Thursday, February 25, 2010

1,100-year-old Arabic inscription discovered in Jerusalem

...and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:24b

As reported by Associated Press:

A home renovation in Jerusalem's Old City has yielded a rare Arabic inscription offering insight into the city's history under Muslim rule, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.
The fragment of a 1,100-year-old plaque is thought to have been made by an army veteran to express his thanks for a land grant from the Caliph al-Muqtadir, whom the inscription calls "Emir of the Faithful."
Dating from a time when Jerusalem was ruled from Baghdad by the Abbasid empire, the plaque shows how rulers rewarded their troops and ensured their loyalty, archaeologists said.
The Abbasids conquered Jerusalem after numerous wars with the Fatimid empire in Egypt. The Abbasid caliphs valued Jerusalem as an Islamic holy site.
"The caliph probably granted estates as part of his effort to strengthen his hold over the territories within his control, including Jerusalem, just as other rulers did in different periods," said excavation director Annette Nagar.

Remnants of Nehemiah's wall have been discovered in Jerusalem

Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, whose most recent reported dig unearthed a wall that may have been built by King Solomon, led a dig in 2007 that unearthed remnants of the wall that was built in the 5th Century B.C. under the supervision of Nehemiah. The biblical account of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem--from the time that Nehemiah inspected the ruins to the time that the wall was finished--runs from Nehemiah 2:12 through 6:15.

As reported in WorldNet Daily:

Dr. Eilat Mazar, one of Israel's top archaeologists, ended her presentation Wednesday to the 13th Annual Conference of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies on "New Studies on Jerusalem," with a surprise announcement. She had discovered remnants of the fifth century B.C. wall built by Nehemiah, the account recorded in the Old Testament book of the same name...

... Mazar, who is perhaps best known for her recent excavation that many believe has revealed the palace of King David, was working on an emergency project to shore up remains of a tower long believed to date from the Hasmonean period, 142-37 B.C., that was in danger of collapsing.

According to an account of the conference in "The Trumpet," Mazar said, "Under the tower, we found the bones of two large dogs – and under those bones a rich assemblage of pottery and finds from the Persian period. No later finds from that period were found under the tower."

Had the tower been built during the Hasmonean dynasty, the Persian-era artifacts would represent an unexplained chronological gap of several hundred years. The tower, said Mazar, had to have been built much earlier than previously thought and the pottery data placed it at the time the Bible says Nehemiah was building it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ambrose Seminary teaches contemplative spirituality in 2009-2010

Last year I posted an item citing courses in contemplative spirituality offered at Ambrose Seminary in 2008-2009. It came as no surprise to this blogger to find the following from the Ambrose Seminary calendar for 2009/2010 (pp. 74-75) under the category Theology and Christian Thought. To compare with last year's courses and for more on Ambrose Seminary and contemplative spirituality, see my previous post.

TH 660 Exploring the ‘Dream Experience’ in Christian Spirituality

The course will survey the significance and understanding of the dream experience in both eastern and western traditions. Special attention will be given to the role of the dream in the spiritual journeys of prominent Christians, the dream and the death experience, as well as to developing a Christian approach to dream interpretation. Students will gain from the course an historical/theological appreciation for the value of the dream within a Christian worldview as well as a sense of how to integrate dream interpretation with an understanding of one’s own spiritual journey.

TH 661 Exploring the "Desert Experience" in Christian Spirituality

An examination of the "desert/wilderness" experience in various traditions of Christian spirituality. An integrated biblical/historical/theological/formational approach to the subject is used to assist the student in understanding the nature and purpose of the "desert/wilderness" experience in the spiritual life of the church and the individual. A special feature of the course is a one-day guided silent retreat.

TH 662 Prayer Paths to God: The History and Practice of Christian Prayer

An advanced course which studies the historical theology and practice of Christian prayer as it pertains to understanding the role of prayer within the spiritual life. The course is taught from an ecumenical perspective and includes a prayer practicum in the lectio divina (praying with scripture).

For more detailed information on lectio divina, go here and here.

Wall found in Jerusalem may have been built by King Solomon

And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. I Kings 3:1

According to Israel National News:

Hebrew University archaeologists have revealed an ancient path in Jerusalem believed to date back to the time of King Solomon, along with structures including a gateway and the foundation of a building. Dr. Eilat Mazar, the leader of the archaeological dig, said the findings match finds from the time of the First Temple...

...The latest find includes a 70-meter long and six-meter-high stone wall, a small house adjacent to a gateway leading to what was once the royal courtyard, a building that served city officials, and a tower that overlooked the Kidron river.

According to Mazar, the wall is likely to be the wall built by King Solomon. "This is the first time a building has been found that matches descriptions of the building carried out by King Solomon in Jerusalem," she said.

Go here for another article on this discovery.

HT: Southwest Radio Ministries

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Faith Healer Cashes in on Brutal Killing--A tabloid headline from 1952

Warning: Lengthy post ahead

The evangelist referred to in the article below is A.C. Valdez, Jr. His father, A.C. Valdez, Sr. (1896-1981), was a veteran faith healer who had been involved in the Azusa Street outpouring in 1906, and went on to become President of the Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministerial Association from 1963-1966. A biographical sketch of A.C. Valdez, Sr. can be found here, although it's from a site that expresses an admiring view of charismatic "healers" and revivalists that I don't share.

