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Who is a Catholic?


The roman catholic church in Uzhhorod (Ukraine)

The roman catholic church in Uzhhorod (Ukraine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given the selection of a new Pope, the Roman Catholic Church is much discussed in the media and on blogs. Here is a random comment I replied to today in one place. It is a comment I can partly assent to, but rather more needed to be said:

Anglicans ARE Catholic. In fact, many of us secretly believe we are more Catholic than the Romans, though we’re usually tactful enough to mention this to them. And of course, we are ALL, Roman and English, “under Christ” in an ultimate sense – the question at issue is merely the more mundane one of how exactly one goes about delegating Christ’s authority on a day-to-day level.

My response was as follows:

Every Christian is a Catholic except those who believe that their denomination has a monopoly. If we be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, as it says, we will all be looking at the right direction, the right leader, who needs no vicar, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The authority of Christ is not at this time a political one – the devil has the lease on the politics of this world and its nation states for now, so Churches in all cases should be separate from states.

A Psalm of Christ


Jesus is Alpha and Jesus is Omega
Jesus is Allah and Jesus is Jehovah

Our Jehovah-Jireh, our Ebenezer, our Emmanuel
He is the sacrifice and He the temple

King, Prophet, Priest, Advocate, Brother, Friend
Jesus is the Beginning and Jesus is the End

He is All in All, All things made by and for Him
There is none like Him nor beside nor before Him

Both our Creator and Kinsman Redeemer
Second Adam who came before the first

There is now other Name given, a Name above every Name
That at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow.

And so He is Baruch Hashem Adonai to whom we bow
At head and knee, saying the Amidah.

The Vine, the Door, The Way, The Truth The Life,
Living Bread, Water of Life, and Wine cup, saying LaChaim

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Lamb of God
In Him the lion lies next to the lamb.

Son of David, Branch of Jesse, Seed of Abraham
In whom all the nations of the earth are blessed

Offspring of Eve whose heel bruises the Serpent’s Head,
Son of True God with no Achilles’ heel

How lovely on the Mountain shall be the feet of Him
On the Mount of Olives when it cleaves in twain!

And the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of Christ
As the waters cover the sea. For He is God.

Almighty, all-sufficient all-in-all God,
With the Father and the Holy Spirit, Blessed for ever.

Amen.

For richer, for poorer…


St Augustine's Commentary on THE SERMON ON THE...

Image by Fergal of Claddagh

God tries our faith in different ways. For one person, He wants to know, ‘will this person stay faithful to Me if he is poor?’ and for another the question is more ‘will this person stay faithful to Me if he is rich?’.

In this life, poverty isn’t really poverty and richness isn’t really richness. Both our riches and our poverty are transient and will pass away. They are not illusionary, but to the Christian they may as well be. Neither riches nor poverty, neither sickness nor health are issues to get carried away by. To be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is to be rich beyond measure, and to be the richest in hell is to be poor beyond pity.

So seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Sinning as a Christian? Aren’t Christians beyond sinning now?


Cover of "Singin' in the Rain (Two-Disc S...

Sinning in the Reign?

In repentance, we define sin as a failure. This is a change of mind and heart (a ‘metanoia’ as repentance is in Greek) because before our repentance we would not have acknowledged our sins as failures before God. The same thoughts and activities would have been a normal part of our day and would not have bothered us.

Let us now take an instance of such failure, such as getting annoyed and saying a filthy word, because something bad has happened and before we could control ourselves out came the word. An unrepentant person will regard that as perfectly justifiable although in order to show breeding if they are in company they may show some embarrassment at it, or try not to do it, but if they were alone an unrepentant person wouldn’t give it a second thought.

A penitent person, a believer, even if he was alone and nobody heard his cuss word, will know that in that moment he failed.

There are now two opposite and equally wrong things the believer can then do with this failure.

The first is to bagatellize it and not earnestly strive to do better the next time, to make out that it was no sin and nothing to be upset about. This is a wrong approach and to use grace to justify poor discipleship is decried in scripture. However, there are those who think they have no sin any more as Christians precisely because they have unfortunately taught themselves to ignore these slip-ups, and forget that a mere cuss-word like that would be enough to damn someone for eternity even if they had no other sin, even if they only thought it and managed not even to say it, but it was there in their heads, tarnishing their holiness.

