C.S. Lewis and Hell: Self-chosen because free

I explain the title: Norman Geisler wrote a book called “Chosen but free,” in which he tries to show that the reason why God chooses to save a person is because he sees down the corridors of time that the person first chooses Him. This. Of course, is the Arminian view of salvation. In this article, I examine another popular (Arminian) notion, namely, that God does not send a person to hell; it is up to you where you choose to go because, says the Arminian, God will not interfere with the most precious thing you have – your freedom.

In the 16th century, Roman Catholics and Protestants (to simplify: Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists) believed in core doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, Original Sin, Hell. Nowadays, these denominational “covers” tell you very little about the “book” (doctrines) inside. I was speaking to an Anglican priest who said he did not believe in the Virgin birth or Original sin. He did however believe in Hell. With regard to Hell, he said that God sends no one to hell – or heaven; they decide where they want to go. I asked this priest, who ran a large parish, how he could, in good conscience, draw a salary every month. Let me just say we didn’t bond.

The idea of going to hell on your own bat – or to put it less sportingly, “Does Anyone Standing by the Lake of Fire Jump In?” (John Piper) – was popularised by C.S. Lewis. I have yet to meet a (literate) Christian, who has not read some Lewis. Lewis has played a major role in many conversions to Christianity (a good number to Roman Catholicism). Here are a number of “Hell: Self-Chosen” quotations from Lewis. (The Quotable Lewis, W. Martindale and J. Root, 1990). The quotations are in italics.


Clive Staples Lewis

Hell: Self-Chosen

1. A man can’t be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you

can only get there on your own steam.

(The Dark Tower & Other Stories. (1938, first pub.

1977), chap. 3, p. 49).

I assume that Lewis wants to remain faithful to scripture. Does the Bible teach that God stands back and lets people choose what they want? It depends on the issue. God does indeed sometimes give people what they want. For example:

Romans 1

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

2. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one

sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors

of hell are locked on the inside.

(The Problem of Pain, chap. 8, para. 11, p. l27)

Locked on the inside. Yeah, no one’s gonna come in here – not even you, God – and deprive me of my utter darkness, my unquenchable weeping and my gnashing teeth.

Matthew 10

11 And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: 12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

3. [On the unrepentant devils] That door out of

Hell is firmly locked, by the devils themselves, on

the inside; whether it is also locked on the outside

need not, therefore, be considered.

(Preface to “Paradise Lost,” chap. 14, para. 2, p. 105)

What do I like more than anything? Being tormented forever and ever. Not to forget an added bonus: no rest day or night.

Revelation 14:11

And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

4. “How can they choose it [hell]?”

Milton was right,” said my Teacher. “The

choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the

words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in

Heaven.’ There is always something they insist on

keeping, even at the price of misery. There is

always something they prefer to joy – that is, to

reality. We see it easily enough in a spoiled child

that would sooner miss its play and its supper 

than say it was sorry and be friends.”

(The Great Divorce, chap. 9, pp. 69-70)

“Absolutely right; I’d rather die in hell than obey God.” The speaker dies happily and in a wink finds himself in hell. A demon unlocks the door from the inside. There’s no doorknob on the outside. The deceased crosses the threshold. “Praise Satan; am I glad my name was not written in the book of life! and sacrificed my play and supper time in exchange for this yummy never-ending swim in the lake of fire: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

John Piper writes:

When he dies, he will be shocked beyond words. The miseries are so great he would do anything in his power to escape. That it is not in his power to repent does not mean he wants to be there. Esau wept bitterly that he could not repent (Hebrew 12:17). The hell he was entering into he found to be totally miserable, and he wanted out. The meaning of hell is the scream: “I hate this, and I want out.” What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want—certainly not what they “most want.” Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer” (J. Piper. “How willingly do people go to hell?).

People may willingly go to hell. They say, “No sweat.” The question is once there, do they want to stay there. Lewis says yes. What did the rich man say to Lazarus?

Luke 16

19 Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: 20 and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yea, even the dogs come and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. 23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted and thou art in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us.

27 And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; 28 for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.

5. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and

those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that

self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss

it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

(The Great Divorce, chap. 9, pp. 72-73).

Dan Philips writes:

Well, I think we like it [the above quotation] because it’s binary, and many of us like binary. In fact, I suppose I could say there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who like binary, and those who don’t.

Sorry. Anyway.

The Bible is certainly binary on most things that matter: two wisdoms, two ways, two ends. This Lewis quotation is like that: “only two kinds of people.” We like that. And we like that Lewis exalts the Lordship of God, makes clear that knowing God, belonging to God, necessarily involves an embrace of His will.

I daresay many people really, really like this snippet because it makes Hell seem less objectionable. It takes the heat (no pun intended) off us — and off God — and puts it all on the lost. “They’re in Hell because they want to be,” we say, echoing Lewis. Oh. Well then, that’s not so bad, is it? We thought of Hell as a place God threw people, screaming and wailing and miserable. Terrified, not wanting to be there. But heck (again, no pun), if they want to be there anyway…

Yes, well, except that’s just the thing. They don’t want to be there. There is no evidence whatever that they want to be in Hell. This quotation, at least as commonly used, is mostly fudging, and mostly balderdash. (Dan Philips “C. S. Lewis on hell: Really deep, oft-quoted, really wrong).

Scripture warns:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?”

With regard to C.S. Lewis or any one else we read or listen to, examine to see whether they are in the faith – no matter how much you admire or have learnt from them.

A Jew does not have to believe in Jesus; love for the God of Israel is enough: one “Messianic Jewish” view


I add a relevant section to the post I previously published below. The comments are of particular interest. Before I proceed, I believe that Israel has not been replaced by the Church.

How good has the Holy one of Israel been to the Jews?

Here is an excerpt from Messianic Rabbi Schiffman’s “Messianic Judaism and Christianity: two religions with the same Messiah.”

“For Yeshua to be the Messiah of Israel, he would have to be good for the Jews.  If his coming resulted in twenty centuries of Jewish people going to hell, the bottom line is, he wasn’t very good for the Jews.”

For now, let’s leave hell out of the equation and focus on whether God/Messiah was ever very good for the Jews, for example, before Yeshua.

There are many occasions in Israelite history where God destroys by means of the Assyrians and Babylonians, for examples, vast swathes of his chosen people where only a tenth of a tenth remain.

Isaiah 6:8-13
I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they sea with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed. 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste, 12 and Jehovah have removed men far away, and the forsaken places be many in the midst of the land.
13 And if there be yet a tenth in it, it also shall in turn be eaten up: as a terebinth, and as an oak, whose stock remaineth, when they are felled; so the holy seed is the stock thereof.

With regard to the last 2000 years, the Jewish people have got off relatively lightly. The bottom line for disbelief in Yeshua as the Messiah is, as Yeshua says, being cast into the outer darkness. The New Testament is clear, everyone, without exception, who does not believe that “I am He” will be rejected by His Father. In this regard, John 8 is a very important chapter where we see that all who reject Yeshua/Jesus as the eternal Son of God that has come into the world, will die in their sins. In John 8, Jesus is talking to Jews, those Jews who “believed” in him. As we read we see that these are false believers, which Jesus calls sons of the devil:

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

The Truth Will Set You Free
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

You Are of Your Father the Devil
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Before Abraham Was, I Am
48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’[c] 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[d] 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

Michael Schiffman a prominent Messianic Jewish leader, says that he knows “plenty of people who believe Yeshua is Lord, savior, etc, etc, who treat people badly and exhibit none of the marks of a true Yeshua follower. All they have is a verbal confession. I don’t necessarily think they will receive salvation. It is not a verbal confession that brings salvation, but a life lived in faith and the love of God. I do believe that people who genuinely love God (the God of Israel), pray to Him and trust him don’t go to hell because God doesn’t send people to hell who genuinely love Him … in short, I think questions of who “receives salvation,” are best left to God, who is the one true judge.”

Before I get to my main point, let me just say – trite but very true – faith without works is dead.


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The resurrection in Scripture: If no historical bones then no spiritual muscles

“The historical matters of Scripture, both narrative and prophecy, constitute as it were the bones of its system, whereas the spiritual matters are as its muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. As the bones are necessary to the human system, so Scripture must have its historical matters. The expositor who nullifies the historical ground work of Scripture for the sake of finding only spiritual truths everywhere, brings death on all correct interpretations. Those expositions are the safest which keep closest to the text.”

The “Gnomon” of John Alfred (1742).

C. H. Dodd wonders about the bare bones of the resurrection:

“Clearly something had changed these men. They said it was a meeting with Jesus. We have no evidence with which to check their claim. To propose an alternative explanation, based on some preconceived theory, is of dubious profit. What was the nature of this meeting we cannot pretend to know. What actually happened, if by that we mean what any casual observer might have witnessed, is a question that does not admit of an answer. But the events that make history do not consist of such “bare facts.” They include the meaning the facts held for those who encountered them; and their reality is known through the observable consequences. In this instance we may be clearer about the meaning and the consequences than about the “facts” in themselves, but this would be true of other momentous events in history.”

(C.H. Dodd. 1974 (first published in 1971). The founder of Christianity, Fontana books. Foreword by J.A.T Robinson. You can also find Dodd’s book online).

As Dodd says, clearly something had changed these men’s lives, even if it wasn’t something concrete or clear or factually factual (in contradistinction to Dodd’s “historically factual”). Who cares; as long as Jesus rose in our hearts? Sweet. And how do we know this. Who will save me from this body of theological and historical death? (See my The dead sure facts of history: C.h. Dodd’s slant on the resurrection.

The unbelieving spouse and the arbitrary god

Scripturethoughts published the following except from Charles Spurgeon on the Unbelieving spouse”:

We have heard of a wife, a godly woman, who for 20 years had been persecuted by a brutal husband—a husband so excessively bad that her faith at last failed her, and she ceased to be able to believe that he would ever be converted. But all this while she was more kind to him than ever. One night, at midnight, in a drunken state, he told his friends he had such a wife as no other man had; and if they would go home with him, he would get her up, to try her temper, and she would get a supper for them all! They came and the supper was very soon ready, consisting of such things as she had prepared as well and as rapidly as the occasion would allow; and she waited at the table with as much cheerfulness as if the feast had been held at the proper time! She did not utter a word of complaint. At last, one of the company, more sober than the rest, asked how it was she could always be so kind to such a husband. Seeing that her conduct had made some little impression, she ventured to say to him, “I have done all I can to bring my husband to God, and I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”

I read the above to an Arminian. Here is a definition of an Arminian: When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it. An Arminian believes that faith is a person’s gift to God, not God’s gift to man.

Here is a record of my dialogue with the Arminian. I add my comments in italics:

Arminian – That’s ironic.

Me – What do you mean?

Arminian – Your god (“your” here indicates, of course, “god”not “God”) only allows for two ways for a person to be saved: a believer’s merit or God’s arbitrary choice.

Me- Why is that?

Arminian – Because you say that God just chooses someone to be saved without giving any reason for doing so.

Me- If God does not give a reason to you or me, or anyone, why should this mean that God’s choice is arbitrary? God has a reason for all he does, but we only can know the reasons he wants to reveal to us. It says in the Bible, “the secret….” (Arminian interrupts: Here is the verse I wanted to quote: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Arminian (interrupts) – Your God only allows for two choices: an arbitrary God or the merit of the believer. (In salvation, the Arminian rejects both arbitrariness in God and the merit of the believer. But so does the Calvinist reject both. My Arminian is trying to show that the Calvinist only rejects the merit of the believer in salvation.

Me – Why did God choose Israel? (The Bible says that God singled out Israel out for his peculiar – no not “weird” but “particular” – love not because of any merit in them but because he wanted to do so. More we do not know, and don’t need to know, if we bow to his glory. The same with any choices God makes or actions he does).

Arminian – I’m not talking about that?

Me – How does God choose anything?

Arminian – I’m not talking about anything else but salvation. All you have to do is say yes or no to God’s invitation to save you.

Me – Is there any merit in someone who says yes.

Arminian – No, he just says yes.

Me – Is there any demerit in the person who says no, and consequently is sent to hell?

Arminian – None.

As the conversation was generating more heat than light, I pulled the switch, suppressing the sinful desire to pull out the swish. I don’t see why this Arminian used Spurgeon’s “Unbelieving wife” to rip into the “arbitrariness” of Calvinism. The Calvinist god says “I’m a fisher of men. Eeny-meeny-miny-mo, catch a fishy by the toe.”

Here is the biblical view of God:

Al Martin (in his “What is Calvinism) says: “the question is not the sincerity of my resolve, not what I have done but “has God done something in me? Not have I accepted Christ but has Christ accepted me; not “have I found the lord?” but has he found me?

Free-will brings with it so many absurdities that it cannot be received.
First, It makes man the cause of his own salvation.
Second, It puts grace into man’s power, not man’s will under the power of grace.
Third, It robs God of the honour of making one to differ from another, and ascribes it to man” (Christopher Ness).

With regard to the third, to those who believe their wills are neutral and therefore can, if they so desire, choose God or reject God (that is what is meant here by “free will”), they must logically admit that what ultimately saved them was not something in God but something in them, and thus they deserved to be saved. I’ve only met one “free-willer” (free-wheeler?) who conceded that he deserved to be saved.

So can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will? Man, in the natural, does what he wants, which is to reject Christ, so unless Christ breaks the chains of his self-will he will not and cannot accept Christ and will therefore remain fiddling – his naturals. (See If you improve your naturals, is God bound to give spirituals: Fiddling with free will).

The traditional term is “limited” atonement, that is, atonement/salvation/redemption/justification is limited to those on whom God exercises his mercy. In Calvinist understanding, everybody is under condemnation and deserves damnation. God’s mercy is dependent on nothing but God’s freedom to save some sinners and pass others by. It is true Arminianism generally also believes in a particular sort of redemption but only in the sense that not everybody is saved for the reason that they – being deadish, not really dead, in sin – did not exercise their free wills to give God the gift of faith in exchange for His gift of grace. The freedom to choose Christ before he has brought you to life (before you were born again) contradicts the following scriptures:

John 1

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Romans 9

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”

There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.”

Now, no Arminian believes that it is good to boast of being better than the person who rejects Christ, and so would not really pray in this fashion. In fact he’ll protest that all is grace, that they are no better than anyone else; which, of course, is true.

I heard this prayer recently: “We pray that you will remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. We pray that he will surrender his life to you.” So, if you surrender your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender, that is, to come to Christ (to believe, have faith, trust). Which is it then; does God first have to regenerate you to enable you to surrender (have faith), or do you first surrender then get regenerated (born again)? The difficulty with the latter is, if you surrender your life to Christ, this can only be done if you’ve already been regenerated (enabled to do so by God’s grace), which renders regeneration obsolete. “Regenerate” means “quicken” means raised from the dead. Imagine in wartime asking your dead enemy to surrender.

A few days ago I was discussing this issue with an Anglican priest friend in my home over tea. He remarked: “Chicken and egg.” In other words, who knows what came first, regeneration or faith, and does it really matter?  Of course it does. (See Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith.

Salvation – your faith, the Holy Spirit living in you, eternal life didn’t come from you, from any part of you, but from heaven, all from heaven. He came for sinners. Not for anything good he (fore)saw in them. Certainly not because of their good will. Before God saved a person, however, that will follow every corrupt bidding. If you are a Christian, you once were a slave to sin, to your heart, to your will, to your self-esteem, and all the time you thought your will was truly free. Free to do what? To follow your heart? Of course you were free to do that. God doesn’t make robots. You were determined to follow your heart. Determined by God? Of course not. By yourself. If a person is determined, that is, determines himself, to be stubborn, to reject Christ, either of two things will happen: God will leave you in the cesspool of spiritual death – his judgement, or raise you to eternal life – his mercy. His mercy is free; that’s why it’s called grace – saving grace. Not possible saving grace (“prevenient” grace) but certain, efficient, sufficient grace, which is the only kind of grace there is. (See The miserable Christian).

Spurgeon described above the “Unbelieving spouse.” What if a Calvinist is yoked – which can only be, unequally – to an Armininian. Owing the the fact that they differ so radically on the sovereignty of God, which impacts greatly not only on the world to come but on this world as well, their relationship must suffer greatly as a result.

Comforting the bereaved Christian: No Bible texts


In his latest podcast, Pastor Steve Abentrop talks about the recent death of Robin Williams. http://reader.mac.com/mobile/v1/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nocompromiseradio.com%2Ffeed%2Fpodcast%2F. Some Christians think that when someone they consider an unbeliever dies, especially prematurely, it is their duty to pull out the damnation card. Abentrop reminds us that no matter what the clear or unclear belief of Robin Williams, one should show compassion by giving those close to him time to grieve. With these thoughts in mind, I reblog this piece.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

The word of God cuts deep but also comforts (Martin Luther)

For many professors of Christianity, God may get a bit of attention for an hour or two on Sundays. The rest of the week, God vaporises like the morning dew: “Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4). Many who hear the word and receive it with joy, have a show of piety, but it’s grounded on a superficial faith. They respond to God for a time, but after a while fall away (Greek apostasy), while still attending church on Sundays. They might even confess Jesus publicly, but when this confession leads to persecution or death – as many Christians have met with in the past and are experiencing at present as in…

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The miserable Christian

If you say you’re a Christian, but are continually feeling miserable about your sins, stop it. Why in heaven – that’s where it was decreed; before time – do you think God saved you? Salvation – your faith, the Holy Spirit living in you, eternal life – had nothing to do with you; it didn’t come from you, from any part of you, but from heaven, all from heaven. He came for sinners, for you. Not for anything good he (fore)saw in you. Certainly not because of your good will. You do indeed have a will, naturally. Before God saved you, however, that will wallowed in the swill of your heart, following its every corrupt bidding.

You were a slave to sin, to your heart, to your will, to your self-esteem, and all the time thinking that you were truly free. Free to do what? To follow your heart? Of course you were. God doesn’t make robots. You were determined to follow your heart. Determined by God? Of course not. By yourself. If a person is determined, that is, determines himself, to be stubborn, to reject Christ, either of two things will happen: God will leave you in the cesspool of spiritual death – his judgment, or raise you to eternal life – his mercy. His mercy is free; that’s why it’s called grace – saving grace. Not possible saving grace (“prevenient” grace) but certain, efficient, sufficient grace, which is the only kind of grace there is,

When you’re feeling down, look up – actually, in – for it is Christ who lives in you, through the Spirit. You know that song “Forget about yourself, and concentrate on him.” Well, do it, for he is the author, the sustainer and the finisher of your faith. If you’re looking forward to being WITH – you’re already in – Christ, you’ll have to first leave your body – die. Would I be wrong to think that you’re not exactly champing at the bit on that score. Reminds me of another church song. “I wanna be with you.”

Agnus Dei, miserere nobis “Lamb of God have mercy on us.”

Related: I wanna be with you. But, erm, not yet.

Where Arminians and Arminius are at odds – Calvin

I found this quotation from Arminius in Spurgeon’s lectures on “Commenting and commentatories.”

“Prophecy” in Arminius means “inspired expounding of the word of God.”

Spurgeon writes:

“If you needed any confirmatory evidence as to the value of his writings, I might summon a cloud of witnesses, but it will suffice to quote one or two. Here is the opinion of one who is looked upon as his great enemy, namely, Arminius: “Next to the perusal of the Scriptures, which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [“Werner Helmich, a Dutch Protestant divine, A.D. 1551-1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the Library of the Fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most other or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy.”

I have not read any Arminian, for example, Dave Hunt or Roger Olson, who does not abhor Calvin.

Comforting the bereaved Christian: No Bible texts

The word of God cuts deep but also comforts (Martin Luther)

For many professors of Christianity, God may get a bit of attention for an hour or two on Sundays. The rest of the week, God vaporises like the morning dew: “Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4). Many who hear the word and receive it with joy, have a show of piety, but it’s grounded on a superficial faith. They respond to God for a time, but after a while fall away (Greek apostasy), while still attending church on Sundays. They might even confess Jesus publicly, but when this confession leads to persecution or death – as many Christians have met with in the past and are experiencing at present as in the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria – they will deny Christ:

Matthew 10:32-33

He who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

In this article, my focus is not on what the Christian’s response should be to persecution and the threat of death for being a Christian but what the Christian response should be to the premature death of a loved one; for example, the death of a young mother from cancer, of a parent in an accident, of a suicide, of the murder of a spouse or or one’s child.

I was speaking to a friend whose close relatives were gunned down, and who now counsels Christians who have lost loved ones “prematurely.” I asked him how he counselled these people. “No Bible texts,” he said. I tried to hide my surprise; firstly, my friend is not only a Christian but has been a pastor for several decades, and secondly, the people he counsels consider themselves to be Christians.

People in general, no matter what their beliefs in the afterlife, hate death more than anything. My pastor friend says that much of his counselling consists of being a good listener. It seemed to me that he doesn’t touch ‘Bible texts” at all in his counselling. I never asked him the reason for the exclusion. Did he think the Bible was unuseful? Did those he was counselling not want the Bible? I wonder how many of those whom my friend counsels ever read what Jesus said about death. If they had, it meant little to them.

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Note that in verse 31 those whom Jesus was addressing “had believed him.” I move on to verse 51:

51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”

Why did they want to stone Jesus? Because he said (verse 58) “before Abraham I am,” that is, not only was he claiming to have existed before Abraham – in which case Jesus could have said, “Before Abraham I was – but existed eternally as Jahweh (I AM).

The Jews whom Jesus was addressing were called believers but it is clear that they were not true believers, which means they never were true believers. The parable of the soils that I shall quote shortly is about “believers” who fall away (apostates). They fall away because they have never been born again.

In his “Death is not the end of life,” John Piper says:

Any effort to read any part of the Gospel [all four gospels] without knowing the importance of the end, I think would go against the author’s intentions. So when he (Jesus) says, “You keep my word, you live forever, you never die,” he’s not saying you don’t have to know anything about the cross. The Gospel is not going to end there…and he has already said. “the good shepherd has lain down his life for his sheep… I’m going to destroy death for you, I’m going to rise from the grave for you… [true believers) keep his word, love the revelation in its totality… if you embrace what Jesus said, you will live forever…never see death…Daily Gaza deaths, daily Ukraine deaths, daily Christian deaths persecuted all over the place. What do you mean “you won’t see death?” I see it. And you will be it. Fifty thousand people die every day in this world. Death is no surprise. What does Jesus mean when he says you will “truly, truly,” never taste death.”

Jesus says to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). “Belief” here is that of the true believer. Jesus says in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

It is understandable that the bereaved feel anger and depression. How should a Christian (a true believer) respond. Surely not by “No Bible texts please. Why did God allow this to happen? My heart is broken.” This attitude to death is depthless, often due to a crossless, hence, a Christless Christianity. The true believer overcomes anger and depression, and should not end up with a broken heart. The worries of this world – where the greatest of these is surely death, in our context the premature and often violent death of a loved one – have defeated them. The seed never takes root:

A parable told by Jesus Mark 4:3-9:

3 Behold, the sower went forth to sow: 4 and it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 And other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth: 6 and when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And other fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. 9 And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear .”

The disciples of Jesus have no idea what the parable means. Jesus explains:

Mark 4:14-21

The sower sows the word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; and when they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the word which hath been sown in them. 16 And these in like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky places, who, when they have heard the word, straightway receive it with joy; 17 and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, straightway they stumble. 18 And others are they that are sown among the thorns; these are they that have heard the word, 19 and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 And those are they that were sown upon the good ground; such as hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.”

I return to Hosea 6:

“Unless your faith is grounded in the sovereign work of Jesus Christ, and there has never come a time in your life when in gratitude you have acknowledged your lost condition, and by God’s grace entrusted yourself to him, and having realised that your eternal salvation is dependent upon what he has accomplished and you’re grateful for what he has done, your faith will be like the morning cloud too. It’ll be like the dew” (S. Lewis Johnson, Hosea 6, “God dismayed).

Everything that comes to pass – both good and evil – is in accordance with the will of God. Surely not evil as well!

We often don’t like to realize that everything comes to pass in accordance with the will of God. He works all things in accordance with the counsel of his own will, Paul says, and if Paul was standing in this pulpit, that’s exactly what he would say. All things come to pass according to the counsel of his eternal will. But there are times, you see, when God for other reasons – greater good, perhaps – determines that certain things are to come to pass which don’t please him. That puzzles people who are not responsive to the word of God, but if you just think for a moment about the cross of Jesus Christ, and if you think the cross of Jesus Christ was something that was determined in ages past, then you see that it was something that was determined of God. He does determine things that come to pass, even things that may not please him, may not be according to his word. Or, as the Scriptures put it, Peter, speaking on the Day of Pentecost says, “Him, Christ being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” – that’s God’s determination – “you have with wicked hands taken him up and nailed him to the tree.” And they did not have the excuse of, “Well, we were just doing what God determined to come to pass.” God called them wicked even when they were carrying out things that he had determined were going to come to pass” (S. Lewis Johnson, Hosea 8, “The tragedy of a forgotten God”).

