Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! An Easter Message On 1 Corinthians 15

April 20, 2014

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  That millennia-old paschal greeting sums up the essence of Easter.  Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, as prophesied in the Old Testament as a future event and as described in the New Testament as a historical fact, was crucified and His dead body was placed in a guarded tomb.  But on the third day, on that first Easter morning, He was raised from the dead.  And by being raised from the dead Jesus was able to offer His resurrection life to anyone who would believe in Him.  According to Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In our modern age, the Christ of Easter has been replaced by what we can call an “Easter Bunny Jesus.”  2 Corinthians 11:4 points out that false culture, false religion and false science manufacture false Jesuses.  The Easter Bunny Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, who was killed for preaching socialism, pacifism, and whatever other politically correct “-ism” is in vogue with the secular humanist, anti-supernaturalist, postmodernist, existentialist, moral-relativist crowd that has anointed itself the arbiters of truth.  Their Easter Bunny Jesus, of course, died and is still very much dead.  One of their favorite assertions is that the biblical accounts of Jesus are myths and fables written after the fact by people who were not eyewitnesses.

The problem with the Easter Bunny Jesus is that such a Jesus, like the Easter Bunny itself, ultimately means nothing, because he is nothing but a fabricated story with a fabricated theological meaning.  And a dead Messiah can’t do anything for anybody for the very simple reason that he is DEAD and BURIED.  And it is a doubly fabricated story because it has no connection whatsoever with the real Jesus and what the real Jesus really did on Easter.

So what really happened on the first Easter morning?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 we have an early Christian creed that dates to within the time of the crucifixion of Jesus that defines the meaning of the Gospel of Easter and defends the HISTORICAL REALITY of Easter.

Turn with me in your Bibles, if you have them, to 1 Corinthians 15:

   1Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

What is the meaning of the Christian Gospel of Easter?

First of all, the Easter Gospel is that by which we are saved.  According to the Bible, there are ultimately only two kinds of people: those who are saved, and those who are lost.  Jesus believed in the reality of hell.  We avoid discussing hell, because a lot of modern people find the concept very unpleasant.  But the fact is that Jesus talked more about hell than anyone else in all of Scripture.  In fact, Jesus talked about hell almost more than everyone else in Scripture COMBINED.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:23 that there will be many to whom He will say, “Depart from me.  I never knew you.”  In Matthew 8:12 Jesus spoke of a place of outer darkness, and said “in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”   According to Matthew 25:41 Jesus will say to those who are not saved, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

No Easter Bunny Jesus can save you.  Only the power of the real Resurrected Son of God can save you.

What do you have to believe to have the Easter Resurrection Life of Christ?  1 Corinthians 15:3-4 tells us: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  Forget the Easter Bunny Jesus; we’re talking about the REAL death and the REAL Resurrection of the REAL Christ Jesus who came in fulfillment of the Old Testament that prophesied the coming Christ.  And this real Jesus REALLY died.  The body of this real Jesus REALLY was buried.  And the body of this real Jesus was REALLY raised from the dead.

Who is Christ?  As Peter confessed to Jesus in Matt 16:16, He is the Son of the Living God.  He is God the Son.  The Gospel of John begins by teaching that Christ was with God the Father from the beginning, and ALL things came into being through Christ.  Colossians 1:16 confirms this truth about Christ Jesus, teaching that “in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

God the Son took on a human nature.  He created man and woman in His own image knowing that one day He would assume our image, so that He could live the perfect life in our place that we could not live, and then die the death that we could not die in our place for our sins.  And all you have to do to be saved, according to the Bible, is accept what He did for you on the cross, and believe that God raised Him from the dead with the kind of Resurrection Life that He alone can offer to YOU right here and right now as He takes your sin and gives you His righteousness.

Now comes the question: why should anyone believe this Gospel?  Why should anyone believe that this Christ came, died in our place for our sins that separate us from God, and was raised from the dead as the Lord of Life to offer that Life to us?  What evidence does St. Paul present that he’s telling the truth about the first Easter?

In verses 3 through 7 of 1 Corinthians 15, scholars identify an early Christian creed (there are SEVERAL early creeds preserved in the New Testament that were passed on from the very first Christian witnesses).  St. Paul – who began his own career as a Jewish rabbi and a Pharisee – in saying, “For what I received I passed on to you” – is actually using technical rabbinical terminology for the receiving and passing along of established oral tradition.  He’s pointing out that he received this creed from someone else and is now passing it on.    Paul points out that he had ALREADY given the Corinthians this creed on his first visit, which history confirms happened in 51 AD.  He uses the past tense: “I passed on to you.”  So we’re already within twenty years of the cross, aren’t we? But St. Paul tells us that just as HE passed the creed on, it had been previously passed to HIM, right?  So who did St. Paul receive the creed from?

It gets exciting: most scholars argue that Paul had to have received this creed when he made the trip to Jerusalem described in Galatians 1:18-19 to meet with Peter and James – the very people specifically named in the creed. That event is fixed historically: it happened in AD 38.  That’s just a few years from when Christ was crucified.

But the stylized, structured wording of this creed strongly suggests to many scholars that it predates even Paul’s visit to meet with Peter and James.   The underlying wording is clearly Aramaic rather than Greek, for example.  When the passages are re-translated into Aramaic, they possess the rhyme and rhythm that clearly reveals they were originally developed in that language.  That is why it’s “Cephas” rather than “Peter.”  And in the words of this creed, we are back right to the moments right after the Cross, to the Resurrection, as the eyewitnesses described what they saw and who saw it with them.

Let’s look again beginning with verse 5: “and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

For the first thousand years after the Crucifixion of Jesus, the ONLY polemic from Jews – who saw the rise of Christianity as a threat to Judaism – was that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body from the tomb.  That was the only rival explanation that was offered.  Jesus died and stayed dead, and His disciples stole His body and started preaching a lie.  But here’s the thing: that explanation has largely been abandoned by even the most skeptical scholars today.  Do you know why?  Because in the thousand years SINCE the end of the first millennia, critics have had to contend with a brutal fact of history: that these twelve men who claimed they had seen Jesus resurrected from the dead CHANGED THE WORLD preaching about that resurrected Jesus they claimed they saw and heard and touched.  The calendar on planet earth is dated in A.D., Anno Domini, In the Year of Our Lord, BECAUSE of the testimony of the apostles about Jesus.

History records the fact that Jesus’ disciples traveled across the known world preaching about what they witnessed that Easter morning.  With the sole exception of St. John – who was himself tortured for his testimony – all of these men gave their lives as martyrs proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, whom they had seen crucified and whom they saw raised gloriously from the dead.

Here’s the problem for skeptics and for those who prefer the Easter Bunny Jesus: these disciples were in a UNIQUE position to know whether or not they had really witnessed what they claimed they had seen and heard and touched.  While it is possible for people to be sincerely mistaken, the disciples were in a UNIQUE position to know for certain whether they saw, heard and touched what they claimed they had.

Would you be willing to die for something that you categorically KNEW was false?  Do you think you could assemble a dozen other people who would likewise all be willing to die for something that they knew was not true???  No.  Nobody dies for a lie.  Everyone pretty much agrees that the disciples clearly, sincerely believed that they had seen their Lord Jesus gloriously alive after His death by crucifixion and after having spent three days in a tomb.  There are some who want to argue that Jesus was the one who pulled off the fraud, having somehow survived being crucified, having a Roman spear shoved through His heart, waking up in a tomb and climbing out to deceive His disciples.  But the problem with that is that it makes JESUS a horrible, lying fraud and in fact the greatest villain in all of human history.  Does that work for you that the Man regarded as the greatest moral teacher who ever lived was a dishonest imposter???

So modern skeptics have devised a phenomena of mass hallucination, whereby all twelve of the disciples over and over again all thought they were seeing the same thing, hearing the same thing, even TOUCHING the same thing, but of course they had to be somehow mistaken every single time.  And when 500 people all saw and heard the same thing at the same time, well, what else could have happened except that they were suffering from a mass delusion?  A delusion so powerful most of them ultimately sacrificed their lives as martyrs for what they thought they had seen but of course hadn’t really seen.

I find it easier to simply believe that there really is a God who can do what the God of the Bible says He can do.

St. Paul provides three specific witnesses that we have to briefly discuss: Cephas (or Peter), James, and last of all, Paul adds himself to the list in verse 8.

These three men cover the panoply of possibilities and responses to Jesus: When Jesus was crucified, Peter – who had believed in and followed Jesus – was a completely broken man even before Jesus was crucified.  He had fled like a coward from the One he had previously declared he would die for.  He had denied Jesus three times that night while Jesus was on trial for His life.

Question: what would it take to make this completely broken man the boldest of the disciples who would preach until his own martyrdom by crucifixion?  What would it take to make such a man – facing his own cross of execution – ask the Romans to crucify him upside down because he did not feel worthy to die in the exact same manner as his Lord Jesus?  What would it take to restore Peter?  Only one thing: an appearance by the resurrected Lord of Life who forgave him and restored him and gave him a mission that he would doggedly pursue to the moment of his own martyrdom.

Take James, the half-brother of Jesus.  The Gospels record that James was highly skeptical of his half-brother Jesus.  John 7:5 openly declares that James didn’t believe.  Mark chapter 3 indicates that James was one of those who literally thought that Jesus had lost His mind.  Here comes the question: what would it take for you to believe that your oldest sibling was the Creator God of the Universe???  Because THAT is the point that James the brother of Jesus had to somehow arrive at.  What would it take?  How about seeing his half-brother, having been crucified, gloriously risen from the dead in proof that everything He had said about Himself was true and that He really WAS the Savior of the world???  We know that James became a believer at the worst possible time, right after his half-brother was brutally executed by Rome as a warning to anyone who would believe what Jesus had believed.

