Thursday, April 17, 2014

700 years ago: The execution of Jacques de Molay

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
II Corinthians 6:14-17

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11

On March 18, 1314, Jacques de Molay, believed to be 70 years of age, was burned at the stake upon a scaffold on an island in the River Seine in Paris, along with Preceptor of Normandy Geoffroi de Charney. Mr. De Molay was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the most powerful of Roman Catholic military orders from 1292-1307, when the order was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V, who was under the threat of military action by King Philip IV. Mr. De Molay and other leading Knights Templar were arrested and accused of various crimes, to which they confessed after torture. Messrs. De Molay and De Charney were executed after retracting their confessions. Mr. De Molay's last words included a declaration that those who had condemned them to death would soon be hit by calamity; King Philip IV and Pope Clement V were both dead before the end of the year.

The Freemasonic youth organization DeMolay International, also known as the Order of DeMolay, founded in Kansas City, Missouri in 1919 by Frank S. Land, was named in honour of Jacques de Molay. According to its website:

What is DeMolay International?

DeMolay is an organization dedicated to preparing young men to lead successful, happy, and productive lives. Basing its approach on timeless principles and practical, hands-on experience, DeMolay opens doors for young men aged 12 to 21 by developing the civic awareness, personal responsibility and leadership skills so vitally needed in society today. DeMolay combines this serious mission with a fun approach that builds important bonds of friendship among members in more than 1,000 chapters worldwide.
The female equivalents of DeMolay International are Job's Daughters International, founded in Omaha in 1920 by Ethel T. Wead Mick; and International Order of the Rainbow for Girls (IORG), founded in McAlester, Oklahoma in 1922 as a result of a speech there by Rev. Mark Sexson, a Freemason.

The DeMolay Hall of Fame includes politicians Bill Clinton, Mark Hatfield, Mel Carnahan, Carl Albert, Henry Jackson, and Jim Wright; astronauts Frank Borman, Vance Brand, and Edgar Mitchell; sports figures Pete Rose, Fran Tarkenton, Harmon Killebrew, and Tom Osborne; and media and entertainment figures Walt Disney, John Wayne, and Paul Harvey. Other famous DeMolay alumni include astronaut Neil Armstrong; basketball player and politician Bill Bradley; baseball player and manager Alvin Dark; football player Terry Bradshaw; and even rock music legend Vince Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper.

One might wonder what DeMolay's idea of "personal responsibility" is, given the presence of Bill Clinton and Pete Rose in their Hall of Fame (Mr. Rose, of course, is ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame because he doesn't meet its entry standards of integrity and character--however low those standards may be in their application in the case of some who have been inducted in years past). It's worth noting that both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Rose were honoured by DeMolay before their biggest scandals came to light. One might think that, in light of what's happened since these two were inducted, that DeMolay might consider rescinding their Hall of Fame membership, or at least not boasting about it, but there they are, publicly mentioned among the honourees.

Some of the men mentioned above profess to be Christians, and maybe some of them are (although I recognize a couple of Mormons in that list), but in view of DeMolay's relationship with Freemasonry--which worships a false god and proclaims a false gospel of salvation by works--real Christians should disassociate themselves from the organization in obedience to II Corinthians 6:14-17.

The fact that DeMolay International is a Freemasonic organization, and that the Bible forbids being unequally yoked with unbelievers, hasn't prevented evangelist Billy Graham from praising the order:

...there are thoughtful, concerned young people--who seek to correct the errors in moral navigation that have been made by their elders, intelligently and responsibly. There are the young people upon which the hope of America's future rests and DeMolays are part of this group...May God richly bless all DeMolays as they continue their good work. Forrest D. Haggard, The Clergy and the Craft, 1970, p. 127.

When I was in high school and was a young and ignorant Christian, I was invited by a professing Christian friend to join DeMolay. I didn't pursue the opportunity--not because I had keen Christian discernment (although I thought DeMolay was a strange name for a society), but more because of apathy and because I'm not much of a joiner (it might also have been an unconscious holdover from my days in Cub Scouts, when I quit after two years because we never did anything interesting). Looking back, I think it was a case of God using my indifference to joining DeMolay to protect me from the deception of that society and its parent organization.

There are a number of excellent critiques of Freemasonry from a Christian perspective. A couple that this blogger has found useful are The Facts on the Masonic Lodge (1989) and The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge: A Christian Perspective (1990) by John Ankerberg & John Weldon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Life imitates art as 2014's Noah sounds like a real-life version of 1994 spoof ...And God Spoke

In the same vein in which the "mockumentary" movie This is Spinal Tap (1984) made fun of rock music documentary films, ...And God Spoke, which opened at the Festival of Festivals in Toronto in 1993 and went into general release in 1994, pokes fun at fictitious movie producers who who decided to make a movie based on the Bible. The producers know next to nothing about the Bible and are too lazy to read it (the director asks a Catholic worker on the set how many disciples Jesus had), but they think they'll be able to get by. The production falls behind schedule after the first day, and before long, saving money takes precedence over faithfulness to the source material.

Gaffes abound, forcing the production further behind schedule, e.g., the actress who plays Eve has a prominent tattoo, and the replica of the ark is built inside a factory and then proves to be too big to get through the factory door and onto the outdoor set. In order to raise more money for the production, the producers decide that some product placement is necessary, so Moses (played by Soupy Sales) is shown coming down a small hill (they couldn't afford a mountan) carrying the tablets of the Ten Commandments in one hand and a six-pack of Coca-Cola cans in the other--not exactly accurate period detail. The movie finally gets finished and released, and is a total disaster, but eventually becomes a cult hit through midnight screenings (a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show), with fans showing up at the theatres in costumes resembling those of the movie's characters.

Flash forward 20 years, and we have Noah (2014). I have no intention of seeing it, but numerous Christian commentators and bloggers have seen it, and there are too many well-informed critiques available from them to mention here. It seems as though producer/director/writer Darren Aronofsky has spent about as much time in the Bible as his fictional counterparts in ...And God Spoke. Even secular reviewers have noticed that Noah isn't exactly faithful to the source material.

Katherine Monk of Canada's Postmedia News states, in her March 28, 2014 review:

...Given all we've heard about the cost of production and big-budget effects, Noah had to deliver two spectacles in grand fashion.

We needed to see an ancient flood that made our feet feel wet, and we needed to see realistic animals loaded onto a gigantic ark that looked plausible from a mariner's perspective.

Aronofsky only half-delivers the goods because it seems a lot of money went toward creating Watchers - characters made of stone and stardust that protect Noah from the marauding hordes.

Here Aronofsky brings a little Judaic Shul to the mix by interpreting the Nephilim, or angels, in the form of Golem - mud monsters. These cartoonish creatures are by far the most insane part of this crazy ride - and not just because the central rock man is voiced by Nick Nolte - but they fit the Dungeons and Dragons landscape, which in turn peels the Noah story away from sacred scripture and reinvents it as a grim fairy tale.

If only he'd been able to pull it all together as something other than an awkward, rectangular box, Noah might have had some real style and gone somewhere interesting...
As an amusing sidelight, Ms. Monk tweets that she got a little taste of the real thing as she left the theatre:

God must love Noah.... just got out of Aronofsky screening and walked into a downpour, then a hail storm.

And according to Adam Nayman in the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail, March 28, 2014:

...In Noah, the director takes perhaps the most spectacular chapter of the Greatest Story Ever Told and renders it utterly underwhelming. The drab, under-lit look of Noah, which was shot by Aronofsky’s talented long-time cinematographer Matthew Libatique, represents an attempt to ground myth in reality – to quite literally ground it in acres and acres of mud...

...The gravitas of Noah’s knowledge that the majority of life on Earth is about to be wiped out clashes with the oversized absurdity of much of what’s going on around him, including the clan’s collaboration with a group of giant rock monsters (actually fallen angels), who, whatever their actual scriptural origins, look and sound like creatures from other high-end blockbusters – gigantic refugees from The Lord of the Rings.

