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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Emerging Church Movement

I am taking a detour from teaching about the various prayers and creeds of the Church in order to address something that I have talked a lot about in my writings but have not really addressed in-depth like I should.  When I mention some of these issues, such as the "emerging church" movement, some of my readers scratch their heads and wonder "what on earth is he talking about??"  So, if you are one of those people, this is an aid to help you.  For the rest of you, consider this a resource and a tool to sharpen your spiritual discernment, because it is needed in this day and age.

I recently got in the mail a copy of my college's alumni newsletter, and it was a catalyst for me writing this today.  The college I graduated from back in 1996 in Florida is an institution affilliated with the Assemblies of God, and has recently celebrated its 75th year of existence.  Although in times past the college was a paragon of classical Pentecostal teaching and spirituality, in recent years it has gotten involved in some things - many of the same things affecting other Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations like a nasty cancer - that I frankly have concerns about.  For one thing, the college has basically given a carte-blanche blessing of Rick Warren's "Purpose-Driven" philosophy, and it has also begun to be closely identified with some figures in a similar and overlapping movement called the "Emerging Church."  Case in point, in the recent alumni magazine, my alma mater bestowed an honorary doctorate on one of the most vocal and prominent of the "Emerging Church" leaders, a California-based teacher by the name of Erwin McManus (more about him later on).  A couple of decades back this would have been inconceivable, and thus it raises some serious theological and spiritual concerns for those of us better grounded in our faith as Christians.   That is why a teaching like I am about to give here is necessary, but at the same time I know it is going to raise some hackles, as movements like this have a strong, well-funded and pervasive influence in American Christianity.  
Therefore, let us begin with some things that will be frightening, as they give evidence to the New Age and occultic/mystical influences found in much of this stuff that sells a lot of copy in religious bookstores. 

Johanna Michaelson is a very sincere woman of God who was at one time involved in the occult until Jesus saved her from it, and since then she has had a powerful ministry exposing the occult and its influences and also has a powerful sense of discernment.  I have gotten to actually talk to Johanna on my Facebook page, as she is on there quite often, and she has expressed similar concerns regarding Rick Warren, this whole "emerging church" business, and other such faddish cancers on today's Body of Christ.  In her 1989 book Lambs to the Slaughter (Eugene, Oregon:  Harvest House Publishers) Johanna makes a very ominous statement that today carries even more relevence in lieu of these trends in American Christianity, and what she said over 20 years ago has proven to be frighteningly prophetic:

In personal interviews with witches I have been told that their covens have "laughed themselves silly" at how the Church has so wholeheartedly adopted their occult techniques, thinking that as long as they tagged "Jesus" at the end of them that they were perfectly okay.  In my own earlier days I used extensive guided imagery/visualization techniques for developing psychic powers and mediumship.  Some of the techniques I learned through Silva Mind Control, some through the practice of hatha and Raja Yoga, and some were given to me by the medium with whom I worked for 14 months.   It was a colossal shock to me to discover that virtually the same techniques I had practiced as an occultist were being used in the Church!  (Michaelson, p. 110)

That was over 20 years ago too!  A recent author, Warren Smith, whose two books Deceived on Purpose and A Wonderful Deception were written years later, was also a former New Ager who came to Christ and was horrified to find that there was so much New Age influence in a lot of the Rick Warren stuff and definitely in the "Emerging Church" movement (both, interesting enough, al a Robert Schuller - THAT'S a big surprise; NOT!).  I will be talking more about his observations later, as I have given his two books a thorough reading in anticipation of this study and have copious notes from his books to use.  Point being, former New Agers who are born again through the Blood of Jesus have the discernment to see these things, and what they see are not pleasant images.  Also, all of them have expressed that this seems to be a growing trend, taking over much of the Church as we know it, and thus an alarm must be sounded. However, how did it get that way?  Pentecostal evangelist Perry Stone, in his book Nightmare Along Pennsylvania Avenue (Lake Mary, FL:  Front Line, 2010) notes something interesting as he talks about the inroads of secularism among American youth, noting how it has affected the Church too:

The full gospel churches (older Pentecostal groups) were once considered a backwoods cult for their stand against sin and worldliness.  Eventually they grew and prospered, attracting a more prosperous crowd that provided more tithes and offerings to move from the other side of the tracks to the more upscale sections of town.  Often individuals without strong Christian backgrounds pulled the others into a lifestyle of drinking alcohol, partying, and drunkenness. (Stone, p. 52).