And history records that James, known as James the Just for his godly character, was murdered by a mob as a martyr for preaching, yes, that his half-brother Jesus really was Lord and God.

And we arrive at St. Paul.  Verse 8 says, “and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”  St. Paul started out as Saul, a rabid Jewish Pharisee who despised Christians and literally wanted them all either dead or in chains.  Until something knocked him off his high horse when he was on the road to Damascus to persecute more Christians and changed his mind – and more – his heart forever afterward.  And so Saul the most ardent persecutor of the Church became St. Paul, the most ardent evangelist of the Church he had tried to destroy.  What could cause such a transformation?

Paul repeatedly offered only one answer: he saw the risen Jesus and he believed what he saw and heard.

On this Easter morning, I it is my privilege to declare to you that it all really happened just as the Scriptures declare: that Jesus the Christ, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, really came, really lived a perfect life in your place, really took your sins upon Himself at the cross, taking the blame for what you’ve done, and really rose bodily from the dead so that you could be raised to the Resurrection Life of Easter with Him.

And all you have to do to have that eternal Easter life is believe in the Lord of Life, believe in Jesus.

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In Passages Like John 1:1 and Colossians 1:15 Jehovah’s Witnesses And Mormons Actually Refute Their Own False Theology

July 18, 2013

I recently had a Jehovah’s Witness try to “witness” to me.  When I told him that I could not be a Jehovah’s Witness because this false religion refused to acknowledge Christ in His rightful deity, he immediately cited Colossians 1:15.

It starts off sounding a little promising for heretics who try to argue that Jesus was merely a created being, rather than the Son of God as the Scriptures, the early Church, the Church Fathers and the Seven Historic Universal Councils of the Church all state to the contrary.

Colossians 1:15 says:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Let’s not ignore the little phrase, “He is the image of the invisible God,” which of course means that Jesus too is likewise “the invisible God.”  If you look in the mirror, is that image of you or is it somehow of a lesser being?  Or an even more literal analogy in terms of what the Greek word “image” means, if you were perfectly cloned, would your identical twin having your identical DNA be human, or would it somehow be less than human?  Hebrews 1:3 allows us to understand this term “image” better: “Christ is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.”  But probably most informative of all is the exchange between Philip and Jesus in the Gospel of John.  In John 14:8, Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  And how does Jesus respond?  He says, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father.  How could that in any way be true if Jesus is not Himself God?  What does the Father look like?  Aside from the fact that Christ added to His divine nature a human nature so that He could live a perfect life on earth for us and then die in our place, The Father looks exactly like Jesus.  In His character, in His goodness, in His glory, the Father looks just like Jesus.  When the Father looks in the mirror in this sense, He sees His Son.  And when the Son looks in a mirror, He sees His Father.

But if you simply ignore that first problematic phrase, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons invariably do in their rush to get to Christ as “firstborn of all creation,” that means Christ must have been a created being, rather than God, right?

Wrong.  Let’s read that passage in its full context.  Let’s read the whole paragraph and trace the argument that St. Paul is making in this passage:

He is the image of jthe invisible God, kthe firstborn of all creation. 16 For by6 him all things were created, lin heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether mthrones or ndominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created othrough him and for him. 17 And phe is before all things, and in him all things qhold together. 18 And rhe is the head of the body, the church. He is sthe beginning, tthe firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For uin him all the vfullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and wthrough him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, xmaking peace yby the blood of his cross.

I left the links – awkward as they make the passage appear – for good reason: they provide the scriptural context in which each phrase is used.  As you click on each link, what you find is, wow, each verse that St. Paul alludes to is a direct reference to GOD.  That is not an accident.

Let me simply say it right at the outset: I can EXPLAIN the “firstborn of all creation” phrase completely logically and rationally in terms of Trinitarian orthodoxy.  However, there is no possible way that Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons or any other pseudo-Christian heretics can explain the rest of the paragraph and make any kind of logical sense.

I argue as ALL true Christians have argued since Thomas first said, “My Lord and my God!” after Jesus revealed that He had just bodily risen from the dead proving all of His claims to be the divine Messiah in complete fulfillment of the Old Testament.

So what does “firstborn of all creation” mean?

Well, part of the answer is revealed as Paul develops his argument in the very next verse.  “For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created.”  If Jesus created all things, as Paul categorically states in the very next verse that Jehovah’s Witnesses love to cite as their proof text, then it most certainly means that Jesus was NOT CREATED.

If “all things were created” by Jesus Christ, then how could Jesus Christ have been created???  You have two categories: God and creation.  And since Jesus created all things, Paul is clearly stating that Jesus is God rather than a created thing.  That is simple logic.  There is no escaping that logic.

Even on the Jehovah’s Witnesses incredibly flawed and demonic theology of Christ, Jesus Christ existed prior to when He appeared in Mary’s womb and was “born.”

I cite what they argue:

He was created whenever Jehovah the Almighty God began to create, he was the first to be created, he’s OF CREATION. Jehovah is not OF CREATION, because Jehovah was NOT created and did not have a BEGINNING.

Notice again that this false understanding of Christ is utterly refuted in Colossians 1:16, that “by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”  If by Christ all things were created – and Paul then produces an exhaustive list of all the things that Christ created – and then we are told that “all things were created through him and for him,” then why are we not to believe that Christ is “of creation” rather than “NOT of creation”????  How is it that Jesus is “before all things”???  How is it that in Jesus ” all things hold together”???

Jesus is literally the force that prevents every single atom from flying apart, according to this passage.  Christ is literally the power holding the universe together.  That sounds like a job for God to me.

But let me get back to the point I was beginning to make, namely, if Jesus existed prior to when He was “born” – as Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves do – then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to take “firstborn” in the sense that they demand it be taken in.  Because Jesus PRE-EXISTED His birth even on their own account!!!

The Person of Christ did not begin to exist in Mary’s womb; He pre-existed His birth by at least thousands of years.  Which means that “firstborn” means something very different from what they want it to mean as heretics who deny the deity of Christ.

So we literally all agree that “firstborn” is NOT to be intended in the literal sense.  Because Jesus was only literally, physically “born” one time – out of Mary’s womb – and even Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge that that birth is very clearly not what is being described.  Which means that “firstborn” is clearly intended to be a figurative statement in St. Paul’s argument.

What we are talking about here is a term used to describe supremacy or priority of rank – and very clearly NOT a statement or description of when or even IF Jesus was ever “born.”  Rather, Paul begins by basically stating in His “firstborn of all creation” metaphor that Jesus is supreme over creation, and then proceeds to describe Christ as Creator of and over all creation.

P.T. O’Brien in The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters has a fascinating and conclusive article on this subject of “firstborn.”  I shall summarize his findings in a few paragraphs.

The term “firstborn” is used in the plural in the New Testament twice:

By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. — Hebrews 11:28

And:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. — Hebrews 12:23

Note first of all that “firstborn” in the plural sense in the only two occasions the term is used in the plural sense is used to apply NOT TO BIRTH OR TO CREATION, but to BELIEVERS.  And then note that Christ is then mentioned separate and distinct from “the firstborn” in Hebrews 12:24.

That stated, the term “firstborn” is used three times in the New Testament – and in each use it applies to Christ who is:

1. Firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15)

2. Firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18)

3. Firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29)

Now, again, think of this term “firstborn” in terms of supremacy or priority of rank and it very easily fits: who is Jesus?  He is supreme over all creation by virtue of the fact that HE IS THE CREATOR.  He is supreme over the dead by virtue of the fact that HE OVERCAME DEATH by the power of His Resurrection from the dead.  And He is supreme among the many who would believe in Him by virtue of the fact that HE IS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOR.  And everything that these Christian brothers and sisters will share in they will share with Jesus Christ and BECAUSE of Jesus Christ.

You see how easy it is to sensibly understand the term “firstborn” in terms of Trinitarian orthodoxy?  You know, the theology that dominated the early Church, and which was repeatedly and conclusively stated in every single one of the first SEVEN universal councils of the Christian Church as they expressed their understanding of Christ and the one true Faith delivered once and for all to the saints that is in Him???

“Christ is firstborn of all creation” expresses Christ’s relationship to creation.  Because, as Paul IMMEDIATELY proceeds to argue in his very next words, “all things” were created by the very Christ who is “firstborn of all creation.”

Again, I demand that Jehovah’s Witnesses answer their OWN problem with the passage that they often cite: just how can Christ “create all things” and yet Himself have been created???  He would – unless He is truly God and truly pre-existent as God is truly pre-existent – have had to have created Himself.  Which is philosophically and metaphysically utterly absurd.

So what does a good Jehovah’s Witness have to do?  He has to throw down the Bible and start adding stuff.  He has to start adding words that are very definitely NOT in the Bible and therefore change and pervert both the Word of God and the argument from St. Paul that they themselves love to cite.  They have to say that “Christ created all other things after He was Himself created.

But that is very definitely NOT what the Bible teaches.  Which is to say that it is IMPOSSIBLE for Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons to understand the “firstborn of all creation” passage without perverting it to fit their deeply flawed theology.

