Biblical Commentary by Brian Knowles
The “Us” Factor
All of the teachings of our Lord Yeshua (Jesus) were important, but none more so than his instructions on prayer. Prayer is at the heart of godly living. First, he taught us that we should not pray ostentatious prayers – prayers “to be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5).
Prayer is “intimate communication” between God and one’s self. As I have written elsewhere, we should not be “spiritual exhibitionists,” putting on a show of piety for our neighbors. If we pray that way, there is no reward from God – only the empty honor of men (Matthew 6:5b). Read Article.
Originally published 10/12/2012
And Then What?
Out of the Box – May 31, 2012
It is an oft-stated cliché that “one thing leads to another.” How does that apply to prayer? Does one prayer lead to another? I believe it does.
One of the prayers that I have occasionally prayed is, “Lord, help my heart to be broken by the things that break your heart.” I believe he has answered that prayer by imparting to me the quality of empathy. What is empathy? It is “the power of identifying oneself mentally with (and so fully comprehending) a person or object of contemplation,” Oxford Pocket American Dictionary of Current English. Read Article.
Originally published 5/31/2012
The World As It Is
In 1994, a photographer named Kevin Carter found himself in the Sudan taking pictures of that country’s horrendous famine. One of his images was of a small starving black child crawling feebly toward a UN food camp, located a kilometer away. Waiting patiently behind the child, stood a vulture, anticipating its next meal. Read Article.
Originally published 6/7/2012
A Convergence of 23’s
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” groaned Jesus “the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
“See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Those verses are found in Matthew 23:37-39. I was thinking the other day about Jesus’ words spoken over the holy city, so I opened my Bible to study that passage. Jesus was saying that he would not return to Jerusalem until he was truly welcomed by its leaders and inhabitants. What would it take to make that happen? That led me to think about why Jesus uttered this dire prophecy about the desolation of the Temple (“your house”) in the first place. So I read the rest of the chapter (Matthew 23:1-36). Read Article.
Originally published 4/5/2012
As We Have Forgiven
If we expect God to forgive us of our sins – and we do – we must first be willing to forgive others of theirs. It is relatively easy to forgive others of sins not committed against us, but when it’s personal it’s another matter. Years ago, I wrote an article on forgiveness for a Christian publication suggesting that one should be willing to forgive even adultery if the one who committed it was truly repentant. A man wrote me a raging letter. “I can forgive anything but that,” he wrote. “My wife committed adultery against me and I simply can’t, and won’t, forgive it!” Read Article.
Originally published 3/24/2012
But How Do We Know
What are we doing, as Christians, when we philosophize about life and theology? Why do we think that life has to have some overarching meaning? Why do we so energetically ponder the nature of God when others say he doesn’t even exist? Does the God of the Bible really exist, or is he, and the Bible, nothing more than anthropomorphic illusions created humanistically to comfort us in the face of an otherwise cold, godless, universe? Is religion itself merely a means of controlling masses for political ends? Read Article.
Originally published 10/22/2011
Glen Campbell – Entertaining a Generation
Glen Campbell is one of those rare entertainers who has left his mark on a generation – my generation. For fifty years, the 75-year old singer/guitarist has produced a string of hits including “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” and many others. In his later, more obscure albums, his voice is deeper, richer. He and his voice were maturing. But maturity often comes with a price – in Campbell’s case, Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed with it last June. Read Article.
Originally published 8/28/2011
Post Christian Chaos
If Britain’s barbaric youths had been raised with the Judeo-Christian ethic, they probably wouldn’t have rioted. The problem in England is not politics, race, youth, or even class – its values. The world in general is facing a values crisis. Values, or the lack of same, drive everything in the chaotic modern world. Read Article.
Originally published 8/11/2011
Guilt by Association – Again
My association with the Association for Christian Development (ACD) has again been called into question on grounds that some of ACD’s contributors teach doctrines with which I am not in agreement. (See firstname.lastname@example.org.) The writer doubted that am even “in” the Church of God because I write for ACD. The writer wrote “…I still do not believe that if he is in the COG he should have the type of affiliation he does with ACD.”
Let’s get something out of the way up front: If I wrote only for publications whose contents I’m in complete agreement with, I would write for no one. Even when I edited The Plain Truth I didn’t agree with every word in it. No editor worth his salt forces complete uniformity of content. Publications compete with each other, and internally, in the market place of ideas. This is healthy. Read Article.
Originally published 7/11/2011
A Way to Pray for Israel
At stake in the current Egyptian turmoil is the survival of Israel. For thirty years, a peace treaty between those two nations has prevented chaos. The success of that treaty has been largely due to Hosni Mubarak, the embattled leader of Egypt. Now Mubarak is on the skids. His own people want him out. To them, his time in power has not been a blessing. His has been an internally brutal regime. His vice president was head of intelligence and in charge of the “rendition” program for three U.S. administrations, including the current one. Torture has been commonplace in Egypt as it has been in many Mid-East nations. Corruption is de rigueur. Read Article.
Originally published 2/11/2011
A Death in the Family
This morning I got an envelope in the mail. Before I opened it, I knew what was in it. One of my favorite “Hebrew roots” teachers – Dwight Pryor – had died. He had been hospitalized for some time. His heart finally gave out. After I opened the death notice, I quietly wept tears of grief. Fortunately, I was in my car, parked at the Post Office. Read Article.
Originally published 2/5/2011
Varieties of Christian Faith
Let’s get one thing straight up front: this is an opinion column designed to provoke thought, and nothing more. I don’t write as an official mouthpiece for ACD. I’m just one of a gaggle of wordsmiths who’s allowed to vent his literary spleen on this website. I may or may not agree with things other writers write in this forum. The same is true of them regarding my rantings. I do, however, agree with the idea that the purpose of this website is to help us all move in a godly direction. Read Article.
Originally published 12/25/2010
Can A Sinner Be Used by God?
The short answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, “Of course he or she can. We’re all sinners (I John 8:8, 10), so if God doesn’t use sinners he doesn’t use anyone.” So the question changes: What kind of sinners does God use? The short answer: repentant ones. Read Article.
Originally published 8/20/2010
Getting to the Nub of Matters
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mighty tired of having to work so hard to find out what’s really going on in the world. The sources I used to rely on have been largely corrupted. I can no longer trust the Press and Media to tell me the truth. For the most part, they have become a ministry of propaganda for the Left. The so-called Fourth Estate is ethically bankrupt. It is a slave to the tyranny of political correctness. It can no longer discern the difference between good and evil. Instead of reporting accurately and objectively on what’s happening out there, it’s dishing up a steady diet of ideologically-driven propaganda. Read Article.
Originally published 5/7/2010
If I Had To Do It All Over Again And I Knew What I Know Now…
Haven’t you thought the words in the title of this article? Perhaps we all have – especially if we’re older. Unfortunately, when we start out in life we know very little. Life, as it unfolds before us, is a prolonged experiment. We plunge out into the unknown full of hope and optimism. Periodically, we are brought up short by what life throws at us. Read Article.
Originally published 4/24/2010
If There Was Just One Book
I have a terrific friend named Earl. He’s roughly my age, and like me, he’s an ex-minister. We both have three kids and two out of three of them have the same names. Our friendship spans more than 30 years. We care deeply about many of the same issues. We both realize that we’re getting older and that we’re not going to be around forever. Consequently, we think and talk a lot about what kind of a world we’re going to leave behind for our progeny. Every few months we get together at a favorite Pasadena restaurant for a “summit” on the subject. Read Article.