I agree with Perry in that it seems like riches often corrupt our spirituality, and often the twinkly gleam of the "good life" makes us put God on a back burner, and as a result true discipleship suffers.  That in turn breeds other mindsets that maybe certain things - rock music, shacking up, abortion, etc. - are "not so bad," and that perhaps all that talk about sin and repentance, well, it doesn't draw the crowds.  So, we have to compromise the Gospel in order to "preach" the Gospel (?).  And, that is ultimately the mindset out of which Rick Warren, James Rutz, Bill Hybels, and the whole "Seeker Church" and "Emerging Church" movements evolved out of.  Its roots go back decades though, but for some reason it exploded starting in the latter part of the 1990's.   As a result, teachings about the dangers of the New Age and the occult and their dangers, as well as the evils of things such as rock music and its corrosive influence, were no longer heard - pastors became strangely silent on these things.  In my notes, I see that Warren Smith, in his book Deceived on Purpose, elaborates further on what Perry said when he cites on page 17 two primary reasons he believes pastors were suddenly quiet about the New Age and other things:

1.  Obsession with church growth (butts in the pews, bucks in the bank - that is my additional thought!)
2.  Spiritual fads touted as "latest move of God." (Rick Warren is granted now almost prophetic status by some of these pastors)

My personal conclusion I drew from reading Smith's theory on this is that Satan has caused numerical growth, financial prosperity, and  so-called "latest moves of God" to distract the Church from his plans as he begins to prepare people to receive his "messiah," the Beast or Antichrist of Scripture.  Johanna Michaelson was talking earlier how occultic visualization practices have been introduced into the churches, and Smith some 20 years later elaborates upon that by noting that Rick Warren and others owe their inspiration to Robert Schuller, a "minister" who sounds more like a New Thought guru than he does a Christian clergyman.  Of course, Schuller was influenced by another by the name of Norman Vincent Peale, and Peale borrowed heavily from an occultist named Florence Shinn, whose works he was said to have plagiarized (see Warren Smith, A Wonderful Deception, pages 39-50 for more information on that), as well as giving full endorsement of Ernest Holmes, the founder of the Religious Science Church, and his New Thought classic Science of Mind (interestingly, Schuller had a copy of that very book in his desk drawer, and willingly shared it with a couple of Religious Science clergy who visited him - see Deceived on Purpose, pages 101-102, for more on that).  Schuller of course has thankfully always been suspect by strong Christians, as his teachings are just too bizarre and unbiblical, something a devout believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit and well-read in the Word of God has no problem seeing.   However, his legacy is not carried on by his son Robert Jr., but rather in the legacy of two other figures - one is Rick Warren, who is the structural architect, and the other is Joel Osteen, who is the "pretty face" of the Schuller disease to today's public.  Osteen, although influenced more by the charismatic Word/Faith movement (which, via its "father" Esseck William Kenyon, also has a connection to New Thought philosophy) has a message that is nonetheless in line with Schuller's "Positive Christianity" in that Osteen (who a high school friend of mine nicknamed "The Purpose-Driven Grin" incidentally for obvious reasons) talks about all this self-love nonsense - hugging yourself in the mirror and saying "I love me" and all that garbage.  Any rate, the Warren/Schuller connection is small potatoes though compared to the "Emerging Church" movement and its vision to redefine Christianity.