Rather, the Bible, the Word of God, declares that Jesus Christ created ALL things.  And St. Paul goes on to categorically state how exhaustive that is:  Jesus Christ created everything in heaven.  Jesus Christ created everything on earth.  Jesus Christ created everything that is visible.  Jesus Christ created everything that is invisible.  And whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, it was Jesus Christ who created them all.

Also read John 1:1-3 to see the same line of argument:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.    All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Note again: ALL things were created through Jesus, the Word.  And in fact nothing was created that ever WAS created.  Which is to say that John 1:1 plays on Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Only now we learn that it was God the Second Person, a.k.a. Christ, who was the Creator.

There’s a poem that says, “He came to die on a cross of wood, yet made the hill on which it stood” that beautifully and simply sums up that incredibly powerful truth.  Christ created man in His own image so that one day He could assume that image – and thus sacrificially offer Himself for the sins of a lost world that would have perished without Him.  That is the beauty of Christ that Jehovah’s Witnesses want to pervert.

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses do here to pervert the Gospel of John literally from the very first verse?  They decide that “God” is an anarthrous noun, which means that there is no article preceding the noun.  And so they declare “the Word” – Jesus Christ – to be “a god” rather than “God.”  But their rule here is so idiotic that they break it themselves even before they can get to it in the first verse of John’s Gospel.  Because, you see, “beginning” is also anarthrous, meaning there is no article there, either.  And so if their “rule” had any merit, they would have translated the verse, “In A beginning…”  And of course that is merely one of the numerous times they break the rule they created in order to pervert Jesus from God to merely “a god.”  Because you have this exact same situation 282 times, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses “translators” only follow their own “rule” on sixteen occasions – just SIX PERCENT of the time.

Consider that if the Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently followed their own rule just in the opening verses of the Book of John:

– “beginning” in verses 1 and 2 would have been translated “a beginning.”

– “life” in verse 4 would have been translated as “a life.”

– “from God” in verse 6 would have been translated as “from a god.”

– “John” in verse 6 would have been translated as “a John.”

“God” in verse 18 would have been translated as “a God.”

And yet the Jehovah’s Witnesses break their own “rule” in every single one of these instances.  The “rule” was created for one ideological purpose only: to blaspheme Jesus Christ and deny Him His rightful deity.  Which is why no baptized in good standing Jehovah’s Witness has ever been shown to have been granted a post-graduate degree in biblical Greek.  EVER.

The beauty of these three opening verses in the Book of John is enhanced by a theological understanding of what John succeeded in accomplishing.  In declaring that “The Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John’s use of the anarthrous “God” is exactly correct; because had he written “the Word was [the] God,” he would have been fomenting the heresy of Sabelianism or modalism– which held that Jesus WAS a “mode” of God, or that “God” was one Person wearing three hats: the hat of the Father, the hat of the Son and the hat of the Holy Spirit.  Which is to say that John HAD to translate “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” exactly as he did.

There is absolutely no escaping the logic of the passages that Jehovah’s Witnesses love to cite so they can fundamentally pervert and misrepresent them.

I think of the warning that St. John provides in the Book of Revelation:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. — Revelation 22:18-19

Jehovah’s Witnesses are routinely forced to “add to the words” over and over again as they deny the reality of the deity of Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior and God.  And they are routinely forced to take away from the Book as they repeatedly take away clear ascriptions affirming the deity of Jesus Christ.  And they will one day burn in hell for their sin, just as John warned them.

You might want to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as well-meaning people, good people, decent people.  But they go door-to-door trying to lead lost soul after lost soul to the very same hell that they themselves will surely burn in.  Which makes them terrible agents of demonic wickedness.

Let me ask a question: who purchased the Church with His own Blood?  Acts 20:28 tells you if you didn’t know:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Who purchased the church of God?  God did.  That shouldn’t be all that hard to figure out.

Christ is one Person with two natures: one human, one divine.  He had to be human, and fully human in absolutely every way that it is essential to be human, in order to represent the human race.  He had to be God because as the Scriptures conclusively state:

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. — Isaiah 64:6

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. — Psalm 51:5

No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. — Romans 3:10

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God — Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death — Romans 6:23

First of all, Christ had to be completely and fully divine, God in every meaningful way, because all humanity was trapped in sin and sinful man could not save sinful man.

Could Jesus have been an angel?  Not according to the Bible, He couldn’t.

Consider the crystal clear argument of Hebrews chapter one that clearly reveals that Jesus was NOT an angel:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,     today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father,     and he shall be to me a son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,     and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,     the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you     with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,     and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain;     they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up,     like a garment they will be changed.[a] But you are the same,     and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand     until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Based on this passage, what heretic, what FOOL would dare to claim that the Bible teaches that Jesus is merely an angel?

Let me also ask the question, where in Scripture does God give man over to any angel?  Where is it that God tells the angels that they – and not God – are Savior to mankind???  Where does the Word of God tell us that the blood of an angel delivers sinful man from his sin?  Where does it teach us that any angel has the power to save us from the wrath of God and from hell?  Nowhere, that’s where.

What in fact does God say?  This:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.  Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.  I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. — Isaiah 43:10-11

And just to add insult to injury, who is declared to BE that “Savior” in the New Testament?

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  — Luke 2:11

If Jesus is NOT “God,” and every bit God, then Jehovah is refuted.  Because in Isaiah He boasts that there is no other Savior when in fact He was wrong and Jesus would ALSO be Savior.  ONLY if Jesus is God, as orthodox Trinitarian theology upholds, and is literally the fulfillment of this passage, is that not the case.

Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons claim that the Father is God (in the case of J.W.s, “Jehovah”) and that Jesus is “a god.”  Could that be (apart from the fact that that has already been refuted above?).  No.  What does God’s Word say?

Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. — Isaiah 45:21

But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.

There is no other God besides the Triune Lord God.  And God’s Word assures us that Jesus is either a member of the Trinity or that He is neither “god” NOR “savior.”  And yet God’s Word assures us that He is in fact both God AND Savior.

… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ — Titus 2:13

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ — 2 Peter 1:1

In the Person of Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, God purchased the Church with His own blood.  God assumed a human nature so that He could experience death through that human nature.  But being God, He couldn’t remain dead.  And so our God and Savior Jesus Christ saved us.

Let’s keep in mind that both Mormons (who assert Jesus is the “spirit-brother” of Lucifer) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (who assert that Jesus is Michael the archangel) believe that Jesus is a merely an angel.  And with that in mind, read Galatians 1:6-8:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

It’s interesting that Paul refers to people who are turning others to “a different gospel” and who “distort the gospel of Christ.”  And then Paul says, “Even if an angel from heaven should preach such a gospel to you, let him be accursed.”

I ask you, “What if JESUS preached a different gospel?”  Because since Jesus is merely an angel according to both Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness theology, that has to be an obvious logical possibility on their view.  Notice Paul clearly does not say, “an angel from heaven other than Christ.”  Paul doesn’t do that because there is simply no question that JESUS IS NOT AN ANGEL as Hebrews chapter one (quoted above) clearly states.

Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are accursed according to the Word of God.  They are deceived and they seek to deceive as many others as they possibly can.

The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism is a lie.  And it is a lie that has no power to save.  Because only GOD has the power to save.  And Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons explicitly deny that Jesus has such power.
Furthermore, if Jesus is NOT God, Scripture tells us that He is also not Savior.  And those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior are still in their sins.

Please don’t allow these agents of Satan – no matter how polite they are when they come to your door – to lie to you about the true nature of the only Savior of the world.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons are false, blasphemous cults whom St. Paul described by saying “they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach” and ” a different kind of gospel” from the Gospel which saves – the Gospel of the True Jesus Christ, the divine King of kings and the divine Lord of lords.

The doctrine of the Trinity is NOT a “problem.”  It is merely the solution to the clear data provided by Scripture which reveals that while God is ontologically one in being, that there are three distinct divine Persons who are all very clearly called “God”: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Father, Son and Spirit are not “three gods” because they co-inhabit ONE and THE SAME divine nature or essence.  No human being this side of eternity can fully understand that, because God is ontologically superior to us in every imaginable way.  But suffice it to say that “fellowship” is at the heart of God because it is literally part of the essence of being God: the Father, the Son and the Spirit are and always have been in a state of ultimate and eternal fellowship with one another within the divine nature.

In Easter We Can Know That God Loves Us With His Life

April 4, 2010

What is the message of Easter?  It is that Jesus of Nazareth conquered death.  It is that “He is risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6).  And in rising bodily from the grave, it is that Jesus was vindicated in everything He said about Himself.  The One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) put to the lie the Pharisee’s mockery that “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself” (Matthew 27:42).  In rising from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that He is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Over the centuries, Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike have provided many arguments for the existence of God.  But the Bible never makes any such attempt.  God’s existence is as much assumed as is our existence; and to question one’s existence would be as silly as to question one’s own existence.  Thus, the first words of the Bible are, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  We are told, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1).  Paul says in Romans:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

And James tells us, “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).

There is clearly a great deal more to the Christian faith than merely believing in the existence of God.

On my view, in agreement with St. Paul above, I believe that the existence of God has been made plain.  It is no amazing thing to believe in God; and as Alvin Plantinga has pointed out, such belief is properly basic.

Believing in God is not the “hard part” about being a Christian.  You want to know what is?  Believing that God – the creator of space and time, energy and matter – loves me and cares about meTHAT’S the hard part.

And that’s exactly the part that Easter morning speaks to.

