In the News: The Old Asked to Leave

KXXV (ABC) Waco recently ran the following story: “Cottage Grove, Minn. – A struggling Minnesota church is asking its older parishioners to leave in hopes of making it more attractive to young families.

Grove United Methodist Church in the St. Paul suburb of Cottage Grove is closing in June, with plans to relaunch in November.  The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship elsewhere, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The church is asking that they stay away for two years, then consult the pastor about reapplying.

‘I pray for this church, getting through this age discrimination thing,’ William Gackstetter said at church on a recent Sunday as the gray-haired heads around him nodded in agreement.

But church officials said the congregation needs a reset and the best way is to appeal to young people…

According to reports, the church is struggling with finances and membership.  The church switched to lay ministry 7 years ago due to membership.

This means that the sermons are done by church members weekly.

They have a weekly attendance of 25.” (Struggling Minnesota Church Asks Older Members to go Away, January 22, 2020, KXXV.com).

The A.P. originally ran this story on January 20.  However, they have now issued this correction.  “The Associated Press, relying on information from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, erroneously reported that the church was asking older congregants to leave in hopes of becoming more attractive to younger families.  The church, which also has a campus in nearby Woodbury, has asked current members to wait 15 to 18 months after the Cottage Grove campus re-launches before returning to worship there, but it didn’t single out older members in that request” (Associated Press Correction: Struggling Church Story, KTTC.com).

They are asking all to leave.  Most of whom are older members.  The aim is to attract younger families.

“While older members will not be physically barred from attending, the expectation is that they will not.  ‘We are asking them to let this happen’ (Lead Pastor) Wetterstrom said.  ‘For this to be truly new, we can’t have the core group of 30 people’” (Minn. church says it never asked older members to leave, by Ed Payne, January 23, 2020, fox19.com).

Here are my thoughts:

  1. If young families will not worship with older members, the problem is with them, not the older members. The church should be for all ages.  The young evangelist, Timothy was taught to treat church members as family.  The older men and women were to be treated as fathers and mothers; and the younger men and women were to be treated as brothers and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1-2).  The young evangelist, Titus was to speak to older men and women, and younger men and women (Titus 2:1-8).  Youth should not be despised (1 Timothy 4:12, cf. 1 Corinthians 16:10-11; Titus 2:15), but neither should those who are older.
  2. It can actually be an enriching experience to have Christian interaction with those of other ages. The older members may have a great deal of wisdom and experience to share.  Older women are to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-4).  The younger members may have energy and physical abilities that the older members may no longer possess.  All are needed and should be able to work together and compliment one another in doing the work of the church, to the glory of God.
  3. The church should welcome those from different demographic backgrounds. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; cf. Colossians 3:11).
  4. Man, many times, tries to shape the church to his own liking.  Some want only those of a certain race to attend.  Some want only those of a certain socio-economic standing to attend.  Some want only country people to attend.  While others want only city people to attend.  Some cease to evangelize after the church reaches a certain number, because they are only comfortable in a church of a certain size. For some, personal preference is king. The question is: What does Jesus want? It is, after all, His church. He is king. It is not about what we may selfishly want.  It is about service.  May we get busy serving God, and serving one another.
  5. The attraction of youth and numbers is not the most important thing. It is more important to honor Him, by doing things according to His revealed will.  Their reset may, or may not, work numerically.  However, it is not according to His revealed will.  If a church stays small, or even dies out serving Him, it is sad.  However, it does not need to be viewed as defeat for the faithful. Paul said, “For what is our hope, or joy or crown of rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).  Let us, in this life, continue to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).  The aim should be, “Whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).
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Do We Have Absolute Truth?

We do not know all things.  In the physical realm, not all has been discovered (Proverbs 25:2 cf. Job 38 – 42).  In the spiritual realm, not all has been revealed.  We do not know when the Lord will return (Matthew 24:36, 42, 44; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 cf. Matthew 24:42-44).  We do not fully know the nature of our existence to come (1 John 3:1-2 cf. Philippians 3:20-21).  There are secret things.  Moses told Israel, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever…”  (Deuteronomy 29:29).  God is all-knowing (Psalm 139:1-4; Isaiah 40:13-14; 46:9-10; Matthew 12:36), not man (Psalm 139:6; Isaiah 55:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:25; 1 John 3:20).

