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.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Special Message

As some of you know, I have been without a computer for a couple of months, as our old one crashed recently and we have replaced it more recently.  However, during that couple of months I have had this stirring in my spirit to say something, and I have a lot to draw off of at this point - some personal experiences, a couple of references, as well as material from a research paper I submitted for one of my grad school classes.  What I am about to say is a tough subject, and it will step on the toes hard of some who read it, but a stirring in my spirit says it needs to be addressed.  It is a little change of plans from what I had hoped to write about, as I still intend to devote this year to a series of article on fundamental things that we as Catholic Christians believe.   But, the Holy Spirit has some other ideas, and this message is meant for specific people who probably will not be happy about it, but again, it needs to be said. 

I want to begin this by first of all giving a short "Reader's Digest" version of the class paper I wrote, as it has a lot to do with the subject matter of this article.  If you read II Timothy 3, you will note that there are a number of characteristics that will manifest themselves in the last days, and what this passage addresses is not the secular world, but rather the religious environment.  Verse one, in the NKJV, opens with a warning that in the last days "perilous times" will come, and St. Paul the Apostle, who wrote those words, also alludes to this in 6:13, which is within the classic "armor of God passage - he calls it there "the evil day" and admonishes believers (that would be us) to perservere, withstand, and he then tells us the equipment (the armor) we need to dress ourselves to do so.  That word "perilous," I found out, is referring to the Greek word chalepos, which denotes a gradual wearing-down of the defenses of the ones being attacked by the assailants.  That is important, because the grocery-list of characteristics that begins in verse 2 of II Timothy 3 and goes through verse 9 are things that gradually overtake people in the Church, causing them to apostatize.  This leads to what the Church has historically taught to be the "Great Apostasy."  Much more can be said on this, as it also ties into parables Jesus spoke in Matthew 13, as well as the image of the whore called "Babylon" in Revelation 17, but if you want to have more elaboration on that, I can share the paper with you sometime on all that.  What I want to focus on here are II Timothy 3, verses 7 and 9, as they are relevant to what I am about to address here.

Some already know that at the present time I am attending a Pentecostal university - the same one I received my Bachelor of Arts - in order to pursue a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree.  I have seen this university twice in my life, as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, and to be honest coming back to it for the graduate program is almost like landing on a different planet.  This school, an institution founded in the 1930's as a Pentecostal ministerial training school, has a vibrant spiritual past - the further back in its history you go, the more revivals and seasons of renewal you see.  However, something has happened to this particular university in the past twenty years that is disturbing, and the spirit on that campus is so foreign to the heritage of the school these days that one wonders if the place is the same at all.  When we first moved back here a couple of years ago, God opened the door for me to finally go for my graduate degree, which I had been desiring to do for years.  However, I have actually started to question in recent months - "Why on earth am I in this place?"  I suppose I should elaborate some at this point as to what happened.

At this school in the past 20 years or so, postmodern theology has made some deep and carcinogenic inroads onto the campus of this university, and it is reflected in the way the professors are teaching the course curricula.  Doctrine and heritage are no longer important, as the "new" emphasis seems to be on what is called "missional Christianity."  As a result, traditional evangelism - meaning reaching out and converting the lost by preaching the Gospel and particularly the message of the Cross - is pooh-poohed by the powers-that-be at this institution now, and instead an emphasis on "meeting needs" - such as addressing hunger, poverty, etc. - is the order of the day.  Compassion ministries are fine, and they have their place, but it cannot be at the expense of the message of the shed blood of Christ, the Agnus Dei slain for the sins of the world, upon the rough, splintery cross erected on Calvary's crest.  The cross and the blood of Jesus are why we are Christians in the first place, and they are given so that all men may have the opportunity for redemption and eternal life, and it is the mandate of the CHURCH to proclaim that message to all.  Yet, on this campus today it is denigrated and even mocked.  That is bad enough in itself, but it gets worse - those who are supposed to be charged with the theological formation of so many young minds have themselves become nothing but lying hypocrites on that campus, and the scandal of it is almost inconceivable.  And, that is the focus of what I want to talk about. 