A.C. Valdez, Jr., sometimes referred to as Alfred Valdez, travelled in dubious circles, as these newsletters from the 1950s here, here, and here will show. One will notice in these newsletters the familiar names of such shady characters as A.A. Allen, William Branham, Paul Cain, Morris Cerullo, David du Plessis, W.V. Grant, Kenneth Hagin, Gordon Lindsay, and T.L. Osborn. Mr. Valdez, Jr. conducted meetings in Milwaukee in the fall of 1953, and received such an enthusiastic reception that he decided to make the Wisconsin city his home base, founding the Milwaukee Evangelistic Temple in 1954. He became known as the "Flying Evangelist" for his practice of occasionally holding services on planes. In 1970 Mr. Valdez, Jr. fell ill, and R.W. Culpepper took over the ministry of his church (which, of course, makes the reader wonder why Mr. Valdez, Jr. wasn't able to heal himself). In July 1971 A.C. Valdez, Jr. petitioned for bankruptcy in Federal Court in Milwaukee. Other than this, I know virtually nothing about him. At some point (no date is given), A.C. Valdez, Jr. received a "prophecy"--supposedly from God--of Coming Tragedies soon to Befall the World.

Early in 1952 the movie Scandal Sheet was released to theatres. Broderick Crawford played the editor of a sleazy tabloid that was always running sensational headlines and stories. I happen to have a copy--coincidentally, from early in 1952--of an issue of a tabloid similar to the one depicted in the movie. Hush Free Press was published in Toronto. From the issue of February 23, 1952 (Vol. 17, No. 36, pp. 4-5, 8-9--emphasis in original):

Faith Healer Cashes in on Brutal Killing
----------
Toronto’s Publicly-Owned Building, the Coliseum, Booked Up for Two Weeks’ Engagement of Religious Racketeer

A "Man of God", a peripatetic preacher, a religious racketeer, from the U.S.A.--one of the tribe of wandering evangelists who invade this country frequently, and make a financial clean-up, and skip out again with the loot--is primarily responsible for one of the most brutal and insensate killings of recent Canadian record: the beating and strangling to death of a seven year old Winnipeg girl by her foster parents; the case has shocked all Canada.
Spouting as a spell-binder from a public platform, posing as a prophet, and functioning as a faith-healer, he "worked up" two moronic minds until they "went off the deep end" and undertook literally to "beat the devil out of" an innocent child; the killers are now under arrest and awaiting trial on a charge of murder; the man who indirectly caused the crime disappeared from the Winnipeg scene.
The man is now in Toronto to continue his mission. He has engaged the Coliseum for the period of February 10th to 24th inclusive. He has come to sell Torontonians the kind of religious stuff that bore such wonderful fruit in Winnipeg.
He is capitalizing on blood money.

