Jun 262015
 

PostmodernismThere’s just one more subject I want to cover in this series on Apologetics before I wrap it all up next week.

This week I want to look at the whole subject of postmodernism.

Don’t be put off by the title as I will try as best as I can to explain it simply.

Post modernism is quite difficult to explain in detail but the basic concepts can be understood because they are such a part of our everyday culture. Put simply, postmodernism is a philosophy that affirms no objective or absolute truth. This viewpoint immediately puts it in opposition to Christianity, because we believe, with certainty the truths of the bible and what God says is the absolute truth.

Some Christians have attempted to combine post modernism with Christianity, but I’m afraid the results are so watered down that you can’t really tie anything down beyond ‘Jesus was a really nice guy and he just accepts everybody, no matter what they believe’ which is totally insipid!

The danger of post modernism is that everybody can believe what they want as long as it is true for them. That is why there is a picture of pick and mix at the top of this blog, because that is just what it is like. It is possible to choose beliefs that are mutually incompatible, however no-one can tell the chooser how preposterous that is, because their view is just as valid as anyone else.

All beliefs are given equal weight and are considered equally valid. This is called relativism. That is why people can state that ‘all paths lead to God’ (which is what I argued against a few weeks ago). It is plain to see how dangerous this thinking is when you consider the truth claims of Jesus, when He said things like “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6) and many other definitive statements.

One comment you will encounter regularly is the comeback “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me’ There are also other similar comments you will hear such as “You can’t know anything for sure” and “You shouldn’t judge”

So how do we answer that sort of comment?

Firstly, we have to step very carefully as we don’t want to appear intolerant. That is the biggest sin in many people’s eyes and I’m afraid that sort of statement made in an arrogant way can be totally off-putting to many people. Jesus was very direct, but dealt with people in just the right way. Most people haven’t got a problem with Jesus, so it is good to talk about Him as soon as you can. Jesus would look for some common ground, something that the person would agree with. That is a good place to start.

We need to show people that these kinds of statements are logically inconsistent (we dealt with logic right at the beginning of this series). People who say ”That’s true for you, but not for me” are referring to subjective truth, which is like favouring one chocolate bar over another. The truth claims of God cannot all be true, as different religions hold contradictory truths. When it comes to God there must be absolute truth.

Going back to the people who make these statements, you can carefully show them their own intolerance by turning their statements back to them. The conversations could go something like this;

Other person: “You can’t say that, you cannot know anything for sure”

You: “Really? Are you sure about that, are you sure you can’t know anything for sure?

Other person: “You shouldn’t judge”

You: “Is that your judgement? It sounds like you are judging my choice to judge!”

Other person: “What is true for you is not true for me.”

You: “That’s true and what is true for me is that you are wrong, so who is right?”

These examples show how illogical relativism is. What if I was to say that 2+2 = 5, does that make it right, because I sincerely believe it? Of course not. The answer is 4 whatever I feel, think or believe. This is what we need to get over and I must admit it is very difficult. It’s just as well it’s not just up to us or no-one would believe. We need the Holy Spirit to help us and He most certainly will, if you ask him.

Next week I am going to finish off this series by including lots of links to where you can find all sorts of materials about apologetics and talk about some of my favourite apologists. Until then, have a great week.

 June 26, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Jun 192015
 

Cults part 2Last week we looked at the definition of a cult and explored what a few of the more popular ones believed. This week we are going to look at two of the most popular cults in the world and certainly ones that are very active in my town and many other areas around the world.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

The JW’s were founded in the USA towards the end of the 19th century by Charles Taze Russell. The headquarters of the movement is in New York.There are about 6.9 million active Witnesses in 235 countries in the world, including 1 million in the USA and 130,000 in the UK. They are probably best known for their door to door evangelism, knocking on people’s doors and offering their literature such as the watchtower. They are also known for the fact that they don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter because they believe that these festivals are based on (or massively contaminated by) pagan customs and religions. They point out that Jesus did not ask his followers to mark his birthday and they don’t celebrate each other’s birthdays, presumably for the same reason. They refuse to vote and also refuse military service and any form of blood transfusions.

JW’s commonly refer to their beliefs as “the truth” and consider themselves to be “in the truth”. They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and so will limit their contact and social interaction with non-witnesses unless they are doing evangelism.