The second error is to get into such despair over the failure to be perfect when God has said “be ye perfect, as I am perfect” that they begin to doubt their salvation over it. They need to remember that Jesus warned the believers that the flesh is weak and that Paul warned us that we could not do as well as we wanted to. The flesh, or the world, or the devil may have provoked the sin of the cuss word, but it is mainly the whisperings of the devil in our ears that because we did that sin, and are not as good as we should be, that we are not God’s own and might as well give up.

Between these opposites is the correct attitude of acknowledging the sin and admitting it was a sin to God, asking for His forgiveness, knowing that it is given that very instant as promised, expressing gratitude to God for the forgiveness Jesus earned and granted for us, and getting back on the programme with more care to avoid that sin in the future, as we know that God wants better for us and from us than that.

Why do Christians eat pork?


Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo

Image via Wikipedia

I received a question on Christianity, which is a welcome change from receiving all linguistic questions, from YouTube viewer JInks232, who writes:

I viewed your “Basket case” video and an old question came to mind. How is that Christians eat pork despite the injunction in the bible against its consumption?

We traditional eat a nice ham for Easter Sunday. I am just curious and you seem to be knowledgeable.

Many thanks for that compliment, friend.

The fact is not all Christians eat pork – Seventh Day Adventists do not, I believe most Messianic Jews do not and there may well be others who do not. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Gentile Christians do not observe the shunning of pork, even though hopefully most of us are aware that Jesus Christ himself certainly must have refused to eat it, by way of His living out the whole Law.

The placing of pigs, and with them a whole series of other animals, on the list of unclean animals takes place in the context of Levitical law. This comes from when Israel was called aside as a nation after arriving in Israel and the priesthood of the Levites was instituted.

When Noah lands the Ark after the Flood, God gives an instruction in Genesis 9 v 3, that he can eat any of the animals, just as before he could have eaten any of the plants.

There is mention in Genesis 7, before Noah goes into the Ark, of taking seven pairs of clean animals, one pair of unclean, but this has nothing to do with not eating them, as mankind was not allowed to eat animals at all until Genesis 9, after the Flood. So it presumably refers to some animals being regarded as sacrificial animals even before people consumed the animals.

Nothing more is said about some animals not being eaten or being regarded as dirty until we get to Levitical law. Especially Leviticus chapter 11. In the meantime we have had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob needing to be circumcised in order to be in the covenant, but no word about them shunning pork.

Some people talk about pork being regarded as unclean because of tapeworms. In this case people simply would have not kept pigs at all, and yet we know that pigs were kept in the region because of the Gadarean swine and also the fact that the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable ends up in a pigsty.

So circumcision was earlier by some generations in the Old Testament than dietary laws. Anyway Jesus kept all of the Levitical laws perfectly.

The Levitical law was a law for a special holy nation to be set aside to see if they could follow a set of precepts reflecting the perfection of God, and was there as Paul says as a schoolmaster, to lead us to the doctrine of grace. If righteousness comes by the law, he wrote, then Christ is dead in vain. Only Christ, out of all the men who sought to keep the law, actually managed it in thought, word and deed, despite being subjected to all temptations that man is prone to. This level of holiness is inconceivable to anyone who was normally conceived. The heritage from Adam through the male line precludes any such righteousness by works as we have a flesh that is in bondage to sin. So the only claim to such a righteousness we can have is for that man Jesus to have died on our behalf and to have offered himself as propitiation on the basis of simple belief in Him, repentance and calling on Him for salvation.

The experiment that the human can achieve righteousness by the law was done by God with the Jews as the chosen nation. It failed. Christ was the answer.

The experiment that the human can achieve political fairness and equality by communism was done by men with the Soviet peoples and some others as the chosen ones for that, but it was something God had never asked them to do. Still Christ is the answer.

Jesus Christ sent his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and ministered to Israel almost exclsuively. He did however respond in kindness to those coming who recognised that they were outside and ready to pick up crumbs that fell from the masters’ table.

Even after His resurrection, when at the end of Matthew’s Gospel He finally instructs the disciples to go into the whole world, not just Israel, He himself still gives one more chance to Israel. Look how the Acts of Apostles is structured, It is very important, these first few chapters tell a lot of how Gentiles started to be included.

in Acts 2 we have Pentecost, and the tongues enabling the message to go out into the whole world.

In Acts 3, we still have Peter addressing the men of Israel, though, and in Acts 4, and Stephen in Acts 7 addresses also the Jews.

Stephen the Martyr sees Christ in His resurrected state above the Jews to whom he offers the Gospel, and when they stone him it s like the final rejection. The garments already go to Saul, shortly to become Paul and the one who will be the apostle to the gentiles. Peter receives his vision in Acts 10 vv 14-15 where God commands him to eat of the unclean beasts, he says he has never eaten anything unclean, and God says “what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. The chapter goes on to show how now God has opened the way for the gentiles to join the covenant of Christ, and Paul to be the Apostle to them.