Take a look at Eli Weisel’s Night, written from the vantage point of a Holocaust death camp survivor:

The first night in camp turned Elie’s life completely. It was the first time he learned how people could be so cruel to the others, it was the night that turned his dream to dust, and it was the night he lost the faith in God. From that day on, although many people believed the concentration camp is where the God tests them, judges their characters, and proves that God loved them, Elie doubted the God’s absolute justice. As time went by, Elie became accustomed to all the horrors he had experienced. Unlike the beginning of the book, which he take care the neighbors with all he can do for them, now he cared only the food but no one else. He was numb to the burning body, to the beating and to the hard works. But one day, the last hope was torn away from Elie when he had to witness the hanging of a small boy. “For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes.” (62) A man behind Elie asked, “Where is God? Where is He?….Where is God now?”  A voice inside Elie answered, “Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows…” (62) At this moment, Elie’s world was collapsed, and the God was murdered.

In this account, God hanging on the gallows represents the death of God, in the sense of extinction.  But there is another side to this story.  Because God Himself – in the form of the Son of God who had assumed a human nature so that He could live a perfect human life and die a substitutionary death for the sins of mankind – actually DID hang on a cross.

Our suffering certainly doesn’t prove the death of God when God Himself has entered into our suffering.  Rather, God suffered so that He could ultimately put an end to suffering.

God is not dead.  He did die for us.  But death could not keep Him down.  He rose from the grave.  He conquered death.  And He is now gloriously alive forevermore as the first fruits of resurrection life that one day every believer will experience.

Easter assures us that God did not create planet earth to serve as His fishbowl.  He is not looking dispassionately down at earth.  In the Incarnation of the Son of God, God demonstrated that He not only cared about His creation, but was willing to go to the farthest possible lengths to save His wayward creation and win it back to Himself.

The Incarnation of God is the greatest love story ever told.  The Son of God – God Himself in every way – chose to temporarily set aside key attributes of deity and assume a human nature.  God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) so that one day He could become a man.

And so God came into the world, born of a humble virgin into a carpenter’s family.  Perfect God became a perfect man; Jesus obeyed His Father perfectly, and never sinned even once, so that He could be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Jesus said of His own purpose, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus said, “No one can take my life from me.  I sacrifice it voluntarily.  For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18, NLT).  And Jesus allowed His life to become a sacrifice in such a terrible, humiliating, painful manner that no decent human being could have been able to even look upon His death, let alone endured it.  He allowed men who were literally filled with demons to unleash their rabid hatred upon Him.  And He demonstrated His compassion, love, and mercy even for those who were torturing Him when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Before He was crucified, Jesus was flogged in a manner that literally stripped Him to the bone, and ripped out chunks of flesh and muscle.  His body was very likely already dying.  A jagged crown of thorns was shoved onto His head as a form of further mockery.  And then He was forced to carry His own instrument of execution as He stumbled agonizingly along the Via Dolorosa (Latin for “the way of grief”) while jeering crowds mocked Him.

“And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:24).

Death by crucifixion was the most extreme Roman penalty.  Crucifixion is without question the most painful and humiliating form of official death penalty ever devised.  The word “excruciating” was Latin, and means, “out of the cross.”  The victim was displayed naked, and his slow death by suffering available for all to see as a warning to any who would dare to threaten the supremacy of Rome.

Here is a medical account of the suffering inflicted by crucifixion:

Jesus is quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist.  He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.  Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexibility and movement.  The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.  The victim is now crucified.  As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain – the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.  As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this wrenching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet.  Again there is the searing agony of the the tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurs.  As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward.  Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act.  Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled.  Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath.  Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside.  Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

Jesus’ suffering was not merely physical.  His emotional and spiritual suffering were as unparalleled in human history as was his bodily suffering.  The Son of God had known eternal loving relationship with the Father.  But on the cross, Christ became a sin offering – And in His agony His Father was forced to turn away from Him.  Galatians 3:13 tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Jesus suffered as no human being has ever suffered.  And yet Jesus wasn’t a helpless victim.  We have heard Jesus say prior to His crucifixion that He would sacrifice His life voluntarily (John 10:18).  As the soldiers, priests, and mob came to arrest Him at Gethsemane, Jesus said to His disciples who tried to protect Him, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52).  A legion was 6,000, meaning 72,000 angels would have come to save the Son of God at His bidding.

For the record, ONE angel put one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian warriors to death in one night (2 Kings 19:35).

So why on earth would Jesus have allowed Himself to be so horribly tortured and killed when He could have stopped it?

Because of His love for me.  And for you.

We talk about love all the time.  But we can’t even begin to fathom the depths of Christ’s love for us.

The last recorded word from Jesus on the cross was “Tetelestai.”  It is usually translated, “It is finished.”  But there is so much that we can learn from how that word was used in Roman culture at the time of Christ.  “Tetelestai” was used to stamp “paid” upon a receipt, and it was also the stamp put on a criminal’s charges once he had completed his sentence.  Paid in full.

In His substitutionary death, Christ paid the price for our sins.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  But Christ paid the price for us in full.

As I said earlier, “the hard part” of Christianity is believing the incredible concept that the Creator of the entire universe actually loves and cares about me.  There’s your real miracle.  It’s believing that no matter what my temporary situation might look like, I’m NOT alone and unloved; rather, I am loved by a God who literally loves Me with His life!  But there is more.  There is more than we could ever imagine.

What is the meaning of Easter?

It is summed up in Philippians 2:5-11:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

And because Christ was raised from the dead to glory, so also will those who love Him.

1 Corinthians 15: 50-57:

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the meaning of Easter?  On Easter morning, after loving humanity with His life, Christ was raised from the dead.  The Resurrection and the Life conquered death once and for all.  And He paid for our sins so that we could share eternal life in heaven with God. That’s good news indeed to anyone who wants to go to heaven rather than hell, but who isn’t as righteous and sinless and perfect as God.

Before He was taken away to be beaten, flogged and crucified, Christ assured His first followers:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

And Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead is all I need to know to believe that a beautiful room in the very house of the Father awaits me.  What incomprehensible joy awaits those who love Christ!

Christ loved us with His life (past tense); He now loves us with eternal life in Him and with Him.

And so every Easter, Christians from all over the world joyfully greet one another and say, “He is risen!”  “He is risen indeed!”

On Celebrating The Virgin Birth Of Jesus With Both Heart And Mind

December 25, 2009

I take my “Santa cap” off to the American Spectator – which is such a strong force for political conservatism – for providing articles such as this one.

There is more than health care, or cap-and-trade, or deficits, or any part of the ideological battle between Democrats and Republicans.  Because long before we were fighting any of those issues, we were celebrating Christ.  And we shall be celebrating Christ long after all of these other, lesser issues are gone.

The Case Against the Case Against the Virgin Birth

By Jeremy Lott on 12.22.09 @ 6:07AM

Every year at about this time, readers can count on a few Christmas-themed articles appearing in newspapers and magazines that question the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. It really is something to see the wide variety of people who get worked up over this ancient Christian belief.

Scientific reductionists — the Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins set — will tell us that it’s impossible. By definition, a virgin cannot be with child. Certain biblical scholars will be trotted out to poke holes in the dogma, by making points about the Bible passages in question that sound convincing to non-scholars. And moderate, embarrassed believers such as Newsweek editor Jon Meacham will try to smooth things over. The Virgin Birth, they will say, is symbolically but not historically or scientifically important. It’s about new life or specialness or some other non-offensive, wooly-headed thing.

The scholars will say that the verse in Isaiah (7:14) that prophesies a “virgin shall conceive and bear a son” is a mistranslation. “Virgin” could be “young woman,” you see. They will point out that only two of the four Gospels of the New Testament mention the Virgin Birth and that the Virgin Birth Gospels (Matthew and Luke) do not agree about many details. They will say that the earliest Gospel (Mark) leaves it out entirely.

Therefore: Who can say what really happened? The point of this exercise is to paint defenders of the virgin birth as narrow fundamentalists who cling to two tenuous, unscientific, conflicting scraps of the biblical text that rely on a questionable translation of Old Testament prophecy. There are perhaps a dozen problems with this approach. We’ll focus on three:

One, it manages to misrepresent all four Gospels at the same time. Matthew and Luke have miraculous conception and birth narratives. Mark and John are rooted in the first chapter of Genesis. That itself says something about Christ’s origin. According to the first chapter of John, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” In Jesus, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

In fact, all four Gospels are rooted in Genesis. Modern audiences tend to focus on the creation narratives of the first few chapters and skip over the genealogies. To a first century Middle Eastern audience, those lists were far more important. Echoing this, both Matthew and Luke attempt to construct genealogies of Jesus, and in the process both books finger God as the father and Mary as the mother.

Two, in pointing out contradictions between Matthew and Luke, scholars and more progressive believers think that they are scoring points against literalism and fundamentalism. The supposed contradictions do present a problem for some believers, but they help make their case as well. Historians are trained to suspect collusion of sources: if two accounts line up too neatly, then one is likely based on the other and thus less valuable. It’s better to have two divergent accounts — even wildly divergent accounts — of the same event to serve as confirmation of the details where they agree.

The stories about Jesus’ conception and birth in Matthew and Luke are far enough apart — the “wise men,” the flight to Egypt, and the murder of innocents are in Matthew but not Luke; the census, the shepherds, the meeting between the mothers of the still unborn Jesus and John the Baptist are unique to Luke — that they must come from different sources. They both agree about the Virgin Birth.

