Friday, December 29, 2006

Thomas Bradwardine, an Englishman, was also medieval theologian and scientist. He was born about the year 1290 and died during an outbreak of the plague (Black Death) in 1349. Bradwardine was one of the great intellects and scholars of his day. He was given the title Doctor Profundus (the Profound Doctor) because of his great ability and knowledge. He was, for a time, chaplain to King Edward III, and for a short time before his death, he was ordained Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bradwardine was an Augustinian in matters of salvation. He is one of the great medieval defenders of what has since come to be called Calvinism, though lived two hundred years before John Calvin was born. The good doctor’s best known work is entitled “De causa Dei contra Pelagium” (i.e. The Cause of God Against the Pelagians). Here is a quote from Bradwardine:
What injustice and cruelty can be charged to God because He chooses to predestinate and create one of His creatures for the service of another creature and both of them for His own service, praise, glory and honor? This is particularly true, since he punishes no man with eternal damnation unless such a man deserves it, that is to say, unless through his own sin he deservedly and justly requires eternal punishment.
This treatise is a very strong defense of the doctrines of predestination and election, written long before the Protestant Reformation, against those in the church at the time, who opposed doctrines of Grace and were teaching a salvation by works theology.

In this treatise the good doctor gives a strong defense of God’s predestining some unto eternal life and others unto reprobation. He also does a fine job defending the doctrine that we call the 5th point of Calvinism, which is the perseverance of the Saints. He argues that is so because the elect individual is predestined and the Holy Spirit preserves him in the faith and good works.

I truly believe that Calvinism is a doctrine found in Scripture and those who would to it and teach it do so from the Word of God. It is a doctrine which was taught and defended in Christ's Church, by godly men, long before John Calvin was born. I am sure Calvin would be alarmed that his name has been attached to this clear teaching of Scripture, because he would know that sinful men would only use his name as another excuse to shrink and hide from the Scriptures at this point.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Who Are our Brethren?
I believe that the Roman Catholic Church, as a denomination, has very serious and dangerous errors in its doctrines and practice. If I did not believe this I would be a Roman Catholic today. Some Protestants believe that the Roman Catholic Church is completely apostate and not a “Church” of Jesus Christ at all. I do not believe this to be so.

Some Protestants believe that a Church cannot have doctrinal error and still be “Christian” Church. Of course these very same Protestants bleong to denominations that have their own errors, this is so because every church and every Christian is in error at some point. I think it is important to look at the Scriptures to find the biblical pattern of what is a (the?) true Church. Every church and every denomination today, every denomination in the past and in the future will err in doctrine and practice at some point(s). This does not necessarily make any of them apostate.

I have a broader understanding of what a true Church is than many (most) Reformed Christians. I believe the ancient creeds are a good measure and limit of what can be considered a “true” church. The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Creed of Saint Athanasius and the statement of Chalcedon dealing with dual nature Christ, are the limits that we can go to in considering what is a Christian Church. Those outside these statements are no Christian Churches.

The Roman Catholic Church falls well within those broad parameters. I was baptised in the RCC and I received true, Trinitarian, Christian baptism.

When Paul was on his missionary journeys he went to the synagogues in each city that he visited. These synagogues were not the place to find the whole truth. They did not preach Christ and Him crucified; yet they were formerly true houses of worship. Paul did not shun them but went there to bring the truth.

If you read the epistles of Paul, you will find that most of them are written to churches that have grave doctrinal errors, yet in almost every case he greets the members of these churches as “brethren.” For example The Corinthian Church had serious problems, on many fronts. Some of its problems were moral, another problem was it’s was division into camps and there were doctrinal errors, yet in spite of this Paul writes and calls them “brethren.”

To the church of the Colossians he says, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.” Yet we know these believers had very serious errors in doctrine. They even prayed through intermediaries other than Christ, and Paul had to reprove them for this serious error.

To the churches of Galatia Paul admits these churches to be “true” churches. Notice also, that even to these most of erring of believers, after some very harsh words, Paul still refers to them as “brethren.” Remember these are “brethren” who are receiving “another” gospel, which is not a Gospel at all. Still Paul deals with these churches as Christian churches and with these people as Christian brethren.

I would also invite you to look at the seven Churches addressed in the book of Revelation. Here we have the Lord himself addressing these churches in Asia Minor. Some are solid and others are horribly in error, yet they are all addressed as churches of Jesus Christ.

I am Reformed. I hold to Covenant theology and paedobaptism and worship our covenant keeping God in that light. I believe that religious syncretism is sin and we should shun it. I do believe that the Roman Catholic Church has not done this at all points, but this does not mean that they are not a true church, nor does it mean that I cannot go there with my grandfather, who is a Roman Catholic and a man who loves Christ.

I do those Christians who disagree with me on this point will look carefully at the churches in the New Testament. They have, at times, serious and dangerous errors, and these errors are dealt with by the Apostles or Christ, sometimes they are dealt with severally, yet these same churches are considered real churches and the members of these churches are addressed as brethren.

I strongly believe that the Bible gives a broader view of what constitutes a “true” church then many modern Christians will admit. I also believe that the Word of God shows who we are to consider “brethren” is broader than many church members today will agree with.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

In my own theology I'm Reformed, that means I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, I believe in election and predestination and I hold to what is known a Covenant theology. While this is my theology, in the last several months my family and I have worshipped at churches associated with the ECUSA, Southern Baptist Church, Presbyterian (PCA) and Roman Catholic Church. I also have a growing interest Apostolic Succession (I don't know where I will fall on that topic, but it does interest me).

My theology is Reformed (solidly so), but I count all who adhere to the Apostle's and Nicean Creeds (implicitly or explicitly) as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I can not compromise or deny my particular Christian beliefs or theology, but that does not mean that I can not embrace other Christians as members of the one Body of Jesus Christ. The medieval Church had unity with great theological diversity. That unity was rent asunder by Catholics and Protestants alike.

We need to begin working toward unity (catholicity) again. This does not mean compromise, but it does mean charity and love for the brethren and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Desiderius Erasmus, in a 1523 letter, listed a number of the items then in dispute between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. After mentioning several important theological areas of conflict between the parties, he writes, "These things used to be argued to and forth by scholastic theologians. If I were a judge I would not dare to condmn a man to death for taking a stand on any of these issues; nor would I be willing to suffer death for them myself."

I do not agree with all that Erasmus says, but I agree with him that the issues that then split the Western Church had been debated for a number of centuries within the Medieval church, without the explosion and fragmentation that took place in the 16th century. I do believe there are theological truths worth dying for (but none worth killing for). The truths, expressed in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds, are worth dying for. They express the outer limits to the Christian faith. Those outside the doctrines of these Creeds are outside the faith, but to those who are within their boundries, I believe, should be given the benefit of the doubt and (until proven otherwise) we should consider them brethren in the faith. That is MHO.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

How Can You Worship There?

Recently I was asked by a “Reformed” Baptist why I left the Roam Catholic Church and why I am willing, from time to time, to attend Catholic Mass. Here is my written response to that inquiry:
My position on this issue is one that is very likely to be frowned upon in most Reformed circles, but I can tell you a bit about my reasons.

First, in my case it was my parent who took me out of the Roman Catholic Church. I was then raised Southern Baptist. Today I am Reformed -- Which "for me" means that I am not only a Calvinist in soteriology, but I am covenantal and paedobaptist in my theology.

The overwhelming majority of my extended family are Roman Catholics, and I have occasion to attend because of weddings, funerals, etc...

I have big differences with the RCC, and I also have big differences with the Southern Baptists Church. The SBC is the church of my parents and siblings. I disagree with (most of) SBC about soteriology; they are mostly Arminian. I disagree with the SBC on Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Like Calvin, I believe these things are Sacraments and means of grace. My Southern Baptist brethren believe they are mere memorials. I believe the Supper should be observed weekly, they celebrate it only know and then.

I am mildly liturgical in my preference of worship style, as were the Reformed Reformers. I like a more structured and liturgical service, while my Baptist friends are strongly anti-liturgy.

I differ with the Catholics and the Southern Baptists on many points and yet I do attend both churches and have no problem attending either one of the no and then.

The Baptist deny that my baptism is real and do not accept the Baptism of my children. I could not join an SBC without my wife and children being re-baptised. This is something that I have very strong feelings about, but I understand the Baptist position and I worship with them despite what they think of our baptisms.

