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.

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.