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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why Christianity Is So Difficult

There is one aspect to Christianity that sets it apart from all other religions, and requires more of us than most people can give, and it is this: You must forgive your enemies, love, and pray for those who have wronged you; just as Jesus did:

Luke 23:34 : "And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide up his garments."


Matthew 5:44: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."


This love and forgiveness requirement is not present in other religions. There's no requirement in Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam to love any person. Love is seen as a good thing in most religions, but within boundaries. Loving one's enemies is counter-intuitive, and flies in the face of self-preservation, which is hard-wired into our brains.  All forms of living things will struggle to defend and preserve their lives. So how is it that the Christian God, presumed to be the same God worshiped by Jews and Muslims, came to make this a requirement? 


It is proof that Christ was the Messiah, the secret of His power and uniqueness, a quality of God we never saw until Jesus came, and the main reason why his life has inspired people for two-thousand years. Luke 6:32 to 42 explains in Jesus's words:


Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye."

The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis suggests how we can make a good start: “Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor [or enemy]; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”

Looked at the right way it makes perfect sense to forgive an enemy, because we often don't know who our enemies really are. Benjamin Franklin - a genuine Christian at heart, though not churchgoing - was very generous in his assessment, saying, "Our enemies are our friends, for they show us our faults." Someone we like or love may criticize us, and it hurts. But if they're right, and we correct our fault, they have given us a gift. How many times have we ignored the advice of friends, thinking they were ignorant or self-serving, and lived to regret it?  Flatterers can be our worst enemies, ingratiating themselves and gaining our trust only to betray us later, as Iago did in Skakespeare's Othello. Iago provokes Othello to murder his innocent and loving wife Desdemona.


What about those who really do gravely harm us? Some crimes will haunt us forever; the murder of a child or spouse; the theft of life savings, and so on. We must come to terms with these, somehow, and holding onto grievances can eat us up inside. Forgiveness - to some extent - will keep us sane.


It seems superhuman to be able to do this, and it is. But we can be superhuman if we choose. It is very hard, and here's why: Grievances are a powerful tool and a weapon. You can extract favors and money; you can make people feel very guilty, and even ruin their lives by holding onto grievances and bludgeoning them. Many people don't want to surrender this power. 


That's the whole point. Sacrifice. It's the ultimate litmus test of character; selflessness, and generosity. It's also the secret to escaping this world and the sentence of death we're all living under. 


The Martyr's Path


Here's another reason Christianity is difficult: Although it's rarely discussed, there are at least two different paths faithful Christians can follow in their lives. Jesus and his disciples chose the path of martyrdom, and expected to be persecuted and killed for their faith. The greatest rewards in heaven are promised to those who can. But by no means are all people required to give up their lives and everything they own. We mustn't beat ourselves up or feel like failures if we can't make the ultimate sacrifice. Few people can.


Even Pope Francis has refused the martyrs path; as have all previous Popes. One might think - considering he's seen by Catholics as a "Vicar of Christ", the closest person to God on earth - that he would gather up some of his bishops and cardinals and make a pilgrimage to Iraq or Lebanon. Imagine how powerful a statement of faith it would be if he went to a mosque in any holy city of Islam and challenged the High Imams to a debate, as Jesus did at Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. Of course they would have him crucified, but he would receive the highest honor a Christian can achieve in this world. It would be transformational event in world history, and a proof of faith.


The fact that the Pope won't do this proves something unspoken. No nation or state would survive by granting such forgiveness. If we take Christ's admonition literally - as in Matthew 18:22, "I tell you, you must forgive... seventy times seven" - we must disband our police forces, release all prisoners from jails, and dissolve our military. Not only would our nation be overwhelmed by criminals and invaders, but our families and future generations would be destroyed. Still, we would be obligated to love the invaders and destroyers, and pray for them. This is too much to ask of mortal men and women. The few who could do this are saints. You know who they are, and how rare a quality that is. 


We all must follow our hearts in this decision. If our hearts say we must be a martyr, we must be one. If it wants to be a soldier, banker, or politician, we should should do that instead. "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Luke 12:34). Success and satisfaction in life depends on commitment, and only heartfelt work endures. Know yourself.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Pope Francis in the Crosshairs

What a difference it makes when you discover that a vicious and organized enemy wants you and everything you hold dear destroyed. It will keep you awake at night, and make you change your mind about a lot of things. Such is the state of mind of the world leader of Catholicism.