Originally published 2/27/2010
Haiti — The Right Christian Response
Pat Robertson, the Christian televangelist, is currently coming under fire for his statement that Haiti’s disaster is the result of the nation making a pact with the devil many years ago, during the time of Napoleon III (!). To critics, this statement is not only deemed inaccurate, but inappropriate. Many of the suffering Haitians have probably never heard of Napoleon I, let alone a third one. Read Article.
Originally published 1/19/2010
Doesn’t Anybody Ready Anymore
When I was growing up with my Grandfather, Dr. William Knowles, I often found my self on the receiving end of his frequent readings. His small, but precious to him, library was kept in two places: his bedroom, and in a cabinet in the living room. He never read to me out of the bedroom texts – they were of relevance only to veterinarians. He often read to me from the living room collection. Read Article.
Originally published 1/12/2010
Coping with Reality
Every human being is existentially alone. Your reality is unique to you. You may experience the same things your neighbor does, but in different ways. For one person, a divorce is a devastating tragedy from which they never fully recover. For another, a divorce may be a glorious release from a lifetime of oppression. One person loves Brussels sprouts, another views them as foul-tasting mini-cabbages that are not fit for human consumption. Some see the universe as the product of blind naturalism. Others view it as the result of intelligent design. Read Article.
Originally published 12/6/2009
What is a Christian?
Despite their ubiquity in today’s world, the words “Christian” or “Christians” appear only three times in the entire Bible: Acts 26:28; I Peter 4:16 and Acts 11:26. The last listed verse tells us that it was not until Paul’s day that the term was attached to those who followed Christ: “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch,” (Acts 11:26). Read Article.
Originally published 11/14/2009
Is America Finished
For many years, I have held the belief that the Bible indicates no prominent role for the United States in the fulfillment of end time Bible prophecies. “The world’s greatest superpower” may well have become an artifact of history by the time these prophecies come to fruition. I certainly do not believe that the United States is the “lost” tribe of Manasseh. Nor do I believe the UK is “Ephraim.” There are probably folks from all of the tribes of Israel mixed in with many of the world’s nations, but I do not see them as formed into any national, tribal identity. The time may come when DNA testing will yield some verifiable information – as it has in the case of known Levites and priests. The key to this approach is establishing with certainty the tribal identity of representative individuals – a daunting task. Read Article.
Originally published 10/27/2009
A New Leader of the Free World
I didn’t say it – Mark Levin did – “we have a new leader of the free world – Benjamin Netanyahu.” Levin’s remarks were based on Netanyahu’s UN speech as contrasted with those of other “world leaders” including President Obama. Obama spoke about “climate change” issuing dire warnings of impending disaster if the world doesn’t act together to save itself. Many authorities – whose thoughts are not being publicized by the establishment media, which is in the tank for Obama – believe “global warming” to be a bogus issue driven by wacko thinking. I share that opinion. Read Article.
Originally published 9/29/2009
Sorting It All Out
The worlds of politics, business, religion and morality are all difficult to sort out. On these issues, we seem to have either too much information, or a plethora of disinformation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust any politician, any newspaper or the media in general. I get the impression that politicians, business leaders, and the media, are all equally corrupt. And television “ministries” aren’t far behind. Read Article.
Originally published 9/18/2009
Dante’s Inferno: is it Real?
Perhaps the most vivid and grisly depiction of the popular version of Hell was created by the Italian author, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). His Divine Comedy traced his own journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. The work is considered a masterpiece of world literature. The story was translated into English by no less a personage than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I have a copy of the 136 outstanding illustrations by Gustave Doreˊ(1832-1883) that accompanied that version. The cover depicts Bertram de Born holding aloft his own severed head. Read Article.
Originally published 8/24/2009
Defeating the “Religious Spirit”
I don’t know about you, but I believe there is such a thing as a “religious spirit.” It can be a mere mentality or an actual spirit that manifests itself in obsessive fanaticism. The net effect of such a mentality is to turn others off to God and true faith. The religious spirit is not limited to Christianity – it can manifest itself in any religion. It can also find expression in political ideology, science, religious humanism or even medicine. Read Article.
Originally published 8/21/2009
How the Doctrine of the Immortal Soul Came to the Church
We have learned that the doctrine of the natural immortality of the human soul is not found in the Protestant Bible. It appears in neither Testament. Yet, it is commonly believed in churches. It is taught that at death, the soul goes to one of two – three if you’re Catholic – places – heaven, hell or purgatory. How did this extra-Biblical doctrine find its way into the Church? Traced through Jewish, then Christian, history, it is a fascinating tale. Read Article.
Originally published 8/13/2009
The New Testament and the Immortality of the Soul
We have learned that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not found in the Old Testament – but is it found in the New? Since so many other Christian doctrines depend on it, it seems logical that it should appear somewhere in the Bible.
Curiously, the words “immortal” and “soul” appear together nowhere in the New Testament – and not without good reason, as we shall see. In fact, the word “immortal” appears only once, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen (I Timothy 1:17). Immortality is here described as an exclusive attribute of God, not man. Read Article.
Originally published 7/27/2009
America – They’re Changing What It Is
When I was granted American citizenship last year on 9/11 – after living in the US for some 40 years — I thought I was becoming a citizen of the greatest country in the world. Then Obama & Co. entered the White House. Now I’m not so sure I was right. Things are degenerating fast. I fear for this country’s future. Read Article.
Originally published 7/25/2009
The TaNaKh and the Soul
In the parlance of Judaism, what we Christians usually call “The Old Testament” is the TaNaKh. The word is an acronym for the three-part Jewish Holy Scriptures. It consists of the Torah (Teaching), the Nevi’im(Prophets) and the K’tuvim (The Writings).
In our Protestant Bibles, there are 39 documents called “books” in the Tanakh. The New Covenant writings, emanating from the early Church, contain another 26 documents, making 66 in all. In this article, we will learn what, if anything, the “Old Testament” tells us about the immortality of the soul. As Christians, we ought to give weight to what these verses say. Paul viewed them as a reliable guide to doctrine. He wrote to one of his pastors, “…from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which in Christ Jesus. All scripture [in context, the Tanakh] is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:15-17). Read Article.
Originally published 7/10/2009
A Hellish Beginning
It started in Wal-Mart. I was cruising through the book section when I happened upon a title that caught my eye: 23 Minutes in Hellby Bill Wiese. I picked up a copy and checked out the sell lines on the cover: “One man’s story about what he saw, heard and felt in that place of torment.” On the back cover, the author writes: “My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing hell for yourself.” Read Article.
Originally published 6/30/2009
Time and Chance
Just the other day, 228 people boarded an Air France flight from Brazil to Paris. They never arrived at their destination. As far as anyone knows, they are two miles down on the ocean floor in the crushed wreckage of an Airbus A330. The reason for the devastating crash is unknown. It could have been weather, an electrical failure or even terrorism. We may never know. Read Article.
Originally published 6/4/2009
A Superfluity of Accumulations
I don’t know about you, but I’m an information junkie. I seem to want to know everything about everything. Consequently, I find myself buried in piles of books, magazines, articles printed out from the web, and literature that enters the house via mailbox. My garage is full; my “office” is full. There is no longer any place to put stuff. Read Article.
Originally published 6/1/2009
Our World is Changing
According to President Obama, “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” He made this statement while kissing up to the leadership of Turkey on what some are calling his “world apology tour” (David Limbaugh for example). Read Article.