These and other gimmicky touches suggest that Aronofsky is trying to justify his project’s massive cost, and yet it’s obvious that what he’s really after is a sense of intimacy. The film’s second half, set inside the Ark as the storm rages outside, is basically a sea-bound psychodrama that finds Noah wrestling with a form of survivor’s guilt and channelling it against the other passengers...

...Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel struggle to create authentic drama and so fall back on action-movie clichés. The point at which Noah stops dead so that two burly movie stars can roll around on the ground pummelling one another is when some viewers may start to suspect that the director is piloting his own gigantic vessel on cruise control.

The film is not without its moments: One shot of a rocky outcropping teeming with people trying to escape the rising tide is borderline-Boschian, and an intelligently designed recap of the Creation myth provocatively overlays Old Testament language on images of evolution. But most of what’s on offer here feels depressingly familiar, especially Crowe’s performance, which doesn’t deviate from the actor’s track record of hard, manful glowering; frankly, he was much better playing a man caught between his loved ones and a larger sense of duty in The Insider (which also featured some more authentically visionary hallucinations to boot).

As for the other actors, they’re badly wasted, especially Connelly, whose screen time mostly consists of grinding herbs to put the Ark’s non-human passengers to sleep (which also cuts down on the special-effects budget, since that means we never really have to see the critters in action)...

...Noah never quite achieves the grandeur it’s reaching for, maybe because in the end the director isn’t really stretching all that far. He has upped the weight, but he hasn’t raised the bar.
There are of course, two major differences between Noah and the fictitious epic in ...And God Spoke: Noah had a much bigger budget, and is a big box office hit. I have no intention of seeing Noah, so I'll have to go by the reviews that give the impression that it's a miserable piece of work. I'm one of the few people who's seen ...And God Spoke, and it was a lot of fun--especially for those who know the Bible--and probably at least as Biblically accurate as Noah.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

20 years ago: Evangelicals and Catholics Together

On March 29, 1994, Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders signed the joint declaration Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the 3rd Millennium. Dave Hunt provided an excellent commentary on the event in The Berean Call's May 1994 newsletter, The Gospel Betrayed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Charismatic pastor drops dead immediately after confessing marital infidelity

A bishop then must be blameless... I Timothy 3:1a

Confession may be good for the soul, but may also be fatal to the body, at least in the case of the late Bishop Bobby Davis. As reported by Daniel Tepfer of the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, March 13, 2014:

BRIDGEPORT -- A congregation loudly confronted its longtime pastor about his alleged infidelity -- and in the midst of their yelling, the pastor dropped dead.

That's what happened Sunday at the Miracle Faith World Outreach Church, according to members of the congregation and police sources.

Bishop Bobby Davis, pastor of the Harriet Street church since its founding in 1967, was pronounced dead at Bridgeport Hospital.

"After the service on Sunday the bishop's family asked us to remain in the church and the bishop confessed to us something that happened long ago," said Judy Stovall, an elder at the church. "He wanted to come clean with all of us. He wanted to ask our forgiveness."

Members of the congregation were very vocal with Davis just before he passed out, but they were shouting support for him, Stovall said.

"We were shouting, `We forgive you, we love you,' but the stress of all of it -- he had a heart attack," Stovall said. "I held his head as he lay on the floor," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "Our congregation is hurting now."

The cause of death is pending further review, according to the Office of the State Medical Examiner.

Police spokesman William Kaempffer would only confirm that a detective has been assigned to the case. "The circumstances are under investigation," he said.

Stovall conceded that the shouts from the congregants did get loud. A woman, who wouldn't give her name, said she had been outside the church at the time and heard yelling coming from inside, but didn't know what was being said.

Davis founded the church with his wife, Christine. The couple, of Monroe, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last June.

According to a church biography, the couple initially held prayer meetings in the home of Christine Davis' mother in Stamford. In 1987 they moved to the Harriet Street building and in 1998 they opened a new church facility at 754 Main St. in Monroe.

That building is no longer in use for church services, parishioners said.

Bishop Davis graduated from the Vision Christian College of Ramona, Calif., with a doctorate degree in ministry and a master's degree in theological studies. He was is a certified marriage and family therapist.
Bishop Davis's public confession may not have been as voluntary as it seemed, as reported by Leonardo Blair of the Christian Post, March 13, 2014:

...One source, who asked not to be identified during an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, said the confession wasn't that clean-cut based on what they were told, and feels the situation could have been handled better.

"He (Bishop Davis) had confessed it (infidelity) personally to his wife prior to the service, and she called a meeting after church with just the members and the members stayed. He wasn't there at the time, he was somewhere else apparently, neither of them were in the service that morning. They had one of their pastors do the service," explained the source.

"From what I was told, she (pastor's wife) told the congregation what he had done. And so, when he comes through the door he had no idea what he was walking into. So it wasn't even. 'We're gonna make an announcement today' ... in a unified way as a couple," the source continued.

"I'm told that when he walked through the door she basically told him, 'Tell them what you just told me,' which is what induced the heart attack, because it's not like he was walking into it knowing," the source explained.

"She said it and he said, 'Yes, that's right.' She asked him to say who exactly it was. And he said, 'Well, it doesn't matter [because] that person has passed. God forgive, let's get past it.' Apparently it was his family members who reacted out in anger, from what I understand. It was not the congregation," the source noted.

"It got physical. One of the sons attacked him. I was told one of the daughters poured water on him. It was like something out of, not even like the Old Testament, but a bad reality TV show," said the source. "My heart is so devastated because it could have been handled in a private manner."

The source, whom Bishop Davis once pastored, said his confession must have been difficult for the family to handle because he was "a very black and white preacher."

"There was this expectation for us growing up as kids. If we fell short we should be able to know that, as our church family, we can confess it in public and kind of move on from there," noted the source.

CP reached out to the Bridgeport Police for an official account of what happened on Sunday and spokesman William Kaempffer said they responded to a medical call at the church on Sunday.

"A detective was assigned to the case. Over the last two days dozens upon dozens of people have been interviewed. Detectives were able to review video from inside the church that was taken by a member of the church. And based on what we observed, there is no criminal aspect to it. This was a medical call and the case is closed," he said.

When asked about the cause of death, Kaempffer responded: "You would have to call the medical examiner for that. That is what it appears to be, but we are not doctors."

Bishop Davis and his wife told the New York Times in 1999 that it was a miracle that inspired the start of their church in 1967 after Mrs. Davis' mother was cured of cancer following prayer meetings at her home.
Bishop Davis's alma mater, Vision Christian College, is affiliated with Vision International College, founded in Tasmania in 1974 by Ken Chant, brother of well-known Australian charismatic leader Barry Chant. The college operates Internet Bible College.

The perceptive reader will note that Miracle Faith World Outreach Church has at least one female elder, an unscriptural practice common among charismatic churches. However, this is the first time I've ever seen a pastor's wife referred to as a church's "First Lady." One might also wonder why a church that goes by the name of Miracle Faith World Outreach Church wasn't able to summon a miracle and raise Bishop Davis back to life.

March 29, 2014 update: It seems that I'm not as up to date as I should be. The Praise Centre, a Pentecostal church in Maple, Ontario (Greater Toronto Area) has Michelle E. Meredith, the pastor's wife, listed as "First Lady"--a position not found anywhere in the Bible. I don't know if this is now a common practice in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, or just among churches of that ilk that are led by people of a certain race.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Scientists discover brain activity related to out-of-body experiences

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
II Corinthians 12:1-4

It seems as though scientists have discovered that some people have voluntary out-of-body experiences, and that he experiences are related to brain activity. As reported by Lucy Scholey of Metro News, March 10, 2014:

An out-of-body experience might sound like something from a paranormal movie or a religious cult, but a pair of researchers from the University of Ottawa have the science to back the curious case.

Claude Messier and Andra Smith conducted a study on a woman who can voluntarily have an out-of-body experience. It had become common practice for the 24-year-old, who said she started doing it when she was a child to help her fall asleep.

Messier and Smith conducted functional MRI scans of the woman while in this state and found that there’s brain activity linked to the feeling of being lifted out of one’s body or seeing one’s body while outside of it. They had her imagine she was doing jumping jacks or roll over while in this out-of-body state.