In my estimation, the "Emerging Church" movement and Rick Warren's teachings are basically the same thing, but with one important difference - whereas Warren is a bit of a maverick and rebel who wants to "contemporize" the Church, The Emerging crowd is much more subtle.   What is called the "Emerging Church" started to take shape at the beginning of the 21st century, when a group of people - many of them neo-Evangelicals and charismatics of some stripe or another - began to, in their "infinite wisdom", "discover" that church as usual was not working. So, they had the mentality to "deconstruct" Christianity as it is and rebuild it in such a way that it would relate to contemporary culture.  Oddly, a movement I was part of at one time, the Convergence Movement, actually had some overlap in this to a degree, although the Convergence Movement was actually more Biblical and sought to reconnect with Apostolic Christianity rather than "deconstruction." Many Convergence people today are still on-fire Christians who stand for Biblical truth, and will have nothing to do with some of the things that are part of the "Emerging Church."  However, some of the terminology did get fuzzy in the early days between the two movements - for instance, many Convergence proponents (myself included until I learned better) touted Emerging Church guru Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline, as a great resource.  However, Foster it must be noted is an Emerging Church pioneer, and although supposedly an Evangelical Quaker minister Foster nonetheless consults mystics and other esoteric personalities such as Madame Guyon, Henri Nouwen, and Bede Griffiths, for wisdom and insight.  He is also a proponent of the so-called "Contemplative Prayer" movement, which uses such things as Enneagrams and the practice of "tracing the Labyrynth" (a circular maze that one "walks" with a small stick in meditation that is eerily similar to the New Age mandala devotions) as well as controlled breathing and other quasi-yogic practices (there are now also, speaking of which, practitioners of "Christian Yoga" nowadays, including a guy on the internet who developed some thing he calls "Maranatha Yoga.").  The deception in these practices - especially for those of us who have embraced a liturgical/Catholic Christianity - is that they are often taught as "traditions" of the historic Church, which I can assure you they are not!!  As a matter of fact, the Church condemns some of these things for what they are - thinly-veiled occultism.   A deaconness in our Church, Sister Bridget (Susan Stanley), wrote a two part article concerning this issue that is one of the best and most well-written on the subject entitled "The Monastic Call and the Problem of the New Age," and it is available for reading at www.orderofdesertcompanions.org/monasticcall.html.  I want to quote something Sr. Bridget said from her article that fits well with this teaching:

The monastic realm is especially vulnerable in our time. There has been a very strong new age influence in many Orders, and also in contemporary writings on the subject, with many classic writings of the Saints and monastic writers being reinterpreted and republished with a new age slant and commentary added. It is best to seek out the original writings of the Saints and early fathers of the church that are free from added influence

She is right - you have to be careful with reading some "translations" of Church Fathers' writings, as they can be tainted with a universalistic or neo-Gnostic slant by some Emerging Church proponent or outright New Ager (a whole New Age movement, the Liberal Catholic Church, has been doing this for years, as well as the movement of a renegade heretical bishop in Nebraska by the name of Mar Joseph Narsai, who is a closet Theosophist for all intent - the Liberal Catholic Church also has roots in Theosophy as well, being many of its early clergy were disciples of Alice Bailey and followed Helena Blavatsky's teachings.  Liberal Catholics are still around today, although hard to find, and they still have their poison out there in the independent Catholic movement for the unsuspecting, so be careful!).  And, the same is true now among Evangelicals, something I never dreamed I would see happening - Rick Warren, for instance, relies heavily on a bad paraphrase of the Bible called The Message, authored by Emerging Church proponent Eugene Peterson.  Peterson's "Message" is filled with cryptic New Age terminology, notably in the Lord's Prayer and elsewhere with the terms "as above, so below," used by New Agers and occultists regarding a panentheistic concept they have that God is all, and all is God.  And, talking now about Erwin McManus, whom I mentioned earlier - McManus is a Baptist minister and Emerging Church leader who uses another New Age term - "force" - very liberally in his writings.  He talks a lot about "the God within," a foreign concept to Christians as he means it, but sounding so "Christian" that it is being swallowed hook, line, and sinker by millions who are making him rich by buying his books.  This terminology also goes back to Schuller again. 
More could be said on all this, but I would end up writing a book myself!  However, when visiting "Christian" bookstores, there are some authors you need to be aware of and avoid like the plague, because they are "Emerging Church" proponents and their teachings are potentially hazardous - a partial list of these people includes Richard Foster, Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton, Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, Erwin McManus, Ken Blanchard, and a former classmate of mine from college by the name of Tom Kyllonen, among others.  These people are false prophets, and they along with more higher-profile people such as Rick Warren, Tommy Barnett, Ed Young Jr., and Joel Osteen, should be avoided by the Remnant of faith like the plague.    Now, let me also do a little teaching from the Word of God about this.