My point I am trying to make is that I am willing to worship with "Trinitarian" Christians even if I have strong theological differences with them. (Calvin, and the Reformers were no kinder to the “Anabaptists” than he was to the “Papists”). I am able to attend the worship services of either and worship the true God.

I have read a good deal of writings from the Reformation period, from the Church of the Middle Ages and the early Church. I find that during and since the Reformation all most every side has tried to very narrowly define the faith. I have problems with that.

I recite the Creed (Nicene or Apostles) whenever I worship at a Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal or Roman Catholic Church (I hope to visit and Eastern Church someday). In those creeds I say, "I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church" I am honest when I recite those words. And I pray for unity in the faith.

I want to know the history and theology of all Christian denominations. Not so I can argue with those with whom I differ, but so I can have an honest, frank, intelligent discussion with my brethren. I want to experience their worship. So I can speak from experience.

In the early Church Jerome and Augustine differed on many things, but they were both in the same catholic church. Today there are tens of thousand of Protestant denominations and there are dozens of Reformed/Presbyterian denominations. I see this as a great tragedy. Are we not to be one in Christ, yet we divide and split over minor points of doctrine? We fight and separate from one another over things that we should be willing to overlook.

Remember what Jesus said in John “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…”

This is one of the great failings of the Church since the Reformation. I don't know how it can be fixed. Rome says the answer is "Return to Rome," but I cannot do that (even though I have no problem going to Mass now and then).

I pray that Christ words above will begin to be taken seriously by all Christians. We all take some part of His word to heart, but we all seem to ignore these words.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Remembering the Pilgrims

During this week we are called upon to recall the Pilgrims who settled in New England and celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the New World. Who were the Pilgrims and why did they settle at Plymouth?

The Pilgrims were Reformed Christians and separatists from the Church of England. They were coming to the New World in order to settle in the English colony of Virginia, and hoped to be able to worship God as they believed proper.

On their way to Virginia their ship, the Mayflower, was blown off course to the north by a storm. They were headed south again along the coast trying to reach Virginia, but they never made it. Instead, they settled in New England.

Here is the question. Why did they stop so far north and not continue south to Virginia?

Read about their reasons from one of their own journals, "after we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution: to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places, which we thought most fitting for us, for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals [i.e. food] being much spent, especially our beer…"

They were running low on food, but most importantly, they were running out of their supply of "beer."

I think that’s a good reason to stop and regroup!

The Pilgrims quickly got there brewery going (it was the first permanent structure they built) and brewed some more beer.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 06, 2006

What is water-boarding? A first hand account.

I see that one of the latest crazes in the news these days has to do with Americans using torture techniques such as water-boarding on terror suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I can testify first that hand water-boarding is a very scary thing. I’ve first hand experience with this method of interrogation.

The U.S. Military has been using water-boarding while training U.S. military personnel for decades. Countless thousands of American soldiers, sailors and Marines have gone through S.E.R.E. (an acronym for Survival-Evasion-Resistance-Escape) training and one of the final stages of S.E.R.E. school is enduring life in a mock P.O. W. camp.

In 1979 I was training to be a U.S. Navy Air Crewman. Part of my training, and that of all U.S. Navy aviators, was S.E.R.E school. S.E.R.E. school was actually run by Department of Defense. When I went through the school, as we found out after the fact that many of our instructors were P.O.W. survivors from the Vietnam War. One of my own interrogators was Doug Hegdahl, the only enlisted man held prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

During the “evasion” part of our training I was captured, had my hands tied behind my back, and a hood placed over my head. I was then loaded into a truck and driven to a holding compound. There we unloaded from the truck amid shooting, shouting and screaming. We were then made to lay face down in the high desert of Warner Springs, Ca.

My first introduction to water-boarding or, as our captors referred to it “the Device,” was that morning. An officer, another enlisted man and I were made to kneel and watch as a fellow sailor was made to sit on this inclined board and untie his flight boots. Then he was made to lie down on the inclined board, which placed his head blow his feet. He was then strapped to the board so that he could not move anything but his head. At that point one of the interrogators took a rag and held his forehead fast to the board, so that it could not move.

I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I do remember that I left the holding compound very scared of being placed on the device.

My next encounter with the device was some time late, during one of my interrogations. During the interrogation I was slapped, beat against a wall and placed in stocks. In the stocks your neck and hands are set below your waste, while your knees remain straight. This is painful and when I was taken from the stocks I collapsed and could not walk for some time. When I was able to stand on my own power, they replaced my hood and guided me away. I was stopped, the hood was removed and the device was there in front of me. I was then asked if I knew what it was. I said I did. I was again asked to reveal things I that I was not allowed to reveal (i.e My squadron). I refused. At that point I was informed that if I did not cooperate I would be placed on “the Device.” My heart sank. I was truly scared.

I would not talk so I was made to sit on the edge of the water-board and untie my flight boots. Then I was laid back and strapped down. I could move neither my arms nor legs. I was again asked the questions and again I would not talk. A man took a wet, white rag and laid it across my forehead and held my head tightly to the board. I couldn't move at all. Then one or two men began pouring water into my face while another man was asking me questions.

I had to constantly spit and swallow while struggling to breathe through the steady stream of water. When I still refused to answer their questions, the man at my head took the rag and threw it over my mouth and nose. I could breathe nothing but water. I felt like I was drowning. My body began to shake and convulse and I thought I was going to pass out, then as I began to black out, the rag was removed from my nose and mouth and I got a breath, but the water never stopped.

Again I refused to answer their questions as the water continued to pour into my nose and mouth and I struggled to breathe air and not water. Once more the rag was thrown over my face and once more I believed I was drowning. Again, after a short time, I could feel my body begin to convulse and once more I thought I was going to pass out. Then another breath, the rag was removed and air entered my lungs as the water continued to pour onto my face and into my nose and mouth.

Once more I did not answer and again the rag covered my face. I felt as though I were drowning and my body was convulsing for lack of air. This time when the rag was removed I told them the answer to the question they had been asking. I told them what squadron I was in. I felt great anger for telling them, but I found out later that they want you to be able to bend, a little bit, and bounce back. The Navy doesn't want you to break or get yourself killed.

S.E.R.E. training was one of the hardest things I have gone through, but it taught me a lot. I have always valued it as the most important training I ever received in the military.

Tens of thousand of American servicemen have made it through S.E.R.E. school and many thousands of sailors, soldiers and marines have had to endure “the Device” or as we called it, the water-board. 

It is scary, you do believe you are going to die, but is it torture? Waterboarding is a very good tool to get information out of someone who does not want to talk, because you give them a very powerful feeling that they are about to die. But the reality is that they are not being harmed at all.

The water-board is not fun; it is a very frightening experience. It was preformed on me by Americans who were on my side, and even though I knew that in my mind, at the moment it was happening I really believed I was going to die. I can understand that a murderous criminal like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, might be convinced to talk using this method of interrogation.

The water board is a very affective interrogation tool, but I do not believe that it qualifies as torture. The U.S. Military does hard training. The training is often dangerous and uncomfortable, but the military does not use torture when training its own people, but it does use the water-board.

If we use water-boarding to train our sailors, soldiers and marines, then how can it be considered torture when used on terrorists?

Deo Vindice,

Ps: I know of one death that has occured at S.E.R.E. school. The death took place many years before I attended the school, and the water-board was not involved in that situation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Attend Mass?

Recently I commented in my Cajun Huguenot blog that I have been attending Catholic mass on weekdays when I work on Sunday and I’m unable to attend worship services at either Bethel Presbyterian or Covenant Presbyterian Churches. (I wrote about it here.)

I received a few comments about this from friends. Here is part of a series of email exchanges I had with a good friend about my attending mass now and then.

Friend: I see that you've been attending mass on a regular basis. I don't go to mass unless it's for a wedding or a funeral and there are parts of it that make me very uncomfortable. How do you reconcile those parts of the mass that clearly divide the papist from the protestant?

Me: For most of my life I only attended mass for weddings and funerals. Now I go to mass about once a month, during the week. I miss Reformed worship at least two Sundays a month. I enjoy corporate worship and that is the only corporate worship during the week that I can attend. I also have found that some Roman Catholics are more open to discussing the faith if they know that I attend mass once and a while.

I like most of the liturgy of the mass and seldom find problems with the shortened weekday version of the mass, but sometimes I have big trouble. The only place where I normally have trouble is with their version of the Eucharist, but the words of the Eucharist that they use are fine. It is the knowledge that they hold to transubstantiation and the fact that the priest does genuflex at that moment that gives me pause, but the words used by the priest fit well within my own understanding of the Supper, which is the same as that of John Calvin.

