We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Friday, December 31, 2010

What About the Book of Mormon Witnesses?

Having done some reading about the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, here are some thoughts about how trustworthy these witnesses were.
David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris were finally chosen to be witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates' existence.  The four went to the woods to pray, but time passed with no action.  Harris felt ill and stated he was the reason for no word and then he left.  Immediately an angel appeared with the plates in his hands.  He demonstrated turning gold leaves and stated that God permitted the translation.  Joseph ran for Martin, who was kneeling elsewhere in prayer and he also saw the vision. Joseph then wrote up a "testimony" for them to sign and had it published at the end of the Book of Mormon.
The local press claimed that three original witnesses all told different versions of their experience with seeing the plates.  
Martin Harris told a lawyer that he saw the plates "with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me - though at the time they were covered with a cloth".
Whitmer said that Joseph led them to an open field where the plates were lying on the ground.
The testimony of the eight witnesses is even more suspect, since four of them were Whitmers, three were from Joseph's family and the eighth was Hiram Page, who married a Whitmer daughter. 
Witnesses were:
Christian Whitmer
Jacob Whitmer
Peter Whitmer, Jr.
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sr
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith
Illinois Governor Thomas Ford knew several of Joseph’s key men after they left the church.  They told Ford that the witnesses were "set to continual prayer, and other spiritual exercises," then Smith "assembled them in a room, and produced a box, which he said contained the precious treasure.  The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, 'Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates.'  The prophet answered them, 'O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation?  Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgive-ness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven.'  The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates."
Martin Harris:  Had been a Quaker, then a Universalist, then a Restorationist.  Fawn Brodie says the following on p.81 of her book, No Man Knows My History (about events leading up to the publishing of the Book of Mormon): Martin Harris had been an embarrassingly zealous proselyter who advertised his own visionary experiences as freely as those of Joseph.  He had seen Jesus in the shape of a deer, he said, and had walked with Him two or three miles, talking with Him as familiarly as one man talks with another.  The devil, he said, resembled a jackass, with very short, smooth hair similar to that of a mouse.  He prophesied that Palmyra would be destroyed by 1836, and that by 1838 Joseph's church would be so large that there would be no need for a president of the United States.  Publicly Harris met with amused tolerance and only occasional bitter scorn.  Privately Palmyra gossiped about his scandalous conduct with his neighbor Haggard's wife.  Harris later left his wife.  In 1837 he followed a young girl seer when the church split, and later followed James Strange to Wisconsin.  He returned to Utah in his old age.
Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated in October 1834, but was restored to the church later.  In 1837 he followed the girl seer in the church split and then returned again the following year in Missouri.  In June 1838 he dissented and Danites forced his family from their home.  Oliver left the church.  In 1843 he joined the Methodist church, but returned in 1848 to the Mormons.
David Whitmer also followed the girl seer in 1837 and later returned to the fold.
If these witnesses truly saw what they did, would any of them doubt the faith to the point they departed the LDS church?  Does the character of any of these witnesses lead one to trust what they said about the Book of Mormon?
I doubt if any of the testimony of these witnesses would stand up in a court of law, and yet hundreds of thousands of people have been led to believe that the Book of Mormon is true based initially on the basis of the testimony of these  witnesses who, in my mind, have no credibility.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Weekend Warriors

“Rather than being well-trained, well-disciplined troops for Christ, many believers act more like reserve units: weekend warriors who are occupied with other things during the week and who just turn out for occasional drills or to hang out in officers’ clubs on Sundays.”  A Dangerous Grace, by Chuck Colson with Nancy R. Pearcy, p. 61
What about you: are you a weekend warrior or have you decided to join the Regulars on active duty?

Signs of a Toxic Movement

1.  The leader is always right and always in control.
2.  The leader never accepts blame for anything.
3.  Perfectionism.  “The fear of making a mistake, the fear of sinning, keeps the victim of perfectionism from experiencing the grace of God and traps that person in a toxic religious system.”
4.  “Don’t confuse me with reality, my mind is made up!”  Refusal to admit the truth.  “Pride often keeps people from being willing to admit they have been deceived.”
5.  Does not permit personal growth.  Members talk alike, dress alike, have same mannerisms.    Decisions are made for them.
6.  “Service with a smile.”  No matter what is going on in personal life, appearance is everything.  Everyone must see you as being happy.  No emotions allowed except that of happiness.
7.  Us versus them.  One must build the belief that the group vision  is on the edge of spiritual evolution and that all others are not as spiritual.  “Holiness is what we have but others do not.”
These signs are adapted from an article in Discernment Ministry International’s Truth Matters newsletter, August 2003.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

Cleaning out my files last night I came across a sheet of paper with this written on it.  I don’t know where I copied it from, but it sounds like it could have been written today.  Most likely I copied it from some internet site.  It’s some great teaching from Charles Spurgeon.
An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it.  During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil.  It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments.  the devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.  From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day.  Then she tolerated them in her borders.  Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church.  If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it?  “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  That is clear enough.  So it would have been if he had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.”  No such words, however, are to be found.  It did not seem to occur to him....
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles.  What was the attitude of the Church to the world?  “Ye are the salt,” not the sugar candy - something the world will spit out, not swallow. ... I do not hear [Jesus] say, “Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching.  We will have a pleasant evening for the people.  Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it.  Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!”  Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.  In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel of amusement....
Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired.  It works havoc among young converts.  Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them half-way, speak and testify.  Let the heavy laden who found peace through concert not keep silent!  Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up!  There are none to answer.  The mission of amusement produces no converts.  The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root.  The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.
I suggest Willow Creek, Saddleback, “relevant” churches and “emergent” churches all take heed to what Spurgeon wrote.  And always remember that the word “amuse” means “no think”. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Good and Evil, by Michael Pearl

My knowledge of Michael Pearl is that he has some legalistic and aberrational teachings, so seeing that this comic-book version of the Bible was authored by him immediately set my alarm bells off.   While the premise of this book is good (to get the Bible into the hands of Muslims), one cannot ever justify twisting the Biblical story to match a personal theology.  I understand that one must take artistic license to round out some of the story to keep interest, however we cannot allow such license to teach what is blatantly false
I have to admit that this book is fairly good overall, but where it messes with Scripture it is sometimes grievous in its error.  With that said, let us begin to look at Pearl’s idea of what the Bible teaches.
To begin with, Pearl uses the name “Jehovah” for God, which I am guessing is due to his KJVO stance.  I think he should use Yahweh.
Pearl apparently subscribes to the “Gap Theory” of creation, wherein there was a previous creation which was destroyed by a war with Satan, because he has Satan - who he erroneously calls “Lucifer” - rebelling and becoming Satan before man was created. (pp.2-5)  Also, by being a proponent of the King James Version as the only correct English translation, Pearl ends up with much error in his understanding of what it says.
Before proceeding farther, let me state that the name “Lucifer” comes only from the King James version of the Bible (and the New King James which keeps it) and the Latin Vulgate.  The King James translators didn’t know what to do with the Hebrew word and simply transliterated it from the Vulgate.  When Jerome was translating the Hebrew into Latin, he came across the word “Helel,” which means something like, “shining one” or “bright one,” in Isaiah 14:12.  The passage described Helel as the “son of the dawn.”  Jerome decided that Isaiah was describing what Jerome knew as the “morning star” (what we know as Venus).  In Latin the name for this “star” was “Lucifer,” which means, “light-bearing,” so that is the word Jerome used to translate “Helel.”  Modern translations all use “morning star,” “star of the morning,” “Day Star,” “shining one” or similar in their translations at this point, because “Lucifer” is a Latin name for Venus.  It was never the name of Satan.
Part of the issue is how to translate Isaiah 14:12ff; some say it is about Satan, but the context is about the king of Babylon and some say that Satan is addressed as the power behind the king.  However you want to interpret this passage, the point is that Satan never had the name of “Lucifer.”
So, what is wrong with Satan’s rebellion taking place before man is created?  A couple things.  First, the “gap theory” has been debunked from just about every scholarly point possible.  It was a theory designed to fit long ages into the Bible, but it isn’t necessary to do this because those long ages supporting evolution are all theories in and of themselves with absolutely no proof.  Secondly, since God called all of creation “very good” when He finished (Gen. 1:31), Satan could not have yet fallen.
On page two there is an image that is supposed to be Satan, which is an angel with the head of a bull. Pearl’s belief that this is Satan’s real pre-sin appearance plays later in the story.  This idea is purely fictional and extra-biblical.  
Because of his belief in the “gap theory,” Pearl has Satan and the demons watching as Adam and Eve are created.  This has absolutely no biblical support and is just plain false teachings.
Not reading his Bible, Pearl has Eve already created when Adam is told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and has God telling the both of them.  But Scripture says Eve wasn’t created until after Adam received the command (Gen. 2:17).  Pearl then has Satan telling Eve that if she eats of the fruit she will become “like the gods,” whereas Scripture says Satan said she would become “like God.”  There is a big difference here in that Pearl has Satan teaching polytheism.
Pearl depicts Adam and Eve believing God will kill them because God said they would die. (p.9)  Then when God kills animals to make skins for clothes, Pearl says God killed the animals instead of Adam and Eve.  From Scripture it is apparent that God had no intent to kill them.
Apparently misunderstanding what the text says, Pearl has the curse of Satan including Satan’s “seed” and Eve’s child (p.8) to be enemies, whereas Scripture says the enemies would be the seed of both - not necessarily Eve’s child but rather her descendants.  
The artist depicts the cherubim guarding Eden as having a lion’s head (p.9).  This is extra-biblical.
Pearl makes the decision that the offerings Cain and Abel brought were sin offerings and that they were supposed to be sacrificed animals, supposedly based on Adam telling how God killed animals instead of killing Adam and Eve (p.10).  However, there is nothing in Scripture saying that the animals were killed in their stead, nor is there anywhere in Scripture where it says Cain and Abel were offering such a sacrifice.
Pearl says that Cain gave his best offering but it wasn’t accepted because it wasn’t an animal.  However, that is not what Scripture says.  Scripture says that Abel offered the firstborn and fat of the flock - the best he had to offer.  Cain was a farmer and should have offered his best - i.e, “first fruits” - but Scripture says he only offered “some” (NET, NIV, et al) of his produce.  Hebrews 11:4 says it was by faith that Abel offered a better sacrifice, intimating that the problem with Cain was his attitude towards God where he did not offer the “first fruits.”  It had nothing to do with being a “bloodless” offering, yet this is the reason Pearl has Cain getting angry at Abel - he has Abel telling him there is still time to do a blood sacrifice - another extra-biblical claim. (pp.10-11)
Next, Pearl has God telling Cain that Cain will rule over his brother and Abel will be in subjection to him (p.11).  This is nowhere in Scripture, but it is apparently Pearl’s misunderstanding of the passage (Gen. 4:7) where God tells Cain that sin is desiring him but that he must rule over it (“him” in KJV).
Moving on to Noah, when he comes out of the Ark, Pearl has his sacrifices being for sin and to pay for the lives of his family (p.18).  This is not what Scripture says, and shouldn’t be assumed.  This is a common theme with Pearl; all animal sacrifices are in trade for the lives of the persons offering them.
Pearl has Noah discover wine, as if before the flood no such fermenting of grapes took place (p.18).  This is just silly.
When Pearl is telling the story of the Israelites making an idol while Moses is on the mountain, he says they made it in the form of a bull because that is what satan looked like before he sinned (p.79).  As noted previously, this is extra-biblical.  Where Pearl gets this information is unknown.
Pearl again does the Satan/Bull thing when telling the story of Jeroboam where he depicts them making an idol of a golden calf. (p.106)
The next thing I found difficult to pass by is when Pearl is telling the story of the magi.  He has three of them, as in the song “We Three Kings.” (p.166ff)  Scripture tells us there were three gifts brought, but doesn’t say how many magi there were.  While this could be passed over as artistic license, it tends to solidify the legend into fact for those who don’t know better.
When Jesus is fasting in the desert, Pearl has him just then understanding poverty, hunger, being alone, sick, weak, etc.  (p.175)  This denigrates the deity of Christ; wouldn’t he as God already understand that?
At the end of the temptation of Jesus, Pearl has Satan owning the world since Adam and Eve sinned (p.177).  This is very common for those who believe in Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance ministries.  However, Satan may be ruling the world, but he doesn’t own it.  Many Scriptures tell us that all of Creation belongs to the Lord.
Pearl does as many others do, which doesn’t excuse him, as he identifies Mary Magdalene as a prostitute (p.219ff).  There is no Scriptural warrant for this charge against her.  But Pearl conflates stories and has prostitution as the reason she is demon possessed.
On page 236 Pearl puts Jesus’ words in the mouth of the woman who anoints him and washes his feet.  He has her telling Jesus, “You are the resurrection and the life. He that believes in you will never die.”  This gives Mary the origin of this very important citation by Jesus.
When Jesus is being ministered to by the angel in the Garden prior to his arrest, Pearl has the angel paraphrasing Psalm 23 to Jesus: “Abraham and all the host of Paradise are awaiting you coming.  They have prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies; your cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow you and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (p.249).  I think this is a bit ridiculous.
The back of the book, several pages long, tell the story of why this particular book was developed, as well as a story depicting its use and success; I hope this book I have is not a version which goes to the field, as I don’t think this is appropriate.
While many of these problems can be somewhat harmless, they can be misleading to those new to the Gospel.  However, I feel Pearl’s handling of Genesis is grossly errant due to propagating false “gap theory” teachings, which undermines the literal teachings of Genesis.  For me to recommend this book, the section on Genesis would have to be re-written.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Plundering the Egyptians

Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas, knowing that the celebration itself originated as a festival to placate pagans; a festival of Saturnalia “Christianized” but kept on the same day?  Does the origin of a celebration pollute the current reason for a celebration?  Is even the use of the name “Christmas” joining with pagans?
In Exodus 11, God said to Moses that he is to tell the Israelites to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and silver jewelry when they are finally driven from Egypt after the 10th plague.  In the middle of the next chapter we are told the Israelites did as they were instructed and the Egyptians gave them silver and gold jewelry, as well as clothing.  Verse 36b says, In this way they plundered the Egyptians.  Later, in Exodus 25, God has the Israelites giving gold and silver as part of the offerings for building the tabernacle.  Gold was used for the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of the Presence, the lampstand and other furnishings.  
From where did this gold come?  Obviously it came from the plunder of the Egyptians’. Here is a case of things taken from pagans, and perhaps even used in their worship, and then used for God’s honor and glory.
Let’s look at Romans 14, often known as “the Law of Liberty.”  It discusses how to handle “doubtful issues,” i.e., issues about which the Scripture doesn’t address.  What Paul is saying here is that, although we have the Christian liberty to eat or drink, celebrate one day over another - or do anything else - if when we do it we cause a brother to stumble in his faith, then we should not do it.  A brother or sister may be weaker in the faith and not understand Christian liberty in such matters, and if they see us exercising our liberty but think we are doing something sinful, it may cause them to do the same action but leave them with guilt as if they sinned.  And even if no one is caused to stumble in that way, there is still stumbling into sin if those who exercise their liberty denigrate those who are weak, or if those who are weak denigrate those who exercise their liberty.  
Paul reminds the Romans that there is nothing unclean in and of itself (vs. 14) but that if someone thinks it is, then it is to that person because he lacks faith in that area, and if he lacks faith in what he is doing, then to him it is sin.
Simply put, when we either exercise our liberty or are too weak to do so, our actions are to the Lord and therefore we are not to judge another person by our personal standards; it is before the Lord that we stand, and it is to the Lord we eat, drink, celebrate a day or not.
Lastly, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul is addressing the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols.  Paul points out that an idol is nothing - that only God is a true God.  But, he says, not everyone has this knowledge, and that they have been eating such food for so long as an idolater that their weak conscience is defiled.  Paul says that doesn’t make us inferior if we choose not to eat such meat, but at the same time he says neither does it make us superior if we eat it.  However, as with Romans 14, he challenges the Corinthians to refrain from eating such meat if it will cause a weaker brother to stumble: Then the weak person, the brother for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge.  And Paul then makes the very strong warning that you are sinning when you cause that brother to stumble, and when you do that you are sinning against Christ.
As with Romans 14, Paul is not saying it is wrong to eat meat which has been sacrificed to idols because we know an idol is nothing.  What he IS saying is that if by doing so you will cause a weaker brother to stumble in his conscience, then you have sinned against that brother and against Christ.
In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 we see that, according to God, everything is clean to eat, no matter who may say otherwise.  Eat, drink, celebrate a day no matter what you know about its previous use for pagan idolatry because we know that idols are nothing in reality.  HOWEVER, when exercising such freedom in Christian liberty, be sure you are not causing someone to stumble in his faith because of his weak conscience, not having the mature knowledge you have; if you do so, it is sinning.
The Israelis plundered the Egyptian gold and silver - pagan items for certain - and used them for God’s glory.  We can plunder meat from pagans and eat it to God’s glory, and we can plunder a celebration originated by pagans and celebrate it to God’s glory.
Back to Christmas.  The celebration of the birth of Christ did in fact originate in pagan beliefs which were “Christianized,” but since I know everything, including days, belong to the Lord because idols are nothing, then my Christian liberty allows me to celebrate such a day in a way that glorifies God.  We can “plunder the Egyptians” of their “gold and silver” and use it for God.
A last thought:  What about the claim that we shouldn’t even use the title “Christmas” to denote the day because of its pagan origins?  If it is important to God that we not use this title because of its pagan origins, then what do we as Christian use to name the days of the week? Or even the months?
Sunday is the Day of the Sun
Monday is the Day of the Moon
Tuesday is the Day of Mars
Wednesday is the god Woden’s Day (Mercury)
Thursday is the god Thor’s Day (Jupiter)
Friday is the god Freya’s Day (Venus)
Saturday is Saturn’s Day
January belongs to the god Janus
February comes from the Roman februa purification ceremonies conducted that month
March belongs to the god Mars
April probably comes from Apru, an Etruscan version of Aphrodite.
May is the month of the goddess Maius/Maia
June is named for the goddess Juno
July is named for Julius Caesar, who considered himself to be a god
August is named for Augustus Caesar
Notice how many of the names for these days and months come from pagan astrology which names planets after their gods, while the rest are names of gods or pagan ceremonies.  
All the names of the week, and eight of the names of months, are of pagan origin, just as the name of Christmas is of “Christianized” pagan origin.  What is a Christian to do?!?! 

Plunder the Egyptians, but don’t be unloving and cause a brother to stumble when you do so.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Apologetics Should Be Honoring God

Apologetics is more about honoring God than winning an argument.  Scripturally speaking, the main purpose of apologetics is not to "win a case" like a litigator, because the "jury" may be hopelessly corrupt or distracted.  Rather, apologetics is primarily a science for honoring the Lord by carefully studying and then accurately communicating His revealed truth (biblical, scientific, historical, etc.), especially those truths that are questioned or opposed or misrepresented, ultimately trusting God to accomplish His good with the truths communicated.

James. J.S. Johnson, "Understanding Effective Biblical Apologetics."  Acts & Facts 39(4):8-9, quoting and explaining 1 Peter 3:15.  cited in Acts & Facts Vol. 39 no.12, December 2010, p.8.  Acts & Facts is a monthly publication of the Institute for Creation Research.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Heresy Is Often Subtle

Heresy does not usually start with a nose dive or a sudden fall, but is more of a drifting by small degrees.  At times it is incremental and is an almost undetectable moving off course.  The end though is always tragedy and loss.  The Bible may scream, “Course correction!” but that is ignored.  Truth is being sacrificed and lost.  Scripture is our instrument check.  It gives us our bearings and keeps us on course.  It adjusts us back into proper alignment with truth and with God.  It gives us all that is needed for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
G. Richard Fisher, PFO Journal January-March 2011, Colossians: Today's Handbook on Heresy. 

Apologists Care About God's Truth

The bizarre thing is that true Christianity can be beaten up, bloodied, maligned, and laughed at, but true believers are not supposed to speak out against error and heresy.  We cannot risk speaking the truth in love today lest we be called bigots, intolerant, shrill, nay-sayers, and a host of other things.  Or we can risk it.  Charismatic extremists fearing the loss of coin and constituency threaten detractors with spiritual machine guns, curses, and a flood of nasty names such as “heresy hunters.”  Apologists are feared more that the devil. ...
The unsung heroes are really the apologists and Bereans of today.  They may be ignored, marginalized, and criticized, but their voices will never be silent.  They really care.  They care for God’s truth.  They care for God’s people.  They care because they know the destruction that error and false teachings bring.  What may not be obvious now will one day be obvious when the Lord issues the “well done” to those who have cared for His truth.
Editorial by G. Richard Fisher, PFO Journal, January-March 2011

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Generational Sin/Generational Curses

This teaching is promoted by many teachers and many legalistic organizations, including Bill Gothard’s IBLP. It has become quite pervasive among Christians.

This teaching claims that sins can be inherited by children, and some teachers go so far as to say the sins are caused by demons that must be exorcised, while most teachers of this doctrine say that the sins of one’s progenitors must be confessed and repented of. “Generational Sin” also teaches that if a progenitor was involved in witchcraft or some other occult activity, then the demonic forces pass down through their children. Some, such as Gothard, use this doctrine to say no one should adopt a child because you have no way of knowing what their spiritual ancestry is.

So what is the origin of this teaching? As with other false teachings, one must misuse Scripture. The specific passages are Exodus 20:5 and its cross-reference Deuteronomy 5:9. The context must be taken beginning at vs. 4 and continuing through vs.6 (this is part of the Ten Commandments):

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

What is the context of this passage? Idolatry. And it is about only "of those who hate me," a phrase conveniently left out by those who promote generational sin/curses. Also left out is the next passages, “but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” God shows mercy to thousands of generations that love Him. So is that also a "curse" passed down from father to son?

The passage doesn't say God will curse them, it says He will "visit the iniquity," that is he will punish them with His judgment for as long as they continue worshipping idols and hating Him. So, if your great-great-grandfather was an idol worshiping pagan, and so was your great-grandfather and yet your grandfather became a believer, and so did your father, does that mean you have a generational curse on you because of your great-great-grandfather? Those who teach the doctrine of “generational sin/curses” say it does. But by their own reasoning, applying verse 6 once your grandfather became a Christian then thousands of generations would have God’s lovingkindness.

A problem with the generational curses idea is that it has God punishing those who are not guilty, when in reality God tells us many times that he punishes only the guilty. Whereas a whole nation can be punished for generations because its people turn from God, individuals are blessed or punished based on their own actions and not those of their ancestors. (Deut. 24:26; 2 Kings 14:6; Jer. 31:30; Ezek. 18)

Those who teach this passage as meaning sins of the fathers are passed to their sons have even less backing. These people claim that if a person is a drunk, then their children inherit their sin; if a person is promiscuous then their children will be the same; if their parent is a thief then they will also be. They neglect the fact that people learn to do what their parents do, not that they inherit their behaviors.

This teaching is not only unbiblical, but spiritually dangerous.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas-Time Scripture Abuse

Did you know the Bible specifically tells us that having a Christmas tree is wrong, and that it is idolatry?  No?  Well neither did I.
There are those who love to find all sorts of reasons in pagan rituals as to why we can’t use various symbols for Christmas celebrations.  And I agree that many of the things we use for the Christmas season did indeed originate as part of pagan celebrations.  But even if they did originate in that manner, is it really true that we can’t use such symbols for our own reasons and not the reasons used by the pagans?  After all, isn’t all of creation God’s, and doesn’t everything belong to him?  
I submit, that for the most part, it is what we use things for that matters, not what the object is.  A child can play with a doll while someone else can use it for worship; does this make the doll wrong or the heart of the user in the wrong?  While a pagan may have used holly in idolatrous worship ceremonies, can I not use holly just for decoration?
Just some thoughts to start you off with!
Here’s the scripture which supposedly refers to the Christmas tree, and why it is wrong to have one:
This is what the LORD says:  Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them, for the customs of the peoples are worthless.  Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; [it is] worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel.  He decorates it with silver and gold.  It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t totter.  Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak.  They must be carried because they cannot walkJeremiah 10: 2-5a (HCSB)
What is the context?  Is this a tree that is described?  NO!
They start with a tree, yes.  But the passage says that a craftsman works it with a chisel.  And what does he end up with?  An idol!  And one which is likened to a scarecrow which can’t speak or walk.  It seems to be an image of a man carved from a tree!
This passage is abused by legalistic Christians every Christmas in order to “prove” that a Christmas tree is something Christians should not have.  
What about the origin of the Christmas tree; is it pagan?  I have read that there were indeed various pagan belief systems which used evergreen branches in their worship, and perhaps even used trees.  But it is a non sequitur logic fallacy to say therefore the Christmas tree is of pagan origin.
My understanding of the origin of the Christmas tree is that Martin Luther admired the beauty of the evergreen trees in the forest in the moonlight after a snow, and this led to a tradition of bringing a tree into the home to decorate it with candles to simulate the shine of the moon on the snow.  It became a winter tradition in Germany to decorate with an evergreen tree, and, since Christmas happens during the winter, it became associated with Christmas.
Whether that is the true story or not, does it really matter?  Can I not decorate my house with plants without it being related to pagan worship?
The main issue is, however, that the passage in Jeremiah has nothing whatsoever to do with a Christmas tree, and if you have been taught that it does, then you have been lied to.  If you are teaching it, then you are lying to people.  If you don’t want a Christmas tree, that is fine, but don’t tell others that having one is idolatry.  Don’t twist Scripture to force a legalistic idea.