To reject the biblical fact that God controls all things, even evil, is not the tragedy of a forgotten God, but the tragedy – your tragedy – of a God you have never known.

He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life shall lose it; and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

For God, no one’s death is premature.

“Test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

There is no male nor female: So why should “Replacement” theologians be against same-sex marriage?

By “replacement theology” I mean the view that the Church has replaced Israel.

I shall now prove using the powerful tools of biblical exegesis and syllogistic reasoning that the replacement camp should not be opposed to same-sex marriage.. An offshoot of this clincher is that it’s ok for replacement theologians/pastors/preachers to be camp.

The “Replacement” people use the following verse as one of their proofs that the Church has replaced Israel:

Galatians 3:28-29
28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

Major premise

Both the Gentile Christian (say, Bob) and the Jewish Christian (say, Shneier) are in Christ Jesus.

Minor premise

Those in Christ Jesus – besides being neither Jew nor Greek – are, indeed are compelled to be, neither male nor female.


Bob can marry Shneier.

“Replacement” pastor presiding over a marriage ceremony.

I now pronounce you man and husband..

The “Replacement” theologian will hopefully say that the Galatians verse above is not literal: unity between Jews and Greeks, males and females does not mean that literal Jews and literal Greeks morph into a figurative morass, or that all Christians become unisex. And they would be right, but neither does the Bible say that literal Israel gets swallowed up by the literal Church. The unity of the Body of Christ does not mean uniformity.

The Apostle Paul/Shaul says to Bob and Schneier (Cutter):

Neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them [that is, Gentile Christians like you, Bob, which generally includes replacementists], and mercy, and upon the Israel of God [Jewish Christians like you, Scneier]. (Galatians 6:15-16).

What does “man is the image of God” mean?


Become imitators of God as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). There are ways that we can be like God, and other ways that we can’t.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

In Genesis 1:26, “God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Hebrew root dama, from which we get ADAM).

What does the Bible mean by man being created in the image, in the likeness of God? What is certain – if we accept that God is Spirit (of course, when the Word was made flesh,the picture changes) –  is that man is composite of spirit and flesh, while God is pure Spirit. What is important is that Genesis 1:26 does not specify what it means by man as the “image of God.” If, however, we examine the rest of scripture, the following human attributes emerge, which man shares with God: creativity, power to reason, power to make decisions, moral conscience and personal relationships. These are called the communicable attributes of God. The attributes that God does not share with man are God’s incommunicable attributes, for…

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The successful Jew remains an orphan

The successful Jew remains an orphan – obsessed and abscessed in soul. The Jew not only longs for success, he lunges for it. Theodor Herzl is a prehensile example. Desmond Stewart has a chapter “Lunging for success” in his book “Theodor Herzl, artist and politician.” There is no one more pathetic than a failed artist who turns to politics in desperation. Who knows how different the world would have been if Herzl – and Hitler – had succeeded in their art?

Amazing grace that helped me help God save me: Appealing to the Arminian’s noggin

No matter how good one’s theological reasoning, without the sovereign unilateral intervention of the Holy Spirit, rationality is useless.

God, in his Sovereign decrees, predetermines not only the end but the means. The end I am talking about here is, of course, salvation. God uses an embarrassment of means, all of which must involve your noggin – facts, information, which the reformers (16th century) callled notitia. Some need oodles of noggin before they believe; for example, CS Lewis, while others like Augustine of Hippo believe in order to understand. God accommodates.

Allow me to appeal to a bit of the Arminians’  noggin to try to persuade  them (they choose salvation) rather than God chooses to save them). If you insist that God only helps you to believe through “prevenient” grace, which is granted to all without exception, why then do you sing, often in full throat, “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me?” Shouldn’t you rather be  singing – there’s no way to avoid many more words:

Amazing (“prevenient”) grace that helped me help you save me?

The beatitudes: Hell is other people

Christ addressed the beatitudes specifically to those who had faith in him. One of the beatitudes is “Blessed is the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Martin Luther, in his “Commentary on the Beatitudes” gives an example of this beatitude, which reminds me of the last words of Jean Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” (Huit Clos): “Hell is other people.”


When I was young, they (the hermits) gloried in this proverb: Love to be alone and your heart will stay pure; and they quoted in proof a saying of St. Bernard, who said whenever he was among the people he befouled himself. [It's unlikely that Bernard of Clairvaux would have said such a thing].

As we read in the lives of the fathers of a hermit, who would not have any one come near him or talk with anybody, and said: “The angels cannot come *to him who moves among men.” We read also of two others who would not let their mother see them; and as she often watched her opportunity and once took them by surprise, they presently closed the door and left her standing without a long while weeping, until they finally persuaded her to go away and wait until they would see each other in a future life.

Behold, that was called a noble deed, and the height of sanctity and most perfect purity. But what was it? There is the word of God: “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.” Had they regarded that as holy and pure, they would have shown their mother and their neighbor all honor, love and friendship: on the contrary, following their own notions and self-chosen holiness, they cut themselves off from them, and by their very attempt to be the purest they most shamefully defiled themselves before God ; just as though the most desperate scoundrels could not have such thoughts and put on such an appearance that one would have to say: “These are living saints, they can despise the world and hold intercourse only with spirits;”—yes, with spirits from the bottom of hell. The angels like nothing better, than when we familiarly handle the word of God; with such they love to dwell. Therefore let the angels be undisturbed up there in heaven, and look for them here below, upon earth, in your neighbor, father and mother, child and others, that you may do to them what God has commanded, and the angels will not be far away from you.

I speak thus, that one may learn in this matter of purity to order himself aright, and not go so far to hunt for it as the monks do, who have thrown it quite out of the world and stuck it in a corner or into a hood; all of which is stench and filth, and the true harboring-place of the devil; but let it be where God has placed it, namely in the heart that clings to God’s word, and uses its calling and all creatures in accordance therewith, in such a way that both the entire purity of faith toward God is embraced therein, also outwardly shown in this life, and everything is done in obedience to the word and command of God, whether it be bodily clean or unclean

Joel Osteen: I like to start with something funny

Joel Osteen  starts each of his presentations with “I always like to start with something funny,” and after the funny bit and while the audience laughter is still in full throat, he holds up his Bible and says: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.”

Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian radio) often airs snippets of Osteen’s “sermons,” which begin with his standard intro. Then iImmediately after Osteen’s “Today I’ll be taught the word of God,” Rosebrough interrupts: “No we won’t.” Osteen’s antics are surely among the most flagrant abuses of the Bible he holds up, which, if we are go to go by his sermons, he obviously does not hold dear. (See Twisting God’s word: Joel Osteen et al).

Envision – cherish your vision – Osteen starting off with this:

Labor to get your hearts mortified, that is, dead to the world. We must not content ourselves that we have gotten some reasoning about the vanity of the creature, and such things as these; but we must exercise mortification (Rom 8:13) and be crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). We should “die daily” to the world (1Co 15:31). We are baptized into the death of Christ (Rom 6:3) to signify that we profess to be even as dead men to the world. Now, no crosses that fall out in the world trouble those who are dead! If our hearts were dead to the world we should not be much troubled with the changes of the world or the tossings about of worldly things. It is very noteworthy in those soldiers who came to break the bones of Christ that they found He was dead, so they did not break His legs. Let afflictions and troubles find you with a mortified heart to the world, and they will not break your bones. Those whose bones are broken by crosses and afflictions are those who are alive to the world. But no afflictions or troubles will break the bones of one who has a mortified heart and is dead to the world. The things in which our happiness consists are of a different kind, and we may be happy without these. This is a kind of deadness to the world.

(Jeremiah Burroughs, “The rare jewel of Christian contentment.” Part Three: Applications and Conclusion).

Spurgeon’s treasures: Please keep it short and tweet

Charles Spurgeon’s exposition of the psalms, “The treasury of David,” is his best work. Indeed, a wonder. It’s very long consisting of thousands of pages containing not only Spurgeon’s thoughts but those of hundreds of other good writers. In his introduction to Volume 5, he writes:

“In the production of this exposition I had far rather be long than lax ; for I know by experience the disappointment which comes to readers when, after a promising beginning, they see a serious declension [decline] towards the end.

The inclination of modern Christian readers is: “Keep it short and tweet. As long as it helps me live better, live longer, and get me – later than sooner – into heaven.

Youtube: The Battle For Iraq Dispatches


ISIS/ISIL and the battle for Iraq.

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:


It seems suddenly the world’s attention has shifted since last week to notice the horrific development in Iraq with ISIS.  Things has deteriorated for the worst the last four months and especially with this last week.

I think its important to see the bigger picture:  Its not just a bunch of terrorists guys running around as the “Junior Varsity” members of Al Qaeda as Obama called it in January 2014.  ISIS has begun making their Caliphate Islamic State.  They have taken over major cities, control oil centers and funding their state by selling them in the black market.  They have picked up the weapons left over from the fleeing Iraqi Government, picked up other weapons from other fighting groups in Syria and even controling a strategic dam.  Their Islamic Theocracy has begun with the violent cleansing of different Muslims, Christians and other minorities.

The following videos that are dispatches by Vice News…

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You are a unique Gospel that God wants to write: Life or lie message?

You are a unique Gospel that God wants to write: Life or lie message?

In “You’re not the message,” Chris Rosebrough’s podcast episode of “Fighting for the faith,

he takes Ken Shook to task for saying that the Gospel is all about Jesus but then spends the rest of his sermon showing his listeners how the Gospel is all about them.

Before we look at Shook, what is the Gospel. It’s what Jesus did.

1 Corinthians 15: 1-4

1. Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For lI delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day pin accordance with the Scriptures…”

The Gospel is about the Atonement, of which the personal relationship of “at-one-ment” with God is the result. “The atonement through Christ, says R. C. Sproul, is the core of the Gospel. What happens is, the Gospel becomes a personal relationship within Jesus. The devil has a personal relationship with Jesus. What kind of personal relationship, what is the ground of that personal relationship. Obviously, being a Christian involves having a personal relationship with Jesus but there is content to that relationship. When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.” (The White Horse Inn podcast, “Interview with R. C. Sproul)

Here is Ken Shook’s sermon, punctured en route by Rosebrough’s poignard. My comments are in italics.


It seems we’re always trying to turn Christianity into some religious words or sermons or slogans. But Christianity is not a sermon or a slogan, it’s the savior. Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with Christ.”

The devil has a relationship with Jesus; not a very good one. In the review of “For the World: Essays in Honor of Richard L. Pratt Jr; Edited by Justin S. Holcomb and Glenn Lucke,” the reviewer writes:

The chapter on “Redeeming the ‘R-Word:’ Paul against and for Religion” was intriguing and relevant since it addressed the contemporary Christian cliché that “Christianity is not a religion.”  Reggie Kid, the author of this essay, noted how Paul was against bad religion (what in the Greek is called asebeia) but this in no way implies that Paul or the Bible ever pit Christianity against religion per se.  There is, biblically speaking, room for good “religion,” and good religion is one which adheres to right doctrines and also right practices.  The author made a good point that whatever value and advantages gained in using the mantra that “Christianity isn’t a religion,” it can in the long run be counter-productive against the church’s effort in evangelism and discipleship.  Hipster Christians need to read this chapter!

Shook – It (the Gospel) is not a bunch of words; it’s the Word, Jesus Christ.

Rosebrough – So, it’s all about Jesus. But watch what he does here. Misdirection. Magic trick, illusions. Magician – artist of misdirection. Rick Warren begins his “Purpose-driven life” with it’s not about you, but the rest of the over 300 pages IS about you.

S – The Gospel is not about we say but all about what we do and how we are Jesus to the world around us.

R – Did you catch that. What we do, we are Jesus. No, Christ died for our sins he rose on the third day. Anything about what you did, no.

S – St Francis said preach the Gospel a all times and when necessary use words.

R – Francis never said that. False. Debunked. The only way to preach the Gospel IS through words.

At a church cell group I attended, we were talking about “love one another.” One of the group told us she helped an elderly woman at the Supermarket. I asked her, “Did you talk about Jesus.” The group seemed taken aback as if to say “Why talk Jesus when you can do Jesus?” Simple: Muslims, Jews, atheists often “do Jesus” far better than many Christians. More importantly, faith comes by hearing not by doing. The Gospel (good news) consists of words not deeds. And, of course, faith (in the Gospel) without deeds is dead.

Romans 10

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[f]

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

S – I want you to look out for a unique story that God wants to write. Open your Bibles to John’s Gospel 1.

R – Who is that about? Jesus. John 20:30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 1 is not about you getting yourself in alignment with some story for your life and your purpose. It’s about Jesus and what he has done. Very God of very God who came into the world. He (Shook) starts off with he wants to start a church that’s all about Jesus. He’s preaching you.

S – (Shook quotes John 1:1-14) – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Shook then prays:

Oh God I thank you that within each of us, you placed a life message and you want us to discover it with your life message because you created us and you know how we work best so we can find fulfilment in true meaning….it’s all about you…this church is not about the past but stepping out in faith…”

R – John 1 – Yes, all about Jesus.

S – We read the Bible not to get to know the Bible better but to get to know Jesus better.

I once wanted to find a “house church.” I met the leader at a restaurant in our city and told him that what I would love to do is for members to dig deep into the scriptures. He said his group is not into “bibliolatry.” What counts, he said, was caring for one another. And that is how we come to know Jesus. How in heaven are we to know Jesus (that is, personally) unless we have knowledge of Jesus, facts about Jesus, and facts are always conveyed by words. Content knowledge (facts) cannot be separated from words. If you kill the words, you kill the facts. That’s how language works.

During a debate between Sye Ten Bruggencate and Matt Dillahunty, Turrentinfan reports the following audience question:

One gentleman asked why everyone isn’t saved, if every one knows/believes that God exists. As Sye explained, the problem with the question was that it presumed that it is enough for salvation for people to know the truth of the gospel (i.e. understand the content), or enough for salvation for people to assent to the truth of gospel (i.e. acknowledge that it is true). Instead, salvation is about trusting in and relying Jesus Christ alone for salvation, which we could describe as viewing the truth as good and desiring it for oneself.”

The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia.

Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), His crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), His bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation.

Assensus is belief. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent. “I believe it, that settles it.” Of course, when you say that your mental assent is more of a mental descent. To understand why it is a mental descent, you need to ascend to the the third level of faith: fiducia.

Fiducia is full trust and commitment, it’s the heart knowledge of Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17. (See Two conversions: The mind (notitia) and the heart (fiducia) of faith in Blaise Pascal).

Bible doctrine, says Stanford Murrell, is essential to proper spiritual maturity (Proverbs 4:2; 1Titus 4:13). Sound doctrine is the foundation of faith (Titus1:9). What people believe about sin, salvation, the Scriptures, and the Savior will determine their eternal destiny, as well as their relationship with us God the Father (John 7:17). Doctrine does not divide the Church as much as it unites the saints around the truth that has been entrusted for preservation and proclamation (Jude 1:3). Any attempt to minimize the importance of doctrine should be challenged (2 John 1:9-10). The Church of Jesus Christ would not be the powerful force it is in the world today apart from the faithful defence of basic Bible doctrine. While it is unfortunate that controversies about doctrine occur, such discussions are necessary (1Co 11:18-19) as they form an essential part of the history of the Church.

(Stanford E. Murrell, 2014. “A glorious institution/The church in history, Parts 1 and 2. Free ebook.

S – We read God’s word and we study the bible not to fill our heads with Bible knowledge but to get closer to Christ because Christ is the Word. The really good news is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us…God became one of us so that we could understand his life message he was communicating to us, which was the Gospel, the good news.

R – Good news that Christ died for our sins.

S – And then he experienced all the things we go through so that we could relate to him. Pain, rejection and temptation. Never once did he sin. And he went to a cross and shed his perfect blood so that we could receive forgiveness. Then he rose again. And he ascended to heaven and he said “I’m going to leave my spirit with you.

R – Elements of the Gospel there. He’s going to pull the switcharoo here on us in a second.

S – Receive me and you become a child of mine and I will put my spirit in your life literally so that you will be my body and I can live through you. And so Jesus in you is the Gospel.

R – No. The Gospel is Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and rose again on the third day. Not Christ in me.

S – … So therefore you are the Gospel.

R – No, I am not, What Jesus did is the Gospel. Galatians 1: “[6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” If you believe you are the gospel, you are damned eternally.

S – You are the good news. This is what this series is about. You are the good news. Your life message is the Gospel….Every one of us has a unique life message, a unique expression of the Gospel as God uses us and works through our personality and gifts…So my life message is this: my unique expression of Christ to the world. And until you discover your unique life message then you’re just existing instead of really living. You will always be in a fog of confusion in life not really having clarity of why you are on this earth.

Shook is laying on his hearers the burden of a works salvation. An impossible cross to carry. It’s not what you do what saves you but what Jesus did – for you. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you do in life, this temporal state; it’s about trust, which saves to eternal life. From this trust flows obedience, which is evidence of your trust.

R – Talk about fog of confusion. That is what he is spewing right now out of his mouth.

S – Until you discover your life message, you’ll never discover your voice. You’ll never have clarity on why you are here. You’ll always have a dissatisfaction, a disequilibrium of the soul. Something will always be missing. ..If you can find your voice and come alive …you are the message. So how do I discover my life message… listen for the divine whisper.

Shook has perverted “And you hath he quickened (raised to life), who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) into quicksand, into which his narcissistic followers plunge.

R – Discover your unique Gospel? You are the Gospel? Divine whisper? Where are you getting this!

KS – It’s ironic, when you stop talking you find your voice. Practice the ancient discipline of solitude in silence.

R – Where in the bible does it say all this? Must first practice divine solitude? God will whisper to you your divine purpose which becomes our gospel?

S – The problem is we can’t hear his whisper. We always have the noise going…

Rosebrough asks “Where is he getting this?” I suggest not the marquis de Sade but indirectly from the Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre Caussade via a Karl Keating or a Richard Foster.

Here is the French Jesuit,
Jean-Pierre Causssade, famous among Roman Catholic contemplatives for his 
handbook “Abandonment to divine providence,” Here is an excerpt from Caussade for whom the Gospel is merely “a tiny stream” in comparison to the river that God 
is dying  to pour into you.

The Holy Spirit continues to
carry on the work of our Saviour. While helping the Church to preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, He writes His own Gospel in the hearts of the just. All
their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.
The souls of the saints are the paper, the sufferings and actions the ink. The 
Holy Spirit with the pen of His power writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that
 cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on 
the day of eternity….Teach me, divine Spirit, to read in this book of life. I desire to become Your 
disciple and, like a little child, to believe what I cannot understand, and cannot
see. Sufficient for me that it is my Master who speaks. He says that! He
 pronounces this! He arranges the letters in such a fashion! He makes Himself 
heard in such a manner! That is enough. I decide that all is exactly as He says.
I do not see the reason, but He is the infallible truth, therefore all that He
 says, all that He does is true. He groups His letters to form a word, and 
different letters again to form another word. There may be three only, or six;
 then no more are necessary, and fewer would destroy the sense. He who reads
 the thoughts of men is the only one who can bring these letters together, and
 write the words. All has meaning, all has perfect sense. This line ends here 
because He makes it do so. Not a comma is missing, and there is no
 unnecessary full-stop. At present I believe, but in the glory to come when so
 many mysteries will be revealed, I shall see plainly what now I so little 
understand. Then what appears to me at present so intricate, so perplexing, so
foolish, so inconsistent, so imaginary, will all be entrancing and will delight me
 eternally by the beauty, order, knowledge, wisdom, and the incomprehensible
 wonders it will all display.” (Mystical YOUnion: Do you want God to write a Gospel about you or are you aching to write it yourself?). 

Something is amiss in this mystical effusion, namely, the belief that besides the “Gospel” proper, which for Caussade means the scriptures, there is another Gospel, a Gospel for you and for me. It seems quite possible that God takes copious notes on each individual’s story, but should we call that individual story another Gospel, even if we mean it metaphorically? The word of God in the scriptures “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16). The focus of Christians should not be on the memorable, momentous “Gospel” God is writing about their lives, but on the historic remarkable life of Jesus Christ. 

(See My gospel: much about noting).

The mystical kind of spirituality is very popular today among all kinds of religions and non-religions. Those who get tired of the world yearn for an experiential connection to God. But, this yearning downplays the place of faith and Scripture. It exalts “transcendental” experiences that propel the person out of the mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer. If any practice – be it prayer, or some other contemplative practice – does not square with the Bible, it is not of God. For this reason, mystical meditation and “centering” (Richard Foster, Abbot Thomas Keating) is more a flight of fancy than Biblical Christianity. Biblical spirituality involves the study and meditation upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality, in contrast, looks for a “deeper meaning”, where scripture is regarded as allegorical rather than literal (the normal meaning of grammar, meaning and context, where history does not become allegory).

(See In search of French past (7): The hermit, the poet and the clown).

Finally, the Gospel does not, can never, should never, become “my Gospel” – not allegorically and – God forbid – literally, as in Shook. The only one who has the right to talk of “my Gospel” is the apostle Paul, because it is God-breathed, that is, Christ’s Gospel:

Romans 16

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

J.C. Sproul said above: “When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.” When you find the Gospel you find Christ. When you find your Gospel you lose Christ.

Surprised by Suffering — Free eBook during August 2014


A very good – and free – ebook by RC Sproul on suffering.

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

free-ebook_620_08Aug2014-SurprisedBySufferingLigoner Ministry has made available for free R. C. Sproul’s book on Suffering for the month of August!  Here is the book’s description from their website:

In Surprised by Suffering, R.C. Sproul argues that we should expect pain and sorrow in this life. Some are actually called to a “vocation” of suffering, and all of us are called to undergo the ultimate suffering of death. God promises in His Word that difficult times will come upon us, but He also promises that He allows suffering for our good and His glory, and He will never give us more than we can bear with His help.

Surprised by Suffering offers biblical counsel and comfort for those undergoing suffering and for those who minister to the suffering, counsel that can help believers stand in times of trial with faith in a God who is both loving and good.

You can get…

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The nature of regeneration: Does Nicodemus allow God to regenerate him?

Begin with self; end with self

Peter S. Williams is an apologist and philosopher, and, therefore should be a stickler for grammar. Here, alas, is a part of one of his (short) sermons where he disallows the text to say what it says. He inserts the word “allow” into the text of his sermon on “John 3:1-17” (Jesus with Nicodemus). Here is an excerpt, John 3:3-9, from his text.

(My italics verse 8)

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. 8 The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

Williams – “So you see what happened. Jesus was saying that in order to see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus had to be born anew or from above by allowing God’s grace to forgive him, to raise his human nature, his flesh up into the spiritual life of God in a transformative relationship. Williams inserts into the text “by allowing God grace.”

Those who allow God to regenerate them (born from above) are called Arminians, after Jacob Arminius. They believe that God requires their permission to save them. According to Arminians, the fact that no one born of the Spirit has the foggiest idea where the Spirit comes from has no bearing on the “fact” that the the Holy Spirit is impotent to save without permission from the one He wants to save. Towards the end of the sermon, Williams quotes John 1:12-13: “12 But to many as did receive (received) him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Consider the underlined did receive (received) him in verse 12:

In English “did + receive” can be used either as an alternate form of “received” or to emphasise “receive.” In his sermon, Williams stresses “those who DID receive him.” To a Calvinist “did receive” in this passage simply means “received.” To an Arminian, it means those who “DID decide/decided” to receive him.


“Holy Spirit, I know nothing about where you come from; all that matters is that you came, and I know you will act like a gentleman and first knock with your prevenient grace on the lid of my coffin and ask my permission to raise me from the dead.”

When one comes to verse 13,, it’s hard to see how the Arminian can avoid tying his will in a knot: Verse 13 – “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” But avoid he certainly does. Here is my conversation with an Arminian pastor.

Me – What does “not of blood” mean?

Pastor – It means not of human descent.

Me – What does “not of the will of the flesh” mean?

Pastor – It means “not of a man’s decision.”

Me – What does “not of the will of man” mean?

Pastor – Not of a husband’s decision; the same as the previous “not of the will of a man’s decision.”