I do not partake of the Supper [but I do go up and recieve the priest's blessing] . They would not allow me to, and I do not agree with them on it... I do recite the creed and the Lord’s Prayer, which are important.

I don’t know whether I am farther from the Baptists or the Roman Catholics. Baptists have no understanding of the Sacraments as means of grace. Calvin’s views of the Sacrament are very high (and biblical) and are very unlike that of the Baptists, but I worship with Baptists even though I think they have jettisoned much of historic understanding of the sacraments and the history of the faith.

Baptists have stripped the sacraments of their sacredness and mystery, and Roman Catholics have made them to be almost magic. I believe the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. I believe Calvin and the Reformers of his school had it right.

I can worship with the Baptists and Catholics. I wish and hope they would both move to the Reformed understanding of worship. I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

Friend: I asked [pastor] a similar question. His reply is below. In the past I haven't kneeled during veneration of the elements, but I've recently wondered if it may be ok to kneel, as long as I'm not venerating the elements.
(Friend to pastor: I went to a Roman Catholic (Catholic) funeral last week. I don't go to Catholic mass unless it's for a wedding or a funeral and there are parts of it that make me very uncomfortable. I don't want to offend anybody but most of all I don't want to offend God. How do I determine where to draw the line when it comes to participation?
Pastor’s reply to friend: Don't take communion and don't give your money. Genuflection and crossing yourself is up to you. The rest is fine.)

Me: I think his advice is good. I don’t take Communion and I don’t tithe. I do kneel, but I do not venerate the elements, which is a very serious error (to put it mildly). I sometimes do the sign of the Cross. I see it as a non-issue.

I do hope to visit an Orthodox Church soon. I’ve never gone to one of them. I do like the LCMS worship services that I’ve attended [.] I also like the worship at the Episcopal Church…but that denomination is too liberal. I would like to visit a Reformed Episcopal Church someday.

Friend: Some problems I have with the sign of the cross and genuflecting are, people are (or feel) conscience bound to do them, and/or they are superstitious about doing them. In addition they can often become physical habits only. In and of themselves I think they are good. I love the fact that, at the end of each show, before eating what he has cooked, Carl Breaux prays, including the sign of the cross. You can tell that it's sincere and heartfelt. You can catch Carl on KPLC on Sundays at 12:30. He's one of the regulars at the T-Coon's French Table on Tuesdays. He has a cooking show, "Cajun Karl" that features local culture.

The W----s in Lake Charles converted from Episcopal to Catholic partly due to the liberalism of the Episcopal Church.

Me: I know what you mean about the sign of the cross becoming a superstitious reflex and nothing more. I know some of my cousins who treat it that way. I’ve seen one of them forget to cross himself when he passed the church and so he backed up and did so. I do see it as a good picture of the Triune God.

I’ve read the oath that someone has to take to officially become a Roman Catholic. It is not an oath that I could take without lying while I took it. A friend of mine had a son join the RCC, before he married a RC. I spoke with him and explained why I could not take the oath. He told me that he was told that he really did not have to believe what he swore. He said that many RC’s did not believe those things.

I agreed with him that many of them did not believe these items, but I said that they did not have to take an oath affirming those things. He took the oath anyway. I guess I take such oaths much more seriously than he did…

That is the end of our little discussion about attending Roman Catholic Mass. My friend is, like myself, a former Roman Catholic. He left the RCC as an adult. Today we are both Reformed in our theology. We were both born, grewup and still live in Cajun Country of South Louisiana, which is still mostly Roman Catholic.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cultural Death

The other day I read an article in Commentary Magazine by George Weigel titled Europe’s Two Culture Wars. The article was fascinating and frightening as well. It is an article European cultures death wish. I have been looking at this phenomenon for ears. When I read about it I am always reminded of that Scripture where the Lord is personified as wisdom and says "But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." (Prov. 8:36)

Europe is dying. The peoples of Europe (East and West--North and South) are not having near enough children to replace the current generation. The numbers of ethnically Europeans, in Europe, are going to be dropping dramatically in the coming years. While this is happening Muslims from North Africa and Asia are immigrating into Europe, and these peoples are having children.

Europe’s once Christian culture has been replaced by a secular, post-Christian Culture that is hostile to the Christian faith that was once the foundation and bulwark of her culture. Europe’s secular elite are hostile to Christian culture and would replace Christian ethics with a secular ethic that opposes the Christian understanding of family and sexuality.

Most Europeans have long ago ceased to worship the God of the Bible and are hostile to the Christian God. They have replaced life giving Gospel of Christ with a culturally suicidal secularism that is bent on self hatred that is promoting self-inflicted wounds and bent toward cultural death. Many of today’s Europeans have no desire to see their culture survive and so why have children?

Europe, as a culture, can survive only if it turns from nihilistic secularism and once again embraces the Christian faith that once flourished there. Christianity revival and reformation can bring spiritual life and vitality back to this once great culture.

Europe’s other choice is to continue the way it is going. If this happens, European civilisation will be replaced. The culture of death of current will be replaced by the tyranny that is Islam.

Coram Deo,
Ps. North Americans too have a growing culture of death. If we continue as we are going, then we to will be replaced by another culture as well. The good new is that our immigrant populations are much closer to us culturally than the immigrants to Europe are to European culture.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Can I Eat Pork, etc…
No one can doubt that Jesus and His disciples all kept the dietary laws of the Old Covenant. To my knowledge that has never been questioned by any Christian. But Christians who are the followers of Jesus Christ do not keep the dietary laws of the Old Covenant.

Why is this?

Many Christians point to Peter vision in Acts where a sheet is let down. On the sheet were “footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.” God says to Peter “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” but Peter responds “Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.” Then Peter hears a voice from heaven say, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

This text by itself is not a good argument for the end of the dietary Laws of the Old Covenant. It can play a part but all by itself, it is not a strong argument for the passing away of the dietary laws. So, while the passage is often used by Christians to explain why we are not under the dietary laws, it should not be used as the definitive argument, because food is not what the passage is really about. It is really a passage about bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.

During the first century the Gospel went from Israel, to Samaria and then to the pagan Greek and Roman World. There was a great cultural divide between Israel and the pagan world then, because God had put that divide in place by means of the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. The laws were. As we learn in Hebrews, during the life time of the Apostles passing away. In Hebrews 8:13 we read, “In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” The Old Covenant Ceremonial laws were coming to an end.

Those vestiges of the Old Covenant that were “shadows,” which pointed to the reality that is fulfilled in Christ, were then passing from the scene and were finally done away with when Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

During the Apostolic age, as the Gospel went into the Pagan world, there was a good deal of tension between Hebrew and Gentile Christians. They were culturally very different people, because God had caused Israel to be different. Many Hebrew Christians thought Gentile believers should become fully Hebrew and come under and observe the “laws” of the Old Covenant as most of the Jewish Christians still did.

Paul vehemently opposed those that promoted that idea. Eventually there was a Council in Jerusalem of the apostolic leaders of the Church. The Council, headed by James the brother of Jesus, was to decide the matter. Many Jewish Christians believed the Gentile Christians should observe the ceremonial laws as they themselves did, this included the dietary laws.

In the Roman/Greek world of the first century pigs were commonly used in sacrifices and as food. This is why the decision of James at the Jerusalem Council is so telling. He instructs Paul, who is accused of doing away with the law, to go through the Jewish purification rites, which were even then “becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” The reason for this was “many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses…

James tells Paul to keep the ceremonial laws to placate the Jews (Christian and non-Christian). Next he says, “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

James, and all at the council, knew that pork was a common part of the Gentile diet and yet he limits his decision affecting food to things offered to idols, blood, and things strangled (because the blood would not be drained from the meat as it usually is).

It should be noted that the restriction against eating blood predates the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant. This law goes back to Noah. It is to Noah that God first gives permission to eat meat. In Gen. 9 we read “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” So James in his statement at Jerusalem reaches back before the Ceremonial law is given and stresses what God said to Noah in Gen. 9. Notice that there is no restriction against pork in the pre-mosaic statement on meat and that is what James repeats for the eating restrictions of the Gentile Christians.

It is clear in the second century that the Church had no aversion to Christians eating pork. A number of the church fathers comment on this fact, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and St. Augustine.

This understanding was true for the whole Christians era even until our own time, but there are today “Messianic Christians” and cults that have arisen lately that try to deny these things. Such people are putting people in bondage. If any Christian wants to bind himself to the ceremonial restrictions of the Old Covenant -that is between him and the Lord - but if he tries to bind his neighbour then he is committing a grave sin that Paul addressed in his writings.