It is fitting that he have a proper introduction to the Toronto audiences.
Rev. A.C. Valdez--this is the name as he himself gives it--is a short, stocky man, an expounder of what he calls "the old-time gospel." For years he was pastor of a small church in Phoenix, Arizona, and practically unknown outside of his own parish.
One night, about four years ago, as he related to reporters in Winnipeg, he awoke at midnight and heard the voice of God; the room vibrated with the Presence. Angels in white appeared at his bedside, and laid hands on his body, and a strange new power came upon him--the power to heal the sick.
"Son," said the Almighty--as Valdez tells the tale--"I am giving you the gift of divine healing, the power to open blind eyes, to unstop deaf ears, and cause the dumb to speak and the lame to walk; the power to heal all manner of sickness and disease. I am giving you power and authority over demons, and tell the people I am coming soon."
"I feel this power come upon me--never experienced such a feeling before--when I pray for the sick," avers Valdez. I feel the power surge up my body and down my right arm and out my hand. It feels like sparks of electricity. People awaiting their turn at the fount of healing feel it, too. They also say it feels like sparks of electricity."
This is what he says himself--without proof, of course. He declares it dogmatically--and mobs of morons believe it because it moves their emotions and appeals to their imaginations without putting any strain on their intellects--which are pretty weak anyway. It is the kind of stuff that evokes blind faith in--and extracts fortunes in cash from--the lunatic fringe of modern society.
Strangely enough, as the marvellous man admits, his wife was with him, sleeping with him, on the night when he acquired his mysterious power--and she never knew a thing about it until he told her.
Naturally, a man so divinely endowed--as he declares--could not be expected to bury his talents in some geographic backwash. Afar off, Canada called him--Canada the great and good and gullible friend of so many foreign fourflushers--Canada, the El Dorado of gold diggers and money-grabbers, religious and otherwise. So he hied himself off to Winnipeg with his wife and two children, and booked into the Ford Hotel, and arranged a series of public meetings--free meetings--absolutely free to all comers--with, however, the privilege of putting cash on collection plates.
He came to heal sick Winnipeggers in a big way.
Christ went about healing the sick "without money and without price;" He would not even accept a donation afterwards; so the Good Book says. This nomadic nonentity, this practitioner from Phoenix, professed to emulate that Great Example--save and accept that he WOULD accept expressions of gratitude in monetary form.
How could he, this modern, human copy of Christ, this poor pastor, afford it, even though, as alleged he travelled under the auspices of the British Israel World Federation? Transportation for himself and family from Arizona to the Canadian West--three or four weeks’ stay of four people in a Winnipeg hotel--plus any rentals that might have to be paid for places of assembly--this in itself would cost quite a bit of money, far more than an average pastor possesses.
Above all, how could he afford to book Toronto Coliseum for 14 days--a huge and expensive public building? Did he count solely on The Lord providing shelter and sustenance along the way?
He could afford it--or the British Israel World Federation could afford it for him--because he is in one of the most profitable rackets of the times: a racket which wrings fortunes out of gullible mobs. In all probability Winnipeg "paid off" handsomely; but the best that Winnipeg could do would be only "chicken feed" compared with what Toronto does for him and his kind. And he came to Toronto under the advantage of priceless free publicity.
Aside from the vulgar matter of money, that Winnipeg venture was "successful" beyond all expectations. It commenced with a series of meetings at which people clapped hands and laughed out loud and professed to be healed of many ailments--something that orthodox preachers and medical men can never achieve. It continued with a series of "miracles." It came to a grand climax in a murder which it inspired. (Parenthetically it may be noted here that one woman who believed herself cured of diabetes and quit taking insulin in consequence, had to be saved by doctors afterwards; but such unpleasant little incidents never affect the great work of faith-healing).
Among the most zealous attendants at those three weeks’ sessions were Gavin McCullough and his wife Lillian, aged about 50. He was office manager for Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce; she was a housewife and mother of one son, Lorne, a student at the University of Manitoba. Both of them had a streak of religious fanaticism in them, and neither of them was noted for an excess of brains. At home they had a seven year old adopted child, Martha--a loveable and fairly healthy child with weak eyes.
Under the spell of the Reverend spieler they became convinced that they and their son were possessed of the devil; that they were all doomed unless the Evil One could be driven out; that the end of the world was at hand; and that she, Lillian, had been chosen to announce the Day of Fate.
Thereafter, as revealed later at a coroner’s inquest, they lived on the verge of lunacy. They pestered Lorne about his spiritual condition until he fled from home for peace and safety. They prayed almost continuously. Then spent one whole winter night, bare-footed and wearing only night-clothes, praying outdoors in the snow--and one of them was frost-bitten as a result.
Early on the morning of Lorne’s disappearance, little Martha awoke to a scene of mental and spiritual turmoil. Lillian told her that Lorne had gone away, and that the devil had him. Apparently the child was not impressed as they thought she should have been; she may even have smiled. Forthwith Lillian declared that the devil had the child, too; that the little one was "mocking God." She seized a bottle and beat Martha over the head. Then she handed the bottle to her husband; and he continued the beating, and finished the job by strangling the victim to death.
When police arrived in response to a neighbor’s call, they found the poor, broken little body lying surrounded by religious tracts which had been distributed at the Valdez meetings.
All this was brought out in evidence.
There will be another judicial hearing--the trial of the McCulloughs, husband and wife, for murder; and presumably the revelations there will be more extensive and final than have yet been made.
Will the "Reverend" Valdez be a witness at that trial, as one orthodox clergyman suggests he should be? Will his role as healer and prophet then be subjected to the scrutiny of reason and justice? Will Science be invoked to say whether or not one dupe was healed or even helped by the faith which this man expounds? Will the man himself be compelled to tell how and why and with what financial results he comes over the border to do and say such things to Canadians? Will the faith-healing racket be exposed?
If not, then justice will have failed.
Thus far, in his own behalf, the "Reverend" religionist has been reported only as blaming an orthodox parson for what happened; he says that the minister did not comfort and minister to the McCulloughs properly.
Religion is a thing of the intellect and the emotions. Intellect says that there is a Creator, a God, an Infinite Being, a Supreme Intelligence--call it what you will--over and permeating the universe; the emotions, throwing all reason aside, accept this unprovable fact in a personalized sense, believe with blind faith, and worship the Divine in hope and fear--hope for personal salvation, fear of personal damnation.
A judicious blending of the two elements constitutes what is commonly called orthodox religion. But over-emphasis on either of them causes a dangerous unbalance. Too much intellect and not enough emotion leads to a cold, detached type of worship, if there is worship at all--a sort of resignation to the inevitable, lacking in the warmth which Christianity inculcates. Too much emotion and not enough intellect breeds a nervous reaction which may become a species of insanity.
Under the influence of religious emotion uncontrolled by reason, people sometimes become the equivalent of maniacs, ready to maim or murder, or give away worldly possessions, or do any other irrational and abnormal things.
Clergymen and congregations of many faiths in churches long established maintain some semblance of mental balance in their attitude toward the Deity. But during the past century, and especially in the past fifty years, have sprung up a host of so-called preachers and evangelists--some of them little better than crooks and criminals at heart, but shrewd psychologists, all of them--who, realizing how readily the emotions of "the mob" can be played on by religious appeals of the right kind (for the purpose) and how profitable such appeals can be (for the preachers), have specialized in these activities and turned them into Big Business.
These men--some of them ignoramuses from an intellectual standpoint, but most of them master showmen--go about in trains and motor cars and airplanes like fakirs and medicine men, putting on shows, preaching all sorts of freakish and fanatical doctrines, playing on the emotions of their audiences, and "working up" communities to a state of near-lunacy which causes money to flow like water--into the preachers’ pockets. They are even "booked" by some independent churches to come and "do their stuff"--on a split-fee basis.
Fundamentally, the majority of them are liars and hypocrites, professing to be godly men "working for the Lord" when in reality they are only actors working for the Almighty Dollar. And the worst and most dangerous among them are the self-styled faith healers.
No one should deny that there is such a thing as being healed by faith. Science has established that the mind has great influence over matter. Many human ailments are of nervous origin; and a reorientation of the mind, a strong belief that the ailments can and will be cured without medicine or surgery, often results in a "cure."
But there are limitations to this process. Faith can help any curable patient to get well. Faith WILL NOT cure arthritis or cancer, or kill germs, or set a broken bone; there are many, many things which it will not do but which Medicine can do.
Therefore when some pipsqueak parson from Arizona or anywhere else proclaims himself to be specially endowed by God with powers of Divine Healing: that is stretching credulity too far, and suggests extreme egotism or incipient insanity. And when men of this type go about renting halls, and passing collection plates, and pretending to cure all manner of diseases by the laying on of hands: that should be classed as a criminal activity, unless a qualified doctor is present to certify every alleged "cure."
If these men remained on the scene long enough after their "healing sessions" to follow up their "cures" and face any legal music, it would not be so bad. But, in Canada at least, they are all transients, mostly from across the border; they come and go like vultures in flight; they stay just long enough to pocket a lot of Canadian cash, then they vanish beyond reach of consequences, leaving their patients to live or die as Fate decrees.
Undoubtedly they has caused many deaths. Thus far the law has not touched them; for he law is very reluctant to interfere with such exemplifications of religious faith. But they are just as much outside the law as an ignoramus who practices medicine without a license; and when they cause someone else to do something which brings about the death of a human being, they are morally guilty of homicide.
Now that a murder has occurred in consequence of emotions overwrought at religious meetings, it is time for the law to step in and curb such racketeers and protect Canadian fools and fanatics from their own folly.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Unrepentant IRA terrorist presents a BBC television program about Jesus