Normally, when one imagines doing jumping jacks, both sides of the brain are active. But in this woman’s out-of-body state, the scanned images showed activity predominately on the left side of the brain.

“That was a cue to us that we were just doing something different than just regular imagery,” said Messier.

“It was a bit of a surprise and we certainly didn’t expect anything special,” he said, adding that they tested her twice. “We were a bit unsure, skeptical, that this was actually happening.”

This woman was an interesting case, said Messier, because most people have out-of-body experiences following a traumatic event or drug use. While typically frightening – especially for those experiencing them for the first time – this woman was able to do it on her own terms.

Since this study was published, Messier said he’s heard from other people who say they can voluntarily have out-of-body experiences. He’s also seen blog articles that link this study to religion or paranormal activity, but he said those are misleading.

“There’s science that backs the idea that the brain generates our body image and that changes in the brain, very often pathological, can induce the out-of-body experience,” he said.
Click on the link to see the full text of the original article Voluntary out-of-body experience: an fMRI study from Human Neuroscience, February 10, 2014.

In the case of the experience reported by the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 12, it should be kept in mind that he didn't know if he was in or out of his body when he had the experience. More important, Paul didn't initiate the experience--it was a revelation given to him by God--and nowhere are Christians encouraged to seek such experiences. To deliberately attempt to have out-of-body experiences may make a person vulnerable to spiritual deception.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Antichrist Ambrose University College continues on its downward, leftward, and Romeward course

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Matthew 7:17-19

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them
. Acts 20:29-30

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
II Corinthians 6:14-18

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
II John 9-11

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to find that, thanks to Brannon Howse's Worldview Weekend broadcast (with guest Mike Gendron) of March 3, 2014, Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta, the denominational school for both the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada and Church of the Nazarene Canada, is using its Global Impact Week of March 4-8, 2014 to engage in ecumenical activities with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. I've been warning about Ambrose for five years (see links at the bottom of this post), and predicted that the college would go in an increasingly Romeward direction when Jesuit-educated Gordon T. Smith was named President in 2012. From Ambrose's home page item on Global Impact Week (See also the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary item):

March 4 – 8, 2014
“Catholics and Evangelicals in God’s Mission – Together”
Ambrose University College and the Calgary Catholic Diocese

Keynote Speakers:

Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP is Director of the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, DC. He did his graduate studies in theology at the Washington (D.C.) Theological Union and the University of Geneva. Ordained a Paulist in 1975, he served in campus ministry at the Ohio State University (Columbus) and at McGill University (Montreal, QC.), prior to directing the Montreal-based Canadian Centre for Ecumenism for 14 years and working in all ten provinces of Canada. He spearheaded the founding of Unitas in Montreal, an ecumenical center for spirituality and Christian meditation co-sponsored by eight different denominations.

Rev. Dr. Gordon T. Smith is President and Professor of Systematic and Spiritual Theology at Ambrose University College and Seminary, in Calgary, Alberta. Previously he served as Vice President and Dean of Regent College, Vancouver; more recently, he has been the President of reSource Leadership International. He is an ordained minister with The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and served with the Alliance as an international worker in the Philippines. He has been the senior pastor of two congregations and is the author of a number of publications, including Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity (IVP, 2013) and Courage and Calling: Maximizing your God-given Potential, rev. (IVP, 2011).

Why this topic?

“Catholics and Evangelicals in God’s Mission—Together” is an unprecedented opportunity to come together to talk about Christian unity and mission. Church unity is a global issue that matters: Jesus prayed in the closing hours of his life for the unity of his followers, and the church’s vocation is to be a sign in our world of God’s reconciling power. The truth is that Evangelicals and Catholics share much more in common than not. The events, talks, and opportunities of Global Impact Week 2014 invite us to rejoice in the gifts of God present in our Christian communities and affirm our shared mission.

Tuesday Chapel, March 4 – 11:15am


With all the diversity between church traditions, it is vital that we affirm our common faith, in response to one Lord – Jesus, the Christ. From this affirmation two things follow: we resolve to learn from each other; we resolve to witness together, in word and deed, to the reign of Christ.

Chapel, March 6 – 11:15am


Some gifts from different traditions of Christian faith--Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic –will be lifted up in the spirit of "receptive ecumenism" with an eye towards an exchange of Spirit-given gifts for the growth and development of disciples in each tradition.

Thursday Evening March 6, 7PM Public Lecture


An overview of each of our origins and theological tendencies: differences that can’t be ignored, commonalities we share, and creative challenges we offer one another for our mutual enrichment.

Friday Evening March 7, 7PM Public Lecture (Location: St. Anthony’s Church, 5340 4 St SW)


Vatican II is one of the most significant church councils in the history of the church – significant for all Christians, not just Catholics; it opened up new learnings and an extraordinary opportunity for conversation between Christians of diverse traditions, including Evangelicals and Catholics. (Note: For students wishing to attend this lecture and “The 17th Avenue Post-Vatican II Friday Night Food-Fest,” bus leaves Ambrose at 6:15 pm. See “Student Events” section for more details.)

Saturday Morning, March 8, 10AM Public Forum at Ambrose


This session will be an informal discussion of obstacles, opportunities, and unique challenges for Catholics and Evangelicals where they are called into mission together. For example: What can we learn from each other about Christian mission? What mistakes have we made and what have we learned from them? Why do many evangelicals continue to proselytize Catholics, especially in developing countries? Is the reverse a problem too? Who has a vision for what practical expressions and initiative for shared mission looks like? What is the vision? (Coffee and refreshments will be served at 9:30 am.)

Tuesday, March 4 – 6:30 pm

The Serving Together Event

Ambrose and Catholic university students will be serving together at The Centre of Hope in Calgary’s East Village (420 9 Ave SE). The Centre of Hope provides life-changing social services and programmes every day, providing practical assistance for children and families, often tending to the basic necessities of life, and providing shelter for homeless people and rehabilitation for people who have lost control of their lives to an addiction. Ambrose students: Please meet in the Sylvester Atrium at 6:30 pm. Contact: Tasha Klassen,

Thursday, March 6 – 2:30 – 4pm


Open to all students regardless of program, Fr. Tom Ryan will reflect on his Reconciliation and Unity study tour to Northern Ireland; Coventry England; Geneva, Switzerland; and Taize, France—all areas of our world where people are working for healing and reconciliation. Come and get a big-picture view of inspirational things happening in our world today that could fuel your own energy and vision. Location: Classroom A2210

Friday, March 7 – 6:15 pm

The 17th Avenue Post-Vatican II Friday Night Food-Fest”

Board the bus to go hear Dr. Smith’s talk “An Evangelical Response to Vatican II” at St. Anthony’s Church, followed by a downtown food-stop at Clive Burger and The Big Cheese Poutinerie. No cost for the first 48 students who register for this event. Bus leaves in front of Sylvester Atrium at 6:15 pm. Book your free ticket by emailing:

Presented by Ambrose University College and the Calgary Catholic Diocese
The blog Muddy Streams has an informative post on the strange and definitely non-Christian resume of Fr. Thomas Ryan, CSP. I'd like to know how Ambrose U.C. knew Fr. Ryan as someone to invite for this event. It reminds me of Rick Warren bringing New Agers to Saddleback Community Church to help in his "Daniel Plan" weight-loss program in 2011. How do they know these people? Such associations strike me as very suspicious.

I have problems with some of the things mentioned above. When it comes to evangelicals and Catholics sharing "much more in common than not," the same was true of Christians and Judaizers in Galatia in the 1st century, but the apostle Paul, writing under divine inspiration, condemned the Judaizers for proclaiming a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Christianity and Roman Catholicism don't share a "common faith."

The question is asked above, "Why do evangelicals continue to proselytize, especially in developing countries?". The perceptive reader will notice that this is presented as a "problem." I prefer the word "evangelize"--"proselytize" seems to carry a connotation of coercion. The reason that evangelism is still done among Roman Catholics in backward nations developing countries is because the missionaries are often those who, like the Reformers, were Roman Catholics, and when they heard the true gospel, realized that they weren't saved within Roman Catholicism, came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, and then left the Roman Catholic Church.

