Thursday, March 28, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 199: Herbert Meyer gives insights on how the Cold War was won by the West -- Grenada, Poland and the Pope John Paul II Assassination attempt

Sometimes, we need to revisit the settled ideas we tend to have and reassess the worth of sources as well as the warrant for what we think we know.

The typical regional view on events in Grenada 1979 - 1983 is a case like that, and -- courtesy Powerline blog --Herbert Meyer's recent lecture on the 100th birthday of US President Reagan's former CIA Director, William Casey, should give us pause to re-assess the conventional wisdom in our region:

Food for thought, and the context of the Cold War -- cf. here, here and here --  and how we tended to view it [contrast Meyer's pivotal memo here], give a significant sidelight that should inform how we calibrate or evaluate the quality of today's news and views on our ongoing cultural ideological conflict due to the ongoing Great Western De-Christianising Apostasy and the rise of Jihadism. END

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DRAFT: Towards Financial Management, Accountability and Stewardship principles for Christian service, in groups and organisations

The management of money is always a challenge, and so it is important to seek to lay out a framework for wise and diligent handling of this pivotal resource. Hence, this draft, which speaks of the XYZ inc group or body as a fictional entity:


>> An essential feature of management is that a manager is a delegate of a principal, responsible to make and carry out decisions for a delimited field of work, to achieve desirable results by working with others, deriving his or her authority from that delegated responsibility, i.e. stewardship. This means that planning, organising, binding efforts and resources into a coherent whole, delegating responsibility and authority, co-ordinating team efforts, monitoring and controlling leading to adjusting the path to better achieve realistic goals are all typical features of managerial responsibility. It also means, given the flexibility of money and its usefulness as a universal (albeit imperfect) yardstick of value, accurate, timely financial information and effective controls play a vital role in management.

However, since money is so flexible and pervasive, it is particularly prone to waste, diversion, misuse, and outright fraud or theft.

Therefore, the proper management of and accountability over money is necessarily a major focus of sound stewardship of XYZ inc. Accordingly, we need to heed the Apostle’s counsel:

1 Cor 3: 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw- 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you  are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. [ESV]
In short, the responsibilities of oversight offices among God’s people are awesome and call for all due diligence, competence and commitment. Accordingly, it is important – not only as a legal matter, but a spiritual one – to lay out certain “yardstick” principles of and policies for financial and general accountability, stewardship and controls for XYZ inc., as a general guide to action and decision-making:

1] It is the duty of all concerned, from Directors to Executives and Officers, Paid or Voluntary Staff and Members, to see to it that financial and other resources are used appropriately, wisely, transparently, and as much as possible without waste, misuse or fraud. Accordingly, in alignment with legal and professional requirements and recommendations, effective systems, rules, procedures, documentation and training shall be put in place by the Directors to provide for:

  • transparency, accountability, and accurate, timely record, security, inventory management and maintenance of valuable assets (whether tangible or intangible),
  • proper qualification, training, management and circulation  of staff (and job descriptions for positions),
  • separation of processes linked to requesting, authorising, effecting, and recording transactions, activities or events
  • “paper trails” and controls on such events, activities, information and transactions,
  • associated due controls on cash, bank accounts and financial information,
  • proper book keeping, accounting and auditing (or independent examination/review . . . where the entity is sufficiently small that a full audit would be too expensive) in accordance with generally acceptable principles, and for
  • associated regular reporting that the Trustees have reason to be confident credibly gives “a true and fair view” of the state of affairs, circumstances and trends of XYZ inc.
  • Regular annual review by the Directors of the management and financial controls and related systems, towards lessons learned and continuous improvement
2] The XYZ inc. Chaplain -- a Trustee member of the Directors -- shall be the designated ombudsman, for stewardship matters that are otherwise unresponsive to concerns or complaints, and may initiate an inquiry on his or her own accord should this seem necessary based on observations. Accordingly, the Chaplain shall have the power of investigatory visit without prior notice. In matters of complaint or observed deep seated problems, the Chaplain shall report to the board's body of Trustees (here, defined as Directors who do not manage the affairs of the firm, holding no executive office in the firm)  who shall act to resolve the matters without undue delay, in accord with sound ethical and business principles and fairness to all, tempered by gracious mercy.

3] To foster the proper management of funds and proper book keeping and accounting, the Board of Directors shall create, oversee the implementation of and update from time to time, a set of financial rules governing key procedures to give effect to the principles at 1 above, covering a scope such as:

  • Describing the scope and operating framework for managing financial resources of the XYZ inc.
  • Managing receipts by The Company, by category, maintaining a registry of bank accounts, deposits, financial investments and similar repositories of funds, and associated book keeping and software
  • Deposits to and receipts from Bank accounts and similar repositories of funds
  • Managing of petty cash based on authorised imprests and record keeping
  • Agreements, contracts and commitments, project management and reporting, etc.
  • Procurement, bidding process and preferred supplier lists and policies
  • Payments to and by the XYX inc., approval for payments, signature requirements, including the use of honour certificates in (rare) cases where there is no receipt
  • Separation of processes and persons involved in transactions
  • Management of “paper trail” documents
  • Receipt and management of grants, donations, gifts, legacies, etc.
  • Inventory management, equipment maintenance record, disposal of equipment and other assets
  • Sales and commissions, income generating activities
  • Book keeping, accounting, management accounting, budgeting, costing, pricing, regular financial reporting, audit/independent examination, etc.>>

The issue is that hings must be doe in an orderly, effective, controlled, reasonably efficient and sufficiently safe-guarded manner as to discourage the emergence of the sloppy habits that foster errors and open room for fraud. END

Monday, March 25, 2013

DRAFT: Towards a "Code of Ethics and “yardstick” Principles of Christian Service/Ministry and Leadership"

I have been reflecting in recent days on codes of ethics and principles of service/leadership to guide practice in ministry. The below is a draft I have developed. Thoughts are welcome:

>> From the first, Christian service and leadership have been focussed on pivotal ethical principles that guide service through integrity that serves by the courageous God-given, prophetic scriptural truth in love, power and purity. In the words of the Apostle Paul:
 “. . . our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life . . . .  Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.  But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.” [2 Cor 3:5 b – 6, 4:1 – 2, ESV. ]
That is, we must have convictions worth having through “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” [2 Tim 3:15] and the courage and Spirit-anointed boldness to live, love, speak and serve by them. This, in the face of a long prophesied day in which “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” [2 Tim 3:2 – 5.]

The apostolic counsel is thus, that by contrast -- through commitment to the scriptures as they teach truth, highlight and correct wrong and error, and train in righteousness -- we must more and more be “competent, equipped for every good work.” [2 Tim 3:15 – 17.]  Accordingly, we hereby solemnly commit ourselves to the following scripturally based “yardstick” ethical standards and principles of Christian service and leadership:

1] The priority of scripture, expressed through diligent, prayerful, obedient, lifelong, regular reading, study, reflection on and growing practice of the Word of God as recorded in the Bible, and especially through the saving, healing, delivering, liberating power of the gospel. [2 Tim 3:10 – 4:5, Psalm 1:1 – 6, Josh 1:8 – 9, Deut 17:14 – 20, Isa 58:1 – 14, Joel 2:11 – 21, 2 Chron 7:13 – 14, Neh. 1:1 – 11, 1 Jn 5:14 - 15.] As the Apostle Paul counsels:

2 Tim 2: 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. [Cf. 1 Tim 6:3 – 21, Ac 2:38 – 47 & 6:1 – 10 .]

2 Tim 3: 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom1  you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God2  may be competent, equipped for every good work. [Cf. Eph. 1:17 – 22, 4:9 – 24.]
. . . and, again:
1 Cor 15: 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain.
 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
. . . where, as Isaiah prophesied in the Scriptures, c. 700 BC:
      Isa 53: 1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?1
        And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
       2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
        and like a root out of dry ground;
        he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
        and no beauty that we should desire him.
       3 ​He was despised and rejected  by men;
        a man of sorrows,  and acquainted with  grief;
        and as one from whom men hide their faces
        he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
       4 ​Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
        yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
       5 ​But he was wounded for our transgressions;
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
        upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
        and with his stripes we are healed.
       6 ​​All we like sheep have gone astray;
        we have turned-every one-to his own way;
        and the LORD has laid on him
        the iniquity of us all. 
2] The neighbour-love principle as taught alike by Moses, Jesus and the Apostles, especially:
Lev 19: 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Matt 22: 37 And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Rom 13: 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
3] Godly transformation of life to a life or purity in all areas, through the redemptive power of the gospel:
1 Cor 6: 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything . . . 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin  a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. [Cf. Eph 4:17 – 5:21, Titus 2:11 – 14, 2 Peter 1:1 – 12, 1 Tim 5:1 – 2, 2 Cor 1:3 – 4, Gal 6:1 – 5, Heb 10:19 – 39, etc.]
4] Bearing one another's burdens, encouragement, counsel and as appropriate, godly, loving restorative discipline:
Gal 6: 1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
5] Godly leadership through loving, humble service by high-integrity example:
Luke 6: 39 He [Jesus] also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 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? 42 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.
6] Promotion based on character, good stewardship over small things and diligence that serves God rather than the love of Money:
Luke 16: 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  [Cf. 1 Tim 6:3 – 10.]
7] Qualification for office based on character, well-deserved good reputation, maturity in the faith, quality of family life and competence:
1 Tim 3: 1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer1  must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,2  sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,3  not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must4  be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.  >>

Of course, some looking on may need a backup on the grounding of and warrant for the Christian Faith that is being discussed. For such, I suggest here on in context as a good place to begin.

So, what do you think or suggest? END

Saturday, March 16, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 113: Peter Williams of Tyndale house, at the 2011 Be Thinking conference, addressing the "Christians support genocide" accusation

One of the excuses that Mr Dawkins used to avoid a debate with Mr Craig, was the accusation that he (and by extension other Christians) support genocide.

Shudder, we are the moral equivalent of  Bin Laden's suicide bombers attacking the World Trade Center buildings in New York City.


And, obviously, not. 

Mr Dawkins was indulging a deliberate smear. That sad fact should be noted in our further dealings with him and his ilk. 

However, the matter is sufficiently troubling, that it is worth pausing to see how Peter Williams (though he was obviously uncomfortable doing so) took it up in the Be Thinking Conference:

After this, it may be useful to work through my own 101 here on -- and observe, how this also happens to indict Jews who take the Tanakh [= OT] seriously, e.g. Rabbi Boteach, who answered Christopher Hitchens on the subject. END

Friday, March 15, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 112: Noted Christian Philosopher and public defender of the Faith, William Lane Craig, speaks to the issue of the challenge of radical secularism (and that of Islam) in our civilisation

At the recent Be Thinking conference, Dr William Lane Craig speaks on the need to confront the challenge of secularism, in an era that suggests that the Christian Faith is at eclipse in Europe:

He ringingly calls for a counter-cultural response that provides intellectual leadership, starting with the basic question, is belief in God an intellectually credible position?

In addition, he raises the issue of the challenge of Islam as a theological alternative to the Judaeo-Christian worldview. 

He emphasises that this is Islam as theology and worldview, including the alternative to the gospel it presents, starting with the denial of the crucifixion of Jesus. 

He notes that secularism has left a spiritual vacuum in the heart of European thought and culture, so having nothing to answer Islam on theological terms.

He also raises the concern that the Church has been asleep at the switch on the issue of addressing the Islamic challenge.  (Note, that he identifies the denial of the crucifixion of Jesus as the Achilles' heel of Islamic thought and teaching. He highlights how the attempt often made to suggest that someone was substituted for Jesus at the crucifixion, is fatally self-referential, as it implies that the historical evidence is, overwhelmingly -- as is reflected in the general consensus of the knowledgeable, that before those who know him, Jesus was in fact crucified by sentence of Pilate.)

So, we must stand, and we must stand in an informed and effective way. Stand through the truth in love, even if many would not be pleased and may even be angered.

Stand, on both fronts.

That is the challenge before us, as the new century moves into its second decade. 

Let us rise to meet it. END

Thursday, March 14, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 111: Gary Habermas on the evidence (and reasoning) that changed a generation of scholarship on Jesus . . . the minimal facts/content approach in the context of early creedal statements in the NT

As a beginning place, let us watch Gary Habermas at a recent conference:

Notice, the pivotal role of the sheer factual nature of the NT record of Jesus' crucifixion, and the impact of its aftermath, which launched the Christian Faith, Church and its global mission. No worldview that cannot stand up to the minimal facts so expressed, is truly viable, no matter how glib, how strident or how confident its adherents.

Let me clip, as a reminder:


>> The method, in a nutshell . . .  is:

The minimal facts method only uses sources which are multiply attested, and agreed to by a majority of scholars (ranging from atheist to conservative). This requires that they have one or more of the following criteria which are relevant to textual criticism:
    1. Multiple sources - If two or more sources attest to the same fact, it is more likely authentic
    2. Enemy attestation - If the writers enemies corroborate a given fact, it is more likely authentic
    3. Principle of embarrassment - If the text embarrasses the writer, it is more likely authentic
    4. Eyewitness testimony - First hand accounts are to be prefered
      Early testimony - an early account is more likely accurate than a later one
Having first established the well attested facts, the approach then argues that the best explanation of these agreed to facts is the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . . [Source: "Minimal facts" From Apologetics Wiki. Full article: here. (Courtesy, Wayback Machine.)]

Why is that so?

The easiest answer is to simply list the facts that meet the above criteria and are accepted by a majority to an overwhelming majority of recent and current scholarship after centuries of intense debate:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion [--> which implies his historicity!].
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).
[Cf. Habermas' paper here and a broader more popular discussion here. NT Wright's papers here and here give a rich and deep background analysis. Here is a video of a pastoral presentation of a subset of the facts. Habermas presents the case as videos here and here, in two parts. Here is a video of a debate he had with Antony Flew.]
The list of facts is in some respects fairly obvious.

That a Messiah candidate was captured, tried and crucified -- as Gamaliel hinted at -- was effectively the death-knell for most such movements in Israel in the era of Roman control; to have to report such a fate was normally embarrassing and discrediting to the extreme in a shame-honour culture. The Jews of C1 Judaea wanted a victorious Greater David to defeat the Romans and usher in the day of ultimate triumph for Israel, not a crucified suffering servant.  In the cases where a movement continued, the near relatives took up the mantle. That is facts 1 - 3 right there. Facts 10 - 12 are notorious. While some (it looks like about 25% of the survey of scholarship, from what I have seen) reject no 4, in fact it is hard to see a message about a resurrection in C1 that did not imply that the body was living again, as Wright discusses here. Facts 5 - 9 are again, pretty clearly grounded.

So, the challenge is to explain this cluster or important subsets of it, without begging questions and without selective hyperskepticism. The old Deist objections (though sometimes renewed today) have deservedly fallen by the wayside. [Also, cf. ten video shorts on popular myths here.]
 We may briefly compare:

Match to four major credible facts regarding Jesus of Nazareth & his Passion
Overall score/20
Died by crucifixion
(under Pontius Pilate) at
c 30 AD
Was buried, tomb was found empty
Appeared to multiple disciples,
many of whom proclaimed
& suffered for their
Appeared to key
objectors who then became church leaders: James & Paul
Bodily Resurrection
Wrong tomb
Stolen body/fraud
Quran 4:155 -6: "They did not slay him, neither crucified him." 1 1 1 1 4
 "Jesus never existed" 1 1 1 1 4
 "Christianity as we know it was cooked up by Constantine and  others at Nicea, who censored/ distorted the original record" 1 1 1 1 4
"What we have today is 'Paulianity,' not the original teachings of Jesus and his disciples" 2 1 1 2 6
Christianity -- including the resurrection --  is a gradually emerging legend based on a real figure
Complete legend/pagan copycat (Greek, Persian, Egyptian, etc)

(I have given my scores above, based on reasoning that should be fairly obvious. As an exercise you may want to come up with your own scores on a 5 - 1 scale: 5 = v. good/ 4 = good/ 3 = fair/ 2 = poor/ 1 = v. poor, with explanations. Try out blends of the common skeptical theories to see how they would fare.)
 Laying a priori anti-supernaturalism aside as a patent case of worldview level question-begging closed mindedness, the above table shows that there are two serious candidates today, the resurrection as historically understood, or some version of a collective vision/hallucination that led to a sincere (but plainly mistaken) movement.

The latter of course runs into  the problem that such collective visions are not psychologically plausible as the cultural expectations of a resurrection would have been of a general one in the context of the obvious military triumph of Israel. Nor, does it explain the apparently missing body. Moreover, we know separately, that the culturally accepted alternative would have been individual prophetic visions of the exalted that on being shared would comfort the grieving that the departed rested with God. So, an ahead of time individual breakthrough resurrection -- even, one that may be accompanied by some straws in the wind of what is to come in fulness at the end -- is not part of the mental furniture of expectations in C1 Judaism.  Where, hallucinations and culturally induced visions are going to be rooted in such pre-existing mental "furniture."  

Where, also -- tellingly -- the women who bought spices and went to the tomb that morning plainly expected to find it occupied by a dead prophet, one unjustly judicially murdered as so many others had been.  (And if you doubt the account that reports how these women became the first to discover the tomb and to see the risen Messiah, consider how dismissive C1 Jews were to the testimony of "hysterical" -- that very word in English is rooted in the Greek for womb, hustera (reflecting a very old prejudice . . . ) -- women. Such an embarrassing point would only be admitted if the reporter was seeking to tell the full truth as best as he could, regardless of how poorly it would come across to his audience; a C1 audience, not a C21 one.)

The Easter event cuts across all reasonable cultural expectations, and obviously forced a much closer -- transforming -- look at messianic prophetic passages such as Isa 52 - 53 which plainly led to an aha moment.

Moreover, the visions suggestion also runs into the problem of the empty tomb; hence the skeptical resistance to that otherwise quite reasonable fact. 

(Remember, the NT record is that the women disciples who went to the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning to complete the burial rituals that had been hastily begun just before the Sabbath, on finding the grave open and the body missing at first thought the authorities had taken the body. These primary documents subsequently record the Sanhedrin's official talking point as that the disciples stole the body while the guards slept. Oops. The point of agreement is obvious: the body was missing, and neither group seemed to be responsible for it. [Cf below for more.])

You may think that this sort of balance of evidence should be well known and that educated, responsible and reasonable people would at minimum be willing to accept it as well-grounded that Jesus of Nazareth was a significant Galilean Jew and teacher who had clashes with the Jerusalem authorities which cost him his life. Whereupon, his followers then proclaimed to one and all across the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean and beyond over the next several decades, that Jesus was the prophesied Jewish Messiah, and that though shamefully (though unjustly) crucified -- blatantly true by the criterion of admitting an utterly embarrassing claim -- he was risen from death as Lord and eschatological Judge; until Nero would find it convenient to divert suspicion by falsely accusing Christians of setting fire to Rome in 64 AD.

But, sadly, that is not the case. 

What is driving that?

A glance at the table above will show that once we see the well-grounded facts in context, there is no contest on what best explains them. So, the issue is that one way or another, the credibility of these facts is being impugned and dismissed. Some do so by accepting an anti-supernaturalist prejudice [we KNOW miracles are impossible], often anchored in "Science sez." Others find some conspiracy theory or another, or imagine that a legend was copied from pagans and/or embellished on the far more modest "real" Jesus the Carpenter turned wandering amateur preacher, or the like.>>

So, coming out the starting gates, if you dismiss this weight and balance of evidence, you are already on the wrong foot. And, as we shall explore, that obtains for BOTH Islamic argument and the radical secularist skepticism of our day.

It is time, then, for a fresh, sober look at the evidence in light of its evident quality. END

1 Chron 12:32 report, 110: On the significance of the new pope in the midst of our civilisational struggle

It is not news that Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians have had a rather contentious history over the past half millennium, with not only hot words, but blood spilled. 

(One fervently wishes that we would have more of a listening, discerning spirit and less of rage in our responses; much harm could have been averted, and desperately needed reforms would have had a much easier way. And, such lack of love manifested in how we deal with one another is nothing short of treason against the gospel of the God who as to his essential nature is just as much about love as he is about the truth and the right. I therefore must first call for repentance leading to renewal and reformation in light of the revelation of God in Christ, the Faith once for all communicated to us through the witness of the NT church and recorded in the NT Scriptures, before even saying what this remark is mainly about.)

However, we face an epochal event, important in itself as the largest, oldest single organisation on our planet has just had a major leadership change.

But it is more than merely a matter of news, this is a change at a time when our civilisation is riven by a major cultural struggle, within with the De Christianisers, and without in the face of radical IslamISM, in both the Jihad and the Dawah forms. 

Accordingly, it is significant that this new pope has taken the name of a man famous for a vision: "rebuild my church," and noted for a ministry of concern pivoting on love, indeed, one who crossed the lines in the crusades to call to love.

Gary Baur makes some notes we should observe:
Catholics and evangelicals (and to a lesser extent orthodox Jews and Mormons) have formed a formidable partnership in recent decades against the threats of secularism, relativism and Islamism. 

Doctrinal differences remain, of course, but the Catholic-evangelical alliance has reshaped American politics. In many cases, Catholics have provided the intellectual framework and vocabulary to discuss Christianity's vital role in our democracy, while Protestants have contributed fervor and youth. 

We do not agree on every issue. But on the essential ones -- those both faiths consider "non-negotiables" -- Catholics and evangelicals are allied. 

We both champion the idea -- the truth -- that there are reliable standards of right and wrong to which all institutions, including government, must adhere. We stand together in proclaiming that all human life has equal dignity and worth. And we stand together in defending the traditional and time-honored conception of marriage as a union of one man and one woman . . . . 

the West is suffering from what can be called a crisis of brokenness -- broken institutions, broken families and broken souls. In a society in which there seem to be fewer citizens who understand where our liberty comes from (God), strong churches -- evangelical and Catholic -- are essential. 

As an evangelical, I was delighted that the last two popes were moral and theological giants. Together, John Paul II and Benedict XVI gained many evangelical admirers by preaching against the "culture of death" and the "dictatorship of relativism" and for a "culture of life."

And, as Catholic theologian George Weigel argues in his new book Evangelical Catholicism, John Paul II and Benedict XVI introduced a new "evangelical" period for the Catholic Church -- an era in which the Catholic Church offered a confident rebuttal to the false promises of the secular world. 

I don't mean to downplay the real and significant theological differences between our two faiths. But Catholics and evangelicals need to remain allied, and in solidarity, against the increasingly aggressive secularism of our age.
  Baur, of course, has not spoken to the challenge of IslamISM in details, but he is right on the essentials. 

I would add, that Plato, long ago in The Laws, Bk X [360 BC], put his finger on the core flaw of radical evolutionary materialist secularism that made it fail two thousand years ago, and which cuts to and tears the heart out of the secularist challenge today:
Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors:  (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny. )] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them. 

In short, secularism, for all its scientific pretensions, is against knowledge and ends up in the absurdity that might and manipulation make right. It is self-refuting and it is nihilistically amoral and absurd.

I would also add, on IslamISM, that the Achilles' Heel of the IslamIST thrust is history, not just the history of the surge of aggressive IslamISM that largely carved out today's core Muslim bloc out of regions that had been Christian for centuries, but more fundamentally it is forced by Quranic declarations, to deny one of the best attested facts of all history: that Jesus of Nazareth suffered crucifixion and death under Pontius Pilate.

For now, I simply highlight the points.

DV, in upcoming days, let us follow them up and see how we can use these to equip ourselves so that we can answer to those who challenge our Faith, as to the reason for the Faith we have. 

And, in so following up, let us also reflect on how we can and should work with cultural allies with whom we do not necessarily agree on even very important things.

We have to hang together now, lest we be hanged one by one all too soon from now.

For, if our civilisation goes down, the consequences -- for all of us -- of a new barbarism in a new dark age (perhaps triggered by Electromagnetic Pulse attacks that in a few hours could strip our civilisation of most advanced technology, leading to a devastating collapse . . . ) will be too horrific to bear. END

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BREAKING: White smoke in Rome . . . Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, Pope Francis, the first Pope from the New World

It seems that on the second day of the conclave in Rome, a new Pope has been chosen, it seems to be Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, Pope Francis, the first Pope from the New World:

EWTN is carrying live streaming. END

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 198: The Bible series, opening night: 14.3 million viewers; but the response to such extraordinary numbers, reveals the underlying hostile agenda in the entertainment media

Megan Basham notes:
This past Sunday the television industry felt the ground shake when the first installment of the History Channel’s five-part miniseries, The Bible, drew a whopping 14.3 million viewers.  To put that in perspective, those are higher ratings than American Idol drew on Fox in the same week.  Higher ratings than the premiere of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC.  And it officially made The Bible the number one scripted cable broadcast of the year.

The news was apparently so astonishing it prompted Business Week to investigate exactly how the basic cable network pulled it off and inspired Time magazine’s resident T.V. critic, James Poniewozik, to ponder whether The Bible’s success will lead to further mainstream forays into religious-themed entertainment.
Now, this is actually unsurprising, for as Basham goes on to note:
First, of course, came The Passion of the Christ.  The highest-earning R-rated movie of all time was expected to issue a wake-up call to the industry about the potential for films based on Scripture.  When it didn’t, a series of indie movies from Sherwood Baptist Church reaped so much cash from their fairly meager showing, the Hollywood Reporter called them, “some of the most profitable films in modern history.”  Then early last year the New York Times noted the success of the pro-Catholic, pro-life film, October Baby.  And late last year American Bible Challenge debuted as the number one show ever to run on the Game Show Network.

All of this should have sent a clear message to network and studio executives long before last Sunday—if you build something of even middling quality (and, unfortunately, middling is generous in The Bible’s case) that is even remotely respectful of Christian faith, Christians of all stripes will tune in or buy tickets to see it.  But it didn’t.  Or at least, it didn’t if Time’s Poniewozik is any indication of what other industry insiders are saying to one another.
Why, then, is it that entertainment media big wigs keep on insisting on bashing Christians in their productions, even through it is obviously leaving a lot of money on the table?

Simple, they have ideologically motivated patterns of thinking, deciding and acting that have a deep seated underlying hostility to Christians. In short, by and large they obviously view us as the enemy to be defeated through a long term propaganda campaign of stereotyping, strawmannising and scapegoating, not as valid customers to be taken seriously and treated with basic civility and respect.

Multiply that by the recent observation mentioned in international news, that -- again -- Christians are the most persecuted global group. (We would, of course, not learn that from the news or entertainment media. For the same drearily familiar reason.)

So, it is time for us to wake up and realise that we are in the midst of a civilisation-wide culture war, and that the media are in the lists against us. So, we should determine not to help pay (or vote for) those who seek to smear and marginalise us, the better to then proceed to enforce that marginalisation in law. 

As, is plainly already happening.

We should not be feeding our hearts and minds from the same trough that those who are hoping to smear and marginalise then restrict or worse, do.

And maybe, when advertisers find that they cannot sell products because Christians in numbers will not support such media and products (e.g. I for one will never purchase another Apple product until some serious changes occur in Apple's corporate behaviour, and will only purchase Hewlett Packard equipment if there is no credible alternative and I strongly recommend going open source . . . ), there will be the beginning of change. END

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Notes on the "The Bible" miniseries on History Channel

Over the past several days, between activities of a fairly busy patch, I have been able to see a few snippets of the The Bible miniseries on History Channel.(Cf intro here at KF.)

The overall impression, is that it is a dramatisation, not a literal rendering of the key Bible stories. 

Fair note.

So, those looking for detailed accuracy should follow up by doing some reading and pondering. This is not a video Bible Study.

However, the general tone is reasonably respectful and will help give a flavour of the pivotal events that are picked up for dramatisation. 

Such as the Flood (with a rather leaky ark!), in that, the Creation account in outline and the Fall with a snip or two on the first murder. Abraham's story. David and Goliath. Jesus. Paul. That sort of thing.

I thought the idea of two sword-wielding samurai angels -- one evidently Japanese, the other black -- in Buddhist type robes over breastplates, was interesting. 

I think this may help open minds and give a feel for what the situation was like.

Unfortunately, the general tone of History Channel on Bible type themes is both grating and sloppy on reasonable scholarship. I fear a drowning out and confusion effect that smears out what is reasonably on target into what is not.

But I am sure the DVD will be great for helping to spark conversation and reflection. 

For instance, I can see showing a clip then rolling in to a panel that discusses what has been shown, the text and the issues connected then opens up for the audience, as a teaching approach.

That ought not to be underestimated in a day where people are increasingly unable to come to terms with a thick book without a lot of pretty pictures in it.

Worth watching, but do not demand of it what it cannot deliver. For more detailed Bible stuff, get Glo Bible or the like. END