Coram Deo,

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Bible and Race
I am amazed when people use the Bible to argue that it is a sin to marry someone from a different race. The Scriptures have a great deal to say about the inter-marriage of different peoples. In the Law of God the Israelites were commanded not to inter-marry with the peoples that lived around them, but this was not a law to maintain racial purity. Instead, the laws were there so that the Covenant People of God would maintain theological and religious purity.

My very early years were spent in the segregated South and my teenage years were spent in a South that was dealing with foul fruit of racial segregation, after it was “officially” ended. I, like many (most) of my friends, believed it was “wrong” to for a white person to marry a black person. That is the way we all (most of us) thought back then.

In my early twenties, after I had started studying the Scriptures, I began to have trouble with my views about race and marriage. I remember reading an article about a mixed race couple who, after they had married, had been converted to the Christian faith, and so I began to look at the subject.

I never pretended that my views against inter-racial marriage were based on the Bible, and up until that time I had little knowledge (if any) about what the Bible said on the subject. As I began to work through this issue I realised that my views were totally cultural based had had no theological foundation.

As I read the Scriptures I realised that Law of God forbade the people of God from marrying peoples who worshipped false Gods, and the laws against inter-marriage with other peoples were based on faith and not on race. There are a number of accounts in the Bible where Covenant people married non-covenant people.Sometimes this is serously condemned, but it was ok if the non-Covenant person converted before hand and joined the Covenant people of God.

Rahab the Harlot, of Jericho, helped the Israelites conquer that Canaanite city. I think it is clear in the text that Rahab was a Canaanite. She had her own home in Jericho and she, and her extended family with her, were the only people spared when the Israelites conquered the city. Then we read that “And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” (Joshua 6:25) Rahab a Canaanite, and her people were grafted into Israel. Rahab made it to the Faith hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:31.

Christians, like Old Testament saints, are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. That is what we are not to do; we are not to marry non-believers. Racial separatist groups, that try to defend their position from the Bible, do great harm to the Faith of Christ and distort the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, who had Rahab, a Canaanite, as one of his ancestors.

I am proud of my Southern heritage and I will defend it any day of the week, but when heritage differs from the Scriptures we must follow the Word of God.

Deo Vindice,
Ps. God save the South (and the whole world).

Monday, July 03, 2006

Early Christian Apologists and the Trinity

One of the subjects that interest me is the development of Christian doctrines. One doctrine that is important to me is the Biblical teaching about the plurality that exists in the one true God, what we refer to as the Trinity.

I've read some Oneness Pentecostal teachings on this subject. What I’ve found is they tend to ignorant of how the Early Church saw this subject. Some of them believe that the Trinity was invented at the Council of Nicea (325 AD). This is a big mistake. Nicea was called to deal with the Arian heresy, which centered around whether or not Jesus Christ was God or a creature. (The Arians were similar to the modern Jehovah Witnesses.)

The term Trinity was first coined by the Tertullian (155-230), but the idea that there is a plurality in the God head goes all the way back to Geneses. The Trinity and the Old Testament is addressed here: The Trinity in the Old Testament.

Trinitarian and as was the very early Church. Below are some items from the early church that show how the early defenders of the Christian Faith understood the oneness and plurality of the one true God. Justin Martyr and Athenagoras are early Christian apologists (i.e. defender of the faith). What is written below are examples of Christians trying to explain the Christian teachings of the Trinity long before Tertullian coined the word.

Justin Martyr was Platonic philosopher who converted to Christianity. He and a number of companions were martyred for the faith in the 160s. He wrote the following items in the 150s.

This is from Justin Martyr’s First Apology:
Chapter XXXII: And what is spoken of as "the blood of the grape," signifies that He who should appear would have blood, though not of the seed of man, but of the power of God. And the first power after God the Father and Lord of all is the Word, who is also the Son; and of Him we will, in what follows, relate how He took flesh and became man.

In Chapters 37,38 and 39 Justine speaks of the “person” of the Father (37) in 38 he speaks of the “person” of the son and in 39 Justine speaks of the Spirit as “He” and differentiated from Father and Son.

In Chapter LXI on the subject of baptism we read, “For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water.”

In chapter LXIII of his first Apology Justin Martyr said this about modalistic teachings “For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.

This is from Justin Martyr’s Second Apology:
Chapter VI: But these words, Father, and God, and Creator, and Lord, and Master, are not names, but appellations derived from His good deeds and functions. And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word, who also was with Him and was begotten before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ, in reference to His being anointed and God's ordering all things through Him

Now let’s look at Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. In this book Justine is speaking to Trypho and his companions, all of who are Jews. Main thrust of the book is to show them that Jesus is the Christ and He is truly God. There is much in the book that is clearly Trinitarian in its thrust. I would especially point to Chapter CXXIX. In this Chapter Justin is pointing out that the Old Testament Scriptures show that there is a plurality of being in the one true God.

Athenagoras wrote A Plea for the Christians to Emperor Marcus Aurelius around 177 AD.

Here or some items from this work.
Chapter III: But, since our doctrine acknowledges one God, the Maker of this universe, who is Himself uncreated (for that which is does not come to be, but that which is not) but has made all things by the Logos which is from Him, we are treated unreasonably in both respects, in that we are both defamed and persecuted.

Chapter X is a great example of an early attempt to explain the plurality and unity of the true God of the Christians. Athenagoras says “That we are not atheists, therefore, seeing that we acknowledge one God, uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and the reason, who is encompassed by light, and beauty, and spirit, and power ineffable, by whom the universe has been created through His Logos, and set in order, and is kept in being--I have sufficiently demonstrated. [I say "His Logos"], for we acknowledge also a Son of God.” And then he says, “The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?

I am about out of time, but I can add more when I have a few more minutes to spare.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Christianity and the First Amendment

The United States of America were established as a Christian federalist republic made up of Christian States. There was no established church in our federal Republic of states and any attempt to establish a church on the federal level would have destroyed the chance for the Constitution to be ratified.

The states that ratified the Constitution were all “Christian” states (i.e. nations), most of them overtly so. Some of them had established churches, some had recently disestablished their official churches and some had never had official “state” churches but all were still Christian republics.

At least four of the original states that ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had established churches when they voted to approve the Constitution and the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, which contains the "establishment Clause."

No one saw this as odd or in conflict with either the Constitution or the First Amendment to the Constitution. Even those states that had recently disestablished their official churches still saw themselves as Christian. North Carolina is a good example of this.

In 1776 North Carolina (then a state and no longer a colony of Great Britain) adopted a new state Constitution, which remained in use until after the War Between the States. Prior to 1776 the Anglican Church was the official church of North Carolina. The Anglican establishment ended with the Constitution of 1776, but North Carolina remained Christian.

Here are some excerpts from her Constitution:
XXXII. That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State. (Note: In 1835 the term Protestant was broadened to the word Christian.)

XXXIV. That there shall be no establishment of any one religious church or denomination in this State, in preference to any other; neither shall any person, on any pretence whatsoever, be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own faith or judgment, nor be obliged to pay, for the purchase of any glebe, or the building of any house of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary, to what he believes right, or has voluntarily and personally engaged to perform; but all persons shall be at liberty to exercise their own mode of worship:-- Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to exempt preachers of treasonable or seditious discourses, from legal trial and punishment.

North Carolina’s constitution was clearly Christian and no one called into question that this was unconstitutional.

New Hampshire disestablished the Congregational Church a few years after she ratifed the Constitution. This was voluntary on her part and even with the disestablishment the state constitution remained overtly Christian.

Here is a section from the 1784 New Hampshire Constitution:

VI. As morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to due subjection; and as the knowledge of these, is most likely to be propagated through a society by the institution of the public worship of the DEITY, and of public instruction in morality and religion; therefore, to promote those important purposes, the people of this state have a right to impower, and do hereby fully impower the legislature to authorize from time to time, the several towns, parishes, bodies-corporate, or religious societies within this state, to make adequate provision at their own expence, for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality…

… And every denomination of christians demeaning themselves quietly, and as good subjects of the state, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another, shall ever be established by law.

The New Hampshire constitution remained valid, even after the state ratified the U.S. Constitution, and again no one saw any contradiction between the N.H. Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. New Hampshire did not allow non-Protestants to hold office until she changed that provision (on her own) in the 1870’s.