In sum, for this pastor, “human decision” and the “will of man” cannot refer to the will of the seeker but to the sexual desire – to the willy – of the seeker’s Poppa. This leaves the precious will of the seeker intact and free to choose to be born again. If this is true, then when we read the last part of the verse “but born of God,” what this must mean for the Arminian is “but born of God and of the believer. The Arminian will say, “No, only God is involved because it clearly says “born from above,” not born from above and below. What I do believe, he could very well think, is that although I don’t know where the Spirit comes from, I do know when it arrives at my door. He knocks, I open my door and invite him to do waht he is longing to do – pull me out of my coffin.” That is what the Arminian understands by:

Ephesians Chapter 2

1 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Even if an Arminian says, “I only did .000000000000000000001% and God did 99.000000000000000000099%, the fact of that matter is that it is that teeny flick of a solitary eyelash that redeems you from the pit and makes you a child of God. It would have to be the same teensy eyelash response that sends you to damnation. Such eternal consequences determined by a human, a human eyelash!

I end with an excerpt from Stephen Charnock’s (1628 – 1680) “A discourse of the nature of regeneration”?(The best books were written 200 or more years ago):

“It is difficult to describe exactly the nature of regeneration.
1. Because of the disputes about the nature of it; whether it be quality, or a spiritual substance;
whether, if a quality, it be a habit or a power, or whether it be the Holy Ghost personally. Many
controversies the wits of men have obscured it with. The Scripture discovers it to us under the terms of the new creature, a new heart, a law put into us, the image of God, a divine nature; these, though Scripture terms, are difficult to explain.
2. It is difficult, because it is visible, not in itself, but in its edicts. We know seed does propagate itself, and produce its like, but the generative part in the seed lies covered with husks and skin, so that it is hard to tell in what atom or point the generative particle does lie. We know we have a soul, yet it is hard to tell what the soul is, and in what part it does principally reside. We know there are angels, yet what mortal can give a description of that glorious nature? It is much like the wind, as our Saviour describes it: John iii. 8, ‘The wind blows where it lists, and thou hears the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, nor whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ The wind, we feel it, we see the effects of it, yet cannot tell how it arises, where it does repose itself, and how it is allayed; and all the notions of philosophy about it will not satisfy a curious inquirer. So likewise it is in this business of regeneration; the effects of it are known, there are certain characters whereby to discern it; but to give a description of the nature of it is not so easy.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. 18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. 21 Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

The question is: Is God really knocking at whosoever’s heart, begging to come in, but failing – sovereignly so – most of the time?

One thing is certain: if regeneration begins with self, it will end with self.

Related posts: Being born again and a husband’s one-track mind)
God’s will and God’s swill in salvation: Thoughts on the Arminian-Calvinist controversy

Vengeance and the cartoons about Mohammed: None can change the words of Allah, except Allah, which he does

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

In Islam and the Book: The heart of the matter, I presented a discussion with a Muslim on the inspiration of the Quran and the Bible. The Quran states that the Hebrew and Christians scriptures (the “Book”) are divine revelation but they have both been corrupted from time immemorial and thus in Mohammed’s time no Jew or Christian – no matter how faithful to the original scriptures – had a copy of the original scriptures. The closest any Jew or Christian came to the “Book” sent down by God was, argued the Muslim, the few snippets they carried in their hearts.

I present here a specific example we discussed of the clash between the two religions on this matter: the Islamic violence unleashed on the world occasioned by the Danish cartoon of Mohammed.

(My part is in normal characters; his in italics).

– Do you agree with the violence that…

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What’s it all for? The circle of time and making an impact in the world

When a fellow Christian is depressed, what do you say? Most of us don’t have the foggiest. This cluelessness reveals we only have a nodding acquaintance with the Word of God. Alarming. Here is an mp3 sermon from Joseph LoSardo.

Overview: It is clear that the theme of this passage is indeed “time” – the word is repeated 28 times over the 14 stanzas of the poem. But while man is the grammatical subject of the poem e the human subject plays no role in determining the time of his actions. As much as man would like to be involved in planning out his days, he finds himself a victim, in a sense, of time and the cycle of life. That which occurs in time is ultimately cancelled by what inevitably occurs at a later time. So, all who are born eventually die- all that is planted is eventually plucked up- silence is cancelled by speech, love by hatred, and war by peace- and in the end there is no net gain to anything under the sun. What is there to celebrate in this consequence—Qoheleth teaches that there is really not that much to celebrate in the circle of life. Instead, this popular poem is a lamentation over the fact humanity has no control over the outcome that time brings to pass. Qoheleth’s hope is not found in gaining anything under the sun, but rather in enjoying the beautiful moments that God makes in His time, and looking to that which God places in the hearts of men concerning eternity. God has set the times and seasons of the cycles of life ultimately for us to bow before Him as the Almighty Sovereign King who rules over time and the cycles of life.


Here is a transcript of a segment:

I want to make an impact, I want to make a difference in this world. Few people will say, I want to grow old, develop a series of ailments and eventually go into the grave. But that is what will happen to every single individual. That’s the reality. Really no one makes a significant impact on the world because everything is going to be reversed any way. That is what the Ecclesiastes teaches us. While everyone without exception gets older every year, typically gets some form of illness and eventually dies. We all live in the circle of life. It begins with birth and it ends with death, and in the middle a series of repetitive seasons that cancel each other out. This is reality, this is the reality our text brings out. I’m not saying that this should cause resignation. There are causes in this life we need to stand up for – the oppressed the unborn, the widow. But we should not get discouraged when we hit thirty or forty or fifty and you haven’t discovered the cure for cancer, the core issue is not whether you made it in life but whether God’s seasons in life have brought you to a place of helplessness and a recognition of your dependence on God. That is why God ordained the circle of life. So that we realise he is God.

Tertullian and Augustine: Predestination – Are Christians made or born? Both.


Dear reader

Tertullian was a theologian in Carthage in the second century A.D. He said “Christians are made not born.” He also seemed to believe that the reason why God knows what is going to happen is because he (fore)ordained it. If this is so, it would mean that God foreknows those who are going to be saved because he fore-ordained, or predestined, it. Yet Tertullian seems to lean more to the synergist view of  regeneration (born again) where man cooperates with God in regeneration. In light of this, what he seems to have meant by “Christians are made not born” is that God wants everybody to be born “again” and provides the incentive (“prevenient grace”), but only your free will can make it happen.

Say, Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian’s successsor, had said “Christians are made not born.” This is what he would have meant: it is God alone who makes you a Christian, makes you born “again.” John 3:8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the voice thereof, but know not whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. And  for added treasure: John 1:12-13 As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 

The scriptures are  grammatically crystal clear:  God both proposes and disposes; in one word, predestines a person for salvation. This person may be you,  which is why I’m writing to you.

Documentaries in understanding ISIS and Al Nusra (AL QAEDA)


A close up of the jihad in Syria.

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

It is unfortunate that Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and Iraq has achieved great strides pushing forth an imperalistic Islam upon other Muslims and Christians.  Its also unfortunate that many in the West don’t understand much of these two organizations, Al Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or better known as ISIS).  Apparently these two organizations aren’t getting along.

Here are two documentaries from earlier this year that gives a bit of perspective of  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The first is an incredible documentary by Vice who embedded with Al Nusra.

The second is the perspective of some who have quit the Free Syria Army and their encounter with ISIS.

It is frightening.  We need to be praying.

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Twisting God’s word: Forgiveness and the sin nature: Adrian Stanley, Helmut Thielicke, Joel Osteen; and Rabbi Hirsch to the rescue


Many modern preachers attempt an “original” twist to a biblical passage and in so doing twist the original meaning. They feel the need to please themselves and their audience. And they – preachers and audience – adore it because it’s all about “you.” Truth be told, the Bible is about God in Christ, not about you. It’s often difficult to tell whether these preachers/pastors know or care to know what the original says.

I examine a few mutilations of God’s word where i focus on forgiveness and the sin nature of the human race. I examine three Christian views: Adrian Stanley, Helmut Thielecke and Joel Osteen followed by the Jewish view of Rabbi Hirsch, which puts these Christians to shame.

Adrian Stanley

Adrian Stanley uses the word “leverage” to describe to “forgive” sin. The verb “leverage” has the metaphorical meaning of “to exert power or influence.” In the second video of the Louie Giglio series “God is so great,” Andy Stanley says the following: ” “He will have leveraged your sin for his glory’s sake. He (God) will not be undone.” This means, according to the dictionary definition of “leverage,” that God will have exerted a power or influence over a person’s sin for His glory.

Stanley uses the term “leverage” repeatedly.

As creatures, Andy Stanley says, who were created with more potential to reflect His glory than anything else in creation, it is our role, it is our duty, it is our opportunity to reflect the Glory of God who invites us to call Him ‘Father’” even as a race who has abused the privilege of our freedom. It means that in the middle of your wealth, your pain, of gain of loss… you can ask God ‘how can this be leveraged for your glory.’”


At the end of the day, we can say ‘God, if you can leverage sin for your glory, certainly you can leverage this (my life’s situations), and I make it available to you. It’s for your glory. It is for your glory. It is for your glory.’ And when that happens life begins to make sense, for suddenly we are living our lives in the context of life, which is the glory of God – the Father.”

Stanley continues:

At the end of the day, we can say ‘God, if you can leverage sin for your glory, certainly you can leverage this (my life’s situations), and I make it available to you. It’s for your glory. It is for your glory. It is for your glory.’ And when that happens life begins to make sense, for suddenly we are living our lives in the context of life, which is the glory of God – the Father.” (The “New Model” of Evangelism: Has God also leveraged forgiveness out of his vocabulary? http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/the-new-model-of-evangelismhas-god-also-leveraged-forgiveness-out-of-his-vocabulary/). I’m not sure whether “leverage” is intended as a synonym, a euphemism or an evasion.

If God can “leverage” our sin, stern, as Stanley says, he can certainly “leverage” my life for his glory. But why does Stanley not use the very biblical and term “forgive”? Is he catering to his hip sheep? After God forgives people – who, without exception, were previously dead in sin – God promises to “leverage” their lives, that is, believers are his workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). The process of salvation starts with divine grace and has its practical outworking in good works. Ephesians 2:10 describes this process. Here is this verse in context:

Ephesians 2:1-10

1 And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:–

4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey)

Helmut Thielicke says (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,” Zondervan, 1997, p. 175):

When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41).

An important question to address in the above paragraph is: “What is the attitude of a “guilt-laden” person toward God. Does it follow that if you feel guilt that you feel more than mere remorse, that you feel repentance? I don’t think so. “Guilt” is the human condition; but, so is pride. Guilt – except in rare conditions such as psychopathy – begets remorse: “I feel, really and honestly, bad about this or that.” But  repentance is a different mental state altogether, namely, its about longing for forgiveness and falling on your knees before a holy God and pleading for mercy. “Woe is me, for I am undone” (Isaiah, 6:5).

When Thielicke speaks of a “person”, and the “man underneath”, he seems to be talking about anybody who feels guilt, which is the whole human race (except possibly psychopaths, and even there we are not sure what they feel). And there lies the problem with Thielicke’s portrait of sinful man.

Thielicke’s Jesus and Thielicke’s human being are not the people described in the Bible. The Bible says the opposite: Jesus did not see “through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath,” because the real man underneath was not only superficially grimy, he was filthy. The “real man” of the Bible is totally depraved in his very nature.  Everything in the Bible glorifies God and abases man. God saves men and women not because deep down they are good, but in spite of the fact that deep down they are evil. He chooses to save them – for one reason only: because He wants to. The natural man despises such a God. Many professing Christians do so as well. But that is the God of the Bible. God floods the whole Bible – but not everyone – with mercy, and “I will show mercy to whom I will” (Romans 9:15), and its got nothing to do with you or me.

(See Why do you call me good?)

Joel Osteen

At church service I attended, the preacher began by holding up his Bible and telling us that Joel Osteen holds up his Bible before all his sermons. I blurted out: “Then he puts it down and that’s the last we get of any Bible.” Osteen starts each of his presentations with “I always like to start with something funny,” and after the funny bit and while the audience laughter is still in full throat, he holds up his Bible and says: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.”

Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian radio) often airs snippets of Osteen’s “sermons,” which begin with his standard intro. Immediately after the words “Today I’ll be taught the word of God,” Rosebrough interrupts: “No we won’t.” Osteen’s antics are surely among the most flagrant abuses of the Bible he holds up, which he obviously does not hold dear – well, certainly not up on the stage.

One of Osteen’s sermons is called “Programming your mind for victory” (You Tube link). The blurb on You Tube says “Let Joel bring hope to your life in a fresh, new way in this inspiring message that will remind you of God’s restoration power and His divine plan for your life, even in the midst of difficulties and pain. Let this message inspire you that even through difficulties, God has a plan to strengthen and prepare you for an exciting, expansive….”

… eternity? Not a chance in hell.

In this presentation, Osteen uses, predictably, the terms “software,” “hardware” and “virus.” I said earlier that I’m not sure whether Adrien Stanley’s “leverage” is intended as a synonym, a euphemism or an evasion of “forgiveness.” What I am more sure about is that when Osteen uses the terms “hardware,” “software” and “virus,” he not only evades the true picture of fallen man but mutilates it. Here is a transcript of the relevant part of Osteen’s sermon ( aired on Pirate Christian radio) with Rosebrough’s interjections.


You can have the best computer ever made but if you put the wrong software in it, it’s not going to function as it was designed. All of us have had to contend with computer viruses. They get into the computer and contaminate the software. They’re slow, you can’t access the files. The hardware is fine, the problem is the software..


This is the Pelagian heresy. If you were suffering from cancer but didn’t know, went to doctor, he examined. he said take some aspirin and see me next week. The following week, I feel worse. Doctor: “Come in and we’ll do another examination. External. You look fine.” Make an appointment at another doctor. does full examination. you’ve got cancer. if nothing done you could die. a bad diagnosis will result in the wrong treatment. is the reason why there there is so much evil, armies, police officers, sins in our own life . Reason for this is that you were born dead, dead in trespasses and sins. No one is good. Total depravity, original sin. We are born in bondage to sin, to the devil. When it comes to God, No one has free will. It is God who has to unbind us. Ephesians 2:1 – We are by nature children of wrath. not born morally neutral, not good. inherited a broken nature from Adam. Only solution is Jesus. Osteen is going in the direction of denying original sin.


“Somehow the inside’s got messed up, now the software is contaminated. In the same way he stepped back and said another masterpiece. , your hardware is perfect, the right size, the right nationality, you have the right gifts. Not only that, God put the right software in you. from the very beginning he programmed you to be healthy, victorious, creative.


That’s a weird list. focussing on success here and now. but the fruits of the spirit is self-control etc. Osteen is on about earthly success. We are to pursue holiness, take up our cross.

Osteen [my comments in italics]

Your original software says you can do all things through Christ. [Olympic swimmer, brain surgeon, very very rich, never sick?]. He programmed that whatever you touch will prosper and succeed. He programmed the head and not the tail, lend and not borrow, victor and not victim. You were programmed to live an abundant, victorious faith-filled life. that is how your creator designed you [Not you, but Adam – before he fell]. But the reason why we don’t experience this abundant life….


…is because we are born dead in trespasses and sins.


…..is because we have allowed viruses to contaminate our software. We think, “I’ll never be successful, I’m not that talented,” I’ll never break this addiction, I’ve had it too long….


Addiction here is a euphemism; here he is talking about sin.


….I’m slow, clumsy, unattractive; nothing good is in my future, because our software is infected, we go around, low self-esteem, not believing for dreams to come to pass….


Not believing for dreams to come to pass. Where does the Bible say that?


…not expecting anything to turn around. There’s nothing wrong with you….


There’s nothing wrong with me! We’re born dead in trespasses in sins.


… like a computer, you’re not a mistake. One of the best things we can learn to do is hit the delete button. When negative discouraging thoughts come attempting to contaminate your software, that thought says, “You’ve seen your better days; its all downhill from here. That’s a virus trying to keep you from your destiny. …my software says, ‘the path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter.’


Whose righteousness are we to pursue? Romans 3 – righteousness comes from God. There is nothing wrong with you according to Osteen. Pelagian. All about the here and the now.


The term “software” in computer speak refers to information, which is non-physical. “Hardware,” in contrast, refers to the physical device that processes the software. The software-hardware analogy Osteen uses can be confusing. Osteen, I presume, is not contrasting physical with spiritual, but spiritual with spiritual. For Osteen, the spiritual “software” is what you imbibe into your spirit – the grime, the guck, while the spiritual “hardware” is synonymous with God’s blueprint of you; Thielecke’s (above) “God originally designed and meant [you] to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath.” “Flesh” in scripture often refers to fallen human nature:

Romans 8:5-8

5 They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: 7 because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: 8 and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Osteen captivates but is, at best, not captive to the Word of God. The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh 4 (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), 5 casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

In contrast, Osteen is indeed succeeding in reprogramming the minds of his narcissistic admirers sucking on his infernal lollipops as he leads them down the broad path of destruction. Osteen and his followers have missed the mark, but not the beast.

Rabbi Hirsch

Let a Jew teach Osteen a thing about how to reconcile to God, which Osteen has no clue about.

Open almost any “Introduction to Judaism” book, says Rabbi Hirsch (Can a Reconstructionist Sin?) or consult almost any commentary to the High Holiday mahzor, and one inevitably finds the explanation that the Hebrew word het (sin) means something like “missing the mark” — as if life were no more than a game of darts. Our moral and relational failures receive a soothing bromide of reassurance: We need only try harder next time, with hope that we’ll hit the target more often. The operative concept is that we need to be reassured, rather than reassessed.”

Hirsch continues:

But without first engaging seriously in a deep moral inventory, how can we honestly move forward in life? Without the courage to descend into the depths of our failures, how can we presume to ascend in pursuit of our better self? As the Reconstructionist mahzor states, “reducing sin to the status of an almost inadvertent error hardly seems tenable in the light of our awareness of the horrors of which humans, individually as well as collectively, have proved capable. The concept of sin, in fact, seems more, rather than less, important as we move into the 21st century — not for what it tells us about God, but for what it suggests to us about ourselves.” (My italics). (See Sin in Adam and his descendants and how to reconcile to God: Jewish Orthodox and Jewish Reconstructionist views).

I italicised the phrase: “the horrors of which humans, individually as well as collectively, have proved capable.”  I suggest that Hirsch has not got to the heart of sin. The horrors of which we humans are capable – horrifying as they are – are only the symptoms; the products of our sin nature, our original sin nature that we inherited from the father of the human race, Adam. Most Christians and Jews deny that Adam was a single man  and many Christians and all Jews reject the doctrine of “original sin”, namely, that we are all born with a sin nature that we inherited.

What does sin “nature” mean? Lewis Johnson explains (I have transcribed this from one of his messages):

One of the reasons why people have such a shallow view of sin is because they have not been taught to think rightly about sin. If you ask a man whether he is a sinner, he understands you to mean that he is a great flagrant outbreaking transgressor against the principles of morality that are found in the Bible. If you tell him that he is a great sinner in the sight of God, he thinks you are accusing him of being a blasphemer or a perjurer or a thief, an adulterer or a murderer. But without any of these forms of outbreaking forms of sin there may be a deep and damning hatred of the word of God in that man’s heart.”

But we must go deeper. Why do the unregenerate hate the word of God? Because of unbelief. Every sin is a failure to respond to the word of God. This is clear in the Tanakh (Older Testament) as it is clear in the Newer Testament, where God’s word is manifested through another (single) man, the second (and last Adam), Jesus the Christ, or if you prefer the Hebrew,  Yeshua HaMashiakh.

If the only options for me were reverting to Judaism and following Osteen – pass me the chopped liver.

Non-humanist reflections on violence, death, human evil and the after-life

The problem of evil: People don’t understand the depth of human corruption

and are not eternally minded (Martyn Lloyd Jones)

Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria. Death, death, death; the world, teeming with death, violent death. It’s root? The Bible says the “inward mind and heart of man are deep” (Psalm 64:6b):

Psalm 64

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,

from the throng of evildoers,

3 who whet their tongues like swords,

who aim bitter words like arrows,

4 shooting from ambush at the blameless,

shooting at him suddenly and without fear.

5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;

they talk of laying snares secretly,

thinking, “Who can see them?”

6 They search out injustice,

saying, ‘We have accomplished a diligent search.’

For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

The Bible also says, contrary to the “world” and “prosperity” preachers, that those who place their hope and faith in a better world are deceived:


13 These (Old Testament saints) all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).

What have atheists-materialists-humanists to say on the matter? Stephen Hawking says the belief that heaven and an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story for people afraid of death.” For Hawking, there is nothing beyond the last flicker of last brain cell. What counts he says is making good use of our lives by “seeking the greatest value of our action.” (See The downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 in light of Stephen Hawking’s “natural selection assumes natural rejection.”).

The Darwinian (materialist) worldview states that if it ain’t natural, it must be an illusion. In such a world, all human values are, can only be, the product of the brain, where the brain appeared by some unknown natural process called “chance.” Yet, many of these same people say that moral values such as “generosity,” “compassion,” “responsibility, “good, “evil,” “love,” “guilt,” “forgiveness,” “judgement” cannot be reduced to physics, chemistry, physiology. They believe in “the survival of the fittest,” which, by definition means might is not only right but unavoidable. In such a world only the strong, the powerful, the dominant, the ruthless survive.

You don’t have to be a materialist to think that life is often “nasty, brutish and short.” (Thomas Hobbes, “Leviathan”); those who believe in an after-life often also fall hopeless. Some of these like King David emerge stronger from the waves of depression, others, like Alfred Tennyson, sink deep into the slough of despond.

David – Psalm 42:

7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterfalls: All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. 8 Yet Jehovah will command his lovingkindness in the day-time; And in the night his song shall be with me, Even a prayer unto the God of my life.

Alfred Tennyson (“In Memoriam” of a friend who had died. In this work appears the famous “nature raw in tooth and claw”):

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,

And gather dust and chaff, and call

To what I feel is Lord of all,

And faintly trust the larger hope.

Thou makest thine appeal to me [the Lord]:

I bring to life, I bring to death;

The spirit does but mean the breath:

I know no more….

Who trusted God was love indeed And love Creation’s final law

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravin, shriek’d against his creed

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,

Who battled for the True, the Just, Be blown about the desert dust,

Or seal’d within the iron hills ?

O life as futile, then, as frail !

O for thy voice to soothe and bless !

What hope of answer, or redress?

Behind the veil, behind the veil.

Most materialists are “humanists.” There exist various definitions of humanism, Here is one: “…a commitment to the perspective, interests and centrality of human persons; a belief in reason and autonomy as foundational aspects of human existence; a belief that reason, scepticism and the scientific method are the only appropriate instruments for discovering truth and structuring the human community; a belief that the foundations for ethics and society are to be found in autonomy and moral equality (Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”

“Seventy-five years ago, writes J Gresham Machen, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies, was still predominantly Christian; today it is predominantly pagan. In speaking of ‘paganism,’ we are not using a term of reproach. Ancient Greece was pagan, but it was glorious, and the modern world has not even begun to equal its achievements. What, then, is paganism? The answer is not really difficult. Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties” (my italics). And that exactly describes humanism.

In humanism “man” is not only the measure of all things, but all things are measured for his pleasure, his enjoyment. For the natural man, joy means enjoyment, lots of it – enjoyment of freedom, enjoyment of job, of family, of friends, of sex, of sport, of holidays, of gadgets – and enjoyment of church! “Enjoyment” here does not merely mean amusements, thrills and diversions (French divertissement “entertainment”) but has to do with such things as the relationship between lifestyles and happiness. (See “Enjoyment of life lengthens life: Findings and consequences’” by R. Veenhoven).

Humanism contrasts with Christianity in the following ways: In Christianity, “salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always” (Monergism.com). In several Protestant catechisms, the first item is this: “Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The Christian glorifies God, which results in enjoying Him for ever. This enjoyment is the Christian’s ultimate happiness.

It all depends, though, what one means by “happiness.” “’Life,’ in the language of our Lord, says John Brown, implies happiness. When he calls himself, then, the ‘life-giving bread,’ he intimates that he is the author of true happiness; that he, that he alone, can make men truly and permanently happy” (John Brown, “True happiness and the way to secure it: Conversational discourse to the Jews – John 6:26-65″). (See my Happiness in humanism in Christianity”).