Originally published 4/13/2009
If I were young, smart and propeller-headed, I’d invent a software program called “Cause & Effect Tracker.” It’d be foolproof and objective. It would trace any given effect to its actual rather than politically correct cause. There would be no wiggle room for denying culpability. The guilty would be exposed. Read Article.
Originally published 3/6/2009
Now That I’m an American
On 9/11/2008, exactly seven years to the day after the unspeakable evil of the terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers, I became an American citizen. It took several years, an assortment of costly fees, fingerprinting (all ten digits), forms-filling-out, interviews, investigations and tests – but finally I am a naturalized citizen of the United States.
For the past 40 years, I was a “resident alien.” At my citizenship ceremony, I, and some 6100 other newly minted citizens, turned in our “green” (mine was actually pink) cards in exchange for a certificate of naturalization. For the first time, I took the Pledge of Allegiance. Read Article.
Originally published 9/22/2008
Kinds of Theology
The word “theology” is derived from two Greek words: theos (God) and logos (speech). In Latin, the word theologia means language or discourse about God. In a formal, academic sense it is the methodical attempt to understand what can be known about God. Theology in this sense follows rules of logic, reason, exegesis and hermeneutics. Those who practice theology are divided, and subdivided, into a myriad of specialties. Read Article.
Originally published 8/25/2008
Thinking Like An Artist
From childhood, I have known that I think differently than most of the people I’ve met and befriended in life. I didn’t really know what to attribute it to – until I began meeting others who think like me. Then I knew what it is: I think like an artist. Artists – the type that paint pictures – tend to think both visually and creatively.
Each profession demands a certain type of thinking. Physicists don’t think like grammarians, and grammarians don’t usually think like horticulturalists. Artists tend to think about the aesthetics of things: the way colors work with each other, the way objects relate to each other and the way light affects everything. We think about design, composition, perspective and rendering techniques. When we create a composition on canvas, we ask of it, “What’s going on here? What’s happening? What’s the dynamic?” We want to know, and depict, how the elements of our picture relate to each other. What do we want them to “say” to the viewer? Read Article.
Originally published 4/20/2008
The Bible and the Life We’re Supposed to Live
In our time, it’s becoming ever more difficult to know how to be an authentic, Bible-advised, Christian. Just about every aspect of the Christian faith is under attack by someone. Satan is launching broadside after broadside against the Church. As the Church continues to take hits parts of it are crumbling. Read Article.
Originally published 3/2/2008
Striking a Balance
Like Gary Alexander, I too am a “recovering apocaholic.” For one semester, I taught Bible prophecy at the late, not-so-great, Ambassador College. Additionally, I wrote quite a number of articles and booklets on the subject. At the time, I thought I knew what I was talking about. Apparently I did not. To cite the old German saying, “Ve get too zoon oldt, undt too late schmart.”
It is still true, however, that some 27 percent of the Bible contains prophetic material. It must be there for a reason. Is it meant to warn us of things to come? Or is it something we’ll better understand in retrospect than before time? Read Article.
Originally published 10/21/07
Sifting and Sorting
I haven’t done a lot of writing lately – not because there’s nothing to write about but because there’s too much. Jesus warned us about casting pearls – in other words, squandering the gifts God has given us to give to others. What a person can learn in almost seven decades of living, many of them as a Christian, is simply too precious to disseminate indiscriminately. Read Article.
Originally published 7/17/07
The Uphill Battle
In late 1979, along with a significant number of other people, I left the Worldwide Church of God. I’d been in its employ for some 15 years, 13 of them as an ordained minister. I’d served in the ministry in Alberta, Canada, and pastored or co-pastored churches in Oklahoma and California. In addition, I’d been managing editor of the three major publications of the WCG: Tomorrow’s World, The Good News and The Plain Truth.I’d served as manager of the Editorial Services Department, secretary of the Doctrinal Committee, Instructor of Theological Journalism at Ambassador College and as a Board member of the college. Read Article.
Originally published 1/16/07
The Will to do Good
A number of years ago, I noticed my small grandson sitting in a stairwell in his parents A-frame home apparently in deep thought. I think he was about five at the time. I sat down beside him asked, “Whatcha thinkin’ about?” His reply was instant and candid, “I’m thinking about how to do bad things.” Read Article.
Originally Published 11/30/06
Mum’s the Word
I don’t know whether you’ve noticed it or not, but some of the most contentious cats on the planet are religious people. I don’t think there’s anything they can’t argue about. Furthermore, it’s hard to find anything about which they all agree.
Perhaps that’s why they say that in polite company, there are three subjects that should never be discussed: sex, politics and religion. In reality, those all seem to be the main topics of conversation these days. Whether in private conversation, on television, on talk radio or in the movies, they are the topics du jour. Within seconds of broaching any one of those topics, you can find yourself engaged in a high-stress argument that can throw you completely off your feed. Remember that wonderful old proverb: “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17)? Read Article.
Originally published 11/17/2006
The Joy of Bible Study
Ever since I was introduced to it some 47 years ago, I have loved to study the Bible. I have spent countless happy hours poring through the pages of that wonderful book. I don’t find it difficult, or laborious. Rather, studying the Bible is pure joy for me. The more I do it, the more grounded, or “centered” I feel. I love to marinate in its words, stories, thoughts and spiritual insights. The more I do that, the more they become an internalized part of me – and the more I can live the “inspired” life.
It grieves me therefore to see that the Bible is often misused, used as a club, or attacked. Let me explain: Read Article.
Originally published 9/1/2006
Rethinking a Previous Column
When my column under the title “What will life be like after the church wars?” appeared in a recent issue of The Journal, a letter poured in taking me to task for some of the things I said. I responded to the letter, and that was followed by two more letters insisting that I make it right. Upon consideration of the three letters, and after reviewing my column, I decided to do just that. Read Article.
Originally published 5/24/2006
Cause & Effect
Life, as it daily unfolds on this planet, is largely a matter of cause & effect. Things don’t just happen – they happen for reasons. We don’t always know the reasons, but if we probe deeply enough, we may discover at least some of them. My wife, for example, suffers from migraine headaches (as do some 23 million other Americans). She knows some of the reasons why she gets these devastating headaches – food allergies for example – but she doesn’t yet know the main reason. She can reduce the number of headaches she gets by avoiding the offending foods, but she cannot eradicate them entirely, because there is some deeper cause of which she is as yet unaware. Read Article.
Originally published 4/12/2006
An After-the-War Scenario
I enjoy movies – or at least I used to. They’re not making many of my kind of movies these days. One film that left an indelible impression on me was the original version of On the Beach starring Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Anthony Perkins.
The movie centered on a U.S. nuclear submarine that had survived a nuclear exchange that destroyed most of the northern hemisphere. Slowly but surely radiation drift was killing off the human race. In one memorable scene, the sub docks in San Francisco Harbor. The once populated streets of San Francisco are now devoid of people. Not a soul is seen. A toxic wind blows papers around. The city is a giant tombstone for a once-vibrant population. Read Article.
Originally published 3/12/2006
The Doomsday Business
Let’s face it: fear sells. Predicting doom is big business. In the popular Press and Media, demagoguery is standard procedure. The greater the tragedy the more papers it sells and the higher the television ratings. I speak as a recovering doom-monger.