Three, the case for a mistranslation of Isaiah is simply beside the point. Yes, the word in Hebrew could be rendered “young lady” but that’s irrelevant. When an angel tells Mary that she will have a child and she wonders, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) she’s not saying “since I am a young lady.” The Gospel writers, the popular early Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, and the early church all understood it to mean “virgin,” and their understanding is what matters here.

None of this is indisputable proof for the Virgin Birth, nor is it meant to be. We can give evidence for miracles but cannot replicate the results in a laboratory, and the chasm between history and mystery is where faith comes in. However, the hostility of scientific reductionists to the idea does not make nearly as much sense as it used to. Now, with advances in reproductive technology, a woman who was biologically a virgin could in fact conceive a child. Experiments in animal DNA are showing that you can manipulate eggs in such a way that sperm is not necessary to create a whole new creature. If scientists in the 21st century can manage it, is it really such a stretch to say that God 2,000 years ago would have been up to the task?

You should go to the American Spectator site itself to read this, as there are some excellent and informative comments that follow the article.  But I have a few things to say, myself.

The Septuagint was the translation into Greek by Jewish scholars (it is often abbreviated as “LXX” because tradition holds that 70 scholars were involved in the translation), and was undertaken and completed between 300 and 200 BC.  It was not written by Christians.

It is, however, particularly noteworthy to Christians that the Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew word “almah” in Isaiah (which basically meant a young woman of marigiable age still under the protection of her family) as “parthenos,” which is the Greek word that clearly means “virgin.”

Some scholars rigidly maintain that the Hebrew word “almah” does not necessarily mean “virgin.”  But the fact of the matter is that in Hebrew culture/tradition, a young unmarried girl under her family’s protection was basically either a virgin, or else she was stoned to death as an adulteress.  When you add the fact that the LXX scholars – who clearly were more in touch with the understanding of the ancient Hebrew Bible than we are today – deliberately chose the word “parthenos,” you have a rather ironclad case that the Jews understood Isaiah 7:14 as prophesying a virgin birth (i.e. an immaculate conception).

Only Jesus – in all of recorded human history – has been proclaimed as having been uniquely born of a virgin.  And the two largest religions in the world – Christianity and Islam – recognize and affirm that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a young Jewish virgin girl named Mary.

The passages presented in the New Testament then eradicate even the tiniest shred of remaining doubt.

The so-called “scientific reductionists” claim that the miracle of the virgin birth was impossible.  What is interesting is that a “virgin birth” is quite possible today, given our medical technology.  I bring this out just to say that these are philosophical atheists, who don’t believe in the virgin birth simply because they do not believe in God.  Otherwise, their view toward the virgin birth becomes asinine: they would literally be arguing that God the Creator of all matter, energy, space, and time would be unable to replicate a feat that humans today routinely perform.

As one who accepts the possibility of God, I have no problem whatsoever accepting the possibility of miracles.  Some atheistic thinkers have defined a “miracle” as “a violation of the laws of nature.”  But they are trying to load the issue and tilt it toward philosophical naturalism by doing so.

Let me explain it this way.  Suppose someone accidentally knocks my cup of coffee off the table and I catch it.  Is this a “miracle”?  After all, according to the law of gravity, that cup should have continued to fall and strike the ground – and that didn’t happen.  What did happen was a personal agent possessing sufficient power chose to intervene and change the outcome of natural laws by themselves.

A miracle is God – the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe – intentionally choosing to reach down and intervene in the affairs of men, usually by a means we our limited understanding cannot fully understand.

Please allow me to explain why Christmas is so important to me, by means of a series of declarations of faith:

I believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ.

I believe that God supernaturally implanted into Mary’s womb (and specifically into one of her unfertilized eggs) a human baby possessing a perfect human nature, uncorrupted by the effects of the Fall.

I believe that this baby, Jesus, possessed every single property essential to human nature (flesh and bones, a human brain, etc.) such that He was 100% man.  Sin is not essential to human nature; God created both Adam and Eve without sin.

I believe that this baby, Jesus, simultaneously possessed every single property essential to Deity, particularly the Deity of The Word, the Second Person of the Triunity of the Godhead.  Such that He was 100% God.  As He grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52), He came to recognize His unique Christ-consciousness.  And specifically, He began to become aware that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, and Micah 5:2 (among some 300 other unique and amazing prophecies).

I believe that when God created human beings in His image (the Imago Dei) in Genesis 1:27, He was in fact creating beings whose image and nature He Himself would one day assume.  He created Adam in His image so that He could ultimately assume Adam’s image and so save mankind from the Fall (Genesis 3).

I believe Jesus voluntarily restricted the use of His divine prerogatives prior to His assumption of human nature, such that He lived His life on earth as an ordinary human being who had to rely completely on the Holy Spirit for His power (just like every Christian since has had to do).  Please read Philippians 2:1-11.  And then read it again and again.

I believe He came to live a perfect life on earth as a human being so that He could fully and truly represent the human race.

I believe that He died in my place – and in the place of everyone who believes in Him – so that I could be fully restored with God the Father (Luke 19:10, Mark 10:45).  I believe that I am a sinner (Romans 3:23; 6:23), saved only by grace and by faith in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 5:1; 10:9).

I believe in the words of a simple poem,

He came to die on a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood (see John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17).

I believe that Jesus had to become a man to die in my place – or even (as God) to be able to experience death on my behalf – and that He had to be God to have the power to save me from my sins.  Only Jesus, as true God, and true Man, could save me (Hebrews 9:24-28).

And I believe that, because of His finished work of sacrifice in my place, that I will live forever with Him in heaven, celebrating an eternal life more magnificent and more exciting than anything I have ever begun to imagine.

And all of the wonder of God coming to His creation, all of the wonder of the most loving act in the history of the universe, all of the existential cries that are answered by God taking my place and saving me, are all answered in the birth of Jesus.

And so I read Job 19:25-27 and say with him, “For I know that my Redeemer lives…”

And so I read with tears of joy the words of Mary in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

And so I recognize in that First Christmas not only joy to the world, but hope for the world.  And the source of that Christmas joy and hope is Christ.

Merry Christmas.

The Manhattan Declaration As The New Barmen Declaration

November 25, 2009

Christians are hearing about the Manhattan Declaration with great excitement.  It is a tremendous document with tremendous support from some tremendous Christian figures.

The actual declaration (linked to above) is some 4,000 plus words long, and is available to read at the link above.  But here is the nutshell version:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I hope you stand with me – and with (at last count as of November 24, 2009) 106,738 other believers – and sign this declaration.

It reminds me of another time, and another declaration: the Barmen Declaration of 1934, which was a point-by-point denunciation of the fascist and racist ideological doctrines of Nazism and a positive expression of true Christian faith against a government and a culture that had become evil.

Adolf Hitler attempted to redefine – or “Nazify” – the Church and transform it into a component of his ideological agenda.  At one point in its history Germany had been the seat of the Protestant Reformation, and while Germany had since become the most secular humanist nation in Europe, there was still a vestige of Christianity remaining.  And Hitler wanted to harness that still-influential vestige toward his own ends.  The government thus passed resolutions to limit the influence or dictate the agenda of the church.  One demanded the purging of all pastors who rejected “the spirit of National Socialism.”  Another resolution categorically rejected the very foundations of Judeo-Christian transcendent morality even as it tried to conflate “being a German” with “being a Christian”:

“We expect that our nation’s church as a German People’s Church should free itself from all things not German in its services and confession, especially from the Old Testament with its Jewish system of quid pro quo morality.”

The German Confessing Movement was a reaction against the German government’s attempt to impose its agenda upon the Christian Church in Germany.  As Gene Edward Veith put it in his book Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview:

The Barmen Declaration thus sets itself against not only the German Christian aberration but against the whole tradition of modernist syncretism that made it possible.

[Article 1 affirmed Christ as the transcendent authority and source of values (as opposed to the German race, the Nazi revolution, or the person of Adolf Hitler)].  Article 2 asserts the sovereignty of Christ over all of life.  Article 3 asserts Christ’s lordship over the church and rejects “the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political conventions.”  That is to say, the world does not set the agenda for the church.  Article 4 teaches that church offices are for mutual service and ministry, not for the exercise of raw power.  Article 5 acknowledges the divine appointment of the state, but rejects the pretensions of the state to “become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.”  Article 6 affirms the church’s commission to proclaim the free grace of God to everyone by means of the Word and the sacraments.  “We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans [pp. 60-61].

One article, entitled “Hitler’s Theologians: The Genesis of Genocide,” takes time to describe how various key German liberal theologians systematically tore apart the Bible and orthodox Christianity – and in so doing systematically undermined the ethics and morality of the German people in preparation for the hell to come.  The author begins with Friedrich Schleiermacher, called “the founder of Liberal Protestantism,” and profiles the “contributions” of Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Wellhausen, and Adolf von Harnack.

Georg Lukacs has observed that tracing the path to Hitler involved the name of nearly every major German philosopher since Hegel: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dilthy, Simmel, Scheler, Heidegger, Jaspers, and Weber [page 5, The Destruction of Reason].  And Max Weinreich produced an exhaustive study detailing the complicity of German intellectuals with the Nazi regime entitled Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People.  Ideas have consequences, and it was the ideas of these liberal theologians, philosophers and scholars who provided the intellectual justification and conceptual framework for the Holocaust.  Thus Nazism did not merely emerge from a liberal theological system, but from a distinguished secular humanist intellectual tradition as well — a distinguished intellectual tradition that had repudiated all the moral and spiritual values inherent to the orthodox Christianity of the Confessing Church.