According to Jehovah’s Witness’ theology, God is a single person, not a Trinity, who does not know all things and is not everywhere.  He first created Michael the Archangel through whom He created all “other things,” including the universe, the earth, Adam and Eve, etc.  This creative work took God 42,000 years.  At one point, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society taught that God ruled the universe from somewhere in the Pleiades star system.  They have since modified this to say that the “Pleiades can no longer be considered the centre of the universe and it would be unwise for us to try to fix God’s throne as being at a particular spot in the universe.” Such changes and even contradictions in teaching are frequent in the Watchtower organization; and when a doctrine changes, they tell their followers that the light of truth is getting brighter.

After Adam sinned, the paradise which God had created for them was ruined.  So, God instituted a system of redemption which was revealed in the Bible and would ultimately lead to the crucifixion of Jesus the messiah.  But, in the meantime, God needed to have a visible, theocratic organization on earth to accurately represent Him.  Throughout history, this true organization had a remnant of faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.,); JW’s believe that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the continuation of that tradition and it alone can properly interpret God’s Word since it is the angel directed prophet of God on earth.

When it came time for the saviour to be born, Michael the Archangel became a human in the form of Jesus.  Jesus grew and kept all the laws of God and never sinned.  Finally, when Jesus died, it was not on a cross but on a torture stake where he bore the sins of mankind–but this did not include Adam’s sins.  Jesus rose from the dead as a spirit, not physically (his body was dissolved and taken by God); and during his visitations to people on earth, he manifested a temporary physical body for them to see and touch.

Throughout history there have been faithful Jehovah’s witnesses who have managed to keep The Truth in spite of the “demonic” doctrine of Trinitarianism (the trinity) that has permeated the Christian church.  They believe that Christianity has sold its soul to the devil and now support his earthly governments.  In other words, all of Christianity is false; and only the Jehovah’s Witness “theocratic” organization led by several men in Brooklyn, New York, is true.

Jehovah’s witnesses believe that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914 and is now reigning in heaven.  When Jesus finally returns physically to earth, which will happen at the time of the Battle of Armageddon, He will set up his earthly 1000-year kingdom.

During this 1000-year period, people will be resurrected and have a second chance to receive eternal salvation by following the principles of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.  After the millennium, those who reject God and His organization will be annihilated; that is, they will cease to exist.  The rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who have faithfully followed God’s organization on earth will be saved from eternal annihilation and reside forever on Paradise earth.  Heaven, however, is a place for a special group of 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses–the only ones who are “born again” and who alone are allowed to take communion in their annual communion service.  These are the ones who have “immortal life”;  all other Witnesses have “everlasting life.”  Those with immortal life do not have resurrected bodies.  They have “spirit bodies.”  Those on Paradise Earth have everlasting life which consists of a resurrected body that must be maintained through eating, rest, etc.

In order to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you have to agree to attend five meetings a week where you are taught from Watchtower literature.  You cannot be baptized until you have studied their material for at least six months and have answered numerous questions before a panel of elders.  Men are not supposed to have long hair or wear beards, and women are to dress in modest apparel. A schedule of door-to-door canvassing is required where you distribute the Watchtower literature, acquire donations, and forward all monies to the headquarters. If you ever leave the Jehovah’s Witness organization, you are considered an apostate and are to be shunned.

Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith in 19th century America and was then developed by Brigham Young who migrated with the new Mormons to Salt Lake City in 1847. Mormons believe their church is a restoration of the Church as conceived by Jesus and that the other Christian churches have gone astray. Mormons believe that God has a physical body, is married, and can have children. They also believe that humans can become gods in the afterlife. Mormons are strongly focused on traditional family life and values. They oppose abortion, homosexuality, unmarried sexual acts, pornography, gambling, tobacco, consuming alcohol, tea, coffee, and the use of drugs.

One of the more common misconceptions is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints advocates polygamy. However, this was discontinued over a century ago and the Church excommunicates anyone who practices it. There are roughly 13.5 million members world-wide.

Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man on another world and that he became a god by following the laws and ordinances of his god on his home world.  He brought his wife to this world, a woman he had married on the other world.  She is essentially a goddess.