More evidence that you can't be a satirist anymore: According to Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail:

Who would be the most unsuitable person in the whole world to introduce a television programme about Jesus Christ? One would be hard pushed to come up with someone worse than Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, and former member of the Provisional IRA.

Yet, believe it or not, on Sunday evening this man with blood trickling from his hands will present an hour-long Channel 4 programme about Jesus, part of a series called The Bible: A History...

...At one stage he reads from the Sermon on the Mount, in which Christ emphasises the virtue of forgiveness and peacefulness. But instead of reflecting that he has himself committed an awful lot of extremely unpeaceful acts for which he might do well to seek God's forgiveness, Adams merely says: 'Bad things have been done to me. I have to forgive those who did them.' Not much thought, then, for the people to whom he did so many bad things.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for Herr Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, to excommunicate this thug any time soon; after all, John Paul II refused to excommunicate any IRA terrorists.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Canadian cabinet minister: "An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada"

Canadians of a certain age remember Peter Kent as the anchorman on CBC’s The National newscast from 1976-1978. He’s now the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas. I didn’t know there was such a position, and I take that long-winded title as more evidence that we have too many cabinet ministers--but that’s beside the point. The February 12, 2010 edition of Shalom Life contained the following:

Shalom Life spoke with the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas and MP for Thornhill, regarding the latest development in the Iranian issue. "Canada has been concerned for some time not only about brutal repression of civil rights in Iran but also about the nuclear adventurism and the proclaimed quest of nuclear weaponry by President Ahmadinejad," said Kent.

I take issue with the latter part of the above quote from Mr. Kent. If Iran is in quest of nuclear weapons, it hasn’t yet been proven. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and under that treaty has a right to pursue uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. Israel, India, and Pakistan, on the other hand, have not signed the treaty, and unlike Iran, have not allowed representatives of the International Atomic Energy Association into their countries to inspect their facilities. I’m pro-Israel, and I don’t have a quarrel with Israel possessing nuclear weapons; she needs them to defend herself against numerous and much larger enemies. It’s widely acknowledged (although not by Israel) that Israel has nuclear weapons, so shouldn’t that be considered a factor in Middle Eastern affairs? Yet, Joel Rosenberg and other pro-Israel Christians constantly harp about threats to Israel without mentioning Israel’s nuclear weapons. As for Iran’s alleged weapons program, I suspect this is largely bluster from Mr. Ahmadinejad. Nations that are actually developing (or acquiring) nuclear weapons don’t boast about it beforehand, but just spring it on the world (e.g., the U.S.S.R.). Mr. Ahamdinejad is evil, and follows a false prophet, but I don’t think he’s an idiot; a nation that doesn’t have nukes is unlikely to attack one that does.

Mr. Kent was also quoted as saying:

"Prime Minister Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada," said Kent and added that Israel is considered an ally of Canada.

I don’t know if Mr. Harper has privately said that to his cabinet or caucus, but he hasn’t stated such views publicly. In an address to the United Jewish Appeal Federation on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel in 2008, he said (transcribed by YouTube poster, with slight changes by me in spelling and emphasis):

Unfortunately, Israel at 60 remains a country under threat, threatened by these groups and regimes who deny to this very day its right to exist!

And why? And why, friends?

Make no mistake! Look beyond the thinly veiled rationalizations. Because they hate Israel, just as they hate the Jewish people. Let me tell you friends. Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada!

As the last world war showed, hatred and bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.

In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side by side with the state of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so and we will continue to stand with Israel just as we have said we would!

To say "those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada" isn’t quite the same as saying "an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada." Whether Mr. Kent misspoke (or was misquoted), or whether he’s accurately presenting the views of the Harper government, has yet to be made clear.

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: Genesis 12:3a

There’s nothing in this or any other passage of scripture that says that blessing the descendants of Abraham means that you have to prefer the state of Israel above your own nation. If Mr. Kent’s position does accurately reflect the government’s position, then I object. Canada and Israel are different nations, and having friendly relations with Israel does not necessarily mean having identical interests with Israel. As far as I’m concerned, an attack on Israel is not an attack on Canada, if that means Canada has an obligation to go to war if Israel is attacked. While I generally agree with the Harper government's pro-Israel stand, I believe that a position such as that stated by Mr. Kent would be to take a pro-Israel stand too far.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bethel Church in Redding, California: A typical charismaniac assembly

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; II Timothy 4:3

From January 16-19, 2010 the Redding Record Searchlight published several articles about Bethel Church, a charismaniac assembly in that California city. In addition to mention of the church's recent claimed growth, the usual (at least in modern charismaniac circles) signs and wonders, a glossary of Bethel terms, and a list of "evangelical" ministries that Bethel lists as friends, there was an article mentioning various miracles (including raising the dead) claimed on behalf of the church by Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson. However, it seems that Pastor Johnson has had difficulty in getting the "spiritual gifts" related to healing to apply to himself:

Bill Johnson, Bethel’s senior pastor, settled into a plush black couch in his office, his arm around an animal-print pillow. Before anything else, he wanted to talk about healing.

