Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mike Murdock

I recently listened to a presentation by Mike Murdock. I have never heard a more materialistic presentation than his, except perhaps from a multilevel marketing spokesman. God hardly came up, except for Murdoch to deny that God is in control of what happens, that God tells people to give money, and that God can be asked for money.

In fact, the patter was very similar to MLM patter. The long and the short of it is to find a way to get wealthy without actually working for it.

Mike's presentation was not bolstered by any sound exegesis of Scripture. Instead it was bolstered by vague and unverifiable anecdotes. The closest thing to exegesis was a pseudo-spirtualization of Biblical references to sowing seeds and reaping a harvest.

As with most false teachers, Mike's presentation had a modicum of truth.  God is pleased when we give to the poor and the church.  God may also reward us in this life for our gifts.  Such a thing is possible.

Yet God does not promise to operate that way.  Indeed, we are encouraged to give in this way:

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2  Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Be generous to the poor, give to the church, but don't expect something in return.  Do it because it is right.


Friday, September 09, 2011

Flat Earth in the Koran

I'm not a fan of most of the arguments that the Koran teaches that the earth is flat, because most rely on descriptions that can simply be understood as metaphors, analogies, or explaining things in human terms.  There is an exception:
And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about Dhul-Qarnayn. Say, "I will recite to you about him a report." Indeed We established him upon the earth, and We gave him to everything a way. So he followed a way until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. Allah said, "O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness." He said, "As for one who wrongs, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment. But as for one who believes and does righteousness, he will have a reward of Paradise, and we will speak to him from our command with ease." Then he followed a way until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had not made against it any shield. Thus. And We had encompassed [all] that he had in knowledge.
That is the Sahih International translation of Surah 18:83-90.

This passage of the Koran makes it look as though the author thinks that the sun sets in a particular part of the world, a place where there is a spring of dark mud, and that there are people who live in that place.  Likewise, there is a place where the sun rises, and the people there don't have a shield from the sun.

Is there some way that this passage can be reasonably understood not to mean what it appears to mean?  I welcome explanations from Muslims in the comment box. 


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Prayers for the Dead and Marian Intercession

"I pray that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate whom he so greatly venerated, the Lord may welcome this faithful pastor of the Gospel and the Church into His Kingdom of eternal joy and peace", the Pope concludes.
(Vatican Information Service, 5 September 2011)

Notice that here the Pope is explicitly requesting Marian intercession for a dead Cardinal (Cardinal Deskur). This falls into the category of prayers "through" Mary (as opposed to prayers simply to Mary) and of prayers "for" the dead.

I know that some of Rome's advocates are fond of saying that one is "just asking Mary to pray" in one's prayers to Mary.  Actually, though, the goal here is for the prayed-for person to be accepted on the basis of Mary, that is to say, on the basis of her person and merits.  While this is not completely explicit, notice that she's described as "immaculate."  This is the wrong way to pray.

Our prayers are to be God through the intercession of Jesus Christ, our one mediator.  Only Christ's merits form a sufficient basis for the intercession we need.  Christ is not simply the best mediator, he is the only mediator.

It is also foolish to pray for the dead.  They have already either entered into Heaven or Hell.  There is no third place from which they need to be freed in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  The pope's teaching here is consistent with his own church's dogmas, but not with the Scriptures.

It seems doubly foolish for the pope to pray for the dead in this way.  Does he not supposedly possess the ability to release souls from Purgatory by means of indulgence?  Why not simply declare the Cardinal free himself rather than hoping that Mary will intercede for him?  This aspect of the pope's messages seems out of line with the traditional view of Purgatory - or at least rather odd, considering that the pope evidently feels kindly toward the deceased Cardinal.

To put it in another way, isn't this rather like telling a naked and hungry man, "be warmed and fed," but not actually giving him food and clothing?  Perhaps there is more to the story, but it certainly inconsistent for the pope not to exercise his own papal prerogatives, if he really wants the Cardinal to get out of Purgatory.

