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by pedophile priests. He made the shocking statement in response to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse saying there should be “no excuse, protection nor privilege” for clergy who failed to alert police of abuse.
Hart insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.
Neon Nettle correctly reported that the commission recommended “that there should be no excuse, protection nor privilege in relation to religious confessions” when it comes to the legal obligation to report suspected child abuse.
However, the claim that Archbishop Hart called sexual abuse a “spiritual encounter with God” is blatantly false. Despite that detail, the claim has been the basis of many subsequent republications and reiterations of Neon Nettle’s article — including one published by the equally dubious YourNewsWire.com — in February 2018.
In reality, Archbishop Hart said that confession, not sexual abuse, was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.” In a statement released in August 2017, Hart wrote:
Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest. It is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognised in the Law of Australia and many other countries. It must remain so here in Australia. Outside of this all offences against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.
It is true, however, that Archbishop Hart told Australian media that he would be willing to face criminal conviction and go to jail rather than report to police information about abuse that he had received in confession:
When asked if he would go to jail to uphold the sanctity of the confessional, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, told ABC Radio Melbourne he would.
“I’ve said that I would [go to jail.] I believe that this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order.”
Archbishop Hart denied suggestions priests would be above the law.
“I would go to extreme lengths outside of the confessional to make sure that the law was observed,” he said. “But there are some matters which are of a higher order, things to do with God.”
In its proposal to change Australian law and remove the confessional exemption from the obligation to report child sexual abuse, the Royal Commission said the right to religious freedom is “not absolute,” and should be limited in the interests of public safety:
We understand the significance of religious confession — in particular, the inviolability of the confessional seal to people of some faiths, particularly the Catholic faith. However, we heard evidence of a number of instances where disclosures of child sexual abuse were made in religious confession, by both victims and perpetrators.
We are satisfied that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt. We heard evidence that perpetrators who confessed to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness again.
…We have concluded that the importance of protecting children from child sexual abuse means that there should be no exemption from the failure to report offence for clergy in relation to information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.
            To conclude, the Internet allows the presence of the good, bad, and ugly. As diligent Christians, we should verify the credibility of every [contentious] news item we encounter on the internet and then respond appropriately. Let us not waste our precious time and energy in responding to the fake news on the internet and in the process let us not slander the names and reputations of organizations and individuals who have been falsely accused.  

Endnotes:

1http://yournewswire.com/catholic-archbishop-pedophilia-god/

2https://www.summer.harvard.edu/inside-summer/4-tips-spotting-fake-news-story

3https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/archbishop-pedophilia-spiritual-encounter/            

Friday, April 6, 2018

No Hell, Pope?

            Pope Francis has a penchant to be embroiled in controversies.

            In an interview published on March 28, 2018, Pope told his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari that there is no hell. He also claimed that the condemned souls just disappear, “In another interview with his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis claims that Hell does not exist and that condemned souls just "disappear." This is a denial of the 2,000-year-old teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of Hell and the eternal existence of the soul.

            The interview between Scalfari and the Pope was published March 28, 2018 in La Repubblica. The relevant section on Hell was translated by the highly respected web log, Rorate Caeli.”1

            This, apparently, is the transcript of Pope Francis’ interview with Scalfari, “Scalfari says to the Pope, "Your Holiness, in our previous meeting you told me that our species will disappear in a certain moment and that God, still out of his creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?"

            Pope Francis says, “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls."”2

            Quite immediately, on March 29, 2018, the Vatican debunked this report, “In a statement released on Mar. 29, after Scalfari's report garnered worldwide attention, the Vatican said:

            "The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews. What is reported by the author in today’s article [in La Repubblica] is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."”3

            Whether the Pope believes in hell or not is not the matter at hand. Hell, if it exists, would not cease to exist just because Pope Francis does not believe in it.

            But hell should exist because God is a just and a loving God. Consider my thoughts from a previous blog entitled, ‘Hell In The Presence Of A Loving God:’4

