This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Biblical Truths Behind Myths and Legends Part III - The Frankenstein Monster; A Prophetic Harbinger of Things to Come??

I have been exploring a lot of interesting subject matter, some of which may be a little controversial as many Christians would have never given it a second thought but which have some significance in lieu of Bible prophecy and historical reference.  We have talked about dragons, the Hercules legend, and now I want to deal with something a little more contemporary, because it is the subject of a fictional book by a modern author that ironically is based on both fact and legends of the past that relate to the subject.  Then, I want to tie this into the prophetic, as I believe personally there is a connection.  Like I have said, this is all very new territory, so don't freak out too much before you read the text first.

The Frankenstein monster is something that popular culture has cashed in on since Mary Shelley (wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) wrote her novel Frankenstein back in the year 1818.   From the lovable Herman Munster of the 1960's sitcom to the millions reaped by toy manufacturers for decades in costumes during the Halloween season, to a series of Hollywood films based on Shelley's novel, Frankenstein has become sort of a macabre cultural icon.  The giant square-headed, bolt-necked creature of fiction though may have a more sinister source, and ironically it could be the inspiration for a Scriptural prophecy being fulfilled that I want to touch on later.  However, let us first talk a little about where this Frankenstein thing came from. 

I actually watched a documentary on the History Channel just last night before writing this study that dealt with the real Frankenstein, and as it turns out, Mary Shelly and her famous poet-husband were actually fascinated with the occult.  As a result, they traveled a lot, being they were rich people who had a lot of time on their hands (which is why they could write books and poetry as well!) and one place they visited was the town of Darmstadt in Germany.  For committed Christians today, Darmstadt is commemorated as the birthplace of the godly Protestant nun Mother Basilea Schlink, and the order she founded, the Evangelical Sisters of Mary, still has their headquarters there today.  The Sisters are a great inspiration, and Mother Basilea wrote on spiritual renewal a few decades before the charismatic movement became more widespread, but aside from this spiritual legacy Darmstadt is also the home to the Castle Frankenstein, which was constructed in the 1250's.   A German noble family by the name of Frankenstein later possessed the castle, but in 1673 the place achieved notoriety for it became the birthplace of a guy by the name of Conrad Dippel, and here is where Mary Shelley was inspired to write her novel.

Dippel was a practioner of an occult-based pseudo-science called alchemy, which in those days was widely practiced and is even today considered wrongly by some to be the forerunner of modern chemistry.   It is rumored to have been developed by the ancient Egyptians, but in modern times its history goes back to at least the 1200's when it became widely practiced in Europe because people were seeking to accomplish two things:

1.  Creation of gold from other substances
2.  Achieving immortality and the creation of new life

Alchemy is part of an old lie that Satan deceived Adam and Eve with in the garden, and why they were also forbidden from eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  Satan's ultimate deception for mankind is by influencing people that they themselves are "gods" and thus capable of the same potential as God Himself (see Genesis 3:5).  By doing so, Satan can ultimately control mankind by demonic manipulation.  This is really what the essence of the occult is about - "secret knowledge" to become a creative force ("god") as an individual.  All the occult disciplines more or less focus on this deception, and alchemy is no different.  To explain these three major occultic disciplines, they are:

1. Spiritualism
2. Divination
3. Magick

Alchemy would fall under the third actually because it is a bastardization of magic mixed with pseudo-science, and thus seeks to create one thing (either life or gold) out of something else unrealistically by manipulating nature to accomplish its goals (Mather, Nichols, Schmidt, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. {Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006} p. 428.).  The Bible strongly condemns all these practices, as well as another dimension to the occult that in recent years mixes occult disciplines with Eastern philosophy, and this of course is the New Age Movement, which has its roots back in the mid-1800's with Helena Blavatsky, a lesbian occultist/mystic who founded the Theosophical Society, and her 20th-century disciples such as Alice Bailey.   The New Age Movement is very broad, and spans a spectrum as diverse as so-called "Christian" groups such as the mind sciences like Unity to blatant occultic racism like the Theosophists.  And, it is more pervasive today.   Getting back to our original discussion though, it is interesting that alchemy also has roots in another school of thought, a Jewish mystical/occultic philosophy called the Qabala, and it was believed to have reached medieval Europe from Islamic Spain, where a lot of Sephardim settled and many Qabalists flourished at the time.  The Frankenstein concept, as well as Dippel's research (Dippel was not Jewish, incidentally, but did draw from the Qabala to develop his alchemic research, no doubt), I believe have roots in the Qabala, which ironically has influenced a lot of occultic practices.  I must note though that Qabala is NOT accepted as authentic Judaism at all, nor is it the primary source of occultism, which has many roots, all of them ultimately leading back to Satan himself.  However, the Qabala gave an interesting twist to the Frankenstein story because a qabalic formula is involved that makes up something with a direct connection, and that is the concept of the golem.  To explain what this is, we go back to a qabalistic Hasidic leader of the 13th century by the name of Eleazar of Worms, who had "recipes" to create these atomatonic creatures out of common substances by "breathing life" into it with a divine name of secret/magical origin.  The resulting creature, a golem, was then the servant of its creator, and it had the potential of causing destruction and ruin at will (Wigoder and Ben Isaacson, The International Jewish Encyclopedia {Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973} p. 126).  Shelley's Frankenstein is about a creature like this that gets out of control, and there is no doubt that somewhere down the line Conrad Dippel may have gotten occultic inspiration for his alchemic experiments from some qabalistic source related to the creation of the golem.  The History Channel documentary, unfortunately, ignored that connection, but as many practicing occultists know, the Qabala plays a very significant role in the development of modern occultic practice and belief, and one of its sacred texts, the Zohar, is widely-read by occultists and New Agers alike.  In short though, and in my personal belief, the Qabala was a deception engineered by Satan to deceive God's people, Israel, into false doctrine and appealing to their pride by making them into "God" individually.  Many Christians, and popular culture, have romanticized the Qabala and even baptized it, but they don't realize that it opens the door to demonic deception.   The Frankenstein story, although few secular historians refuse to accept the fact, has also romanticized qabalistic practices.  And, although there is no harm necessarily in watching Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney play Frankenstein in those classic movies, nor will you go to hell for watching the loveable Herman Munster on TV Land re-runs, it nonetheless has an underlying principal that cannot be ignored, because in the past this was taken seriously by men who, although blessed with intelligence, nonetheless were deceived by occultic nonsense into thinking they could create life, whether that be through the pseudo-science of alchemy or some mystical qabalistic ritual.  That being said, let us look some more at Dippel and others who practiced this stuff, and then I want to bring it all home by showing how this occultic belief could produce something prophetic in the future. 

