Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day

On October 31, 1517 (495 years ago, this week)
Dr. Martin Luther, a Theology professor at the University of Wittenburg, in Germany posted 
95 Theses on the Castle Church door- challenging Christians to discuss and debate what he believed to be errors and corruption in the church of the time.
Especially the sale of "indulgences," documents promising to keep people out of Hell and/or Purgatory. Profits of the sales of these indulgences often went to line the pockets of rich Bishops, cardinals and the Pope and probably helped pay for opulent palaces, chapels and Renaissance decorations in Rome.

Luther's hope was to reform the Church, not to start a new one.
His main teachings were based on Romans 3:22 "...righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe," and Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Whatever his own faults or those of "Lutherans" who came after him, Luther's legacy is one that focuses Christians on that fact that we are saved by Grace alone (the free gift of what Jesus did on our behalf and in our stead on the cross), Faith alone- not by anything we have to do or try to refrain from doing, but only by trusting in what Jesus did- and we know these truths thanks to Scripture alone, not by philosophers or teachers or some new revelations given only to some magical and infallible representative of God- like the Pope, or like the Mormon's Prophet or any human leader- but only from God's Word itself, the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Is there such thing as ghosts?

Luke 16:19-31 kinda leads me to believe that once you're in Heaven we'll be pretty oblivious to the pain of this world and Hell. Which, in spite of Samuel visiting Saul in 1Sam28 (in direct violation of Leviticus 19:26) suggests that it's pretty unlikely that the souls of the departed really visit the living.

But I could be wrong- "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ~Hamlet (who was visited by his father's ghost).

Still, I can't help suspecting that what people thing of as ghosts are often at best, their mind playing tricks on them or at worst, demons, dark-spirits, and Satanic angels posing as benevolent or benign spirits.

Beware of "meddling with powers you can't possibly comprehend" as Prof. Marcus Brody from the Indiana Jones films might say.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just so we're clear...

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder. ~James 2:19

(See also: Dt 6:4; Mk 12:29; 1Co 8:4-6)

WARNING: This post will offend some people.

Yesterday on the radio I heard a Romney supporter explain how important it was to him that people recognize that Mormons consider themselves Christian. I have no doubt that many, many Mormons do believe in Jesus as their personal savior and are saved... although, I suspect that they remain unaware of some of the details of the doctrines of the church of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

Here's some of what the person being interviewed said, along with things that he didn't say (which I'll highlight by making red and italicizing).

He said that just like Catholics and Protestants, Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God,
just not the ONLY BEGOTTEN son, of the one and ONLY true living God, because if a White man is good enough during his life he has the opportunity to become the god of his own planet, populating it for eternity with spirit-babies...

He said that they believe that Jesus died on the cross and on the third day, rose again from the dead,
just not that He died for the remission of our sins, defeating once and for all sin, Satan, and death itself, because Jesus and Satan are both brothers of the same father-god, and as noted above, it is by your own works-righteousness (merit) that you earn your place and status in the afterlife.

I don't know whether or not they believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He will come again to judge the living and the dead
but they do teach that Jesus appeared to Indians over here in North America after His resurrection, because after-all, they were Nephites, the lost tribes of Israel.

And of course, they may or may not believe that the Old Testament (Jewish Torah) and the New Testament ( Synoptic Gospels, book of Acts, and canonical epistles) are the Divinely inspired Word of God, but
They also believe that an angel revealed to Joseph Smith a third testament, written by a prophet Moroni on gold plates and buried someplace in upstate New York, also known as the Book of Mormon.

Call me a "Confessionalist," or orthodox or conventional or mainline, mainstream, Protestant, or whatever else you want to, but as a Lutheran, I believe that Christians are people who believe that Jesus is the promised messiah who died to forgive us of our sins, as laid out in the three major Christian confessions or creeds; Nicene, Apostles', and Athanasian. Sorry, but if he's Bishop, you'd think that Mitt Romney knows and accepts most of the LDS teachings and doctrines which do not align with these creeds, let alone most of the Old and New testaments. 

If you really believe that you can't be Christian and permit abortion or gay marriage, but you can be Christian and believe that you're working toward becoming your own god- I'm not sure what to say to you, except don't try telling me that someone who chose to join the United Church of Christ instead of atheism, agnosticism, Catholicism, Buddhism, or his father's Islam is not a Christian or is a secret-Muslim or is the Antichrist himself. Just stop. 

Vote for who you want to, based on what issues you believe are important. But don't fool yourself into believing that the Republican candidate is more "Christian" than the Democrat. At least not this year. 

Me, I think it's pretty weird that fundamentalist Evangelicals and conservative Catholics are so ready to vote for a Mormon because of a few social "wedge" issues. Abortion- not mentioned in the Bible at all. Homosexuality, mentioned maybe 6 times. Poverty and justice for the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens- almost 3,000 times. 

Oh, did I forget to mention, that Mitt Romney used to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights when he was governor of Massachusetts? Does that not tell you that he only tells us what he thinks we want to hear? Flip-Flop. Isn't that the accusation that right-wingers used to make against President Clinton back in the day? "Slick Mitt."

So, things Jesus didn't really talk about directly are what make you Christian, but following a false religion doesn't? You know what that reminds me of? 

"You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." ~Matthew 23:24

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Greed produces greed!

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NET) 10 The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income. This also is futile.

Hey "Job Creators!"

Mark 10:23-25 (ASV) 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Hey Billionaires!

1 Timothy 6:10 (ASV)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.