Back in the mid-seventies, I wrote many articles and a few booklets purporting to explain aspects of “Bible prophecy.” The theme was always the same: things were getting worse, coming to a head, and the only protection for Christians was to be a part of God’s one and only true Church on earth – the Worldwide Church of God. During those years, I edited three magazines for that Church: Tomorrow’s World, The Good News, and The Plain Truth. We ran articles on “rings of fire” (volcanoes of the Pacific Rim), earthquakes, our polluted planet, the coming of the “beast” and the “beast power,” the Great Tribulation, and related issues. We believed that there would be a period of tribulation lasting seven years, and that for the last 3 ½ years of it we would be protected in a place of safety – usually thought to be the ancient ruin of Petra in Jordan. Read Article.
Originally published 1/23/2006
Getting No Love?
America is an image-conscious nation. The urge to collectivism, with its accompanying political correctness (PC), is creating a new ideal image for Americans. Take, for example, the issue of body image. It’s in to be thin, out to be fat. Fat people generally get no love. Nor is fat discrimination an exclusively American phenomenon.
Air India, for example, has warned its 1600 cabin crew members to lose weight or face being grounded (The Guardian, December 16, 2005). Overweight pilots and flight attendants have been given two months to lose the tonnage, or face consequences. (At a safe ½ pound/day, the most you could lose in that time would be about 30 pounds.) Read Article.
Originally published 12/18/2005
Quiet, Personal Faith
When you reach a certain point in your own spiritual development, you begin to take certain things as axiomatic. You realize, for example, the futility of arguing doctrine with anyone. You can’t change people’s basic ideas. Once they’ve internalized them, they’re ensconced for life. The more you want someone to “see” your point of view, the less likely they are to see it. Read Article.
Originally published 12/2/2005
Learning to Walk Softly
As I write, we are still in the period between Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and Atonement (Yom Kippur) a time known in Judaism as “the Days of Awe.” For observant Jews, this is a 10-day period of self-examination. Michael Strassfeld explains: “At Rosh has-Shanah, we commemorate the new year of creation, when our successes and failures are tallied in the account books of heaven. As we mark another year’s passage, an evaluation of our progress is made by ourselves and by God. As a people linked with God, our ups and downs in history are not viewed as accidental; our fate is tied into the morality of our deeds, thus how we act helps create history” (The Jewish Holidays A Guide & Commentary by Michael Strassfeld, pp. 106 – 107). Read Article.
Originally published 10/9/2005
In the Wake of the Enlightenment
The period from the Enlightenment to the present has been a difficult one for the Church. The reason is that the Church, by and large, has failed to answer the challenges presented by that great intellectual awakening. Read Article.
Originally Published 9/13/2005
Israel: A Sense of Proportion
Every time I write a pro-Israel screed, I get hate mail. The sad part of that is that I usually get it from Christians. What’s worse is that at least three mainstream Christian denominations have recently ganged up on Israel: the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Together they claim some 8.7 million members – more than the entire population of Israel. The first two have begun divestment of firms that supply security-related goods to Israel. The last is campaigning against Israel’s security fence with the slogan “Peace Not Walls.” Why this seemingly irrational animosity toward Israel on the part of some mainstream Christians? Why would a Christian denomination wish to see Israel rendered less defensible against Arab and Iranian aggressors? Why would any Christian who understood his or her Bible seek to give aid and comfort to Israel’s enemies? Read Article.
Originally published 8/22/2005
A Rambling Moan About the State of the Faith
The more I study theology, the more I realize the impossibility of sorting it all out in my brief lifetime. The theological world suffers from a glut of information, doctrines, dogmas, creeds, commentaries, learned journals, scholars and opinions. It’s far more than I can process.
The other day, the editor of a magazine for which I’d written an article sent me a letter to the editor to which he wanted me to respond. Responding appropriately would have meant summarizing Catholic doctrine on a particular subject. I started with the old Catholic Encyclopedia and didn’t get much farther. After reading four or five related articles, I simply sat back from sheer mental exhaustion and gave up on the project. I looked around my small office at the mountains of books with which I’m daily surrounded. I have even more in the garage. I said to myself, “That’s it; I’m too old for this. Besides, nobody gives a toot what I think or say about anything anyway. Who am I to think that I can find my way through the labyrinthine maze that is Christian theology?” Read Article.
Originally published 7/28/2005
Just What Do You Mean, Orthodox?
In religious parlance, “orthodox” means: “sound or correct in opinion or doctrine.” In general use it means: “of, pertaining to, or conforming to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy, ideology etc.” Orthodox is “approved, conventional.”
The word “doctrine” of course means “teaching.”
In our world, the word “orthodox” comes into play in a multitude of areas. We have Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, orthodox medicine, orthodox warfare, orthodox agriculture, orthodox dentistry and a whole host of other orthodoxies. Read Article.
Originally published 7/8/2005
Yearning for the Return
Most genuine Christians yearn for the return of Christ. When we contemplate the sheer magnitude of mankind’s problems, we realize there are no purely human solutions on the horizon. Whatever we do seems not to make a dent in the deepest difficulties. The world clearly needs its Savior. Read Article.
Originally published 6/14/2005
Love Covers, Hate Exposes
It has been said that “Love is the essence of the divine reality, the basic source from which all of God’s attributes arise. This means that the assertion that God is love incorporates all there is to say about God” (The Open View of God by Clarke Pinnock and others, p. 21). We are all familiar, undoubtedly, with the Apostle John’s famous statement in his first letter: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know love, because God is love” (I John 4:7-8). Read Article.
Originally published 5/23/2005
The Rain on Our Parades
I don’t know about you, but I like to read the introductions to books as well as the books themselves. It helps me to understand where the author is “coming from.” I recently read a couple that were particularly interesting.
In 1980, James D.G. Dunn, one of Britain’s premier New Testament theologians, wrote a book entitled Christology in the Making. The preface to that edition was scarcely two pages long. After the book had been “out there” for a few years, and fellow scholars had had time to critique it, the brickbats began flying in. Dunn found it necessary to revise and update his second edition of the book to respond to the critics. In 1989, Dunn published the second edition of Christology. By then it needed a 28-page foreword to explain why a second edition was necessary. Dunn found that much of what he had written in the first edition was either ignored or misunderstood. Secondly, he wrote, “…I naturally wish to respond to my critics – to point out where they have, in my view at least, misperceived my intentions, disregarded key factors, which ought to be determinative in the exegesis of important NT passages, or shown too little awareness of the historical context out which such texts came” (Foreword to Second Edition, p. xi). Read Article.
Originally published 5/12/2005
What’s the Point of Blogging?
Not long ago, my friend Earl gave me a book on blogging. It was called, understandably, Blog, and it was written by a blogger par excellence named Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt is a successful conservative talk show host, and a teacher of Constitutional Law at Chapman University in Orange County. If you want to understand what blogging is, and why it is in the forefront of the communications revolution, read Hewitt’s book. Read Article.
Originally published 4/11/2005
Winners Define “Orthodoxy”
For some 35 years, I’ve made my living crafting words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into articles and books. I enjoy words. They are symbols for thoughts. Writing is thinking on paper. Words, however, are not always what they seem. Many of them are loaded with “freight” or “baggage.” Take, for example, the words “orthodoxy” and “heresy.” Read Article.
Originally published 4/4/2005
Faith Buster or Faith Builders?
The purpose of this column is to stimulate its readers to think outside of the box, to shift paradigms, and to entertain new possibilities. It is not to denigrate or discourage faith. I believe deeply in the principle that truth, if indeed it is such, will set us free and not bring us into bondage (cf. John 8:32).
In what, or whom, do we place faith? What is truth and what is freedom? These are crucial questions. Read Article.
