Eastern Religions: Jainism and Sikhism

These two religions are from the subcontinent.  They are closely related to Hinduism, as is Buddhism.

Jainism

There are between 6 -7 million Jains in the world.  Most live in India.  There are about 80,000 in the U.S.A. (Countries with the Largest Jain Populations, worldatlas.com).

The history of the religion seems to begin with Vardhamana aka Mahavira (“great man”).  [Though, the Jains believe that the principles of Jainism is eternal].  Mahavira (c. 599 B.C. – 527 B.C.) was born in northeastern India.  He was a prince and lived for a while in luxury.  Then, he became an ascetic.  He spent twelve years (Age 30-42) searching for enlightenment.  He discarded his robe and wandered naked through India.  He spent time in self-denial and meditation.  He claimed to have found enlightenment at the age of 42 – He then began to teach his beliefs (Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 296-ff; BBC-Religion:Jainism, bbc.co.uk).

The name “Jain” is from the Sanskrit “Jina,” meaning “victor” or conquerer.” “The designation was given to Mahavira for his achievement of victory over his bodily desires.  His disciples were thus “Jains” (McDowell & Stewart).

What do Jains believe?  Here are some of their beliefs:

  1.  They do not believe in a God or Creator. However, Mahavira has become an object of worship and prayer, as have the other twenty three Tirthankara (literally, “ford maker”; that is one who leads the way across the stream of rebirths to salvation).
  2. They believe that the universe is eternal.
  3. They believe in a casteless society, rejecting the Hindu caste system.
  4. They believe in Karma and reincarnation, much like the Hindus. However, they believe that the soul maintains individual identity after liberation (Moksha).  This is different from Hinduism.
  5. They believe in living by Five Great Vows (Five Nahavratas) (a) Non-violence (Ahimsa). Jains vow to harm no living being, including human, animal, and even plant.  Some sweep the dirt before them when walking to keep from stepping on bugs and small creatures.  Some wear cover their noses and mouths with cloth to prevent accidentally breathing in small creatures like gnats.  They are vegetarians and vegans.  Some avoid eating roots and subterranean produce, lest they harm or kill the plant.  They tend to avoid occupations in agriculture, and other such occupations which might result in harming or killing something.  (b) Truth (Satya).  They vow to speak the truth, and not lie.  (c) Not stealing (Asteya).  Nothing is to be taken without permission.  (d) Celibacy (Brahmacharya).  This means no sex for monks and nuns.  This means fidelity to one’s spouse for all others.  (e) Non-possessiveness (Aparigrapha).  Non-attachment to material things is the meaning.  Monks and nuns renounce property.  (McDowell & Stewart, Britannica Vol. 10 c. 1979, BBC; Jainism, Wikipedia).

Ahimsa seems impossible.  How can one go through life without harming or killing any living thing?  Remember that there are even micro-organisms.  Drink water and you will kill something.  However, the idea seems to be to seek to do all you can to avoid harming anything (BBC).  Self-defense is allowed (ibid).

There are two major sects: (1) Digambara (skyclad).  Monks wear no clothes.  Nuns wear plain white sarees.  Women cannot reach liberation (Moksha) without being reincarnated as a man.  (2) Suetambara (white clad).  Monks and nuns wear white clothes (Britannica, BBC, Wikipedia).

Sikhism

Some believe that this should be counted as the sixth major world religion (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism).  There are about 24 million Sikhs in the world.  Most live in Punjab, India.  There are about 250,000 Sikhs living in the U.S.A. (Countries With the Largest Sikh Populations, worldatlas.com).

The history or the religion begins with Guru Nanak Devji (1469-1539 A.D.).  He was born in Punjab, Pakistan to a Hindu family.  At the age of 18, he married.  They would have two sons.  He worked as an accountant and manager of a grainery.  At the age of 30, he claimed to have had a vision.  He declared, “There is no Hindu and no Musalman” (Muslim, B.H.).