In Matthew 24, a number of warnings are given by the Lord about the coming deception that will shake the Church, and He gives us several signs to look out for:

1.  Deceptive uses of Christ's name (24:5)
2.  False prophets (24:11)
3.  False signs and wonders (24:24)
4.  The appearance of the Antichrist

The deceptive use of Christ's name - more so that saying the "GD" word, this is the ultimate taking of the Lord's name in vain (note my earlier article on that subject).  There are many today who have "the form of godliness but not the power thereof (II Timothy 3:5)," and they deceive many.  They sell a lot of books, and they have big churches and draw as many people to their shows as do the latest musical acts, but what they offer is deception.   1 Timothy 4:1-2 describes this to a tee - in latter times, it says, many will depart from the faith giving heed to lying devils and demonic doctrines, and they will be led by those who speak lies in hypocrisy.  Moving over to 2 Timothy 3:5, it says such people have what appears to be godliness, but they don't have the power to back it up - in short, they are deceivers and charlatans.  Going over to 4:3, it says that people will have "itchy ears," and although sound doctrine offends them (sounds like the "Seeker church," doesn't it?) they will listen to almost everything else that comes down the pike and will listen to all sorts of bizarre people teaching wacky things because they "look good" or some other dumb reason.  It is talking of course not about the unbelievers, but about those in the Church who will in time apostasize from the faith.   However, its influence can be felt - the other day at work for instance, I listened to a group of women at a table across from me extolling Joel Osteen's virtues because he was, in their words, "nonjudgemental" and because he had supposedly unofficially 'blessed" gay rock star Elton John's new child he and his "wife" adopted.  What I heard made me sick, and they measured his success by the size of his church!!  Unbelievers are thinking big churches mean something!  However, they are deceived, because many tares sit in the wheatfields, and some fields are more tares than wheat these days, in particular bigger fields!  We as true Christians must be grounded in the Word of God, because this deception is widespread.  Remember, only a couple of chapters separate Laodicea, the lukewarm church of Revelation 3:14-22 which many prophecy students see as a picture of today's Christianity, and the "Mystery Babylon" cult of the Antichrist described in Revelation 17.  On the clock, the gap is smaller than 14 chapters of Bible though, and as Smith points out on page 147 of his book, Warren and others that ignore the signs of Christ's return (prophecy, according to Rick Warren, is "none of our business," which places him with the scoffers it talks about in Scripture rising in the end times) are failing to discern the deception taking place and could one day be some of the False Prophet's clergy heralding the virtues of the Antichrist.     As a result, there are ten concerns I want to copy here from Warren Smith's A Wonderful Deception from pages 15-30 that we must be attentive to concerning many false teachers today:

1.  Warren, McManus, Schuller and others liberally cite New Age leaders such as Bernie Siegel in their writings and spoken appearances
2.  Warren sends a confusing New Age-flavored message he derived from Schuller's influence that "God is in everything."
3.  Rick Warren's dependence upon Eugene Peterson's The Message.
4.  The "Purpose-Driven Life's" ignorance and distortion of Bible prophecy
5.  Rick Warren's consorting with New Age/neopagan philanthropists such as John Marks Templeton.
6.  The Robert Schuller factor
7.  The "New Reformation" and "God's Dream" concepts and their eerie resemblance to Alice Bailey's utopian Theosophist visions.
8.  The New Age movement's embrace of Robert Schuller
9.  Implications of Robert Schuller's influence on both Warren and many in the "Emerging Church" movement.
10.  Serious concern - the deception of countless millions by such people.