However, we can know what God has revealed to man.  Consider: (1) Moses told Israel, “…Those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Moses implied that they could understand God’s revealed will sufficiently enough to do it.  (2) It is written of Ezra, “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).  Ezra believed that he could understand the law well enough to do it, and to teach it.  (3) Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  It is knowable.  It provides the answer to man’s sin problem (John 8:32 cf. 8:34).   (4) Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus, “…when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).  He believed that his writings could be understood.  (5) Peter wrote to some saying, “You have purified your soul in obeying the truth…” (1 Peter 1:22).  They had been able to understand it well enough to obey it.  (6) Peter exhorted brethren to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  This growth comes by feeding on the word (1 Peter 2:2).

Does it take exceptional intelligence or education to understand, at least on some basic level, God’s Word?  I do not believe that it does.  (1) God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  Does He desire the impossible?  (2) The gospel was (is) to be preached to “every creature” (Mark 16:15).  This does not sound like the message was intended for only those who are Mensa members (an organization open for those in the top 2% of I.Q.’s).  This does not sound like it was intended for only those with D.D.s, Th.D.s, or Ph.D.s.  (3) Mark wrote of those who listened to Jesus, “And the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37).  Vincent’s Word Studies comments on “the common people” saying, “Not indicating a social distinction, but the great mass of people: the crowd at large” (studylight.org).  (4) Moses instructed Israel, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).  Why teach it, if their children were not capable of understanding it, on any level?  (5) Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation…” (2 Timothy 3:15).  Timothy understood, at least some things from scripture; and he did so from childhood.

A couple of things are needed.  (1) It takes will or desire.  One needs a will to do His will (John 7:17).  One needs to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).  One needs to desire God’s word (1 Peter 2:2; Psalm 1:1-2; 19:7-11).  (2) It takes effort (Proverbs 2:1-5).  It takes diligent work (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:5-8).  The wise spend time thinking about God’s word (Psalm 1:1-2; 119:97-100, 147-148).

I have known those whose Biblical knowledge grew rapidly; and, I have known of those whose Biblical knowledge did not grow, or grew little.  A new convert, with little familiarity with the Bible at the time of conversion, becomes well-studied and knowledgeable in only a few years.  Another, with a similar starting place, shows no or little growth decades later.  What is the difference?  Many times the answer lies in desire and effort.

While I believe that it is possible to understand God’s revealed will, this does not mean that all will.  (1) Some are untaught or ignorant of God’s word (2 Peter 3:16).  They do not invest the time and effort (Proverbs 2:1-5).  Are we?  (2) Some are unstable (2 Peter 3:16 cf. 2:14).  They are not grounded firmly enough to withstand false teaching.  Are we?  (3) Some desire things to be a certain way (Isaiah 30:10; Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11; John 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 2 Timothy 3:6; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:18).  One should approach God’s word asking, “What does this mean?” not “What do I want it to mean?”  Do we?  Let us examine ourselves

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Does Truth Reveal One Plan of Salvation?

What is truth?  It is reality.  The New Testament declares that God’s word is truth (John 17:17; Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5-6).  God’s word declares spiritual reality.  This is what the New Testament declares.

According to the New Testament, each accountable person, living in this age, must do the following things to be saved and make it heaven.  One must: (1) Hear God’s word (Mark 16:15-16 cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 18:8; Romans 10:17).  (2) Believe the message (John 8:23-24; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 18:8).  (3) Repent of sins (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:36-38; 3:19).  (4) Confess belief in Jesus (Acts 8:36-38; Romans 10:9-10).  (5) Be baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38 cf. 3:19; 22:16).  (6) Live faithfully (Romans 8:5-6; Galatians 6:7-9; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 1:7-9; Revelation 2:10).  This is what I believe that the New Testament teaches.  It is either propositionally true or false.  The New Testament either teaches these points or it does not.  There is no middle ground.  “To hold that the Bible is ‘propositional’ is to say that the explicit statements of the Bible affirm that something either is or is not the case.  The reality of this contention is self-evident.  One need only open the Bible and point to any statement to see that this is the case.  If the Bible does not consist of propositional truth, then it says nothing to anyone at all” (Dave Miller, Piloting the Strait, p. 131).