In his present god-state, he rules our world. Since god and his wife are both exalted persons, they each possess physical bodies.  In their exalted states as deities, they produce spirit children that grow and mature in the spiritual realm.  The first spirit born was Jesus.  Afterwards, Lucifer was born along with the rest of us.  So, Mormonism teaches that we all pre-existed in the spirit realm–having been produced from the union of god and his goddess wife.  Therefore, we all existed in spirit form before coming down and entering the bodies of human babies that are being born on earth.  During this ‘compression’ into the infant state, the memories of our pre-existence is ‘veiled.’

God the father, who is called Elohim, was concerned for the future salvation of the people on earth. In the heavenly realm, the Father had a plan for the salvation of the world.  Jesus endorsed the Father’s plan.  Lucifer did not.  Lucifer became jealous and rebelled.  In his rebellion, he convinced a large portion of the spirits existing in heaven to side with him and oppose god.  God, being more powerful then they, cursed these rebellious spirits to become demons.  They can never be born in human bodies.

The remaining spirits sided with God.  Since they chose the better way, when it comes time for them to live on earth, they have the privilege of being born in races and locations that are relative to their condition and choice made in the spirit realm.

In the Mormon plan of salvation there needed to be a saviour: Jesus.  But Jesus was a spirit in heaven.  For him to be born on earth, Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon church, said that instead of letting any other man do it, God the Father did it with Mary.  He said that the birth of our saviour was as natural as the birth of our parents.  Essentially, what this means is that Brigham Young taught that god the father came down and had relations with Mary, his spirit daughter, to produce the body of Jesus.  Though many Mormons will not entertain such incestuous thoughts about God and Mary, this is what Brigham Young taught; and as far as we know, this has not been denied by the Mormon church.

Nevertheless, Jesus was born, got married, and had children. He died on the cross and paid for sins–but not on the cross only.  According to Mormonism, the atonement of Christ was not only on the cross.  It began in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.

In Mormonism, men and women have the potential of becoming gods.  President Lorenzo Snow said, “As god once was, man is. As God is, man may become.”  In order to reach this exalted state of godhood, a person must first become a good Mormon, pay a full ten percent tithe to the Mormon church, follow various laws and ordinances of the church, and be found worthy.  At this point, they receive a temple recommend, whereupon the Mormon is allowed to enter the sacred temples in order to go through a set of secret rituals: baptism for the dead, celestial marriage, and various oaths of secrecy and commitment.  Additionally, four secret handshakes are taught so the believing Mormon, upon entering the third level of Mormon heaven, can shake hands with god in a certain pattern.  This celestial ritual is for the purpose of permitting entrance into the highest level of heaven.  For those who achieve this highest of heavens, exaltation to godhood awaits them.  Then he or she will be permitted to have his or her own planet and be the god of his own world, and the Mormon system will be expanded to other planets.

As you can see, on the surface, these two dangerous cults can seem very similar to Christianity and for a Christian who is not well versed in the scriptures it would be possible to be drawn away. It is so important we know what the word of God says and get good biblical teaching. The most important thing to do with members of these cults is to show them grace, because their movements have no true grace in them. Mixed with love and acceptance, I believe it is possible to win them over. God’s word is stronger than any heresy and I believe He will win many over to Himself. Let’s continue to pray for that.

 June 19, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »
Jun 122015
 

Cults part 1We are coming to the end of our long running apologetics series, where I have covered all sorts of subjects to help us lead people to Jesus. We have looked at many of the questions that people will ask us as they seek to understand what Christianity is all about.

Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at the major world religions and briefly covered what they are about. It’s important to know where people are coming from. This week and next week we will look at some of the cults that we are perhaps even more likely to encounter, as many of them are very evangelistic.

A lot of them, upon first encounter, will seem very Christian. They use many of the same words as we do, but on further investigation, you realise they are a cult.

‘Cult’ is a very negative term (cults never use it to describe themselves) and so I think it is important to explain what I mean when I use the term.

Generally a cult is a group which is unorthodox, they would be devoted to a new teaching, theology or doctrine and they are usually associated with a very strong leader. They will often challenge the established church, calling them apostate and declaring that they (the cult) alone hold the truth. They also generally look to control their members physically, intellectually, financially and emotionally.They do this through fear, threatening loss of salvation if someone leaves the group or through indoctrination. A lot of their teachings that deviate from traditional Christianity cannot be substantiated, due to them being revealed by some special revelation to just one or a select few. These revelations can be quite outrageous involving; space ships, special glasses or special angelic visitation and weird dreams.