Contrary to what the odious “wealth and health” preachers say (they represent the majority of new Christians over the last few decades), Christian happiness comes through self-denial and suffering: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Not only does happiness come through taking up one’s cross, so does hope:

Romans 5

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Christ’s disciples do not seek their treasure on this earth:

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience…28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For most people, including, alas, Christians, who should know and believe better, “premature” death is a tragedy, especially when those whose life are “cut short” are children. We think of the children who died violently in Gaza, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and the Malaysian Flight MH17, and on and on. In the biblical worldview, God decrees all things such as whether and when we get born, and we die. Jesus says ““My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). And, as we read above in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Voltaire in his “Candide” whose setting is the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755, mocks verse 28 above:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”


Lisbon Earthquake 1755

This is not the place to examine the complexities of the question of how an infinitely good God causes/permits evil. What I will say here is this:

The question is how to reconcile evil in the world with God who is all good, all knowing and all powerful? From the start, we have to realise that we can never get a complete answer for the simple fact that God is God, and man is man. Some may think, ”I suppose you’re going to pull out the ‘mystery card.’” Well, regarding the deepest things of God, yes, they remain hidden; this, however, does not mean that the deep things of God are beyond our reach. In the Bible. there are many deep things of God that are accessible to those whom God gives the grace to understand. Many are those who, although good with language, haven’t a clue what the biblical words mean. This is so because it is the Spirit of God within the words that brings light. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Of two things a Christian is sure: God always fulfills his purpose, and all God’s purposes are good. So evil always has a good purpose. Out of evil God brings good. That is the biblical understanding of evil. There are  two major human failings  in the  problem of evil. People don’t understand the depth of human corruption and, which is a corollary of the former, are not eternally minded. 

There is much sorrow in the world. The Bible distinguishes between two kinds of sorrow: “… the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:18)

To return to the materialist world view: “The chief error, says Herman Bavinck, here [of a materialist worldview ] is a commitment to a religiously neutral scientific method, a goal that is impossible.” This attitude, Bavinck would agree, is more than an error; it is, the Bible says, a sin that leads to the second death (hell). Like many of us, I have been thinking a lot about the people on board the plane that was shot down over Ukraine. There were probably many materialists aboard.

Without faith Christ, all of us, no matter our physical infirmity – as with Stephen Hawking – will not escape the second death. “The bible, writes Richard Ganz, is meant to be a completely sufficient book for dealing with the nature and dilemma of man. It begins with the creation of man in Genesis 1 & 2. It tells us that man is created in the image of God. THIS is what defines man, not our psyche or unconscious, not our behaviour, not the universe. The Bible next moves to the fall of man in Genesis 3, which is the root of our problems. And then from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, its purpose is to show man’s redemption and man’s restoration in the image and glory of God, and what this means for our lives and the problems we face. We learn that every person on earth is undergoing a constant transformation that is one of two things: 1. Either you are being conformed to the same image as Christ, from glory to ever increasing glory, so that you become just like the Lord, or 2. you are in depravity and lostness and becoming more and more corrupt, and more and more lost. These are the only two options; and if we disregard this reality, then our worldview and how we deal with our problems and our lostness, will inevitably be off.”

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in light of Stephen Hawking’s “natural selection assumes natural rejection.”



Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking


For most of the world, the downing of MH17 was a very sad day. For many it is an occasion for much reflection on human selfishness and agression, and, hopefully, including our own. But surely not for materialists – logically speaking.

At one of his lectures at the University of Cambridge, where he is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a Chair once held by Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, who suffers from acute motor neuron disease, said the folowing regarding the long-term survival of humanity:

My only fear is this. The terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution. Because of naturalistic selection, and natural selection assumes natural rejection, which means we have arrived here because of our aggression – chemicals exploding in our reptilian brain. And my hope is that somehow we can keep from eating each other up for another 100 years. At that point science would have devised a scheme to take all of us into different planets of the universe and no one atrocity would destroy all of us at the same time.”

On the “after-life” he said. “The belief that heaven and an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story for people afraid of death.” There is, for Hawking, nothing beyond the last flicker of the brain waves. What counts he said is making good use of our lives by “seeking the greatest value of our action.”

On the one hand, Hawking says “natural selection assumes natural rejection, and natural selection assumes we have arrived here by our aggression,” and on the other hand, he says “we should seek the greatest value of our action.” Now, if we arrived on this planet by aggression – “we” implies every individual human birth – then it would be logical that we not only arrived here by aggression but survive by aggression: the survival of the fittest; in value terms the survival of the shittest.

Hawking also said “Science predicts that many different kinds of universes will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.”

(Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story.’ The Guardian, 15 May 2011).

To summarise Hawking: By chance, nothing created the human species out of nothing, where the distinctive attribute of the genetic blueprint is aggression. All is aggression – “nature red in tooth and claw” (Tennyson). In such a materialistic world, human free will is an illusion. Indeed, terms like “will” and “freedom” refer to nothing in reality. In Hawking’s materialistic view of “natural selection assumes natural rejection,” to seek the greatest value in our action means that each person or group has evolved to reject any values that clash with their own – and to do so aggressively. If Hawking puts his money where his mouth is, which I have no reason to question, then in his world – and so it must be in the world of every practical atheist – not only do the terms “free” and “will” refer to nothing in reality, the same applies to “good” and “evil.” I could go on and on: “love,” “guilt,” “forgiveness,” “judgement.”

Many of those who think or say that the downing of Flight MH17 was an evil act are materialists. In the language of Hawking, evolution has rejected – and no surprise, aggressively so – MH17 by blowing it up and cutting short the lives of all aboard and automatically causing untold suffering to thousands of friends and relatives. Morals, and morale, for that matter, cannot exist in a a world solely of matter.

The moral of my story is: when someone opens their gob about the morality of MH17, or anything else, ask them if they are materialists. If they are, tell them to shut up; unless you’re a confounded one yourself.


In search of French Past (8): Pope John XXiii and other homos


In In Search of French (7): the hermit, the poet and the clown,  I described my visit to Lourdes and a hermitage, and some of the books that Louis-Albert Lassus, my traveling companion had written on the hermitic life. I continue our travels with our visit to Rome (1962). 

It was the early days of the Second Vatican Council, which was opened by Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962. We took a taxi to St Peter’s square, red and scarlet hats bobbing all around us in vehicles heading in the same direction. At St Peter’s Square we were met by a sea of red and purple, as in the picture.


st peters square vatican 2

Louis-Albert and I went to one of the Pope John’s audiences of about 100 people in one of the rooms of the Vatican. I shall never forget Pope John’s eyes flashing with what seemed to be joy. No, not at seeing me. Here is an excerpt from an entry in his diary when he was 20 years old  (Pope John-xxiii. Journal of a Soul. London:Geoffrey Chapman, 1965, p. 64).

Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? I am nothing. Everything I possess, my being, life, understanding, will and memory – all were given me by God, so all belong to him. Twenty short years ago all that I see around me was already here; the same sun, moon and stars…..Everything was being done without me, nobody was thinking of me….because I did not exist. And you, O God….drew me forth from the nothingness, you gave me being, life, a soul, in fact all the faculties of my body and spirit…you created me.”

A “traditional” Catholic website relates: Just before his death, John XXIII composed the following prayer for the Jews. This prayer was confirmed by the Vatican as being the work of John XXIII.(73) “We realize today how blind we have been throughout the centuries and how we did not appreciate the beauty of the Chosen People nor the features of our favored brothers. We are aware of the divine mark of Cain placed upon our forehead. In the course of centuries our brother, Abel, has been lying bleeding and in tears on the ground through our fault, only because we had forgotten thy love. Forgive us our unjustified condemnation of the Jews. Forgive us that by crucifying them we have crucified You for the second time. Forgive us. We did not know what we were doing.” Catholic magazine The Reign of Mary, “John XXIII and the Jews,” Spring, 1986, p. 11.

Besides the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus is a unique unrepeatable event, it is wrong for the pope to identify Jesus, in any way, with those who rejected him and continue to do so to this day, even when Jesus was also a Jew. Although it is right that not every Jew should be blamed for the crucifixion, it would not be right to say that some Jews were not responsible for it. And it would also be wrong for a Christian to call the Jew – or any one who does not believe that the Son of God came in the flesh to die for sinners – his spiritual brother.

With regard to Christ’s sacrifice, this time unrelated to the Jewish Holocaust, is it ever possible that Jesus could be crucified again. Absolutely not. And, when it comes to such a crucial event, literally so, let us not reduce it to metaphor, for any reason. (See  Pope John XXIII and the “crucifixion” of the Jew). 

Besides my visits to the usual tourist sites such as Michelangelo’s Pietà, the Mona Lisa and the Sistine chapel, I accompanied Louis-Albert on his visits to various religious orders. I met the Abbot General of the Cistercian Order, who was very kind.

After Rome, I left Louis-Albert and returned to Paris, where I rented a room in a narrow side street, Rue Senlis, off Rue Soufflot. At the top of Rue Soufflot loomed the Pantheon, where famous French people are buried, among them the architect of the Pantheon, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, of course, writers such as Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo) Victor Hugo (Les Miserables) and Voltaire (Candide), and scientists such as Pierre and Marie Curie. I’ve been back to Paris a few more times since this first sojourn in 1962. On my last visit in 1993, I searched for Rue Senlis, but it seemed to have vanished.

My room contained a single bed, a chair, a little table big enough to hold my primus stove, and a tiny space on either side of the bed. The foot of the bed almost touched the door, which opened onto the pavement. It’s dinner time. Lying on the bed, primus stove on the table, fumes of paraffin mixing with the steam from the pot of boiling water heating the tin of bully beef. I got a clerical job in an ice-cream factory. I went to the Comédie-Française theatre a few times to see plays by Molière and other famous French playwrights. Although I sat in the cheapest seats (the “gods” – at the back, the top circle in the picture), the acoustics was very good. (“Acoustics” is not a countable noun so it is grammatically singular. Hence “the acoustics was very good.”).








Although Notre Dame was close by, I never attended Sunday Mass there. I preferred my usual church of St Julien the Pauvre, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame. It is a Roman Catholic
Church of the Melchite Greek rite, a branch of the Byzantine church. I met Louis-Albert for the first time at this church. (See
In Search of French Past (5): Why are you so downcast, oh my soul?).

Most of my days back in Paris were filled checking pink ice-cream slips and eating free ice-cream lollies. After about two months of bully beef and ice-cream, my bowels locked down. I went to hospital for an enema. A short time later (January 1963), I left Paris and returned to London to take a Union-Castle liner home to Cape Town. I described in an earlier chapter my train-airplane journey from Cape Town to London. At the end of my second-year B.A. I had booked to fly to London (From Maputo, Mozambique) and was to return to Cape Town on a Union-Castle liner from Southampton, the port that generally served the Cape Town route. (See In search of French Past (1). The British Union-Castle fleet operated between Europe and Africa from 1900 to 1977. My grandfather (mother’s side), Mendel Gilinsky and his children, one of which was my mother, Feiga (Fanny), arrived in Cape Town in 1912 on one of these Union-Castles, the Galway castle, a new addition to the fleet. it was sunk a few years later by a U-boat (See Russia and the Jew). I arrived home in January 1963. I had been in France for more than a year.

Union Castle

Union Castle  The mountains in the distance are the “Twelve Apostles” a few miles from the centre of Cape Town.


Before I left Cape Town for my first trip to France, I had already completed two years of my B.A. at the University of Cape Town (1960-61). On my return from France I registered for my final year of philosophy (Ethics, Logic and Metaphysics, and Political philosophy). In 1961 I had completed a course in “French Elementary,” which was a misnomer; it included enough complicated grammar to give you subjunctivitus (to wit, the imperfect subjunctive Il eût fallu que nous allassions; so simple in English “We had to go”). I wanted to do a further course in French in this my final B.A. year. I went to see the Head of French, Professor Shackleton, and asked to skip French 1 (which followed French Elementary) because in my humble opinion my French, after my studies at the University of Strasbourg had reached at least the French 1 level. (See In Search of French Past (4): Student at the University of Strasbourg). He said my French language wasn’t the issue. (We were talking in French). He asked me, “What do you know about French literature?” My French courses in Strasbourg focused only on language. My knowledge of French literature was scanty. I mentioned Moliere. The Professor wanted something less dated. I went numb. Then a flotilla of billboards floated out of the fog festooned with titles of various plays that were on during my stay in Paris. I had little idea what these plays were about. I chanced a few titles. The upshot: I sailed into French 2. I graduated at the end of 1963 with majors in Ethics, Logic and Metaphysics (one course) and Political Philosophy, and French 2.

Here would be a good place relate how I got into the B.A. French Honours programme (the next degree after the B.A.) at the University of South Africa. In South Africa, I had completed my French major, Course 3 (1971) as an external student at the University of Cape Town. In 1983. I was teaching French at Mmabatho High School, South Africa. I wanted to do a B.A. Honours in French so I went to visit Professor Haeffner, the Head of Modern Languages at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. It was our first meeting. I met him in the corridor outside his office. He said that he was not taken in by bits of paper (B.A. ShmeeA). He didn’t invite me into his office. He proceeded to interrogate me then and there – in the corridor – to establish whether I was Honours matériel. Now what could this scabrous man ask me in a corridor that would convince him I was up to scratch? As it turned out, it was what I asked him that convinced him that he had taken on more than he could spew. Here is our conversation. My comments are in italics:

Prof – What is a “military parade” in French?

He’s trying to stymie me with one of the many English-French “false friends” faux amis, in this instance the French parade, cannot be used to translate “military parade.”

Me – Un défilé militaire.

He wasn’t expecting the right answer. Before he could ask me another, I shot back with my question.

Me – “What does de fond en comble mean?”

This means “from top to bottom” or one could say “from top to toe.”

Prof – “From top to bottom.”

Me – Wrong. That’s only half-way (I twist my arm behind me and pointed down to my derrière; in Yiddish, toches, and said: It means all the way down: from top to toe.

And that’s how I switched off Professor Bok Drol (Afrikaans for “Buck Poo”) and got to do the B.A. French Honours. It was the hardest studies I had ever done. I completed the degree two years later (See my “A Jewish view of a French bottom).

After my B.A. Graduation in December 1963, I longed to return to France. I wrote to Louis-Albert and he invited me to accompany him on more of his travels. On my first trip to France, my father paid for a return fare and gave me a monthly allowance of 25 British pounds. This time I had a little more difficulty convincing him to pay for me to go back to France so soon after my first trip. I told my father that he need only pay for a one-way ticket and I would fend for myself. I planned to go on to Israel to join my brother Bennie on a kibbutz. I had very little money. I returned to Paris late in the evening. My bed for the night was a sleeping bag on the bank of the Seine.

I spent the night  in my sleeping bag a few metres from the steps on the other side

I spent the night in my sleeping bag a few metres from the steps on the other side


Before sunrise I was awakened by a tap-tap on my head; a gendarme’s boot. I had the address of a fellow philosophy student, Rick Turner, who had also graduated in 1963; Me with a B.A. In philosophy and him with a B.A. Honours in philosophy. He was doing a doctorate at the Sorbonne on the political philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre. I visited Rick and his wife, Barbara and baby girl, Jann, in their little flat. Barbara was also a student at the University of Cape Town. Barbara later remarried and is known today as Barbara Follett, who became a Labour MP in the UK. I was surprised that Rick was doing a doctorate at a French university. I had no idea that he knew French well enough to write a thesis in French. Jean Paul Sartre wrote the foreword to his thesis.

I told Rick I was going to the South of France. He gave me some money to buy a book for him that was unavailable in Paris but was available at a bookshop down South. I said I would post the book to him. I never did; instead I used the money to buy a train ticket to Bordeaux where I was to rejoin Louis-Albert. A few years later, I was visiting the University of Cape Town where I bumped into Rick. He yelled “Where’s my money?” I gave it to him. In today’s money it was about £7. And that was the end of our meeting. I never saw him again. Rick is well known as an anti-Apartheid activist. In 1974, He was shot dead through the window of his house, and died in the arms of his daughter Jann, who was that sweet little baby I saw in her mother’s arms in Paris exactly 50 years ago.

From the Daily Maverick, 15 July, 2014:

“Four months after Steve Biko was beaten to death in police custody in 1977, fellow activist, academic and philosopher, Rick Turner, was assassinated in his Durban home. Both men offered South Africans – black and white – transformative new ways of thinking about and framing themselves and society. Their ideas were such a threat that authorities at the time tried to wipe both men off the face of the earth. MARIANNE THAMM revisits Turner’s legacy and what it might offer contemporary South Africa.”

A short biography of Rick can be found here.

Louis-Albert and I went by train Belgrade, Yugoslavia where we spent ten days in a religious house. I think it was the Augustinian fathers. We then took the long train trip over the mountains to Thessaloniki where we stayed with the Marist Brothers. I enjoyed walking along the pier where Paul, the Apostle, must have walked. I accumulated a large amount of luggage on this second trip. I asked the Marist Brothers to store most of it in their loft, which I would retrieve on my way back to London, where I intended to fly home. Louis-Albert accompanied me to the port of Piraeus in Athens where I took a boat to Haifa.

I visited Paris again in 1973 for a few days. At the time I was a French teacher at the Jesuit St George’s College in Harare (Salisbury in 1973) and it was the July-August holidays. I did not see Louis-Albert on this occasion. From Paris I went to Florence and then on to Istanbul. Istanbul is more hilly than Rome. I walked everywhere. My most memorable experience of my ten days in Istanbul was not the Topkapi museum or the mosaics in the Hagia Sofia but the savage images of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” I had no idea what the movie was about. Here is a description of the movie:

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 British film written, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, adapted from Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novella A Clockwork Orange. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian future Britain.

Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the main character, is a charismatic, sociopathic delinquent whose interests include classical music (especially Beethoven), rape, and what is termed “ultra-violence”. He leads a small gang of thugs (Pete, Georgie, and Dim), whom he calls his droogs (from the Russian друг, “friend”, “buddy”). The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured adolescent slang composed of Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang. (Wikipedia).

I walked out of the derelict stone movie house into the fresh summer light. A great depression came over me. I began the long walk back to my hotel gulping in the fresh sweet air trying to drive out the darkness that saturated my soul; a darkness endemic to our human condition – “man’s estate,” from which there is no earthly rescue. This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:12-14:

[Give] joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”

I visited Albert for the third and last time three decades later in 1993 at the Dominican priory in Nice. I was on my way home to my university (Fort Hare) in South Africa from Moscow where I had attended the XIX World Congress of Philosophy and presented a paper entitled “Multiculturalism in Education: An African view.” (My paper appears here). Louis-Albert had just returned home from one of his monastic retreats. I stayed a few days in an hotel opposite his priory. He gave me a French Pilot’s leather fleece-lined jacket from World War II, a raincoat and a large painted hand-carved wooden crucifix. The leather jacket would have added at least five kilos excess to my baggage so I carried it onto the plane.

I flew from Nice to Heathrow for my return flight to Johannesburg. Before boarding the plane, I stuck the foot of the crucifix into a tog bag on my back. Most of it protruded out of the top. I was wearing a blue T-shirt that was given to delegates at the Moscow Congress. The front of the blue T-shirt was decorated wit the emblem for the Congress: HOMO with the globe of the world in place of the first “O”. Here is a picture of the T-Shirt selling on Ebay for $39. Change the world, bro.

Emblem of XIX Congress of  Philosophy, Moscow, 1993.

Emblem of XIX Congress of Philosophy, Moscow, 1993.


How meanings have morphed! “Homo” is also Latin for “Man.” Philosophy is about Homo’s wishto be Sapiens. Nowadays, homo just wantsto be homo. Many of the passengers were Afrikaners. I walked down the aisle to my seat to the tune oftitters and gasps. I could swear I heard: “Man, wat diefok’s met dié ou!” (Man, waht the f-k’s with this bloke).

I gave the crucifix to my daughter. A few years ago, the heavy thick leather jacket later saved me from great injury. I was riding my scooter in a busy section of my home city, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, when the scooter slipped on a section of road under repair. The scooter fell over on its right side and slid along the ground. I was not badly hurt. I noticed that the leather on the right elbow side of my jacket had been shaved away. If not for the thick leather, I would have no more elbow room.

Providence and Open Theism

When we moderns call someone pathetic, we usually mean “petty/deplorable/useless.” And by “ejaculation” people mostly mean a seminal discharge, and rarely a verbal outburst. Seminal ejaculations usually have physical passion as their immediate cause, while verbal ejaculations may have either or both physical and mental/spiritual passion as their cause. French does not distinguish between mental and spiritual; both are subsumed under the single term esprit. This French term can also refer to “wit” as in homme d’esprit “man of wit.” By no means, is it my intention – well, my main intention – to be witty.

In theology, there are many esprit errors. One of these is Open Theism, which in sum is God knows what’s potting now but not what’s and who’s going to pot. Or for that matter when I’m going to finish this sentence. Open theism reminds me of anti-Onanism. No not anti-Nominism.

“Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

Alas, open theists don’t want to spill their semen on the ground. They are becoming the rage. They have begotten another monster amongst many others such as Arminianism. All because they refuse or confuse the Providence of God. John Favel writes:

“I will cry unto God Most High: unto God that performs/completes (Hebrew gamar) all things for me.” Psalm 57:2.”

In the Hebrew, the above verse is numbered 57:3. The Jewish Mechon-Mamre version of Verse 1 says:
“For the Leader; Al-tashheth. Of David; Michtam; when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” The transliteration “al-tashchayt” is more accurate: Hebrew אַל-תַּשְׁחֵת. Flavel says more about this word later on.

“The greatness of God, continues, Flavel, is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. The Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth,” Psalm 47:2. The condescension of the most high God to men is also a profound mystery. ” Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly” (Psalm 138:6). But when both these [the Lord be high and his respect for the lowly]] meet together, as they do in this Scripture [Psalm 57:2 Flavel's first sentence above]] they make up a matchless mystery. Here we find the most high God performing all things for a poor distressed creature. It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures and their most pernicious designs, to blessed and happy issues. And, indeed, it were not worth while to live in a world devoid of God and providence.”

“How deeply we are concerned in this matter will appear by that great instance which this psalm presents us with. It was composed, as the title notes, by David prayer-wise, when he hid himself from Saul in the cave; and is inscribed with a double title, Al taschith Michtam of David. Al taschith [tashchayt] refers to the scope, and michtam to the dignity of the subject-matter. The former signifies ” destroy not,” or, let there be no slaughter, and may either refer to Saul, concerning whom he gave charge to his servants not to destroy him; or rather, it hath reference to God, to whom, in this great exigence, he poured out his soul in this pathetical ejaculation, ‘Al taschith. Destroy not.’”

(John Flavel, “The mysteries of Providence” – Introduction).

In sum, I have ejected the pathetic heretical ejaculations of Open Theism and welcome the “pathetical ejaculations” of David, pouring out the providential pathos of  his soul.

Related: A Biblical case for Calvinism

The Straw that broke this camel’s back: Anyone want to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, please come forward


This story is about why I left my church. People leave their church for so so many reasons some of which are for so so reasons. I hope my reason is not of the second kind. Christians all agree that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5b). My reason, which shall become clear is related to the question “When is the Holy Spirit given to us; at regeneration (spiritual rebirth) or as a subsequent gift, unhappily called, I shall argue, the “Baptism in the Spirit?”

I was speaking to somebody who had got a teaching job at a “Word of Faith” (a “charismatic”) school. She said to me that she got the job because they needed somebody who was spirit-filled. Ergo, she fitted the bill. I’m sure that she was a competent teacher to boot.

What did she mean by “spirit-filled?” To answer that question, we need to know what the “Word of faith” movement means by this term. Here is a word of welcome from one of these churches: “Welcome to Word of Faith Fellowship Church WOFFC is a spirit-filled bible-believing and bible-teaching, non denominational church, teaching you how to be victorious …” What the WOFFC means by“spirit-filled” is stated in one of their central beliefs: “We believe in water baptism,  and in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from the new birth, in speaking with tongues  (Acts 2:4).  We believe that  these are available to all  believers.” (Word of Fellowship Church). The “Word of Faith” movement is part of the wider movement call the “Charismatic” movement.

I once belonged to an Anglican church whose pastor had “Word of Faith” leanings but it never got as far as Baptism in the Holy Spirit as distinct from the new birth. The pastor was replaced by a new pastor. His second sermon was entitled: “The marks of a true church.” One of these marks, he said, was the “Baptism of the Spirit.” He did not elaborate, so it was unclear what he meant by the term, which, of course, is a biblical term. During the next few months nothing more was said on the matter, and so we continued characteristically and uncharismatically as normal.