Similar concerns could also be raised about a number of televangelists, especially those who follow the Word/Faith movement, which has similar New Thought influences al a E.W. Kenyon.  Kenyon, Peale, and countless others from ages past were tares of heresy and apostasy planted in a fertile wheatfield that originally was birthed of God in revival.   As the tares gained ground, they spread, and eventually their work of destroying the witness of true Christianity was extensive, and today its influence can be really felt.  Other factors tie into this as well - the rise of "Contemporary Christian Music" is a good example - and they are a sign that a prophesied apostasy of the Gentiles is upon us.  However grim this subject matter was though, it must be remembered that these signs mean our redemption is nigh, for the Lord will come in glory one day to claim His Bride and defeat the works of the enemy.  Also, a positive sign is the movement among Jews coming to Christ in recent years, recognizing Him as their Messiah - they are the future of the Church, folks, and surprisingly both the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Catholic movements thankfully have been largely untainted by the fads happening in much of today's American Christianity.   And, I feel that is a sign that God has His hedge of protection over His people.  I have talked about that in the past, so will not elaborate on that now, but that too is a prophetic sign.

I also hope that this article will be educational to you, because there are many things out there today masquerading as "Christian" but they are evil and occultic - do not have anything to do with them, please!  And, no doubt, I may offend some, but that is okay - the truth must be told and sometimes opposition is a consequence of standing for the truth.  God bless you all until next time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Israel - a Two-State Solution IS Plausible (But Not What You May Expect!)

Many of you who have read these articles or know me personally know that I have been at an impasse for some time in regard to the Israel/Palestinian issue.  On one hand, I know what the Bible says about the restoration of Israel, and on the other hand I also know that some Palestinians are actually my Christian brethren with deep roots in the region.  I have butted heads with people - including many Eastern Christians, which honestly bothers me - and have wrestled with the issue myself on many occasions, praying for an answer.  In recent days my prayers may have been answered, thanks in part to a program we were listening to on the road while coming home from work one night a couple of weeks back.   The program, In the Marketplace With Janet Parschal, is broadcast on Moody Radio and I have enjoyed listening to it because she really stimulates your mind with the in-depth discussion she presents.  On that particular program, she had this guest (for the life of me, I cannot remember the guy's name!) who was discussing the Israel/Palestine issue, and what he said was revolutionary - God's plan, at least for now, may actually include two states!  I could just about imagine many of my prophecy-student friends gasping in horror, while some of my Eastern Christian friends would be having a smug "I told you so!" expression on their faces.  However, as I reflect upon it, I have a huge sigh of relief, because it really brings a peace to this situation that allows me to discuss it freely with friends I have on both sides of this issue.  Of course, what I am about to say will probably make some mad, but that is OK - compared to the mental anguish I have had over the years trying to reconcile all of the ill-fitting pieces of the puzzle, it is worth getting a couple of over-zealous nuts p.o'ed at me.  So, that being said, here we go.