Next week I am going to look at the two which I encounter the most and certainly where I live are more prevalent; Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons, but let’s this week have a brief look at some of the others.

The Unification Church (aka the ‘Moonies’)

The Moonies were founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1954 in Korea. Moon claims that in 1935 Jesus appeared to him on a mountain in Korea and told him to finish the work of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. He believes he has since received many revelations from God. On May 1, 1954, in Seoul, Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. In 1958 he sent missionaries to Japan and in 1959 to America. Moon moved to the United States in 1971.

They are well known for holding mass weddings. In August of 1992 in Seoul Korea, Moon presided over a mass wedding of 3,000 couples.

Moon claims to be the messiah of the Second Coming and his wife is the Holy Spirit. He and his wife, called The True Parents where he is the True Father and his wife the True Mother, are the first couple to be able to bring forth children with no original sin. “The cross is the symbol of the defeat of Christianity.” The Bible is considered scripture along with Moon’s work “Divine Principles.” Sin is genetically based. It is not a moral issue. Adam and Eve fell because of sexual sin. Eve had sexual relations with Satan. Jesus is a ‘true person’ though not God in flesh. The Holy Spirit is ‘the True Mother,’ or ‘the Second Eve.” The church denies the doctrine of the Trinity.

They believe that people determine their own future place in the spirit world after death through what they do here on earth.

Moon has his own worldwide empire of many different businesses and financial institutions to gain support and influence. His 536 page book called Divine principles he considers as inspired and equal to scripture. He has spent time in a US prison for tax evasion. He has been involved in seances and other occult practices like clairvoyance, trances, etc.

There are approximately 3 million Moonies worldwide.

Scientology

Scientology was founded in Los Angeles in the nineteen fifties by a science fiction author, L.Ron Hubbard.

He said human beings contained the souls of Thetans — immortal creatures responsible for making the universe.

However, the world has been invaded by dark forces — the Engrams — and individuals can be cleansed and enlightened only through intense therapy called Dianetics.

It is a costly process and the Scientologists expect their adherents to donate considerable sums.

In the United States, Scientology enjoys the full rights of a recognised religion and has attracted a number of Hollywood celebrities, probably the most famous being Tom Cruise.

In Europe, the business side of Scientology has prompted several governments to deprive it of tax exemptions enjoyed by other churches.

Christadelphianism

Christadelphianism is a relatively new religious system.  It claims, like many other non-Christian cults, to be the authentic Christian Church with authentic Christian doctrines.  However, it denies the Trinity doctrine as well as the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.  In addition, it states that the Devil is not a real person but is, instead, our own natural tendency to sin.  They also says that Jesus was a created being who had a fallen nature who himself needed to be redeemed. There are certain disagreements as to the extent of Jesus fallen nature amongst some of them, but nevertheless, they all deny the deity of Christ and this is enough to put them outside the camp of Christianity.

Christian Science

This cult is a real misnomer; it is neither Christian or scientific. Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices developed in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), who argued in her book Science and Health(1875) that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone.Science and health is meant to be a companion to the bible but many of its teachings are contradictory to the bible. Here are some of its teachings with the science and health references;

  • God is just a Universal Principle, S&H331:18-19.
  • God cannot indwell a person, S&H336:19-20.
  • God is the only intelligence in the universe, including man S&H330:11-12.
  • God is Mind, S&H 330:20-21; 469:13.
  • God is the Father-Mother, S&H l331:30; 332:4.
  • The Trinity is Life, Truth, and Love, S&H331:26.
  • Belief in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity is polytheism, S&H256:9-11.
  • Jesus was not the Christ, S&H333:3-15; 334:3.
  • “Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared . . . ” S&H361:12-13.
  • Jesus did not reflect the fullness of God, S&H336:20-21.
  • Jesus did not die, S&H45:32-46:3.
  • The Holy Spirit is divine science, S&H331:31.
  • There is no devil, S&H469:13-17.
  • There is no sin, S&H447:24.
  • Evil and good are not real, S&H330:25-27; 470:9-14.
  • “Matter, sin, and sickness are not real, but only illusions,”  S&H335:7-15; 447:27-28.”The sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient to cleanse from sin,” S&H25:6.
  • “True healings are the result of true belief,” S&H194:6.