A few months later, a the end of the Sunday service, the pastor announced a workshop for the following Saturday morning to discuss the direction the church was going and to formulate what he called a “vision statement.” Alarm bells went off, I believe only in my head. One of the pastor’s previous sermons was entitled “What is your vision,” wherein he quoted the well-worn first half of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” The complete verse reads Proverbs 29:18 is “Where there is no vision [that is, prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” “Vision” here is in the context of keeping the law, and nothing else. What do many preachers do with this half a proverb, for example, Adrian Stanley, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and the “Word of faith” people? They turn it into a sermon series or book on how to get a new vision for your life. This pastor did the same in his :What is your vision?” sermon. (See Where there is no vision: No more cutting and pasting a way to prosperity for this hermeneut).

During the following week, I emailed the pastor and asked him for an outline of the coming “Vision” workshop, which he sent me. The following points were to be discussed 1. “What is vision? 2. A picture of a preferred future. 3. The value of vision. 4.The quotation of half of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Point 3 “A picture of a preferred future” is probably directly or indirectly from Adrian Stanley’s writings on Leadership and Vision – “Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there” (Adrian Stanley).

These points were to be related to external issues:
1. The wider church, 2. Globally, 3. Regionally, 4. Within the country (South Africa), within the city, within the community.

I wrote the following back to him: This is what I shall say to you on Saturday. I see that the vision you’re going to talk about is directed to everything outside our church. About inside our church, do you have a clear picture of who show signs that they are not believers ( born again) or are babes in the faith. It seems to me that growing our church more in-depth is needed before looking for ways to grow in numbers and evangelise the world. Our church needs to be evangelised.”

He agreed that we need to look at growing the faith inside the church. Here are are some of the contributions from different members raised from our church’s “Vision” workshop. My comments are in italics:

One of the church members said, the early church was simple. Have courage and confidence, don’t fight with one another, help one another, be patient, don’t shoot anybody down.

It is very difficult not to rock the boat without “shooting anybody down,” that is without anybody getting sea sick, or worse, taking offense.

We now come to the nub of my topic (I recorded the audio of the workshop).

Elder: You’ve got to be spirit filled.”

Me – What do you mean by spirit filled?

Elder – You have to ask the Spirit to fill into your life. And accept him into your life.

Where does the Bible say you have to accept the Spirit into your life?

Me – What’s the difference between a spirit filled Christian and a Christian?

Church member – You have to be a proper Christian.

Me – So a real Christian. That’s obvious.

Elder – If you accept Christ into your life, then you are spirit filled.

Me – Why say spirit-filled? Just say genuine christian.

Elder – We are talking about people in this church.

Church member – Nominal Christians.

Me – So, not true Christians. What I’m worrying about is that the church is going the way of Word of Faith movement. The charismatic movement, where the filling of the spirit and the baptism of the spirit is considered as a distinct experience, I believe that for you (addressed to the same elder) it is because you speak in tongues and I think this is so for the pastor and for the (Anglican) church he originates from. This church has become officially a branch of that mother church. (Our church, which was struggling financially, was taken over by this charismatic mother church). What I’m worried about is that we are going to get this idea that there are Christians who are born again, which the Bible says can only be done through the holy spirit – you can only be regenerated through the holy spirit, you can’t do anything, you’re dead in your sin. So it is through the holy spirit that you are born again. If you are born again you are going to love Christ, you’re going to follow him, you are going to obey his commandments. He’s the lord of your life. And you are going to want the spirit to nourish you continually. If you don’t want that, it means you are not born again. So we do ask for an increase of devotion in our lives. Increase my faith. Lord I need more of your spirit. We pray for a filling like that. 

Church member – That’s what the elder means.

Me – Then please just say, be a proper Christian, that like “are you spirit-filled?” Somebody once said to me that the reason why she was employed at a Word of Faith school was because they needed spirit-filled people there. You know what that means for them? It means the charismatic church; you have to have an extra baptism, a baptism of the holy spirit. But you don’t mean that do you (to the Elder), do you? You don’t mean the baptism of the holy spirit. Extra after you’re baptised? 

Elder – I think we need to be a spirit-filled guided church. 

He avoided a direct answer.

ME – Alright. As long as we understand our terms. You don’t mean what the word of faith people mean? You have a baptism of the spirit as something separate from your conversion. You don’t mean that?

The elder kept (thinking of his?) mum.

Church member 1 – In this exercise we want to learn the word of God. To be filled by the spirit once I get going. I don’t think we need to be perfect.

Church member 2 – I think we all agree about that.

Church member 3 – Then we should say, let us be spirit filled, those who are willing. 

The pastor then speaks for the first – ad last – time.

Pastor – And we’ll take thought of your view.

ME (a stuck record) to Pastor – So we don’t mean baptism in the holy spirit. All we mean is somebody who is devoted to Christ. In other words born again. True conversion true repentance. Ok fine. Say it like that. 

I had been pleading for clarity from the Elder and the Pastor on where they stood on the dividing line between “infilling of the Spirit” and “Baptism on the Spirit.” No luck. There was something amiss, if, not rotten, in the state of Denmark:

Horatio: He waxes desperate with imagination.
Marcellus: Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.
Horatio: Have after. To what issue will this come?
Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Horatio: Heaven will direct it.
Marcellus: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]

(Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91)

At the workshop, one of the members asked the Pastor whether members could start a Bible study at the church with me as the leader. The Pastor said yes. Two weeks later, we had our first Bible study session.

The following week, the Pastor phoned me and said he wants to meet with me at the church. We met a few evenings later. He said that he has decided that I stop the Bible study. I asked why. Did he receive any negative reports from attendees of the Bible study? He said, no, but he was thinking about the idea of me leading a Bible study and thought it would not be a good idea after all. I said, surely there must be a better reason. He said: You don’t hold to Anglican beliefs. I asked, which beliefs were those. He said, “You tell me what those beliefs are.” I said, “how can you ask me to tell you which beliefs you think I don’t believe in.” He persisted that I tell him what he thought I didn’t believe. I repeated, no you must tell me, not I you. He said: “You don’t believe in healing.” I said, of course, I believe that God heals. He said: “You don’t believe in the infllling of the Spirit. I said: Of course, I do. He said, you don’t believe in Pentecost. Of course I do; I believe in the incarnation, in the crucifixion in the resurrection, in the ascension, so why wouldn’t I believe in Pentecost. If you mean that I don’t believe Pentecost continues today, that is so, I don’t believe that. The Pastor said that I was wrong. I told him that as it was his church he had every right to do what he sees fit. The meeting ended on that note.

Recall that in the “Vision” workshop, the pastor did not show his cards even after I pleaded ad nauseam for clarity on the distinction between 1. “regeneration throught the Holy Spirit,” 2. “being filled with the Spirit,” which occurs throughout a Christians life and 3. the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” as a subsequent unique event after regeneration (taught by charismatic churches like the Word of Faith movement). A large number of Anglicans have become “charismatic.” My pastor was one of these.

What are these Anglican articles that the pastor says I had rejected. Recall, my pastor had accused me of rejecting “healing.” By that he meant the modern equivalent of the profusion of miracles in the New Testament. Although there is a great variety of beliefs among Anglicans, and Protestants in general – indeed among Roman Catholics as well – what is clear is that the articles of faith held by most Anglicans exclude the belief that the abundance of miracles of Jesus and the miracles of the Apostles (through Jesus), before and after Pentecost, occur today. These Anglicans are cessationists.

The pastor had few words to say in the “Vision” workshop on the “Baptism/Infilling” issue. In our meeting (above), it became clear to me that he was confusing “Baptism in the Spirit” (as a one-off second injection of power) with the “Infilling of the Spirit” (a continuous process in the Christian life).

I decided to quit my church, which grieved me because I had grown close to many of the church members. A few weeks later, I learned that another pastor was to take over most services. Things were looking up. I attended this new pastor’s first service. Being Pentecost Sunday, his sermon was on, good guess, Pentecost. Part of his sermon was on “tongues.” He said: “The bible says it (tongues) can be either a language of men or a heavenly language.” At the end of the sermon he prayed, “Please fill me with your spirit and give me the gift of the holy spirit.”

Didn’t he have the Holy Spirit, then. At the end of the service, he said, “Please come forward if you want to receive the gift of the Spirit.” If you think I was confused by the previous pastor, now, I lost my fuse. I thought, “For sure, I’m definitely outta here.” But I felt I still had to engage this pastor. I used to do this engaging during after-service fellowship, but I decided that it was too stressful for pastors/preachers (visiting ones included) immediately after a sermon, especially when it was rotten one. So I corresponded with them by email. I wrote the following email to the new pastor (who had said in his sermon: “Please come forward if you want to receive the gift of the Spirit”).

Harry (not his real name), here is a major difference between the “Pentecostal – Word of Faith” movement” (the previous pastor and it seems you) and the biblical view of the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This movement labels the event in Acts 2:4 as the “Baptism in the Spirit,” which it regards as a second and necessary stage in the Christian life. Acts 2:4, in fact, is about “filling” of the Spirit, not “baptism” of the Spirit.

Acts 2:1-4 Filled with the Spirit
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

1 Corinthians 12:13 Baptism in the Spirit.

“In one spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

This baptism in the Spirit is a one-off act of God that occurs at regeneration (being born again). The infilling of the Spirit, in contrast, is a repeated activity, as in Acts 4:8, 31; 6:5; 7:55.

Harry replied: “You have stated my position exactly. Baptism in the Spirit is a once-only event and being filled a present continuous. I was exegeting the text quite correctly, because that is what happened on the day of Pentecost. When I invited people forward to be filled with the Holy Spirit it was that exactly.”

He confuses “Come forward to be filled with the Holy Spirit,” which he did not say in the sermon (I recorded it) with “Please come forward if you want to receive the gift of the Spirit,” which he did say.

He confuses the “baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13 above), the gift of the Holy Spirit and the “infilling of the Spirit” (Pentecost). The disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit, when they were born again through this same Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the same as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Scriptures that speak of grace and faith as a gift are quite familiar (Ephesians 2, for example). There is also a scripture that explicitly says the Holy Spirit is a gift, which I quoted in my first paragraph: “… the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”(Romans 5:5b). Here is the context of that snippet in Romans 5:

[1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

To receive the gift of the Spirit is not the same as to be filled with the Spirit. Conflating the two has caused chaos (“charismatic chaos” – John MacArthur) in the Church. Also, I wonder whether you should invite people (to come forward) to be filled with the Spirit, as the pastor above did. It seems more biblical to pray to be filled as in Acts 4:24,31; 8:15ff; 9:17,31; Luke 11:13.

A serious matter. A divisive one? Absolutely. Divisive enough to look for another church or stay at home. I think so.

The Jewish heart: Why a Rabbi should not find it too hard to be a Calvinist

Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.

 The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

In his Consumer Alert! Yourphariseefriend (Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal) sounds the alarm against Christians, who consider religion like a financial transaction, a concept, he correctly says, the Jewish Bible does not teach. He makes a very important point that Christians should heed. My only criticism is that he lumps together the New Testament understanding of salvation with the majority Christian understanding of salvation (the transactional view of salvation). I shall argue that the true Christian view on salvation has much in common with the Jewish view, both of which have been at odds with major Christian movements since the resurrection.

Yourphariseefriend begins:

You may be wondering: What is a “consumer alert” doing on a blog that focuses on religion? Perhaps you never thought about it this way, but religion involves a transaction. There is an exchange taking place. The Christian missionary is encouraging you to give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.”

There is a price to pay; if not, there’ll be hell to pay. Yourphariseefriend continues: “The price you pay [the Christian says] is the devotion of your heart, the return you are promised is escape from the fires of hell and eternal bliss – after death.”

Yourphariseefriend’s aim in his “brief study” is (he writes) “to focus on those passages in the Jewish Bible that speak of the particular transaction that we are addressing in this article – giving the devotion of
your heart in exchange for a future return… One of the primary lessons of the Jewish Scripture is that the devotion of your heart is not yours to give away. It belongs to the God who created your heart in the first place.
Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 45:18, Jeremiah 10:16, Jonah 1:9, Psalm 86:9, 95:6,
100:3, Job 12:10, 35:10, Daniel 5:23 – are but some of the Scriptural
references to this teaching.”

It will be useful to look at these biblical references the rabbi has alluded to. But before we do so, we need specifics on the nature of this If-I-give-my-heart-to-you transaction so prevalent among Christians.

Some Christians say that you need to make Jesus, the Son of God, Lord of your life, which in effect means making God the Lord of your life. Whether you believe in a triune (three person – Christian) God or unitarian (one person – Jewish) God, the Rabbi’ point is that it is impossible to make God the Lord of your life owing to the fact that He is already Lord of your life. In this light, we read the scriptures the rabbi has referenced. I italicise the words that I believe are of import to the Rabbi: 

Deuteronomy 32:6 – Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?

Isaiah 45:18 – For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!):
 “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

 Jeremiah 10:16 – Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.

Jonah 1:9 – And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Psalm 86:9 – All the nations you have made shall come
 and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.

Psalm 95:6 – Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
 let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Job 12:10 – In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.

Job 35:10 – But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
 who gives songs in the night..

Daniel 5:23 – but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.


What puzzles me is the rabbi’s assertion that “the Christian missionary” (that is, all Christian misionaries) uses the above scriptures “as an endorsement for the transaction that he is encouraging,” which, the Rabbi says, he is “not authorized to enter into.” I explain: Those Christian missionaries who believe that all scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos 2 Timothy 3:16), certainly agree with the above scriptures, which amplify God’s creative act “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1), the mother of all presuppositions. So, from the point of view of God as creator, sustainer and destroyer, everything we are and have, including our hearts, belong to God. The Rabbi is right: enough already with giving “your” heart to Jesus.

At this point, there is distinction that the Rabbi, indeed all Jews, miss, namely, not all Christians believe in this transactional view, namely “give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.” Granted this is the majority Christian view, for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Charismatic, and the masses of seeker driven movements. This leaves a remnant of Christians; a “stump of stump” (Isaiah 6) who, with the Rabbi, cry foul.

Why does this Christian remnant decry this transactional view? Let me answer with a rabbinical question: “How on earth can you invite Jesus into your heart? Where in the Bible does it say such a thing? In the Bible we do indeed see God pouring his love into unregenerated hearts, but when God regenerates a sinner, this involves no invitation from the sinner to God, but is a unilateral sovereign divine merciful call. It’s called amazing grace.If you ask God to change your heart, God has changed it already, because you would never want to ask such a question unless you had the desire to do so. Where did your desire originate? Not in you but in God, who  replaced your heart of stone with a heart of flesh: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 (Also in Ezekiel 36:26). There is only one instance in the scriptures where we read about the opening of hearts. And it’s not of human but of divine initiative:

11 … sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).



What a Christian should be singing is not “change my heart, O God.” but “strengthen my heart,” in other words strengthen the “inner man,” strengthen my inner being to be more like You.

Christians of the sort the Rabbi is talking about love to sing:

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

You bet you’re the clay. The question is do you understand and accept what clay does? It lies. It’s a passive lump. I am pretty sure that if you sing this song devoutly, you believe that the Potter looked down the corridors of time and saw that when He would ask you if he could turn you into one of his pots, you would do so. Wrong, because clay, by its very nature, cannot ask the Potter to mould it. Once, however, the Potter has chosen you for one his pots, lo, a miracle: you, clay ass that you once were, get a voice, and now you can ask God to continue to mould you, embellish you, make you more beautiful. (See Change my heart, O God: Impossible: and frankly silly).

The kind of Christians the Rabbi is discussing are called in Christian theology, “synergists” (Greek “work with”), because they say God needs their cooperation to make him their Saviour and Lord. They are also called “Arminians” (after Jacob Arminius). The stump (Yiddish for stubborn) remnant of Christians are called monergists (Greek “work alone,” that is, God’s work alone). They are also called Calvinists. (See Calvinism and Arminianism for a fuller explanation).

Now you know why I am – and suggest it the best thing to be – a Jewish Calvinist. Thank you dear Rabbi Blumenthal for, if not coming to my side, taking my side on a core issue. It makes my heart feel good. If ever in your wildest you consider converting, you now know; “stump” is the way to go.



The prosperity and asperity of the Gospel: Strangers and pilgrims on this earth

John writes in his third letter to his beloved friend Gaius:

“I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers” 3 John 1, KJV). This greeting was normal for those times as it is for our times and all times. This “prosperity” simply means “best wishes,” which is entirely different to the “prosperity gospel.”

If I could ask what the “prosperity gospel” is in words of one syllable: “Why should you have to live rough and tough when God can bless you in all things? This false gospel says God has promised the believer prosperity not asperity (Latin – rough, harsh).

What is the Gospel about?

Galatians 1:3-4

Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father.

Repent, believe, trust and take up your cross and follow Christ to his death. And be raised to new life that brings Christ’s peace and joy.

Before we condemn this “prosperity gospel,” we should examine whether we do not fall into the same camp. Are we eternally minded, do we see ourselves as pilgrims on this earth, do we want more than anything to be with Christ now (in others words, the end of our earthly life), are we seeking with the great heroes of faith – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham – more than anything that better country?

Hebrews 11:13-16

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. 15 And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.

God has two plans for your life: Salvation or damnation. What about “God has a great plan for your life, release the creativity within you, God doesn’t want you ever sick, poor, stupid?” Those desires belong to this “present evil world” from which Christ came to deliver his own.

Want to be a good mechanic, clerk, lawyer, teacher, artist, theologian, husband, wife, artist, human being; but be these things as pilgrims on this earth.

Human-imposed measures of piety: No booze (hic), and celibacy


The comma in my title makes all the difference. Without the comma, it could mean “No booze and (No) celibacy.”

“In our own day,  says Kevin Reed, we meet with many humanly-imposed measures of piety. For example, some fundamentalists condemn all use of alcoholic beverages, and they use this doctrine as a measure of spirituality. For centuries, the Roman Catholic church has enjoined celibacy upon the clergy as a requirement for service. At root, the issue is still the same: ‘Do men have the right to institute supplemental measures of piety, beyond those given in scripture?'” (Kevin Reed – “Biblical worship”).

Anyone for a top up – Hic, et nunc



In search of French past (7): The hermit, the poet and the clown


In In search of French past (6): To a monastery you will go,” I described my stay at several monasteries in France. The last one was the Abbey of Lérins on the island of St Honorat off the coast of Cannes.

I don’t remember when we went to Lourdes, but this is as good a place as any to say something about it. This market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains is famous for the apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus. These apparitions were reported to have been seen by Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Lourdes is the most famous of all Marian shrines. It has the second most hotels per square kilometre after Paris. Mass pilgrimages, many for physical healing, take place from March to September. The water in the grotto is said to have healing properties. Whether it is the clear water that heals or the faith poured into it, is not clear. With regard to miraculous cures, the big difference between the Roman Catholic Church and many of the modern “Charismatic” churches, for example, the “Word of Faith” prosperity movement (Benny Hinn, TBN, God TV) is that whereas the Roman Catholic Church is very cautious about miraculous cures – only about 70 have been declared authentic since 1858 – the Word of Faith “miracles,” in contrast, are legion, and some of their names may be legion too (Mark 5:9). Here is a picture of Lourdes with the Rosary Basilica towering over the landscape.


When I was at Lourdes in 1962, the sides of the walkway down to the basilica (in the picture) were festooned with booths marketing their wares: statues of Mary and rosaries of all shapes, colours and sizes, and other objects of veneration. During the pilgrimage months, you couldn’t see the lawn for the market. Several decades later, when I had left the Roman Catholic Church for Protestantism and, consequently, read my Bible, I found a striking comparison between a passage in the book of Acts and the booths at Lourdes.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

If you want to search for other photos of Lourdes on the internet, you’ll need to search for more than Lourdes, otherwise you’ll end up with photos of Madonna – the other Madonna, and her daughter, Lourdes, in the mix.

After France, we visited a few monasteries in Italy and then on to Rome. The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) had begun the previous month. One of the monasteries was a hermitage whose name I was only able to recall with recent help. I sent two photos, one of Louis-Albert and I standing on a hill to Frère Laurent Béthoux at the Dominican priory (couvent) in Nice, France. Louis-Albert had been moved from Bordeaux to the Dominican priory in Nice, where he lived for many years until his death in 1992. I asked Frère Laurent whether he recognised the background in the photos. As there were many details lost in the fog of time past, I also asked him whether there was any record of Louis-Albert’s peregrinations for the years that I had travelled with him.

Louis-Albert and Raphael. I m wearing L-A's cape.

Louis-Albert and Raphael. I’m wearing L-A’s cape.



Louis-Albert Lassus

Louis-Albert Lassus

Frère Laurent said he thought the background in the photos was the hermitage of San Girolamo in Italy. He sent me an aerial view of the hermitage.


Here is the translation of his email to me followed by the French original in brackets:

Hello! Nothing, alas, in the papers of Father Lassus about his peregrinations. Thank you very much for these beautiful photos of the young Father Lassus. It seems to me that they were taken near the hermitage of San Girolamo in Italy. I am sending you these aerial pictures of the hermitage. Best wishes. Fr. Laurent Béthoux).

(Bonjour!  rien, hélas, dans les papiers laissés par le Père Lassus concernant ses pérégrinations. Grand merci pour ces belles photos du jeune P. Lassus : ont été prises me semble-t-il, près de l’ermitage de San Girolamo en Italie dont je vous envoie ces vues aériennes. Avec mes sentiments les meilleurs. fr. Laurent Béthoux).

Louis-Albert wrote about a dozen books, most of them on hermits; for example, Romuald of Ravenna, the hermits of Camaldoli (Les Camaldules) , Denys of Chartreux, Séraphim of Sarov, and Nazarena.

Louis-Albert never created the impression that he wanted to become a hermit. He seemed content with his life in community, not only in the Priory but also socializing with other people. On several occasions we visited his friends, sometimes spending a few days. There was an artist whose house was his studio, which he shared with his wife and several children. Finished and half-finished paintings covered the walls. Easels, brushes and twisted tubes of paint were scattered everywhere. A scruffy sofa and other soft furnishings hinted that the room was once a lounge. The artist had a son called Jean-Baptiste. He was about 14 years old. Jean-Baptiste and I went to visit the Rodin Museum. When we came upon Le Penseur “The Thinker,” Jean-Baptiste stood very still in front of the marvelous sculpture. I asked him what he was thinking. What else would you ask somebody gazing in rapture at “The Thinker”? Jean-Baptiste replied in a quivering voice: Ça me donne le cafard “It gives me the blues.” I was surprised that such a young person could be so affected by this kind of art. But I was forgetting that Jean-Baptiste was from an artist family. We walked around the museum and looked at other Rodin sculptures.  Jean-Baptiste limbered along. I tried to cheer him up, but it was no use.  He had, it seemed, lost all hope, all belief; in retrospect, he had – already at 14 years of age -lost the desire to live. I was also quite down in the dumps. Years later, I heard that he had killed himself. He was in his early twenties. I thought back to the cluttered “salon” that was his home. Did it mirror Jean-Baptiste’s turbulent soul? I often think of him. Why are you so downcast, o my John the Baptist? (See THE PASTOR, THE PENSEUR AND THE INFIDEL).

Le Penseur (The thinker) -Auguste Rodin

Le Penseur (The thinker) -Auguste Rodin

On our travels through Southern France, Louis-Albert and I stayed the night with his friends in several towns such as Narbonne and Arles, who regaled us with gourmet dinners, the finest vintage. Conviviality good food and wine and being together was good.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is

    when brothers dwell in unity!

 It is like the precious oil upon the head,

    running down upon the beard,

upon the beard of Aaron,

    running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon,

    which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

    life for evermore (Psalm 133).

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,

there’s dancing, laughter & good red wine;

at least I have always found it so,

Benedicamus Domino!

(Hilaire Belloc)

Here is a description of the hermitage of San Girolamo and the daily life of the hermits, which shows not only the stark contrast between the “world” and the monastic life, but also a radical difference between the monastic life and the communal life of the Dominican Order to which Louis-Albert belonged. This is a general description of all hermitages in the West.


The phenomenon of hermitic life was prevalent in the years between 900-1000 AD and 1100. At that time, there were many men who sought to flee the world, dedicating themselves to voluntary solitude, silence and converse with God. These were the solitary Christians, anchorites and hermits typical of the time, for whom, in accordance with the teaching of St Girolamo: “The city is a prison; solitude is paradise”. This was a particular phenomenon within the Church, which began after the fall of the Roman Empire and flourished conspicuously in around 1000 AD. The mountains of Italy were widely inhabited by these solitary hermits. They lived in wild, inaccessible places, either in caves, or in huts made of stones and wood.