Dippel's research goes further by an indirect link to a 19th-century homosexual chemist by the name of Andrew Ure, who took the body of a hung murderer and tried to stimulate it back to life with electric pulses.  This was also a product of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution as well, which began through Darwinian influences to view man as just another machine, and Ure and others thought that electricity was the key to life.  Although this did lead to some significant scientific developments later, nonetheless it was based on a devaluation of human life, which new industrialists believed could be manipulated to serve others in making a lot of wealth.  Again, in addition to playing God, the people behind this also had greed as a motivation, and sadly this mix of what later became a foundational premise for neo-Malthusian eugenics and Theosophical/qabalistic occultism would have tragic consequences in a lot of areas, ranging from the abuses of Corporate America in eroding American society to Hitler's Nazism.  However, the frightening aspect of this is the impact it will have on the future.

Although Shelley's Frankenstein was a fictional classic, I believe that it both has roots in alchemy and qabalistic occultism of past centuries, as well as future prophetic implications.  Let us go now to Revelation 13:14-15, and look at the verses:

And he (the False Prophet) deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the Beast, telling those on the earth to make an image of the Beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
He was granted power to give breath to the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the Beast to be killed.

Did you see that??  The False Prophet gives breath to the image of the Beast!! Let us remember what the Qabalistic Golem was all about then, shall we?  A golem was an atomaton image that the qabalist breathed life into by the magical use of one of the divine names, according to Wigoder and Ben Isaacson's New International Jewish Encyclopedia!  I have a theory that is based on a lot of centuries of Church teaching here, and that is the idea that the False Prophet who serves as a sort of high priest to the Antichrist will be an apostate Christian leader, more than likely a dissenting Pope - many sources, Catholic and Protestant, substantiate this.  Being this False Prophet will himself be possessed with deceptive spirits, it is my belief that this will be a man learned in mystical/occultic arts, and through the demonic powers that control him he will be able to do things that occultists of old only dreamed of doing, and many will even believe this man to be a "Christ" in essence, but not the Lord Jesus Christ as we who are Christians understand it.  This ties also, interesting enough, into the Islamic teaching about the Imam Mahdi, who it is "prophesied" in the Quran will be proclaimed "Messiah" by "Jesus" who will renounce his own Messiahship and thus lead Jews and Christians to believe and convert to worship this Mahdi.  Being an assasination attempt is prophesied to happen against the Antichrist at mid-Tribulation, the idea is that he, like Jesus who he is trying to counterfeit, will feign a resurrection at first.  Therefore, here is what I see occurring - the False Prophet, probably using some demonically-inspired alchemic and qabalistic mojo, will create a flesh-and-blood likeness of the Beast, and through magical/demonic power, he will breathe life into it (in reality, what will probably happen is a demonic spirit will possess and animate the image).  This "miracle" will be so great to people that worship will become mandatory of the slain Beast.  Then, again "miraculously," the Beast will be indwelt by Satan himself and will resurrect, thus the image and the real Beast will both be objects of worship.  That being said, it is my belief also that some demonic influence showed these ancient qabalists this knowledge of the creation of the golem, and also, due to the macabre death-experimentations of alchemists at around the same time, demonic wisdom was imparted to lay the foundation for this future prophetic event.  Demons have imparted many things to their followers since the beginning of civilization, and although some of this knowledge is based in fact, much of it has consequences for people's souls.  This is why, for instance, the Maya have that calendar that all the 2012 hubub is being generated over, and it also could explain why an ancient people such as the Egyptians could build something as sophisticated architecturally as the Pyramids.  Again, these are the fruits of fallen angels, called "sons of God" in Genesis, and they embody Satan's futile attempts to thwart God and his sovereignty by using his own creation - man being of course the pinnacle of that - against him.  Good news for us who serve the TRUE God though is that in the end, Satan will lose and meet his end in the fiery pits of hell, along with all those who served his interests.  Therefore, although some prophetic events look frightening, we as Christians have nothing to fear, for our redemption draweth nigh!!  Thanks be to God for the Cross and our redemption! 