We believe a loving God would not send HIS children, even under the pretext of unbelief, to eternal torment. How would a loving parent gift his child with prolonged suffering? Would the parent not do all within his means to prevent this horrendous occurrence? This is our painful dilemma. In other words, we question the credibility of God’s love with respect to hell.
True love respects and educates, but never enslaves. A parent who truly loves his child will educate him of good and evil. A parent will do “everything” within his power and will to stop the child from pursuing evil, but that “everything” excludes enslaving his child. If a child is bent on pursuing the path of evil, the parent will choose preventive actions, but will never imprison the child into solitary confinement. The circumstantially handicapped parent may opt to allow the child to have his way; this is the respect the parent shows to the disobedient child’s cognizant volition. A defeated and emotionally fatigued parent will allow the child to continue in willful disobedience. Nevertheless, the parents’ love for the child will never diminish even if the child willfully rebels to disobey.
The father of the prodigal son not only heeds to the property share request of the son, but he goes a step further by not preventing his son from departing to a distant country with his share of wealth (Luke 15:12-13). The son willfully disobeys the loving father, and departs. The loving father expectantly longs for his son’s return and when he does return, the father rushes to welcome the son even before he repents. This is father’s love. A parent’s love will never cease and always hope for the best, but at the same time, a parent’s love will respect the child’s conscious decision.
Was it not C.S Lewis who opined that there are two groups of people in this world of which one group would acknowledge and believe in Christ, bend their knees to HIM and say ‘Your will be done,’ and God would have this group living with HIM unto eternity (in heaven). To the other group who refuse to acknowledge and believe in Christ and bend their knees to God, HE will say ‘your will be done’ and grant them their wish to be away from HIM (in hell). God keeps those who desire to be with HIM, but respects and allows those who reject HIM to be away from HIM. This is true love – a love that provides all, but refuses to enslave. (Please remember the Bible’s proclamation that God has given mankind enough evidence to believe in HIM.)
Let’s travel back to the creation account in Genesis. God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of it (Genesis 2:9, 16-17). Even though it was a command, Adam and Eve were given the freedom to accept or reject God’s command. Thus God exhibited true love, and HE desires mankind to love HIM. True love can only exist in the conscious reality of freedom. Freedom to accept or reject the lover is intrinsic in true love. Therefore, God’s love for mankind warrants the presence of heaven and hell.
God’s justice can also be questioned with respect to hell. How can a just God eternally punish HIS children for the sin of unbelief committed during the specific period of time of their existence in this world? Isn’t the eternal punishment disproportionate to the sin committed in time? This is another painful predicament we struggle with.
Human life was designed to be with God unto eternity through mutual love. Sin separated man and God. God, in HIS foreknowledge, designed a way out of this predicament through the one time sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. HE has also done everything for mankind to believe in HIM, so mankind will be without excuse against God. When man refuses to believe in Christ and thereby rejects God, God simply allows man to be away from HIM unto eternity. In other words, the creational intent is an eternal fellowship with God or an eternal banishment from God. Mankind makes the choice, and God honors that choice. This is Justice. Therefore, God’s justice warrants heaven and hell.

            We could consider this theme from another perspective as well. Consider my thoughts from a previous blog entitled, ‘Why The Hell:’5

Instead of asking “why should there be a hell?” we could ask “what would happen if there is no hell?”
So if there is no hell, there would be…
No Punishment & No Justice
Hell is the perfect punishment for evil. Since evil exists, punishment should prevail. If there is no hell, there will be no perfect punishment for evil…
Sovereignty of Evil
Evil people prosper in this time and age (cf. Psalm 73: 3). If evil people prosper, the weak and innocent would suffer deeply…When evil rules, evil would be the superior moral. If there is no consequence for evil deeds i.e. if there is no hell, good cannot be the superior moral (good need not be stronger than evil). If evil rules over good, evil would be the sole standard for life. Hence evil will pulverize the good.   
Amoral World
…If evil is sovereign, this world would be amoral (evil would be the only superlative moral). Wouldn’t morality cease when the right-wrong moral distinction is erased?  
…Predicated on the fact that life is more valuable than materials, it might be of less significance to the victim and the society if a thief who robbed a pen was not convicted of his crime. But it is of a great significance if a murderer of a child remains unpunished for his crime.
The thief who habitually steals pens could progressively deteriorate into robbing millions. During this progressive deterioration, the thief could also become a killer. Thus the possibilities for the lesser evil to transform into greater evil are endless…If evil rules, violence would be rampant and peace would cease, for the world we live in would be amoral.
God’s Non-Existence
A world without hell could only be postulated under the condition that God does not exist i.e. an atheistic paradigm. It is very reasonable for evil to prosper and justice and peace to be non-existent in the atheistic worldview.
The atheistic paradigm would not (or cannot) offer any reasonable or logical answers to the problem of evil. Such is the moral bankruptcy of atheism.
Ask an atheist to explain the presence of evil. More often than not, they would quote Richard Dawkins in his work “River Out of Eden” and say “there is no such thing as evil.”…So an atheist who denies God’s existence will deny evil and will deny hell. He has no other option. So if there is no hell, there is no god.
Conclusion
If there is no hell, then:
1. Evil would be unpunished.
2. Evil would be sovereign (rule over good).
3. World would be amoral.
4. There should be no God (for hell is only plausible if God exists).
But this is the existential reality…We are not living in a world where evil is sovereign. We are living in a world where God is sovereign. Although Satan is the temporary ruler of this world, the sovereign God is in total control.
We know that God is in total control since our world is not amoral. There are punishments for evils. Evil does not rule over good. 
Good still rules over evil. This is precisely why a good number of people enjoy a rather peaceful existence. The presence of God entails peace.
God has temporarily allowed evil to reign. But HE has assured us that not a hair from our head will perish.
God is good. God does not tolerate evil.
If we repent of our sins, believe and remain in the Lord and Savior Christ, we will be saved. Those who do not believe in Christ remain evil, since their sins remain unforgiven because of their conscious rejection of Christ.
Such an evil person sins against an infinite God. Sins against an infinite God mandate an infinite punishment in the form of hell. Hell then is the eternal abode of all those who reject Christ.
In case you have not received Christ yet, please pray and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your God and savior. I pray that you repent of your sins and ask Christ to forgive you. The merciful and loving Lord will forgive you and you will be with God forever and ever. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Endnotes:

1https://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/pope-francis-there-no-hell?utm_source=sumome&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=sumome_share

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2013/02/hell-in-presence-of-loving-god.html

5http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2016/02/why-hell.html


Websites last accessed on 6 April 2018.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Nature & Significance Of Christ’s Resurrection

            Resurrection is an act of rising from the dead. Several instances of the resurrection are mentioned in the Bible.

            Christ’s resurrection is much unlike the other resurrections mentioned in the Bible. If Christ was merely raised from the dead, HIS resurrection would have been similar to that of the other resurrections e.g. the resurrection of Lazarus. But Christ’s resurrection was more than a mere rising from the dead. Sean McDowell, Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, differentiates Christ’s resurrection from the other resurrections mentioned in the Bible:1

1. Resurrection Is Not Immortality of the Soul. Greek philosophers saw the body as the prison house of the soul. The material world was considered corrupt, fallen, and evil. Thus, the goal of salvation was to escape the physical realm and to be freed from its shackles. But in Hebrew thought, the material world is considered good. The soul without the body is incomplete. A human being is a body and soul in unity.

2. Resurrection Is Not Reincarnation. Eastern religions teach reincarnation, the rebirth of the self (consciousness, soul, mind, etc.) after the death of the body…Depending on the specific tradition, the goal is to escape the cycle of reincarnation and experience nirvana or personal annihilation. In contrast, the biblical view is that human beings live one life, and then are raised to be judged by God (Hebrews 9:27).

3. Resurrection Is Not Resuscitation. …the Bible records many instances of people coming back to life. Elijah raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24). Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44). Peter raised Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42). And Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). But here is the difference between these people and Jesus: They would each die again, but Jesus was raised to immortality and glory.

4. Resurrection Is Not Translation. The Bible records at least two instances where people were taken directly to God without dying. Enoch lived 365 years and then was taken up directly to be with God (Genesis 5:21-24). The prophet Elijah was taken to heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). These are not examples of resurrection because there is no evidence either experienced death.

So, what is resurrection? …it is not a return to the present physical existence with all its limitations. Resurrected bodies are transformed, incorruptible, and eternal (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Jesus was not resuscitated, reincarnated, or translated. And his soul did not escape to an immaterial realm. Jesus was resurrected—never to die again. And since Jesus is the firstfruits of those who are yet to come, if we trust in Christ, we too will one day have transformed, resurrected bodies and be able to experience eternity with Christ and the Church in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21-22). (Emphasis Mine).

            A complexity needs to be resolved when we discuss the Lord’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was rather unique in the sense that HE possessed a glorified resurrected body with material properties. (A fully glorified body will not contain any material properties.)

            The post-resurrection appearance of Christ to HIS disciples (more specifically to Thomas) indicates Christ’s possession of a glorified body with material properties. Christ’s disciples embraced HIS feet when HE appeared to them after HIS resurrection (Matthew 28:9). In another instance, Christ appealed to HIS disciples to see and feel the presence of the nail marks and the spear wound in HIS body, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord…Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”” (John 20:19-20, 24-27, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            But Christ’s body was not a completely material body after HIS resurrection. It was a glorified body albeit with material properties.

            Christ appeared to HIS disciples while they were behind locked doors. So Christ may have either walked right through the locked door or HE may have walked through the walls of that house. This suggests that Christ possessed a glorified body that transcended the normal laws of physical existence.

            Why was Christ’s body not a fully glorified body even after HIS resurrection? We can resolve this complexity by bearing in mind that Christ’s resurrection and ascension were two separate events. For instance, when we, the believers of Christ, resurrect, our bodies will be transformed into a fully glorified body in one step.