A collection of these cells together formed the Hermitage. Some individuals, however, felt the need to have a common base, and so the Monastery came into existence: a place where they could live together, with adjacent cells, an oratory, a church and sometimes a cloister, a refectory, a chapter-house, a library and a scriptorium.


They always lived a solitary life within the hermitage, even though they shared the roof over their heads. They could never enter each others’ cells: at most they could walk to the confines of the cells. They could talk to each other twice a week, when they went outside the cloister, but within the restricted area they could only converse in whispers. They had an inviolable rule of silence, which always had to be obeyed. On days of abstinence, they took their meals sitting on the floor, with bare feet. Meat was never eaten in the Hermitage, and during Lent the monks abstained from dairy produce (eggs, milk, cheese etc.). The consumption of meat was only permitted when someone was ill, or going on a journey. The monks always slept in their habits, either on wooden palettes or on hard straw mattresses. They dedicated themselves to manual labour, according to their individual capacities: they dug the ground, hoed, pruned, built walls, carried stones and dressed them, made bread, cooked, made clothes, did repairs, wrote and composed. They were very charitable towards guests and to the poor. When they fell ill, they were taken to the infirmary. The dead were interred in the church, in the cemetery next to the Hermitage, or in the graveyard at Paracelsus.

I continue:

In 2002, the year of his death, Louis-Albert’s ELoge de l”enfouissement (“In praise of reclusion by a hermit of Camaldoli”) was published. It was on the spirituality of the Camaldoli hermits of Monte Corona in Italy. The English term “reclusion” does not capture the connotations of total abandonment contained in the French “enfouissement.” Fouiller means to dig deep into something. Here are some examples of how fouiller is used:

  1. Archaeological dig – fouille archéologique.

  2. To search a place thoroughly, say, for something lost. “They (fouillé) searched (fouillé) the whole house but couldn’t find him.

  3. To meditate deeply on a problem before coming to a conclusion.

The prefix en (in) added to fouiller means to dig deep into hole and bury something in it – (enfouiller). Enfouissement in the hermitic life embraces all the meanings listed above, which is to bury oneself deep below the surface of the world into the mystical sedimentations of the soul, in search of the priceless treasure.


Here is my abridgement in English of the French review of the Eloge de l’enfouissement d’un Ermite Calmaldule(“In praise of reclusion by a hermit of Camaldoli”).


The  front cover of “In praise of reclusion.

Mount Corona has a Dominican friend, Fr. Louis-Louis-Albert Lassus. He published these notes for the benefit of others. The author focuses on the key values of the hermitic life, which, above all, is his cell, the “parlour of the Holy Spirit” (“parlour” derives from French parler “to speak”). With astonishing acuity he reminds us of some of the indispensable requirements of the ordinary Christian life, namely, to accept failure and not idolise success, self-effacement, unceasing prayer, mourn our sins, not to be idle, search for God and his truth by abandoning our spiritual selfishness, serve one’s brothers with alacrity, etc. Much advice on how these will also help us to remain in the love of God. The author leaves no ambiguity about the true nature of the reclusion (“burial” enfouissement) he extols: it is a burial in God alone. Heed his call.”

(Monte Corona à un ami dominicain, le Fr. Louis-Louis-Albert Lassus. Le Fr. Lassus eut le projet de publier ces notes pour que d’autres âmes en profitent. L’auteur veut souligner les valeurs fondamentales de la vie d’ermite. Avant tout la garde de la cellule, « parloir du Saint-Esprit ». Avec une acuité qui nous étonnera, il nous rappelle par la même occasion certaines exigences incontournables de toute vie chrétienne ordinaire : savoir accepter l’échec et ne pas idolâtrer le succès, veiller au recueillement, à la prière continuelle, pleurer ses péchés, ne pas rester dans l’oisiveté, chercher Dieu en vérité en abandonnant son égoïsme spirituel, servir ses frères avec disponibilité, etc. Autant de conseils qui nous aideront à demeurer aussi dans l’amour de Dieu. L’auteur ne laisse pas d’ambiguïté sur la véritable nature de l’enfouissement dont il fait l’éloge : c’est un enfouissement en Dieu seul. Un appel à suivre).

Being a devout and freshly baptised Roman Catholic, I was in awe of mystics, hermits and the like. Many decades later, I have changed my view. “Hermitic” for me now evokes “hermetic.” “Hermetic” means literally, completely sealed, especially against the escape or entry of air, and figuratively, impervious to outside interference or influence. We speak of the hermetic confines of an isolated life.

Historical linguistics teaches us that meanings of words often change over time. One must, therefore, take care not to ascribe past meanings of words to their contemporary meanings. For example, “hermetic” originates from Hermes Trismegistus (thrice great), a name attributed to an Egyptian priest or to the Egyptian god Thoth, who in some attributes is identified with the Greek god Hermes. Various alchemical, mystical, astrological, and writings were ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus . Although, we should take care not to conflate past meanings with modern meanings – I’m sure that no one in the packing business is thinking of Hermes or alchemy when they hermetically seal an item, there are occasions when such conflation may provide new insights into the modern meaning of a word. The literary technique of “deconstruction” (fathered by Jacques Derrida) digs, playfully and seriously, into the hidden sedimentations (etymologies) of language, which reminds me of the extreme hermitic forms of purifying oneself of the dross of the world and of self, striving like the alchemist, to transmute base metals into gold. The alchemist in the material realm – divination, the hermit in the spiritual domain – divinisation.

Although Louis-Albert was passionate about the hermitic way of life, this passion didn’t express itself in the desire to abandon his Dominican life for a hermitage. A reader of his books might be forgiven for inferring that his passion about the hermitic life was a yearning for reclusion. “Nomad,” not “hermit” sums him up best. He writes in his Les nomades de Dieu (1974, “The nomades of God”:

“I have been and am nothing more than a nomad, the man with a suitcase. I have run all over the world, never ceasing to encourage those of my kind, monks and nuns, and sometimes tramps and the unstable of every kind. I told them never to stop because it is they who yank the church out of its sluggish complacency.”

(Je n’ai été et ne suis qu’un nomade, l’homme à la valise. J’ai couru le monde, ne cessant d’encourager ceux et celles de ma race, moines et moniales, et parfois clochards et instables de toute sorte. Je leur ai dit de ne jamais s’arrêter car ils arrachent l’Église et le monde à l’installation et à la torpeur).

If you can’t imagine tramps (les clochards) and the unstable rattling the Church’s complacency, if you think tramps are not famous for getting off their bums, and would, therefore, not be in a position to inspire the Roman Curia to pull their fingers out of their own bums, then you can’t be French or a Francophile. Charlot (Charlie Chaplin) the tramp, the clown (pronounced “cloon” in French) means much more to French than to English speakers. Louis-Albert often talked about the sadness of clowns. In his room, Rouault’s clown hung on his wall.

George Rouault; The clown.

George Rouault; The clown.


 And then there’s the vagabond, Arthur Rimbaud, the French symbolist poet, another nomad. Rimbaud’s biography, in brief, can be found hereHere is one of Rimbaud’s poems, Ma Bohème (Fantaisie) “My Bohemian life (A fantasy).” The original French follows the English translation:

I went off with my hands in my torn coat pockets;

My overcoat too was becoming ideal;

I travelled beneath the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal;

Oh dear me! what marvelous loves I dreamed of!

My only pair of breeches had a big hole in them.

Stargazing Tom Thumb, I sowed rhymes along my way.

My tavern was at the Sign of the Great Bear.

My stars in the sky rustled softly.

And I listened to them, sitting on the road-sides

On those pleasant September evenings while I felt drops

Of dew on my forehead like vigorous wine;

And while, rhyming among the fantastical shadows,

I plucked like the strings of a lyre the elastics

Of my tattered boots, one foot close to my heart!

Je m’en allais, les poings dans mes poches crevées ;

Mon paletot aussi devenait idéal;

J’allais sous le ciel, Muse ! et j’étais ton féal ;

Oh ! là là ! que d’amours splendides j’ai rêvées !

Mon unique culotte avait un large trou.

- Petit-Poucet rêveur, j’égrenais dans ma course

Des rimes. Mon auberge était à la Grande Ourse.

- Mes étoiles au ciel avaient un doux frou-frou

Et je les écoutais, assis au bord des routes,

Ces bons soirs de septembre où je sentais des gouttes

De rosée à mon front, comme un vin de vigueur ;

Où, rimant au milieu des ombres fantastiques,

Comme des lyres, je tirais les élastiques

De mes souliers blessés, un pied près de mon coeur !

We saw earlier that Louis-Albert extols the hermit’s cell le parloir de Dieu, the parlour of God, where God speaks (French parler) in the silence; the only sound the flicker of the candle flame. Yet, the tramp, the vagabond, the nomad – if only in their mind or their poetry – rebels against incarceration; of both body and mind. They must always be on the move. Space offers vistas of opportunity. Rimbaud’s nature speaking to him alone: sky, stars, the Great Bear, the open road. Always departing, never arriving, yet wanting to possess – oneself most of all. “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it?” (André Gide). Rimbaud’s “nature,” as with most poets, is his spiritual milk, his substitute mother. Louis-Albert’s mother, in contrast, is not nature, fallen nature (corrupted by sin) but the sinless “Mother of God.”’

Jesus said “Unless you become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Louis-Albert said “Unless you become as an owl….” Si tu ne deviens comme un hibou (the title of chapter 1 of Louis-Albert’s La prière est une fête “Prayer is a celebration,” 1978). He writes (I translate):

I’ve always loved owls and I can’t understand why they are regarded as birds of ill omen…you have to become an owl yourself to cease to be afraid of themselves… I love their eyes, those enormous eyes, those eyes like icons. They fascinated the Byzantines long before me. For them, owls became the eyes of Christ Pantocrator (Greek pan “all”; cratos power), of the All Pure, of the angels and the saints. Is this blasphemy, a sacrilege? Come on now! Can’t you see, you who are wise, don’t you see, you with your rational rheumy (chassieux) eyes, you, men and women, with small half-closed eyes that God made the owls eyes so enormous to see in the night, when things are what they are and nothing else? To plumb (fouiller) the darkness…Then the darkness becomes light.” (Fouiller – ferret, pry, frisk, scan, examine, dig into, investigate, explore, plumb).

Earlier in the discussion of Louis-Albert’s “In praise of reclusion by a hermit of Camaldoli” Eloge de l’enfouissement d’un Ermite Calmaldule, I said more about fouiller).





I am reminded of an incident at boarding school in my final school year. One evening we went to a hall in town to see a Billy Graham film. I was overcome. I “made a decision” for Christ. A few weeks later, I was preaching to the boys at the Homestead. We used one of the dormitories. No standing room. They were standing in rows on the beds, supporting themselves against the dormitory walls. They were sitting on the floor between the beds. On one occasion, Jan Malan, lumbered into the hushed dorm with his owl in a cage, tight shorts hugging his  khaki crack.  This photo captures the feathery camouflage, eyes lost in shadow of Jan’s owl.

The grey  of the owl’s feathers  matched the dim-wit glaze in Jan eyes.  The focus shifted from spiritual things to the owl, from one spiritual thing to another spiritual thing, from the revealed Word of God to omens. It’s very important, for what is to follow – to know whether the omen was Greek or Roman. For the Greek, the owl augurs good fortune – the “wise old owl”, the messenger of Athene, the goddess of wisdom. If an owl flew over the Greek army before a battle, it foretold victory. The Romans borrowed the owl –as they did most things – from the Greeks. The Romans were not sure whether the owl was Arthur or Martha. On the one hand, they made the owl the companion of their own goddess of wisdom, Minerva. On the other hand, the hoot of an owl meant imminent disaster. The hoot of an owl predicted the murder of Julius Caesar. The only way to thwart the owl was to kill  it.

I told everyone to close their eyes – “not one eye open” was one of the phrases I picked up somewhere in my very short exposure to preaching. If I had known the whole altar call speech it would have gone like this:

At this time, I’m going to ask those of you who have a need in your life for God’s touch to slip up your hand, with every head bowed and every eye closed. No one will see you. We’re not here to embarrass you in any way. If you’d like us to pray withyou, I’d like you to slip out of your seats while every head is bowed and come to the front, where our team of counsellors will meet with you. This is YOUR special time, it’s just between you and God. No one is peeking. As the choir very softly sings “Just As I AM”, I’d like you to search your heart. If you feel God calling you, get up out of your seats right now and come to this altar, and our specially trained counsellors will be happy to pray with you and give you some helpful literature to guide you in your new Christian walk.”

I couldn’t see the owl, because of the press. Had he one eye closed? I was too ignorant to understand that this type of altar call – perhaps any kind of altar call – is not the way to evangelise. Many evangelists and preachers use this instant coffee approach.

In the dormitory, there was no standing room. Everyone was standing, including on the beds. You could have heard a feather drop. How was anyone to know that it was not only one of the owl’s feathers that would drop? It happened so suddenly . Where a moment before, everything was rapturous attentive, suddenly a flurry of feathers and a wild surge of screaming and shouting boys jumping over one another making for the dormitory door. Jan’s owl had fled the cage.   The terrified bird was trying to find its way between the forest of stampeding legs. It got swallowed up in the crush of the fleeing  mob. The dorm was now empty; except for Jan, the feathers and me; and the poor owl dead on the floor.

At the time I never asked God why this strange thing happened. I can’t understand to this day, what I was doing preaching to crowds so soon after “giving my heart” to Jesus. Many decades later I learnt that you can’t give your heart to Jesus; he takes it, your heart of stone, and gives you a new heart, a heart of soft warm flesh. (See THE RABBI, THE EVANGELIST AND COMING “HOME.”).



What I am going to say now about the monastic, contemplative and hermitic life, and Roman Catholicism in general would probably have hurt my dear friend Louis-Albert with whom I had shared so much.

For about two decades, Catholicism was not only intellectually impressive to me, it also appealed to the “deeper” spiritual side. Not only could you theologise and philosophise about God, you could also become one with Him. I read the mystics. The two outstanding ones are St John of Cross (I wrote about his “Dark night of the senses” whom I wrote about here) and Teresa of Avila.

The mystical kind of spirituality is very popular today among all kinds of religions and non-religions. Those who get tired of the world yearn for an experiential connection to God. But, this yearning downplays the place of faith and Scripture. It exalts “transcendental” experiences that propel the person out of the mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer. If any practice – be it prayer, or some other contemplative practice – does not square with the Bible, it is not of God. For this reason, mystical meditation and “centering” (Richard Foster, Abbot Thomas Keating) is more a flight of fancy than Biblical Christianity. Biblical spirituality involves the study and meditation upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality, in contrast, looks for a “deeper meaning”, where scripture is regarded as allegorical rather than literal (the normal meaning of grammar, meaning and context, where history does not become allegory).

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Jesus, the Son God, writes Andrew Murray, is our High Priest. Our boldness of access is not a state we produce in ourselves by meditation or effort. No, the living, loving High Priest, who is able to sympathise and gives grace for timely help, He breathes and works this boldness in the soul that is willing to lose itself in Him. Jesus, found and felt within our heart by faith, is our boldness. As the Son, whose house we are, He will dwell within us, and by His Spirit’s working, Himself be our boldness and our entrance to the Father. Let us, therefore, draw near with boldness!” (Andrew Murray, “The Holiest of All,” Oliphants, 1960, p. 174).

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we read:

No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). The Church invites us to invoke the Holy Spirit as the interior Teacher of Christian prayer” (CCC 2681).

It is not the (Catholic) Church who invites us (Christians), but Christ. He invites us (who is His body, the “church”)  through his Word (the scriptures) to invoke the Holy Spirit to dwell in us in a deeper way.  “He breathes and works this boldness in the soul that is willing to lose itself in Him” (Murray above).

Here is a response I received from a Catholic with regard to my argument that if prayer (for example, what I described as “transcendental” prayer) does not  square with the biblical kind of prayer, then this non-biblical kind of prayer is not talking to God, the God of the Bible.

My respondent says: “How can you say that …But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer…’ Your narrow minded, prescriptive view of the world is really sad. The sadness is that you really believe the nonsense you sprout. God is infinite – to limit him to one narrow written tradition, and to damn all other prayer is arrogance which is breath taking.”

Yes, I do limit valid prayer to one “narrow written tradition.” That is the difference between many Catholics, for example, Thomas Merton (whom I wrote about here) and Carlo Carretto (whom I wrote about here).

In Newsweek, Sept 2005, appeared a feature article  “Spirituality in America.” It said: “Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God.” The article went on to describe the Catholic use of Buddhist’s teachings. For example, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, noticed how attracted Roman Catholics were to the Eastern religious practices As a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature to the Abbot. Americans, like everybody else, is looking for transcendental prayer, transcendental meditation (TM), which could, it seems, also stand for “Trappist Meditation.”

The contemplative life. Here again, people left the world to pray for the world and to be closer to God. “The act of contemplation, imperfect as it needs be, is of all human acts one of the most sublime, one of those which render the greatest honor to God, bring the greatest good to the soul, and enable it most efficaciously to become a means of salvation and manifold blessing to others.” (NewAdvent).

In the last decade, contemplation as a fruitful pursuit is gaining in popularity. A popular modern author on this topic is Richard Foster. He says:

The apostle Paul withdrew for thirteen years from the time of his conversion until he began his ministry at Antioch. He probably spent three years in the desert and then approximately ten years in his home town of Tarsus. During that time he no doubt experienced a lot of solitude. This was followed by a period of very intense activity as Paul carried out his mission to the Gentiles. Paul needed both solitude and activity, and so do we. (Richard Foster, “Solitude” in Practical Christianity. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1986), 305.”

I gather from the Apostle Paul’s life that he did very little withdrawing, but was continually in the thick of people. Having said that, it is true that “time spent in quiet prostration of soul before the Lord is most invigorating. . . . Quietude, which some men cannot abide, because it reveals their inner poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty designs to walk. . . . Priceless as the gift of utterance may be, the practice of silence in some aspects far excels it” (Charles Spurgeon in his “Lectures to students”).

The Bible advocates time for solitary devotion, prayer and adoration of God, but not the kind of sustained and continuous withdrawal from life. Why does the Bible not contain any pattern of isolation? One might respond that an argument from silence is no argument at all, that is, just because the Bible doesn’t say anything explicit about leaving the world for a hermitage, this does not mean that it is wrong to do so. My response: the Bible stresses in many places the importance of community, how Christians are knitted together in the Body of Christ, that I should not be an Island; as much as I often wish I was.

“Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water [the "water" of the Holy Spirit] let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised: 24 and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh” (Hebrews 10:22-25).

“Be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).

This does not mean you can never have a pious tipple – even if you are a Calvinist. But it does mean that the melodies you sing be sincere and true; for example, if you are going to sing “I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo, Lord,” don’t add “but not yet.”


The deadish ISH and darkish darkness of the unregenerate: The libertarian view

How spiritually dead is natural man? Not so dead, say the majority of Christians. They say that they are free to “give their heart” to Jesus – and any time they choose – whom they trust, as Doris Day sings about giving her heart to her suitor, who will handle it with care. So, they say, when the Bible says we were “dead in sin,” it doesn’t mean stone dead but merely deadish; a deadish ISH (“man”in Hebrew).

This is how they read Ephesians 2:1-5:

1 And you did he make alive, when ye were deadISH through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:–
4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were deadISH through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved).

And what will these libertarians say about the darkness of the natural soul, of the human will?

Isaiah 9:2 “They that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” And: “Ephesians 5:8
“You were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

This: “You were once darkISH, but now have more light in the Lord: walk as children of more light.”

They do not understand or refuse to understand the starkness of the darkness: the natural man is unable to want and doesn’t want a saviour, especially a bloody one. It is foolishness to him.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. 22 Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; 24 but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Here is Jonathan Edwards who sheds a brilliant light on the dark darkness of the unregenerate soul. How could such radical corruption give its heart or life to Christ?

“This lower world before the fall enjoyed noonday light, the light of the knowledge of
God, the light of his glory, and the light of his favour. But when man fell, all this light
was at once extinguished, and the world reduced back again to total darkness, a worse
darkness than that which was in the beginning of the world, that we read of in Gen.
1:2, “And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the
deep.” This was a darkness a thousand times less redeemable than that. Neither men
nor angels could find out any way whereby this darkness might be scattered. This
darkness appeared in its blackness then, when Adam and his wife saw that they were
naked, and sewed fig leaves, and when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking
in the garden, and hid themselves among the trees of the garden, and when God first
called them to an account, and said to Adam, “What is this that thou hast done? – Hast
thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee, that thou should not eat?” Then
we may suppose that their hearts were filled with shame and terror. But these words of
God, Gen. 3:15, were the first dawning of the light of the gospel after this darkness ( Jonathan Edwards, “History of redemption.”

There are many professing Christians who say, “What have I to do with Adam?” Which sharpens Edwards’ point; and thickens their darkness.

Related: Dead, dead, see I am dead: How to soup up a sermon on regeneration

My Gospel: Much ado about noting


There are fictitious stories and non-fictitious stories. French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, said that we tell stories because human lives need and merit to be told. Writing stories is one of the noblest employments of the mind and soul. Most good stories aim at knowledge and wisdom. This aim is most evident in life stories: biographies. For many professing Christians, most of the value of Bible stories lies in what they tell them about themselves, not what they tell them about God. Story, writes Leslie Leyland Fields, is all the rage. Everyone pants to tell their personal narrative or to give the Bible a simpler and more relevant plot. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea.” (The Gospel Is More Than a Story: Rethinking Narrative and Testimony). (See The Gospel is more and less than a story).

I’m reminded of Reconstructionist-Reform Judaism (most Jews fall in this category), which sees the Bible as man-made stories that bind the Jewish community together. Actually, it’s much more than about community. In a sense, the Bible is often less than about community; it’s about self.

You yourself, and I myself, says Martyn Lloyd Jones, are our greatest enemies. The 
curse of life is that we are all self-centred. We live for self instead of for God, and thus we are selfish, we are jealous, and we are envious. As Paul puts it, we are ‘hateful, and hating one another’ (Titus 3:3). Why? Because we are out for ourselves. Instead of living 
to God, in worship of Him and to His glory, we have all made ourselves [into] gods.” That’s, at bottom, the meaning of “total depravity”: we have made ourselves gods rather than God’s. (See Kinda Christianity”: The Bible as stories about ourselves; our gods).

Here is the French Jesuit,
Jean-Pierre Causssade, famous among Roman Catholic contemplatives for his 
handbook “Abandonment to divine providence,” Here is an excerpt from Caussade for whom the Gospel is merely “a tiny stream” in comparison to the river that God 
is dying  to pour into you.

The Holy Spirit continues to
carry on the work of our Saviour. While helping the Church to preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, He writes His own Gospel in the hearts of the just. All
their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.
The souls of the saints are the paper, the sufferings and actions the ink. The 
Holy Spirit with the pen of His power writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that
 cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on 
the day of eternity….Teach me, divine Spirit, to read in this book of life. I desire to become Your 
disciple and, like a little child, to believe what I cannot understand, and cannot
see. Sufficient for me that it is my Master who speaks. He says that! He
 pronounces this! He arranges the letters in such a fashion! He makes Himself 
heard in such a manner! That is enough. I decide that all is exactly as He says.
I do not see the reason, but He is the infallible truth, therefore all that He
 says, all that He does is true. He groups His letters to form a word, and 
different letters again to form another word. There may be three only, or six;
 then no more are necessary, and fewer would destroy the sense. He who reads
 the thoughts of men is the only one who can bring these letters together, and
 write the words. All has meaning, all has perfect sense. This line ends here 
because He makes it do so. Not a comma is missing, and there is no
 unnecessary full-stop. At present I believe, but in the glory to come when so
 many mysteries will be revealed, I shall see plainly what now I so little 
understand. Then what appears to me at present so intricate, so perplexing, so
foolish, so inconsistent, so imaginary, will all be entrancing and will delight me
 eternally by the beauty, order, knowledge, wisdom, and the incomprehensible
 wonders it will all display.” (Mystical YOUnion: Do you want God to write a Gospel about you or are you aching to write it yourself?). 

Something is amiss in this mystical effusion, namely, the belief that besides the “Gospel” proper, which for Caussade means the scriptures, there is another Gospel, a Gospel for you and for me. It seems quite possible that God takes copious notes on each individual’s story, but should we call that individual story another Gospel, even if we mean it metaphorically? The word of God in the scriptures “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16). The focus of Christians should not be on the memorable, momentous “Gospel” God is writing about their lives, but on the historic remarkable life of Jesus Christ. 