No Firm Stand

Some among us seem to have an aversion to taking a firm stand on these issues.  Here are some possible reasons.  (1) Sometimes it may be that they want to be “politically correct” and not offend (John 12:42-43 cf. Galatians 4:16; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).  One might say, “This is what I believe for my life.  You follow what you think is best for your life.  Who can be sure?”  This mindset thwarts evangelism.

(2) Sometimes it may be that they feel inadequate to defend their position.  One might reason, “If I take a firm stand, then I may be called on to defend my position.  Therefore, I will openly take no firm stand.”  Few people want controversy.  However, in matters of salvation, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29).  One needs to prepare himself to defend the truth (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 9:16; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  If one does not know how to defend the truth, then one should recruit another to help him.  The body of Christ should work together (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:14-30; 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Exodus 17:8-13).

(3) Sometimes it may be that they feel intimidated by scholarship and important men.  One might reason, “Man A teaches X.  Man B teaches not X.  Man A and Man B are both intelligent, well studied men.  Therefore, how can I decide?”  Our salvation deserves greater mental effort than this.  The Bible instructs, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Thomas Warren commented on this verse saying, “This means in regard to religious doctrine which one encounters, one is under the solemn obligation to put the doctrine to the appropriate test.  The appropriate test for religious doctrine is to determine whether it is taught by the Bible” (Warren, Logic and the Bible, p. 87).  “One must study the Bible for himself (Acts 17:11).  One must correctly handle the evidence which he gathers by drawing only such conclusions as are logically warranted by the evidence which is relevant to the matter” (Warren, p. 126).

(4) Sometimes it may be that they do not believe that enough information has been given to draw a conclusion.  This may be true for somethings [e.g. Did Lot journey to Egypt at the same time as Abram? (Genesis 12:4-5, 10; 13:1).  Likely, he did; but such cannot be known with certainty from the text.  Did Joseph, husband of Mary, die before Jesus’ ministry began?  He is not seen in scripture after Jesus was a youth (Luke 2:42-52).  Moreover, Jesus, on the cross, seems to entrust the care of his mother to John (John 19:26-27).  However, we do not know from scripture exactly when Joseph died].  However, salvation issues are another matter (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-4; Acts 20:32).  Do you think God left us without sufficient information to know what to do to be saved?

(5) Sometimes it may be that they do not want to believe that so many of their neighbors, coworkers, colleagues, friends and family are lost.  But, wishful thinking does not change things.  The Bible warns that few will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24 cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).  Moreover, there is a law in logic known as The Law of Excluded Middle.  It states, “Every precisely stated proposition is either true or false” (Warren, p. 44).  The Bible either teaches that the six earlier mentioned points are necessary for salvation or it does not.  There is no middle ground.  Instead of refusing to believe what the Bible teaches, let us busy ourselves in an effort to save souls (Acts 8:4; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:9).

(6) Sometimes it may be that they misunderstand God’s relationship to His word.  Some have offered hope to family members, upon the death of one outside of Christ.  They might say, “I know what the Bible says, but who knows if God might extend clemency in the end” (See Mac Deaver, Faith and Knowledge, p. 21).  This implies that one cannot fully trust what the word of God says.  Mac Deaver has written, “God is above law in the sense that (1) he can change the law or cancel law when the doing of such does not causes God to in any way incriminate himself (he took the law of Moses out of the way, Colossians 2:14), but God is not above his own law in the sense that (2) he can fail to uphold the integrity of that law (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2 cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).  If God’s law says that a certain group of people will be lost, nothing can prevent that from occurring… I do not claim to know how much this notion of special clemency has affected the church over the years, but the sad fact is that it has been taught for quite some time and no doubt has contributed to a weakened position on the part of some regarding their attitude toward those who die in sin” (Deaver, p. 22).

Arrogant?

Is it arrogant to claim that this is God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible?  Absolutely not.  First, one cannot obey this plan of salvation without acknowledging that he is in sin and lost.  It requires humility.  Second, anyone can obey this plan of salvation (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).  All men stand on level ground at the foot of the cross.  There is no place for arrogance (Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16).

 

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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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