My studies have been taking me into some other interesting directions as well, for I have learned that a major problem has caused all this to begin with - Islam, and the subsequent scourge of Arabization.  Much like the Borg on the Star Trek series, Arab Islam has literally wiped out the identities of millions of people worldwide, in essence Arabizing them at the expense of their God-given individualities.  Yet, it seems weird that all of these people could be "Arabs' when there weren't really that many Arabs to begin with.  There have been signs of hope though - many North African nations are eschewing Arabism for their true Amazigh (Berber) roots (the Berbers, as you know, were also a people with a great Christian legacy, as it was their nation that produced such spiritual giants as Tertullian, St. Augustine, and others).  Also, the Coptic Christians of Egypt, the Assyrians and Chaldeans of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, as well as the Maronite-Aramaic people of Lebanon, have hung on tenaciously to their heritage despite the onslaught of often-brutal Arab nationalist and radical Islamic onslaughts (although they appear to be opposite, Pan-Arabism and radical Islam in reality feed off of each other).  Even among the Palestinians, there is a movement (mainly among the Christian communities in their midst) in which many Palestinians are redefining their identities not as Arabs but rather as Canaanites, Moabites, and Edomites (there is truth in that also, by the way, but that is a whole other discussion).  In short, Pan-Arabism is failing, thanks be to God, as people start discovering who they truly are, and I predict that if the Lord tarries there will be a cultural renaissance among these people, and I would support and welcome that.  That being said, let us now talk about one group in particular, neither Arab nor Muslim, but with strong ancient and Biblical roots as part of the Chosen People.

Many students of Bible prophecy often overlook something very significant - they understand that Israel as a nation is supposed to be restored, but the problem is they are missing something in the equation.  And although I have been accused of being a "Christian Zionist" by many, I think what I am about to say will blow that accusation away quickly.   I remember also that Fr. Elias Friedman, a Hebrew Catholic Carmelite priest, wrote in his 1987 book Jewish Identity on this subject when he said a problem with modern support of Israel is not its existence, but rather its completeness - think about that a moment, will you?  The Bible's promises to Israel which the Church affirms strongly must be to all twelve tribes, yet modern Jewry only encompasses two - even the 55 million or so of us in the world who are of the Anusim are only from two tribes, Benjamin and Judah!  So, where are the other ten tribes??  That is where we are going with this, so brace yourself for some revelation knowledge, folks!!

As we read in I Kings 12, after Solomon's death there was a division in the kingdom of Israel, and what resulted were the kingdoms of Judah and Israel - Judah and Benjamin were the kingdom of Judah, while the other 10 tribes became the kingdom of Israel.  After many years - and a lot of BAD leadership! - the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire in the year 722 BC, as recorded in 2 Kings 17:24-41.  What happened next was that the Assyrian king Sargon II who sacked Samaria, the capital of Israel, settled ethnic Assyrians in the land who intermarried with the remnant of the Israelites, thus producing the Samaritans we read about starting in the book of Nehemiah, when one of their rulers Sanballat antagonized the efforts of Zerubabbel, Ezra, and Nehemiah to restore Jerusalem.  For a number of years the Samaritans are not mentioned in any historical writings until Jesus comes along, and lo and behold, He reaches out to them (Samaritans and Jews, as you read in the Gospels, were not the best of friends!) and many are born again through His ministry and even form an integral part of the early Church in Israel and surrounding areas.   Jesus does that for two reasons:

1.  He is called to reach ALL people, and
2.  Samaritans are as much a part of the heritage of Israel as the Jews are, and Jesus made it a point to illustrate that by His show of compassion to the Samaritans.

In other words Jesus came for all of Israel, Jew and Samaritan alike, and ultimately for all humanity.  Jesus, by doing this, also got across something many churches forget today - you have to reach those of your own house first before you can be a witness to others.  THAT is the ultimate lesson of the Gospel, at least as far as this part of it is concerned.

The Samaritans have continued to exist until this very day, and as I am writing this there is still a community of 700 of them near the city of Nablus in Israel.  However, it gets very interesting here, because over the centuries, especially with the onslaught of Islam (I see the average Islamic mullah being something like the Borg Queen in the movie Star Trek - First Contact - their message of "convert or die' sounds like the Borg mantra of "resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.") many of them have been lost in the sea of Islam and were forcibly converted by Muslim fanatics, after which the "Arab" culture of the Middle East after Islam infected it completely overwhelmed, annihilated, and buried the true identities of many people.   A Wikipedia article I read preparing for this lesson notes that a genetic test done on many Palestinian Muslim families around Nablus revealed that they had cultural ties to the Samaritans, and may have descended from the Samaritans themselves at some point but their families were forced into Islam and Arabized over the centuries.  Even former Israeli President, the late Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, said that as much as two-thirds of the residents of Nablus and surrounding villages as of 194o were of Samaritan origin (www.wikipedia.org/Samaritan, quoting from Ben-Zvi's Oral Telling of Samaritan Traditions, Vol. 780-785, originally published on October 8, 1985).  That being said, what this means is that many self-identifying Palestinian "Arabs" may in reality have a birthright to the land of Israel!  And, in a sense then, it gives some validity to the Palestinian claims, for they are Biblical being these particular Palestinians are descended from the lost Ten Tribes!!  Told you this would get interesting, didn't I?? 