I hope this was an interesting study for you, and although you may find it a little different from most of the stuff you may have read, it is my hope and prayer that it will make you hunger to study the deeper things of God in His Holy Word.  Thank you and God bless.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Biblical Truths Behind Legends Part II - Dragons and Dinosaurs: Are they one and the same??

It has been a while since dealing with this particular subject area, due to the fact that work and other responsibilities have prevented me from posting as I wanted to.  However, this is the 2nd part of a series I will be doing intermittently concerning some legends and the fact that Biblical truth may be in them somewhere.   It has often been said, and I do believe, that behind every mythology there is a kernel of truth that forms the basis of the myth.  As I dealt with the Nephilim earlier, I discussed how this could be the source of myths and legends such as those of Hercules and Gilgamesh, and now I want to deal with something else that is becoming more of a topic of discussion both among secular scientists and among theologians and Christian academics, and that subject has to do with the creature called a dragon. 

The inspiration for this came to me when watching a couple of documentaries over the past couple of years, both of which were so good I bought them on DVD recently.  One of them, a secular production that was aired on Animal Planet a couple of years back, is entitled Dragon's World - A Fantasy Made Real, while the other was a release that came out a few months ago from a Christian perspective entitled Dragons or Dinosaurs? that was released by Peter and Paul LaLonde's company, Cloud Ten Studios.   Both of these I highly recommend you watch if you get the opportunity, as both were very interesting programs.  And, although coming from hugely variant perspectives - one devoutly Christian, the other secular and scientific - it is weird in that the compliment each other!  Watching stuff like this got me studying and thinking that perhaps dragons were not merely a figment of some medieval peasant's imagination, but could have actually been real creatures.  After all, the Bible even mentions dragons on several occasions, and the thing about Biblical references, allegorical and literal, is that they draw from existing creatures.  To begin this, I want to first talk about that, and then I am going to give you some perspective on some of this stuff.  However, I want to say that any perspective I give here is NOT gospel truth necessarily; it is just conclusions of mine personally that I have drawn from my own examinations of the evidence, that is all.  That being said, whether you accept the existence of dragons as real creatures or not has NO bearing on your salvation; the only thing your salvation depends on is accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior.  So, whether you agree or disagree, that is fine; I am not infallible, and thus may even revise my own opinions as I study more too.   I am just discussing a fascinating topic that will hopefully get YOU thinking about some stuff, and please see it in that light.  

The etymology of the word dragon comes, according to my Webster's New World Dictionary, from a Greek root word drakon, which literally translated means "the seeing one," but a similar Hebrew word for dragon designates the meaning as something roughly between a jackal (a predatory scavenging wild dog) and a snake.   How these two concepts connect escapes me and requires further research, but the picture I am getting is one that a widely diverse plethora of cultures have accurately pictured this beast - it has four legs like a dog, is a reptilian creature, and apparently has keen sensory perception.  And, it is also immense - the creature is usually portrayed as big, flying (in most cases), and it can breathe fire.   The book of Revelation in particular makes reference to a dragon as being an allegorical image of Satan.  Again, when the Bible uses animals to represent something else, the animals used in the analogy are often real creatures, which means it is all the more likely that these dragons did exist, or God wouldn't talk about them so much in His own Book.  Another cryptic reference to such a creature is found in Psalm 104:26, which (quoting from the New King James version) says this:

There the ships sail about;
there is that Leviathon
which you have made to play there.

In the Byzantine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, which is celebrated weekly during the Great Fast (Lent) in many Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholic parishes, this Psalm is read as Psalm 103, and from a more up-to-date translation, the verse that is used and actually chanted says it like this:

Upon it there are ships a-sailing,
and that great beast You made to have fun.
(from The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts {Passaic, NJ:  Byzantine Catholic Eparchy, 1998} p. 9)

For many years, people had thought this verse refers to dolphins, seals, or whales, which naturally are rather playful as they do swim the seas (some say even dugongs or manatees, which surprisingly some early sailors mistook as mermaids and thus started that legend - these guys spent WAY too much time at sea honestly!).  However, when you look at what a Leviathon actually was, that theory goes out the window, and here is why.  My dictionary describes the word "leviathon" as coming from a Hebrew or Akkadian root meaning a "surrounding snake," or in contemporary language, a sort of thing like a huge anaconda or something.  In other words, definitely reptilian and NOT a whale or a dolphin!  Being the Bible mentions the existence of this creature, and of course we can substantiate dinosaurs existed, it is my theory that a leviathon was a type of aquatic dinosaur, and interesting enough there are all these Loch Ness sightings and other things even today of a creature that looks remarkably similar to the Psalm 104:26 description.  Being dinosaurs' existence is not an issue of debate, their survival though may be a different story.  Some creationists and even a few secular scientists have even insinuated that there was a possibility that dinosaurs and humans existed simultaneously,  and I tend to lean in that direction myself.  And, if a psalmist in the Bible could write about these creatures, then I would have to say the evidence for their continued existence today even is quite strong.   Therefore, I believe that one day Loch Ness may be established as a fact instead of just an elusive quest for only cryptozoologists to follow.  And that, my friends, would rock the scientific community at its foundations and would prove the folly of Darwinism once and for all.  That being said, I say that the idea of actual species of dragons existing even well into the Renaissance period may not be such a crazy speculation after all!