Now let's move on to an early commentary on the U. S. Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (Justice from 1811-1845) is one of the giants of the Supreme Court. In his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution he writes a good bit on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Every American should be read all that he wrote on this important clause, but let me quote one part. Justice Story said “The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. It thus cut off the means of religious persecution, (the vice and pest of former ages,) and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion, which had been trampled upon almost from the days of the Apostles to the present age.”

That is one of the most succinct and accurate statements on the amendment that has ever been made.

Coram Deo,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I have posted mostly theology stuff here, but today I'm moving into the political realm. What follows something I wrote several years ago. It was first given as a speech to our local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I hope you find it interesting (and convincing).

(The website for our local SCV Camp is --Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390)

Deo Vindice,

The Constitution and Secession

The federal government is a creation of the states that formed the union. These states were sovereign powers and each joined the new federal union, created by the Constitution, by way of ratifying conventions. The member states in the Federal union did not forfeit their sovereignty when they joined the new confederated republic. They joined as states and did not become provinces of the federal system they created. This was universally understood by the founders and the generation to follow. State sovereignty was not challenged until the 1830's. It was about that time that a debate began as to the nature of the American system we received with the constitutional union.

The South remained true to the founding principles. Her leaders were strict constructionists. Men such as Thomas Jefferson, John Randolph of Roanoke, John C. Calhoun, and Jefferson Davis had a clear understanding of the founding principles of the United States Constitution. Massachusetts' politicians began to deny those aspects of American political history that had been so widely and clearly understood. In our day the political leaders from Massachusetts are still at the forefront of distorting what little remains of true constitutional government in the United States, and they have plenty of help from all regions of the U.S.

In 1776 thirteen colonies, from New Hampshire to Georgia, seceded from the British Empire. There is a great misunderstanding about the reason for this important act of secession. The several colonies, in America, were related to Great Britain by a mutual king. The colonies were not subjects of Parliament, and they were not governed internally by the legislature in London. They had their own legislative bodies and had governed themselves from the first half of the seventeenth century. The king was chief executive for each colony and he appointed the governors in them. He also had a veto over their legislation. George III was king of England, Scotland, Ireland, Virginia, Massachusetts, Delaware, etc... The King had a compact with each of the individual colonies; no such agreement existed between the colonies and the British Parliament. The Parliament in London had no sovereignty in the colonies; the colonists were subject to the king and elected their own representatives to the colonial governments. The British Parliament had no authority to tax any of the American colonies. Parliament was attempting to tax the colonies, which would be like the New York legislature passing a tax on the people of Louisiana. They have no legal right to do so, and only cowards and fools would submit to such abuse of authority.

For more than ten years there had been an on going dispute, because the legislature in London was trying to tax the people of the colonies. The Americans and several of Great Britain's leaders had over and over denied that that body had the right or the authority to do such a thing. The cry "no taxation without representation" didn't mean the Americans wanted seats in the Parliament. Nothing could be further from the truth. It meant they had their own representatives in their own legislatures at home, and didn't want a foreign body trying to govern them in their own land. George III sided with the government in London, and by so doing broke his compact with the colonies. By acting in an arbitrary, despotic and illegal manner, he forfeited his right to rule over them. This lead to the first American secession. It was a conservative attempt by the Americans to preserve lawful government. Virginia declared independence in June of 1776, and then all thirteen colonies declared independence on the same day July 4, 1776. The Declaration Of Independence would have been issued two days earlier, but it had to wait on a couple of state delegations, because the members of the Continental Congress had no authority to act without their states approval, and they had not yet received authorization from their respective governments to go ahead with the act of secession.

Though they acted together, each state acted as a sovereign nation. The Declaration is very clear at this point. It states that they had to "alter their former systems of government" because of the king's usurpation. The document continues:

[T]hat these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connections between them and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, which Independent States may of right do.

Notice that these are independent states. Each saw itself as a separate nation allied with its sister states in a struggle with a common enemy. The colonies were only united in their desire to be free of a king that was attempting to destroy their constitutional liberties. The Articles of Confederation, which was agreed to by the thirteen states, created the first United States government and it existed from 1781 until 1789.

The states as nations did not disappear; they were jealous to maintain their individual identities. The Articles put it this way:

Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in congress assembled.

A confederation is formed when nations unite together in a common purpose. Mutual defence and trade are common reasons for the creation of such systems. The nations in confederation agree to delegate some of their authority to the confederated or federal government to do its limited task. The nations involved retain all of their sovereignty that they have not delegated.

The end of hostilities with Great Britain came after the United States had been formed, yet in the Treaty of Paris (1783) the United States is recognized as being comprised of independent governments. It reads like this:

His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, vis. New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia to be free, sovereign and independent states, that he treats them as such.

Again it's very important that the British crown did not make peace with a single nation called the United States, but with the thirteen states, negotiating for peace with a common enemy, through their confederation government. The treaty recognizes each state as "free, sovereign, and independent." Each is acknowledged to be a nation in its own right. This is an important point to remember because sophist, like Joseph Story and Abe Lincoln, would later claim that the United States existed as a single nation from as early as the Declaration of Independence and even before. This claim is the foundation stone of their argument, and it is in absolute contrast to documented history.

A convention of the states was called to revise the Articles of Confederation, because of problems in the confederacy. At the convention in Philadelphia, George Washington was elected to preside over the assembly. After a very long and difficult period the men meeting in Philadelphia proposed that a new government be formed under the Constitution they had formulated. This Constitution was sent to the United States congress and they passed it on to the states for their approval or rejection. Each state called its own convention to decide if it would accept the new Constitution or not.

Today most Americans see the Constitution as one of the greatest political documents ever produced. This was not the case when it was sent to the states for their consideration. The people in the states split over the matter, and a great debate ensued. The debate over the Constitution is well documented; it took place in the newspapers and at the state conventions, which were called to decide on accepting or rejecting the proposal. Those urging approval of the new federal system were called Federalists. They believed that the Constitution would produce a better union than the Articles of Confederation had. The new confederate or federal (the two words are interchangeable) union was so constructed that, while it did produce a more vigorous federal government, it could not usurp the power and sovereignty from the states. The new government would posses only "expressed powers" spelled out in a written document. It could be, and would be, safely contained within those constitutional limits. The new Government would be, as James Madison said, "bound by the chains of the Constitution".

Their were great men supporting the new constitution; George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Light Horse Harry Lee (Gen. Robert E. Lee's father); were some of its champions.

Opponents of the federalist were labelled as "Anti-federalists". This group includes many great Americans also. We find important leaders like Patrick Henry, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and George Mason among the Anti-federalist. These men had much in common with the Federalists. Most of the contenders on both sides wanted to maintain a confederated union of sovereign states. Each side argued their position was the best way to sustain such a union, and that their opponent's position was flawed and would be, in the long run, destructive to the union. The Anti-federalists charged that the proposed Constitution would lead to a strong central ("consolidated") government that would steal the sovereignty of the states. They believed that the new government would grow into a monster that would destroy the freedom and independence of the states.

The Anti-federalists had the upper hand in the larger and more important states. The Federalists proposed a compromise, because they did not have the votes to ratify the Constitution. This compromise won over just enough of their adversaries to achieve ratification in eleven states. The compromise was to amend the new constitution with a bill of rights. The proposed Bill Of Rights would further bind the federal government from trampling the rights of the people and the states. The Bill Of Rights was understood to grant individuals and states nothing; its purpose was to further bind and control an already very small and limited federal government.

The people were concerned for their state’s sovereignty and had a strong, and I would add healthy, distrust of large or remote governments. Samuel Adams, of Massachusetts, was one of the Anti-federalists won over by the compromise. He said this of the new union "That each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States. " The People of South Carolina clarified what they understood when they ratified the Constitution. This is part of their declaration "This Convention doth declare that no section or paragraph of the said Constitution warrants a construction that the states do not retain every power not expressly relinquished by them and vested in the general government of the Union." Virginia, when she reluctantly, and narrowly, approved the new government, made clear that secession was an option if the central government misused its power.

We, the Delegates of the people of Virginia Do, in the name and behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power granted thereby remains with them, and at their will.

Each state as it adopted the new system of government left the old Union and joined the new one. Adoption of the Constitution meant secession from the United States under the Articles of Confederation. The old Union was made up of thirteen states; the new Union began with eleven states. North Carolina had not voted to ratify, and Rhode Island had not even bothered to call a convention. These two states were foreign countries when George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States on 30 April 1789, and were treated as such by the new government. Those who try to prove that the United States were formed as a single nation, at an earlier date, tend to ignore this fact.