Josef Hromadka wrote that:

“The liberal theology in Germany and in her orbit utterly failed.  It was willing to compromise on the essential points of divine law and of “the law of nature”; to dispose of the Old Testament and to accept the law of the Nordic race instead; and to replace the “Jewish” law of the Old Testament by the autonomous law of each race and nation, respectively.  It had made all the necessary preparation for the “Germanization of Christianity” and for a racial Church.”

Veith subsequently says, “in deciding whether or not to sign the Barmen Declaration … the dividing line was clear.”  And he states, “The German Christian theologians predictably denounced the confessional movement as being ‘narrow’ and ‘fundamentalist.'”  He rightly described the opponents of the Barmen Declaration as being “modernists,” “existentialists,” and “dialectical” in their thinking.  The theologians who rejected Barmen were men like Emanuel Hirsch, who taught that the resurrection of Christ was only a spiritual vision, and that the idea of a physical resurrection distorted Christianity by focusing attention to the hereafter rather than to the culture and community of the present.

In short, it was Christians who thought like the evangelicals and fundamentalists of today who signed the Barmen Declaration and openly opposed Nazism, and it was “Christians” who thought like the mainline liberals of today who stood for the German Christian Nazification of Christianity and for the resulting Nazification of German ethics and morality.

Confessing Church pastors and priests who resisted this Nazification of the church paid dearly.  Thousands of clergymen were hauled away to the concentration camps.  According to the Niemoller archives, 2,579 clergymen were sent to Dachau alone – and 1,034 of them died in the camp.  And that only refers to the priests and pastors – not the untold thousands of devout Christians such as the Ten Booms who perished in the death camps for their opposition to Nazism.

An article entitled “Asking ‘Why Nazism?’” reviewing a book by Dr. Karla Poewe has this:

“One of the dangers of liberal Christianity, where all sorts of interpretations are permitted, is that it can easily slip into becoming a new religion,” Poewe says. “This is what happened. In a bid to rid Germany of what it saw as Jewish Christianity, several home-grown practices sprang up, including some that incorporated Icelandic and pre-Christian sagas, as well as ideas from German Idealism.”

Although initially these new religions were separate and disorganized entities, they eventually came under the umbrella of what was known as the German Faith Movement. Hitler saw in it a mechanism for transmitting and reinforcing the National Socialist worldview. “He shaped its followers into a disciplined political force but dismissed its leaders later when they were no longer needed,” Poewe says.

We’re clearly not to the point where Jews, or Christians, or anyone else are being gathered by the thousands and placed in death camps.  But we’re beginning to see a trend that is frightening, as government, with the assistance of liberal “Christian” churches and organizations, are trying to impose their will upon the church and its agenda.

We’ve had a “hate crimes” law imposed upon us that makes homosexuality a protected behavior.  And one evangelical expresses the Confessing Church position in a nutshell:

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a written statement the bill “is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality.”

In another recent case, a Christian mother who has homeschooled her child is being forced to put her ten-year old child in public school, not to improve her academic education, but to limit her exposure to Christianity and forcibly expose her to a government-approved “public” point of view:

According to the court order, the guardian concluded that Amanda’s “interests, and particularly her intellectual and emotional development, would be best served by exposure to a public school setting in which she would be challenged to solve problems presented by a group learning situation and…Amanda would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

This is a shocking case, in which the government is usurping both parental and religious freedoms.  And there are many similar usurpations today, in which our government is actively opposing Christian values.

Nearly fifty million babies have been killed in this country by a government-sanctioned “pro-choice” system.  Gene Edward Veith addresses the “pro-choice” movement and its philosophical underpinnings:

Existential ethics brackets the objective issues on abortion entirely.  At issue is not some transcendent moral law, nor medical evidence, nor a logical analysis.  The content of that choice makes no difference.  If the mother chooses to have the baby, her action is moral.  If she chooses not to have the baby, her action is still moral.  If she bears a child against her will or aborts a child against her will — then and only then is the action evil.  Those who believe that abortion should be legal do not consider themselves “pro-abortion.”  They are “pro-choice.”  The term is not only a rhetorical euphemism but a precise definition of existential ethics.

Existentialism is also reflected in those who are “pro-choice” but personally oppose abortion.  They do not believe in abortion for themselves, but refuse to impose their beliefs on others.  In this view, a belief has no validity outside the private, personal realm of each individual.  Moral and religious beliefs are no more than personal constructions, important in giving meaning to an individual’s life, but not universally valid.  Or, to use another commonly accepted axiom, “what’s true for you may not be true for me.”

Such a view of truth flies in the face of all classical metaphysics, which sees truth as objective, universal, and applicable to all” (page 96, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview).

We can return to the historical analysis of Nazism presented by Karla Poewe, and what happened when such “anything goes” belief systems were allowed to rule.  [I have written an article describing how existentialism became a primary component of Nazism, and link to it HERE].

Before we leave the issue of abortion as a vile violation of Christian ethics and morality, let us consider one more voice:

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” — Mother Teresa

Christians should fight for life.  And allowing a human being to live should not be a “choice,” but a duty.

In 2003 one David Allen Black wrote an article bearing the question, “Do We Need A New Barmen Declaration?”  No Christian with a knowledge of history can answer any other way than, “YES!

The Barmen Declaration was written in 1934, but in many ways it was already too late: The Nazis were already in power.  Hitler was in his second year of power; and the ideas of the liberal theologians, the existentialist philosophers, and the amoral intellectuals were already firmly in place.

It is my fervent hope that we finally have that “New Barmen Declaration” to answer the evils of our own day.  If we already should have written one, then every day that passes is one more day wasted; if we are acting pro-actively, then let us thank God that we acting before it is too late.

From the UK Telegraph:

At last, Christians draw a line in the sand against their PC secularist persecutors

By Gerald Warner UK Last updated: November 24th, 2009

At long last, Christian leaders have faced up to their persecutors in the secularist, socialist, One-World, PC, UN-promoted axis of evil and said: No more. In the popular metaphor, they have drawn a line in the sand. For harassed, demoralised faithful in the pews it will come as the long-awaited call to resistance and an earnest that their leaders are no longer willing to lie down supinely to be run over by the anti-Christian juggernaut. This statement of principle and intent is called The Manhattan Declaration, published last Friday in Washington DC.

It is difficult to believe that so firm an assertion of Christian intransigence in the face of persecution will not have some beneficial effects even here. For this Declaration is no minor affirmation by a few committed activists: on the contrary, it is signed by the most important leaders of three mainstream Christian traditions – the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Evangelical Protestants. For an ecumenical document it is heroically devoid of fudge, euphemism and compromise.

The Manhattan Declaration states that “the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions”.

For Barack Obama, the PC lobby, the “hate crime” fascists and, by implication, their opposite numbers in Britain, the signatories have an uncompromising message: “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.” That is plain speaking, in the face of anti-Christian aggression by governments. The signatories spelled it out even more unequivocally: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will under no circumstances render to Caesar what is God’s.”

In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful, similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada, the European Court of Human Rights (sic) has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance is more than timely.

The signatories are unambiguously expressing their willingness to go to prison rather than deny any part of their religious beliefs. Those signatories are heavyweight. On the Catholic side they include Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit; the Archbishops of Denver, New York, Washington DC, Newark, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Louisville; and other Bishops. The Orthodox include the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and the Archpriest of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. There are also the Anglican Primates of America and Nigeria, as well as a host of senior Evangelical Protestants.

In terms of influence on votes and public opinion, this is a formidable coalition. It has served notice on the US government that further anti-Christian legislation will provoke cultural trench warfare and even civil disobedience. As regards the sudden stiffening of resistance among the usually spineless Catholic leadership, it is impossible not to detect the influence of Benedict XVI.

We need more declarations like this, on a global scale, and the requisite confrontational follow-up. This is Clint Eastwood, make-my-day Christianity – and not before time. From now on, any governments that are planning further persecution of Christians had better make sure they have a large pride of lions available for mastication duties. The worm has turned.

As a young Christian, I was inspired by the music, lyrics, and album cover of Keith Green’s album, No Compromise.  The cover says it all:

The Manhattan Declaration – like the Barmen Declaration – calls for Christians who are willing to stand up and be singled out even in the face of persecution or punishment.

I hope you are willing to be one of those Christians.

The Life And Death Of Michael Jackson As A Lesson For Us All

June 28, 2009

Years ago, during the Bosnian War, I heard someone say something that I’ll never forget. U.S. troops were taking part in the U.N. effort to prevent more genocide, and desperate Bosnian people were scrounging through the huge garbage piles accumulated by the American forces looking for valuables they could see or food they could feed their families.

A reporter interviewed a man on the trash piles, who said, “We are living like animals. Is this all there is to our lives? Is there nothing more?”

It dawned on me that an incredibly poor, desperate Bosnian, or a hugely successful rock star, could be asking the same question. Because both could well be living equally meaningless, empty lives.

Michael Jackson’s life and untimely death – along with the deaths of so many other celebrities who seemed to have everything the world could offer, yet were so deeply unhappy – is an illustration of the truth of that reality.

By most accounts, Michael Jackson earned more than $500 million during his performing career, and some analysts believe that his music catalog holdings could be worth billions. Yet he spent so massively, on so many luxuries and trifles and distractions to satisfy his every whim, that he is apparently hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. And one gets the sense that he never did manage to find anything approaching happiness; just one quick addictive rush to some new toy or new frill after another.