There are a couple of schools of thought that those who are advocating dragons as real creatures that may have (and possibly still do) existed hold to, and each of the two aforementioned videos I noted expound on these three main theories regarding dragons:

1.  Dragons and dinosaurs are synonymous with each other, and what ancient myth and legend call "dragons" could have actually been dinosaurs.  This means that humans then co-existed with dinosaurs at a point in time, meaning we and they are not mutually exclusive.

2.  A dragon may have been a species of dinosaur that had special adaptations, including the fire exhalation.  Two theories explain that possibility as well:

a.   The species had a special organ in its abdomen that allowed methane or some other gas bi-product of digestion to be stored, and the dragon ate either flint or platinum to cause a spark-plug effect at will.  This same organ would have also given it the ability of flight, since the creature had wings.

b.  Some others have said that in its skull was a cavity that stored the digestive gas, which upon contact with air through exhalation could have produced fire.

3.  Dragons and dinosaurs were two distinct species of super-reptiles that existed and competed with each other side-by-side, and both could have co-existed with humans.

These theories - and that is all they are at this point, as it has only been fairly recently that this subject has been seriously researched - have a lot of merit, and any of them could be possibilities.  For one thing, as mentioned, too many diverse cultures, from the Chinese to the Aztecs, have some sort of legend and mythology about a similar creature that they call a dragon.  Also, even into medieval times people have talked about such encounters.  This tells me that once you cut through the mythology, embellishments, and sensationalism surrounding these accounts, there is a consistent kernel there somewhere that matches with other accounts elsewhere.  And, that is where there may be substantiation for the RECENT existence of such creatures.  And, the most authoritative and truthful book on planet Earth, the Holy Scriptures, makes reference to dragons quite often.  Those references are peppered all over both Testaments, which also says something.  That being said, there is one last aspect I want to discuss before concluding that may bring some sense to all this.

Back in the day, it must be understood that oxygen levels were quite different from what they are today, thus megafauna like dinosaurs and later mammoths and such creatures could comfortably flourish.   Until mankind became industrialized and oxygen levels decreased, this was pretty much the situation even up until fairly recent history came into play.  Even today, there are some parts of the planet that are more oxygen-rich than others, and places like New Zealand still have some rather exotic wildlife and flora that you would not see anywhere else and would not survive elsewhere - up until the late 1700's, as a matter of fact, a HUGE bird called a moa roamed New Zealand's forests uninhibited actually; a moa was about 3 times the size of a modern ostrich too.  Aboriginees in Australia also talked about a HUGE lizard, a big cousin of the Komodo dragon, called Megalania that roamed Australia as recently as 400 years ago.   Even the Sasquatch legend of our own nation has some connection with this, as some researchers (both mainstream scientists and cryptozoologists) say that this may be a surviving species of big ape called Gigantopithicus, that is twice the height at times of a modern human.  Gigantopithicus fossils, interesting enough, have been found near the Tibetan border in China, home to a Sasquatch cousin called the Yeti according to some accounts, and that in itself says something.  One thing common to all these areas where either remains or alleged spottings of these creatures are located is their pristine remoteness, and their absence of human civilization in such places.  I would almost wager as well that the oxygen levels in such places may read slightly higher as well.  That being said, who is to say that dragons did not exist, and may still do?  Ultimately, only God knows his creation that well, and if it be his will for us to discover these things today, he will reveal them to us.  As to whether they exist or not, I am very positive the evidence suggests that they may, or at least did at one time, and therefore I am not going to be quick to dismiss these things in lieu of new discoveries, etc.

That being said, you as the reader have a right to draw your own conclusions about these things, and to be honest there is much research I need to embark on myself before I can be truly dogmatic about the existence of dragons or anything else.  However, ancient accounts, Biblical references, and recent scientific research are ever more affirming that this is a very real possibility, and it is an area of study to definitely keep attention focused.  God bless you all, and my best to you until next time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Perspectives on Corporate America and Darwinism

I am here to write today on something kind of different but interesting.  Have any of you noticed a sort of "survival of the fittest" mentality among big companies as they swallow up little ones?  And, why are the big banks and huge corporations so threatened over the existence of small businesses?  For those of you who only think that Charles Darwin was just about men coming from monkeys, I want to say that evolutionary thought has permeated a whole realm of disciplines besides science, and I am convinced that Darwinian principals define corporate operations today in some subtle but scary ways that may impact us in the long run unlike anything has in the past.  Read on if this makes you curious.

This is not a theological teaching, nor is it meant to be a devotional aid today, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed as it affects many of us who have to work and pay our bills in the corporate world.  I stated up-front before that this blog would occasionally deal with issues that were not theological in nature but do affect our faith and also present controversy, and therefore this is one of those posts.  It is based largely on some observations I have made from almost 15 years of dealing with Corporate America, and some of you know what I am talking about.  Therefore, let us get started.