North Carolina ratified the Constitution and joined the union six months after Washington had taken the oath of office. Rhode Island joined the union a full thirteen months after Washington had become president. She was accepted into the union, though her ratifying convention made clear that she too believed she retained her sovereignty, and could recall all powers delegated to the federal government. The folks in Rhode Island believed they could secede from the new union if they chose to. The United States accepted those states that held they had the right to secede from the "new Confederacy". Their view of secession was not challenged when they joined the union.

A very important part of the Articles of Confederation was not repeated in the Constitution. The Union, that began and ended in the 1780's, had been declared a "perpetual union" in the Articles of Confederation. Though many aspects of the Articles had been carried over into the new union, the words "perpetual union" are conspicuous by their absence from the new Union's covenant document.

Thomas Jefferson was fearful that there might be a "separation" as early as 1790. He, like every American believed the union vital, but he did not doubt a state's right to leave the union if it decided to do so. Jefferson said in a letter written in 1802 that he believed that the United States, in and of itself, had no inherent sovereign power, because sovereignty was retained by the states. He was not alone in this view. In Lonsdale versus Brown, an 1821 Pennsylvania court case, the following verdict was rendered. "[F]or though they form a Confederated Government, yet the several states retain their individual sovereignties, and with respect to their municipal laws, are to each other foreign."

William Rawle, who was appointed United States attorney for Pennsylvania in 1791 by George Washington, wrote an important study on United States government. His book, A View of the Constitution, was in use at West Point when men such as Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis attended the U. S. military academy. The Rawle's textbook says this about secession: "The secession of a state from the union depends on the will of the people of such state." He adds, "It depends on the State itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right, would be inconsistent with the principles on which all our political systems are founded; which is, the people have, in all cases, a right to determine how they will be governed." Rawle does not treat secession lightly; he says "To withdraw from the union is a solemn and serious act" yet states retain the right to do so.

New England was the region in the North most hostile to Southern secession. It is ironic that this very region, which had threatened secession over and over again, and had done so as late as the 1840’s, was a hot bed of anti Southern feelings in the North. There were calls for New England to secede in 1803 because of the Louisiana Purchase, 1814 because of the War of 1812 (which was unpopular in that region), and 1843 because of the acceptance of the Republic of Texas into the union. The New Englanders that made war on the South during the War for Southern Independence had a very short and selective memory.

Abraham Lincoln, who had supported the right of secession while in congress, took the oath of office as president determined to do all that was necessary to nullify the secession of South Carolina, Georgia and the Gulf States. The question of legality and constitutionality would not play a part in his decision to make war on the seceded states. Lincoln's willingness to totally disregard the Covenant document of the "sacred union" drove four of the Border States to the side of the Southern Confederacy. He prevented the secession of other Border States by the use of martial law, which he had no legal authority to impose.

Lincoln's utter disregard for the provisions of the Constitution are well documented, but little known today. His despotic acts overthrew the constitutional governments of the South, and North. It's because of his usurpations that Washington D.C. is now the seat of a consolidated government our Founding Fathers had worked so hard to prevent. Washington D.C. is an imperial capitol, and no longer the seat of the limited federal government handed down by the Founders.

We must remember the constitutional liberties our ancestors fought for in two wars for independence. Alexander H. Stevens, vice president of the Confederacy, spoke wisely and his words need to be remembered by a new generation of Southerners. He said "The Cause which was lost by the surrender of the Confederates, was only the maintenance of this Principle by arms. It was not the Principle itself that they abandoned." We, too, must remember the principle for which our ancestors spilt so much of their blood. We need a return to limited constitutional government. A confederacy of sovereign states is what we were given by the first act of secession. A confederacy of sovereign states is what was lost in both North and South when the Southern states were forced back into the union by grapeshot and the bayonet.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Justine Martyr and Oneness Pentecostals

The Trinity is a fundamental teaching of orthodox Christianity. This has been true since the very early days of the Christian Church. The Scriptures of the New Covenant are clearly Trinitarian and the Trinity is also visible, though far less clearly, seen in Old Covenant Scriptures as well. Several years ago I wrote The Trinity in the Old Testament. I have been planning to write a similar article on The Trinity in the New Testament, but I have not yet set aside the time to write it.

Over the years I have read some Oneness Pentecostal arguments against the Trinity. I have found that they tend to be based on both bad (heretical) theology, but their historical understanding is as bad as their theology.

Some Oneness Pentecostal arguments point to the Council of Nicea (325 AD) for the doctrine of the Trinity, This is spurious and shows a serious lack of knowledge of the early Church history.

I have been, ever so slowly, reading the Church Fathers and the Trinity is clear adhered to from the earliest days of the Church. It is true that Tertullian (155-230 AD) is the first person to use the word “trinity,” but the doctrine is clearly in the writings of the Fathers from long before Tertullian.

Justin Martyr, who was martyred between 162-168 AD, makes clear in his two Apologies that he understands the tri-unity of God. In discussing baptism, he gives the Trinitarian formula for baptism as we still used today.

The Oneness Pentecostals deny the Trinity and hold to an ancient heresy called Sabellianism (a form of modalism). This is a dangerous heresy and is held by all Oneness Pentecostals.

Justine Martyr condemned these teachings. In chapter LXIII of his first Apology he said this about modalistic teachings “For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.”

The modalistic teaching of modern Oneness Pentecostals is a grave error that Justin and many others among the Church Fathers addressed long before the Council of Nicea.

Coram Deo,

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Witness of Justin!
A while back I purchased a 38-volume set of books on the Early Church Fathers. Since then I have been reading them at a slow but steady pace. I love reading the Early Church Fathers. The latest Church Father who I’ve been reading is a fellow by the name of Justin (the) Martyr.

Justine lived in the second century, and in those days it was a crime punishable by death to admit that you were a Christian. Justin decided that he would write the Emperor and the Roman Senate and explain that what they were doing was a great injustice. These writings are titled Apology I & II. (written between 150-157 AD)

In Apology II Justin admits that his own life would soon forfeited because of his faith in Christ. He wrote “I too, therefore, expect to be plotted against and fixed to the stake, by some of those I have named, or perhaps by Crescens, that lover of bravado and boasting; for the man is not worthy of the name of philosopher who publicly bears witness against us in matters which he does not understand, saying that the Christians are atheists and impious, and doing so to win favour with the deluded mob, and to please them.”

Justin Martyr was tortured and beheaded in Rome (between 162-168 AD), during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Justin’s crime was his profession of the name Christian.

Justin was born in Samaria (Israel) of pagan parents. He studied philosophy, especially Plato, and was a philosopher. Then, as he says, he came to know the “true philosophy” which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What follows is the account of Justin, and several other brothers and sisters, martyrdom.

In Christ,
The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs
Justin, Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus, Who Suffered at Rome.
Examination of Justin the Prefect.
In the time of the lawless partisans of idolatry, wicked decrees were passed against the godly Christians in town and country, to force them to offer libations to vain idols; and accordingly the holy men, having been apprehended, were brought before the prefect of Rome, Rusticus by name. And when they had been brought before his judgment-seat, said to Justin, "Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings." Justin said, "To obey the commandments of our Saviour Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation." Rusticus the prefect said, "What kind of doctrines do you profess?" Justin said, "I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions." Rusticus the prefect said, "Are those the doctrines that please you, you utterly wretched man?" Justin said, "Yes, since I adhere to them with right dogma." Rusticus the prefect said, "What is the dogma?" Justin said, "That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples. And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a Certain prophetic power, since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God. For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men."

Examination of Justin Continued.
Rusticus the prefect said, "Where do you assemble?" Justin said, "Where each one chooses and can: for do you fancy that we all meet in the very same place? Not so; because the God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful." Rusticus the prefect said, "Tell me where you assemble, or into what place do you collect your followers?" Justin said, "I live above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian Bath; and during the whole time (and I am now living in Rome for the second time) I am unaware of any other meeting than his. And if any one wished to come to me, I communicated to him the doctrines of truth." Rusticus said, "Are you not, then, a Christian?" Justin said, "Yes, I am a Christian."