            However, since Christ’s resurrection and ascension were two separate events, it is quite plausible that Christ attained HIS glorified body in a two-step process i.e. a glorified body with material properties after the resurrection and a totally glorified body sans material properties either before or during ascension.

            Christ’s resurrected body was yet to undergo a complete transformation to a glorified body prior to HIS ascension (and become the “spiritual body” that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:44). This was necessary since Christ’s glorified body with material properties helped erase HIS disciples’ doubts as well.

            This may have been a reason as to why Christ’s body was not a fully glorified body prior to HIS ascension. Therefore, to reiterate, Christ would have attained a fully glorified body either before or during HIS ascension.

            It is also quite plausible that Christ’s glorified body had material properties to indicate that Christ’s resurrection was a physical and a bodily resurrection and not a spiritual resurrection as some detractors of Historic Christianity may contend.  

            What is the significance of Christ’s resurrection?

            Christianity is relevant only because Christ resurrected. Christ’s resurrection was so significant that had Christ not resurrected, Christianity would be irrelevant. Apostle Paul emphasized that Christianity would be useless if Christ did not resurrect, “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, NIV).

            Christ’s resurrection is very important because it symbolized a total victory over death. Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6: 23), overcoming death through resurrection or death’s inability to hold Christ signified a complete annihilation of death and the forces of evil.

            Christ resurrected to judge the living and the dead. Christ’s resurrection is not merely significant to Christians, but it is of utmost significance to the non-Christians as well. Judgment of everyone who’s been in existence is intricately linked with Christ’s resurrection.

            Christ was raised from the dead to judge the living and the dead, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31, NIV cf. 2 Timothy 4:1).

            Those who believe in Christ have the incomparably great power. Christ’s resurrection ensures that we, who believe in Christ, have this incomparably great power that God used to raise Christ from death (Ephesians 1:19-20). This new resurrection power is for us to gain greater victories over sin and the forces of evil so that our ministry in HIS vineyard is according to HIS will and power.  

            Since Christ was raised from the dead, we too shall be raised from the dead. So may we continue doing the Lord’s work in faith that we and those whom we, by the grace of God, bring into God’s Kingdom will be raised from the dead to live with HIM forever.

            The Lord’s risen and HE is risen indeed! Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31, RSV).

Endnotes:


1http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/4-misconceptions-about-resurrection-and-the-truth, last accessed on 31st March 2018. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Christ Descended Into Hell? How Do We Understand This Doctrine?

            When the second person of the blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, added humanity to HIS being, the highest prince became a pauper for you and me. HE who had no sin, became sin so that you and I may become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is what Good Friday is all about.

            Good Friday is good because Christ died for us so that we may live forever if we believe in Christ. Having said this, complicated doctrines that are associated with Christ’s death deserve our attention for a better comprehension.

            One such doctrine is that of Christ descending to hell (hades). If you are accustomed to reading the Apostles’ Creed during your worship service, you would have affirmed your belief in Christ as the one who descended into hell, “I believe in…Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell…” (Emphasis Mine).

            This doctrine is connected to certain biblical texts (Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-19 & 4:4-6). But this is a controversial doctrine since the Bible does not offer a clear or an unambiguous explanation. Moreover, as Millard J. Erickson asserts in his work, Christian Theology (Second Edition), this doctrine was not found in the earliest versions of the Apostles’ Creed rather it made its entry into the Creed in 390 A.D.

            The first controversy that requires clarity is whether Christ descended into Hades or whether HE descended into hell. Hades and hell need not be construed as synonyms.

            Some versions of the Apostles’ Creed state this doctrine as, “He descended into Hades.” Other versions of the Apostles’ Creed will read as, “He descended into hell.”

             William Lane Craig, while referring to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, offers an explanation for this distinction between hades and hell, “Hades is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Sheol. In the Old Testament Sheol is the realm of the departed dead. It’s the underworld of departed spirits. The Greek word for this is Hades. This is a different word than hell. This rich man is not in hell; he’s in Hades, which is the intermediate state that precedes the final resurrection. When people die, the righteous go to be with Christ, where they will await their resurrection from the dead. The damned go to Hades, where they are in a disembodied state where they await their resurrection to final judgment. Only then are people ushered in to their final state, which is heaven or hell.”1

            Regarding the controversial doctrine of Christ descending into Hades or hell, Dr. Millard J. Erickson, in an article in 'Christianity Today' entitled 'Did Jesus Really Descend to Hell?', advises that it is wiser to not be dogmatic about doctrines that are not clearly explained by the biblical texts:2