Owing to the fact that Caussade is both a Roman Catholic and a contemplative, and a Jesuit,  it comes as no no surprise he writes in such an imaginative way; the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola’s “Exercises” (in imagination) are famous among Roman Catholics. Caussade’s drift seems  to be that unless the Gospel story is faithful to “my story,” it has little significance. Martin Luther would execrate such chutzpa. Many modern Lutherans would do likewise. There are other Lutherans, however, who would love Caussade’s idea of one person, one Gospel – a typical postmodern pursuit. For example, Walter Brueggemann does not consider theology and Bible interpretation a matter of certainty but of fidelity; fidelity to 1. the “divine office of creative imagination” (Ignatius Loyola?) and 2. to the “other.” 

For Brueggemann any interaction between 1. certitude, which he considers limited because it is restricted to a single meaning (univocity) and 2. fidelity, should be discarded. We should rather, as Jacques Derrida says, remain open to “an unlimited number of contexts over an indefinite period of time,” and thus to unrestricted interaction between suffering persons desiring to tell their personal stories. The biblical story for the imaginative is about always departing never arriving, unless it arrives at the front door of my singular story. (The postmodern pursuit: Always departing, never arriving). There are many Lutherans, thankfully, who have not taken this postmodern turn.

Compared to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our “Gospel” is much ado about nothing. If you don’t agree stop singing those silly songs, “It’s not about me Lord, it’s all about you-hoo-hoo-hoo.” Who again?




Of Fundamentalists and Fundaments: the Divine Expiration of Torah


Paul , the Apostle, and Rabelais: Of fundamentalists and bottoms

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

“Fundamentalist” can mean many things to different people. What is the traditional Orthodox Jewish view of a fundamentalist Christian?

“…to the fundamentalist Christian – says Rabbi Simchah Roth – the whole of the Bible (and specifically what he terms the ‘Old Testament’) is the directly revealed word of God; while ancient Jewish tradition has ascribed that quality to the Torah, which is not true of the prophets and writings.”

Barry Freundel expresses a similar opinion. In his “Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s response to modernity, p. 11, he says” “While the prophets and the Writings also contain revelations from God, these do not achieve the level of the Mosaic revelation, and, as we have said are not sources of law. Rather they tell us a history, exhort to follow God’s commands, and offer understanding of the human condition.”

So the above Jewish hashkafah (perspective) of the Jewish Bible says that only the…

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Let the Gospel that rips up and tears and cuts even kills sink into your soul

“Avoid a sugared gospel as you would shun
sugar of lead. Seek that gospel
which rips up and tears and cuts
and wounds and hacks and even
kills, for that is the gospel that
makes alive again. And when you
have found it, give good heed to it.
Let it enter into your inmost being.
As the rain soaks into the ground, so
pray the Lord, let his gospel soak
into your soul.”

Charles Spurgeon

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Theological Memeology: The Noble Pagan


As the writer explains so well, the reason why people are sent to hell – they don’t choose to go there – is because they love darkness.

Definitions: We all know what genes  are so we don’t need to wrangle  about that. And memes. If you said it’s about me me, look at me-me, you would not be far off the mark. Memes are bits of our social selves that we transmit through time and space. I think it was the evangelist Richard Dawkins, who coined the term “meme.” Now what does  the person who believes that life’s main purpose is transmitting his genes  and memes fixate upon? Yep, me-me.

“What was that you said, Richard Dawkins is an evangelist?”

For sure, he is.

Originally posted on KINGDOMVIEW:

photo 4.PNGHere’s our first meme to examine. Let’s think through the message and implication of that message.

In this meme we have what appears to be an Eskimo fishing while speaking to an unseen Christian priest/missionary. The Eskimo asks whether those who are ignorant of God’s righteous character and our moral rebellion against him would, in light of that very ignorance, be held accountable. The priest/missionary replies “No, not if you did not know.” The Eskimo’s response is the key to understanding the single point of the meme, “Then why did you tell me?” According to the rationale of the meme’s creator, Christians appear to hold to 3 contradictory beliefs: a) Those who reject the message of sin and the forgiveness provided by the cross-work of Jesus are eternally damned (i.e. go to hell), b) it is the Christian’s job to tell as many people as possible the message of sin and…

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Did Vatican II really let more of scripture be her guide?


The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims that the fruit of this Council is an updated vision and based on Scripture. Pope John Paul II referred to Vatican II as “a compass with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium.” The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) began on October 11, 1962, and officially ended on December 8, 1965. Vatican II brought many profound changes to the RCC.

Here are some of the major outcomes of Vatican II:

1. Renewing the liturgy. The Mass could be celebrated in the vernacular instead of Latin. The priest no longer celebrated the Mass with his back to the congregation facing the altar. Pope Benedict XIV (Ratzinger) was not happy with these changes, because he said for the priest to do the Mass ad populum “toward the people,” belittles the meaning of the Mass as the sacrifice of Christ. 

2. Greater emphasis was placed on Scripture, reflected in reforms to the missal – the book of instructions and texts used for the Mass. Bible-study groups were also encouraged. Protestants would say that a greater emphasis on scripture should have led to studying it more deeply leading to questions of the validity of doctrines that cannot be extrapolated from the Bible; doctrines such as the “Treasury of merit” and Marian doctrines of the “immaculate conception,” the “assumption” (Mary not dying but taken to heaven like Elijah) and Mary as mediatrix – the “neck” between the Head (Christ) and believers (the “church”). The “treasury of merit” is related to indulgences. Here is article 1478 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins.” The Bible is clear that it is only the merits of Christ, not of anyone else, that remit punishment for sins; Christ the holy purifier from the poison of sin, the one who sits at the right hand of God the Father. With regard to “saints,” these in the Bible refer to all those who are born of God (born again). 

3. Lay people to be regarded as equal members with the hierarchy. All who are in Christ, without distinction or exception, are called to be holy. To be true to scripture, which the Council endeavoured to do, they added, a holy “priesthood.” “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). This holy “priesthood,” however, is far removed from the non-biblical “priesthood” of “holy orders,” namely, those priests who sacrifice Christ on the altar at every Mass: 1 Peter 2 – “4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The divide between these two priesthoods is as wide as that between the wafer before and after consecration: infinite. 

4. Acknowledging God’s presence beyond the Church. The Holy Spirit is working in all religions, including “our separate Christian brothers” (Protestants). Ecumenical efforts should be made to foster dialogue with all religions. The Catholic Church, since Vatican II (1962-65), has radically changed its attitude towards inter-religious dialogue. Thomas Merton and other Catholic devotees of Eastern thought had a significant influence on changing Rome’s attitude to non-Christian religions.

Peter Kreeft, the Catholic philosopher and apologist, in his “Ecumenical Jihad,” sounds the modern Cathslamic call: “We can and should investigate and learn from the wisdom in other religions” (Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.79). “Allah is not another God…we worship the same God”(Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.30). “The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God the Jews-and the Muslims-worship.” (Ibid. p. 160). (See God’s got sons by the tons: Ecumenical Jihad, ecumenical Shmeehad and  The influence of Universalism on society and the church).

The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge,preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (NostraAetate 2 – (NostraAetate is the Declaration onthe relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965). (See Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate).

Here is Pope John Paul II receiving the mark of the adorers of the Hindu god Shiva, February 2, 1986.


pope john paul hindu

Here is a RCC  tabernacle with a  budhha atop at John Paul’s inter-religious prayer meeting in Assisi, 1986.

catholic Tabernacle with a squattin buddha atop

(see Most Holy Family Monastery website).

The sacred writings of Islam, says Pope Francis, have retained some Christian teachings; Jesus and Mary receive profound veneration and it is admirable to see how Muslims both young and old, men and women, make time for daily prayer and faithfully take part in religious services. Many of them also have a deep conviction that their life, in its entirety, is from God and for God. They also acknowledge the need to respond to God with an ethical commitment and with mercy towards those most in need.” (Paragraph 253 – Apostolic Exhortation Evabgelii Gaudiam of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful on the Proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

No surprise; we find the same sentiment in the (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 841): The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. ‘The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.’” 

Visualise (and if you’re a mystic, envision) Paul, the Apostle, transposed to our times saying “Muslims (and Jews) adore the one merciful God, so it doesn’t matter if they don’t believe the following report. 

1. Who has believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3. He was despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53).

And 1 Peter 2:

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Paul said of such gainsayers: “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1).

5. Accepting the world. Roman Catholic theology regards people as essentially good. For this reason, it hopes for the restoration of the whole world, which began with the advent of Christ, and which will be perfected when Christ returns at the end of time. The question is, if everyone is born dead in sin (the doctrine of Original Sin), which only baptism, says catholic teaching, can remove, how does this harmonise with the idea that people are essentially good. Vatican II aspires to put a greater emphasis on scripture, yet in regard to this essential doctrine of the radical corruption of human nature, which scripture makes so clear, it balks at offending the world it wants so much to please. “… having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh (essentially, in your human nature), God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:12-13).

The doctrine of papal infallibility was announced dogmatically at Vatican 1 (1869-1870). Vatican I also announced dogmatically that there is no salvation “outside the Church,” that is, those who are not members of the RCC. Vatican II changed all that (infallibly?) and much more. Just because a thing changes doesn’t mean it, or what it changed from, was the sane thing.







In search of French past (6): To a monastery you will go

At the end of  In search of French past (5): Why are you so downcast, oh my soul?  I described how Albert-Louis and I met. One Sunday after Mass at St Julien le Pauvre in Paris, I was sitting on a bench in the courtyard when a Dominican priest, sat down next to me. He said he was sitting close to me during the Mass and was struck by my fervor. His name was Louis-Albert Lassus, an itinerant retreat master serving the monasteries of Europe. His birth name was Louis and his priest name, given at ordination, was Albert. I admired the monastic life very much; most Roman Catholics do, especially recent converts like me. I found Roman Catholicism not only intellectually impressive, it also appealed to the “deeper” mystical side, the nectar of the soul. Louis-Albert invited me to his priory in Bordeaux. This was the beginning of many journeys and retreats with Louis-Albert in different monasteries in France and other parts of Europe. A few weeks later, I quit my job at the food depot and joined Louis-Albert in Bordeaux whence we departed on our peregrinations “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10).

Before Louis-Albert and I leave Bordeaux on our journey, I say something briefly about the rationale, or rather mysticale, for the monastic life. In brief, monasticism in all religions is the struggle to overcome concupiscence (lust, inordinate desire): the lust of the flesh, of the eyes and of the pride of life for the soul and sole purpose of uniting with God. The most conducive environment for this purpose is generally considered to be reclusion (permanent seclusion) – in a monastery or hermitage. A key verse for such aspirations in Christendom is 1 John 2:15-17: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.

Here is the Haydock Roman Catholic Commentary on 1 John 2:16:

All that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, under which is comprehended all that pleases the senses, or the concupiscence of the eyes; i.e. a longing after such things which enter by the eyes, as of riches in gold and silver, in apparel, in houses and palaces, train and equipage, &c. curiosity as to vain arts and sciences; or, the pride of life, as to honours, dignities, and preferments. But the world passes away, and all these things that belong to it. — He that doth the will of God, abides for ever, with God in heaven.”

Matthew Henry’s Protestant commentary below says practically the same thing. Protestants, though, would would not seclude yourself away from world to be close to God.

The things of the world are classed according to the three ruling inclinations of depraved nature. 1. The lust of the flesh, of the body: wrong desires of the heart, the appetite of indulging all things that excite and inflame sensual pleasures. 2. The lust of the eyes: the eyes are delighted with riches and rich possessions; this is the lust of covetousness. 3. The pride of life: a vain man craves the grandeur and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this includes thirst after honour and applause. The things of the world quickly fade and die away; desire itself will ere long fail and cease, but holy affection is not like the lust that passes away. The love of God shall never fail.”

These three concupiscences incite the corruption of morals, indifference, unbelief, pride; in sum, the rejection of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church claims to be the divinely appointed guardian and restorer of the virtues. Here is Pope Gregory XIV in the introduction to the first volume of the works of Bernard of Clairvaux, describing the strides that the Church has made in controlling concupiscence. I translate from the French, which follows in brackets:

“Societies and their institutions have undergone essential modifications: polygamy is eschewed, divorce abolished, monogamy uplifts ennobles marriage and defines the family; the wife is liberated and rediscovers her dignity as encouraged in the Gospel; chastity purifies morals; celibacy, embraced by a multitude of Christians, becomes the yardstick of higher vocations; maternity is given due honour and respect; and, above maternity, hovers the angelic virtue of virginity, which elevates the soul to a heavenly perfection. (Italics added). All these facts attest to the tempering of the flesh (the “law of he flesh”) and the beginning of a return to the unity of the spirit.

(French: Les sociétés et leurs institutions subissent des modifications essentielles; la polygamie est réprouvée, le divorce aboli; la monogamie ennoblit le mariage et constitue la famille; la femme, affranchie, reprend sa dignité avec la liberté que l’Évangile lui présente; la chasteté purifie les mœurs; le célibat, embrassé par une multitude de chrétiens, devient la condition des vocations supérieures; la maternité est entourée d’honneur et de respect; et, au dessus de la maternité, plane une vertu angélique : la virginité, qui élève les âmes à la perfection du ciel. Tous ces faits attestent l’affaiblissement de la loi charnelle et le commencement du retour à l’unité de l’esprit).

It’s very hard for most to remain celibate or virginal in this world, and consequently to rise to the virtuous heights of angelic beings, who, by nature, are sexless. Is the solution a monastery? Much more, of course, goes on in a monastery than the mortification of the body. I describe monastic life as I go along on my journey.

I stayed with Louis-Albert in the residence of the Dominican Order in Bordeaux for a few days.

We left Bordeaux for several monasteries where Louis-Albert would lead retreats for the monks and nuns. Our first monastery was a Carmelite monastery for nuns deep in the hills. I don’t recall its name. We spent about a week there. The Roman Catholic Church has decreed that The Carmelite Order is under the special protection of the Virgin Mary, and therefore it has a strong devotion to her. But then, all monastic orders, in fact all Roman Catholic priests, indeed all Catholics have a special devotion to Mary, regarding her as the mother of all graces and the way to Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus, the head, Mary, the neck, the conduit between the head and the Body of Christ – the Church. The “Church” for Romans Catholics means the Pope and his Magisterium in Rome; for Protestants it means believers.

Newly converted Roman Catholics often acquire very quickly a strong devotion to Mary. When I was a student at the University of Cape Town, there was another Jewish student Andrew (not his real name), who was taking instruction with me in the Catholic faith at Kolbe House, the university residence and chaplaincy. Father Peter Paul Feeney was the chaplain and our instructor in the faith. At the end of our instruction, Fr Peter Paul baptised us together. During our year of Catholic instruction together at Kolbe House, Andrew and I used to spend time sharing our joy in our new found faith – two wondering Jews wandering no more. I had rented a room in a quiet part of Rondebosch near Kolbe House. Andrew lived in the main residence on campus. Whenever Andrew talked about Catholic things, his voice quivered, his eyes shone; he was in love. I was not too far behind him. He had a special love for the mother of Jesus. Many Catholics tend to gravitate to the mother of Jesus more than to her Son. This is generally true not only of born Catholics but also of converts. There’s just something special about “Mother”, Ma-me-le (Yiddish). If you can have a heavenly father, why can’t you have a heavenly mother. Sometimes your father can be so “other.” That’s why you need mother. Mary’s role for Catholics, though, is far more than that, as several papal encyclicals make clear. For example: “Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind. And that is not all. As a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that salvific power of his which is meant to help man in his misfortunes, to free him from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon his life. (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater: On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church, 1987.03.25). (See Enough already with serving the Mass, have to get home to recite why this night is different from other nights – the Passover).

As with most of the monastic orders dating from medieval times, the First Order of the Carmelites consists of the friars , who combine activity and contemplation, the Second Order is the nuns, who are cloistered, and the Third Order consists of lay people who live in the world, who can be married, and who participate in the liturgical prayers, the propagation of religion or doctrine (the apostolates), comtemplation and prayer. There are also Carmelite sisters who are active in the world such as schools, hospitals and other social institutions.

Louis-Albert told the nuns I was Jewish and knew Hebrew. The mother superior asked me to sing for the nuns a few of the Psalms in Hebrew. She led me into an alcove, drew open a curtain in the centre of the wall opposite to reveal a grill behind which sat rows of sisters seated on tiered benches. The original tunes of the Psalms is unknown, so I made up my own, adapted from the tunes and “davening” (Yiddish for recital of prescribed prayers of the synagogue), which I was familiar with from the synagogue. “Daven” is probably derived from the church Latin divin, as in “divine service.”

I couldn’t have been closer to a mystic, if not to mysticism, than Louis-Albert, who, in his lifetime, published about a dozen books on the great hermits (solitaires, recluses) among them Romuald of Ravenna, the hermits of Camaldoli (Les Camaldules) , Denys of Chartreux, Séraphim of Sarov, and Nazarena, the recluse. He also had been leading retreats (prédicateur de retraites “retreat preacher”) in monasteries for many years. Monks on retreat – retreating deeper into reclusion (long-term seclusion).

Not all monks are hermits. Hermits hardly speak to anyone; neither do they seek one another’s company. Thomas Keating, the Trappist monk (Trappists are Cistercians who hold to a stricter observance) relates that he only spoke to another human being twice in six years. Keeping mum for such a long time does not mean that he was a hermit, that is, seldom in human company, because Trappists gather in the church several times a day for the liturgies. Don’t you want to be a monk? a Cistercian? Haven’t you had enough of the vanities of this world? The ideal life is possible. Here is a phantasmagorical version of the peace you’ve been looking for written by the Cistercian Fr. Raphael in his “The Praise of Bells.”

A call from God is how a Cistercian vocation is born. Throughout the course of a monk’s or nun’s day, this divine call finds expression in the sound of bells that call us to prayer, to spiritual reading, to manual labor, or to simple enjoyment of the company of our brothers and sisters. When night falls, the heart of a Cistercian savors the impressions of a day in which body, mind, and spirit have been formed by Christ whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. We remember the gentle rhythms of prayer chants, the scent of a well oiled tractor rolling through fresh cut fields, the way aged wooden floorboards retain the smell of burnt incense, the heaviness of weary legs stretched out on a simple hardwood bed prepared with fresh laundered sheets. It is remarkable how swiftly the days pass in a monastery. At days end, a last bell is heard whose music delights for a moment and passes away — like a life given to God.  (In “A Monk’s Diary”, March 24, Fr. Raphael )

The real picture is not so rosy. Truth gives the low-down as well as the highlights; blurbs, in contrast, highlights only.

In the monasteries where I stayed, I spent much time alone, reading theology, the saints, the mystics, trying to pray. If I don’t pray and dwell on what I read on these topics, it remains nothing more than information (notitia) and mental assent (assensus). There would be no divine sap coming up the vine to feed the dry branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Knowing stuff is not abiding. According to the world’s most famous and dangerous “theologian,” Oprah Winfrey, all that matters is to believe in a higher force (fortz, in Yiddish ). Knowing who God is, however, is crucial; our eternal destiny depends on this knowledge. Knowing who or what God is, is only the beginning. In Christianity we learn who God is through Christ, and in Christ. To know Christ in a personal way cannot be done without information about him, without learning who he is. This knowledge is found in divine revelation, which, for Protestants, is found in scripture alone, but for Roman Catholics in scripture and post-biblical tradition.

Like most Roman Catholics, I didn’t read much scripture outside the missal – the book of instructions and texts used for the Mass. “Mass” is the English for the Latin missa from the phrase Ite, missa est (“Go, it is the dismissal/sending”), which came to mean the ceremony of the Mass itself. Far was it from me to know that my missal was to revert to revert to dismissal two decades later when I left the Roman Catholic Church. They say, once a Catholic always a Catholic. They also say once Jew oiveys a Jew (See When is an “ex-Jew” not a Jew? Once (your mother’s) a Jew Oiveys a Jew . And once a Catholic Jew always a Catholic Jew.

Louis-Albert and I never discussed mysticism. Although my French was still more effluent than fluent – effluent French is good enough to pass at many universities in the English-speaking world – I could still understand quite a lot on philosophical and religious topics in French. The reason why I could understand was, firstly, because I had some knowledge of the subject matter, and secondly, French and English have many words in common with regard to mysticism, philosophy and theology. For example, here is the French translation of the italicised portion of the previous sentence, which even Peter Sellars’ English minkey would understand: “Le français et anglais ont beaucoup de mots en commun à l’egard du mysticisme, la philosophie et la théologie.” From a teacher’s view, one of the main reasons for the failure of learners who use a second or foreign language as a medium of instruction is not only poor knowledge of the language but also a lack of knowledge of the subject matter and of mental – I have to politically correct – energy. (See my Language, Content and Skills in the Testing of English for Academic Purposes).

Having joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1960, I had only been a Roman Catholic for two years. In 1961, I started my philosophy courses at my university (Cape Town). I didn’t get high marks in philosophy partly because I neglected the secular philosophy of my courses in favour of the Scholastics, the “schoolmen” of the Middle Ages such as Anselm, Abelard and Aquinas, and partly perhaps – though my children will vehemently deny this (love you Dad) – because I was not as mentally energetic as the others in my class. There were six of us majoring in philosophy. One, his surname was Cobban, went “up” to Oxford University (is Oxford on a hill?); another, Heard was his surname, became an editor of a prominent newspaper in Cape Town, and another, Rick Turner, went to the Sorbonne in Paris to do a doctorate on Jean Paul Sartre. I shall say more about Turner later on.

After the Carmelite monastery we went for the day to visit a a Cistercian monk, one of Louis-Albert’s friends, at the Cistercian monastery of Senanque. The monastery was founded in 1148. In 1544, it was badly damaged during the Wars of Religion, and was vacated. The state bought it during the French Revolution in 1791. It was restored in 1854, and the Cistercian monks returned, but in 1903 new laws against religious congregations forced the monks to leave. When Louis-Albert and I visited the place in 1962, there were hardly any monks – a skeleton staff; skeleton in more ways than one, which will become clear shortly

Before we went to this monastery, Louis-Albert and I spent the previous night with a well-to-do friend. The next day, the three of us went to visit the monk at the monastery. We didn’t enter the grounds of the monastery. It seemed we weren’t allowed to do so. We stopped on the gravel path that sloped down to the gate of the monastery. We waited for while. Two moving figures in the distance, one quite far in front of the other. As they came nearer, we saw that the one in front was dressed in normal worker’s clothes, and the one behind, the monk, was wearing a “habit” consisting of a black strip over a white robe. “Habit” is derived from the French habillement “clothes.”


cistercian habit

Senanque Abbey

Senanque Abbey

It was close to sunset and chilly outside. The monk approached Louis-Albert and knelt down before him. Louis-Albert said, “No, no, it is I that should kneel before you.” Next to Albert and the kneeling skeletal soul stood Louis-Albert’s ruddy-faced friend, puffing a cigar, swathed in a beige coat of pure wool. I think of another skeleton, this time without a soul or flesh sitting in a cage above the altar of the church in Mondsee, Austria, orbiting the extravagant wedding Mass for the dashing Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews, his bride. The hills are alive. (See The Bishop under the Bell Jar – and the food!).

skeleton konrad_basilika_mondsee

Louis-Albert and I went to Barcelona to spend 10 days with Jaime Torres (“Jaime” pronounced like the Jewish name, Hymie – add the guttural ch) – James Bull in English. Wh en it came to Spanish I knew as much as Edith Piaff’s “Non, rien de rien” (no, nothing of nothing). Louis-Albert spoke Spanish fluently because he had been a missionary in Argentina for many years. There was much festivity in Jaime’s house over those ten days.

On the train journey back to Bordeaux, France, we broke our journey at Miranda. I had previously asked Louis-Albert if I could spend some time at a hermitage. He arranged for me to spend a solitary night, in both senses of the word, at a hermitage. I left Louis-Albert behind and took a tatty taxi with bad shocks. We travelled about14 kms on a narrow pot-holed road into the winding hills. It was dark and very cold when I arrived at the hermitage. I knocked on the front door, a little panel in the door opened. I couldn’t see the face behind it. I pushed the note Louis-Albert had given me through the opening. The big door opened. A hooded smile greeted me and with few words, which is less than a few words, the monk came outside and led me to a very large building with many windows and several storeys. We entered the building and climbed a few flights of stairs. My host led me, candle in hand, down the passage into one of the rooms. He lit another candle from his own, left one on the table, turned round and left, closing the door behind him. In the morning I learnt that this building had been abandoned for many decades; the few hermits that remained occupied the part of the monastery whose door I had knocked on the previous night.