Examination of Chariton and Others.
Then said the prefect Rusticus to Chariton, "Tell me further, Chariton, are you also a Christian?" Chariton said, "I am a Christian by the command of God." Rusticus the prefect asked the woman Charito, "What say you, Charito?"Charito said, "I am a Christian by the grace of God." Rusticus said to Euelpistus, "And what are you?" Euelpistus, a servant of Caesar, answered, "I too am a Christian, having been freed by Christ; and by the grace of Christ I partake of the same hope." Rusticus the prefect said to Hierax, "And you, are you a Christian?" Hierax said, "Yes, I am a Christian, for I revere and worship the same God." Rusticus the prefect said, "Did Justin make you Christians?" Hierax said, "I was a Christian, and will be a Christian." And Paeon stood up and said, "I too am a Christian." Rusticus the prefect said, "Who taught you?" Paeon said, "From our parents we received this good confession." Euelpistus said, "I willingly heard the words of Justin. But from my parents also I learned to be a Christian." Rusticus the prefect said, "Where are your parents? "Euelpistus said, "In Cappadocia." Rusticus says to Hierax, "Where are your parents? "And he answered, and said, "Christ is our true father, and faith in Him is our mother; and my earthly parents died; and I, when I was driven from Iconium in Phrygia, came here." Rusticus the prefect said to Liberianus, "And what say you? Are you a Christian, and unwilling to worship [the gods]? "Liberianus said, "I too am a Christian, for I worship and reverence the only true God."

Rusticus Threatens the Christians with Death.
The prefect says to Justin, "Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven? "Justin said, "I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world." Rusticus the prefect said, "Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense? "Justin said, "I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it." Rusticus the prefect said, "Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods." Justin said, "No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety." Rusticus the prefect said, "Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished." Justin said, "Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour." Thus also said the other martyrs: "Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols."

Sentence Pronounced and Executed.
Rusticus the prefect pronounced sentence, saying, "Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to yield to the command of the emperor be scourged, and led away to suffer the punishment of decapitation, according to the laws." The holy martyrs having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Email Theology?
I get lots of “religious” emails from well meaning friends and co-workers, and once in a while they are pretty good, but most of them are sappy, guilt manipulating, and some are downright heretical.

Here is an example from an email that I received this evening, "And you shall surely achieve all your goals this year. For the remaining months of the year, all your agonies will be diverted and victory and prosperity will be incoming in abundance. Today God has confirmed the end of your sufferings sorrows and pains because HE that sits on the throne has remembered you. He has taken away the hardships and given you JOY"

Now unless the person who sent this is a prophet (and they are not), than there is no way they can honestly say anything like that to a fellow Christian. The statement is VERY un-Scriptural. The Scriptures tell us that if we are the children of God, than one thing that we can count on in this life is suffering. But the good thing is the Holy Spirit is with us and by the Spirit we can (and will) overcome trials, temptations and sufferings.

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake… (Phil. 1:28-29)

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. (1 Thess. 3:2-4)

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer… (2 Thess. 1:4-5)

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Tim 4:10)

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us… (2 Tim 2:11-12)

There are many more verses that could be added to the list above.
I hate to throw cold water on the things in that email, but many of these "religious” emails (like the one quoted above) that get passed around on the internet are not biblical and some of them are out and out heretical. The statement above is a good example of a very unbiblical email that is getting passed around. While it may give us warm fuzzes inside when we read it, it is something that we can not say to someone unless we are a prophet from God. And not just that, it directly contradicts much of what we read in the Scriptures about the suffering and persecution that those who follow Christ will have to endure in this life.

Coram Deo,

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Christians and Alcoholic Beverages

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the letter below. It was written by Rev. Bill Smith, then pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sulphur, La. Bill wrote the letter to his good friend and fellow Baptist minister, who was also his former roommate at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis.

Bill wrote the letter because his friend called Bill very concerned because he found out that Bill’s understanding about Christians and the consumption of alcoholic beverages had changed (Bill no longer believed it was a sin to drink a beer or glass of wine). The conversation did not go well, and Bill sat down, after they hung up, to explain from Scripture why his position had changed from a belief in total abstinence to one of moderation. I hope you find this interesting.

In Christ,
Dear R---,

I haven't heard from you since that last e-mail, and I didn't know if it was just because you were busy or because I am anathema now because of my position on alcohol and tobacco. One of the reasons I am writing this e-mail is because I talked with J.'s uncle Al last night. He called me asking me about this. We had an interesting discussion.

I guess a lot of water has passed under the bridge since we have discussed anything, and I did kind of shock everyone. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but it is nothing about which I am ashamed. This e-mail will provide some explanation as to why I came to this position. I hope that this will be passed along to J. and ultimately Al also. Al and I are supposed to talk again sometime.

I have learned that, in fact, it was the Unitarians who actually began the temperance movement in the 1800's. The "conservative Christians" fell in with them because of their distorted view of God's creation, holding an ancient gnostic dualistic view of physical and spiritual; i.e., matter is inherently evil and the spiritual is good. This poses all sorts of problems with biblical Christianity (of which I am a strong adherent).

This brings me to the biblical argument which changed my thinking. Remember, the Bible, God's inerrant revelation of Himself to us, is our only rule of faith and practice. Emotional arguments, arguments from personal experience and cultural practice cannot dictate what we believe and do. Only God's Word should govern our thinking.

The first area with which I would like to deal is our common ground. The Bible is very clear about drunkenness. Drunkenness is a sin which is deplorable in the sight of God. From the Old Testament through the New Testament God has made this very clear.

Prov. 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Is. 28:1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!

Luke 21:34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.

Rom. 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

Eph. 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.

In fact, drunkenness is a picture and a sign of God's judgment:

Is. 19:14 The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.

Is. 24:20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

Is. 29:9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. Et. al.

The Bible clearly states that the drunkard (i.e., those whose lifestyle is characterized by drunkenness) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9-10) because this is a work of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). I detest drunkenness, and, in fact, have begun church discipline (that might be a new one for you too) on people who have been publicly drunk. Many people do not see how this position is consistent with what I am about to say, but the Bible is perfectly consistent about the issue. The Bible's teaching on alcohol as a beverage is quite clear.

The first word in the Old Testament that is translated wine is the Hebrew word yayin. Some have tried to argue that this word as well as others does not refer to a drink that has the ability to intoxicate in order to maintain the position that abstinence is the only way to think about alcohol, but their arguments are in vain according to the use of the word in the OT. The word is used 141 times in the OT.

This is the fruit of the vine by which Noah became drunk (Gen 9:21, 24), Lot's daughters led their father to drunkenness by yayin (Gen 19:32-35), Eli thought Hannah was drunk with yayin (1Sam 1:14-15), and Nabal was also drunk with yayin (1Sam. 25:37). Many more examples could be cited, but I think this is sufficient.

The interesting thing about yayin, wine, is that it is also seen as a blessing from God (Gen. 49:12 "His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk;" this is in the pronouncement of blessing from God on the tribe of Judah from which our Lord would descend).

In fact, God required yayin to be a part of offerings offered to Him in the OT ceremonies (Ex. 29:40 And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine [yayin] for a drink offering; cf also Lev. 23:13; Num. 6:20; Num. 15:5, 7, 10; Num. 28:14).

One of the tithes required by the Lord involved the people tithing of all of their produce each year. They were to take this tithe to the tabernacle. But if the stuff they were to take would spoil on the journey, this was God's command:

Deut. 14:26 "And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine [yayin], or for strong drink [shachar], or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household."

God is commanding them to go out and buy these potentially intoxicating beverages so that they and their households may partake and rejoice before the Lord for His goodness! Now, is God promoting sin? Does not God know that this stuff is potentially intoxicating? Is God the author of sin? God forbid!!! The fact is alcohol is seen as a good gift from God to be enjoyed in His presence and for His glory. He is strictly against the abuse of this good gift and all of His other good gifts. But He is NOT against the proper use of His good gifts.

A sign of God's cursing upon His people would be that they would have vineyards but would not be able to drink the yayin from them

(Deut. 28:39 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. Cf also Is. 16:10.)

But the blessing of the Lord would be just the opposite:

Amos 9:14 "And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them."

God says, in His Word,

Psa. 104:15 "And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart."

The facts are that God prohibits drunkenness, but He encourages the proper view and use of His good gift of alcohol. There is much more that could be said from the OT, but I will move on to the NT for the sake of boring you with all the facts.

The NT is also replete with examples about the use of wine. The Greek word is oinos. Another phrase that is used is tou genematos tes ampelou, the fruit of the vine. The cup Jesus used in the Last Supper was a common term used for the cup of blessing which was understood to be wine. But let's deal with the biblical uses of oinos and oinos neos (new wine).