Samaritans observing Passover near their Temple site on Mt. Gerizim, near the Israeli city of Nablus

If this be the case - we all know obviously that the 700 Samaritans are of Israel anyway, a fact both prophecy scholars and Israeli authorities have no issue with - what this means is that all Twelve Tribes of Israel are in the land!!  And, as a faithful Remnant of all Twelve Tribes is prophesied in Scripture, it is high time we pray for these Samaritans and their descendants - wouldn't it be wonderful if there would be a Messianic Samaritan congregation in Nablus one day??  And, it also means that some of the Palestinians may have more right to the land than many originally thought, especially since DNA research has revealed that they are connected to the Samaritans!  What times indeed we live in!  And, it also must be noted that some of these Samaritan-descended Palestinians are also Christians already - as a matter of fact, the Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron, Saidna Gregory Mansour's, family originally came from that same region, which means the Lebanese Maronites in the US may have a Samaritan bishop possibly! (the Assyrian Church of the East already has a Converso chancellor, my dear friend Fr. Charles "Qasha" Klutz in Chicago, whose family were Portuguese Anusim, so Bishop Gregory - who I also have known as a friend for close to 30 years since he was parish priest in Uniontown, PA - may not be the only member of the House of Israel leading a portion of the Church, but there are others, also a prophetic sign). 





Elazar ben Tsedaka, the late Samaritan High Priest (1927-2010)

In lieu of this, many of us who have loved Israel - as we should, by the way - may have to begin to see the bigger picture.  Again, that involves two things:

A.  God may have in his plan, at least for this time, a two-state solution for the Holy Land
B.  Many Palestinians may already be of the House of Israel and not know it

Again, new evidence arises on these things all the time, so be aware that I may on occasion be revisiting this subject in future lessons as I want to share this knowledge with others, so that they also may "rightly divide the Word of truth" and also see more fully God's work in our time.  These little signs and facts also tell us that the return of the Lord is nigh, and as Christians that should excite us - it surely does me, which is why I talk about this stuff with you.  Anyway, I am aware this teaching may be a little different, a little tough to digest as a lot of ingrained thinking will have to be reconsidered regarding what we have been taught, but one thing is for sure - Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour, and He is coming again!  Even so, come Lord Jesus, amen!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Apostle's Creed

As we continue our study on the ancient creeds of the Church after a couple of weeks interim, we go now to the oldest one that the Church universally uses, called the Apostles Creed.  It dates back, according to a Wikipedia article, to approximately AD 390 and the Council of Milan, and is thus somewhat older than the later Nicene Creed that we discussed earlier.  In the Western Church, it is used as part of devotions such as the Rosary, various Novenas, and in Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican tradition, while in the East it is found primarily used in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts celebrated during the Lenten season, as well as the Akathist Hymn. 