In the recent economic climate, we have seen banks and companies collapse, small businesses taking huge hits, and the "big fish" in the proverbial corporate seas cannibalistically feeding off the carnage of the mess by absorbing and stamping out not only small businesses, but even other large companies.  There is not a single doubt in my mind that this DOES have prophetic implications, do not get me wrong on that, but I want to look at the immediate effect it has had on the individual, using my own experience as an example. I have worked in a contractor capacity for several large corporations over the years - and I am talking big players too! - and am currently with one of those now although I am praying God opens some other doors really soon.  What I have noticed first off is that many of these HUGE corporations do not give much consideration for their employees that work very hard for them; they fire and lay off at will anyone they consider to be a "weak link" in their acquisition of profits and they also show no mercy for people in circumstances that sometimes they cannot help.  For instance, commuters by bus - people who rely on public transportation for work (as I do) have a lot of challenges to face that people with reliable cars don't.  For one, buses DO break down, and often emergencies happen (a couple of weeks back on my route I take, for instance, a wheelchair-bound passenger tipped over in his chair as he was trying to board the bus, and that tied us up 20 minutes or more) that bus commuters nor bus drivers cannot help.    Also, if an employee has to take a bus, it is a huge sacrifice for that person to do so; buses have set schedules, and in order for a person to commute over 25 miles to work as I do, it means often starting one's day 3 hours earlier than their co-workers.  Employers, especially management, often live in their ivory towers and don't relate well to things like this because they have their six-figure salaries, their Jags or BMW's, and all they think of is numbers, not people.  And, if people have problems, the management doesn't care - a weak employee is an expendable resource to them and easily replaced in their eyes, despite the fact that employee is a HUMAN BEING who has a family to care for, bills to pay, and is placed between a rock and a hard place.  And, if you are a contract employee, it is far worse, as oftentimes the company doesn't even make it worth your while - no bonuses are awarded for hard work, no insurance or benefits offered, and at times this concept called "mandatory overtime" is expected without fair compensation.  I am going to address some of these issues at length now, and hopefully this will be something many of you who read this identify with.

Let's touch first on mandatory overtime.  The LARGE company I work for has billions in assets, but recently received a $46 billion bailout from the Obama administration.  As a result, this corporation was encouraged to take advantage of several sinking mortgage brokers by buying up their loans and thus generating a high volume of work.  Now, this corporation also has what is called a "mandatory overtime" policy, meaning that at will the management can dictate that you work a mandatory 2 hours over your shift or up to 6 hours on Saturdays or you can lose your job.  However, they do not offer contract employees any time-and-a-half compensation, and they are so rigid that if a person DOES have to rely on public transport to get to work and cannot do those hours, it could cost their job.  Unfortunately, Federal law doesn't regulate this (although it should) but in specific circumstances it can be fought successfully if sufficient proof is given that such policies cause hardship on the employee.  However, in the future, many of us need to pressure our elected officials to make these glorified air-conditioned sweatshop boiler rooms abide by regulations to curttail institution of mandatory overtime policies.  Aside from that, it disrupts people's lives too - if mandatory, unannounced overtime is required, it interferes with a person's life and health, and the company doesn't care as long as its own pockets are filled.  People cannot be realistically expected to do that, honestly, and for a corporation with such greedy arrogance to even enforce such nonsense is unfathomable.  Overtime is not an issue, but it should always be voluntary.  If a company treats its employees more like human beings than like robots, then the employees will produce for them with no issues.  A former boss of mine and a successful attorney in the Miami area by the name of John Ritter (now deceased) once had a good policy - he always said "happy employees are productive employees."  And he was right - working with Mr. Ritter was one of the best positions I ever had personally, and I gave above and beyond because he made it worthwhile.  And, he never expected us to do it either; he treated us well, and thus he got our loyalty.  To this day, I lament that there are not more people like him in the business world.   Not just "small fry" businesses understand that either, as there are some major figures that have implemented good policies as well.  For any one of you that know me personally, for instance, you know I am an avid collector of vintage big band recordings, and of course naturally the late Lawrence Welk fits into that.   I love listening to Lawrence Welk personally, and am an avid fan of his show, watching it religiously every Saturday night.  Welk, however, was not just a musical legend, but also a first-rate businessman as well.  Although growing up very poor on a farm in North Dakota, the scion of Volga German immigrants, Welk is an American success story.  And, he authored several books to that end that expounded at length upon his success and how he achieved it.  Although a firm believer in the value of work, he was also a believer in fairness, and as a devout Catholic Welk had a strong Judeo-Christian basis for his practices.  Quoting from his 1979 book, This I Believe (Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall) on page 47, he describes his system in detail, and the bottom line is this:

                      When I'm asked to describe our system in one sentence, I have a little trouble.
                       But if you can think of it in terms of a father or mother doing whatever is best
                      for their children, you have a pretty good understanding of what makes it work.