"We just had another brain tumor case of cancer healed," he said. "We have a lot of that kind of stuff happen. It’s verified by doctors, they do the tests and the cancer’s gone. We have a lot of that sort of thing--miracles."

Johnson, who himself required hernia surgery last year and wears prescription glasses, teaches that the supernatural miracles that happened in Biblical times still happen today if people just value God's presence and open themselves up to receiving it.

"Because we have such value for his presence with us, things just happen," he said.

Johnson said that healings happen all the time and he doesn't feel he needs to provide any documentation or hard evidence to inquiring minds. He also said he doesn't check up on people who come to Bethel for healing - he doesn't have the time.

"If you're sitting here and you say, 'I've been deaf in my left ear since childbirth,' and I pray for you and then I have you close your right ear and I whisper 10 feet away and you can hear me, I don't feel like I need to get a doctor's report," he said. "I'm happy you're happy you can hear. That's enough for me."

Though he had people praying for his hernia to heal early in 2009, the condition still required surgery and Johnson said that was OK because God can use doctors as well as he can use Bethel's healing teams, though both are necessary.

Our Lord put it best in Luke 4:23:
And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself...
I'm not going to mention that Pastor Johnson talks out of both sides of his mouth when he says that the healings are verified by doctors, but then refuses to provide any evidence.

Christian Educational and Resource Ministries offers Biblical critiques of false teachers, including Bill Johnson. Heralding Truth is another site containing Biblical analyses of Bethel’s unscriptural doctrines and practices.

October 23, 2010 update: The Redding Record Searchlight for October 21, 2010 published an article about an incident in 2008 when a couple of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students were out drinking and encountered an acquaintance who was drunk. The acquaintance fell--or was pushed--off a cliff and fell 200 feet onto the rocks below. The Bethel students thought the man was dead and tried to pray him back to life. Apparently afraid of getting into trouble for violating the school's rules on drinking, they then pulled the old Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick trick and debated for hours whether they should report the incident to police. The injured man survived the fall, and is now a paraplegic. He's suing the students, and accusing them of not immediately summoning assistance. If the behaviour of these students is any indication of the godly behaviour produced by Bethel, then it's a devastating indictment of the place.

HT: m'kayla's korner

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Interview With God: Inspirational, but not Biblical

The Interview With God is a popular screensaver, which, along with Pathways to Peace, comprise the first two of the Angel Network’s inspirational messages. According to TIWG's home page:

The Interview With God, its popularity propelled by millions of visitors from all parts of the world, has become a spiritual phenomenon.

The online presentation has spread like wildfire, and has touched hearts all around the world. People of all walks of life and of all faiths are fully embracing it. The subtle reminder of a caring and active God has become the focus of countless emails to loved ones, and conversations everywhere. To date, the beautiful message has reached millions.

A remarkable number of e-mails and letters come from those that have expressed how God has touched them and personally spoken to them through The Interview With God. Aching hearts healed, families touched, lives being blessed. The spirit of God's love truly brings meaning and hope -- what our world needs, and now receives with open arms.

Under "about us," Angel Network LLC is described by the following:

about us

who we are

The Interview With God is part of the breakthrough Angel Network LLC series which includes Pathways to Peace. Our goal is to create beautiful, inspiring presentations that make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.

Created in 2001, The Interview With God website is operated by Angel Network LLC, a California Corporation located in San Diego. Gregory Writer is the founder and C.E.O. of the company.

Together with his team of in-house employees, and outsourced graphics, printing, and distribution professionals, Greg is pleased to be building an inspirational publishing company that does very well by doing good.

our vision

Inspiring the world, one soul at a time.

our mission

In a world of uncertain times, we strive to be a gentle reminder that we are not alone. Our mission is to make a positive contribution to the well-being of our world, and to be a major and measurable force for good on the World Wide Web, by creating experiences of inspiration that warm the heart and touch the soul.

TIWG is a compilation of homespun philosophy of the kind that you might find in Reader’s Digest, most of which anyone can agree with. Both the message and the presentation are nice and visually beautiful, in a way that will appeal mainly to women. However, the message comes short of presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, there’s this passage, supposedly spoken by God:

"To learn that it is not enough that they
forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves."

This isn’t a message that’s found in the Bible. What is found in the Bible, and what’s absent from TIWG, is any mention of needing and obtaining forgiveness first and foremost from God. That forgiveness comes only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:7

In view of the absence of such a message, I conclude that The Interview With God is not an interview with the God of the Bible.

Pathways to Peace starts with Matthew 5:9:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

However, the presentation goes on to present human philosophy, and while there are quotes that anyone can agree with, none of them mention the only "Pathway to Peace" with God. That peace is available only through Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross for our sins satisfied His Father’s conditions for the payment of the penalty for our sins, enabling us to have peace with Him.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Romans 5:1

HT: Tipp Temkasarp

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chris Rosebrough asks: "Is Dallas Willard a Christian?"

Chris Rosebrough, at his Fighting for the Faith and Extreme Theology sites, has posted his analysis of an audio clip of Dallas Willard’s recent question-and-answer talk with John Ortberg. Mr. Rosebrough’s analysis is spot-on. What Mr. Willard is proclaiming is law, not gospel. And his remark "All who deserve to be saved will be saved" isn’t a slip of the tongue--Mr. Willard says it three times.