As recently as July, Pope Francis was railing against "unfettered capitalism" as the greatest global threat to world peace and the lives of the poor, believing that the poor and disadvantaged become leaders of violent revolutions. He ushered Liberation Theology back into the Vatican, a belief system akin to Marxism that seeks to force the redistribution of wealth by governments, or almost any other means necessary. He ignored the advancing armies of IslamoNazism, like ISIS, which were systematically killing, raping, and destroying the oldest Christian communities in the world in countries like Syria, Turkey, and Iraq:

http://www.religionnews.com/2014/08/04/liberation-theology-miguel-descoto-pope-francis/

The truth is that the most violent and brutal enemies of human dignity, liberty, and civilization usually come from the middle and upper classes. Marx, Lenin, Hitler's top ministers, Tojo and Emperor Hirohito, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, the Kims of North Korea, Osama bin Laden, et al, were from childhood onward well-off or rich, and unfamiliar with poverty.

But now Pope Francis has discovered that much of Islam has morphed into a savage enemy of everything Christian, Jewish, and genuinely liberal. Western civilization in its entirety will be annihilated if ISIS and other groups like Hamas, Hezballah, Boko Haram,  and the Muslim Brotherhood have their way. They're building a new nation, the long-dreamed-of Caliphate, in the Middle East. Christians there have been charitable, generous, peaceful, and kind for two-thousand years. But that's irrelevant now that the worst psychopathic killers in society are leading the Muslims. The Pope has a contract out on him, and the Italian government has had to step up Vatican security:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/28/italy-steps-up-security-over-alleged-isis-plot-against-the-pope.html

For the first time in hundreds of years, a Pope has called for the use of force to eliminate these threats:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/pope-francis-force-iraq_n_5688628.html

We're entering a new age of religious wars and violence on a scale that hasn't been seen on earth before. The good news is that this type of Armageddon was predicted in the Book of Revelation two-thousand-years ago, and it's the precursor to very great and wonderful things to come. But a great deal of faith is required of us, because all will seem lost as the days and months pass.  From the New Testament, Matthew 24:3 - 48:


"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come...
“Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house.  Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak...  For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.  At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.  Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man...
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’  and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

God and Suffering

by Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College

All good people are appalled by the sufferings of the innocent. When an innocent person is struck by a painful disease or tortured or murdered, we naturally feel sadness and helplessness and rage. Many people have claimed that such suffering is proof that God does not exist. The argument goes like this: God is all good and all powerful. Such a God would not permit unnecessary suffering. Yet we constantly observe unjust suffering. Therefore, at least one of the premises about God must be false. Either God is not all good or God is not all-powerful or he doesn't exist.

What's wrong with this argument?

First, let's examine what we mean when we say that God would not permit unjust suffering. There are two categories of suffering: suffering caused by human beings, which we call moral evil; and suffering caused by nature, such as earthquakes and cancer.

Free will explains how God would be good and allow moral evil. Because God has given people free will, they are free to behave against God's will. The fact that they do evil is not proof that God is not good. In addition, if there were no God there would be no absolute standard of good. Every judgment presupposes a standard, and that's true of our moral standards, too.

What is our standard for judging evil to be evil? The most we can say about evil if there were no God is that we, in our subjective taste, didn't like it when people did certain things to other people. We wouldn't have a basis for saying an act was bad - only that we didn't like it.

So the problem of human evil exists only if God exists.

As for natural suffering, that poses what appears to be a more difficult question. We see an innocent child suffering - say from an incurable disease - and we complain. Understandable. We don't like it. It shouldn't happen. Understandable. But it's illogical to feel that unless you believe in God.

So, if you do not believe in God your subjective feelings are the only basis upon which you can object to natural suffering. How is it your not liking something is evidence for God not existing?  Think about it. It's just the opposite. Our judgments about natural and human evil presuppose the existence of God, which is the standard. If there is no God there is no good or evil. It's just nature doing what it does. If nature is all there is there is absolutely no need to explain why one person suffers and another doesn't. Unjust suffering is a problem because we have a sense of what is just and unjust. But where does that sense come from? Certainly not nature because there is nothing 'just' about nature. Nature is only about survival.