He went on to say on the following page that his system incorporates four things

1.  It motivates top performance
2.  It rewards excellence
3.  It shares profits
4.  It bases all its actions on God's laws

In other words, it is the "Golden Rule" being put to business ethics - treat your employees well and they will respect and appreciate you.  Many big companies, driven by lust for profit and their worship at the altar of greed, forget these principals.  Yet, a top-rate entertainer from years back not only implemented them, but so revolutionized the business world that it was amazing. Welk was actually one of the first business entrepreneurs, as a matter of fact, to offer the concept of profit sharing to employees of his organization.  Later, his good friend Walt Disney instituted it (Disney employees were well taken care of, incidentally, up until the Japanese bought the Disney empire in the 1980's) as did other companies.   And, although Welk himself went to his eternal reward in 1992, his company, the Welk Group, still operates on those principals today as far as I am aware.   His "Welk Freedom System," as described in the back of his book, should be required reading for every business major.   Another entrepreneur, also a devout Christian, is octogenarian J. Truett Cathey, who founded the Chick-Fil-A franchise chain in Georgia.  Cathey, a strong Baptist layman and Sunday School teacher for many years, has a very radical but Biblical philosophy that many corporate executives would do well to follow - the leader should be a servant first.  As a result also, you will NEVER see a Chick-Fil-A restaurant open on Sundays either; would Ray Kroc be that willing to pass up profits for McDonald's by following this same higher principal??  I should really send this information to every big corporate executive, because it is a needed lesson due to the fact that as a nation we have gotten so greedy, godless, and off-center that it is no wonder we are going to hell in a handbasket.  And, it is reflective also in our government as well, but that is a whole other subject I can deal with at another time.

Another sad reality is a phenomenon in recent years called "outsourcing," where large corporations use cheap labor in other nations (usually India) because they don't want to pay hard-working Americans the salaries they deserve.  Thanks in part to Ronald Reagan, who although a great President, made a fatal error by signing some law in the mid-1980's giving companies the carte blanche to do this.  Problem is, it hurts a lot of people - it robs decent Americans of jobs, it exploits hard-working Indians as cheap labor, and it has severely impacted our economy as a nation in a negative way.  The only ones who benefit are the rich fatcats who serve  as CEO's and shareholders of these monster corporations who hold in their clutches assets numbered in the BILLIONS of dollars.   Something is wrong with this, seriously, and this "outsourcing" needs to be regulated more.  God will judge these companies for making innocent children starve as well as decent hard-working people, both American and Indian, lose their homes and other things due to unfair wages.  And, some of these corporate executives need a good shakedown, starting with these HUGE banks such as Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America.  The evil people who control those banks are wicked, greedy, and are out to fulfill their own agendas at any possible costs, and they do not care who they step on to fatten their own purses.  And, one day, it will be people like them that usher in the Antichrist, and it will be greedy corporations who will probably back the mark of the Beast in order to further their own interests by eliminating competition in the name of "corporate advancement."  However, those evil executives are in for two nasty surprises.  First, when the Antichrist comes onto the scene, he will eventually unseat them because he will be Satan incarnate and will assume control of ALL economics of the globe.  Second, for their greed and idolatry of worshipping at the altar of commerce, these executives (unless by some miracle they repent of their evil) will face the Great White Throne Judgement, and Jesus Himself will tell them, "Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!"  The parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, as found in Luke 16:19-31, is something these greedy corporate bigshots should REALLY read, because if they don't change their ways this is their fate. 

I want to also show another Biblical principal for business ethics that many could profit from today.  It is found in Ephesians 6:5-9, and when the Apostle Saint Paul wrote it he was at that time directing it toward masters and slaves and the treatment they should show each other.  However, in the modern business world, it equally applies to the employer/employee relationship, and although it exhorts workers to be obedient and respectful of their bosses, it also exhorts the boss to reciprocate the gesture.   The harmonious relationship between an employer and an employee will generate an atmosphere of productivity in the workplace, and God will bless that business.  Unfortunately, many corporate executives are anti-religious unless something quoted from the Bible makes them money, and therefore Christian values are not to be readily expected or practiced in the workplace as a result.  However, this goes beyond Christianity even; God created us all with a sense of decency and it is only common courtesy to treat your fellow human beings with some sort of respect, as that is a great witness.  Problem is, when an employer is all about profit, and Satan uses that spirit of greed to control a person (a Scripture, I Timothy 6:10, warns that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil - money itself is not the issue, but rather the importance of what we do with it) because greed IS a cardinal sin, one of the oft-quoted "Seven Deadlies," and in the end the root of greed is idolatry.   The wicked and idolatrous generation that 21-century America is immersed in is based in prosperity unfortunately, and some who get a little taste of success will often become obsessed with the acquisition of success, both in wealth and prestige.  It is often flaunted as the "entrepreneurial spirit," but in reality it is a bondage.  A Southern Baptist pastor, Rev'd Marshall Maglothlin, said it many years ago when he pastored Calvary Baptist Church in Morgantown, WV, when he said that the "new American credo" was the "9 M's of Yuppie-ism", which he described as "money, microwaves, minivans, and more, more, more, for me, me, me!"  Replace that with i-pods, Jags, Beemers, etc., and that describes the average American high-management corporate bigshot today.  No room for God, family, etc. - some of them are so absorbed in this obsession that they don't even know how to have meaningful human interaction with their employees, which is REALLY tragic; what example of company loyalty does that impress with an employee who doesn't even get a response upon saying "good morning" to his boss, seriously??  What is worse, their own drive to boost their bank accounts and egos is taken out upon their long-suffering employees, who often are forced to give up their own lives for "the good of the company."  Sounds like forced idolatry to me, doesn't it?    The tragic result of this is declining health, broken homes, and if the person is a person of faith, backslidden spirituality.  God cannot and will not honor this, and God's people who are stuck in these situations need deliverance from them.  God wants his people to worship him with their whole being, and if anything hinders that, it needs to be removed.   Therefore, I want to offer something to you all today.