Many people, including Christians, are under the erroneous impression that the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) resulted in the Roman Catholic Church becoming more liberal in its doctrine, but that just isn't so. From Lumen Gentium--Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, November 21, 1964:




51. This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea,...the Council of Florence...and the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent was the Counter-Reformation council that took place between 1545-1564. For a sample of the doctrines that the council promulgated, go to The Council of Trent: The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, Ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848): SESSION THE SEVENTH, Celebrated on the third day of the month of March, MDXLVII: DECREE ON THE SACRAMENTS, pp.54-58. These pages contain canons on sacraments in general, and canons on baptism and confirmation. In these few pages you will see several dozen anathemas--ecclesiastical curses accompanied by excommunication--against the Biblical gospel. The passage from Vatican II cited above says that the decrees of the Council of Trent are still official Roman Catholic teachings today.

Global Impact Week is just the latest example of Ambrose's ecumenism. Go to Ambrose's Chapel Schedule Winter 2014, look at the entry for January 23, 2014, and you'll see that Ambrose's chapel speaker that day was Adrian Martens, Coordinator of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Mr. Martens is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary's contact person for Ambrose's Global Impact Week; he was speaking during Ambrose's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

And what is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity? It's an ecumenical event with Roman Catholic roots. Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, A Ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, has this to say about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
(January 18–25, 2014)

Has Christ Been Divided?
(cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13)

The Church Unity Octave, a forerunner of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was developed by Father Paul Wattson, SA, at Graymoor in Garrison, New York, and was first observed at Graymoor from January 18-25, 1908. Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one” (John 17:21).

In 1966, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat (now Council) for Promoting Christian Unity began collaborating as a common international text for worldwide usage. Since 1968 these international texts, which are based on themes proposed by ecumenical groups around the world, have been developed, adapted and published for use in the United States by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. The theme of the 2014 Week of Prayer, ‘Has Christ been divided?’ was chosen and worked upon by the Christian Churches in Canada.
On the theme for 2014, GEII says:

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014

Chosen Theme: Has Christ Been Divided?
(cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13)

The 2014 theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity finds its origins in 1 Corinthians 1:1-17. The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the original days of the feasts of the Chair of St. Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25) , and therefore have a symbolic significance. The initial work on the theme for this year’s week of prayer material was prepared by a group of representatives from different parts of Canada, brought together at the invitation of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism. The texts were approved at a meeting of the International Committee composed of members of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting of Christian Unity. Being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led to this year’s theme which focuses on Saint Paul’s provocative question in 1 Corinthians: “Has Christ Been Divided?” We continue to be divided by doctrine, polity, and practice, and to maintain our own religious identity, yet our pilgrimage towards unity continues under God’s guidance.
The statements and information packages regarding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are identical for the World Council of Churches and the Vatican. For the statement from the WCC, go here; for the statement from the Vatican, go here. For the information package from the WCC, go here; for the information package from the Vatican, go here.

Here's what the Canadian Council of Churches said about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:

Launch of Human Trafficking Resource & Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Celebrated in Calgary

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an internationally celebrated time of prayer, reflection, and study bringing together Christians from across denominations and around the world. This year’s materials were prepared by a Canadian writing team and focus on a theme from Corinthians, “Has Christ Been Divided?” Major Canadian celebrations include a series of Calgary. The Rev. Victor Kim of local host Grace Presbyterian Church notes, “It’s a chance for us to discuss and celebrate what we all have in common, identify what role our beliefs have in today’s ever-changing society, and how it can apply to everyday teachings and situations.” A number of officiants from across Alberta will lead prayer and discussions.

This week will also see The Canadian Council of Churches present its leadership and learning kit for churches on human trafficking in Canada. This resource facilitates adult learning, theological reflection, and common action on human trafficking through a series of reflections, awareness raising exercises, bible studies, and background materials. “With rising incidences across the globe, and within our own borders, we need to understand that human trafficking is human rights abuse, economic injustice, violence; and organized crime,” says The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches. She continues, “As a national council, we have heard from all churches of Christian faith across the country in their desire to become educated in the signs and solutions for human trafficking in our country.” Rev. Hamilton will be in Calgary to preach at an ecumenical gathering on Sunday, January 19th.

All are welcome at the Week of Prayer events listed below, including the public launch of Human Trafficking in Canada: A Leadership and Learning Kit for Churches.

For more information, please contact the Rev. Victor Kim at 403.244.5861.


Sunday, January 19 7:00 PM
Grace Presbyterian Church. 1009 – 15 Ave. S.W.
Evening Grace Worship
Officiant: The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary, The Canadian Council of Churches

Monday, January 20 Noon
Press Conference with Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton
Public Launch of “Human Trafficking in Canada: A Leadership and Learning Kit for Churches”
A resource from the Canadian Council of Churches
Grace Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, January 21 7:00 PM
Prince of Faith Lutheran Church. 2523 – 56 St. N.E.
Officiant: Pastor Scott Peterson

Wednesday, January 22 12:00 PM
University of Calgary
The Loft – 4th Floor McEwan Center, University of Calgary
Officiants: The University of Calgary Chaplains

Wednesday, January 22 7:00 PM
“Conversations of unCommon Grace”
Screening of human trafficking documentary “Not My Life”
And conversation with representatives from Action Coalition on Human Trafficking, ACT Alberta
Grace Presbyterian Church
Information and tickets:

Thursday, January 23 11:15 AM
Ambrose University College Chapel Service. 150 Ambrose Circle S.W.
Officiant: Adrian Martens

Thursday, January 23 7:00 PM
St. Mary’s Cathedral. 219 – 18 Ave. S.W.
Officiant: Bishop Fred Henry

Sunday, January 26 7:00 PM (preceded by international/intercultural dinner at 6:00 PM)
St. Matthew’s United Church. 2035 – 26A St. S.W.
Officiant: Pastor Vincent Yellow Old Woman, Siksika Nation

On January 15, 2014

While the abolition of human trafficking is a worthy cause, it's not a cause that's distinctively Christian. However worthy the cause may be, the World Council of Churches and Canadian Council of Churches (which is part of the WCC) are notoriously liberal and apostate, and real Christians should have nothing to do with these bodies or any of their initiatives.

It hardly needs mentioning that the Roman Catholic Church's idea of "Christian unity" is to bring "separated brethren" back into the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. When the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church invoke I Corinthians 1:17 to ask, "Has Christ Been Divided?," my answer is that Christ hasn't been divided, but the Roman Catholic Church and the liberal churches in the WCC and CCC aren't part of the body of Christ. While Christ hasn't been divided, Christ Himself does divide: He divides families (Matthew 10:34-36); true from false (John 8:12-55); the church from the world (John 17:9); and sheep from goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Any real Christians who are still in the Roman Catholic Church or churches in the WCC or CCC should "come out and be separate."

HT: Worldview Weekend

See my previous posts on Ambrose:

Why is an Alliance-Nazarene college named after a Roman Catholic saint?

The Ambrose-contemplative connection

Ambrose University College trains Nazarene pastors using materials from a company with ties to Mormonism

Ambrose University College and "Transformation"

The Outhouse (aka The Shack) in God's house

Ambrose Seminary teaches contemplative spirituality in 2009-2010

Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president

Ambrose University College's "Jazz Day" provides evidence of increasing worldliness in evangelical schools

Friday, March 7, 2014

10 years ago: Vicky Gene Robinson becomes first openly sodomite U.S. Episcopal Bishop

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:18-32

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour,...
I Timothy 3:1-2b

He told me his name was Vicky Gene
And he caused a scene...

--with apologies to Michael Jackson

On March 7, 2004, Vicky Gene Robinson, who had put the fulfillment of his homosexual lust ahead of his marriage vows and duties to his family, was invested in Concord, New Hampshire as the Episcopal Church U.S.A.'s first openly sodomite bishop.