Later Paul deals with the issues of Jewish Christians trying to impose circumcision (as I already said above, a more core aspect of OT righteousness even than the dietary laws) on Christians and the Letter to Galatians is mainly all about that, and Christian liberty from Levitical laws. If a person sees righteousness as needing to involve one part of the law, such as circumcision, and not all by grace alone through faith, then they are a debtor to do the whole law.

So the New testament gives us every reason to understand that as we are gentiles and brought in to the grace of Christ, we are nevertheless not expected to behave like Jews. We should honour Jews and not do what the Church did to the Jews through so much of history, but we are not expected to be Jews. We are not converting to Judaism, we are experiencing an extension to pagans of the grace that at first belonged to the Jews. We are cleansed, our food is cleansed, and God is not calling is unclean. He washed us.

If we deny that washing by trying to obey works righteousness then we are outside the covenant of grace and back under the necessity to obey the whole law, because the Levitical law was not a loose leaf law, you didn’t pick or choose the things you liked. If you wanted access to the Holiest of Holies under the Levitical system, that’s how you did it. And the nation was a Theocracy, it wasn’t a secular state like today’s Israel.

We don’t have to become Jewish to by loved and included in a Saviour who was Jewish. We should certainly not be Anti-Semitic or offend Jews. I am not going to sit around without a yarmulka on if I go to a synagogue, nor am I going to sit around eating tasty food if someone in my team is eating only matzos at Passover. But that is by way of acknowledging the specialness of God’s special people, and not by way of saying that my salvation is incomplete if I don’t do these things. If I am working on a project even with Muslims then I will do them the courtesy of ensuring the pizza ordered for lunch has no pork, so how much more am I willing to accommodate the people of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. And even Abraham believed God, and it was that believing, not his act of circumcision, that was accounted to him as righteousness.

If a Christian doesn’t want to eat pork, he can shun pork. But if he thinks that he has earned any of his salvation by doing so, it would be better for him to wallow in a pigsty for a thousand years than get that wrong idea about what the following of Levitical law can do for him.

Atheist chats with theist. (Some Skype chat from this evening – experimental piece)


Blaise Pascal first explained his wager in Pennsylvania

In my search for new blogging and media techniques, tonight, while chatting to a radio friend Fat Steve and noticing that the chat had become a nice cameo piece, I got his permission as you will see to try the following:

[22:44:09] Fat Steve: Davey, I was reading a thread on Amazon and this guy on there reminded me of you

[22:44:54] David J. James: In what way? Read the rest of this entry

The teleological significance of the Egyptian unrest


Joseph made ruler in Egypt

Walking in Memphis?

In many respects, the life of Christ depicted in the Gospels echos the history of the people Israel. Once of the aspects strongly identifying the person of God the Son with Israel is that in his very youth he is taken to escape disaster from Israel into Egypt, echoing the escape of Joseph’s family into Egypt to escape the famine in Israel. Later on other Pharaohs appear who do not know Joseph, and it culminates in the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, who oppresses the Hebrews and is forced in the end to let them go home. In the same way regime change - in the case of Jesus’ life the removal of Herod – enables Christ’s family to return to Israel from Egypt.

In the Bible, Zechariah 14.2 to be precise, you will read a prophecy of all nations gathering against Israel to fight. This verse has remained in every copy of the Bible ever printed, even through the hundreds of years when there was no Israel and atheists would have used it as another one of their “proof texts” against the veracity of scripture. The most savage enemies of the state of Israel are the Islamic States, with a notable exception in Egypt. The regime change now occasioned against Hosni Mubarrak, whatever his faults may be, is this a symbol that the final battle is now coming? The most influential Arab state that had been keeping peace with Israel is now in turmoil, and some other states, like Iran, are claiming that the unrest has an Islamic revolutionary character and are calling on Egypt to wipe Israel out. So now all the surrounding nations would be hostile, and a situation emerges where the prophesy of Zechariah 14.2, which many people believe to be an end times prophesy.

What does Jesus Christ say about this time in Matthew 24?

1And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

2And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. Read the rest of this entry

The history and future of the world, and the meaning of life, in a few paragraphs


I was asked by Frank J, on talk.origins:

Assuming for the sake of argument, that “the world” was created, and life too, *how many years ago* do you think that the first life on Earth was created? And do you think our species was created in a “biological continuum” or did it require its own origin-of-life event? If the latter, how many years ago was it?