A thin quilt covered the hard mattress on the iron bed. The candle flame threw flickers of shadow and light across the ceiling and stone walls. It was freezing. I lay on the bed, covered myself, and thought of Edmond Dantès in the dungeons of the island fortress of the Chateau d’If, the first prisoner to escape from the island. I heard a scratching sound coming from the bottom of my door. A hatch I had not noticed, opened and a tin plate slithered into the room. The hatch flopped back. I heard no footsteps coming or going. Hungry as I was, I couldn’t eat the mess of pottage.

I crept back under the quilt and tried to sleep. I was alone in this giant deserted building that use to house thousands of monks over the centuries. Shadows skated up and down the window. No angels for comfort. The wind howled. I had a “madeleine” moment; a remembrance of time past, of time lost. Marcel Proust wrote a gigantic novel called “A la recherche du temps perdu (In remembrance of time past). The most famous passage in Proust’s novel is “La petite Madeleine” (a small cake):

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?”

My “madeleine” moment, in contrast, was more of a maudlin moment. I’m seven years old, in the Cape Jewish Orphanage’s holiday camp at the beach town of Muizenberg, South Africa. I have a cough. They’ve left me all alone after lights out; the other children are in the hall doing nice things. It’s so windy. Something is scraping at the window. Please come back quickly, please! I shivered myself to sleep. The scraping against the window was the unsurprising branch of a tree.

After Toulouse that we went to stay at the Cistercian Abbey of Lérins on the island of Saint-Honorat (Lerina in Roman times) very close to Cannes in Southern France. In 410 Saint Honoratus, a disciple of a local hermit,Caprasius of Lérins built a monastery on the uninhabited island. Saint Honoras intended to live alone as a hermit, but before he could say “peace” was ambushed by disciples, who formed a monastic community around him, which, 17 years later was bursting, it seems, at the you know what.

One of the greatest leaders of this monastic community, the famous Vincent of Lérins, a semi-Pelagian, attacked Augustine’s theology of grace.Two of Augustine’s most popular sayings are, the more know, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” and “Grant what You command, and command what You desire” – both his “Confessions”. It was the second that got Vincent of Lérins’s goat. For most Christians and all Jews, “Grant what You command…,” evokes dismay, outrage and total contempt. That was Pelagius’s reaction, the famous rival of Augustine, in their dispute of the role of God’s grace and human will in salvation. For Pelagius, as for Judaism, the role of grace is highly exaggerated and leaves little play for man’s free willy. Nilly, says Augustine. When an Augustinian (we say Calvinist today) reads the Bible, he sees man freely following his heart. The man thinks, he desires, and his mind directs that desire to its object. The will is not a noun, it is a verb, a present continuous, always willing, moving, in its natural state, away from God (of the Bible). Man is dead, totally dead, totally deprived of the love for God; in other words, totally depraved. And that includes his willing. And that is the original Bible doctrine of ”original” sin; willy-nilly. (See The pith of ”It’s not he who willeth.” Romans 9 and free will).
One morning at passed a cadaverous monk shuffling his way to one of the daily liturgies in the chapel. His pallor melded into the marble hue of his robe. It w
as all sunshine and green outside. When I went to Rome a few weeks later and saw Michaelangelo’s Pietà’, I thought of the white marble face of the monk wafting past me in the corridor of the church in Lérins.



Island of St Honorat and monastery

Island of St Honorat and monastery

Lerins Abbey

Lerins Abbey

Coastline of St Honorat

Coastline of St Honorat

I left Louis-Albert to spend 10 days at the Dominican priory in Toulouse, which served as a training centre for priests. Here is an abridged description of the Dominican vocation to the priesthood.

“The 7-year process of becoming a Dominican priest or brother (known as “friars”) is called “formation”. The first year is called the novitiate. Novices engage in prayer, study, and various ministries. The Dominican formation process is both rigorous and balanced to ensure that candidates are well-adjusted and suited to this special calling. By offering a unique combination of tradition and contemplative life (wearing a “habit”, engaging in common daily prayer) balanced against preaching, teaching, and ministry in the greater community, the Order seeks to produce well-rounded, spiritually mature men who will provide outstanding leadership and genuine pastoral care to the People of God. The second step of formation occurs after the novice completes his year-long process of study, discernment and ministry in Denver. After taking first vows at St. Dominic Church in a ceremony called “Profession of Vows,” the novice becomes a professed student brother. The student brother engages in philosophical and theological graduate studies for approximately six more years before his ordination to the diaconate and priesthood.”

In Catholic seminaries, three of the first four years of study are devoted to Greek philosophy, mainly Aristotle. Aristotle is central to Catholic theology because Thomas Aquinas ((1225 – 1274) built much of his theology on Aristotle.  The bulk of Catholic theology derives from the dazzling intellect  of Aquinas whose Summa Theologiae/Theologica covers almost the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped working on it the year before he died in 1274 . (Thomas Aquinas: Philosophy and Education in the Middle ages)..

I aped the student priests’ routines. At meal-times, the only voice heard was that of the reader at his lectern. The books he read were not always of a religious nature, which is a good thing, because most Dominican priests work with people, and need to know what’s going on in the world. Although Christians are not meant to be of this world, they are meant to be in this world, which the Bible says applies to every Christian.

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:14-16).

I asked one of the senior priests to observe me during my stay and tell me, not whether I was following the rules of the place, but when I was being selfish. He raised his eyebrows, said nothing and walked off. Now, how on earth could he or would he want to spend time filching through the trough of my soul? Monsieur Raphael you took too much butter at lunch and poured too much olive oil on your salad. Plus (de plus) you flare your nostrils at others. He didn’t understand: I often got a blocked nose. How else was I too breathe?

After dinner, I joined the student priests in an alcove outside the dining room, where they were allowed to socialise. The ceiling of the alcove was very low. Two close rows of stooping young men facing each other, walking in the same direction. When we reach the one end of the alcove, it’s the turn of the row that walked forwards to walk backwards. Backwards, forwards, backwards, forwards. One of the students told of a good laugh he had one time. What amused me was not what he was amused about, which escapes me, but how he expressed himself. J’ai vachement ri, he said. This means “I laughed my head off” or “I was in stitches.” Allow me to translate“I laughed my head off in French” into French: J’ai ri (I laughed) matête (my head)… shucks French has no word for “off.” “Erf” should do it: J’ai rima tête erf. Wonder what’s the French for “Gamar off.”

The literal French of J’ai vachement ri is “I laughed cowly.” Turning a noun into an adverb ”cow” to “cowly,” that was funny. There is a French processed cheese called La vache qui rit “The cow that laughs.” A laughing cow is a happy cow; a happy cow is a healthy cow. The same with people, including monks. There is the French insult: Vous parlez français comme une vache espagnole “You speak French like a Spanish cow.”

La vache qui rit

La vache qui rit

It was October 1962, the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. Louis-Albert and I were off to Rome. Home?



The Second Coming of Christ: Charles Spurgeon


On Spurgeon and the Second coming. I was moved – in my soul, and to read the book. On Kindle for a dollar/60p, or free as separate PDFs.

Originally posted on Scripture Thoughts:

I’m now reading through Charles Spurgeon’s “The Second Coming of Christ” (available on Kindle for 99 cents), a collection of seven lectures on several prophetic texts. Spurgeon himself observed that he rarely addressed the doctrine of eschatology, yet through the years he delivered quite a few messages. I have read some of his sermons on this topic, not in this collection, including sermons on the First Resurrection (Revelation 20) and about the future restoration of Israel – but these seven specifically relate to Christ’s Second Advent and are collected together in this work available in print as well as in electronic format.

It is Spurgeon’s textual style of preaching, in which he examines all the facets of a text itself and expands on those words, with excellent insights, application, and practical considerations.  The seven sermons look at the following texts: Revelation 1:7, Matthew 25:31-36, Acts 1:10-11, Romans…

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John 6 and the Eucharist: The deception of pereception


Transubstantiation (the change from one substance to another) is the Roman Catholic observation that if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, indeed, tastes like a duck, this does not mean it is a duck, that is, is “substantially” a duck but simply that it is “accidentally” a duck. Roman Catholic theology (Thomas Aquinas) uses the Aristotelian concepts of “substance” (essence – independent of the senses) and “accidents” (how things appear physically – to the senses) to explain transubstantiation. So, to get back to our duck, say you transmute duck substance into human substance, the latter won’t taste, smell, feel human, but will still taste, smell, feel duck.

The distinction between “sensation” and “perception” is useful: the former relates to one or more of the fives senses, the latter to how the mind-brain processes this sensation to create understanding. For example, I’m typing this on my Ipad. My wife says to me “Switch on the dishwasher.” She says it again. And again. And again. Then “SWITCH ON THE DISHWASHER!” I jump and run to the dishwasher, open it and start unpacking the gooey innards. When it comes to housework, I’m terribly switched off. The mellifluous tones wafting from my wife’s buccal cavity lambast my ears (I hear her) but I don’t listen (don’t pay attention, thus don’t perceive).

Here are three biblical examples of misperception, all based on the same biblical excerpt from John 6, the “Bread of Life” passage. The misperception is the wrong reasons given wy the disciples decided to no longer walked with Jesus (verse 66 underlined)

Example 1

When I was a Roman Catholic, this is what I perceived when I read this portion of John 6:

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?


66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

On this reading, it is clear that the reason why the disciples chose to abandon Jesus was because he was commanding them to be cannibals. Verses 63 to 65 are missing, not in the actual text itself, but in the perception of the text. I shall progressively restore these verses in the next two examples.

Example 2

Let’s leave Roman Catholics and move on to Protestants. The majority of them perceive a little more, namely, verse 63: 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.


66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

What would the Protestant say is the reason why those who believed in Jesus (a false belief) abandoned him? Actually there are two Protestant answers – originating from to different kinds of Protestants (I explain shortly); answers totally unrelated to each other. The first kind of Protestant will give the same answer aS the Roman Catholic, namely, the cannibal reason. This kind of Protestant will add that Roman Catholics are blind, because they can’t see (perceive) that if Jesus was referring to his literal flesh, call it the “substance” of his flesh or skin and sinews or whatever you like, he would not have said “the flesh is useless.” In the third example, I introduce the second kind of Protestant; my kind.

Example 3

Example 2 describes the majority of Protestants. Alas, like Roman Catholics, their minds (perception) do not sync with their eyes (sensation). What did they (and the Roman Catholic in Example 1) not perceive? They did not perceive verses 64 and 65.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

The reason why Example 1 and 2 ignored verses 64 and 65 is because they are Roman Catholic and Protestant Arminians. When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

Verses 64 and 65 (in bold above) mean that if people don’t believe in (come to) Jesus is because he has not granted them this belief. The “gift” of faith, is not the prospective beleiver’s gift to God but God’s gift to the prospective believer. This gift of faith of God does not mean that you can accept on your own bat whether you want to receive this gift, but that God frees you from the bondage of your radically corrupt will, which by nature, hates God (of the Bible). As a result. you accept this gift of faith with joy. In a nutshell, a person plays no part in his reconciliation with God; it’s all of God. All Roman Catholics and the majority of Protestants don’t believe this. As a result, they will define “no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” in such a way that it does not mean “permitted by the Father.” What I don’t know. The majority of Protestants are Arminians. These include Anglicans, Methodists and most Baptists.

Here is an example of grammatical cohesion, without which coherence suffers:

Peter, Paul and the latkes

Peter – I’m not going to eat with those Gentiles.

Paul – You hypocrite.

Peter – For that, you can’t have any of my latkes

Paul –  I’m ephing oph to Ephesus.



Question: Why did Paul leave? Answer: Was it because Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles or was it because of the latkes? I can’t be sure. There is, though, a language rule (of cohesion – words that link ideas together, for example, “this,” “because” and pronouns like “it.”) that says that first consideration should be given to what Peter said to Paul immediately antecedent to Paul’s “I’m ephing off to Ephesus, namely, no latkes for Paul.

When we apply this rule of cohesion to our biblical text, it is reasonable to conclude that the followers of Jesus abandoned him at the least because of the last thing he said to them before they left: 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

It could be, though, that they abandoned Jesus because of any one or all of the things Jesus said, namely: 1. the hard saying “unless you eat my flesh…,” 2. “the flesh counts for nothing,” (duh, first he tells us to eat his flesh, then immediately afterwards says, “the flesh counts for nothing.” So which is it? But perhaps they’re too dense to ask such a question) and 3. the last thing Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” “Come to,” of course, cannot mean anything but “believe in.”

To return to the grammatical notion of cohesion, the grammatical glue that makes coherence possible. A better example of this is Ephesians 2:8-9, owing to the fact that it is arguably the biggest bone of contention in the Calvinism-Arminian dispute. Also, Ephesians 2:8-9 is closely related to “no one can come to me unless granted by my father” (John 6:65 above). Here is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

William Lane Craig, like all Arminians, says that “this” in “and THIS is not your own doing, it is a gift of God…” cannot refer to faith because “this” is neuter while “faith” is feminine. Craig doesn’t know that “grace” is also feminine. I discuss this issue in depth elsewhere (See my The Calvinist Robot and the Arminian Zombie: Grammars of coming to faith and other articles on Calvinism and Arminianism. Recent posts appear first). My focus here is on cohesion. Sometimes a writer/speaker mentions several items but can only retain in short term memory (Freud’s “preconscious”) the last thing he wrote/spoke. So, when he says “this” he is, in his mind, pointing back to at least the last thing (the immediate antecedent) he wrote/spoke, which in our verse is “faith”: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

All English translations of this verse illustrate the grammatical rule that the demonstrative pronoun this (some translations have “that”) in Ephesians 2:8 automatically refers to, at the least, its immediate antecedent, which in Ephesians 2:8 is the noun “faith.” So, “that not of yourselves must refer to “faith.”

Which deception is more serious, the “substance-accidents” of the Lord’s supper or the belief that faith is the believer’s gift to God rather than God’s gift to the believer, which He plants in the soul he regenerates? I’m thinking.

“Word of faith” Baptism of the Holy Spirit: The invasion of every crook and granny

An Anglican studying for the priesthood told me that unless one believes in the “Baptism” of the Spirit as a necessary subsequent event to regeneration, one cannot be  true to the Anglican confession. If one knows anything about Anglicanism, the aforementioned view reveals an abject ignorance. The “Word of Faith movement” (Benny Hinn, TBN, etc) has invaded every crook and granny of the church. This movement fuses the “Baptism” of the Spirit and the “filling” of the Spirit. Result: mayhem.

Here is the major difference between the “Pentecostal – Word of Faith” movement” and the biblical view of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This movement labels the event in Acts 2:4 as the “Baptism in the Spirit,” which it regards as a second and necessary stage in Christian growth. Acts 2:4, in fact, is about the “filling” of the Spirit, not the “baptism” of the Spirit.

Acts 2:1-4 Filled with the Spirit

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all FILLED with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

1 Corinthians 12:13
In one SPIRIT are we all BAPTISED into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

This baptism in the Spirit is a one-off act of God that occurs at regeneration (being born again). The infilling of the Spirit, in contrast, is a repeated activity, as in many instances in the book of Acts:

Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!

Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 6:3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them

Acts 6:5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Be filled with the Spirit. But if you’re not born again, He must first baptize you.

Another song – No, you never poured out your life, and definitely not again and again: A discordant note

Once again, one more discordant note,  to sow discord. The song in question is called, prophetically, “Once again.” Here are the lyrics:

Once Again

Jesus Christ, I think upon Your sacrifice
You became nothing, poured out to death.
Many times I’ve wondered at Your gift of life
and I’m in that place once again.
Yes, I’m in that place once again.

And once again I look upon the cross where You died
I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank You, Once again I pour out my life.

Now You are exalted to the highest place,
King of the heavens where one day I’ll bow.
But for now, I marvel at Your saving grace
and I’m full of praise once again.
Yes, I’m full of praise once again.

And once again I look upon the cross where You died
I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank You, Once again I pour out my life.

Thank You for the cross; Thank You for the cross
Thank You for the cross, my Friend.
Thank You for the cross; Thank You for the cross
Thank You for the cross, my Friend.

And once again I look upon the cross where You died
I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank You, Once again I pour out my life.

Much in this song is faithful to the Bible. There are even a few words from the Bible. I wonder whether the song writer was aware of the context of these few words ‘I pour out my life.” Is there a verse that says something about the Christian pouring out his life, and, pouring it out “once again,” as in this song? No, nothing on both counts. There is, though, in the Bible a pouring out of life, but not your life. When did you, and how many times do you, pour out your soul to death and bear the sin of many,
 and make intercession for them? 

Here is somebody who did do that, and once for all (time), and which was enough to pay the price for those Jesus died for, which may also include you. 

Isaiah 53 

10  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
 he has put him to grief; when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
 he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. 12  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, becausehe poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
 and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

That doesn’t mean that you cannot, with the psalmist, pour out your soul, your heart to God. 

When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude of the festive throng” (Psalm 42:4). 

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8). 

The Apostle Paul, not long before his execution, does say “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near” (2 Timothy 4:6). 

Firstly, there might exist a few Christians who suffered as much as Paul. Examine yourself to establish whether you are in this league. If not, church leaders don’t bring such songs to church. Secondly, Paul would not say “I pour out myself,” and certainly not, “I pour out my life” because he would know that he was tearing scripture out of context – a unique unrepeatable event: the Suffering Servant, who poured out his soul unto death, once for all time.

If Jesus poured out his blood for you, don’t sing these songs; silly, at best, blasphemous, at worst. They deceive mixed with truth. Examine whether you are truly in the faith once for all (time) delivered to the “saints,” (Jude 1:3), God’s holy people. Who are God’s holy people? Those the Father gave the Son (John 17) before the world began, and, as a result, “received him, who believed in his name, (whom) he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12b-13).







God is Me: The divinisation of Self in mysticism


La France. C’est moi (Louis XIV “France is me”).

 Here are a few examples of Roman Catholic mystics who teach the divinisation of those in whom God is confirmed in the soul. The quotations are from “Mystical Marriage and Divinisation in True Life in God” written by a hermit nun living in Wales:

Alphonsus Liguori

“In the spiritual marriage, the soul is transformed into God and becomes one with Him, just as a vessel of water, when poured into the sea, is then one with it.”

Teresa of Avila in “The Interior Castle”

“Besides, this company it enjoys gives it far greater strength than ever before. If, as David says, ‘With the holy thou shalt be holy,’ doubtless by its becoming one with the Almighty, by the union of spirit with spirit, the soul must gather strength, as we know the saints did, to suffer and to die…”

John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle”

“This (the spiritual marriage) is, beyond all comparison, a far higher state than that of espousals, because it is a complete transformation into the Beloved; and because each of them surrenders to the other the entire possession of themselves in the perfect union of love, wherein the soul becomes Divine, and, by participation, God, insofar as it is possible in this life. I believe that no soul ever attains to this state without being confirmed in grace in it, for the faith of both is confirmed; that of God being confirmed in the soul…For granting that God has bestowed upon it so great a favour as to unite it to the most Holy Trinity, whereby it becomes like unto God, and God by participation, is it altogether incredible that it should exercise the faculties of its intellect, perform its acts of knowledge and of love, or, to speak more accurately, should have it all done in the Holy Trinity together with It, as the Holy Trinity Itself?

Anne Madeleine de Remuzat

I found myself all at once in the presence of the Three adorable Persons of the Trinity…I understood that Our Lord wished to give me an infinitely purer knowledge of His Father and of Himself than all that I had known until that day…How admirable were the secrets that it was given to me to know in and by this adorable bosom!…My God, Thou hast willed to divinise my soul, so to say, by trans-forming it into Thyself, after having destroyed its individual form.”

In Newsweek, Sept 2005, appeared a feature article  “Spirituality in America.” It said: “Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God.” The article went on to describe the Catholic use of Buddhist’s teachings. For example, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, noticed how attracted Roman Catholics were to the Eastern religious practices As a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature to the Abbot. Americans, like everybody else, is looking for transcendental prayer, transcendental meditation (TM), which could, it seems, also stand for “Trappist Meditation.” I recently heard Thomas Keating, the Trappist monk, say that the goal of contemplation is to discover that the self and the “Other,” which is God are identical.

Chris Rosebrough’s “Fighting for the faith” exposes the Christianese in so many seeker-drivel churches today. In his “The Inventor Of Centering Prayer Teaches Us What It Is For.” These seeker-driven churches focus on a variation of one message” “Grab your vision; let your creative pants down.” Lately, though, they’re raising the vision higher and higher into prayer itself. This is where “centring prayer” comes into the picture, which can be summarised as “go into your closet, close the door, sit down, shut up, your mind, and let God.” In so doing, you will come to see that…, but let’s hear from a famous Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, one of the inventors, perhaps the main inventor, of “centering prayer,” who is the feature speaker on “The Inventor Of Centering Prayer Teaches Us What It Is For.” Here is a snippet from Keating (Minute 20 ff).

Questioner: What is the journey from the false self to the true self?

Keating: “The spiritual journey is the realisation, not just the information, the interior conviction that there is a higher power or a God, or to make it as easy as possible, an Other, capital O. Second step: to try to become the Other, capital O.”

I used to read Paul Brunton avidly. He coined the term “Overself,” which is the source of all being, which is found deep in the the human heart. That centre, said Brunton is the “Overself.” In his notebooks, published after his death, he wrote:

“No one can explain what the Overself is, for it is the origin, the mysterious source of the expanding mind, and beyond all its capacities. But what can be explained are the effects of standing consciously in its presence, the conditions under which it manifests, the ways in which it appears in human life and experience, the paths which lead to its realization… The point where man meets the infinite is the Overself, where he, the finite, responds to what is absolute, ineffable and inexhaustible being, where he reacts to That which transcends his own existence–this is the Personal God he experiences and comes into relation with. In this sense his belief in such a God is justifiable.”

The Overself is the point where the One Mind is received into consciousness. It is the ‘I’ freed from narrowness, thoughts, flesh, passion, and emotion–that is, from the personal ego…Because of the paradoxically dual nature which the Overself possesses, it is very difficult to make clear the concept of the Overself. Human beings are rooted in the ultimate mind through the Overself, which therefore partakes on the one hand of a relationship with a vibratory world and on the other of an existence which is above all relations. A difficulty is probably due to the vagueness or confusion about which standpoint it is to be regarded from. If it is thought of as the human soul, then the vibratory movement is connected with it. If it is thought of as transcending the very notion of humanity, and therefore in its undifferentiated character, the vibratory movement must disappear. It is a state of pure intelligence but without the working of the intellectual and ideational process. Its product may be named intuition. There are no automatically conceived ideas present in it, no habitually followed ways of thinking. It is pure, clear stillness.”

That capital O – call it the “Other,” call it the Overself is, in reality, the SELF, the uber dragon in the dungeon of the soul, not glorifying, but lauding Self over, God. The seeker seeks to become God, not to worship Him. A fantasy game – “Dungeons and dragons” where “one person gets to be the dungeon master and he plays the role of the quote – “supreme god” in the world. He creates a world for his players. His tools are maps, dice, miniature figures, rule books, and so forth. And a game can last for several years. And the players will play through those years for hours and hours and hours. What is the ultimate fantasy of man? The ultimate fantasy of man is that man should be God. This speaks of that fantasy. (John MacArthur, “Reasons for the wrath of God 4).

The “self is God” defines Buddhism in a nutshell. Thomas Merton, another Trappist monk, and the most famous of modern Roman Catholic monks says: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”

And not only now and zen”, as a Yiddish “Jubu” (Jewish Buddhist) might say. (Thomas Merton’s “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”: All roads, including to Rome, lead Home). 

The pure, clear stillness of Home.





Mary, mother and God: What have they done to the mother of my Lord?

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

One of the reasons why Mary, the mother of Jesus, has such an exalted position in the Roman Catholic Church is that she is called “Mary full of grace.” Here is an explanation of this term from Catholic Answers:

“The Fathers of the Church taught that Mary received a number of distinctive blessings in order to make her a more fitting mother for Christ and the prototypical Christian (follower of Christ). These blessings included her role as the New Eve (corresponding to Christ’s role as the New Adam), her Immaculate Conception, her spiritual motherhood of all Christians, and her Assumption into heaven. These gifts were given to her by God’s grace. She did not earn them, but she possessed them nonetheless. The key to understanding all these graces is Mary’s role as the New Eve, which the Fathers proclaimed so forcefully. Because she is the New Eve, she, like…

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