…a few years back at one Christian college, a series of chapel messages on the Apostles' Creed had to omit this item, because none of the 12 professors of Bible and theology believed it. Actually the statement is not found in the earliest form of the Apostles' Creed. It echoes Acts 2:31, and seems to be there simply to make the point that Jesus' death was real and complete. Jesus went to hades, which in the Greek signifies the world of the departed—paradise for some, pain for others. When the Apostles' Creed took its English form in the sixteenth century, "hell" meant hades as such, rather than the final state of the lost (which Jesus called gehenna), as it always is today. So, should those who accept the Bible as their supreme authority for belief hold to the Creed's doctrine on this point?
Scripture tells us very little about Jesus' state between his death and resurrection. The most commonly cited biblical passages are Acts 2:31 ; Ephesians 4:8-10 ; 1 Peter 4:6; and, most importantly, 1 Peter 3:18-20. Ephesians 4 is likely a reference to the Incarnation, and 1 Peter 4:6 could apply to any preaching of the gospel. But numerous interpretations of 1 Peter 3:18-20 exist. Some say the 1 Peter 3 passage should not be taken literally—that it is symbolic, conveying in graphic form the idea that redemption is universal in its extent. This, however, involves a more spiritualized hermeneutic than usually practiced by evangelicals.
Others contend that this refers to a descent by Jesus into the realm of the dead between his death and resurrection, and an actual preaching to its occupants, either offering salvation to them or declaring his own triumph over death and judgment upon those who in their earthly life did not respond to God. This interpretation, however, seems in conflict with the rest of Jesus' life and ministry—and with the context of the passage, which emphasizes a faithful, gentle witness, giving a reason for one's faith, even in the face of opposition. At the same time, the non-literal interpretation has difficulty accounting adequately for the reference to Noah, unless the preaching was restricted only to people from Noah's time, which seems strange. It also appears to conflict with the theological context, or how our interpretation fits with other, more clearly established doctrines. Here we encounter biblical references teaching the finality of death over and against any opportunity for salvation, at least since the time of Christ.
Many consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) pertinent to the question, as are much of Psalm 49 and Revelation 20:11-15. Hebrews 9:27 indicates a close linkage between death and judgment, with nothing mentioned as intervening. And Jesus' statement to the thief on the cross—"today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:42,43)—also is relevant.
One other interpretation, held by Augustine and defended strongly by several evangelicals, seems more promising. In this view, Christ preached "in spirit" through Noah as Noah built the ark. This was a message of repentance and righteousness, given to unbelieving people who were then on earth but now are "spirits in prison" (i.e., in hell).
While this reference to spirits in prison is not completely natural, this view fits better with the other considerations. It also is supported by 1 Peter 1:10-12, which speaks of the Spirit of Christ in the prophets who spoke. While none of the interpretations is totally without difficulty, one might conclude that this is the most adequate reading of the relevant data.
Robert Mounce, in his commentary Living Hope, says that the 1 Peter 3:18-20 passage is "widely recognized as perhaps the most difficult to understand in all of the New Testament." Even if one holds that Jesus did descend into hell to offer salvation to those who had lived on earth before him, this special effort does not apply to those who lived and died later.
There is one thing of which we can be certain: Jesus' death was a literal event, not some temporary state of unconsciousness. Hence, in his resurrection, Christ did indeed conquer death—both in its spiritual and physical forms.
Bible-believing Christians can allow themselves to differ on the nature of Jesus' descent into hell. Some will be able to recite this part of the Apostles' Creed with conviction, while others may choose to remain silent.
         There are essential and non-essential doctrines. The doctrine of Christ descending into Hades is a non-essential doctrine for a simple reason that it does not affect our salvation. Moreover, any discussion or debate about this doctrine is germane to the Christian community and not the non-Christian. Furthermore, this non-essential doctrine cannot impede honest seekers from believing in Christ.

           Hence, the saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” applies perfectly to this situation. In other words, this is a doctrine that Christians can agree to disagree, and still maintain perfect harmony with Christ and with each other.

Endnotes:

1https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/practical-issues/what-happens-when-we-die/


2http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/february7/31.74.html     

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More Garbage From Oprah Winfrey In “A Wrinkle In Time”

            The movie “A Wrinkle in Time” focuses on girls and it urges them to pursue their passions, “…Tapping into your light. Letting it shine no matter the circumstances.”1 Oprah Winfrey, who stars in this movie, echoes a similar message.