I downloaded Pastor Bob DeWaay’s excellent and scriptural audio (Part 1; Part 2) and print critiques of Mr. Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines and took the book out of the public library. I wasn’t impressed, although I don’t disagree with everything Mr. Willard says. Mr. Willard has nothing good to say about the Reformation, and his eschatology is classic post-millennialism: Jesus will come back only after man brings in the Kingdom of God through practicing the disciplines. Mr. Willard is also a dominionist who beleives that Christians should control the world's wealth so that we can use it to further the Kingdom of God--as if the world would just sit back and allow that to happen. If the book had been published in 1968 instead of 1988, I would have said that Mr. Willard’s views were probably the result of smoking too much weed. In the last chapter of the book Mr. Willard says that his belief may seem like a dream. Indeed, it made me think of John Lennon singing, in Imagine, "You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one." I’ve always liked the way Dave Hunt puts it: The Bible says that Jesus will meet us in the air; if you’re expecting to meet Jesus with your feet firmly planted on planet Earth, you’ve been building the kingdom of the antichrist. Mr. Willard definitely has his feet firmly planted on planet Earth. His derisive comment on Christians’ view of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem as a totalitarian dictatorship is blasphemous and offensive.

Mr. Willard’s background is as a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, and he argues largely on the basis of human logic and reasoning rather than from what the Scripture actually says. As for his attempt to create a distinction between "Christ" and "Christianity," this is where the currently-popular term "Christ-follower" comes in. You can be in another religion and be a "Christ-follower" without being a Christian.

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Christian" brawling Mixed Martial Arts is now a "ministry"

The latest obnoxious trend in evangelicalism’s determination to imitate the world (indeed, to "Christianize" what the world not too long ago rejected as barbaric) is "Christian" Mixed Martial Arts. According to The New York Times:

MEMPHIS — In the back room of a theater on Beale Street, John Renken, 37, a pastor, recently led a group of young men in prayer...

...An hour later, a member of his flock who had bowed his head was now unleashing a torrent of blows on an opponent, and Mr. Renken was offering guidance that was not exactly prayerful.

"Hard punches!" he shouted from the sidelines of a martial arts event called Cage Assault. "Finish the fight! To the head! To the head!"

The young man was a member of a fight team at Xtreme Ministries, a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy. Mr. Renken, who founded the church and academy, doubles as the team’s coach. The school’s motto is "Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide."

Mr. Renken’s ministry is one of a small but growing number of evangelical churches that have embraced mixed martial arts — a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling and other fighting styles — to reach and convert young men, whose church attendance has been persistently low.

The "power teams" that were ubiquitous in charismaniac churches in the early 1990s seem like wimps compared to these guys. While I agree with their criticism of the feminization of evangelicalism ( The Church Impotent (1999) by Leon Podles is a good book on the subject), I think these men take it too far the other way. The fighting that Christians are commanded to do is to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). I don’t see that kind of fighting going on in "Christian" MMA (or, for that matter, in much of evangelicalism generally). And if you look closely at the photos that accompany the Times article, you'll notice the tattoo on the pastor's arm; everything about this "ministry" appears pagan, yet we're supposed to accept it as "Christian."

It’s yet another indication of the decline of evangelicalism that an activity that a few years ago was regarded by the world--never mind the church--as just a step above cockfighting and dogfighting is now considered to be a legitimate "outreach." R.M. Schneiderman, the author of the article, goes on to point out:

Several put the number of churches taking up mixed martial arts at roughly 700 of an estimated 115,000 white evangelical churches in America. The sport is seen as a legitimate outreach tool by the youth ministry affiliate of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches...

...Almost a decade ago, mixed martial arts was seen as a blood sport without rules or regulation. It was banned in nearly every state and denounced by politicians like Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Over the past five years, however, because of shrewd marketing by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport’s premier brand, mixed martial arts has become mainstream. Today the sport is legal and regulated in 42 states.

It was considered to be a mark of progress when the Marquis of Queensberry rules (including the use of gloves) were introduced into boxing in the early 1890s. Prior to this, bareknuckle boxing was held in the same level of esteem as mixed martial arts was until a decade or so ago. For instance, on May 30, 1889, Gentleman Jim Corbett fought Joe Choynski in Fairfax, California. The result was ruled a "no contest" when police stopped the bout in the 4th round. Six days later, the two men fought a rematch, but because the local authorities refused to permit the fight to take place in Fairfax, the bout took place on a barge anchored off Dillon's Point, opposite Benicia Harbor, in the Carquinez Straits (Mr. Corbett won by knockout in the 27th round). Yet here comes early 21st Century evangelicalism--as always, a few years behind the world--hailing glorified street brawling as an "outreach."

While athletic analogies are used several times in the New Testament (e.g., I Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1), I don’t think the analogies fit with the kind of "sport" represented by mixed martial arts. The early Christians were opposed to the blood sports of their day, and of course, Christians became many of the victims in the arenas. The disappearance of blood sports has always been regarded as a mark of social progress, but here come the "evangelicals," encouraging a return to barbarism.

As far as it being an outreach, Pastor Eugene Cho is correct, as quoted in the article: "What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay." If violent "sport" is what’s drawing them to Jesus Christ (and I see no evidence that they are truly coming to Christ), then you’ll have to keep on presenting violent "sport" in order to keep them coming back. And the way the law of diminishing returns works, more frequent doses of increasing violence will be required. As for Ryan Dobson’s support of MMA, I find it difficult to take the divorced-and-remarried Mr. Dobson seriously on anything.

It’s interesting that black churches are reluctant to participate in "Christian" MMA. I suspect that’s because they have enough dismal experience with violence among fatherless young black men that they don’t want to encourage more of the same.