Originally published 3/27/2005
Personal Theologies: We All Have One
John Adams, the second President of the United States, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, once considered a career in theology. Before it ever got launched, he abandoned the idea. Of it he said, “I perceived very clearly, as I thought, that the study of theology, and the pursuit of it as a profession, would involve me in endless altercations, and make my life miserable, without any prospect of doing any good to my fellow man” (John Adams Autobiography, quote taken from Norman Cousins book In God We Trust, p. 77).
Adams had a point: what good does the study of theology do anyone? Has theology made the world a better place? I see little evidence that it has. Read Article.
Originally Published 3/1/2005
The Future According to the CIA
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has its own think tank: the National Intelligence Council (NIC). In mid-January, 2005, the NIC released a bleak vision of what the world might be like in 2020. A major point in the report was the idea that the US will, by that time, be sharing global dominance with China and India. This fact, said the report, will “transform the geopolitical landscape.” If the 20th century was “The American Century,” the 21st may turn out to be “The Asian Century.” Read Article.
Originally published 2/13/2005
Perils of Popularizing
In past columns, I have sometimes referred to the three levels of understanding that exist within the larger Church: the scholarly, the pastoral, and the lay levels. Each of these levels has its own nomenclature, its own thought world, and its own methodology. Scholars are forever tweaking the fine points of each other’s work. They write mainly to and for each other, seldom for the rest of us.
Pastors are usually concerned with uncritically explaining, defending, and applying their denomination’s doctrines, traditions and dogmas. Many, if not most, do not tend to read much in the work of scholars. Read Article.
Originally published 2/6/2005
Censorship in the Churches of God!
The Journal website, recently carried a story of how Bruce Porteous, apparently a member of the Living Church of God in Auckland, New Zealand, has been ordered by his pastor to stop distributing The Journal or stop attending services. If I were confronted with a similar ultimatum, my response would be instant and certain: I would stop attending. I would shake the dust of that church from my feet and never look back; and my conscience would be utterly clear in so doing. Read Article.
Originally published 2/5/2005
The Irrational Fear of Becoming “Laodicean” – Or Worse!
During the heyday of the Worldwide Church of God, that denomination was classified by its leader as “the Philadelphian era of the Church.” Herbert W. Armstrong viewed the seven churches of Asia Minor described in Revelation 2 & 3 as successive church “eras” unfolding throughout ecclesiastical history from the first century to the present. The Church of God, Seventh Day, was then characterized as the “Sardis” era, and those who followed the Philadelphian era as “Laodicean.”
Following the breakup of the original WCG, several hundred smaller denominations have been spun off the parent organization. A number of these characterize themselves as the continuation of the “Philadelphian” era. At the same time, some who believe themselves to be “Philadelphian” have labeled some of the rest of us of being “Laodicean.” The “Philadelphians” believe that they alone will be protected from the coming “Great Tribulation” and that the rest of us “lukewarm Laodiceans” will have to suffer through it. Read Article.
Originally published 12/19/2004
Denominations: A Good Thing of a Bad Thing?
For most of my adult life, I’ve taken for granted that denominationalism within Christianity is a bad thing. Like many others, I’ve often railed against the “splits & schisms” within the Christian faith, and against the fact that we’re not all unified. After all, didn’t David write, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1)? And what about Paul’s statement to the Corinthians:“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). Read Article.
Originally published 12/1/2004
The Real Situation in the Pod
I just read an article in which the author seemed to assume that anything that is said or written about the meaning of Scripture that does not correspond to what Herbert W. Armstrong [the late head of the Worldwide Church of God and still venerated in some quarters] said about it is not “the truth.” This is an absurd position to take. Let me explain why. Read Article.
Originally published 11/17/2004
A World of Change
The world we live in is undergoing a myriad of dynamic changes at the geopolitical level. The world of the next generation will be radically different than the one in which most of us grew up. The transformations that are taking place around the globe are getting ever closer to home. At some point, all of us will be significantly affected. Read Article.
Originally published 10/21/2004
The Spirit of Treason
Within the lifetime of many of us, the whole political spectrum in this country has moved leftward. Today’s “liberals” are largely yesterday’s radicals; the 60’s rebels and hippies have grown up. Today’s “conservatives” – or neo-Cons as some call them – are yesterday’s liberals. (Of course in the narrowest sense the term is often used to identify “Jewish Republicans.”) Real, old-fashioned, Constitutional conservatives have been marginalized and are now viewed by the Establishment as the “right wing lunatic fringe.” That includes all conservative Christians and everyone from Pat Buchanan to the John Birch Society and some of the American militias. All are lumped together by the Leftist media and likened to the fascist Muslims. Read Article.
Originally published 9/23/2004
The “Church” – A Divided House of Hate
Forget the fact that the secular, Leftist, socialist side in the “civil war of values” hates us Christians. That’s to be expected. Jesus said, “…in the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). We can’t expect darkness to love light; but what about our fellow Christians? Why can’t Jesus’ followers get along with each other? Perhaps there is more darkness in us than we had believed.
Let’s face it, if you study ecclesiastical history, or watch churches today, you’ll have to admit that the Church is a house divided against itself. The kind of venom that spews forth from Christian’s mouths, and pens, about other Christians is quite amazing. The fact of the matter is: Christians all too often hate other Christians. The standard seems to be: If they’re not like us, they’re not real Christians, so it’s open season on them. Read Article.
Originally published 9/21/2004
The Creme-Colored Rolls Royce
This morning I woke up in the middle of a dream. In my dream, some anonymous person had given my wife and me a cream-colored Rolls Royce. There it was, sitting in our driveway in all of its glory. Some of the outer parts were still covered with masking tape and paper. It hadn’t yet been “detailed.” I looked closely at the model name and it read “Corniche.” I’m reasonably sure there is a model of Rolls Royce by that name, but that’s what I read on it. The name was just above the back left bumper. Read Article.
Originally published 8/27/2004
As we approach the fall of 2004, I find myself, as do many of you, in the autumn of my own life. Certainly there is much more of my life behind me than there is ahead of me, unless of course you count eternity. It seems to me that it’s time for a little fall cleaning. During whatever further time God, in his mercy, grants me to live, I want to travel as lightly as possible. After all, the apostle Paul wrote, “…we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7). Read Article.
Originally published 8/24/2004
Three Subjects Not to be Discussed
When I was a boy growing up in Canada, I learned early on that there were certain subjects that were, apparently, unacceptable for dinner conversation. Nobody, for example, ever asked anyone else how much money they made, or how much money they had, or how much their house cost. To ask about such things was considered at best an invasion of privacy, at worst a matter a very bad taste. One’s money was one’s own business.
I was also told that there are three subjects that one should never bring up in polite conversation: sex, politics and religion. Nothing could start an argument faster than broaching any one of those topics at a dinner table or in a restaurant. So adults acted as if they were sexless, how they voted was a secret, and their religious views were utterly private: “between them and God.” Read Article.
Originally published 7/12/2004
The Problem with Organized Religion
Over and over again these days, I hear people speaking against “organized religion” as if it were some sort of plague on mankind. When you look at the global religious scene, it’s easy to see it that way. Religion is at the heart of much of the suffering that is going on in the world today. All too often, religion seems to do more harm than good. However, one can also find “whole books” documenting the good that Christianity has done in the world. It’s a two-sided coin. Read Article.
Originally published 5/20/2004
Happiness: A Moral Obligation?