I personally think that human kind has been around for 70 generations before Christ and is now coming up to 70 generations after Christ, at which point it will end.

I think this is a version of events with about one adherent at the present time.

I think that in the Scripture it gives 14 generations from Christ to the captivity, 14 from the captivity back to David and 14 from David back to Abraham. This then stops, but shows the existience of a certain pattern which we can follow. It must be there for a reason. I discovered that working forwards from the beginning of Genesis there are 14 generations to Peleg, which name infers the division of the world, a reference I believe to the Babel event. The scripture does not hold, or claim to hold, a complete reference to all generations between Peleg and Abraham, and this is natural as there was no normal language at that time, so there are about 5 generations which have lost information – a very interesting period of earth’s history, by the way, about which there are probably more unanswered questions than any other – we have basically things like funnel beakers and cave paintings and that to go on.

Basically this means that Ussher probably assumed too literally that the generations between Peleg and Abraham were fully recorded in Genesis, but there simply isn’t enough time to get from a Babel scenario to the world as described in the time of Abraham in that space of tgime. In addition for this space of time there are divergent chronologoes in Chronicles and in Genesis, which for those who believe in inerrancy of Scripture ought to be a clue that the Bible is telling us that in that area it is not trying to give us a complete account.

14 generations between Adam and Peleg, 14 between Peleg and Abraham, 14 between Abraham and David, 14 between David and the captivity, and 14 between the Captivity and Christ. That’s seventy generations.

That’s a perfect number. And because Christ is the central figure of history, he comes in the middle of the generations.

The generation length, which I personally define as the age of a woman at the birth of her median surviving female child, can be placed at about 30 years. This means that 70 generations take around 2100 years. We live in the time where the 70th generation is being born, one of whom will be Antichrist, and maybe already is, and we also live in a time where the Gospel has been taken to every tribe, where the Jews have returned to Israel and where there is continual threat of war around Israel. We live in a time where we are being faced with monetary and political union and control to an unprecedented degree, and where the falling away from true religion has also been unprecedented. In short, almost all the prophecies that needed to be fulfilled before the Return of Christ in glory, and the garnering up and resurrection of those who accepted him in faith, be they alive or dead. The close of this creation and the unveiling of the new Creation outside of the restraints of the particular physical laws that have governed this one. We cannot die or suffer in it, we will know God and find bliss. We shall sing and fly like angels, dive like orcas and find wonder and beauty in every everlasting corner of it.

However the generations before Christ were not always 30 years. The chronologies show that before the Flood the aging process was much slower. It is possible that oxygen levels were lower and the free radicals responsible for aging less prominent – even now longevity is more seen in mountain populations as in the Caucuses, where oxygen is more scarce. The release of the waters and the process of their assuaging clearly changed the amount of oxygen available in the atmosphere. If you separate out hydrogen and oxygen as gases, instead of water vapour, then the hydrogen will wander off into space as it cannot be held by gravity. Hence during the assuaging of the Flood the amount of atmospheric oxygen increased strongly.

The first generations were therefore longer. The median child of a woman could have been hundreds of years. This means that we cannot say that these 70 generations lived only over 2100 years. They may have lived over 4900 years, which is the figure I get if I assume about 300 year generations until Noah’s generation (9th), and then that tapering down to Peleg’s. That gives 4900 BC and 2100 AD years for a total of 7000 years of creation.

So I think that life was created some 6900 years ago. Put in place looking mature and pre-existant, with Adam even having a navel, although he had no mother, and with radioactive isotopes in igneous rocks already partly decayed. This was no deception by God, as Adam knew perfectly well where he came from and always was able to hand down those facts through his generations, as did many people in the time when God communed more freely with man, but it was there to enable mankind in the latter generations (where overwhelmingly most of the human souls occur – especially in the last few generations in the modern era post Darwinism) to find an alternative to believe if they rejected God. It was made that way precisely so that we can believe whatever we choose. It was made that way precisely so that millions of human beings like you and me can have this debate, whether with each other or in the privacy of their own minds, and that some might be drawn to believe still in their creator and their redeemer, even when the world is dragging them to interpret the things God made in an atheist way, and that in the exercise of faith they may be separated ought, have their imperfections and iniquities forgiven and restored, and come to a knowledge of God in love and be enabled to join with him in a relationship of children to a father.

That’s what it’s all about.  Be part of it.  Believe, and be part of reality.

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