What, in other words, does it mean for suffering to be unnecessary or wrong? How is that determined? Against what standard? Your private standard means nothing; my private standard means nothing. We can talk meaningfully about suffering being unnecessary or wrong only if we have an underlying belief that a standard of right and wrong exists. If that standard really exists it means there is a God.

Moreover, the believer in God has an incomparably easier time - both psychologically and logically - than the atheist in dealing with the problem of natural suffering. If you accept that a good God exists, it is possible to also believe that this God somehow sets things right; if not in this world then the next.

For the atheist, on the other hand, no suffering is ever set right. There is no ultimate justice. The bad win and the good suffer. Earthquakes and cancer kill. End of story. Literally.

If nature is all there is, how can a sensitive person remain sane in a world in which tsunamis wipe out whole towns, evil men torture and murder innocent victims, and disease attacks people indiscriminately? The answer is - it's not possible.
Is that how you want to live?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

America; Imagine the World Without Her


I saw Dinesh D'Souza's latest film America yesterday, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time. It's in a class by itself, and clearly had a large budget. Considering our present global conflict, and the stakes involved, it's the most important documentary film of our age. 

We live in a time where tyrannical governments - in the name of "democracy" - cloak themselves in false authority, exactly the way monarchies did in ages past. Their core argument and reason for being is that you, the individual, cannot take care of yourself responsibly, and must join the collective and conform to their laws and restrictions. There is an elite, however, that will rule us and live richly and powerfully from our labor; and they're doing it now in Brussels, Washington D.C., London, and elsewhere. This is dangerous, and will lead to terrible oppression and misery, as it always does. 

America is a call to action, as Tom Paine's Common Sense was in 1776. It's not just excellent, it shows real genius at times. 

I'm assuming you haven't seen it, since it just arrived in theaters. Forgive me if you have, and let me know what you think. I can never resist getting to a good film early. I hope you see it soon, because it's mightily encouraging for every God-loving person's understanding of the great conflict in which we're engaged. It will touch anyone who has a shred of integrity and love for human liberty left in their soul.

The beauty of it is that it's ambitious, thorough, intellectually and emotionally honest, unflinching, and powerful. It takes on, from the start, every indictment, accusation, slander, and insult our enemies have thrown in our faces for centuries. It names the names of our accusers, explores their motive to shame us, and takes them apart meticulously the way Lincoln's speeches took apart the Confederate position. Not only that, D'Souza in many cases goes face-to-face in the film with some of our adversaries and allows them to use their own words. He then goes on to expose their misunderstandings and falsehoods without rancor, using facts. He also doesn't dodge America's mistakes.

Saul Alinsky, the Marxist guru of collectivism, gets a complete going-over and exposure as a tool of Frank Nitti and the Chicago mob. Alinsky was apparently and unabashedly proud of his mentors. Hillary Clinton also is smoked out as a dedicated admirer. Elizabeth Warren indicts herself with twisted passion.

D'Souza could have made an emotionally charged documentary that relied on love and patriotism alone, but he knew it wouldn't be enough to get the job done and defeat 'progressives'. He builds his case with the complete and inarguable truth, and only after that light has killed off the darkness of deceit does he then turn on the fountain of heart-felt words, images, and historical evidence. He's on the side of God and the Angels. 

At the end he even talks about his own indictment and plea deal, saying, "I made a mistake. I'm not above the law." But he uses that to show how utterly vulnerable we all are to the limitless forces of the federal government.   

The opening titles, too, are brilliant and moving. A blacksmith forges the letters AMERICA, one by one, and the screen is filled with blueprint-style graphics that illustrate all of our great inventions and national accomplishments. If Hollywood were not entirely rotted from within by crypto-Marxist delusion, the title sequences would be nominated for an Academy Award.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Socialism, False Religions, and the Lies of the Anti-Christ

The greatest evils in the world today are the false prophets and false religions born of science and technology which have empowered us far beyond our emotional development; rather like children in possession of a deadly weapon.  They may not call themselves religions, but they are de facto religions, offering up false gods and idols: fame, money sex, power, etc.  They encourage us to believe we're gods ourselves, with godlike powers.