I don’t know about you, but I greatly appreciate the work of talk show host Dennis Prager. Why? Prager’s issues are my issues: good & evil, theology, and human relationships. Recently, I started re-reading Prager’s excellent little book: Happiness is a Serious Problem. In chapter 1, Prager explains why he feels that happiness is a moral obligation. He gives three reasons: Read Article.
Originally published 4/19/2004
Musings on Ministry
The other day, I was foraging through some old papers in my garage and I ran across a blue 3 ½ X 8 card with a note on it. I had written that note more than 35 years ago, when I pastored two churches for the WCG in Oklahoma. The note read: “Mr. Crosslin meets Mr. Ogan – visit with him. 10 AM at the Quo Vadis. Sunday.” “Mr. Crosslin” was Clyde Crosslin, a deacon in the Tulsa church. “Mr. Ogan” was a deacon in the Ponca City Church. If memory serves, the Quo Vadis was a restaurant either in Ponca City or Tulsa, or somewhere in between. Apparently I was getting the two deacons together for a pow-wow of some sort. Read Article.
Originally published 4/10/2004
Understanding in Three Tiers
Within what we broadly call “The Church,” there are three tiers or layers of understanding: the scholarly, the pastoral and the lay. Each of these layers would answer differently the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Or, if you were to ask someone at all three levels a question of Biblical interpretation, you might again get multiple answers. The reason for these gaps or differences in understanding is that all three kinds of people operate in different thought worlds. Read Article.
Originally published 3/2/2004
The Politics of Everything
If you’ve ever watched a pair of toddlers playing together, you’ll understand that politics starts early in life. Politics has to do with interests. If one child is interested in playing with a given toy, and another child is also interested in playing with that toy, you have an instant, primal, conflict of interests. Both toddlers automatically pursue their interests. The result is a power struggle over who gets access to the toy. The child who ends up with the most toys becomes the King of Toddlers. He has what the other children want. To get any of those toys, the toddlers must play a kind of simple politics. How often we have watched two of our children or grandchildren tugging on the same toy crying, “Mine!” All this is summed up in the adult bumper sticker that reads: “He wins who dies with the most toys.” Read Article.
Originally published 2/9/2004
Where’s the Power in the Church
Jesus told his first followers, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV). As the original apostles went out into the world, the manifested power of God was clearly present. The Book of Acts makes it obvious that Jesus’ witnesses were supernaturally supported. People were healed (Acts 3:1-8), raised from the dead (Acts 10:40-41), delivered of demons (Acts 16:18), visited by angels (Acts 5:19), and otherwise helped by the power of the Holy Spirit and the intervention of God’s angels. Luke wrote, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43). Read Article.
Originally published 1/23/2004
Reconciling Myself to Art
For the first seven years of my life, I grew up with my Yorkshire grandparents and English-born aunt in North Vancouver, British Columbia. My father was divorced from my mother, and was on convoy duty with the Royal Canadian Navy, risking his life daily in the North Atlantic.
Aunty Ella was an amateur artist, and a good one at that. On the walls of the living room were oil paintings of local scenes she’d painted when she was 16. On the dining room table, she almost always had a painting “on the go.” From her, I learned to love drawing. She’d buy me “Jumbo” art pads and I’d fill them with childish drawings in short order. Read Article.
Originally published 1/12/2004
Can Bad Manners Make You Sick?
I was raised in an old-fashioned English household with my Yorkshire grandparents. There I was taught that good manners are the mark of civilized people. To my grandparents, good manners meant saying “please” and “thank you,” holding doors open for ladies, waiting your turn, and not interrupting people – especially my grandfather – when they were speaking. It also meant avoiding “bad language.” Read Article.
Originally published 12/29/2003
The Underreported Holocaust
World Concern (Seattle, WA) is one of the few charities my wife and I consider worthy of support. In a recent letter from its president, Paul Kennel, we learned some chilling facts. Writes Kennel, “…an average of 160,000 Christians worldwide have been killed for their beliefs every year since 1990. More Christians are being martyred today than in 100 A.D., during the persecutions of the Roman Empire.”
Later, in the same letter, Kennel made another shocking statement: “In fact, 45 million Christians – or two-thirds of all Christian martyrs in history – were killed in the past 100 years. And it’s getting worse.” Read Article.
Originally published 12/29/2003
Who’s Better Off Because You’re Here?
We could ask of any given politician, whose life is made better by his presence in or absence from the political scene? In many instances, the answer would be zilch either way. Politicians come and go with scarcely a ripple. As Charles Peters once wrote: “In Washington bureaucrats confer, the president proclaims, and Congress legislates, but the effect on reality is usually negligible if evident at all. The nation’s problems don’t disappear, and all the activity that is supposedly dedicated to their solution turns out to be make believe” (How Washington Really Works, p. 3). Read Article.
Originally published 12/23/2003
Getting at the Truth
Many of us, some more than others, simply want to know the truth about things. I want that more than anything. But, as Jack Nicholson said in his famous movie line, some of us “can’t handle the truth.” Often the truth about things is a bitter pill that resists swallowing.
A significant number of us believe that we have already apprehended the truth, and now it’s just a matter of endlessly defending it against heretics like me. Read Article.
Originally published 11/12/2003
The Gay Bishop Dilemma / What Can We Learn from the Episcopal Dilemma over Homosexual Behavior?
My grandfather, of blessed memory, was, among other things, a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. The word “Anglican” basically means “English.” The Church of England is the official Church of the United Kingdom. The Queen is its nominal head, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is its functional spiritual and administrative leader. He is viewed among the bishops, not as a pope, but rather as “first among equals.” Read Article.
Originally published 9/5/2003
What Matters Most: Achievement or Goodness?
In ultimate terms, no one can be classified as absolutely good. Even Jesus, who was absolutely good, in his humility, said, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God” (Matthew 19:17). As the writer of Ecclesiastes observed, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
We are not speaking in ultimate terms here, but in relative ones. It is possible to be relatively good, as opposed to utterly evil. Read Article.
Originally published 8/14/2003
Found: The Perfect Diet! (Not)
After winning three Orson Welles look-a-like contests in a row, I decided it was time to look into the issue of adjusting my dietary causes to achieve different dietary effects. I was tired of showing up alone and being offered the group rate on things. It didn’t help when the bag boy at the supermarket asked me if I wanted help to my car. My bag contained two small tomatoes. The final insult was when someone asked me if I’d had my prescription underwear renewed lately. Apparently they detected some sag.
In looking into diet schemes, I had two goals: more health and less weight. I realized that the two went body-in-girdle with each other. But I’d rather be fat and healthy than lean and sickly. Ideally, I’d like to weigh a muscular 175 pounds and be in perfect health for my age (103). But 175 pounds is a long way to go from 605. Fortunately I don’t have to go that far, but I’m sure someone does. Read Article.
Originally published 7/16/2003
The “Roots Wrinkle”
Every so often, just to be ornery, I take the risk of telling some fellow Christian that I’m into the study of the Jewish roots of the Church, just to see his or her reaction.
The most common one is a slight wrinkling of the nose, and words like, “Eeuuw, why would you want to study that?” The wrinkling speaks louder than the words. There seems to be a natural distaste in the Church for all things Jewish. After all, weren’t the Jews “Christ killers”? Didn’t they make the Temple a “den of thieves”? Didn’t Jesus constantly rebuke them for their legalism and unspirituality? Why then study anything that has to do with the Jews? Do you want to take us back to Jewish legalism? Read Article.