            How should Christians, especially young Christian girls, absorb this message? Is Oprah making sense? Georgi Boorman’s article in The Federalist addresses this topic.2 Read on…   

            “A Wrinkle in Time” is getting panned by critics, but that hasn’t deterred Oprah Winfrey from proselytizing the message of the movie as she sees it.
            A 14-year-old girl asked Oprah for advice for young girls “who want to make a difference in the world.” This girl raised over $50,000 to send other girls to see the movie, which Oprah stars in.
            To answer her, Oprah tapped into the prophetic gift that’s bestowed on all celebrities with the requisite daytime talk shows and book clubs:
            “The highest honor on earth that you will ever have is the honor of being yourself. And your only job in the world is to figure out, that’s what this movie is about — people think your job is to get up and go and raise money and take care of your family — that’s an obligation that you have, but your only true job as a human being is to discover why you came, why you are here.
            And every one of us has an internal guidance, a GPS, an intuition, a heart print, a heartsong that speaks to us. Your only job is to be able to listen and discern when it’s speaking versus when your head and your personality is speaking. And if you follow that, you will be led to the highest good for you. Always.”
            When a sweet pile of word garbage is dumped into your ears like that, you might wonder how the daytime prophetess could possibly have the millions of followers she does. Really, her message isn’t that much different than the typical self-worship your kids hear in Disney movies. “Follow your heart,” and “be yourself” are the proverbs of the age.
            It doesn’t sound as bad when it’s put into a story, because those stories all have happy endings. But when Oprah lays it out like a Sunday morning sermon, it’s easier to see how terrible this advice really is.
            Let’s review, starting with Oprah’s idea of “highest honor.”
            The highest honor on earth is not to be yourself, because you are wretched: You lie and you cheat and you hurt even the people that you love. You break your promises. You are selfish and greedy.
            Sure, you have a few talents, a few crumbs of wisdom, a few bright spots in your totally depraved heart. But are they enough to nominate you for “the highest honor?” No. This is advice from a bubble world devoid of red editing pens and full of participation trophies — the world millennials were raised in, and that our own kids are being raised in.
            Telling someone they’re a double rainbow of awesomeness is not going to encourage them to improve. Actually, studies have shown that most subpar workers believe they’re doing a good job. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, and we need less of this, not more. But this only comes with honesty about our shortcomings, not the lie that simply “being ourselves” is worthy of the highest honor.
            Maybe what Oprah really means is that we shouldn’t be “fake.” We shouldn’t try to be someone we’re not. Yes, honesty is honorable, but being honest has to include acknowledging how awful we are. And if we acknowledge how awful we are, we quickly realize that being our “authentic selves” shouldn’t earn us any special honors.
            Oprah would have you claim that you are the highest value and set yourself up as a god. Pride is the original sin, and you might remember it didn’t work out so well for the first guy who tried it.
            This idolatry is just the beginning of Oprah’s bad advice, though. She goes on to claim that our only true job in the world is to “discover who we are, why we’re here.” It’s not wrong to seek answers to those questions. Actually finding that answer, realizing who you are in relation to God, will ultimately lead you to eternal life. But Oprah isn’t preaching the gospel here. She’s already implied that this spiritual journey of sorts is personal, and so everyone’s answer is unique. You only need follow your “internal GPS” to find your “highest good.”
            But your highest good can’t be found by geocaching the depths of your heart. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick — who can understand it?”
            The problem isn’t that Oprah is telling this young woman to find what’s good for her. She should. The problem is that she’s telling her to follow a compass with a false north, and it will lead her in the opposite direction of her “highest good,” or for that matter, the good of everyone her life touches.
            Oprah is perhaps the world’s foremost purveyor of “sola feels” doctrine: the idea that truth is “personal” and subjective, and that feelings should be your ultimate guide in life. But the heart doesn’t lead us to what is good, for us or anyone else — it is ever inclined towards evil. Oprah believes Jesus came to “show us the way of the heart.” Well, here’s what Jesus had to say about the heart: “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”
            If you make “finding yourself” and “following your heart” your chief priority in life, above family, friends, work, and everything else, it will be your destruction. Sure, Oprah says making money to care for your family is “an obligation,” but what if your heartsong is telling you to abandon your job and your family to become an artist with a live-in lover in Paris? Should you follow your heartsong then?
            There is no “heartsong.” There is no inner voice guiding you toward your highest good, because the “heart” is just a synonym for our feelings. A feeling about something is not enough to make an informed decision on whether a given action is good or bad, and it certainly shouldn’t be the deciding factor in any significant life choices.
            Perhaps that is why so many young people seem directionless — passionless, even. Maybe it’s why they are paralyzed by indecision, drifting from job to job, never quite satisfied with what they’re doing, consistently putting off milestones like marriage and childrearing. Perhaps that is why they take “gap years” to “discover themselves,” as Oprah encourages. If you sit around waiting for your heart to tell you what to do, you’ll be directionless forever.
            And yet, Oprah not only encourages listening to the murmurs of your flighty heart, but prioritizing that murmur above what your head or “your personality” tell you. Essentially, she is telling this young woman to feel instead of think.
            It doesn’t get more “sola feels” than that. Your mind and your personality are going to do a much better job guiding your life and helping you change the world than the whimsical notes of your “heartsong.” Finding work that suits your personality and engages your mind will be far more satisfying than straining to hear the imaginary whispers of your heart. Working hard at that job, whether it’s the job that puts food on your family’s table or not, will do more to change the world than all the feels you could possibly feel.
            Work that suits you won’t always be fun. Even “dream jobs” are grueling at times, and that’s yet another reason not to follow your heart. Your heart wants to be thrilled and fully content all the time, and it will roam from place to place, person to person, looking for that fulfillment until the day you die. Your feelings can prompt you to take ridiculous risks, to break other’s hearts, and to abandon responsibilities.
            So you should do the opposite, as Jordan Peterson suggests, and “take some bloody responsibility.” That is your calling, and your “internal GPS” won’t lead you to it. Do right by your family, your friends, your employers and your community, and you will benefit from it, perhaps more than anyone else. Regardless of whether you find a vocation beyond being a mother, father, provider, or simply a good citizen, responsibility anchors your life when a torrent of deceptive feelings would try to uproot it.
            If there is a “true job,” it’s to take responsibility for your life, for your sins, for the people who depend on you.
            Ultimately, the concept of responsibility, of “obligation,” is what cracks Oprah’s crackpot advice wide open. If our only job is to follow our hearts, how do we know that this traditional “job” of making money and caring for family is an obligation? Isn’t that an idea imposed on us from the outside?
            She even uses the GPS as an analogy for this internal “guidance,” but it seems she doesn’t actually know how a GPS works. The receiver triangulates your position based on the position of at least three satellites orbiting the earth. Precise distances from the satellites must be known for your receiver to tell you where you are. A receiver out of sight of the satellites can’t tell you your location, where your destination is, or how to reach it. You need objective data from above to figure that out. So if Oprah was true to her own analogy, she’d be telling us to turn to objective, external truth, not to our hearts.
            America’s life guru can’t fully adopt her own garbage advice. Reality is poking through from the back of that underutilized mind. Yes, we have obligations imposed on us from society and from God’s law, and those obligations derive from eternal, objective truths. Living by those truths will bring both personal fulfillment and positive change in the world.
            Morality is a blessing no “heartsong” can match, and we’d do well to let it guide us.
Endnotes:

1http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Culture/wrinkle-time-director-advises-young-girls-light-shine/story?id=53548795


2http://thefederalist.com/2018/03/09/oprahs-advice-to-follow-your-heartsong-is-garbage-heres-why/  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stephen Hawking In A Christian’s Perspective (Why Stephen Hawking Should Inspire Every Christian)

            Stephen Hawking died yesterday at the age of 76. He was not an ordinary human being. He was not even a mere intellectual. He was beyond exceptional and extraordinary. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge for 30 years, a position that was once held by none other than Sir Isaac Newton.
       
            Hawking was exceptional and extraordinary more so because of his outlook on life, rather than his academic excellence. His life should inspire anyone facing adversities to live their life to the best of their abilities, despite their pain and suffering. Stephen Hawking was an epitome of a warrior, who after losing life’s basic, abundant and precious pleasures at an early age of 21, still lived to achieve greatness, despite not believing in God.

            He fought valiantly against a dreaded disease. He refused to succumb to the disease that had already deprived him of enjoying life to its fullest.

            “Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous scientist, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at age 21. That disease usually leads to death within three years of diagnosis, making Hawking’s almost half-century experience with ALS all the more amazing.

            Add to this the remarkable productivity of Hawking’s work as a scientist and public intellectual. Confined to a wheelchair most of those years, he has been dependent upon a breathing tube for years now. No longer able to speak, he has communicated for several years through a special computer device that allows him to choose words as the machine follows his cues. Most recently, those cues are communicated only through voluntary twitches of his cheek. It can take him up to ten minutes to compose a single sentence.

            This has not kept him from writing or co-authoring several best-selling books, including his most famous work, A Brief History of Time. That book has sold over 10 million copies worldwide…,” says Albert Mohler Jr. - the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.1

            At his 75th birthday celebration, Stephen Hawking’s poignant speech, wherein he recollected the onset of his disease and his response to it, moved his audience to tears. He said, “I fell over and had great difficulty getting up. At first I became depressed. I seemed to be getting worse very rapidly. There didn't seem any point working on my PhD because I didn't know I would live long enough to finish it. But then the condition developed more slowly and I began to make progress in my work… After my expectations had been reduced to zero, every new day became a bonus and I began to appreciate everything I did have. While there is life, there is hope…Our picture of the universe has changed a lot in the last 50 years and I am happy if I have made a small contribution…”2

            Sadly, Hawking did not believe in God. However, at a recent lecture in Cambridge, he spoke about the God factor – a form of intelligence that was actually behind the creation of the universe, “Presenting himself before students at the University of Cambridge, the world-famous scientist declared that his years of research on the creation of the cosmos have led him to isolate a strange scientific factor which he says is in many ways contrary to the universal laws of physics.