But human wisdom, compassion, and consciousness - the attributes of God - develop far slower than science, and we're still primitives; vengeful, vain, and full of lusts, which we often declare are virtuous. Governments have been remade to exploit these new powers and pander to our wishes, or, when that doesn't work, beat us into submission. Compare the EU at one end, and N. Korea at the other, for an idea of the scale. Governments are displacing God, the Creator, as the source of our happiness and contentment. This is a crime, and will not end well. We must set ourselves apart from this horrible game.  It's not fashionable to be a person of faith today in many parts of the world, and it can even get you killed. But that's a small price to pay for salvation, and the only way to escape the madness.

The proponents of falsehood frequently blame religion for historical conflicts, misery, deaths, and oppression. But the atheistic wars of the 20th and 21st Century have killed or reduced to misery far more people - by a large factor - than have suffered in all of history. Human societies have always been violent, but not all wars are as futile as recent ones have been. Violence has led to spiritual and material progress in the past. The bloody Protestant Reformation in the 1500's established the right of individual conscience over church authority. The American Revolution and the Civil War of 1861 settled issues of human rights, equality, and freedom for all time. Also, the world population was quite small in past ages.

The economics of our modern era have spawned governments unique to human history. Most of them are so-called "socialist" to one degree or another, which means they attempt to provide social services to the mass of their people, and eliminate poverty. These governments strive - and fail - to replace God. Some of them, like those in Scandinavian countries, appear very successful. But their suicide rates are some of the highest in the world. Many others are abject failures, and they brutalize and manipulate their people with terror. Ironically, they often call themselves "The People's Democratic Republic of______". Fill in the blank.

In previous ages governments didn't have the technology to monitor us constantly, and didn't have the resources to even attempt to provide for everyone's needs, so they left us alone for the most part. Our self-sufficiency and belief in God encouraged wisdom and forbearance. When the winds of change blew, those beliefs righted us and righted the ships of state, over time, like ballast in the hold. The United States believed for centuries that it owed its very existence - and certainly its prosperity - to its faith in a Judeo-Christian God. But no more. For over a hundred years atheist and anti-theist political parties, with anti-Christian leaders, have steered our ships of state, globally, onto the rocks where they are foundering. The barbarian states are closing in. But it's not too late for you, as an individual. It's never too late for individuals to succeed.

Every great culture dreams of Utopia, and attempts to create ideal governments date back at least to the Golden Age of Greece around 500 B.C.E. Athenian Greek democracy was the first brilliant but short-lived spark. Rome tried an enhanced form of democracy and had eight-hundred-years of relative success until their empire collapsed in the mid-4th century A.D. Since then monarchies dominated world history, and Utopia remained a fantasy. Until industrial democracies arose.

The Industrial Revolution, which began generating enormous wealth in late 18th Century England and transformed the Western world, reinvigorated the desire for Utopia. Karl Marx, an unemployed resident of London, teamed up with Friedrich Engels in 1840 and devised a collectivist scheme he called communism that fueled bloody rebellions all over Europe and eventually toppled Czarist Russia.

They promulgated one of the central lies of our modern world, that labor and laborers are the driving force of human prosperity, and only communal property - without private ownership - will bring prosperity to the laboring class. Marx and Engels said in their Communist Manifesto,"Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!"  This falsehood has caused the deaths and impoverishment of many hundreds of millions of people since 1840, as communism morphed and transformed itself into other virulent forms like socialism and progressivism.  A mania for reforming and perfecting masses of people took hold, and prosperous citizens were punished for their success. With the support of science, eugenics was born; the belief that humans could be perfected genetically by killing off "undesirables". Eugenics by itself caused the deaths of more than 12 million people in the 20th Century. Not only the Nazis and Soviets, but many other political groups practiced, and are practicing today, mass murder in the name of social good. The United States and Britain harbored many of the prophets of eugenics, Margaret Sanger, and George Bernard Shaw, among others. One of the downsides of free societies is that they allow people the freedom to make huge mistakes

It is true that labor is an essential element in human development and prosperity, but the management of labor is critical, along with technology. The talent and skill required to organize and direct human labor productively is relatively rare in human beings. Everyone who has ever run a business knows this.