Originally published 7/4/2003
A Saddening Story
Not long ago, I read an article by Joe Tkach in a recent issue of The Worldwide News. It was entitled “Member donations fund discretionary assistance ministry.” After reading it, I was deeply saddened.
In the article, Tkach reported that the Worldwide Church of God is helping to support some 240 former employees at a total cost of approximately $350,000/mo. (That comes to an average of only $1458 per month each.) Think about it – after all these years, only 240 employees are receiving retirement monies from the organization they served for most of their adult lives – and what they are receiving is no where near enough to live on. What happened to the thousands of other ex-employees who gave major portions of their lives and incomes to “the Work”? Read Article.
Originally published 5/28/2003
I looked up the word “powerism” in my encyclopedic Webster’s, and it wasn’t there – so I think that I may be coining the word. In my personal lexicon “powerism” means the pursuit and wielding of power for its own sake. A “powerist” is a person who craves power simply for the rush of exercising it. For such people, power is their life quest, the Holy Grail for which they will make all sacrifices. They crave power like an alcoholic craves alcohol. Read Article.
Originally published 4/13/2003
On Being A Christian in Troubled Times
For a wide variety of reasons, it is becoming, in our time, ever more challenging to live life as a Christian. The long accepted order of things is being destabilized. Old boundaries are disappearing and paradigms are shifting – sometimes abruptly. We live in a world in which it is hard to know what one can count on.
As I write, the United States and the United Kingdom are at war with Iraq. US forces are present in more than 40 nations around the world. The world is an unstable place with a small but growing army of dictators, tyrants and usurpers opportunistically competing for power at every turn. Read Article.
Originally published 4/6/2003
Idealism vs Realpolitik
I think it is interesting to note that almost no one is with us in this war, despite the incredible evil of Saddam Hussein. Granted,some 30 or 40 nations have said that they are with us, but only three — the US, the UK and Australia — are doing the actual fighting. Whoops, I mean four. I found out that Polish soldiers have been doing a great job of supporting us too. And as usual, accidents and friendly fire are wreaking havoc. Read Article.
Originally published 4/1/2003
Why Go to All the Trouble?
After more than 30 years in the trenches of doctrinal warfare, I realize that much of our warring is an exercise in futility. Taking issue with the doctrinal assertions of Herbert W. Armstrong, for instance, accomplishes nothing with those who believe them. “A man convinced against his will…” You know the rest. Read Article.
Originally published 3/3/2004
Why Be Religious
When we look around us at the pain, suffering and chaos created by religion, it’s natural to ask the question, “Why be religious at all?” To tell you the truth, religion makes me sick. I’m sick of religious wars, martyrdom, murder, mayhem, homicide bombings, enslavement, torture, and suffering – all created in the name of God.
And when it comes to the Churches of God Pod, I’m sick of the internal squabbling, the marking, disfellowshipping, law suits, thought police monitoring, and people having to sneak around not being overheard or seen with other people. It’s all nonsense. It’s nonsense that anyone should have divorced because their mate preferred to attend a different spin off Church of God than they did. Yet it has happened. Read Article.
Originally published 11/25/2002
No Doctrinal Changes Coming Soon
Many of us on the outside of Churches of God Pod politics believe that all of the denominations that have been spawned by the breakup of the original WCG, including the parent organization itself, are in need of significant doctrinal reform. It isn’t going to happen any time soon. I think I understand why. It has to do with the way each group approaches the Bible.
James D.G. Dunn, one of the preeminent New Testament scholars of our time, writes, “Apart from anything else, the understanding we bring to the task of exegesis has been shaped by our upbringing and education, by our inherited culture and traditions – including our own theological tradition in its particular distinctiveness.”[i] Read Article.
Originally published 7/2/2002
How Authoritarianism Creates Hollow Men
The other day I was having lunch with a former WCG minister. The conversation drifted around to whether or not he still felt that he was a minister of God or not. He did not. To explain, he told me of a conversation he’d had earlier with a former minister of another denomination. The other fellow had explained to him that once one leaves the type of ministry of which we had been a part, one is empty. What did he mean by “empty”? Read Article.
Originally published 6/25/2002
Lincoln’s Message for Today’s America
President Abraham Lincoln once said, “…it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.” Read Article.
Originally published 6/13/2002
Back to Basics
One of my early mentors, in the face of the WCG’s then endless crises, used to say, “Brian, there are three things that I know: God exists, the Bible is His Word, and this is His Church.” At some point, he omitted the third item and left the organization. I’m not sure how he presently feels about the first two. In times of crises, it is natural to reexamine the foundations of one’s own personal faith. Read Article.
Originally published 6/13/2002
The High Price of Truth-Telling
The number of journalists murdered worldwide for doing their job in 2001 was 37. That’s 13 more than were killed the previous year. Of the ones killed last year, nine lost their lives covering the Afghan war. Apart from them, most of the murdered journalists were terminated because they reported on government corruption or some other controversial issue. Read Article.
Originally published 3/27/2002
We Are What We Speak
Words are powerful – more powerful than we can imagine. Words, like ideas, have consequences. The words we speak into the air reflect who and what we are. They expose our inner qualities – or the lack of them. Jesus taught, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45 KJV). Read Article.
Originally published 3/12/2002
The Real “Axis of Evil”
Not long ago, President Bush designated North Korea, Iran and Iraq an “axis of evil.” Since that time, Press and Media criticism for his use of the term has been relentless. The only legitimate place of argument here is the word “axis.” In the dictionary I have, there are eleven separate meanings for the word. Clearly the one the President intended was No. 9: “An alliance of two or more nations to coordinate their foreign and military policies…” It is hard to imagine North Korea – a totalitarian Communist dictatorship – coordinating its foreign policy with the Islamic theocracy of Iran (Persia) and the Nazi-like dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Iran and Iraq fought a bloody eight-year war with each other that resulted in a million dead and no clear victor. Read Article.
Originally published 3/12/2002
Spiritual Cause and Effect
I have a good friend who by any usual measure is highly successful – in fact I have several who fit that description. The one I have in mind believes that to be effective in life it helps to be healthy. Genetic factors aside, he believes that good health is the result of specific cause & effect factors. Consequently, he exercises religiously, and he is persnickety about what goes into his mouth. He is lean and toned. Unlike myself, he has never considered entering an Orson Welles look-alike contest. Nor does he have to wear prescription underwear. Read Article.
Originally published 2/25/2002
When you’re either a minister or an ex-minister, people ask you questions. In the old days, I had all the answers. Now, with more than forty-three years of Bible study and hands-on experience under my belt, I’m convinced I know far less than I knew then. Why is that?
In recent years, I’ve wrestled with a myriad of doctrines, sometimes out of my own need to know, often as a result of other’s need to know. The typical question usually starts out with, “Brian, what do you believe about…?” Then follows the topic du jour. Read Article.
Originally published 1/25/2002
A Generation is Passing
Many younger members of the Churches of God Pod may not have known Dr. Ernest Martin or Bill McDowell. Those who did may have had mixed feelings about them during their lifetimes. Both are now gone. They have finished their life cycles and their legacies are forever what they are. For them it’s over.
For us, life goes on – at least for the moment. We are all on a conveyor belt that can only convey us to one place. Sooner or later, we will all join Bill and Ernest in death. As we read in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto men once to die…”
Then what? “…but after this, the judgment.” Read Article.
Originally published 1/20/2002
Another Presidential Pardon
Recently, at Georgetown University, former President Bill Clinton provided the terrorists with what amounts to a rational for their heinous acts – they were repaying “us” for “our” treatment of blacks and Indians earlier in America’s history. He said that America is “paying a price today” for past slavery and for “looking the other way when a significant number of Native Americans were dispossessed and killed.”