If you are employed in one of these dead-end corporate bondage-galleys, I challenge you to PRAY.  You cannot let a mere job dictate your life God gave you, and if a workplace is SO oppressive that it is robbing you of time for church and family, you need deliverance.  However, DO NOT QUIT!!! Be proactive and pray and also make some efforts to find something better.  Also, while working in such a place, do your best - it can be hard, as I can well attest, but remember it is also your witness.  Build yourself up spiritually by also maintaining an active prayer life and listening and reading material to help you (a lot of jobs do allow you to listen to music, etc., so take some godly music and even teaching CD's with you to listen to while you work).
In time, God will come through.  I write this to myself as well as to others, as I have been in these situations and am currently facing a similar challenge as I write this.  Any rate, God bless each of you, and may you be encouraged today by these words.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thoughts on the Deception of Christianity and the Decline of the West

Due to a busy work schedule, it has been some time since I have been able to post any new material, but the good thing about commuting by bus to work for two hours is that I get to read a lot!  I have been re-reading some books I had gotten before, as well as giving a read to some new books I have received over the past couple of months, and they are on a number of subjects.  The two pervasive themes though I have been reading are today's apostasy in the Church, as well as a decline of our civilization.   The former I know was prophesied, as St. Paul predicted it a lot in his writings, in particular II Timothy.  However, an oft-explored question recently by a number of preachers and writers is regarding America's role in the future, and the possibility of a decline in our civilization.   And, the notable fact of this is that the apostasy in the Christian church may be connected with this decline in our civilization, as things seem to be pointing to that.  This being said, let me jump right into it and address these subjects in a systematic way.

Being I am schooled in theology, the apostasy issue is something that holds particular interest, and based on a couple of major trends in the Church these days, I have some new thoughts.   Some time ago - fairly recent I would reckon - a big star in religious TV was interviewed on "Larry King," and what this man - I will name names here, because it is Joel Osteen - replied to Larry King's question about Jesus being the only way to heaven was nothing short of apostate, to be honest.  Osteen basically said that although "he personally believed' this, nonetheless Jesus may not be for everyone.  Hearing that was shocking, considering the audience that both Osteen and Larry King have, and I was not happy hearing him slap cardinal Christian teaching (belief in Jesus Christ as God the Son who died on the cross for our sins, and the condition of our reception of that gift, is fundamental Christian doctrine that should NOT be disputed or debated) in the face by more or less espousing universalism.   So, I began to re-read some books, three in particular - Constance Cumbey's 1983 Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, as well as two books by Warren Smith, Deceived on Purpose and A Wonderful Deception, the latter two which expose Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Church" movement.  Although written over 20 years apart, Cumbey's classic book about New Age teachings and Smith's books about Warren almost seem like two chapters of the same basic and true subject, namely that the Christian realm is at risk of occultic influences.  Like everything else, this did not happen overnight or in a vacuum, but rather had an evolution behind it that can be traced back to two sources from the early 20th century, the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Esseck William (or E.W.) Kenyon.   Both of these men had similar influences - each had exposure and had adapted things from the "mind science" cults such as Christian Science, Religious Science, New Thought, and Unity - and these influences made both men theologically risky ( a third figure, Assyrian-American Biblical translator George Lamsa, exerted a lesser influence as well).  Despite that, however, both Peale and Kenyon became Evangelical icons, although in different circles - Peale, a Dutch Reformed minister, became a mentor to "Mr Positive" himself, Dr. Robert Schuller, while Kenyon, a Baptist, taught a lot of stuff that was later picked up by Pentecostal tent evangelist Kenneth Hagin Sr. and it later turned the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement on its ears with a variant teaching called "Word Faith" teaching (aka "Name-it-and-claim-it").  The essence of this New Thought-derived teaching is that we have to build people's self-esteem with "positive thoughts," and thus sin and repentance are shunned as subject matter.  "Word Faith" teaching went further as it morphed into "prosperity theology" that is popular among TV preachers, and what that taught was that we can "claim" all we desire because God wants us to be rich, happy, and prosperous (see D.R. McConnell's book, A Different Gospel, as well as Hank Hanegraaff's Christianity in Crisis for more about E.W. Kenyon's influences on the charismatic movement).  The "second generation" of this nonsense (Hagin and Schuller) continued to pollute Christianity with this garbage until the 1990's when a Southern Baptist pastor from California by the name of Rick Warren, as well as a colleague of his in Chicago by the name of Bill Hybels (both are Schuller disciples incidentally), came up with the "seeker-sensitive" movement, which later morphed into the "Purpose Driven Church."  With "purpose-driven" authors and "prosperity gospel" TV preachers claiming the day and wreaking havoc on Christianity, the American Church began to compromise over the past 30 or so years a lot of the Biblical faith she once taught, and as a result it has become lazy, spiritually-dead, and extremely lukewarm in its witness.  Lest the Evangelicals be singled out, I might also add that Catholics have been affected by it as well, as of late I have noted personally at least a dozen Catholic priests who use Rick Warren materials in their parishes, and this complicates an even greater problem happening in our Catholic circles too, as theological liberalism has saturated many of the clergy and religious of the Church and the result of that is all these recent priest scandals (for more on that subject, I recommend you read Michael Rose's book Goodbye Good Men that I believe was published in 2002).  As a result, it is getting extremely difficult to find solid, traditional churches that teach the truth.  I have said it before, and will repeat it often - the world doesn't need a "seeker-sensitive" gospel dished out to it, but it needs a TRUTH-PROCLAIMING Church that is not afraid to stand up for what it believes.  Joel Osteen's performance on Larry King's show was shameful, but out of it a positive sign happened - one of the strongest rebukes against Osteen's shameful cowardice came from an unlikely source, and I have to admit, I have new admiration for this man as a result - that is evangelist Benny Hinn.   Benny has had his share of trouble over the years too, as he has done some things bordering on the ridiculous, but I have to say that I have always noted a certain sincerity in Benny that I rarely see in other TV preachers, and his response to Joel Osteen's crap on Larry King was worth admiration.  Benny, who apparently was so upset that, in his own words he "wanted to reach through the television and punch him (Joel Osteen) out," offered one of the greatest defenses of Biblical truth I have ever heard and I was genuinely impressed - he stated that Jesus is not a mere choice, but is the ONLY way of salvation, citing John 14:6 as a reference, and no schooled theologian could say it better either!  I am believing Benny is undergoing a bit of personal renewal, due to the fact he has faced some major challenges for his past actions, and the fact that he stood boldly and defended the cardinal doctrine of the faith - that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way of salvation - greatly impressed me.  However, much like what befell Mel Gibson when he created the powerful film about Jesus' Passion that so many stupid American Evangelicals shunned (that tells me they are afraid of the Gospel and that they are not really born again, if He shames them so much), Benny will probably be written off for the bold stand for truth he has taken, but I say God bless him and his ministry!  If  more pastors had the cojones to stand up for the truth of the Gospel, America may not be in the mess it is in now.  And thus, we lead into our second topic of discussion. 