Technological advancements as well require freedom of scientific inquiry, and a thriving economy. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Stephen Jobs have gone on record saying this. But the foremost proponents of communism/socialism almost never have any business or real-world experience. Often they are the drones and dimwits who can't compete in a free society. They delude themselves into believing their lie, and imagine that a powerful state, directed by an educated elite, can do a far better job than free people in a free market environment, lawfully organized, can do. Economies are far too complex to be micromanaged from a central bureau. When manufacturing, buying, and selling decisions are made at the individual level, by many participants, the results have been proven to work very well in the long run.

Marx and Engels's Utopian dream utterly failed, and by 1900, it was confirmed in much of the world. But Marxism then adapted, often changing its name to "progressivism", "socialism", and "Bolshevism". It deceived millions, and the lie took root and thrived like a cancer in Russia; then metastasized into many countries.

The central tenet of socialist/progressives is that God is dead, and religion is, as Marx said, "The opiate of the people." Another tenet is that there is no such thing as moral absolutes, or pure truth. All of history and human experiences are "narratives" subject to interpretation.  If enough people believe a narrative, it becomes truth, they preach.

Fact is, the belief in truth and moral absolutes implies the existence of God. And if God exists, the all-powerful State cannot be God. Biblical Scripture is clear that people should govern themselves without kings (1 Samuel, 8).

To maintain power, these statists must persuade or force you to accept that they and the state are God. Their whole global movement is atheistic and anti-theistic. In every country where it takes root, belief in God and goodness dies off.  People fail to be perfected, "undesirables" proliferate, and mass murder and misery become reality. More than 50 million Russians were killed by their government in the 20th Century. Mao Tse Tung killed as many Chinese. Pol Pot of Cambodia, the Kims of North Korea, and the minions of Castro's Cuba have killed  more all over the world. Ten times as many people have been impoverished and afflicted by these evil schemes.

The Soviet Union, founded on Marxist principles, failed by 1989. So too did Red China, until they modified their system to make it freer. Since then they've experienced explosive economic growth reminiscent of the US at the turn of the 20th Century. The Western Tradition of individual freedom, free markets, private ownership of capital and property; along with freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, produced two centuries of dazzling progress and prosperity in those countries that embrace Judeo-Christian principles. But people have turned away from God, and today we're threatened as never before with destruction, from our worship of false gods.

Be of good cheer, though. This world will pass away, but we individuals have salvation as long as we have life and faith.




Friday, January 10, 2014

Our Modern Minds

The belief in modernism is as old as humanity. Almost everyone who has ever lived felt modern; that is, up-to-date and adapted to their time and culture. The penalty for not being adapted is social rejection, and being thought of as eccentric, or worse, crazy. Not a pleasant fate in any culture. The Amish in America live as if it were still 1830, but they live in voluntary isolation from everyone else.

Every generation thinks they are modern and special, that "times have changed", that they're wiser than their parents and able to solve problems that afflicted society before they came along. Occasionally they're right. Times do change, youthful ideas sometimes work better than tried and true methods, and progress is real, to some extent. But it always comes at a price; sometimes a very high price. The England of 1850 was vastly richer and more powerful than the England of 1750, and had a burgeoning middle class; but it was also dirtier, much more polluted, and meaner, if Charles Dickens is to be believed. And he was believed by his reading audience, which became global, and they made him a very wealthy man. His character portraits - over 3,000 - are timeless and truthful, from the cruel and vicious to the kindly and generous, and he's ranked with the greatest dramatists of all time: Homer, Euripedes, Seneca the Younger, and Shakespeare.

How much progress have we made then, if characters from 500 B.C.E. resonate as much as characters from 1850 A.D.? Clearly, human nature changes very little, and people make the same mistakes, commit the same crimes, and perform the same generous and heroic deeds they always have performed. The costumes and circumstances change, but the Divine Comedy - as Dante called it - goes on and on. Or does it?