Clinton then continued to give aid and comfort to the enemy by reminding his impressionable young audience that “In the first Crusade, when the Christian solders took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it and proceeded to kill every woman and child who was a Muslim on the Temple mount. I can tell you that story is still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it.” Read Article.
Originally published 11/11/01
Are Christians Called to Pacifism?
Do Christians have the right to defend their persons, their families, and their nation – or did God call us to pacifism? As our nation commits to what may well be a long and ugly war against global terrorism and the fanatical Islam that spawns it, every believer needs to resolve this question for himself. As ambassadors for Christ, we must rightly and honorably represent our Lord while we are in this body. As evil mounts, we are called to be light in a world that is rapidly darkening. As Christians, we are enjoined to obey all the Scriptural commandments that apply to us. We don’t obey to be justified or saved by so doing; we do it to live lives that reflect our desire please God and to bless mankind. Read Article.
Originally published 10/28/2001
7 Ways to Deal with Evil
There can be no doubt that what happened in New York City and at the Pentagon on September 11 of this year was an act of incalculable evil. It has been labeled America’s “Second Day of Infamy” and the 21st century’s Pearl Harbor. Those who are behind it can only be defined as utterly evil – even demoniacal. Whether this evil was generated by religious fanaticism, hatred for Israel and anyone who befriends her, or simply a sick urge to bring down the one nation that stands between civilization and global barbarism, it’s still evil. Read Article.
Originally published 10/28/2001
The Barbarians are at the Gates
The word “barbarian” signifies a person who is “savage, primitive or uncivilized” (see Webster). Such people are described as “rude, wild and course.” “Barbarity” refers to “brutal or inhuman conduct, cruelty.” Acts of cruelty or inhumanity are said to be “barbarous” acts.
With those definitions in mind, is there any doubt that the savages who attacked America on September 11 are anything but barbarous? I think not. The kind of people who can seduce their children into becoming suicide bombers, and performing such acts of wanton cruelty and murder can only be described as barbarians. In fact, the word might even be too good for them. Read Article.
Originally published 10/28/2001
Writing Into The Ether
There are times when I despair of writing a column that maybe – optimistic estimate – ten people read. One wonders if writing a column such as this is yet another exercise in futility. Is it merely a catharsis or an ego trip on my part? Do I write because out of mere compulsion, or because I actually have something useful to say? As we enter the period known by the Jews as “the Days of Awe,” self-examination is appropriate. Read Article.
Originally published 9/9/2001
When It Comes To Heroes
Not long ago, someone took a poll to see who are America’s heroes. Echoing our President’s much-ridiculed choice, Jesus Christ topped the list. I was thankful for that for no one else deserves to be on the same list with our Lord and Savior. He stands alone on a list of one.
At another level – the human one – there were others. Martin Luther King Jr. and Colin Powell were next on the list. For advancing the cause of African-Americans in this country, King certainly deserves to be somewhere on that list. Despite his personal character flaws, he led the charge against the forces of bigotry at a time when America should long ago have jettisoned racism. Read Article.
Originally published 8/31/2001
Precursors to Tyranny
It ought to be obvious to any American who has studied the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that America’s fundamentals and freedoms have been steadily eroded. The question is, who is eroding them and why are they doing so? The answer is, Leftists, because they want to install a socialist tyranny here in the land of the now considerably less free. Where are these Leftists? They are both within and without. Read Article.
Originally published 8/24/2001
Constructive Disagreement: Is It Possible?
For many of us, the working definition of truth is, “what I believe.” The working definition of error is, “what others believe.” When others try to assert their opinions as truth we balk at it, opposing them vigorously with arguments that support our own position. They do the same. In the end, nobody has given any ground, nothing has been settled except perhaps a little dust, and we leave believing what we believed before the dialogue took place.
Such conversations take place all the time, and as a result of them the cause of truth is seldom advanced. Sometimes they take place literarily in the pages of The Journal (a monthly tabloid serving the Churches of God). The results are almost always the same. Read Article.
Originally published 8/22/01
Environmental Marxism – A Deadly Threat
Marxism, despite the fact that history has consistently repudiated its efficacy, continues like a relentless virus to assert itself in the modern world. One of its most virulent forms is the current environmental movement. Environmental Marxism is all the rage in the highest circles of government – especially among the Globalists. Read Article.
Originally published 6/11/2001
Thoughts About the Thought Police
Just about every human organization has them. It is their job to police the thoughts and ideas of organization members that might be threatening to the sacred Status Quo. The more authoritarian the organization, the larger and more pervasive their role.
In smaller organizations, the Thought Police (TP) may be self-appointed. In church groups, they are the heresy hunters – the righteous few who understand perfectly what ought to be taught and believed. They make it their job to point out to those in authority others who are out of line – those who seem a threat to perfect orthodoxy. As organizations grow larger, the role of the TP becomes ever more important. After all, the stability of the organization is based upon maintenance of the sacred Status Quo. Any deviation on the part of leadership brings its authority into question by the rank & file. If individuals within the ruling hierarchy begin to deviate from the norm in what they teach, they become the subjects of third party reporting. Many a ministerial career has been ended when the TP’s and the heresy hunters have swung into action. Once a minister is perceived to be a threat to the all-important Status Quo, he becomes a pariah among his peers. Read Article.
Originally published 6/4/2001
A Radical Proposal
In 1998, George Barna published a book entitled The Second Coming of the Church. In its preface he wrote of the Church in the United States, “This is our time of testing. We must prove that we are what we claim to be, or we will certainly lose the platform to influence the world for Christ. That privileged position is already slipping from our grasp. Given the moral and spiritual demise of our culture, maintaining that position is not an insignificant challenge. And the sad truth is that the Christian Church, as we now know it, is not geared up to meet that challenge.” Read Article
Originally published 4/20/2001
What’s Wrong with This Picture
Last March, Canada’s Health Authority, Health Canada, quarantined the nation’s sperm banks after a woman contracted chlamydia from a donor’s sperm. The Health Authority then imposed tough new testing standards for donated sperm. The standards are now the most rigorous in the world and they have been applied retroactively to existing supplies.
Until recently, Canada played host to some 57 sperm banks. Their stocks of sperm took years to collect. With the new testing standards in place however, the banks found that they could no longer meet the demand for sperm. They found it difficult to locate enough of the original donors – even with the use of private detectives – to perform re-testing prior to asking them for new deposits. Consequently, most of the sperm banks went belly up. Today, only ten remain in business. Read Article.
Originally published 4/3/2001
The Nature of the Beast
On Sabbath morning, in Nablus, January 13, 2001, ten Palestinian officers raised their Russian-made automatic rifles and fired more than 100 rounds into the body of Allam Beni Ouda, a Palestinian found guilty of collaborating with Israel. When the shooting stopped, one officer walked up to the bullet-riddled body a fired a final shot at close range. As he did so, the witnessing crowd of 5000 shouted “Allah-akbar!” – “Allah is great!” Read Article.
Originally published 2/6/2001
Heads Up: Persecution is on the Way
Since the close of the historical period known as the Enlightenment, the Christian faith – and all other religions for that matter — has been under relentless intellectual attack from modernist (materialist) scholars and thinkers. In our time, the post-modernists are chiming in with the modernists in the assault on religion – especially the two Biblically based faiths, Judaism and Christianity. Read Article.
Originally published 2/6/2001