Finally, perhaps it is worth pointing out that the pope acknowledged that the Cardinal engaged in the veneration of Mary.  Moreover, the pope recognized that he did so to a notable degree "so greatly," the English text reads.  Cardinal Foley put it this way:
Cardinal Deskur had a particular love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his apartment door carried the sign “Casa di Maria” (house of Mary). He was quite devoted to his most recent responsibilities as President of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate Conception.
(Catholic News Agency)

Do my readers in the Roman communion want to tell me that this "veneration" isn't "worship"?  I suppose some will.  But I think most people can see that this kind of religious devotion is worship.


Wine and God's Law

The law (namely the Torah - the five books of Moses) discusses wine many times.  There are some negative references, for example:

Noah - Negative
Gen 9:21  And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

Lot's Daughters - Negative
Gen 19:32  Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.

Temple Service - Negative
Leviticus 10:9  Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:

Nazarite - Negative
Numbers 6:3 & 20 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. ... And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.

These negative references do show us that wine can be abused, and they provide us some negative examples by which we can be warned to avoid abuse of wine.

However, there are numerous passages that positively refer to wine:

Melchizedek - Positive
Gen 14:18  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

Isaac's Blessing - Positive

Gen 27:25 & 28 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. ... Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

Jacob's Blessing - Positive
Genesis 49:10-12
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: his eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Drink Offering - Positive
Exodus 29:40  And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering.

Leviticus 23:13  And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.

Numbers 15:5, 7, and 10 And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb. ... And for a drink offering thou shalt offer the third part of an hin of wine, for a sweet savour unto the LORD. ... And thou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Numbers 18:12  All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.

Numbers 28:7 & 14  And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering. ... And their drink offerings shall be half an hin of wine unto a bullock, and the third part of an hin unto a ram, and a fourth part of an hin unto a lamb: this is the burnt offering of every month throughout the months of the year.

Deuteronomy 12:17  Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:

Deuteronomy 14:23 & 26  And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. ... And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

Blessing for Obedience - Positive
Deuteronomy 7:13  And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

Deuteronomy 11:14  That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

Slave Release - Positive

Deuteronomy 15:12-14
And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.

Feast of Tabernacles - Positive
Deuteronomy 16:13  Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:

Priest Wages - Positive
Deuteronomy 18:4  The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.

Curse for Disobedience - Positive
Deuteronomy 28:39  & 51 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them ... And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.

Blessing on the Twelve Tribes - PositiveDeuteronomy 33:28  Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew.

These positive passages make it practically impossible to demand that somehow consuming wine is sinful or imprudent.  Wine is a blessing from God, and can be received as such.

For the sake of completeness, there are a couple additional references that I have categorized as "hard to say."  I think that some folks might see them as negative, but it is hard to really see them as meaningfully negative with respect to wine itself.

Journey in Wilderness - Hard to Say
Deuteronomy 29:6  Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.

Prophesied Destruction of Israel - Hard to Say
Deuteronomy 32:32-33 & 38

For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. ... Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.

- TurretinFan

Carl Trueman vs. the SBC

Carl Trueman recently criticized the president of the SBC for being displeased by the exclusion of Evangelicals from participation in religious ceremonies commemorating 9/11.  I tend to agree with Trueman's point that SBC pastors probably shouldn't be part of a religious event that also includes Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim figures, because it would be hard to do so without compromising the gospel.

Trueman, however, writes: 
Rather than lamenting the situation, the Southern Baptists should be delighted that the organizers had the sensitivity and foresight not to place them in the grim position of having to turn down such an invitation in order to avoid compromising their orthodox, Protestant identity. The public relations disaster that would have followed this elementary stand for biblical truth and exclusivity would have been spectacular.
This doesn't make much sense.  How is it a "public relations disaster" when Christians decline to participate in interreligious events?  Isn't that a witnessing opportunity? And ultimately, there is no reason (that I've seen) to suppose that the organizers intended to be "sensitive" rather than the more obvious explanation that they intended to snub evangelicals. 


Help for John Bugay

John Bugay, a Reformed blogger whose largest area of emphasis in blogging is in responding to Rome's historical claims, has made a personal appeal for assistance in view of financial pressures placed on him by his wife's serious illness.  I don't know John in real life, but please consider his appeal.  John can be contacted directly, and I'm sure he's willing to provide additional details beyond what is in the post above.