He began to proclaim the message of Sikhism.  Some describe it as an attempt to harmonize Hinduism and Islam (Bio info- McDowell & Stewart, p. 400-ff; Nanak Biography, biographyonline.net).

There is a Sikh legend concerning Nanak’s death.  There was a controversy as he neared death.  His muslim friends wanted to bury him.  His Hindu friends wanted to cremate him.  He said, “Let the Hindus place flowers on my right, and the Musalmans on my left.  They whose flowers are found fresh in the morning, may dispose of my body.”  He then drew a sheet over himself and sent them away.  The next morning, nothing was found under the sheet.  However, the flowers on both sides were still fresh (McDowell & Stewart; Guru Nanak, Sikhs.org).  There are a couple of issues with this story.  First, who watched the body?  Second, this story is known from later Sikh writings.  Where is the supporting evidence?

The name “Sikh” means “disciple” (McDowell & Stewart).  They are disciples of the Guru (teacher) Nanak.

What do Sikhs believe?  Here are some of their beliefs:

  1. They believe that there is only one God. He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer.  He is the same God of all people and all religions.  He is not to be represented by pictures or idols.  He does not take on human form.
  2. They reject the Hindu caste system, but some may maintain their own.
  3. They believe in full equality of the sexes, and of the races.
  4. They believe in Karma and reincarnation.
  5. They believe that one should abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics.
  6. They believe in serving others, not asceticism.
  7. Their holy book is Adi Granth. It is a collection of nearly 6,000 hymns from Sikh Gurus, and devotional songs from Hindus and Muslims.  The first version appeared in 1604 A.D..
  8. The Khalsa (Pure) order are baptized, and observed the 5 K’s: (1) Kesh (uncut hair). The hair of the head, the beard, and body are allowed to grow uncut.  This is to show acceptance of God’s perfect creation. (2) Kangha (wooden comb).  A wooden comb is placed in the topknot of hair which is covered by a turban.  This represents discipline, cleanliness, and care of God’s creation.  (3) Kachera (short trousers).  This is usually worn as undergarments, today.  It symbolizes modesty and chastity.  (4) Kirpan (sword).  This is worn as a reminder to be courageous, and to be willing to defend one’s faith, the weak, and the oppressed.  Sikhs are big on serving in the police and military.  (5) Kara (bangle or bracelet).  A steel or iron bangle is worn on the right hand.  This is worn to remind one that God has no beginning or end.  It is a slave’s bangle reminding one that he belongs to God.  (Sources: McDowell & Stewart; Brittanica; Sikhs, H.A. “Buster” Dobbs; Sikhs.org; The 5 K’s, amritsar.com; What are the Five K’s of Sikhism?, thoughtco.com; Wearing the 5 K’s, Sikhdharma.org; Five K’s, Sikhiwiki.org).  Male of this order wear the name Singh (Lion), and the females Kaur (Princess).

Thoughts

It is helpful to know that basics of what others believe.  This is especially true if you are involved in evangelism.

However, one does not have to know everything about other religions.  Nor, should one feel that he has to always refute the details of another religion.  These things are not necessary.

What is needed for one to make a strong case for Christianity.  Take them to the evidence.  No other religion provides such abundant evidence.

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Eastern Religions: Zoroastrianism and Bahaism

These two religions are from Persia (Iran).  One is ancient.  One is of more recent origin.

Zoroastrianism

There are fewer than 200,000 followers of this religion in the world.  Most are in India, Pakistan, and Iran (Top Countries of the World by Zoroastrian Population, Worldatlas.com).  There are about 20,000 followers in North America (Dating to Save Your Tiny Religion from Extinction by Menachem Recker, theatlantic.com).

The origin of this religion is credited to Zoroaster (Zarathrustra).  When he lived is unclear.  Some believe that he lived in the 7th century B.C.  Others believe that he lived much earlier, in the 2nd millennium B.C.  Tradition says that he was the son of a camel merchant.  He lived in a society that worshipped many gods.  When he was thirty, he had a vision and began to teach the worship of a single god called Ahura Mazda or wise Lord (Zoroastrianism, history.com; History of Zoroastrianism, historyworld.net).  The teachings of Zoroaster became very popular in Persia.  “The Muslim conquest of Persia between 633 and 651 A.D. led to… the decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Iran… Parsi are followers of Zoroastrianism in India.  According to Parsi tradition, a group of Iranian Zoroastrians emigrated from Persia to escape religious persecution by the Muslim majority after the Arab conquest” (history.com).

What do Zoroastrians believe?  Many of their beliefs seem similar to the teachings of the Bible.  They believe in two great powers.  Ahura Mazda (Lord of wisdom, light) is the object of their devotion.  He is the creator.  Angra Mainyu (Prince of darkness) opposes Him and all that is good.  They believe in the ultimate triumph of good over evil.  They believe that man has free-will.  They believe in an afterlife of reward for the righteous and punishment for the wicked.

However, There appears to be some differences.  Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu are considered “co-eternal” (Josh McDowell & Don Steward, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 361).  Man’s judgment is different.  “Future life should be determined by the balance of the good and evil deeds, words, and thoughts of the whole life” (Encyclopedia Britannica © 1979 Vol. 19, p. 1175).  “The difference between a good man and an evil man is considered to be only relative” (McDowell, p. 361).  In order to be a Zoroaster you must be born to two Zoroaster parents.  They typically do not accept converts from outside.

Some suggests that the Jews, and the Bible, borrowed their teaching about Satan, and heaven and hell, from the Zoroastrians.  This supposedly happened while the Jews were in exile in Persia, during the 6th century B.C..

Let’s consider the Bible.  It is true that some things become more clearly revealed through time in the Bible.  However, there is a tempter in the garden (Genesis 3).  Satan is mentioned in Job (Job 1:6), and early book.  The concept of an afterlife is found early in scripture (Job 19:25-27; Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:33; 1 Samuel 12:23).  The New Testament explain why the patriarchs willingly endured the things that they did (Hebrews 11:8-16).

Let’s remember these points: First, similarity does not prove that borrowing occurred.  Second, one God created all of humanity.  Therefore, it is possible that some rudimentary understanding was found outside of Israel.  Third, it may be that the Zoroastrians were influenced by the Jews.  McDowell and Steward write, “Those who claim Zoroastrianism has had an effect on the Bible begin with the inherent assumption that the Old Testament was written later than the traditional evidence shows… If one accepts the traditional dating of the Old Testament, then the proverbial shoe is on the other foot.  It is not Zoroastrianism that influenced biblical doctrine when the Jews were in exile under Persian rule; it is the Bible that influenced Zoroastrianism” (McDowell pp. 360-361).

Bahaism

There are more than 5 million Baha’is in the world (Statistics, bahai.org © 2019).  The countries with the largest numbers of followers are India, and The United States.  It is estimated that there are more than a half million followers in the U.S.A. (Countries With the Largest Baha’i Populations, worldatlas.com).

The origins of this religion are found in 19th century A.D. Iran.  (1) Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850) was a merchant in Iran.  He assumed the title ‘The Bab’ (gate or door) in 1844.  He believed that he was the gate to reveal The Twelfth Imam.  He claimed that Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were equal prophets and that there was coming one who would unify all believers, and would himself be a manifestation of the only true and living God (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of The Cults, p. 271-ff).  He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death.  He was executed in 1850.  It was reported that the first volley of bullets missed the mark and severed the ropes by which he was suspended, three meters up, on a wall.  He was repositioned and killed on the second attempt. Bahai’is understand the failed attempt as a miraculous sign.  (2) Mirza Husayn Ali (1817-1892) was an early follower of The Bab.  He was exiled from Iran, as many other follows of The Bab were; others were executed.  In exile in Bagdad, in 1863, he declared that he was the one The Bab prophesied.  He claimed to be The Baha’u’llah (the glory of God).  He would spend four decades in exile or prison in places including: Bagdad, Istanbul, Adrianople, and Acre.  During this time, he did much writing and gained many followers.  His son, Abdu’l Baha (1844-1921) brought Bahaism to the U.S.A. in 1912.  This religion is now found in all 50 states.  The governing body is located in Haifa, Israel.

What do followers of this religion believe?  They believe in one God.  They believe that God has manifested His will through prophets including: Adam, Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Muhammad, Bab and Baha’u’llah (bahaiteaches.org; Martin, p. 271-ff).  “Each of these prophets brought the same essential spiritual teaching, by varying social and material teachings according to the age in which he appeared” (bahaiteach.org).  They believe the writings of Bab and Baha’u’llah as divinely inspired and authoritative.  They believe the writings of Baha’u’llah’s successor Abdu’l Baha, and his successor Shaghi Effendi as authoritative interpretation.  “Baha’u’llah reportedly left behind 200 books and tablets, which along with the writings of his son, constitute the final authority for religious faith and conduct” (Martin, p. 273).  These writings supersede all others that went before them.  One of their publications (Star of the West, December 31, 1913) wrote “The revelation of Jesus was for His own dispensation… Now it is no longer the point of guidance to the world.  We are in total darkness if we are refusing the revelation of the present dispensation.  Bahais must be severed from all and everything that is past – things both good and bad – everything.  Now all is changed.  All the teachings of the past are the past.  Adu’l-Baha is now supplying all the world” (Jan Karel Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults, p. 158).  “Jesus was the way, the truth and the life for his time but certainly not for all time” (Walter Martin interview of Baha’i Teacher, Martin, p. 273-f).  They believe that man has an immortal soul (Baha’i, bbc.co.uk).  One does not need to believe in Jesus being the propitiation for sins.  One Baha’i teacher said, “A Christian may find spiritual peace in believing in a substitutionary atonement.  In Baha’ism this is unnecessary.  That age is past.  The new age of maturity has dawned through Baha’u’llah, and we listen to his words” (Martin, p. 275).

Let us remember these words: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:9-10).  “Contend earnestly for the faith which was one for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

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Halloween, Nike, Mazda, and Paganism

Many go “all out” for Halloween.  Houses are decorated.  Costumes are selected.  Candy is purchased.  Did you know that ¼ of all candy sold in the U.S is sold for Halloween?  (Halloween 2018- History, history.com).  Personally, I have never understood the obsession.

What is the origin of Halloween?  (1) Its origin seems to be found in the celtic festival of Samhaim.  Their new year was November 1.  They celebrated the festival of Samhaim on October 31.  It marked the end of summer and the harvest, and the beginning of winter, a time of year associated with human death.  The Celts believe that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred on the night of October 31.  They believe that the ghosts of the dead could return on this night.  Treats were left to try to appease the ghosts.  Carved vegetables were used to protect.  The faces were believed to ward off evil and unwanted spirits.  Durids built bonfires where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to Celtic deities.

(2) These customs became blended with Roman customs after the Roman Empire conquered Celtic territory.  The Romans had two festivals near this same time.  First was Ferelia, a day used by the Romans to commemorate the passing of the dead.  Second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and trees.  Some think bobbing for apples comes from this.

(3)  These practices seem to have been “Christianized” by Rome.  In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.  The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween” (history.com).

Nike.  The name or word can refer to the Greek goddess of victory, or to simply victory (cf. 1 John 5:4).  [It is much like the word dike which can refer to judgment or justice (cf. Acts 25:15) or to the goddess of justice (Acts 28:4)].

What about the name of the shoe company?  Some early considered names include “Dimension Six,” “Peregrine,” and “Bengal.”  In the end it was named after the Greek goddess of Victory (How Nike Got Its Name, businessinsider.com).

 Nike is not alone in name the company after a god.  Consider the name “Mazda.”  The company  Toyo Kogyo manufactured corks.  It began to produce vehicles.  It was managed by Jujiro Matsuda.  “‘Mazda’  comes from the (Persian – B.H.) god of harmony, intelligence and wisdom… ‘Mazda’ was the perfect way to pay respect to the substantial founder, whose family name is pronounced very close to ‘Mazda’” (A Story Behind the Name of Mazda, Mazda.com).

 Should we conclude that if one allows their children to dress up in a Halloween costume, then one is practicing Celtic beliefs?  Should we conclude that if one wears a pair of Nike shoes or drives a Mazda automobile, then one is promoting a false god?  Some think so.

However, let us consider: (1) Intent.  Dave Miller has written, “I makes no difference what we might uncover when we trace a given practice through the ages if, in fact, that practice no longer carries those connotations…  For example, June weddings date back to Roman women who chose to marry in June because the goddess Juno was the guardian of the female sex.  To marry in June guaranteed the blessings of the patron goddess… the fact that our word ‘Thursday’ is rooted in the pagan dedication of a day to the god ‘Thor’ is not likely to cause me to cease using the term… knowing the origin of June weddings is not likely to cause me to oppose them.  God does not hold us responsible for such ancient links.  The question which He is concerned is what does this activity, practice, or observance mean to society today… The meaning attached in our culture to any given observance becomes the key for ascertaining whether the practice is authorized by the principles of scripture” (Miller, Piloting the Strait, pp. 259-260).  I believe that this is correct.  The meaning of things can change (e.g. the veil Genesis 38:15; The Swastika; The ‘!’ means one thing in math and something different in English.  The ‘;’ means one thing in Greek and another thing in English).

(2) Names of Bible characters.  Some Bible characters had names of pagan origin (e.g. Epaphroditus and Epaphras = belonging to Aphrodite, Apollos = given by Apollo).  These names were not changed.  Sometimes in India, when one is converted to Christ, that one will desire to change his name, because of the meaning of his name.  Sometimes I am asked to pick a name for a person.  Usually one desires a Biblical name.  I tell him that it is OK to change one’s name, but not required.  What is required is a change of life.  One’s life should be lived in such a way that it exalts God and magnifies Christ (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 1:20-21; 1 Peter 2:11-12).  This is far more important.

*Sources for Halloween History: Halloween 2018 – History, history.com; The Dark History of Halloween, businessinsider.com; What Are the Origins of Halloween, erounews.com; Halloween Facts, Halloween Traditions, holidayinsights.com.

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In The News: Brandt Jean (I Want to be More Like Him)

Botham Jean was fatally shot by Amber Guyger on the night of September 06, 2018.  It appears to have happened due to a tragic mistake.  Fatigued, and perhaps distracted, Guyger claims to have confused Jean’s fourth floor apartment for her third floor apartment.

Who was Botham Jean?  He was a member of the church of Christ.  He was a song leader with West Church of Christ in Dallas.  He was an accountant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers.  He will be missed by many.  Michael Griffin, minister, said, “Botham Shem Jean was not a silhouette.  He was the light in a dark room” (Who is Botham Jean?  wffa.com).  Allison Jean, his mother, said, “Everything Botham did was to impact the lives of people” (ibid).

There are many reasons for one to be enraged.  Guyger’s feelings about blacks were exposed.  She had a history of racist texts (Prosecution in Guyger Trial Reveals Past Racist and Violent Text, Social Media Posts by Tobias Hoonhout, nationalreview.com).  Did her racial views influence her decision?  She had been sexting (Texts Between Amber Guyger, Dallas Police Partner Revealed at Trial by Erik Ortiz, nbcnews.com).  Did this distract her to the point that she did not even notice the bright red door mat at Jean’s door?  This clearly was not her apartment.

However, Brandt Jean, Botham’s brother, had love and concern for Guyger, in his heart, when he spoke in court on October 2, 2019.  He said, “If you truly are sorry – I know I can speak for myself – I, I forgive you.  And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you… I love you just like anyone else… I am not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did… I personally want the best for you… I want the best for you because that is exactly what Botham would want for you.  And the best would be give your life to Christ… I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing Botham would want you to do.  Again, I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you” (Botham Jean’s Brother, Brandt and Amber Guyger Hug, KHOU11, youtube).

Who can watch this without getting teary-eyed?  I want to be more like Brandt.

Ponder the following passages:

  1.   “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14-15).
  2. “Should you not also have compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers… so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:33-35).
  3. “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
  4. “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'” (Matthew 18:21-22).
  5. “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13).
  6. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  7. “Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

 

 

 

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Eastern Religions: Confucianism and Taoism

These two religions are from China.  They have their roots in the 6th century B.C.

Confucianism

There are between 5- 6 million followers of this religion in the world (World Religions by Number of Followers, Conservapedia.com).  Most are in China, Taiwan and east Asia.  Data could not be located for numbers in the U.S.A.

The history of the religion begins with the philosopher Kong Qui (c. 551-479 B.C.), better known as Confucius (Master Kong).  He was born and lived in northeastern China, in the state of Lu.  His years may be summarized this way: (1) Before age 50, he held various minor positions in state government, and was a school teacher.  (2) From age 50-56, he held a few major positions in state government, including: assistant minister of public works, and minister of justice.  He resigned when he found that his superiors were not interested in his reforms.  (3) From age 56-67, he traveled state to state attempting to bring about political and social reform.  China was in a state of unrest.  Warring states were not uncommon.  His tour was largely unsuccessful, though he did gain some followers among the people.  (4) From age 67 till his death, he spent writing and teaching, in his home state of Lu.  The Analects consist of 20 books (or chapters) 473 verses.

His writings contain many good moral maxims.  He taught on how one treats others, “What I do not want others to do to me, I have no desire to do to others” (The Analect 5:11; 12:2; 15:23 cf. Proverbs 24:29; Matthew 7:12).  “In dealing with the aged to be of comfort to them; in dealing with friends to be of good faith with them; in dealing with the young, to cherish them”  (The Analect 5:25 cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Proverbs 23:22; Matthew 18:1-3; 19:13-15).   “Till you learn to serve men, how can you serve ghosts?” (The Analects 11:11 cf. 1 John 4:20).  He taught on family relations.  “Behave in such a way that your father and mother have no anxiety about you, except concerning your health” (The Analects 5:6 cf. Proverbs 10:1).  He taught on employment.  “Be faithful to your superiors, keep all promises… if you have made a mistake do not be afraid of admitting the fact and amending your ways” (The Analects 11:24 cf. Ephesian 6:5-8).  He taught on government.  “You may rob the Three Armies of their commander-in-chief, but you cannot deprive the humblest peasant of his opinion” (The Analects 9:25, also see 12:7 cf. Proverbs 14:28).  He taught on education.  “In the old days men studied for the sake of self-improvement; nowadays men study in order to impress other people” (The Analects 14:25 cf. 2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 119:105).

It is important to understand that Confucius did not claim perfect knowledge or complete understanding.  He said, “I for my part am not one of those who have innate knowledge.  I am simply one who loves the past and who is diligent in investigating it… Even when walking in a party of no more than three I can always be certain of learning from those I am with” (The Analects 7:19, 21 cf. 7:1-3).  Again, “Do I regard myself as a possessor of wisdom?  Far from it.  But if even a simple peasant comes in all sincerity and asks me a question, I am ready to thrash the matter out, with all of its pros and cons, to the very end” (The Analects 9:7 cf. 7:33), Confucius regarded himself as a transmitter of ancient knowledge), and not an originator (Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius, p. 25).

Confucianism might be regarded as a philosophy, and good moral teachings, if it were not for later developments.  Confucius was eventually deified.  Animal sacrifices have been made at his tomb.  Temples have been built (see Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 326-ff).

Taoism (Daoism)

There are about 20 million followers of this religion in the world (World Religions by Number of Followers, conservapedia.com).  Most are in China, Taiwan and east Asia.  There are an estimated 30,000 followers in the U.S.A. (American Daoism, pluralism.org).

The history of the religion is purported to begin with Li Er (6th century B.C.), better known as Lao Tzu (old philosopher).  He was from the state of Chu, eastern China.  He produced a book known as the Tao Te Ching [The book of the Way of Virtue (or Power)].  The book is about 5,500 words long in English, a total of 81 chapters or poems.

The books contain many good moral teachings.  It warns against boasting.  “Achieve results, but never glory in them.  Achieve results, but never boast.  Achieve results, but never  be proud” (30).  “The sage works without recognition.  He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it” (77 cf. Proverbs 27:2).  It teaches about contentment.  “A contented man is never disappointed” (44 cf. 1 Timothy 6:6).  It teaches against violence.  “A violent man will die a violent death” (42 cf. Matthew 26:52).  It has much to say about government.  “Why are people starving?  Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes… Why are people rebellious?  Because the rulers interfere too much… Why do the people think so little of death?  Because the rulers demand too much of life” (75, cf. 58).  “Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish” (60).  In other words, don’t overdo it.

However, the book also contains things which seem too passive.  “The world is ruled by letting things take their course.  It cannot be ruled by interfering” (48).  “The highest good is like water.  Water gives life to ten thousand things and does not strive” (8).  “Yielding is the way of the Tao” (40).  This at least on the surface seems contrary to Biblical teaching (Psalm 82:3-4; Jude 3, etc.).

This is a religion of the yin and yang, and “it’s all good.”  Josh McDowell and Don Stewart have concluded, “Taoism has no real answer to the problem of evil, for the Taoist ‘solution’ of ignoring or withdrawing from the ills of society does nothing to cure those very real ills” (Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 347).

Taoism might be regarded as a philosophy, containing some good moral teachings, if it were not for later developments.  Lao Tzu was eventually deified.  Animal sacrifices have been made to him.  Temples have been built (see Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 346-f).

Thoughts

The issue is not whether other religions contain some good moral teachings.  Aesop’s Fables, Poor Richard’s Almanac and The Book of Virtues contain good moral teachings.  The issue is inspiration.

Moreover, Christianity is not primarily about a better moral system (though I think that it is).  It is about Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).  Again, “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you… Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures… He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  He concluded, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty… But now Christ is risen from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 20).

 

 

 

 

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The Truth in Love

Our text of study is Ephesians 4:15.  It reads, “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.”  The context concerns the use of spiritual gifts, and roles in the church.

Let us notice that in order to build the church…

1.  We must speak.

Those with the ability to teach and preach should use that ability.  Timothy was told “stir up the gift” that was within him, and “not be ashamed” (2 Timothy 1:6-8).  He was to “preach the word,” and to do so “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).  Paul said “woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Members should use their tongues to edify (Ephesians 4:29), exhort, and stir up love and good works (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24).  Paul instructed “comfort each other and edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 cf. 4:18; 5:14).  Our tongues can be used for good.

It has been said that “sometimes silence is golden, but sometimes it is merely yellow.”  Do we care enough to speak?  “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29).

2.  We must speak the truth.

The original word translated “speaking the truth” is aletheuo.  It appears twice in the New Testament (Galatians 4:16; Ephesians 4:15).  It means to proclaim the truth, or to deal with truthfully.

It is the truth of God’s word, not human opinions or human wisdom, that needs to be proclaimed.

The truth has power.  It is the truth which begets (James 1:18), sets free (John 8:32), purifies (1 Peter 1:22), sanctifies (John 17:17), and arms one for spiritual war (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Moreover, it is not enough to speak some truth, but hold back on teaching all that should be taught.  Paul said, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).  Again, he said, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Someone has written, “If you are my friend, if you are concerned about my soul, give me the truth… for the truth, and only the truth, can make me free from the shackles of sin, strengthen me in the pathway of righteousness, and lead me to heaven’s joy.”

3.  We must speak the truth in love.

Our speech should be motivated by love, genuine love.  Love motivated Paul to correct the brethren at Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:4).  One brother has written, “One of the most unloving acts that one could do – is nothing – when he knows that a brother is being overcome by sin… Brotherly love cares enough to correct” (Jimmy Jividen, Koinonia, pp. 147, 179).

Our speech should be tempered by love.  We should be in the habit of seasoning our words with salt (Colossians 4:6).  Yes, there is a time for bold speech (e.g. Matthew 12:34; 23:13ff; 2 Corinthians 4:21).  However, this should be the exception and not the norm.  Jesus was very bold with His active, vocal opponents, who were trying to interfere with His work, or who were plotting against Him.  This is not the way He treated most people (Nicodemus, John 3; the woman at the well, John 4; the woman caught in adultery, John 8; the rich young ruler, Mark 10).   We should avoid being unnecessarily offensive, rude, or unkind.

We should try to be compassionate, and demonstrate our love.  Imagine two preachers.  One points out sin in a member’s life with a gleam in his eye, and seems to enjoy it.  The other points out sin in a member’s life with a tear in his eye, and seems sincerely concerned.  Which one would you want to hear?  Paul shed tears (2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18).  May we “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).  Let us learn to sincerely care for people.  Remember that without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Preachers and members should remember that preaching is not just about rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2).  It is also about convincing, exhorting, comforting, and edifying (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, 14; 1 Corinthians 14:26b; Acts 14:21-22, etc.).

   

 

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What Would You Give Up?

Vernon, Florida is a small town located in the state’s panhandle.  It, by reputation, is commonly called “Nub City.”  This moniker was earned in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  During this time the area was economically depressed.  It seems that some of its residents found a way to bring in money.  During this period, this town accounted for 2/3 of all insurance claims for dismemberment in the country.  This town, with a population which fluctuated between 500 and 800, had 50 citizens lose body parts.  There were hunting accidents, farming accidents, and home accidents of various kinds.  One source says, “Hard times have befallen the residents of countless American small towns, but few have fought back so boldly as many of the citizens of Vernon, Florida who found that severing their limbs could be even more lucrative than using them” (Vernon, Florida, atlasobscura.com).  To be fair, no one was ever convicted for insurance fraud.  However, many of the circumstances were suspicious (e.g. multiple insurance policies taken out shortly before the accident, one man had at least 28 policies, one victim had a tourniquet in his pocket at the time of his accident and happened to be driving his wife’s car which had an automatic transmission and not his truck with a manual transmission which he ordinarily used, etc.).  “Insurers took many of the Nub Club members to court.  The problem was convincing a jury that a man with any sense at all would have the gumption to aim a rifle at one of his appendages and pull the trigger” (‘Nub City’: Vernon, Florida’s Decade-Long Insurance Scam by Brooks Hays, mentalfloss.com).

The epidemic of accidents came to an end in the early 1960’s.  This coincided with insurance companies changing how they did business in the area.  Some raised premiums astronomically.  Others refused to do business in this area.

Many will go to great extremes for financial benefit; let us ask to what extent you would go to make it to heaven? Jesus sad, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.  For it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

No, this is not to be understood literally.  Who is tempted by the right eye and not the left (except a one-eyed person)?  Who is tempted by the right hand and not the left (except a one-handed person)?  Furthermore, sin is actually a product of the heart and mind (Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 23:7a; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 12:1-2).

The meaning is that we should seek to eliminate conduits of temptation and stumbling blocks from our lives, so far as possible (cf. Romans 13:14).  Albert Barnes comments, “His design was to teach that the dearest objects, if they cause us to sin, are to be abandoned” (Barnes Notes).  This might include “friends,” books, T.V. shows, certain music, internet surfing, the place one lives, or job.  Are we willing to pay the price?  The N.I.V. Study Bible comments, “Jesus is not teaching self-mutilation, for even a blind man can lust.  The point is that we should deal as drastically with sin as necessary.”  This is what is needed.   The E.S.V. Study Bible says of this context, “Jesus uses deliberate overstatement to emphasize the importance of maintaining exclusive devotion to one’s spouse.  Even things of great value should be given up if they are leading a person to sin.”  Are you willing to be a part of the Nub Club?

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