And a once handsome man disfigured himself into some kind of freak due to an obviously profoundly ugly self-image.

Imagine having everything the world can offer: imagine being one of the beautiful people; having fame and adoration; and having a massive fortune that allows you to travel anywhere or do anything you desire.

And imagine being unhappy, and asking yourself, “Is this all there is to life? Is there nothing more?”

I would rather be that Bosnian man living off a giant trash heap than be a man who had pursued everything the world could offer, only to realize that the world was not enough even as I desperately clung to that world and its wealth.

I believe that many celebrities pursue bizarre religious experiences in a desperate search for some kind of meaning. But their world-distorted worldview has limited their search. So they pursue bizarre religions like Scientology or faddish ones like Kabbalah. Ultimately, they want to be able to eat their cake and have it too. They want to be the gods of their own worlds that they create for themselves, rather than bend the knee to a Creator God who demands that they be holy, as He is holy. But at the same time, they want to be part of something that is larger than they are. Essentially, they want the latter in a way that doesn’t cramp the former.

A psychiatrist, doing her own postmortem analysis of Michael Jackson’s life, said that he had never had a role model as a child, and there had never been anyone like himself to model himself after once he had grown up. By many accounts, his father and his older brothers shaped him like a marketing product and sold him like meat for mass culture. And during his childhood, he was sexually abused while whoever was supposed to love him and take care of him failed to do either.

When the psychiatrist said that Michael Jackson had no role models, no one to model his life after, I immediately thought of the one name that is above every name: the name of Jesus. Michael Jackson lived a life that was far outside the remotest experience of virtually anyone else. But Jesus remained as the quintessential role model: and how different Michael Jackson would have been had he sought to model his life after Christ’s, rather than after whatever caricature of himself he fabricated through bizarre behaviors and plastic surgeries.

Augustine, in the famous insight of his Confessions, wrote, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and will not rest until they rest in Thee.”

Ambrose, and later Pascal, aptly referred to that restlessness, that God-shaped hole in the soul, as a vacuum. Apart from our Creator God who made us to find our peace and happiness in Himself, that hole in our soul has a force behind it and it will suck up anything to fill it. G.K. Chesterton explained that when we cease believing in God, we don’t believe in nothing; we will rather believe in anything. Human beings were created to be hungry for meaning. The problem arises when we reject true meaning; we will replace it with any substitute under the sun. And replace the truth of God for a lie.

As a Christian, I do not need great beauty, or great wealth, or great fame, or great celebrity, or great athleticism, or anything that any of those things can buy, to be happy. If I have Christ in my heart, and trust in Him to provide all my needs, I have the answer to the search for meaning. And I have more than the world can ever hope to provide.

Obama Arrogance Keeps Getting Creepier and Creepier

July 24, 2008

I had to laugh when I heard the following:

AMMAN, Jordan – Democrat Barack Obama’s entire traveling campaign apparatus is in place. He will speak Thursday at an historic site in Berlin that could draw tens of thousands of spectators. And chief campaign strategist David Axelrod might even assemble film crews to gather footage of it, possibly for a TV commercial.

But senior aides engaged in a bit of rhetorical gymnastics Tuesday as they faced reporters who questioned their resistance to acknowledging the political aspects of Obama’s week-long, high-profile tour against the backdrop of an intense American presidential campaign.

At a morning background briefing, reporters parried with senior advisers on the characterization of Obama’s speech Thursday in Berlin as a campaign rally. The outdoor speech at the Victory Column could draw thousands of people, similar to the size of Obama events in the United States.

“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.”

“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter reminded the adviser.

It’s one thing for politicians to speak of what they will do as president before they are actually elected to such. They need to present that image of confidence. They all do it.

But, goodness gracious, it pretty much takes arrogant chutzpah, puts it on a rocket ship, and launches it straight up into the stratosphere, to make the claim that Barack Obama is actually the president right now.

There’s a level of arrogance about the Obama campaign that simply goes well beyond creepy.

Obama didn’t say the above gaffe; an aide did. But it continues a definite Obamamessiah trend.

Stuff like this has been coming out of the Obama campaign for quite a while. Froma Harrop noted in a story that appeared back in February:

Sophisticated commentary now notes the growing creepiness of the Obama campaign: Its aversion to substantive policy discussions. The sermonizing — “In the face of despair, we believe there can be hope.” And the messianic bit — “At this moment in the election there is something happening in America.” (That would be he.)

Volunteer trainees at Camp Obama are told not to talk issues with voters, but to offer personal testimony about how they “came” to Obama. Makes the skin crawl.

Centrists generally do not find cults of personality entertaining. The mass hypnosis reminds them of the mortgage frenzy — all these people buying into a dream and not caring about the fine print.

It does make the skin crawl. People talk about how they “came to Christ.” There’s something eerie about borrowing this particular metaphor and applying it to a liberal politician.

I’d like to tell you that Froma Harrop was just making stuff up. But the story of the Obama campaign instruction “how I came to Obama” stuff is genuine. And really, really creepy.

It’s relevant that most of the liberals who are viewing Obama in such inspiring – and irrational – religious terms are secular humanists. As G.K. Chesterton put it, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” That’s why they believe so passionately in Obama in spite of every evidence to the contrary.

I stumbled across this pro-Obama article that radiated all of the creepiness of one who has place personal faith in Obama the way I placed mine in Jesus of Nazareth.

Apparently, the only reason that Obama used a plane to embark on his foreign trip rather than walking across the Atlantic ocean to get there was because the latter course would have taken too long (that, and how would he have brought his massive media entourage with him?).

That level of arrogance comes straight down from the mountain top:

Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Afghanistan, told the paparazzi-pursued correspondent Lara Logan that “the objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.

“And it’s important for me to have a relationship with them early, that I start listening to them now, getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are.”

We’re talking about a man who not only assumes that he will be elected and then re-elected, but that he will be so completely adored that a grateful and worshipful nation will repeal the 22nd Amendment for him so he can continue to lord it over us beyond the eight-year limit that would apply to other, lesser figures.

So it’s understandable that one of his worshipping aides would say something like, “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.”

After all, how could the Obamamessiah NOT be the president? Why are you not bowing down before him even as we speak?

I’ve written about the sheer arrogance of both the man and his campaign in an article titled “Brandenburg Gate: Pseudo-Candidates Need Pseudo Credibility.” In short, I ridiculed his presumptiveness over his seeking to place himself at the site of Kennedy’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech and Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down this Wall” speech, and over his “Great Obama Seal.”

Like ANWR and oil, there’s a lot of productive drilling that can be done with Obama and arrogance.

One day, the Bible says that a great world leader will emerge who will literally be worshiped in place of God (Revelation 13:4). I sure do hope we’re not there already.

Obama’s Pastors Don’t Preach the Bible

May 14, 2008

Let me describe the kind of guy whom Senator Barack Obama considers “a wonderful young pastor.”

He’s the kind of man who calls the biblical patriarch Abraham a “pimp,” and says that Noah and Moses were thugs. He’s the kind of pastor who says that Jesus has a “soft spot for thugs,” and assures his congregation that everyone has some “thug proclivities.”

You buy that? Here are some highlights of Barack Obama’s new pasor, the Rev. Otis Moss III:

# “Jesus has a soft spot for thugs.”

# “God is always using thugs to do God’s work.”

# “Everyone has a little bit of thug in them.”

# Noah was a “thug” who “was drinking much gin and juice and got drunk on the eve of reconstruction.”

# Abraham “pimped his own wife.”

# Jacob was a “hustler” who “stole his own brother’s birthright.”

# Moses was a “thug” and “if he got mad would give you a royal beatdown.”

# Sampson was a “thug” and a “player.”

# David was a “thug,” a “shot caller,” and a “player,” and a man after God’s own heart.

Strangely, most of these statements actually have a certain legitimacy to them (although Jacob did NOT “steal” his brother’s birthright; Easau sold it to him as per Genesis 25:29-34; Moses gave that “beatdown” early in his life prior to hearing God’s call as per Exodus 2:11-14; and the account of Abraham “pimping” his wife was actually more a tale of a frightened sojourner concealing his marriage in order to save his life as per Genesis 12:10-13.

And I would even acknoweldge the statement that “Jesus has a soft spot for thugs” in the sense that He has a “soft spot” for sinners in need of a Savior.

But – from these relative high points – the sermon goes down hill pretty fast from there.

Ronald Kessler, the chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com, has it this way:

While Moss has not expressed hatred of America and of whites, as Wright did, in a sermon on YouTube, Moss derides middle-class America for not accepting the “prophetic brilliance” of thugs.

Referring to these thugs, Moss says sardonically, “There are times when our prejudice keeps us from hearing ghetto prophets, who preach a brand of thug theology which keeps us from hearing the truth from their lips because of their course language and ragged subject-verb agreement.”

To applause, Moss approvingly cites Tupac Shakur, a “gangsta” rap star with a long arrest record. Before being fatally shot in a drive-by attack in Las Vegas in 1996, Shakur faced a 120-day sentence for probation violations stemming from offenses including assault and battery and a 1994 sexual abuse conviction in New York. Shakur served 11 months in prison for his involvement in the sexual attack on a 21-year-old woman in a New York hotel room.

Judge Daniel P. Fitzgerald of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan described it as “an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman.”

Shakur had also been convicted in Los Angeles of assault and battery on a music video producer and for carrying a loaded, concealed weapon.