Things truly are very different now than ever before. We have powers to destroy life that were never dreamed of previously. Yet our powers to improve life are not so dramatic, and our character development hasn't kept up.. Our technical expertise improved more in the last one-hundred years than it did in the previous two-thousand, but our emotions, fears, and anxieties are much the same.

The pace of technological advancement is exponential; that is, it builds on itself and accelerates. Computers double in power every 18 months, and have been doing so for fifty years. This blinding rate of change will leave traditional human nature in the dust, and 'artificial intelligence' will gradually take over. Self-driving cars are already here, and they do a safer job of moving us than we do ourselves. They don't get drunk, fall asleep, or get mad at other drivers.

The internet is everywhere, and 3D printing will make weapons available to all. Powers never dreamed of are being put in the hands of sociopathic governments, the mentally ill, and people of no emotional development to speak of. How soon will it be before nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons are detonated?

We modern people have separated ourselves from our parents and forebears to a degree never before seen in history. Technology and science are largely responsible for this, but they haven't done it by force. We've pretty much willingly embraced the luxury, convenience, and ease that cars, computers, and iphones bring to us. In any case, we don't have a lot of choice, and would have to move to the wilderness to escape the modern world, the social network party, and the all-consuming media circus.

We are paying a steep price. Are we happier, richer, more relaxed, or more healthy? Poverty in most countries has not lessened in decades, meaningful jobs are still scarce, anxiety is increasing dramatically. In the less developed world, chaos, corruption, and religious fanaticism is growing.

This time in history was entirely predictable, and was predicted in ancient times. Because it's not "sustainable", it can't be sustained, and it will be transformed. God has said it will happen.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Third Temple of Solomon; God's Will?

The issue of whether Solomon's Temple - which was leveled by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago - should ever be rebuilt is so inflammatory that it could start another Mid-East war. A mosque now stands on the Jerusalem site, and Muslims guard it with extreme measures. Jews and Christians are discouraged from approaching it. Many Arab leaders - such as the late Yassir Arafat - deny there ever was a Jewish temple on the site, which is absurd. The historic record, from Roman times backward, documents its wonders. There were two, an original, and a rebuilt one paid for by Herod the Great. Both were crafted with precious woods, metals, gems, and fabrics; the ultimate statement of the grandeur and power of the age. In 70 A.D., Jews rebelled against Rome and lost. They were punished by the destruction of the Temple, down to its foundations, and the city.

In June 1967, Israeli paratroopers entered Jerusalem after Israel's miraculous victory in the Six-Day War. The city had been under Jordanian control for nineteen years. The paratroopers made their way to the Temple Mount, the holiest piece of ground in all Judaism, site of the First and Second Temples of Solomon, and, by tradition, the ark itself. Three paratroopers climbed to the top of the Muslim Dome of The Rock (built on the foundation of the Second Temple) and unfurled the Israeli flag. Four hours later, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan ordered it removed. Then Dayan handed over the Temple Mount to the Muslims, and it remains in their control. Dayan announced that he did this to prevent the building of a Third Temple, which Jews do certainly pray for. But the likelihood of a Third Temple arising was about zero, a fact that doesn't stop Muslim clerics from saying, "the Israeli occupation and its executive arms are making increasing efforts...to hasten the building of the alleged third Temple in place of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque...." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 4, 2011).


Meanwhile, the Muslim plan to erase Jews from all of Jerusalem continues. Jews are allowed only limited access to the Mount, and are strictly forbidden to pray.  If a Jew is seen so much as moving his lips there he runs the risk of being attacked, and will very likely be arrested by the Israeli police. In spite of constant Israeli assistance, however, just last month the Jordanian Information Minister demanded the removal of the police station and its surveillance cameras.

The ultimate question is whether or not it is God's intention to re-establish a temple on the Mount.  Jesus appears to say no.  In John 2:13-22, it says, "The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.  And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken."

This is one of the most important lessons we can learn in this life. God's Kingdom, and the greatest gifts we can receive in this life, are not material things. To us, in this world of heavy substance, what we often call "reality", is dull and as heavy as lead. The world to come is much finer and exponentially more desirable and durable.
 
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matt. 6:19-21