Here is a basic breakdown of the Creed, with its Scriptural references:

1.    God the Father and Creator (Genesis 1:1)
2.    Jesus Christ, the only Son of God and our Lord (John 14:6)
3.    The divine conception of Jesus by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:34-35)
4.    His suffering, the Crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus (I Corinthians 15:1-4)
5.    His descent into hell (Matthew 12:40)
6.    His resurrection from the dead on the third day (John 10:18)
7.    His ascension into heaven (John 20:17; Acts 1)
8.    His seat at the right hand of God the Father (Matthew 22:24)
9.    The Second Coming of Jesus (I Thessalonians 4:15-5:4)
10.  The Holy Spirit (numerous Old and New Testament references)
11.  The Holy Catholic Church (Romans 12:4-5; Revelation)
12.  The communion of saints (Revelation 13)
13.  The forgiveness of sins
14.  The future resurrection of the body (I Thessalonians 4)
15.   Everlasting life for the righteous in Christ (John 3:16)

The doctrines stated in the Apostles Creed are very basic, fundamental beliefs that are universally held and accepted by all orthodox Christians, and are ultimately foundated in Scripture and are thus Apostolic in origin, hence the fact it is an Apostles creed.

The purpose of creeds such as this were to refute heretical teachings that began to plague the Church once it was free of persecution, and to this day the historic Creeds of the Church all are effective weapons against both apostasy and heresy.  As it was true then, so is it now, and perhaps more so - being many of us believe these days we are in are those prophesied just before the return of Christ, there are many weird and bizarre doctrines being propagated in the Church, and many of them are in stark opposition to both Christianity in general and the Holy Scriptures in particular.  In my studies, I have come to understand that heresy is varied, and seems to come in two forms:

1.  Practical Heresy - this involves questionable practices and innovations, as well as an over-emphasis on certain things that are otherwise orthodox, rather than belief.  As a matter of fact, a practical heresy can uphold orthodox doctrine and still be abherrent in practice.

2.  Doctrinal Heresy - this involves challenging and outright rejection of orthodox tenets of the Christian faith, and in many cases they involve the person of Christ, thus a subcategory called Christological heresies.  The great Creeds of the Church were often drawn up in response to these, as they are dangerous attacks on the faith.

It must be understood that practical heresy can become a doctrinal heresy if it is allowed to continue unchecked, and we now see that in our day with the proliferation of things such as the "seeker church" movement, Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven" philosophy, and the so-called "emerging church" movement.  All of these are technically practical heresies, but by ignoring the Tradition of the Church and seeking conformity with the world and flesh, they have begun to compromise essential teachings on sin, redemption, and heaven and hell, as well as ignoring Bible prophecy totally, so as not to "offend" the "seeker."  As a result, open doors have been created allowing for some bizarre syncretism with New Age religion - in the case of the "emerging church," the line has become very blurry as to what is Christian and what isn't - and secular psychology.  It is because of the widespread acceptance of these movements that today more than ever a Christian needs to know the historic Creeds of the Church in order to sharpen their discernment of false spiritualities and doctrine, and thus is the purpose of these lessons I have been led to share here.   ONLY in the historic Church can you find the true faith, once and for all handed to us directly from the Apostles, and ONLY in the historic Church, with its two-millenia-long legacy of faith, can doctrinal orthodoxy be established in the individual believer.  Fads and fashions come and go - once the Purpose Driven Life becomes a book you can only find on the dusty shelves of thrift stores, a new fad will take its place and be just as off-base - but the truth of the Gospel remains steadfast!  And, the Creeds effectively summarize that faith for us so that we may, as Psalm 119:11 exhorts us, get the Word hidden in our hearts.  It also, as 2 Timothy 2;15 states, allows us to "rightly divide the word of truth," so that we will not be deceived.  Praise be to God, and thanks be to Him, for His Holy Church, of which all of us who are true believers in Him are a part.  in her wisdom, the Church protects and safeguards us against the wolf-packs of heresy that seem to increase in number with every passing year as the return of the Lord draws nigh, and through our acceptance and embrace of that faith, we shall prevail in the Savior Whose blood has washed our sins away and saved us.  Sorry to preach at you, but knowing that I am part of the wonderful legacy of Christ's Holy Church excites me, as it should all true Christians.

As we continue these studies, I hope too that you will gain an appreciation for the true faith of the Holy Church that Christ Himself established, and may her wisdom be your nourishment, and may God's Word ultimately be our foundation as individual believers as well as a Church.  Thanks be to God, and may he bless each of you until next time.