            This strange phenomenon which he names the God factor, would be at the origin of the creation process and would have played a great role in determining the actual form of the Universe.” (Emphasis Mine).3

            Stephen Hawking’s view on the nature of human consciousness and the universe changed drastically when his brother, who was clinically dead for 43 minutes after a heart attack, had a near-death experience. Hawking said, “My brother has always been a role model for me. His rational, cunning and no non-sense mind has shaped my personality into the person I am today and has led me into the study of the fascinating world of physics. But since his accident last October, he has come back a changed man” he recalled.

            “He has told me of the existence of a sentient being, of another world we mortals are unaware of, he has told me of GodModern science relies on the perception that consciousness lies within the human brain, but what my brother experienced during his clinical death, I cannot explain. Does consciousness lie outside of the human body? Is the human brain just a receptor, capable of receiving the “consciousness wave” as AM/FM radios receive radio waves? These are questions modern science has not yet answered and could redefine our view of the Universe and modern physics completely.” (Emphasis Mine).4

            Who knows Stephen Hawking better than his own mother? Yet she did not believe everything that Hawking said.

            Hawking’s mother Isobel Hawking (1915-2013) said, “Not all the things Stephen says probably are to be taken as gospel truth. He’s a searcher, he is looking for things. And if sometimes he may talk nonsense, well, don’t we all? The point is, people must think, they must go on thinking, they must try to extend the boundaries of knowledge; yet they don’t sometimes even know where to start. You don’t know where the boundaries are, do you?”5

            If you allow Stephen Hawking’s words to move you away from God, then do not blame Hawking, but blame yourself. Just as how God allowed Hawking to exist, HE has also sustained the existence of many sincere Christian scientists who have debunked everything that Hawking had said. So take time to read, understand and assimilate what these Christian scientists have to say.

            Why can’t Hawking’s life inspire us to greater heights? Although he did not believe in God, he did not succumb to the evil of the disease that he was suffering from. He still lived his life to the best of his abilities.

            If Hawking can live his life to its fullest despite not believing in God, how much more can we, who believe in God and receive HIS sustaining power and grace, live our lives for the sake of HIS glory and HIS glory alone? Think about this.

            It was God who created Hawking. It was God who sustained him with the much needed advanced technology to aid him in his pursuit of academic excellence. If God was so merciful and compassionate with one of his creations, and if God did not judge him and pour his wrath and scorn upon Hawking while he was on earth, why should Christians condemn Hawking to hell?

            Sadly, Hawking may not have believed in God. But this is only as far as the media outlets inform us.

            This does not offer us the latitude to deem him an atheist. Who knows what happened in the last days and hours before his death? He may have well offered his life to the Lord Jesus. As long as we are unaware of his eternal destiny, let us avoid making him an inmate of hell.

            I recollect Hawking’s words, “...Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Be curious and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”6

            When we look up at the stars, we look to God - the one who created the stars. When we think about life and its amazing complexities, we need to think like a child.

            The Lord Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3, NIV). William Maillis, an 11-year old child genius, who has already enrolled at the Carnegie Mellon University, is out to disprove Hawking, ““I want to be an astrophysicist so that I can prove to the scientific world that God does exist,” William said in a recent interview with Hellenic College Holy Cross.

            When asked why he felt the need to prove it to scientists, his answer was even more profound: “Well because there’s these atheists that try to say that there is no God, when in reality it takes more faith to believe that there’s no God than it does to believe that there is a God… Because it makes more sense that something created the universe than that the universe created itself. It takes more faith to say the universe created itself than to say something other created the universe because that is more logical.”7

            If you are suffering, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you desire to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Repent of your sins and surrender your life to the Triune God.

            When we are with the Triune God, we are more than conquerors, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39, NIV)

Endnotes:

1https://www.christianity.com/blogs/al-mohler/breathes-fire-into-equations-stephen-hawking-at-70.html

2https://www.mirror.co.uk/science/stephen-hawking-speech-cambridge-university-10728278

3http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/stephen-hawkins-admits-intelligent-design-is-highly-probable/

4Ibid.

5https://www.christianity.com/blogs/al-mohler/breathes-fire-into-equations-stephen-hawking-at-70.html

6https://www.mirror.co.uk/science/stephen-hawking-speech-cambridge-university-10728278

7https://faithit.com/11-year-old-genius-prove-stephen-hawking-wrong-death-god-exist/


Websites last accessed on 15th March 2018.