Let us look at II Timothy 3:7 - St. Paul describes certain leaders in the last-days churches as being "always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth," and that describes so many professors on this university campus.  They claim to be Pentecostals for instance, and in their books they make good and eloquent arguments for things like the gift of tongues, yet it is obvious by being in a class with one of them for five minutes that they rarely (if at all!) appropriate it.  The denominations these academic paragons belong to are churches like the Assemblies of God and the Church of God, two of the largest historically Pentecostal denominations in America.  Both denominations affirm in their doctrinal statements that speaking in tongues(typically reference to glossolalia) is the initial, physical evidence, the experience of being "baptized with the Holy Spirit." I once was part of another Pentecostal denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, that affirmed the same thing even more dogmatically.  On campus, you hear a lot of talk about this, and if you ask anyone there, professor and student alike, they will tell you they verbally affirm that.  Yet, I have yet to see anyone actually practice the gift on campus (I am no longer Pentecostal, but must confess that as a result of what I have seen, I pray in tongues more today on that campus than I have done in the whole 27 years I have been a Christian!).  And, God forbid if a real revival were to break out on that campus - I could just see these self-assured professors either decrying it or trying to write a hermeneutical discourse on it that might get them accolades at the next Society for Pentecostal Studies conference!  That is why II Timothy 3:7 applies to these professors - they are always reading, always learning, but fail to see the truth even when it hits them, as the late Dean Martin once sang "in the eye like a big pizza pie!"  You mention these things in class, and some of the professors (one recent class I had in particular) will stare down their arrogant nose at you as if you just stepped off a Klingon Bird-of-Prey or something in an episode of Star Trek.  But, as verse 9 says, they have become so deluded and enamoured of their own academic prowess that it causes them to deny and ignore what is plainly evident - it's as if a new spirit, not unlike that which drove the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' day, is blinding them.   And, that imp is a powerful sucker too - it has a stranglehold on that campus at this point in time that within a short period - I would give it ten years, if that, provided the Lord tarries - that campus will be totally secularized.  But, it gets even worse as we'll see.

At one time, missions and evangelism drove the spiritual direction of that campus.  Not so today - the order of the day now is pluralism and "missional Christianity" as it is called (a friend of mine calls it "Christian humanitarianism").  We are to be like the poor, serve the poor, etc.  That all sounds good, and in itself there is nothing wrong with that, but it is what is getting tangled up into the mix with it - postmodern theologians (often heretical) such as Jurgen Moltmann and Stanley Hauerwas have in essence become new "popes" to these professors, and they always bewail the "plight of the poor" in class and have even told students that they need to go live a week on the street in a box, etc.  Yet, their rhetoric rings hollow, and I will now tell you why.

Anyone who has read my articles for a while and knows my story will attest that I myself know what poor is - I grew up with an alcoholic single mother who was a backslidden minister herself in a small town in West Virginia in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  I am, as a matter of fact, one of the few Gen-Xer's who ever had to use an outhouse, had his clothes washed either in the bathtub or a wringer washer, and our heat, hot water, and cooking were often furnished by a wood stove (not to mention well water).  At one point, when I was 10 years old in the winter of 1980, my mother and I lived in this rickety trailer in the town of Kirby, WV, where we spent the winter sleeping on couches in the living room because we could not afford heat.  Our oven in the house served as a heater, clothes dryer, and food preparation apparatus - we subsisted on potatoes most of that winter, although at the first of the month when Dad's child support check of $100 came in the mail, it was a luxury to have macaroni and cheese and bacon - those were a real treat.  The only steaks I remember having those years came from deer my step-grandfather (he and my grandmother lived a few miles away from us, and they were as poor as we were)shot out-of-season; thanks be to God for understanding game wardens who knew some of  us killed game throughout the year to survive, and they often looked the other way.  In the summers, it got to such a point when I was 15 that I had to sneak out at night and raid the neighbors' gardens so we'd have a meal the next day.  Many times, my clothes - all second-hand - didn't fit right, and I often had to secure them with safety pins so they would not pop off or fall off me, and on more than one occasion I had to do the newspapers-in-the shoes thing, or if we were more fortunate, Super-Glue on the soles.  In the summer of 1979, when I was nine years old, we lived at my grandfather's place in Martinsburg, WV.  At the time, my step-grandmother had passed away, and our family was in shambles, and oftentimes Mom and I were there for weeks at a time with no income, and many times we subsisted on fried corncakes, canned peaches and applesauce, and the good charity of an old widower we called Pappy Beavers next door who would give us a couple of slices of fresh-cut ham on occasion.  In short folks, that was poor!  Many of the kids I grew up with in that town of Kirby, WV, grew up the same way too, although in many cases they had it worse - some of them were abused by their parents, some were totally neglected and had to raise themselves, etc.  Yet, God had his hand in my life, and he raised me up - today, I have a good job, a college education, and am working toward a graduate degree because people believed in me - I could name a personal "Hall of Fame" of teachers, church people, relatives, and others whom God put in my life, and in their own way, they ministered to my needs in a way that motivated me to do and be what God intended me to be.  And, THAT is the ministry the poor today desire and need - they don't want some college kid who is barely on the poverty line themselves sleeping in a box under the freeway bridge because some pompous theology professor with an agenda laid a guilt trip on them.  So, why do they encourage it?  The better question is why don't these professors set the example and put their money where their mouths are?  Let's address that one, shall we!