Recently, due to some good fortune I was able to have a little shopping spree on Amazon, and I came across a copy of a rare book that is now out of print.   The book, Jewish Identity, was written by a Hebrew Catholic Carmelite priest by the name of Fr. Elias Friedman, and it is something I have been wanting to get my hands on for a long time.  The basic premise of the book is that the terms "Jew" and Israelite or Hebrew are often confusing, and that "Jewish" refers to religion while "Israelite" refers to the people.  I tend to agree with that wholeheartedly, as I myself am of Converso descent.  Any rate, Fr. Elias talks at length about the prophetic destiny of national Israel, as he believes (as do I) that one day they will not only be received into the Church, but will regain authority within the Church as the Old Covenant and the New become one fulfilled promise.  He sees, for instance, in the person of Christ a picture of the Holocaust - the Jewish people became a picture of Christ being crucified (by the Nazis), buried in the "tomb" of the Auschwitz ovens, and "resurrected" in modern Israel, the state.  I never thought of that before, but in a great way Israel has had its own "Passion," and it suffered for preserving its identity in the face of an increasingly secularized Europe which has become more anti-Semitic and unChristian in recent years due to centuries of saturation with liberal theology and socialist politics.  America is unfortunately trying to emulate Europe - America, which for its almost 3 centuries of existence has been a safe haven for the People of Israel, is now sinking into its own abyss culturally.  Fr. Friedman sees the Hebrew people not only gaining a new authority of integration into the Remnant Church, but also being the sole vehicle for preserving our Judeo-Christian roots as the "time of the Gentiles" comes to an end and the latter face judgement for their apostasy.  My friend Perry Stone and others have written books about the possible decline of America as a significant power, and it is a question he and many others have speculated about, but this may be the answer they need to look at.  So much more could be said on the subject, but time doesn't permit.  I will say this though - although there has been a Hebraic presence in the Christian Church since its founding, it has only been in the last century that so many Jews have "come home" to their Messiah, and not only are their at least one Messianic synagogue in every major city, but even the Catholic Church has apostolates for Jewish converts and people of Hebraic origin, with Fr. Friedman's Association of Hebrew Catholics that he founded being the most visible.  I noted something else too that just fascinated the dickens out of me personally - it is interesting that Fr. ELIAS Friedman and MOSHE Rosen are the two most visible figures in the Hebrew Catholic and Messianic Jewish movements respectfully (their names are Elijah and Moses - think about that one a minute, will you; when it sinks in you will say WOW!!).  I am not trying to imply there is anything to that interesting coincidence, but it got my attention.  I will need to explore this subject more with you all later too, as there is so much to cover but it is so overwhelming. 

Anyway, that is the regurgitation of my bustime reading of a morning over the past month, and hope it will spark some interest with you all as you get the opportunity to read it too.   God bless and be with you all, and our prayers for the peace of Jerusalem and the salvation of our own nation as well.