On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. What would follow even he didn't fully realize. In celebration of this anniversary, I present the following clip, taken from the 1953 film version of Luther's story. It features the climactic speech at the Diet of Worms.
Sola Scriptura. Sola Fide. Sola Gratia. Solus Christus. Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. What would follow even he didn't fully realize. In celebration of this anniversary, I present the following clip, taken from the 1953 film version of Luther's story. It features the climactic speech at the Diet of Worms.
The following is meant for good humor, and is based off the famous "Just watch me" exchange between Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and CBC reporters during the October Crisis (source). I mostly wrote this for the pleasure of one of my Canadian readers (you know who you are!).
[Jesus walks about the Temple floor, followed by many sick, crippled, poor, prostitutes, tax collectors and more; a bull whip rests under his arm. A group of Pharisees and Sadducees come out from the main building of the Temple and approach Christ]
Pharisee: There's a lot of sick and sinners walking around here...
Jesus: Yes there are.
Jesus: Are they bothering you? What's your worry?
Pharisee: I'm not worried! Well, we might be worried about what you intend to do with the Temple...
Jesus: Why? Have I done anything to you?
Pharisee: Not me, but you did something to a friend of mine. You chased him out with that whip!
Jesus: Oh? What was your friend doing?
Pharisee: Well...he was trying to sell goods on the Temple floor...
Pharisee: Is that against our scriptures?
Jesus: "My house shall be called a house of prayer," but you're making it a "den of thieves."
Pharisee: But doesn't it worry you that you think you have to resort to that kind of thing? By what authority? To chase some out and let others in?
Jesus: I don't think it's even a question of authority, and I think it's fully natural that a person in dire need of repentance and forgiveness should seek after God. What would you do if you found yourself in such a situation, needing every help from God you could possibly need? Is your position that you just keep sinning?
Pharisee: No, my position is the opposite...
Jesus: What's your position?
Pharisee: My position is that you don't sin at all!
Jesus: I see that - but you don't protect yourself against the sin inside you.
Pharisee: But how do you offer just anybody on the street the potential for forgiveness without creating a much bigger code of ethics and much wider spiritual practice?
Jesus: So what do you suggest? That I forgive nobody?
Pharisee: Well...you can't just forgive all sins!
Jesus: But you're suggesting that we shouldn't forgive any.
Pharisee: Uh...that's right.
Jesus: That's your position?
Jesus: All right, so King David lamenting about his sin against God regarding Uriah the Hittite, in the fifty-first psalm. If you were God, you wouldn't have forgiven him?
Pharisee: That's second-guessing...
Jesus: I'm asking you to first-guess now.
Pharisee: Probably not, unless I knew his heart.
Jesus: You don't think God knew the heart of David? It was God who gave David that repentant heart to begin with.
Sadducee: Could I interject here? The other day, you gave a parable about a vineyard owner and wicked vine-growers who killed his messengers and son, and you seemed to be pretty harsh on the vine-growers themselves. Could you elaborate on that parable?
Jesus: It means precisely what it means: "the stone which the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone." You didn't think the vine-growers were wicked?
Sadducee: But don't you think you could have used less inflammatory language? I mean you compared us to wicked vine-growers.
Jesus: First off, I didn't say "You are the wicked vine-growers," I merely told a parable. You yourselves replied that when the landowner comes back, he'll bring those wretches to a wretched end and rent the vineyard to other vine-growers. You and I both agreed they were wicked, and they'll be in their eternal jail when the time for harvest comes.
Pharisee: But the way you galumph about the Temple with your whip, the people will think you're at war with us. What validity will they think we have?
Jesus: Nonsense, I don't have a personal vendetta, I'm merely here to do my Father's will. But when the time comes, the angels will have their job of shifting the tares from the wheat, and they'll be able to distinguish between the two.
Pharisee: But you've said before that the healings, the preaching to the poor, that all this is a sign the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Jesus: Sure. That's what you're complaining about, isn't it?
Pharisee: But surely that decision is God's, not yours.
Jesus: But I've asked for your position, and you've given it: not to heal anyone, and that the Son of Man shouldn't exercise any authority over sin or sickness. That seems to be your position.
Pharisee: But surely our role is to make sure that God's people follow the Law.
Jesus: Yes, but you personally don't have the power forgive or punish sins, nor have you exercised any mercy towards the sinner.
Pharisee: I, uh...I explained my position badly, I think. What you're talking about is loyalty to God, and to me, that's a strict adherence to the Law of God, and what you don't have in such a situation is a Galilean carpenter running around forgiving sins.
Jesus: That isn't your choice, however. I think it's far more important to forgive those who are seeking a repentance of that evil which is within them, and to give them strength against whitewashed tombs that are seeking to set up a mirror tradition alongside God's tradition to keep truly repentant followers of God out of the Temple. Now you may disagree with that, but again, I have to wonder if you would have willingly allowed David to repent of his sins - and he was forgiven, because God desires "mercy and not sacrifice." I don't see how, even with your tradition and legalism, you can deny that.
Pharisee: But I go back to what I said before, about how you're just letting all these sinners into the Temple.
Jesus: I know full well there are a lot of hypocrites and heartless sons of perdition who don't like seeing the sick, the poor, or the sinners in their midst and want to complain and be self-righteous. All I can say is go on and complain. Go on and be self-righteous. But it's more important for me to fulfill the Law and the Prophets than worry about the wants of those who seek to please men rather than God.
Pharisee: The Law and the Prophets? Just how far will you go with that? How much do you think you can really fulfill?
Jesus: Well, just watch me.
Total Depravity: The cat is in the trash can because he wants to be there. He wants to be compacted with the garbage. He has no desire, intentional or not, to get out of the garbage can. If you were to try and take him out, he would, by his very nature, hiss and claw and scratch at you. He is not there because God has placed him there, but because, through his self-destructive will, he has placed himself there. Indeed, there is nothing which merits the cats being saved from the garbage at all.
Unconditional Election: God takes the cat out of the garbage can. The cat does not leave because he personally wants to, but because God has enabled him. There is no bargaining between the cat and God, nor is there any discussion in which God can lose. When God chooses a cat, He chooses a cat completely, and the cat's salvation from being in the garbage is assured.
Limited Atonement: God knows and reserves a number of cats to be saved from the garbage cans. No one knows this number save for God, but the number itself is not important. Indeed, it is not that it is shocking God has chosen to elect some angry, feisty cats seeking self-destruction, but rather that God has chosen to elect any angry, feisty cats seeking self-destruction. God does not try His hardest and fail 50% of the time, with some cats going into the compacter because of His inability, but rather God knows who to save, and by His will those cats are saved.
Irresistible Grace: The cat will not be hissing and clawing when God takes him out of the garbage. Rather, as stated before, God will enable the cat to desire to get out of the garbage, and when God reaches in to take the cat out of the garbage, the cat will no longer be hissing and scratching. In fact, the cat will be purring and ready to fall asleep on God's lap as soon as he is taken out.
Perseverance of the Saints: All cats taken out of the garbage cans will never find themselves in the garbage again. God will not allow them to jump back in, and though they may have their cat-like moments outside the garbage, it will never be so bad that they will find themselves in the garbage again. They will find themselves getting better and better in a life beyond the garbage, and will find eternity nestled snugly with God. He will not allow any of them to be lost again.
When seen under the context of which Calvinism defines itself, we realize just how large a misrepresentation this image is.
I now present an alternative, courtesy of my cell phone camera, the family cat and my own UBS Greek New Testament...
Our blessed Lord often responded to the criticism if the Pharisees with the words "Have you not read...?" (Matt 12:3, 5; Matt 19:5; Matt 22:31; Mark 12:26, etc.). The apostle Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16). When Paul spoke to the Jews in the synagogues of Thessalonica, he reasoned with them from the scriptures (Acts 17:1-2). The Berean Jews, said to be "more noble-minded" than others, were described to have responded to Paul's message by "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" and from that came to follow Christ (Acts 17:10-12). The apostle James, head of the church in Jerusalem, submitted fellow apostle Peter's words to scripture when he quoted a prophecy concerning the Gentiles (Acts 15:14-18). In all these situations, scripture was, in one form or another, the authority.
Yet many times on this blog we've come across examples where scripture is thrown out and something was used to fill the void. We saw it with The Shack and with Doug Pagitt's theology, but it doesn't end there nor was it unique with those two situations. When scripture's authority is taken out, a great gulf is left which must be filled by something else, lest the entire theology leaders to anarchy.
The following are some examples of what is used by man to fill in that gulf. Although this certainly isn't meant to be a complete study of such examples, I would hope that, God willing, it would at least get a few gears shifting within a person's head, or at least bring about some contemplation regarding all these matters.
When the authority of scripture is taken away, some authority must take it's place to be a guidance for the people. One of these is the authority of a church and its leadership. This can come in one of two forms:
(1) Willful ignorance of the laity. There are many people in the world who forgo personal study of scripture and instead defer this power to their respective spiritual elder (pastor, priest, reverend, what have you). This can include either accepting uncritically anything their spiritual elder has to say, or leaving all thought to their church authority and simply repeating what their church tells them. As a result, they demean the value of scripture and care more about their ecclesiastical alignment than their knowledge of the truth as given by their Lord. Note that this may not even be a fault on the church itself or its leadership, only the individual layman or a large portion of the lay community.
(2) Abuse of ecclesiastical authority. This takes place when a church or theology exceeds its bounds and begins to teach something contrary to scripture. It is accepted on the basis: "The Church has taught it, thus it is so." We see this with the introduction of Purgatory in Roman Catholicism, as well as the outright heresy found in supposedly "Christian" groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormonism. When the decision-making or theology of the church is questioned, the dissenter is often met with arguments for the authority of the church or the lack of legitimacy of other churches. When scripture is reviewed, it is always in a secondary nature: the theology of the church has the priority, and verses are picked and isolated to validate the theology. In this manner, scripture is defined by theology rather than theology by scripture. This is similar to the example by Charles Hodge of a scientist looking at facts to verify his theory rather than formulating his theory from the facts.
There should be no mistake here: church authority in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is not wrong for a church to either formulate a creed or statement of faith, or discipline its members if they are falling into error (in fact, that's commanded of in scripture). What should be prayerfully considered, however, is by what source that authority and decision-making is coming: is it coming simply from the authority of the church itself, or from the scriptural teachings to which the church abides itself? If the former, then the church is falling into sola ecclesia; if the latter, then the church is truly abiding my sola scriptura.
It is no small thing that when the ancient Israelites fell away from the worship of the one true God, they often filled the void with the gods from neighboring lands. Similarly, today, when we wander from the one true God, we often seek to fill the void with foreign gods who come in many forms. Doug Pagitt did it with holistic theology and Rob Bell with yoga practices. Truly, in this day and age of "The Gospel According to Oprah," we find many people mixing eastern mystical thought and practice with orthodox Christian doctrine, creating a hodge-podge of the two. They may claim that they are still Christian, but in the end the aroma they send to heaven is one unfamiliar with the Lord they claim to worship. In this manner, they are similar to the Samaritan woman, whom Christ told, "You worship what you do not know" (John 4:22).
That God commanded us not to mingle with the worship of other gods, in whatever form, is clear throughout scripture. He told the Hebrews: "You shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exo 34:14). Regarding blasphemers He said: "They have made Me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols" (Deu 32:21). The number one job of most prophets of old was to direct the people back to a focused worship of the Lord. It was not permissable for the people to intermingle foreign beliefs with the beliefs given to them by God. Even today, one could not mix the teachings of eastern pagan faiths with Christianity any more than one could mix the idea of a flat earth with modern astronomy.
The command must be sent to the people of today as it was to the tribes of Israel by the Lord God: "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel" (Jos 24:23).
The phrase "personal revelation" is here meant to signify one of two things:
(1) Personal interpretation sans scripture. This is where scripture is put on a secondary nature and the person's own private beliefs are upheld, with their personal motivations and understandings having the final authority. It is worth noting that the only person who would quote scripture and then add "But I say to you..." was Christ - the author of scripture from the beginning, and therefore the only one with the authority to do so. Yet those who would assert their personal interpretation and beliefs upon scripture are placing themselves alongside Christ and are likewise telling others "But I say to you..."
(2) Supposed revelation from God. This is common among many extreme Charismatic and Word of Faith leaders, who enjoy claiming to have done such things as visited heaven or spoken directly to Christ, sometimes face-to-face. It is worth noting that in times of old, whenever someone said "Thus sayeth the Lord..." it was always what became scripture; men like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah were all very familiar with this phrase. Yet today, men like Kenneth Copeland would use the phrase "Thus sayeth the Lord..." freely and with the utmost sincerity, expecting their statements to be upheld so that they are just as important as scripture. Many more, such as the self-proclaimed prophet Vassula Ryden, would expect us to hold her teachings on equal authority (if not more) with scripture.
In both these circumstances, man's authority replaces God's authority. In the case of (1), very little use of the scripture is made, and if it is made it is done in a proof-text manner to quickly verify what the person believes. In the case of (2), any use of the scripture is similar to that found in the case of sola ecclessia; that is, the revelation is seen as the lens to review scripture, and not scripture to verify the revelation.
We are told that "long ago...God spoke to our fathers by the prophets," but now in these days "He has spoken to us by His Son," who is the Incarnate Word Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). The role of the prophet is over, because the wall dividing mankind and God has been rent asunder by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. He has no need for supposed prophets, nor does He intend self-made individuals to be the new authority.
That the Bible is simply a morality guide-book is often a common misnomer in today's society; the Bible is first and foremost the story of man's salvation brought about by God, and the Lord's interaction with His creation therein. That being said, Christians are called to be moral examples, and the Bible does contain within it God's instructions for being moral. Christians believe what they believe regarding morality because God, the very author of morals, has given it to them. In this manner, every true Christian believes in a moral absolute of one form or another.
In this day and age of the post-modern church, however, the authority of scripture in regard to morals has come under serious questioning: some post-modern scholars have argued that the Bible never condemns homosexuality; others have said there is nothing in the scriptures to condemn abortion; some have claimed suicide is never condemned; many more have even said that simply lusting after another person is in no way inherently evil. All this returns to the issue of moral relativity: there is no moral absolute, only gray areas.
We see this happening wholesale in most of the older churches in the west, including the United Methodist and Episcopal churches, but we also see this happening in some parts of the more conservative branches, such as the ever-tumbling Presbyterian USA church. Those who would try to return the churches to a more biblical mindset are accused of being heartless or close-minded, so that even condemning heresies such as universalism will bring one under inquisition.
I believe there are two consequences to this development:
(1) The demeaning of God's commands. That God condemns various outward and inward signs of immorality in scripture is obvious. Sexual immorality of all forms (be it heterosexual or homosexual) is condemned, as is blasphemy against that which is holy, profane language, hatred against one another, and immoral violence. To remove these things or pick-and-choose which are to be adhered is to in essence write out portions from God's instructions. When we remove the authority of scripture, we likewise remove the authority of God's moral commands for His people. In this manner, we might say that the moral relativist who picks and chooses the commands of God to be obeyed and spoken about is the #1 of Personal Revelation as seen in practice.
(2) The demeaning of God's grace. While Christians are told to uphold the commands of God, we are likewise faced with a great reality: it is almost impossible to uphold the commands of God to complete satisfaction. This is why Christ was sent: to be that final sacrifice for the atonement of sins for God's perfected people. In the demeaning of sins and the upheaval of moral relativity, however, this entire situation is taken out. It is not impossible for man to keep the Law, simply because there is, in the eyes of the moral relativist, no Law to begin with. If evil amounts to simplified identifications such as rape and murder, then virtually every man is righteous, and there is no need for God's grace. Is it any wonder then, in this day and age of post-modernism, that few people have the realization of the sincere need for a savior? If a man is justified by his own standards, then he has no need of God's grace. The reality of man's condition as told in scripture - that he has come short of the righteousness of God and has been found to be terribly lacking (Ecc 7:20; Rom 3:9-11) - is foreign to their mindset. With the story of salvation as told in scripture removed, a man-made story of salvation is introduced, and the need for a savior reduced - and, indeed, eliminated.
I will close this post with some words from the psalms:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD; teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. [Psalm 119:9-16]
One night I took a particular interest in the story of Anneliese Michel after listening to audio clips of her exorcism. For those who don't know, Annelise was a young German woman in the early 1970's who had been raised a devout Roman Catholic, but while at school began to suffer from some physical ailments, including movements she could not control. She was diagnosed early on with including epilepsy and given medication, but the situation grew worse. She claimed to be seeing demonic faces and hearing voices, and her actions became even more irrational. Eventually her family and German priests began to perform the rite of exorcism on her. This continued for almost a year before Anneliese passed away in 1976. Her death was attributed to malnutrition and dehydration from her lack of food and drink during the exorcism, and the priests and family were charged by German courts of negligent homicide. To this day there is constant debate by many over whether or not Anneliese was mentally ill or sincerely possessed.
Most astonishing to me, however, is what happened before her possession got worse. Her mother later recounted in a documentary (in this section specifically) that, while out with her boyfriend, Anneliese had a vision of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary confided in Anneliese that it pained her that so many go to hell, and asks if Anneliese would like to do penance for the priests and young people of Germany, so that they don't go to hell. "Would you like to do penance for these souls," the Virgin Mary apparition asks, "which will be damned for eternity otherwise?" She was given some time to decide on the matter, and eventually decided to accept. From then on the sufferings grew worse, and she began to exhibit wounds that resembled stigmata (she claimed they weren't self-inflicted).
Let's ponder on this for a moment: an apparition of the Virgin Mary requests a young girl to suffer for souls so that people may be redeemed of their sins, and ultimately that leads to greater demonic possession? That, in and of itself, sounds demonic!
Let's review scripture here quickly to respond to this thinking. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church: "For the death he died he died to sin, once for all..." (Rom 6:10). Likewise Paul writes to the Colossians: "through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col 1:20). He adds that the Colossian Christians: "he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him" (Col 1:22). Christ already died for our "penance" - we don't need a girl in 1970's Germany to suffer and die for anyone.
Even more mind bogging was the comment to a YouTube video where a person said: "For them to have entered her, she had to have been a very good person. Pure heart." Can we ponder on these words for a moment? The beloved apostle John wrote: "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:5-6). Light cannot coexist with darkness. A true believer in God cannot be demon possessed. This whole scenario reminds me of Todd Bentley's own claim that at one point the Holy Spirit supposedly told him to let a demon possess his body and mess up a church.
An even more strange element to the story is when the priests found out that supposedly six demons were inside Anneliese, and were able to have them identify themselves by name. The names were: Lucifer, Judas, Nero, Cain, Hitler and a fallen priest from the 16th century named Fleischmann. Yes, that's right - apparently Judas, Cain, Nero, Hitler and a fallen priest all became honorary demons after they died. Where in all of scripture is such a possibility attested? Demons are fallen angels, not fallen souls. One could argue that the demons were merely picking names for themselves associated with evil (as the demons within the Gerasene man took the name "Legion" because of their number). The only problem with this argument would be during the recordings of the exorcisms the demons identify themselves as the persons who their names are taken from - in other words, they're the actual people attributed to those names. The problem was probably even noticed by the writers of The Exorcism of Emily Rose (a film loosely based on the Anneliese Michel story) as they fixed this problem by having the demons instead say something to the affect of: "I was the demon who was in Nero/Hitler/Judas/etc."
This leads me to come to one of two conclusions:
- Anneliese really was suffering from a mental disorder, and these names were simply what she knew from her history and religious upbringing.
- Anneliese really was possessed, and the demons were taking on names and playing out parts to fool the people performing the exorcisms.
|As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. [Matthew 9:9]|
It's worth noting that the calling of Matthew is not merely an isolated incident, but one in a series of stories told by the evangelist through this section of his gospel. Within two chapters, we find: demons cast out of two men (Matt 8:28-34); a paralytic healed (Matt 9:1-8); Matthew called (Matt 9:9); a woman healed by touching Christ's cloak (Matt 9:20-22); the synagogue ruler's daughter raised (Matt 9:25-26); and two blind men healed (Matt 9:27-31).
Each of these incidents have one thing in common: at Christ's word, something instantaneously happened. His sovereignty was seen in all these events. Earlier in the gospel, a Roman centurion had been so self-assured of Christ's authority that he asked not for a display of healing but rather Christ's mere command for healing. He showed this great understanding with the words, "I also am a man under authority" (Matt 8:9) - not that he put himself on equal with Christ (his humility, further illustrated in Luke's account, affirms this), but rather that, as one with military authority, he fully grasped the reality of divine authority. Such authority was on full display for this generation.
That Matthew's conversion follows the story of the paralytic (as it does in the gospels of Mark and Luke) is most likely no idle thing. Christ had told the judgmental Pharisees that the healing was "so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt 9:6), and with but one command made the paralytic stand up and walk. In an instance Christ showed that He had authority over the forgiveness of sins of men and their physical conditions. He had command over the spiritual and physical, for just as He had command over the demoniacs he had commands over the crippled.
Then we come to Matthew, said to be "sitting in the tax collector's booth." The position of tax collector was infamous across first century Judea:
In Jesus' day, the Roman government collected several different taxes from the people of Palestine. Tolls for transporting goods by land or sea were collected by private tax collectors, who paid a fee to the Roman government for the right to assess these levies. The tax collectors made their profits by charging a higher toll than the law required. The licensed collectors often hired minor officials called publicans to do the actual work of collecting the tolls. The publicans extracted their own wages by charging a traction more than their employers required...Normally a publican charged 5 percent of the purchase price of normal trade items and up to 12.5 percent on luxury items...The Jews considered a tax collector's money to be unclean so they would never ask for change. If a Jewish man did not have the exact amount that the collector required, he borrowed from a friend. Jewish people despised the publicans as agents of the hated Roman Empire and the puppet Jewish king. Publicans were not allowed to testify in court, and they could not tithe their money to the temple...Christ found Matthew exactly as He had found Saul - that is, in the midst of his sin. Saul was on his way to exterminate Christians when Christ appeared to him, and Matthew was busily going about his horrible business when Christ appeared. Matthew Henry wrote regarding Christ's appearance to Matthew: "As Satan chooses to come, with his temptations, to those that are idle, so Christ chooses to come, with his calls, to those that are employed." Finding Matthew thus, Christ utters two words: "Follow me." The Greek word used here for "follow" (ἀκολούθει) is an imperative - in other words, it was a clear command. At this utterance, it is described (even by Matthew himself) that the disciple immediately "got up and followed Him." Matthew did what the rich young ruler (Luke 18:21-23) could not do: he gave up his profitable business and followed his Lord
Yet the Jews divided the tax collectors in two classes. First were the gabbai, who levied general agricultural taxes and census taxes from the people. The second group were the mokhsa, the officials who collected money from travelers. Most of the mokhsa were Jews, so they were despised as traitors to their own people. Matthew belonged to this class of tax collectors. [pg. 529-530; Packer, J.I., and M.C. Tenney, eds. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980]
Some have attempted to explain Matthew's conversion by stating that he knew Jesus before this incident. Others have said that there might have been some further discussion than this text implies. However, there is nothing to suggest in the text that Matthew intimately knew (outside of hearsay) our Lord, nor that anything developed more than what took place as recorded by all three synoptic accounts. Even the apostle John, who goes into far more detail about the life of many apostles previous to their calling, is noticeably just as silent about any previous interaction between Christ and Matthew. The only thing we do know is that Matthew was living a life that alienated him from believers of God and ethnic Jews in general. We also know that it was Christ who spoke first - had Christ not opened His lips, the future evangelist may have continued in his sin.
Matthew, within his own account, puts far less emphasis on himself and far more on Christ. Whereas Mark and Luke both refer to him by the more noble name of Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27), Matthew refers to himself as simply Matthew. Likewise, whereas Mark and Luke both account that it was Matthew's house which Christ ate at that day (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29), Matthew keeps the owner of the house anonymous (Matt 9:10). Finally, whereas Mark and Luke place Matthew before Thomas (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15), Matthew not only puts Thomas first but includes the sin of which he was guilty. That is, he gives himself the title of "the tax collector" (Matt 10:3). Those who would seek to put an emphasis on Matthew forget the blessed apostle never even gives himself much credit. In fact, he placed his emphasis on only two things: the sin for which he was guilty, and the righteousness of Christ.
The immediate nature of Matthew's response, in fact, shows what could only be a divine pull. It was done without thought, consideration, or contention. The disciple literally discards what was a high paying job for a much more poverty stricken life with Christ. Matthew Henry argues: "The call was effectual, for he came at the call; he arose, and followed him immediately; neither denied, nor deferred his obedience." His conversion was so complete, in fact, that we find in the next verse Matthew's publican friends coming to his house to meet Christ. Many theologians (including John Chrysostom, Matthew Henry, John Gill, and Adam Clarke) believe these publicans to have been invited at the request of Matthew, who also wanted them to meet and possibly join with Christ. Matthew was, in many respects, the perfect convert: he humbled himself, glorified God, and sought to bring others to Christ. It was not a gradual conversion, nor one that happened over a long length of time after much debate and forceful words - it was instantaneous and complete.
We then come back to the question posed at the beginning of the post, which is who made Matthew get up and follow Jesus: Matthew or Jesus? We have already established that Matthew's calling was complete - likewise, we had established earlier that this is one in a chain of many stories in which Christ instantaneously heals people. The paralytic did not get up because he had been feeling better than morning and was on the verge of getting up himself when Christ gave him the command to rise and pick up his bed; he also walked away forgiven of his sins. Matthew Henry wrote on the similitude with the disciple's calling:
...the same divine, almighty power accompanied this word to convert Matthew, which attended that word (Matt 9:6), Arise and walk, to cure the man sick of the palsy. Note, A saving change is wrought in the soul by Christ as the Author, and his word as the means. His gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). [from his commentary]Christ ordered the demons out of the demoniacs, and it was done. Christ ordered the paralytic healed, and it was done. Christ ordered the dead girl to rise, and she rose. Likewise, Christ ordered Matthew to follow, and Matthew followed.
Those who would argue a synergistic approach must then ask themselves the question: was it possible, even with a one percent chance, of Matthew rejecting the call? Can we imagine for a moment, after Christ's words "Follow me," Matthew simply raising an eyebrow at the Savior and then continuing on with his work? What power, then, could such a Savior hold? What power could a Lord be said to have if that Lord could heal the sick and lame yet could not conquer the sinful heart of man? What power could a Conqueror of Sin be known by if He could not conquer one man's sins? John Gill wrote that Matthew's calling "was entirely owing to the free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace of Christ, and which was powerful and efficacious." John Calvin wrote that in Matthew "Christ intended to give a remarkable example, that we might know that his calling was not from man." Matthew had as much power to say "No" as the paralytic did to say "But Lord, I can't get up!"
When the rich young ruler had left, and the danger of attempting to enter the kingdom with earthly wealth was explained, the disciples had asked "Then who can be saved?" to which Christ replied: "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God" (Luke 18:26-27). The calling of Matthew was but one of many testaments of this fact in the Gospel story.
This was something from my old blog. I had forgotten about it until recently when a friend told me that there are, apparently, still those circulating the online documentary Zeitgeist, and some are still repeating its claims. So I've decided to re-upload my old post with some minor changes and editing for mistakes. God bless.
The internet is one of the most radical inventions of mankind since nuclear power. I don't believe I exaggerate when I say this. When man split the atom they not only created monumental benefits for mankind, such as nuclear power, but they also unleashed unspeakable destruction, such as nuclear war. Likewise, the advent of the internet has produced mixed results: on one hand, we have the spread of information and contact, and the ability for mankind to see what it is like to live halfway across the world when in the past one had to read about it or go visit for themselves; on the other hand, it has allowed the potential for such widespread hate, violence, and falsehood that wicked men in the past could only dream of.
One thing it has done is lead to a proliferation of conspiracy theory videos across the internet. Armed with a knowledge of editing and a microphone, any one with an opinion can get their video out to be seen by thousands - if not millions. One need only peruse YouTube to see this: there are videos of supposed alien abductions and autopsies, videos "proving" the Holocaust never happened, and the infamous documentaries (such as Loose Change) attempting to convince people the government orchestrated the September 11 attacks.
A few months ago, a new "documentary" was released entitled Zeitgeist, and it is still available on the web. A whopping two hours long, it's essentially every major conspiracy in the past decade rolled into one. It's divided into a few parts, the first of which deals with Christianity and its supposed pagan influences. I had intended to avoid it, since I loathe conspiracy theories with a passion, but I continued to hear people praising it. Over and over again I heard, "This proves the Christian God is a myth!" The apologist in me then took over, and I had inspiration to see for myself whether or not this documentary could legitimately prove any thing. I got a drink, relaxed in front of my computer, and prepared to take notes.
As I said before, the entire film is two hours long. You can gather why from the beginning, with the very tedious opening that any one with Windows Movie Maker could do: for four whole minutes you sit there staring at a virtually black screen while a man rambles on in what is essentially a strike against spirituality and patriotism. This is followed by nearly three minutes of techno music over stock footage of every gun in military history going off. Then, in a shot that looks like it could have come straight from a Nazi or Soviet propaganda film, a man begins to write a mathematical equation on a piece of paper, only to have it snatched from his hands and an American flag and Bible replacing it. Thus, just seven minutes in, we're alerted this is going to be a biased, anti-establishment film. I would not be surprised if Tom Laughlin of Billy Jack fame had any part in its making.
Following this is a sound clip of George Carlin (yes, what a fine theologian he was) discussing Christianity. The routine mocks the requests for money from many Charismatic and televangelist leaders, as if to again feed the anti-establishment feelings of many viewers. Thirteen minutes and thirty-four seconds into the film we finally get to the first part: Christianity. I sat and took notes for the entire forty minute duration that makes up the documentary's attacks against Christ. By the end I was hardly convinced by the film's arguments - in fact I outlined several issues I had with it, which I will now explain in great detail.
Horus is identified as the sun god in ancient Egyptian culture, leading to the claim Jesus was, in fact, a copied sun god. Yet right off the bat we have a very large problem. In fact, the problem is so embarrassing that you wonder how much research the filmmakers actually did...
Horus is not the sun god!
Ra is the sun god. Horus was the god of the sky, hence why he is often depicted as a falcon, not a sun. The sun does play a small part in the Horus mythology: it was considered one of his eyes along with the moon. In a battle with his rival Seth one eye was struck, hence how the Egyptians explain the sun is so bright and strong and the moon so weak and dim (remind me: when Jesus was tempted in the desert, did He have an eye plucked out?). Later on in Egyptian history, Horus was associated with the sun god, hence some variations of the Horus legend attributing him to the sun. He was also associated with other gods including Min, Sopdu, Khonsu and Montu. In fact, much like other localized pagan gods, there are many forms of Horus found throughout Egyptian history and at any point within Egypt itself - it was never a clear this-is-what-Horus-is case as Zeitgeist claims.
Moving on, we are told several things about Horus that allude to similarities with Jesus: he was born on December 25th to a virgin; his birth was marked by a star in the east; upon his birth he was adored by three kings; he was a teacher at the age of twelve; he was baptized at 30, starting his ministry; he traveled with twelve disciples; and was known by things such as "the good shepherd," "God's anointed son," and "the truth." He was also supposedly betrayed, crucified, dead for three days, and then rose again.
The point of presenting this is obvious. The filmmakers wish for the viewer to say, "Hm, this all sounds very familiar...aha! Jesus must be Horus!" However, let's review just how true these facts are one at a time.
- Was Horus born on December 25th? It is actually unclear when exactly Horus was born. Some say the ancient month of Kikellia (which actually falls in February or March), while others say the month of Khoiak. The latter is believed to have been in November and actually celebrates the death and resurrection of Osiris. In fact, the story of Osiris' death and resurrection is used by some to say the Jesus story is a plagiarized myth - not Horus.
- Was Horus born to a virgin? Actually, no. There was a "miraculous birth," but it involved Osiris, Horus' father, being resurrected from the dead after his murder by Seth and then impregnating Isis. One need only read the legend to figure this out.
She made to rise up the helpless members of him whose heart was at rest, she drew from him his essence, and she made therefrom an heir.Horus was not born of a virgin...he was born of a necrophiliac. This is a far cry from the story of the Virgin Mary.
- Was his birth marked by a star in the east? There is no record of this.
- Was his birth adored by three kings? Again, no record of this.
- Was he was a teacher at the age of twelve? There is very little to suggest this. Horus was a bit of a weakling in his youth, almost getting killed on a few occasions (one time by poison), whereas even at age 12 Jesus was astonishingly wise to those around Him.
- Was he baptized at 30, starting a ministry? Horus is thought by the film to have been baptized by "Anup the Baptizer." However, I have not found anything to confirm this. The best we can get is that some think Anup was actually Anubis, since Anubis' Egyptian name (ANPU, or ENPU) could be misspelled. However, connecting Anubis with John the Baptist would be a stretch of the imagination that would make even the most ardent atheist wince.
- Did he travel with twelve disciples? He had numerous followers, but most of them were never precisely numbered, or if they were it was never twelve. Some point to hieroglyphics in which twelve reapers are depicted, but Horus is in no way connected to it.
- Was he betrayed, crucified, and rose again? Again, there's little evidence of this. His father, Osiris (as previously stated), is the only major Egyptian god who died and rose again. As for crucifixion, this method of execution did not arrive in the region until the 4th century BC, so it would have been a bit impossible for any one in ancient Egypt to have been crucified.
- Was he known by things such as "the good shepherd," "God's anointed son," and "the truth?" Actually, the only titles given to Horus are “Great God”, “Chief of the Powers”, “Master of Heaven”, and “Avenger of His Father." He's never called anointed, the Truth, the Way, the Life, let alone the Good Shepherd. There was a title given to him called KRST, which some have claimed means anointed, but it in fact means burial.
After establishing the "similarities" between Jesus and Horus, the filmmakers proceed to try and show that the story of Jesus' birth is really a mythology sourced to astrology.
December, it is explained, was considered the time of the death of the sun, as it rose and fell shorter and shorter against the horizon. What we are told is that from December 22 to December 24 the sun moves only a little bit across the sky, and in the position when the Southern Cross constellation (the Crux) is nearly above it. After December 25th, when the sun rises straight up, the sun begins to move higher again. This, the narrator says, is the connection between the "sun" dying on the "cross" and "rising again" after being dead for "three days." Furthermore, around this time of the year the eastern star Sirius is seen bright in the sky, and on December 24th is aligned with the three stars of Orion's belt, pointing to where the sun will rise. These three stars were known in ancient times as "the three kings."
There are many errors with this argument, including:
- The Crux, or Southern Cross, was not named nor identified as such until the 16th century; the ancient Greeks considered it part of the constellation Centaurus, the Centaur. This destroys the idea that there was an early connection between the sun and the cross, thereby creating the idea of "a sun dying on the cross."
- The New Testament actually never numbers the magi (who were Oriental scientists or wisemen, not kings), only the three types of gifts given. Early Christian art sometimes showed as many as eight magi greeting Christ. Besides, I have not found anything to confirm ancient civilizations referred to them as "three kings," except anti-Christian sources repeating what was said in the documentary with, "Trust us! They said it then as they do now!" The most I could find was that the three stars were given the nickname "three kings" later on in Christian Europe, thereby denoting a post-church naming as with the Southern Cross. Even if an ancient civilization did call them the "three kings," it would be, as I said, irrelevant: the original gospel story says there were magi, not kings, and they were not numbered.
- December 25th is supposed to be the day of Jesus' birth. Why would there be so many metaphors for His death? Wouldn't it make more sense to have it around the day He would have risen from the grave?
Well, let's look at the errors here:
- The narrator doesn't bother to explain the existence of the actual town of Bethlehem, which existed in Jesus' time as it does now. Unless, of course, the existence is one big conspiracy as well (in which case the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have a lot of explaining to do).
- The film associates Virgo with Mary because the symbol for Virgo looks like the letter "m"...never mind that the symbol for Scorpio also looks like the letter "m." In fact, the symbol has more to do with healing and medicine than it does with m-names.
- One thing the film seems to not realize is that Virgo is associated with autumn days, and is not present in the winter - it is only seen during the spring months. Therefore, what would this have to do with Jesus' birth in Bethlehem on December 25th? Even if there was a "Bethlehem" involved in the astrological explanation, why would it be connected with a winter event? Why would it not be connected with a spring event? This fits along with the problems earlier regarding connections made between events in Jesus' death and the day He was supposedly born.
- Much like the "three kings," I can find no source outside of anti-Christian rhetoric saying that Virgo is also named "house of bread" and therefore denotes Bethlehem. Actually, the Hebrews already had a name for her: "the Abundance in Harvest," or Bethulah (not Bethlehem).
Is there a connection between the Zodiac and the disciples? We are told outright that, with Jesus being a sun god, the disciples are all twelve symbols of the zodiac personified. This is said to be "the most obvious" astrological connection. I have to say if the symbols of the zodiac were personified, then we have a bigger miracle than we realized: the constellations came down to earth and took flesh!
Why the sarcasm here? I use sarcasm because we know the apostles existed. Historical figures such as Ignatius of Antioch can attest to not only the existence of apostles but scripture being contemporary to the apostles, such as Matthew's gospel. To deny the existence of the apostles would be equally as silly as denying Plato or Socrates existed.
In any case, the tie between twelve disciples and twelve signs of the zodiac is one that only works if you compare numbers. However, if you begin to think for yourself, you realize just how silly this tie is. For example, did each disciple correspond to a specific sign? Did all their personalities match? Which one was Virgo? Which one was Scorpio? Incidentally, not all the disciples remained on the team and later became apostles: Judas, as everyone knows, betrayed Jesus and later hung himself. Which sign in the zodiac betrays the sun? Which sign in the zodiac killed itself? Or was Matthias, chosen to replace Judas after his death (Acts 1:26), also a sign of the zodiac? In that case, does Judas still count? Are there thirteen signs of the zodiac?
Furthermore, if we are to believe the connection made by Zeitgeist between Christianity and Egyptian polytheism, then we need to understand it within that context for all things lest we are guilty of irrationality. In regards to the disciples and the zodiac, does it fit with the Egyptian form of the zodiac? Yes...and no. The Egyptian zodiac did have twelve parts, but they were all named after the gods, including Horus. Jesus, we were told, is Horus. Does this mean Jesus was in fact one of the disciples?
Also interesting to note is the statement by the narrator that the zodiac became a cross with a circle around it. The film then cuts to several scenes of Celtic crosses...which didn't come until much later and were unique to Celtic Christianity. In fact, all the crosses they show are not in museums but atop modern churches. In the early days of Christianity, cross symbols simply looked like crosses. The documentary has once again played a game of "They both look similar, so they must be related!"
If there was any doubt of dishonesty in this documentary, it is broken in the section where the narrator begins to quote passages from the New Testament to prove Christianity is pagan. Most, if not all, are blatant distortions of the original meaning.
For example, the narrator quotes John 14:3, in which Jesus says "I will come again," but the narrator reads it, "The risen savior will come again, as it does every morning." Yet in the context of John 14:3, Jesus will come again only once; it doesn't take an astronomer to know that the sun doesn't rise only once in history. Another example is when they quote John 3:3, in which Jesus says someone must be "born again," but this too is distorted so that it reads, "God, who is born again every morning." However, God is not the subject here, but the true followers of Christ. Furthermore, the following passages show that this is a new birth both in water and spirit - what does water have to do with the sun?
The most prime example can be found with the passage of Luke 22:10. The narrator says that apostles ask Jesus when the last Passover will be, and Jesus describes a man carrying water. The narrator uses this to allude to the coming of the Age of Aquarius (I'll get to that later), which would make sense as Aquarius is a man holding water. However, it doesn't make any sense if you actually check the scripture. Luke 22 describes Jesus and His disciples preparing for the Passover and the holiday's meal. Let's review the passages before Luke 22:10:
Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare?" [Luke 22:7-9]Do you see any where the disciples asking when the last Passover will be? No. Jesus is planning for the current Passover, instructing His disciples how to prepare, and foretelling what the disciples will see in town. The makers of Zeitgeist have therefore revealed, in plain sight, an example of malicious distortion of the truth.
By the way, I have to admit I had a laugh here. The phrase "crown of thorns" in John 19:5 is said to be alluding to sun rays. Once again, I think even the most passionate atheist would roll his eyes at that. It's like saying Claude Monet's famous water lilies are metaphors for vaginas (don't laugh, Georgia O'Keefe dealt with that most of her career).
The narrator says the translation of Matthew 28:20, in which Jesus says, "I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age," is actually a mistranslation. The original word is aeon. In my own personal research I found the Greek word in Matthew 28:20 is aionos, which does come from the Greek word aion. It actually means a perpetuity of time. Aionos is sometimes translated as "world" (such as in 1 Corinthians 1:20), and it amazes me Zeitgeist doesn't try to play with that rather than what they went ahead with. Furthermore, "age" is indeed a proper definition of aion. In any case, we are told that this assists us in understanding what Jesus meant by the word "age."
What this alluded to, according to Zeitgeist, was the procession of the equinoxes. It takes approximately 26,000 years for all twelve constellations in the zodiac to circle the earth as it turns, and roughly 2150 years between each sign. Supposedly the Bible speaks of three ages: the time of Moses, the time of Christ, and the next age which some Christians believe to be Christ's return. Around the time of Exodus was when the Age of Taurus the Bull ended and the Age of Aeris the Ram began. The golden calf apparently signaled the old age, whereas the ram represented Moses. Jesus' birth coincided with the advent of Pisces the two fish, which is supposedly why there are so many references to fish and fishermen in the New Testament, and why one symbol of Christianity is a fish. The next age will be the Age of Aquarius - this, the narrator says, is what Jesus meant when He said He would be with them even onto the end of the age.
The ancient civilizations, we are told, understood this, hence why it is obvious it is tied to Christian and Jewish religion. The problem with this statement, however, is that the man who discovered and recorded the procession of the equinox, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, lived from the time around 190-120 BC...long after the life of Moses, and long after the date of existing manuscripts containing Hebrew scripture existed. There was little chance it could have played a major influence on Hebrew, and therefore Christian, theology. This entire argument, therefore, becomes nonsensical.
I'm going to be brief here because, quite frankly, I am tired of having to deal with this misunderstanding. I can only go over the same road so many times. Since The Da Vinci Code and the comics of Jack Chick, many people have come to the assumption that the First Council of Nicaea was some evil, dictatorial meeting where political allies of the emperor oppressed other churches and instituted pagan beliefs (never mind that in actuality the ones condemned at Nicaea took over afterward and persecuted everyone else).
This is immediately followed by "the Vatican" creating a "stranglehold" on society - apparently the eastern churches never existed. As I said, it's the same tired old tripe that I have heard over and over again, and I grow weary of confronting it. People have this belief that there was Jesus, His apostles, then suddenly the evil, wicked, demonic Roman Catholic Church popped out of no where and took over. This ignores a thousand years of Christian history and presents an easy way of telling if we're dealing with an amateur historian or someone who actually did their homework. Unfortunately, the people who made this documentary are the former.
I will give the makers of Zeitgeist some credit for coming up with a new conspiracy: they claim Gnostic Christians, who were indeed influenced by paganism, took over the religion and did away with all the other sects. Usually anti-Christian propaganda says that the Gnostics were oppressed and murdered. Actually, given the knowledge that the apostle John himself fought Gnostic heretics and that most church leaders and officials spoke out against Gnostics, this probably solidifies exactly how bizarre it is that any one can consider this documentary to have legitimate facts.
Most interesting in the attacks against the Church Fathers is the quotes given by Justin Martyr regarding comparisons between Christ's deity and the deity of Greek gods. No exact source is given for these quotes, but after doing my own research I found they came from The First Apology, which was addressed to the Roman emperor and his court. In any case, quotes such as, "We propound nothing different than you regarding the sons of Jupiter," is made to look like the early Christians believed there were similarities between Christianity and polytheism. Yet, this is distorting Justin Martyr's intention. That's all he's pointing out: similarities. He's showing that the pagans, who saw the Christian beliefs as silly, had similar beliefs themselves and were therefore being inconsistent. Much like the similarities between an Egyptian work of art and a Christian work of art (discussed previously), it should be made clear that a subjective opinion made by the film like, "Oh! They both look the same!" is not scholarly.
Yet if we concede Justin Martyr draws similarities between the two theologies, what then of the Church Fathers who fought against any introduction of pagan beliefs? Irenaeus's book Against Heresy is full of attacks against groups of people who mixed paganism with Christianity...including, I might add, Egyptian and zodiacal mythology. Irenaeus described such mythology believed by the Marcosian heresy:
As to the Duodecad, it is indicated by the zodiacal circle, as it is called; for they affirm that the twelve signs do most manifestly shadow forth the Duodecad, the daughter of Anthropos and Ecclesia. And since the highest heaven, beating upon the very sphere [of the seventh heaven], has been linked with the most rapid precession of the whole system, as a check, and balancing that system with its own gravity, so that it completes the cycle from sign to sign in thirty years — they say that this is an image of Horus, encircling their thirty-named mother. And then, again, as the moon travels through her allotted space of heaven in thirty days, they hold, that by these days she expresses the number of the thirty Æons.Apparently the early Christians were aware of Egyptian mythology and aware of zodiacal mythology, as well as their attempts to influence early Christianity...and they condemned it openly. There was therefore no situation of Christians intermingling pagan beliefs with Jewish theology, only the church combating any possibility of those pagan deities slipping in, using their profound knowledge and intellect to scrutinize for any slight possibility of such heresies slipping in. We should be grateful to Christ for instilling in men the spirit to combat spiritual sabotage during Christianity's difficult early years.
The sun also, who runs through his orbit in twelve months, and then returns to the same point in the circle, makes the Duodecad manifest by these twelve months; and the days, as being measured by twelve hours, are a type of the invisible Duodecad. Moreover, they declare that the hour, which is the twelfth part of the day, is composed of thirty parts, in order to set forth the image of the Triacontad. Also the circumference of the zodiacal circle itself contains three hundred and sixty degrees (for each of its signs comprises thirty); and thus also they affirm, that by means of this circle an image is preserved of that connection which exists between the twelve and the thirty. Still further, asserting that the earth is divided into twelve zones, and that in each zone it receives power from the heavens, according to the perpendicular [position of the sun above it], bringing forth productions corresponding to that power which sends down its influence upon it, they maintain that this is a most evident type of the Duodecad and its offspring. [Against Heresy Book I, Chapter 19; all emphasis mine]
Zeitgeist, like so many online documentaries, is a cavalcade of falsehoods rather than facts. It presents a case not based on solid evidence but rather a handful of facts supported only by subjective opinions like, "They both look the same," or "I don't think this could be right, so that makes the other possibility fact." Someone who has no real knowledge on the subject may be easily swayed, but someone who has studied the topic will quickly realize something wrong is afoot.
After the first time I saw it, I wondered just how the filmmakers had come to their conclusions. Very little of this film cites sources or quotes historical sources. It's very noticeable that the narrator will simply state things matter-of-factly, as if we're just expected to swallow what's given to us. During my research I found that many of these accusations actually come from a 19th century historian by the name of Gerald Massey. Like Zeitgeist, Massey claimed Jesus was Horus revamped with many similarities between the two, that the three kings referred to Orion's belt, and that the "Son of God" was actually the "sun god." However, he has been criticized for stating these opinions while citing no source in Egyptian literature or Christian literature. This would explain why so much of my research into the belief of Orion's belt being called "three kings" and Virgo being called "house of bread" ends with no real solid evidence ancient people used these names, but rather anti-Christian authors stating, "I heard this, so it must be true." Therefore, anti-Christian books took Gerald Massey's assertions to heart, not realizing little of it was based off actual archaeological evidence. It would seem these distortions survived through the 19th and 20th centuries and are now finding a home in the 21st century. Sadly, people even today believe it, and seem to believe it willingly without any effort to research what they are told. As Vladimir Lenin once said, "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."
I hope this post will educate people on how to counter these beliefs, and enable them to respond to these accusations accordingly. Heresy and distorted facts regarding Christ began with His birth, continued after His death, and I don't think we will ever see an end to them until the day He returns. Until then, we must be loyal servants, ready to defend His name. Amen.
A few days ago, I was watching the above video by Dr. James White, which touched on the subject of Ergun Caner and his apparent return to his old ways: playing the persecution card and claiming a Muslim Jihadi past.Then it hit me: perhaps I could utilize Caner's tactics to start my own career path to fame!
You see, I'm a descendant of Roman Catholic Italians. My great grandfather came over from Italy in 1913, and my first and last names are of Italian origin. Granted, my middle name is Scotch-Irish, but we can ignore that...in fact I'll just make it sound semi-Italian. I'll start emphasizing the Italian side of my first name too. From now on, I shall introduce myself as "Antonio Alan Cucolo." I'll also claim that I'm 100% Italian...OK, so maybe I'm not. In fact one time I did the numbers based on my ancestry on both sides of my family, and I'm maybe only 25% Italian and 50% German, but hey - no one needs to know that.
Now obviously as my father is third-generation Italian American I can't get away with saying he came over from Italy and that I was born in the homeland (which is too bad, I could claim I was born in Rome). Don't get discouraged, though, because that really doesn't matter. What I can claim is that I was born Roman Catholic, just as his whole family is Roman Catholic. That latter part is true - the former is not. I was baptized into the Episcopalian Church, and my mother was Episcopal. What is also true is that for most of my childhood and well into my late teenage years, my family mostly went to Roman Catholic services, and for my first three years in high school I went to a privately run Roman Catholic school.
Ooooh, think of the possibilities with all that!
I, Antonio, was a baptized Roman Catholic: growing up a devout Catholic, practically raised in the mass, attending it every day, even sneaking away from class to attend church services. I studied Latin vehemently, and would gleefully use it at school, even if it isolated me from classmates who could not understand it. I could say that I did the rosary throughout the day, even in the school bathroom. I could claim that I had been taught by family and priests that all Protestants were inherently evil and that they all hated Roman Catholics. I'd assume that Protestants hated me for who I am. I could claim that I pledged to wipe out all Protestant sects in a new inquisition.
Then I went to a Jesuit-run high school (never mind it wasn't run by an order, let alone Jesuits, but rather just people who happened to be Catholics). There I was trained by Jesuit agents to entrap and humiliate famous Protestant leaders to bring them down (no I am not ripping off Jack Chick! Why would you claim that?!). Then, some nice Protestant brother (Steven, do you want this honor?) invited me to his revival. I went there in full Italian garb (doesn't matter I was born in America), and yet realized that Protestants, in fact, didn't hate me, and in fact loved me. Then I realized that Christ is our only form of salvation, and repented. And that night, which happened to be Friday...I had me some meat.
Good! I've got my conversion falsehood - I mean - biography down, I need to find a way to go about this. I'll go to churches around the country and brag about it, and add more stories on top of that. I'll claim to have made 1,000 debates, sometimes directly in Latin with Catholic priests from Rome. I'll claim the original Latin mass had phrases such as "Licius docius hintin du" and explain that it means "Give us your little boys" (what does it really mean? I dunno, I made it up). I'll claim that Lent is twenty days long. I'll claim that Catholic leader Robert Sungenis, before he died, said that the Peter is the Church (don't tell me Robert Sungenis is an apologist and not a leader, is still alive and well, or even that the quote supposedly came from Ambrose). I'll then later claim that I debated James Akin in Nebraska, even though Akin and I haven't even met (and I highly doubt Mr. Akin even knows I exist). I'll tell people the Immaculate Conception of Mary means she was bodily assumed into heaven. I'll say the rosary has 100 beads. The sky's the limit!
Now now, I know what many of you are thinking: what will I do if someone catches me on all this? Quite simple, really, in fact I have a full proof plan. If anyone points out that what I've said is a complete falsehood...I'll tell them I misspoke. Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket! I misspoke! If that doesn't work, I'll accuse them of being in league with the Catholics. They might even be evil Catholic Communist alien ninja pirates. Yeah, that's right. They're always out to get me...me and my lucky charms...
I write this in the spirit of satire, but that men like Ergun Caner can get away with this when the blatant fabrications have been exposed ad nauseum simply makes me shake my head. While I feel bad for his family in the sense that they have to bear the indirect brunt of this, the criticism given to Caner is not unfounded, and they have continued because he has refused to repent. Many out there apparently still see him as a role model for young Christian men seeking work in apologetics and ministry.
The question is...what kind of influence is he giving?