10 years ago: John Jay Report reveals the extent of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:18-32

On February 27, 2004, the first version of a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice--popularly known as the John Jay Report--was released on the Internet and reported that 10,667 children in the United States had made allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests between 1950 and 2002.

The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. Go here for a copy of the report.

30 years ago: Jesse Jackson and "Hymietown"

On February 26, 1984, Rev. Jesse Jackson, veteran civil rights activist and a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States in the November 1984 election, apologized to Jewish voters for having referred earlier to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York City as "Hymietown." Rev. Jackson's had initially denied uttering the slurs, but recordings of his comments made further denial impossible.

The main thing I remember about the incident was the lack of major outrage expressed by the liberal mainstream media in the United States. It's amazing what one can get away with if one is a member of a politically correct racial minority, and a political and theological liberal. I imagine the reaction from the American political, media, and religious establishment would have been somewhat different if anti-Jewish slurs had been uttered by, say, Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ambrose University College's "Jazz Day" provides evidence of increasing worldliness in evangelical schools

With each passing day, it becomes increasingly difficult to notice anything distinctively Christian in evangelical schools. As evidence, I submit the following item. Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta is the denominational school for both the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada and Church of the Nazarene Canada.

All Jazz, All Day

The sound of jazz was heard throughout the Ambrose campus recently, as 40 students gathered for a full day jazz clinic featuring instrumental lessons, ensemble time, a student open mike session, and a faculty concert to end the event. Event attendee Joel Untinen felt that “it was a great experience to learn with other students, share ideas, and play together. It was also amazing to see the Ambrose jazz faculty perform together.”

The day’s faculty team consisted of clinicians Ralf Buschmeyer (guitar), Tyler Hornby (drums), Stefano Valdo (bass), Allistair Elliott (trumpet), and Pat Beliveau (sax) from Ambrose, as well as Carsten Rubeling (trombone) and Michelle Grégoire (piano). The special guest clinician was John Daversa (trumpet), head of the jazz program at the University of Miami. “As a newcomer to the jazz world, it was exciting to meet and play with those involved in the local scene and learn from some of the best in the city,” commented James Sylvester, who also attended the day-long event.

Students were divided into groups for instrumental lessons and ensemble time. In the late afternoon, all of the students were able to participate in an open mike session. “They would have performed all evening if possible,” noted event coordinator Barbara de Bruyn.

Many students in attendance heard about Ambrose for the first time, with some now even considering attending Ambrose next year. Ambrose is one of the few schools in the city that offers jazz studies and clinics like this are an opportunity to draw students in as they experience first-hand what Ambrose music offers. Given the success of the first Jazz Day, the Music Department is already in discussion and planning for next year’s event...
...Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 10:23am
Just one question, Chief: Is there a kind of jazz that could be described as "Christian jazz?"

Friday, February 28, 2014

David Yonggi Cho, founder of the world's largest church, is convicted and sentenced for embezzlement

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
I Timothy 6:9-10

For more than 30 years I've been hearing David Yonggi Cho (formerly Paul Yonggi Cho) held up as an example of a Christian leader, the assumption apparently being that the bigness of a church is in direct proportion to God's blessing upon it. Whether or not the doctrines taught in such a big church are biblical doesn't seem to be important. Mr. Cho has a long history of teaching New Age doctrines, such as man creating his own reality through creative visualization. Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, in The Seduction of Christianity (1985), critique several examples of Mr. Cho's false teaching.

Mr. Cho's ability to visualize, or, in a word that he likes to use, "incubate," seems to be failing him lately. As reported by Yonhap News, February 20, 2014:

A Seoul court on Thursday sentenced a pastor of one of the world's largest Christian churches to three years in prison with a five-year stay of execution for embezzling large amounts of church funds.

Rev. Cho Yong-gi, the founder and pastor emeritus of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, was found guilty of causing some 13 billion won (US$12 million) worth of losses to the church by instructing church officials to buy stocks privately owned by his eldest son, Cho Hee-jun, at prices four times higher than market value, in 2002.

The elder Cho was also convicted of dodging 3.5 billion won in taxes in the process.

The Seoul Central District Court also ordered the 78-year-old disgraced pastor to pay a fine of 5 billion won.

In the same ruling, the court handed down a prison term of three years to the junior Cho, the former CEO of the church-affiliated local daily Kookmin Ilbo, for colluding with his father in the embezzlement scheme.

An investigation into the Cho family was launched last year after a group of members belonging to the church filed a suit for breach of trust and tax evasion.

The church, which claims it has around 800,000 members, has often made headlines in the recent past over a series of internal feuds and various corruption allegations.
Mr. Cho addressed the church on the first Sunday following the verdict, as reported by the Gospel Herald, February 24, 2014:

Pastor David Yonggi Cho, founder of the world's largest Pentecostal congregation, gave his reflection during the first Sunday Service after a South Korean court found him guilty of breach of trust, corruption and tax evasion, and sentenced him to three years in prison with a five-year probation and 5 billion won (US$4.67 million) in fines.

The 78-year-old disgraced megachurch pastor said that it was the hardest day of his 50 years of ministry when he heard the verdict on Thursday.

"Through this suffering, I've learned a homework. An individual shouldn't possess anything," Cho told his congregation at Yoido Full Gospel Church on Feb. 23, 2014. "Besides health, status, fame, authority, money... these are all matters that are outside the body and unworthy of any pursuit..."

...Cho did not argue against the judgment, but, instead, examined himself from the perspective of faith.

"God forbid, if God calls me back today, I will still be able to go to the Kingdom of God," he said. Cho then asked that the congregation to pray for his successor pastor Young Hong Lee.

In his sermon, Lee apologized to the congregation for the negative impacts that Cho's case have brought upon them. He encouraged them to forget the past and press on towards the future, and to continue the spread of the Gospel to those who have yet to receive the great love of Christ.

Senior pastor Lee said that Yoido Full Gospel Church was purchased with a heavy price - the blood shed by Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore no power of darkness can divide the church. Lee encouraged the congregation to become one body in the Holy Spirit and to be more diligent in the Lord's Holy work.
As might be expected, Mr. Cho's conviction doesn't prevent his supporters from defending him, and blaming everybody but David Yonggi Cho for the scandal. As reported by Luke Leung of the Gospel Herald, February 26, 2014:

News of Pastor David Yonggi Cho's indictment has spread like wild fire among the global Christian communities, where followers of the disgraced South Korean megachurch pastor searched for an explanation on how did their spiritual leader became entangled in the crime of breach of trust and corruption, embezzling $12 million of church funds.

Dr. Bob Rodgers Sr., pastor of Evangel World Prayer Center in Louisville, Ky., is a close confident of Cho, and he and his father have served on his church growth board for a combined 38 years. With the hope of restoring the public's trust towards Cho, he published a letter disclosing details surrounding the case that were disclosed behind close-door meetings which have not yet been made public.

Cho's eldest son, Hee-Jun, was indicted for the same charge and sentenced to three years in prison. He was immediately taken into custody following the court order, because he was considered a flight risk, Rodgers wrote.

"Cho has three sons. The second and third are very productive and work in church-related ministries. His eldest son has been the prodigal. He has been married four times and has been involved in sexual scandals with national personalities," he said, noting that he has closely followed the trial in Seoul. "In addition, he has served prison time for investment scams and embezzlement. His scandalized life has been an embarrassment to his family and the church."

In 2002, while serving as chairman of a church-affiliated newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, Hee-Jun sold the church 250,000 shares of stock in 1-Service, a cleaning company, at four times more than the market price. He "purposely defrauded" the church of more than $12 million, according to Rodgers, president of Church Growth International of the Americas.

"[David Yonggi] Cho testified that he trusted his elders and son and didn't check and read the thousands of pages of paperwork, which was prepared for him to sign," he wrote. "Because Cho relied upon the direction of his choice elders and son, he signed the paper. He never received any monies from the transaction."

However, the prosecutors, representing a group of elders from Yoido Full Gospel Church, had identified Cho as an accomplice to his son's embezzlement scheme, claiming that he used the money to help his son recover losses made in stock investments, the hankyoreh reported. In addition, they claimed that Cho had allegedly directed the transaction to be dealt with as quietly as possible despite his full knowledge of the potential "uproar" from the elders and congregation.

In light of these reports, Rodgers provided the presiding judges' final ruling, "The court considered that even though Pastor Cho had the final say in the church, he never took the lead in any of the crimes, including tax evasion, committed on the suggestion of the accounting firm.

"The court also considered Cho's life journey as a religious leader and his long-term contribution to social welfare as mitigating circumstances on his behalf. The court ruled that his son, Cho Hee-Jun, was the instigator of the crime related to the purchase of the shares of 1-Service stock."

Cho, 78, founded Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1958 and it now claims more than 450,000 followers. His disciples have built their own "disciple churches" across the country, creating a congregation of roughly one million people, with Cho as the leader.

Rodgers shared in conclusion that Cho lives a simple life in a 1,000-square-foot- church apartment and does not own a car, and he has raised and given personally to the church more than $170 million.

Taiwanese Pastor Mao-Song Chang, who pastors Top Church in New Taipei, Taiwan, has close ties with Cho and his church, released a statement, providing further details of the court verdict. He said that one of Yoido's church elder[s] had visited him in January and explained in detail about the case to him. Then, Pastor Lee also visited him in mid-Feb.

"First, when the elders filed a lawsuit against Cho, accusing him of embezzling $20 million, Cho knelt before the congregation and apologized, admitting his mistake for not having a good family testimony, resulting in the harm to church," he wrote.

Second, Cho faced the court honestly, he wrote. "Some elders from the incident have either passed away or no longer work as elders; some said that they don't remember. However, around 1,000 other elders testified that 'Pastor Cho is innocent,' and they asked why the judge doesn't believe in the testimonies of 1,000, but of 30."

"Third, the presiding judge once told Cho, 'We know that this case is not your problem. You just need to blame it on your son, then you will have no responsibilities,'" Change wrote, adding that Cho refused, "My son can be unrighteous to me, but I cannot be unrighteous to my son."

"Fourth, Yoido Full Gospel Church's position is to continue their full support of Pastor Cho, advociating for his innocence!"

Chang urged all to maintain an objective perspective towards the case and not to judge Cho because of his son's crime...

Friday, February 21, 2014

25 years ago: Violent Islamic protests over The Satanic Verses contrast with peaceful Christian protests over The Last Temptation of Christ

On February 14, 1989, Iran's Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa--a legal judgment--encouraging Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie, author of the novel The Satanic Verses (1988), accused of being disrespectful to the prophet Muhammad. The fatwa came amidst violent protests against the novel in several Muslim countries. The day after the fatwa, one of the Ayatollah's aides offered $1 million for the death of Mr. Rushdie. On February 18, Mr. Rushdie issued a statement saying, "I profoundly regret the distress that publication has occasioned to sincere followers of Islam." The next day, the Ayatollah rejected the apology, and Mr. Rushdie was forced into hiding for the next 9 1/2 years, until a new Iranian President, Mohammed Khatami, publicly stated that Iran would not support the fatwa. Of course, just because the government of Iran may not officially support the fatwa doesn't mean that private individuals or organizations don't still support it, and there are still people who would be quite happy to kill Mr. Rushdie or reward anyone who does.

In Western nations, university campuses showed their support for freedom by holding marathon public readings of The Satanic Verses. As an aside, it was during such activity at the University of Alberta that I discovered a number of books by American novelist Thomas Dixon (1864-1946) on the shelves of Rutherford Library. I'd heard of Mr. Dixon years earlier, but had never read any of his books, and had never bothered looking for them. When I found his novels in the library early in 1989, the first one I read was his most notorious: The Clansman (1905), which inspired the famous film The Birth of a Nation (1915). I found the book to be racist and offensive by modern standards, but it's also entertaining and fascinating to read, and is one of my guilty pleasures. I couldn't help but think that if people at the university really believed in "freedom to read," they should hold public readings from The Clansman. The reader may go here for a free dowload of The Clansman and make up his own mind.

The protests by Muslims against The Satanic Verses occurred about six months after protests by Christians--mainly in the United States--against the motion picture The Last Temptation of Christ, which portrayed Jesus Christ in a manner that could charitably be described as blasphemous and defamatory. It's hard not to notice the difference between Islamic reaction against The Satanic Verses--a novel that hadn't yet been committed to screen--and Christian reaction against The Last Temptation of Christ. The movie was based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, originally published in Greek as O Teleutaios Peirasmos in 1953, and first published in English as The Last Temptation in 1960.

As to the movie and the controversy surrounding it, a typical establishment media view was expressed by critic David Ehrenstein in his notes accompanying the DVD of the movie. Mr. Ehrenstein is a typical liberal--accusing others of what he's guilty of himself. To paraphrase Mr. Ehrenstein, his account is a mixture of half-truths, outright lies, and anti-Christian slurs--with the addition of a large dose of Jewish paranoia. However, his description of the movie's content is very accurate:

The Last Temptation of Christ is, without question, one of the most serious, literate, complex, and deeply felt religious films ever made...this adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' imaginative retelling of the life of Christ should surely be theological scholars and thoughtful moviegoers for years to come. Unfortunately, such serious discussion has been blocked by a yowling mob of right-wing zealots who have stood in the way of all discussions of the work since it was first released in 1988...

...In 1983, Scorcese began preproduction on the film for Paramount Pictures...But weeks before the shooting was to begin the project was canceled--at least in part as a result of a letter-writing campaign engineered by right-wing Christian groups. They claimed that Last Temptation would portray Christ as a homosexual--though such a notion figured neither in the Kazantzakis novel nor in the film Scorsese planned. Unbowed, Scorsese persevered, eventually making Last Temptation for Universal (for an estimated $6 million to $8 million) four years later...

...But by that time, the hysterical fantasies of a select few had given way to the organized campaign of a larger and more sinister consortium. Fueled by half-truths, outright lies, and anti-Semitic slurs--the likes of which haven't been heard since the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg--this well-orchestrated campaign demanded nothing less than Last Temptation's total destruction. Spearheaded by Tim Penland of MasterMedia and Bill Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ, an ad hoc committee of self-styled "fundamentalist leaders" declared that a film none of them had seen depicted " a mentally-deranged, lust-driven man who, in a dream sequence, comes down off the cross and has a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene." If Universal would not burn the negative, they offered to buy it to destroy it themselves.

Predictably, those TV-savvy reverends Jerry Falwell and Donald Wildmon joined the chorus of disapproval, along with the three Pats--Robertson, Buchanan, and Boone. Though they hadn't seen the film, they were far from disinclined to discuss it. Likewise, director Franco Zeffirelli withdrew his Young Toscanini from the Venice Film Festival when he learned that Last Temptation--which he described sight-unseen as "truly horrible and completely deranged"--was invited there for a screening. In this he was little different from the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony, who, though he hadn't seen the film, deemed it "morally offensive."

Still, the archbishop made a point of distancing his critique from the protests of the Reverend H.L. Hymers, who staged a rally in front of the home of Lew Wasserman, then chairman of MCA, the parent company of Universal Pictures. Carrying placards proclaiming "Wasserman fans anti-Semitism," the minister and his flock proceeded to provide the fanning--chanting to all who'd hear that "Jewish money" was behind Last Temptation.

Had the Reverend Hymers been a bit more attentive to detail, he would have been aware that Nikos Kazantzakis was of the Greek Orthodox faith; that Paul Schrader, who wrote the screenplay, was raised as a Calvinist; and that Martin Scorsese was a Roman Catholic. But then, Hymers hadn't seen the film either. And why should he, or any of Last Temptation's foes, want to confuse themselves with the facts?

Rather than a "blasphemous" attack on Christ's divinity, climaxing wit a salacious "sex scene," The Last Temptation of Christ is a stirring affirmation of faith both in ther person of Jesus and in his teachings. This affirmation is unorthodox only in that it requires a viewer to think about the meaning of the gospels for every one of the film's 163 minutes. And it is this process of thought that the film's attackers can't abide--particularly as such thought involves the paradox of Jesus' simultaneous divinity and humanity. And this is the crux of the matter. For The Last Temptation of Christ presents divinity not as a given, but rather as a process Christ explores through his humanity. Consequently, the film's message couldn't be simpler. By experiencing Jesus' divinity as a process, we come to learn how the divine might enter our own lives.

We first meet Jesus as a grown man--frail and terrified. Troubled by crippling headaches and mystical visions, he's well aware that he isn't like ordinary men but is uncertain about what the future holds in store for him. He sees himself as a sinner, for while he's resisted sin, he feels he's done so out of cowardice. He takes personal responsibility for the fact that Mary Magdalene has become a prostitute--blaming himself for not having married her and provided a normal life.

His friend Judas is convinced that Jesus' future is in politics--as the man who will lead the Jews in revolt against their Roman captors. But after meditating in the desert, Jesus comes to a different realization of his destiny. Slowly gathering about him the group of men and women who would become his disciples, he begins to preach.

"I'll just open my mouth and God will do the talking," he says at first. Later, as he gains conviction, he talks both of love and of "the sword." Finally, he comes to realize that his purpose on Earth is to be the "lamb of God," sacrificing himself on the cross. He urges Judas to betray him in order to accomplish this mission. And it is on the cross he faces his "last temptation."

Looking down, Jesus sees a beautiful little girl who claims to be an angel of the Lord. She tells him his sufferings are over and that he doesn't have to go through with the crucifixion. It is only a test--like God's telling Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Taking him to a verdant valley, the girl presents him to Mary Magdalene for marriage. Magdalene later dies, but Jesus continues living a quiet life with Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus--the man whom he raised from the dead. "There is only one woman in the world," the girl tells him. He fathers children and lives to a ripe old age. But on Jesus' deathbed an angry Judas confronts him. He tells him he's missed his calling by not being crucified. And he reveals that the angelic-looking girl is, in fact, the devil. Realizing the truth, Jesus recommits himself to God--and finds himself back on the cross. In truth, he's been there all along. The "last temptation" took place in a flash, between his questioning why God has "forsaken him" and his final declaration that "it is accomplished." It is in this final moment that Christ's divinity is fully revealed.

All of this, needless to say, means nothing to the film's enemies, who have used it as little more than a ploy to regain ground lost in the wake of the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart money and sex scandals. And that's not to mention those other opportunists, who, in the wake of Last Temptation, have created a powerful reactionary political lobby within the Republican Party that calls itself "Christian" while harboring beliefs and attitudes that are more political than spiritual.

But that is another matter--and the possible subject of another movie. For the moment, it is enough to contemplate--in reasoned calm--the power and glory of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.
David Ehrenstein, DVD, 2000, The Criterion Collection

Evidence to rebut Mr. Ehrenstein's contentions are taken mainly from Michael Medved's book Hollywood vs. America (1992), pp. 37-49, and John Ankerberg & John Weldon's out-of-print but very informative booklet The Facts on "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988). I saw the movie on DVD in 2013 (which explains why I'm able to quote Mr. Ehrenstein's notes), and I can confirm that everything in the movie cited by Messrs. Ankerberg & Weldon and others critical of the film is accurate.

Mr. Ehrenstein claims that serious discussion of the film has been blocked by a "yowling mob" of right-wing zealots who have stood in the way of all discussions of the work..." On the contrary, it was Christian leaders who wanted a serious discussion of the movie's content, and they were denied that privilege. Two weeks before the movie's release, John Ankerberg invited representatives of Universal Studios to appear on the John Ankerberg Television Show to discuss the movie with Campus Crusade for Christ president Bill Bright, American Family Association director Donald Wildmon, newspaper columnist Cal Thomas, and lawyer and Christian apologist John Warwick Montgomery. Universal Studios officially declined the opportunity (Ankerberg & Weldon, pp. 40-41). At the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Washington, D.C. in February 1988, representatives of Universal Studios promised to allow 10 Christian leaders to view the film two months before its release, and that they would be allowed to delete materials that they found offensive to their beliefs. A preview screening scheduled for June 1988, and a July 12 preview screening for evangelical leaders was also cancelled--although a screening was held that day for liberal clergy (Ankerberg & Weldon, p. 41).

Mr. Ehrenstein may be partially right when he says that early protest against the movie was based on a belief that Jesus Christ would be portrayed as a homosexual. There's a long-standing urban legend within evangelicalism that says that a movie portraying the sex life of Christ is in the works. This goes back at least as far as 1978; I remember seeing a half-hour television broadcast that summer on that subject, hosted by Pat Boone and sponsored by an organization called the Interfaith Committee Against Blasphemy, based in Glendale, California, if I remember correctly. A campaign urging that protest letters be sent to "Attorney General Scott" of Illinois (why, I don't know) was still going on 10 years later (when I received one such form letter with a space for my signature, to be sent to the aforementioned Mr. Scott). Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper discussed the myth in his book Hollywood Urban Legends (2001), pp. 113-118. I don't know if Christians in 1983 were assuming that The Last Temptation of Christ was the movie that they had been hearing about, or whether Mr. Ehrenstein is confused or misinformed about the early protests.

The "sinister consortium" that Mr. Ehrenstein mentions, whose protests culminated in a protest of 25,000 people outside the "Black Tower" housing the head offices of MCA/Universal in Universal City, California on August 11, 1988, included the National Council of Catholic Bishops; National Catholic Conference; Southern Baptist Convention; Eastern Orthodox Church of America; Archbishop of Canterbury; Archbishop of Paris; Christian Democratic Party of Italy (Italy's largest political party); 20 members of the United States House of Representatives; and Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Medved, pp. 37-39).

Mr. Ehrenstein makes much of Rev. R.L. Hymers' protests as if he was typical of those who were opposed to the movie, although Mr. Ehrenstein is generous enough to note that Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archbishop Roger Mahony distanced himself from Rev. Hymers. Mr. Medved points out that Rev. Hymers represented virtually no one other than himself and his 250-member Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle, but received a disproportionate amount of press coverage, while mainstream Protestant and Catholic protesters denounced Rev. Hymers. However, southern California pastors such as Jack Hayford and Lloyd Ogilvie, whose congregations were each at least 20 times as large as those of Rev. Hymers, were virtually ignored (Medved, pp. 43-44).

The overwhelming majority of the protesters focused their opposition where it rightly belonged--on the content of the movie itself. Mr. Ehrenstein is correct in pointing out that the creative talent behind the movie was Gentile, although novelist Nikos Kazantzakis was actually a pantheist in his beliefs (Ankerberg & Weldon, pp. 47-48). However, as boorish and distasteful as Rev. Hymers' protests were--I especially dislike the idea of protesting outside people's homes--I think it's legitimate to look at who was in charge of the studio that made and distributed The Last Temptation of Christ, especially since MCA/Universal went out of its way to be as offensive and insensitive toward Christians as possible. Tal Brooke, president of Spiritual Counterfeits Project, isn't shy in expressing his opinion:

You recall the timid protesters who dared name Lew Wasserman as the power behind the film on their posters. It was written up in the LA Times. Then Mel Brooks was quoted as becoming so enraged with these protesters as to threaten to do his own film spoofing Jesus Christ. The message: Christians had better shut up fast and learn who's running the show. Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell were nothing compared to what would come ahead.

But the protesters in Hollywood were right. Presiding over MCA Universal pictures when the film came out was Lew Wasserman, chairman and chief executive, and the undisputed ruler of MCA, Inc., the parent of Universal Studios. Beneath him were other collaborators: Sidney Sheinberg, MCA President; Gary Goldstein, heading National Promotion and Field Operations; and Simon Kornblitt, Vice President of Marketing.

The reality is that in film after film attacking the Christian Faith you have been looking at the credits and seeing prominently displayed the names of a trigger-sensitive minority who have helped produce and often directed the films. Ironically, they have been busy at work in the culture, introducing hate crime bills that would ban any critical speech against them, while they have been harping on their own persecution and building expensive museums around the world about their victimization and suffering. The double standard is outrageous, but no one dare protest above a whisper.

You wonder quietly to yourself whether you are really seeing a pattern here (just the fact that you are seeing the pattern may prove that you are just a bigot blinded by prejudice, as many would tell you). If you are the average Christian, this may take years for you to work through if you ever see it at all. Chances are it will be easier for you to look away.
Tal Brooke, Sanctioned Mockery: And the Rise of Attacks on Christians, SCP Journal, 30:4-31:1, 2007, p. 6

Jews have more than enough enemies that they don't deserve, and it doesn't help their cause to attack the faith of those who are virtually their only friends. While inflammatory actions and words such as those of Rev. R.L. Hymers don't encourage Jews to think well of Christians, it's also true that inflammatory behaviour such as that of MCA/Universal and inflammatory language such as that used by Mr. Ehrenstein don't do anything to encourage Christians to think well of Jews. Mr. Ehrenstein's whining about anti-Semitic slurs that "haven't been heard since the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg" is Jewish paranoia at its most absurd and hysterical (and it's probably not a good idea on his part to invoke the names of two traitors).

Mr. Ehrenstein mentions Bill Bright and Tim Penland in his critique, and cites them as examples of Christians who criticized the film without seeing it. As I stated earlier--and which Mr. Ehrenstein neglects to mention--one of the reasons that prominent Christian opponents of the film didn't see it is because Universal Pictures reneged on its promise to them of an advance screening. I didn't agree with Mr. Bright's idea of bribing the studio to destroy prints of the film; it would have been better if Universal had shown good taste and simply shelved the movie. As for Mr. Penland, Mr. Ehrenstein neglects to mention that he was Universal's agent who was dealing with Christian leaders, and he resigned in protest when the studio cancelled the June 1988 advance screening for Christian leaders (Ankerberg & Weldon, p. 41).

Mr. Ehrenstein, while harping on the film's opponents not having seen the movie, also fails to explain how, not having seen the film, their criticisms of the film's content were so accurate; all the things about the movie that they objected to were actually in the movie. The protesters' objections to The Last Temptation of Christ weren't based on nothing, but on a copy of the script that was leaked to Christian leaders in advance of the film's release (Ankerberg & Weldon, p. 41).

Mr. Ehrenstein's praise of the film's depiction of Jesus Christ indicates his total ignorance of the subject; I seriously doubt that he's read the New Testament. The Jesus of The Last Temptation of Christ is filled with doubt and fear, and is consumed with his own sin, which seems impossible for someone of "simultaneous divinity and humanity." He's not worth following, or crucifying. The movie is so far off the mark as far as historical accuracy is concerned that if the real names of the characters weren't used, I wouldn't know who they were. The most accurate part of the movie is the pre-title crawl quoting the novel:

"The dual substance of Christ--the yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man to attain God...has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. My principle anguish and source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh...and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met."

Nikos Kazantzakis
From the book
"The Last Temptation of Christ"

This film is not based upon the Gospels but upon the fictional exploration of the eternal spiritual conflict.

Blasphemy and historical innacuracy aside, The Last Temptation of Christ is a terrible movie. Mr. Medved says he knows of a number of critics who privately hated the movie, but publicly and hypocritically praised it because they didn't want to be seen as being in sympathy with Christian protesters. Mr. Medved was one of the few critics to publicly slam the film:

It is the height of irony that all this controversy should be generated by a film that turns out to be so breathtakingly bad, so unbearably boring. In my opinion, the controversy about this picture as a lot more interesting than the film itself. Michael Medved, Hollywood vs. America, 1992, p.47

In a 1991 interview on the Focus on the Family radio program, Mr. Medved accurately summed up the movie as 2 hours and 40 minutes of excruciating boredom punctuated with outbursts of pointless violence. As for protests after the release of the movie, the Saint Michel cinema in Paris was bombed shortly after the movie opened there in 1988; I'm not aware of any violent protests in North America. Fellow Christian cultural observer Chris Milner and I dropped by the Westmount Theatre complex in Edmonton on opening night to see if there was any protest taking place. The only protester was Bill Haines, who was handing out evangelistic tracts. He had quite a number left over, because we counted only seven people coming out of the theatre after the early evening screening. I don't think The Last Temptation of Christ lasted more than two weeks in Edmonton theatres, which was typical of its dismal performance at the box office. Estimates of the movie's losses range from $10-14 million (Medved, p. 43).

Nine years after The Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese directed another movie--Kundun--about a religious leader, in this case the 14th Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Mr. Scorsese made Kundun in association with the Dalai Lama, which certainly was in marked contrast to his attitude toward Christians while making The Last Temptation of Christ. Universal Pictures, which had been so "courageous" in producing and distributing The Last Temptation of Christ, passed on Kundun for fear of offending the Chinese, who refuse to recognize the independence of Tibet or the leadership of the Dalai Lama. Kundun was instead released by Disney. In contrast to the hypocritical near-unanimity in praise for The Last Temptation of Christ, critical opinion on Kundun was more divided. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who, along with his television colleague Gene Siskel had given an enthusiastic "thumbs up" to The Last Temptation of Christ, gave Kundun a less-glowing, but still positive review, while noticing the difference in Mr. Scorsese's depiction of the main character of each movie:

There is rarely the sense that a living, breathing and (dare I say?) fallible human inhabits the body of the Dalai Lama. Unlike Scorsese's portrait of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ, this is not a man striving for perfection, but perfection in the shape of a man. ... Once we understand that "Kundun" will not be a drama involving a plausible human character, we are freed to see the film as it is: an act of devotion, an act even of spiritual desperation, flung into the eyes of 20th century materialism. The film's visuals and music are rich and inspiring, and like a mass by Bach or a Renaissance church painting, it exists as an aid to worship: It wants to enhance, not question.

Kundun managed to surpass The Last Temptation of Christ in one notable area: it was an even bigger box office flop.

It's worth noting that in contrast to the Islamic protests surrounding Mr. Rushdie's novel, the protests against The Last Temptation of Christ--with the exception of the theatre bombing in Paris--were peaceful (even those of Rev. R.L. Hymers). Martin Scorsese has continued to make movies, and no one associated with The Last Temptation of Christ has had to go into hiding for fear of his life. Lest anyone think I have a knee-jerk aversion to anyone associated with this awful movie, I've seen about 10 of Mr. Scorsese's movies, including some he made after The Last Temptation of Christ. I like some of his movies and dislike others. I rate The Aviator (2004) as the best of Mr. Scorsese's movies that I've seen. I haven't seen Kundun--but then, not many have. As for screenwriter Paul Schrader, I don't think he's ever been known to have written anything uplifting--Taxi Driver (1976) is an example of his work--and he's an example of the bitter fruit of Calvinism.

I have yet to hear of any "yowling mob" that's been preventing any serious discussion of The Last Temptation of Christ by, for example, threatening to bomb a film studies department that might want to screen the movie--but maybe Mr. Ehrenstein knows more than I do about that. On January 25, 2014, Wells Cathedral, which is affiliated with the increasingly buffoonish and pagan institution that still goes by the name of the Church of England, put on a screening of the movie, and the event included a live video address from Mr. Scorsese.

It's now been more than 25 years since The Satanic Verses was published. However, as Mr. Medved has pointed out, nobody in Hollywood--including Universal Pictures--has seen fit to make this novel into a movie (Medved, p. 40). Where's the "courage" that Hollywood people are always celebrating when they make movies that might be seen as "controversial?" Such cowardice is understandable, since non-Hollywood filmmakers who've dared to make movies critical of Islam have been the subject of protests similar to those that surrounded The Satanic Verses. One recalls Dutch director Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in Amsterdam on November 2, 2004, several months after the television broadcast of his 10-minute short film Submission (2004); or another Dutch director, Geert Wilders, whose short film Fitna (2008) earned him a fatwa from the terrorist organization al-Qaeda; or Innocence of Muslims (2012), a 14-minute trailer that appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in Muslim countries. This blogger awaits the same display of courage by Hollywood filmmakers regarding The Satanic Verses that they so boldly displayed when they inflicted The Last Temptation of Christ on an unreceptive public.