Another thing: I’m sick and tired of all this promotion of "extreme" this, "ultimate" that, and "maximum" the other thing, especially for Christians. What's wrong with being ordinary? Most of us are. As Pastor Bob DeWaay says, just to be an ordinary Christian is an extraordinary thing. As for my own manhood, I prefer to let God govern and instruct me in that, rather than the increasingly decadent and Christ-rejecting world.

HT: Albert Mohler

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The story about a Rockefeller rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem turns out to be a hoax

According to WorldNet Daily:

A Rockefeller is raising capital to rebuild the Jewish Temple, said the news release published on CNN Money's Internet site and other news sources...

...The release, filed with MarketWire and republished at CNNMoney.com, claims "Supriem David Rockefeller" is director of a company, Kinti Holdings group, which is working with a Jewish Temple organization to rebuild the Third Temple.

States the release: "Kinti Holdings will be raising funds to go towards building the Third Temple in Jerusalem in strict coordinance with The Temple Institute, Rabbi Hiam Richman and The Palestinian National Interest Committee (PNIC) and supporting Husam Bajis for President of Palestine."

Richman, international director of the Temple Institute, a Jewish Temple activist group, told WND the release is a "scam."

"The Temple Institute strongly protests the use of its name and that of Rabbi Chaim Richman in a series of fraudulent press releases and advertising claims that are now circulating on the Internet," read the Temple Institute's official response to the release.

Continued the Institute's response: "The claims made by these men ... are false and malicious, and their apparent intentions are to take advantage of the Temple Institute's sincere supporters and rob them of funds. The Temple Institute advises its friends and supporters to avoid being taken in by this scam."

Go here to see the full text of the Temple Institute's statement.

Although the report about "Supriem David Rockefeller" has turned out to be a hoax, we know from Scripture that the Temple will be rebuilt:

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. Revelation 11:1

The caring, compassionate Liberal Party of Canada's solution to the problem of Third World poverty: Kill the poor before they're born

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

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23

The Liberal Party of Canada has been an active agent of evil at least as far back as those dark days in April 1968 when Pierre Trudeau won the leadership of the party, became Prime Minister, and proceeded to destroy the country. Mr. Trudeau, as Justice Minister and then as Prime Minister, was responsible for legalizing sodomy and abortion. The latest Liberal leader, pseudo-Canadian Harvard University professor Michael Ignatieff, is following in Mr. Trudeau's footsteps:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says Prime Minister Stephen Harper must include abortion in his G8 initiative to mobilize international support for maternal and child health care in the world's poorest countries.

Ignatieff told reporters Tuesday that there is no direct evidence that Harper's initiative would specifically exclude abortion. "We just want to lay down a marker that we hope they don't go there," he said.

His concerns are based on reports that the Conservatives have cut almost all funds to the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health -- which is Canada's member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation -- and on anti-abortion views voiced in recent years by several Tory MPs...

...Ignatieff raised the issue earlier in the day, telling a Liberal-organized forum on international aid that Harper's initiative is "better late than never," and that Liberals support the plan so long as it includes abortion and birth control.

Go here for Campaign Life Coalition's response to Mr. Ignatieff's statement.

Ezra Levant asks the right questions:

P.S. Surely it's just a coincidence that Ignatieff's first major policy statement about abortion has to do with Haiti and other Third World minorities, right? I mean, it's not like Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist woman who called blacks "reckless breeders" and had a special "Negro Project" right? I mean, Planned Parenthood would never argue that eugenics was the best solution of racial, political and social problems would they?

Right?

HT: Ezra Levant

Voodoo high priest complains about Christian aid to Haiti

According to the Daily Telegraph:

Max Beauvoir, Haiti's "supreme master" of voodoo, alleged his faith's opponents had deliberately prevented much-needed help from reaching followers of the religion, which blends the traditional beliefs of West African slaves with Roman Catholicism.

"The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves," he claimed. "They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that's a shame.


One might wonder why the "supreme master" doesn't just invoke the spirits to thwart the efforts of Christians.

"It was developed by our ancestors, it is a way of life. To ask us to stop would be like asking an American to stop heating hamburgers."

Mr. Beauvoir's statement above is an excellent argument for why aid should be accompanied by a call to repentance.

Kompe Filo, one of the most popular TV and radio personalities in Haiti, and a vocal believer, said voodoo predicted the earthquake six months ago.

He said: “God is angry against humanity, not just Haiti but all humanity. This is a message that man must change, and reconnect with the natural world around him.

“We have a lot of beliefs modern people should believe in. For example we believe that trees have spirits which we should not harm otherwise we will all suffer.”

Just one question, Chief: If voodoo predicted the earthquake six months in advance, why wasn't anything done to prepare the country?
The belief that trees possess spirits is a big reason that Haiti is poor and backward. A society that believes that trees possess spirits is not going to cut down those trees and build houses out of them.
The only thing that can possibly overcome the ingrained superstition of voodoo in Haiti is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, there seems to be some evidence that God is using this disaster to get people's attention and open them to the gospel:

Inspiration, an evangelical station, said 11,000 people had rung up to pledge themselves to God since the earthquake.

I don't know how many of these callers are coming to true saving faith in Jesus Christ, but let's pray that they all do.
Here's an item of good news about a son of a voodoo priest who is leading people to the Saviour:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)--On a hot afternoon in a crowded, makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince, Jean Junior Cineas sits under a tarp suspended by a broomstick. He shares his faith with five Haitians left homeless after the Jan. 12 earthquake rocked their island nation. Soon, all five pray to receive Christ as their Savior.

The irony: Cineas is the son of a voodoo priest.

"It gives me joy to [share Christ]," Cineas says as he moves through the rows of tents. "I love to do that. It is my life."