Most Americans look to places of worship for inspiration and moral and spiritual guidance. Moss’ message is the opposite. Claiming Shakur’s message speaks to our “current condition,” Moss blurs the distinction between right and wrong: He says those who don’t get that a rapper like Shakur is a prophet and biblical figures are thugs are confined by “bourgeois paradigms.”

Instead of condemning those who break the law, Moss says to exuberant applause, “Our society creates thugs. Children are not born thugs. Thugs are made and not born.” He adds, “This is good news for somebody who has a proclivity for ‘ghettoistic’ conduct.”

Indeed, it is good news for those who do not want to be held accountable for their own conduct. In making that statement, Moss endorses the message of many black leaders who encourage blacks to see themselves as helpless victims of a bigoted society. As outlined in the Newsmax article “Rev. Wright Furthers Black Victimhood,” the victim mentality limits blacks’ aspirations and torpedoes their chances at success.

I agree with Kessler’s assessment, and add to his observations the following:

Contrast Rev. Moss harsh, nearly vindictive assessments of these great men from the Bible with his overly gracious (to say the least!) view of Tupac Shakur as “a prophet.” And then the Reverend Moss – who called the prophetic composer of many of the songs in the Book of Psalms a “thug,” a “shot caller,” and a “player” – proceeded to quote at length his version of “prophetic song.”

Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, with 150 chapters. Maybe it’s just me, but somehow I don’t see this ditty making the cut and becoming the 151st Psalm.

I want you to understand something about the Bible; it is a story of God’s people, who are viewed warts and all. We know how these men started out; we even know how they managed to slip and fall down mid way through the journey of life. But ultimately, these stories are not about the men and women who slip and fall into the mud, but about the glorious God who is at work in their lives, and who brought life after life to triumph after triumph.

So Christians are aware of the dark side of its saints; but they are far more aware of the side that God created and developed in them.

Read Hebrews chapter 11, “the Faith Hall of Fame,” for the contrast of the spiritual Christian view with that of Obama’s new pastor:

# “It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about something that had never happened before. By his faith he condemned the rest of the world and was made right in God’s sight” (Heb 11:7 NLT).

# It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. he went without even knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God made the same promise. Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. It was by faith that Sarah [the woman Abraham allegedly “pimped out”] together with Abraham was able to have a child, even though they were too old and Sarah was barren. Abraham believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man, Abraham, who was too old to have any children – a nation with so many people that, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them…. It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his ownly son, Isaac, though God had promised him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendendts will be counted. Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.” (Heb 11:8-12; 17-19 NLT).

# It was by faith that Isaac blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau. He had confidence in what God was going to do in the future. It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed down in worship as he leaned on his staff.

# It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the son of Pharoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasure of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt. He was not afraid of the king. Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons” (Hebrews 11:24-28 NLT).

# Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death” (Hebrews 11:32-35 NLT).

These aren’t stories about “thugs”; these are stories about the God who transforms life after life when those lives come into contact with the living God. Trinity United Church of Christ fixates on where the saints of the Bible were at their worst, and leaves them there in an artificial portrait of negativity. And then it’s pastors paint a picture of victimhood and blame to justify that bleak portrait of the world.

Genuine Christianity – whether believers are red or yellow, black or white – fixates on the God who brings His saints to ultimate glory through faith. And when believers see that God, they can look beyond their circumstances and find the positive.

That’s the real problem with Trinity United and with its pastors former and current: there is a presentation of constant, unrelenting resentment, racism, and victimology, a seeing of the world through the prism of Marxist (i.e. liberation theology) thought rather than through the eyes of faith in the Christ of hope.

I don’t know what Trinity United Church teaches, but it isn’t the Christianity of Jesus Christ.

Let me share the real message of hope and change found in the message of Scripture:

Ephesians 1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Philippians 1:20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Colossians 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,

2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,

1 Timithy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope;

Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 3:6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

Do you see the difference between what the Bible proclaims – and what Christian pastors preach to congregations of every race under heaven all over the world – with the message that Jeremiah Wright and Otis Moss preach?

It’s strange that Barack Obama – as the “candidate of hope and change” – chose to spend so much of his life surrounded by such a toxic congregation, filled with the despair of abandonment and the stagnation of racism, instead of seeking a congregation that genuinely understood the true hope and change found in the Christ he claims to worship.

Pope Benedict: The anti-Maher, anti-Wright Christian leader

April 20, 2008

I was so pleased that Fox News gave the Pope’s celebration at St. Joseph’s Seminary full coverage. I am not Catholic, but I would have gladly kissed that ring today.

I think about Bill Maher’s recent comments against Pope Benedict (see my article, “Bill Maher vs. Pope Benedict: and the winner is…). I think about the remarks of Trinity United Church of Christ’s (and Barack Obama’s) paster, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In contrast to such bitter men, it was so inspiring to see a wise, gracious Christian giant demonstrate the true virtues of the Christian faith.

My home page is set to MSNBC. It really shouldn’t be, but I’m too lazy to change it. I am glad that their forecast (something like, “Pope Benedict is visiting America, but nobody cares”) was so completely dead-wrong.

The Pope, addressing an audience of mainly young people, was able to draw on his own experiences as a youth in Germany under the “monsters” of Nazi fascism. He said, “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew — infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion — before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.”

The Pope praised God for the strength of Democratic governments who finally stood up and removed the evil that marred his youth even as it marred the world, and called upon continued resolve to stand up for freedom. “Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just,” he said. He urged the young people and the future priests in the seminary to faithfully carry on their Christian works while enjoying the liberties that they were blessed to have.

“The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father “you have restored us to life!” (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday). And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds!”

“The German-born pope lamented that what he called “the joy of faith” was often choked by cynicism, greed and violence. Yet he drew an analogy to show how faith can overcome distractions and trials. ‘The spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God.'”

These words were as beautiful as they were inspiring:

“The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: “Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!” (Blessing of the Fire). And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us. It is “the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride” (Exsultet). This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints. It is a magnificent vision of hope — Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.”

Pope Benedict did not turn a blind eye to the darkness that constantly threatens to eclipse the world. Rather he defines it, and describes the path to attaining victory over it:

What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation — especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ? a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands — your hands — reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

The second area of darkness — that which affects the mind — often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place — or better said its absence — an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfillment and lasting happiness? Let us again turn to the saints. How did their witness truly free others from the darkness of heart and mind? The answer is found in the kernel of their faith; the kernel of our faith. The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: “Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!” (Blessing of the Fire). And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us. It is “the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride” (Exsultet). This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints. It is a magnificent vision of hope — Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.

At times, however, we are tempted to close in on ourselves, to doubt the strength of Christ’s radiance, to limit the horizon of hope. Take courage! Fix your gaze on our saints. The diversity of their experience of God’s presence prompts us to discover anew the breadth and depth of Christianity. Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.

Some more marvelous words that reveal the genuine transformational power of the Christian faith, as well as an incredible source of power to do good in the world:

“In the liturgy we find the whole Church at prayer. The word liturgy means the participation of God’s people in “the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). What is that work? First of all it refers to Christ’s Passion, his Death and Resurrection, and his Ascension — what we call the Paschal Mystery. It also refers to the celebration of the liturgy itself. The two meanings are in fact inseparably linked because this “work of Jesus” is the real content of the liturgy. Through the liturgy, the “work of Jesus” is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them. Here we catch another glimpse of the grandeur of our Christian faith. Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the sacraments, Jesus is at work. Through the Holy Spirit, he draws you to himself, into his sacrificial love of the Father which becomes love for all. We see then that the Church’s liturgy is a ministry of hope for humanity. Your faithful participation, is an active hope which helps to keep the world — saints and sinners alike — open to God; this is the truly human hope we offer everyone (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).

Your personal prayer, your times of silent contemplation, and your participation in the Church’s liturgy, bring you closer to God and also prepare you to serve others. The saints accompanying us this evening show us that the life of faith and hope is also a life of charity. Contemplating Jesus on the Cross we see love in its most radical form. We can begin to imagine the path of love along which we must move (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 12). The opportunities to make this journey are abundant. Look about you with Christ’s eyes, listen with his ears, feel and think with his heart and mind. Are you ready to give all as he did for truth and justice? Many of the examples of the suffering which our saints responded to with compassion are still found here in this city and beyond. And new injustices have arisen: some are complex and stem from the exploitation of the heart and manipulation of the mind; even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation. We must listen deeply. We must respond with a renewed social action that stems from the universal love that knows no bounds. In this way, we ensure that our works of mercy and justice become hope in action for others.”

I hear and read these great, wise, potent words, and then I compare them to the cynicism of Bill Maher and the bitterness and divisive racism of Jeremiah Wright. The gulf is astronomical. Such a beautiful description of such a beautiful worldview. Contrary to the sickness that has come out of the mouths of Maher and Wright, the first German Pope is the anti-Hitler, the anti-Wright. The light he offered to the young people at Yonkers contrasts dramatically with the darkness we have heard from others.

Daniela Rizzo brought her husband and their infant son from Connecticut. “You can feel the energy,” Rizzo said. “You can feel the faith.”

I felt it too.

Welcome to America, Pope Benedict. May your visit be as happy as the joy you are bringing to millions.

A full transcript of the Pope’s remarks at St. Joseph’s is available at

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/19/nyregion/19popeyouth.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5088&en=2a1a37f9f94e066d&ex=1366344000&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss