Serving Only When it is Convenient

What would happen if the man-in-need scenario from the parable of the Good Samaritan were recreated?  How many would stop to help?

John Darley and Daniel Batson, two Princeton University psychologists, conducted a study, in the early 1970’s.  Princeton Theological Seminary students were individually approached.  The students were asked “to prepare a short, extemporaneous talk on a given biblical theme, then walk over to a nearby building and present it.  Along the way to the presentation, each student ran into a man slumped in an alley, head down, eyes closed, coughing and groaning” (Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point, p. 164).  Who would stop to help?

Three variables were included in the experiment.  “First, before the experiment even started, they gave the students a questionnaire about why they had chosen to study theology… Then, they varied the subject of the theme the students were to talk about.  Some were asked to speak on the relevance of the professional clergy to the religious vocation.  Others were given the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Finally, the instructions given by the experimenters to each student varied as well.  In some of the cases, as he sent the students on their way, the experimenter would look at his watch and say, ‘Oh, you’re late.  They were expecting you a few minutes ago.  We’d better get moving.’  In other cases, he would say, ‘it will be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head over now.’” (Gladwell, pp. 164-165).

Malcolm Gladwell explains the finding of the study, “If you ask people to predict which seminarians played the Good Samaritan (and subsequent studies have done just this) their answers are highly consistent. They almost all say that the students who entered the ministry to help people and those reminded of the importance of compassion by having just read the parable of the Good Samaritan will be the most likely to stop… In fact, neither of those factors made any difference.  ‘It is hard to think of a context in which norms concerning helping those in distress are more salient than for a person thinking about the Good Samaritan, and yet it did not significantly increase helping behavior,’ Darley and Batson concluded.  ‘Indeed, on several occasions, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way.’  The only thing that really mattered was whether the student was in a rush.  Of the group that was, 10 percent stopped to help.  Of the group who knew they had a few minutes to spare, 63 percent stopped.  What this study is suggesting, in other words, is that the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior” (Gladwell, p. 165).

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. May we not live so hurried in our lives, that we do not take time for real urgent needs. There are physical needs that deserve immediate attention (Luke 10:25-37).  There are spiritual needs that deserve quick attention (Luke 15:1-7).
  2. May we have the wisdom to have the proper understanding of priorities. Consider these Bible teachings: (a) Mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:9-13; 12:1-8); (b) People over animals and Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6 cf. 12:24); (c) Care of family over religious giving (Matthew 15:4-6); (d) Care for family, brethren, and then others (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16; Galatians 6:10); (e) Love is owed to others (Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:14); (f) Love of God comes first (Matthew 22:34-40); (g) Obedience to God over man (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29).  It is not unusual for men to have difficulties with priorities.  Some would pass by one needing immediate help, after being hit by a car and left for dead, because they have to make it to Bible class.  Some would give away their last dime to a stranger leaving their family in a bind.  Some would make one wait until after the sermon to be baptized, even though the person made clear they were ready before the sermon or worship assembly started.  It is important that we understand Biblical priorities.
  3. May we do good to others as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10). We are the salt and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14).  We are to live for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:20; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:11-12).
  4. May we remember what Paul instructed Titus. He told him that God’s people are to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).  Again, “Remind them… to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1).  Again, “I want you to affirm constantly, that those who believe in God, should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).  Finally, he said, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they be not unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).  Four times in the last seventeen verses of the book of Titus, Paul emphasized the need for a lifestyle characterized by good works.
  5. May we be doers of the word. May we be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22).  May we be doers of the word and not preachers only (Romans 2:1-3, 17-24).  God wants us to not only listen to His word, He wants us to live it.  God wants us not only to preach His word, He wants us to practice it. May we seek to imitate the Savior.  Jesus was no less busy than any of us.  Yet, He always seems to have had time for others in need (e.g. Luke 17:11-19; 18:35-43).  He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).  He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Doing good opened up opportunities to reach the lost.  When we go about doing good, we too may have opportunities open up to reach the lost.

What will you do the next time you encounter an urgent need?

 

 

 

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Eastern Religions: Shintoism and the Unification Church

These two religions are from the far east.  Shintoism is from Japan.  The Unification church (Moonies) is from Korea.

Shintoism

There are about 150 million followers of this religion in the world.  Most are in Japan (Shintoism, Number of Followers, Shintoreligionuk.weebly.com).

The origin of the religion is not known.  The name Shinto began to be used after Buddhism was introduced into the country in the 6th century A.D., to distinguish traditional religion from Buddhism.  Shinto means “the way of the gods.”

Shintoism is a religion of ancestry worship.  “’Shinto gods’ are called Kami.  They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility.  Humans become Kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral Kami.  The Kami of extraordinary people are even enshrined at some shrines” (Shinto, japan-guide.com).

In time past, those who believed in Shintoism believed that they were a special people.  In Shinto tradition, the Japanese islands were created by two Kami, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikodo (Shinto, religioustolerance.org).  Her rulers were thought to have descended from the sun-goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, who was also the offspring of the two previously mentioned Kami (ibid).  Furthermore, Japan was thought to be protected by Kami.  The Mongols twice tried to invade Japan in the 13th century.   Both were unsuccessful.  Typhoons destroyed the invaders ships, and forced retreat.  “The Kamikaze, or ‘divine wind,’ that destroyed the invading host gave the Japanese the belief that they were a divinely protected people” (Encyclopedia Brittanica, Vol. 10, p. 65 © 1979).

Some of these beliefs were shattered by World War II.  The Emperor, Hirohito, made this statement on January 01, 1946, “The ties between us and our people have always stood upon mutual trust and affection.  They do not depend upon mere legends and myths.  They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world” (Humanity Declaration, Wikipedia.org).  Religion and government were separated.

There is no developed moral teaching in Shintoism.  “It is a striking fact that the religion of Shinto provided no moral code.  It depends solely upon the promptings of conscience for ethical guidance” (Shintoism and the Japanese nation; jstar.org).  Many Shintoists blend Confucian or Buddhist ethics with their Shinto beliefs.

The Unification Church

The numbers are uncertain.  The Washington Post said this in 2012, “Scholars estimate that there are now 100,000 Unificationists worldwide and a few thousand in the U.S., far fewer than the multi-million membership the church claims” (Unification Church Founder, Sun Myung Moon dies at 92 by Daniel Burke, washingtonpost.com).

The origin of this church is known.  It started in the year 1954.  The location was South Korea.  The founder was Sun Myung Moon.

What is known of Moon?  He was born in 1920, in what is today North Korea.  He was raised in the Presbyterian Church.  He claimed, that at age 16, Jesus appeared to him in a vision asking him to finish His unfinished work.

What was left unfinished according to Moon?  “Although Jesus was able to create the conditions necessary for humanity’s spiritual salvation, he did not marry and thus, according to Moon, did not complete God’s plan… Having married and raised the ‘ideal’ family, Moon called on members of the church to follow his example and thereby participate in God’s plan for restoration” (Unification Church, brittanica.com).  “The unification movement… believes that God’s original intent was for Jesus to form a perfect marriage in order to redeem humanity… Because Jesus (the second Adam) was executed before accomplishing his mission, a ‘third Adam’ was needed to form this perfect marriage and complete Jesus’ task… the perfect man would marry the perfect woman and become the ‘true spiritual parents of human kind.’  Members of the Unification church regard Moon and his second wife, Hak Jan Han, as their ‘true parents… This emphasis or marriage is the reason for Moon’s famous mass weddings… Couples are ‘removed from the lineage of sinful humanity and engrafted into God’s sinless lineage’” (9 Things You Should Know About the Unification Church by Joe Carter, thegospelcoalition.org).  According to them there were two falls in Genesis.  A spiritual fall occurred when Eve had sex with Lucifer.  A physical fall occurred when Eve then had sex with Adam.  Jesus supposedly provided the remedy for the first fall and Moon the remedy for the second, so that God’s kingdom may appear on Earth (McDowell & Steward, Handbook of Today’s Religions; britannica.com).

Accusations have existed.  Moon was twice imprisoned by communist forces.  Supporters claim that he was persecuted for his faith.  Critics claim it was for capitalistic pursuits and bigamy.  In 1955, Moon was arrested by South Korean authorities and charged with draft evasion and sexual promiscuity.  The charges were dropped.  There were reports of Moon purifying female members by sexual intercourse with himself.  Moon was convicted in the U.S. of tax fraud in 1982.  He was given an 18 month sentence.  He served 13 months of the sentence.  Supporters believe that this was religious persecution (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 338-ff).

Here is an interesting note.  The Washington Times was founded by Sun Myung Moon in 1982.

Thoughts

  1. The Bible teaches that truth is not subjective (Proverbs 16:2; 16:25). Jeremiah wrote, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
  2. Jesus finished His work that He came to do (John 19:30 cf. John 5:36; 17:4). Where does the Bible hint that Jesus was supposed to marry and bring into existence the model family?  The Law, nor the Prophets, nor the Psalms mention this (Luke 24:44).

    

 

 

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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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