Cineas, 26, who prefers to go by Junior, has had plenty of opportunities to share his faith since disaster struck. He says voodoo's influence has diminished and many Haitians are now calling on God.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:21

Are the collapse of a glacial ice dam in Canada and the rise of farming in Europe linked to Noah's flood?

This item is a couple of years old, but still relevant:

A British scientist has found evidence linking the catastrophic collapse of a glacial ice dam in Canada more than 8,000 years ago and the rapid spread of agriculture across Europe around the same time.

The dramatic discharge of freshwater from prehistoric Lake Agassiz — which covered much of Central Canada at the end of the last ice age — has long been blamed for altering global climate patterns and raising sea levels around the world by at least a metre in a matter of months.

The deluged shorelines caused by the colossal Canadian gusher have even been associated with the “great flood” myths common to many ancient cultures — including the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

Now, University of Exeter geologist Chris Turney believes he has traced the sudden proliferation of farming across neolithic Europe to an exodus of coastal people moving inland to escape the results of the Agassiz flood.

First Century Asian man's bones found in southern Italy

I don't know if this item has any biblical significance, but it's interesting:

A TEAM of Canadian archeologists working in southern Italy has unearthed a 2,000-year-old set of bones that shouldn't be there.

The unexpected male skeleton with DNA from East Asia -- bur­ied at a time when the Roman Empire knew little about China and had no direct contacts with civilizations in the Far East -- is forcing scholars to re-examine what they thought they knew about the world in the first century following the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Asian man's grave was found in a cemetery at Vagnari, which experts have determined became the site of an imperial estate at some point after the rise of Caesar Augustus in 27 B.C. and before the death of Nero in 68 A.D. Seventy-five skeletons from the first, second and third centuries A.D. have so far been excavated at the estate in a project led by McMaster University archeologist Tracy Prowse.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When it comes to prophecy, let's stick to what the Bible says

..."Do not go beyond what is written"... I Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)

While Christians should be interested in Bible prophecy (more than 25% of the Bible consists of prophecy), if we go beyond what the Scripture actually says, we may end up devoting more space and time to our speculations than to what the Bible says.

An example of this can be found at Look Up Fellowship, a blog of Jeffrey K. Radt. Mr. Radt is looking for the return of our Lord, and is a believer in Bible prophecy. I agree with him on this, and commend him for it. Unfortunately, he has the regrettable tendency to go off on tangents and find spiritual/prophetic significance in things that may not necessarily be spiritually/prophetically significant, and connections that may not exist.

For instance, the death of Cincinnati Bengals’ football player Chad Henry occurred in December 2009, when the sexual sins of Tiger Woods were in the news. Mr. Radt sees a connection:

Surely, the fact that we now have a 'Bengal' emerging in the news front-and-center after a 'Tiger' has garnered all our attention in the past few days is significant as is the fact that both are athletes.
... But boy oh boy if there isn't a CRYSTAL CLEAR SPIRITUAL THREAD TO ALL OF THIS folks, which demands we take notice and prayerfully consider the possibilities right away.

If "there’s a spiritual thread to all of this," it isn’t "crystal clear" to me. The fact that one is nicknamed "Tiger" while the other played for a team called the Bengals does not mean there’s any connection between the two. And I certainly don’t see any connection between these two news items and the name of a character named "The Tiger" in a play that had been presented in Los Angeles seven months earlier.

If you think Mr. Radt is stretching things with the above example, check out his posts--Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; and Part 5--on American Pie, the famous hit song by Don McLean from 1971-1972. As far as I can tell, the song is an elegy from someone who mourns the passing of a time when life was simple, and rock and roll was fun. Standard interpretations of the song’s lyrics may be found here; here; and here. Mr. McLean himself has refused to comment publicly on the song’s meaning, beyond saying that the opening lyrics refer to the death of Buddy Holly. Mr. Radt, however, insists that the song is a message from God. God, however, communicates to us through the medium of the written word in the Bible, not "their preferred method of communication," such as obscure lyrics of pop songs.

By the way, I must correct one of Mr. Radt’s more obvious errors. Mr. Radt asserts that it’s spiritually significant that American Pie was Don McLean’s only hit, but that’s just not true. His follow-up single, Vincent, hit #1 on the British chart, and #12 in the U.S.A. Dreidel hit #21 in the U.S. in 1973, and after 8 years away from the top 40, Mr. McLean had three top 40 hits in 1981: Crying; Since I Don’t Have You; and Castles in the Air. He also wrote And I Love You So, which was recorded by Perry Como and became Mr. Como’s last notable North American hit in 1973. If Mr. Radt is looking for possible spiritual/prophetic significance in a one-hit wonder, he might try In the Year 2525 from 1969, the only big hit for Zager and Evans.

And Mr. Radt is being downright silly when he attributes spiritual significance to the appearance of the record that American Pie appears on. The picture that Mr. Radt shows is that of a 45 of American Pie when it was reissued in the mid-1970s as part of United Artists’ Silver Spotlight Series, not as it originally appeared on United Artists when it was released in 1971.

It’s not surprising that Mr. Radt takes a keen interest in numerology. While it’s true that certain numbers in the Bible are significant, Mr. Radt insists on finding spiritual/prophetic significance in the wedding date of a less-than-significant pop star.

On the whole, Mr. Radt’s penchant for believing in and using extrabiblical sources of God’s supposed revelation has led him so far into "the domain of the ridiculous" (to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill) as to make his blog virtually useless for the purpose of seriously examining events in the light of Bible prophecy. This is why Look Up Fellowship isn’t on my blog list.

For an excellent book that contains warnings against extrabiblical and unbiblical speculation while upholding the proper study and use of Bible prophecy, I recommend Soothsayers of the Second Advent (1989) by William M. Alnor.