Jesus compares the kingdom of God as revealed in Himself as new wine (oinos neos). He says that you don't put new wine in old wineskins because the fermentation would burst the already stretched out wineskins. If this stuff were so deplorable, why would our Lord use it for an example of the kingdom of God? Wasn't He as smart as our culture today?

Real liberal theologians say that Christ just kind of mixed in with the times, controlled by the prevailing culture of the day. As a conservative Bible student, I can't hold to this view. Christ was controlled only by the law of God which He came to fulfill. Christ even goes so far as to say that aged wine is much better than new wine (Luke 5:37-39)! And then there is that incident where Christ actually turned water to wine in John 2, His first miracle. Some have tried to say that this word here means "grape juice," but they cannot prove that from the prevailing use of the word oinos. The same word is used throughout this passage to speak about wine.

This wine was potentially intoxicating. Didn't Christ know that there were potential alcoholics there? Did He not know that wine was used in pagan temples? Did He not know that there were problems with drunkenness in His culture (for there was)? Yet He made six waterpots of approximately 40 gallons each of good wine. Gee, that is about 240 gallons of wine! The arguments simply do not stand up to the Word of God.

God does not promote abstinence. He promotes the proper use of His good gifts. In order to say otherwise one would have to deny the example of our Lord, who knowing that people would be following His example in keeping God's law, would have abstained completely if that had been the law of God for us to follow. The people that Jesus really perturbed during His day were the Pharisees. You see, the Pharisees added all of these laws and traditions to the law of God, making void the commandments of God by their man made commandments (Matt 15).

The Pharisees, like the many Christians today, believed that external things such as not washing hands ritualistically before eating defiled a person. Jesus response to the Pharisees was:

Matt. 15:11 "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."

The principle here is that external things of God's creation are not in and of themselves evil. Evil is within the heart of man, not in the things which he puts in his mouth (which would include alcohol!). But just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, many professing believers want to judge their spirituality by external things; e.g., "I don't do this," "I go to church," "I don't drink alcohol," "I don't use tobacco," "I don't dance," etc. These are all things that make us feel spiritual, but they are not God's standards of spirituality. God's standard of spirituality goes to the heart; i.e., that which comes out of man. Because while one may have "external" righteousness and look real "spiritual" before the world, his heart is corrupt. Paul warns us that spirituality would be judged by these things, and he warns believers against this heresy.

Col. 2:16-17, 20-23 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ . . . Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."

He also says in another place:

1Tim. 4:1-5 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

Though wine is not specifically mentioned, the principle is there. All of God's creation is good and can be used for good and enjoyment when left in its proper context. Those who say otherwise are, according to Paul, promoting "doctrines of demons." One thing that I hope you can see is that my position is clearly the biblical position on the matter.

I have not appealed to you on some emotional or some experiential argument. Some will say that nothing good comes from the use of alcohol (or tobacco, etc; insert your favorite external sin). "My father was a drunkard, and I hate the stuff." These people believe that all of those who promote the use of alcohol in moderation have never had bad experiences in their lives with it. Not true !

My biological father was a drunkard. I have seen the devastating effects of the abuse of alcohol. But my thinking is held captive by the Word of God and not my experience. God's Word dictates what I believe and do, not emotions or experience. My opinions and personal scruples are not the dictates of God. I cannot judge someone liberal or conservative based upon my personal opinions.

There are some objections that have been raise with which I had to deal and have dealt with Scripturally. First, there is the issue of the potential alcoholic (or tobacco abuser; again, insert your favorite external standard of righteousness). The first thing to say about being a drunkard is that this is not a disease, as if it could be cured medically. Drunkenness is a moral problem ground in a lack of self-control. For the Christian, the Spirit supplies this needed attribute to our lives (cf. Gal 5:22-23). Addictions are modern euphemisms for a lack of self control so people can blame their evil on something that "they cannot help." This is simply not true.

Those who are in the Spirit do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5). You know, people focus in on this alcohol issue as the big abuse. But God condemns abuse of food, sex, etc. Every time I take food to my mouth I am a potential glutton. Every time I have sexual relations with my wife I am a potential adulterer (another thing my biological father was). The logic is absurd when taken to its conclusion. Just as with sex and food, left in proper context, the use (not abuse) of all of God's gifts is good and enjoyable. Taken out of proper use and context they are deplorable and immoral.

The second objection is that the Nazarites vow included the abstinence from alcohol. Actually, though, their abstinence was much more inclusive. It involved abstinence from ALL fruits of the vine including grapes, raisins and the skin of grapes (cf. Numbers 6). After the time of his vow was complete and he went through the proper ceremonies, the Nazarite was free from his vow, and God specifically says "He may drink wine" (Numbers 6:20). If God thought it was the best thing for people to do, why didn't He require this of all people? Why didn't He, at least, keep the Nazarites from drinking wine for the rest of their lives?

Let me say at this point, those who wish to abstain from alcohol are welcomed to do so. BUT they are to realize that its not because God commanded them to do so, only by personal conviction (which is a sign of a weak believer). Paul deals extensively with these issues in 1Cor 8--10 and Rom 14. In Romans 14 Paul deals specifically with the eating of meat and drinking of wine. He categorize those who can do these things as "strong" and those who cannot as "weak." This deals with a trained or untrained conscience on these matters.

The point I want to make here is that neither the strong nor the weak can judge the other based upon his own personal convictions that do not deal specifically with God's Word. We do judge things such as immorality (which takes on many forms, 1Cor 5), but on these issues one brother does not have the right to judge another brother. That would include categorizing another as "liberal" or "conservative" based on these non-essential issues!

This brings me to the objection of the use of alcohol being a bad witness. The appeal might again be made to Romans 14 where someone would say, "You are to act in love and not put a stumbling block before your brothers." This is absolutely true. But you must understand what a stumbling block is. This is not merely perturbing another believer. This is a serious offense. This is aiding--or even causing--a brother to sin against his conscience. It would be like inviting you to a party not telling you that there was alcohol in the punch and then telling you after you drank it. You would have sinned against your conscience. That would be wrong. But you feeling uncomfortable around me because I do it, is not included here.

As I said earlier, the Pharisees were constantly perturbed with Jesus because He did things as a "Rabbi" with which they did not agree. This did not stop him from doing these things. He was about the business of correcting their thinking, and bringing every thought captive to the law of God.

To say that it is a bad witness before the world is also erroneous. We have led this world to believe through unbiblical views on alcohol that Christianity is a "touch not, taste not" religion based on external morality. The truth of the matter is that it is a sin to preach or teach anything to be a sin that God does not declare to be a sin. That is adding to the Word of God. This is precisely what the lost Pharisees did, and Jesus condemned them for it.

A good witness would be to help people understand that all of God's creation is good and can only be enjoyed if used within proper context and for His glory. I could keep going on about this, but I hope you can see that I have done my homework. My views come straight from the Bible. Now, if anyone is like I used to be-- "I don't care what the Bible actually says, I know what I believe in my heart"--that person will not be convinced of anything. As long as people let emotions, experience, culture, man-made commandments and external righteousness govern their thinking, they will never be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Quite frankly I am sick and tired of people trying to impose upon God something that He has not said. Our job is to preach, teach, learn and submit to the Word of God for what it says NOT what we want it to say or think it ought to say. We are not wiser than God on these issues. We are not more righteous than God.

My prayer is (if you have made it all the way through this) that you will not simply pass this off in an unthinking manner. Deal with it. Take an honest look at the Word of God as I had to do and continue to do. I am not the same person I used to be because I am constantly being transformed by the renewing of my mind which comes by the Word of God. I am being sanctified by truth. God's Word is truth (John 17:17).

I refuse to be controlled by man's commandments and traditions. When all is said and done, I am not the one who could be classified as a liberal here. It is my understanding that conservatives believe the Bible, liberals do not. I believe what I have shown you is that I do believe and practice the Bible. I welcome any comments, criticisms or admonitions, but I only take them from God's Word. If I can be proven by sound reason and the Word of God to be wrong, I will change. But if sound reason and God's Word cannot be used to change my thinking, I can do no other. My conscience is bound by the Word of God.

Here I stand!

Passionate for God's truth,


P.S. If you have any questions about what I believe, please call me. I have been misunderstood and misinterpreted enough. I am not a beast who will attack. I will gladly talk in a congenial way.


If you would like to know more on this subject I can highly recommend God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says About Alcohol by Rev. Kenneth Gentry. It might interest you to know that Dr. Gentry is a teetotaller and doesn’t drink Alcohol himself.