The average cost of tuition at my university for a graduate-level class is about $500 per credit hour.  An average class is 3 credit hours in duration, and on average there are 15 students to a class.  In the case of graduate courses, those classes last about 8 weeks, which means there are six terms a year if you count summers. So, let's do the math on that one.  At $1500 per student in a class, and 15 students average to a class, that means about $22,500 is what a course will bring in.  Let's say the university takes about half of that, and the professor gets half - that means the professor is getting about $11,250 per course as his cut.  Multiply that times six, and what a professor makes an academic year before taxes then is approximately $67,500.  Being that is under the $100K threshold, I would reckon the average professor pays about 15% in income tax, which in this case would be $10,125.  Deducting the tax, a professor makes about $57,375 annually.  However, these professors also teach undergraduate classes, which would double that amount hypothetically to $114,750 maximum.  To be fair, not all the professors at this particular university probably make that much, but you know they are not hurting!  If you also take into account these men publish books, speak at conferences, etc., they could bring home as much as $150K-$200K per year, which is more than a junior attorney at a large law firm makes!  Many of them also have homes that average between $300,000 and $500,000 in value (and I know, as I have been in some of their homes!) and they drive some pretty high-end vehicles too.  I said all that, and also shared my own testimony, to say this - these professors, many of whom I might also mention were raised pretty comfortably in nice families, and many of them had decent upbringings, sure live pretty good for bellyaching so much about the "plight of the poor" and how the Church supposedly lacks ministries of compassion - really???  And, what is worse is their poor students, who in many cases really are poor - many of them are flipping burgers at MacDonald's for minimum wage just to survive in college, while the college bookstore (mind you, a supposedly "Christian" institution) charges them exorbitant prices for textbooks which thankfully many students have figured out you can get for much cheaper on, and these "enlightened" professors are laying guilt trips on their students about purchasing a 20-cent bag of ramen soup (which in many cases may be an only meal!); I mean, how dare them purchase Oodles of Noodles when a bum is sleeping in a box under the I-4 overpass!  These professors don't know a hill of beans about what it truly means to be poor, and perhaps they need to talk to me and some of the neighborhood kids that were my neighbors - we can tell them.  I know this is going to be strongly-worded, and it won't make me any friends, but nonetheless here it is - these professors are hypocritical in that area of their lives, yet they sit in judgment over others, setting themselves up as "experts" on the poor.  The verse for them is Romans 1:22.  My heart aches for the students - many of them come to that campus with a passion for God and His service, yet because their churches have been dumbed-down by all this "emerging church" and other heretical fads already, they lack formation.  Then, on campus, many of them backslide.  And, about community outreach!  Years ago, when I was an undergrad at this same school, you could not go to a supermarket, restaurant, or anything else in town without running into someone from campus.  Yet, I noted something one night when the wife and I were eating at one of our favorite restaurants - a question came into my mind: "where are the students??"  This campus is starting to resemble the Scientologist compound at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater - it's an exclusive club, and no one contributes to the local economy, you don't see them at local events, and many of them don't even work at jobs in the community.  A very integral witness a Christian has is to contribute to the well-being, economically and otherwise, of the communities they are part of.  This institution used to do that, but now it's almost nonexistent.  You talk to students now, and they have jobs at the campus, maybe as a staff member at some local congregation, or on rare occasions at places they should not be working at as Christian college students (one report I got was a student working in a bar - now that's a witness there: telling someone "Jesus loves them" while shoving a beer bong up their nose!).  And, they have the professors at this institution to thank for that - the whole "I'm OK-You're OK" feel-good gospel (let's not step on anyone's toes, oh no - God forbid you mention sin, the blood of Jesus, the Cross, or the possibility of hell!) is mostly their creation, and it has become clear to some of the alumni as well as some of the more-informed students I have talked to that these professors are on their own mission.  They are introducing socialism in the form of  "Christian humanitarianism," and they waste tuition money by either insulting publicly in class students that disagree with them, or they go on these ridiculous discourses with no relevance to the subject matter they are supposed to be teaching (one professor spent 20 minutes bewailing how wrong it was to have an American flag displayed in a church - really?? Another spent 45 minutes ranting about TV preachers - here's a thought on that: turn off the channel then!  It doesn't take your Ph.D. to do that, does it?).  I guess that is why the new president of the university, rather than being noted for his character or his notable contributions to the academic world, was heralded by the local paper as being "hunky and trendy."  Again, really??   I still question at times why I am on this campus, and to be honest, I have thought of other alternatives.  However, my wife - God bless her! - shook me back into reality about why I am there, and here it is.

In addition to pursuing my own academic success, I believe now that this formerly Christian campus is now a mission field, and I am there to sow some seed into the student body.  These students are mostly younger (early 20's for many) and they often have been only exposed to the dumbed-down postmodern "Church" and its values, which are foreign to the message of the Gospel.  It is time a more tradition-based faith be restored to many of those students, and many of them are lost and don't know the Lord - they need to make that pilgrimage to the blood-stained cross of Calvary for real, and let Jesus cleanse them, heal them, and restore them.  I have a responsibility to tell the truth, although it won't have a Dale Carnegie effect for me, but I don't care about that - when I stand before God, I want to know I did what I was meant to do, or else I have failed in my calling.  This campus needs your prayers, folks, as do a lot of Christian campuses that have taken a similar turn for the worse - revival is essential.  First, however, Jesus needs to do a housecleaning- there are faculty members who are apostate on these campuses, and they need to be removed. The one way to do that is to pray that modern-day Sanhedrin out!  God will hear the prayer of the sincere in heart, but it must be a persistent prayer.  Any rate, more can be said but I have preached enough.  Again, pray for the students on this university, and pray for me too - and, it wouldn't hurt to pray for God to pierce the hearts of the professors either.  God bless until next time.