Additionally, Christian Scientists prefer not to use doctors, medicine, or immunizations.  Christian Science Practitioners are used to help people through the false reality of illness.

Proper prayer and training are employed to battle the “non-reality” of illness.

They have no ordinances like the Lord’s Supper or baptism.

In the early 20th century Christian Science became the fastest growing religion in the United States, with nearly 270,000 members there by 1936. This has since declined somewhat.

 June 12, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics 1 Response »
Jun 052015
 

Other religions part 2Last week we started to look at some of the major world religions we may encounter as we talk to people about our own faith. It is important we understand what other people’s beliefs are and where they are coming from. As followers of Jesus we want to replicate his attitude of love and respect towards others.

Last week we looked at; Baha’i, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. This week we will look at 5 more.

JAINISM

Jainism is an ancient religion from India. It is similar in outlook to Hinduism and Buddhism. They believe in Karma and reincarnation but they believe that these things can only be achieved through asceticism and denial. The essence of Janism is a concern for every living thing and so they are strict vegetarians and seek to live in a way that minimises the use of the world’s resources.

The founder of the religion, Vardhamana, attained enlightenment after 13 years of deprivation, eventually fasting to death, in 420 BC

Janism has no god.

The 3 guiding principles (3 jewels) of Jainism are:

  1. right belief
  2. right knowledge
  3. right conduct.

The Jain religion has 5 great vows called mahavratas and these are:

  1. Non Violence
  2. non-attachment to possessions
  3. not lying
  4. not stealing
  5. sexual restraint (with celibacy as the ideal).

I guess if all Jain’s really took their religion seriously it would die out in one generation!

Jainism is divided into two major sects;

the Digambara (sky clad) sect

the Svetambara (white clad) sect.

Jainism has no priests, but the ‘professional’ people are monks and nuns.

JUDAISM

I’m not going to go into this in detail as most of the readers of this blog are familiar with the Old Testament. Judaism focuses on the first five books which they call the ‘Torah’.

The spiritual leaders are called Rabbi’s and the people worship in Synagogues. There are many nominal followers of Judaism who don’t necessarily believe in or observe Jewish law. They identify themselves with the religion simply because they are Jews

SHINTOISM

Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion, which is closely tied to nature (It means ‘way of the spirits’). It is devoted to various nature ‘deities’ called ‘Kami.’ The essence of Shintoism is performing various rituals that enable human beings to communicate with Kami. Kami are not gods but spirits that appreciate human interest and if treated properly will bring; health, wealth and happiness etc. Followers of Shinto desire peace and believe that all human life is sacred.

There are “Four Affirmations” in Shinto:

  1. Tradition and family – families are the main way that traditions are preserved.
  2. Love of nature – nature is sacred and natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits.
  3. Physical cleanliness – bathing, washing of hands and mouth rinsing are performed constantly.
  4. “Matsuri” – is a festival which honours the spirits.

Shinto has no canonical scriptures. It teaches important ethical principles but has no commandments. It has no recognised founder or main god and in fact does not insist on believers following it exclusively as the only way.

SIKHISM

Sikhism was founded in the 15thcentury AD in the Punjab (now mostly Pakistan) by Guru Nanak. It is based on his teachings and the 9 Sikh guru’s who followed after him.

Sikhs believe in a single formless God with many names, who can be known through meditation. Sikhs pray many times each day and are prohibited from worshipping idols or icons. They believe in samsara, karma, and reincarnation as Hindus do but they reject the caste system believing everyone has equal status in the eyes of God.

Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than just observing religious rituals. They believe that the way to lead a good life is to:

  1. keep God in heart and mind at all times
  2. live honestly and work hard
  3. treat everyone equally
  4. be generous to the less fortunate
  5. serve others

Sikh’s worship at a Gurdwara and they consider their scriptures to be a living Guru called ‘the Guru Granth Sahib’

The men wear distinctive turbans.

There are believed to be about 20 million Sikhs in the world, most of whom live in the Punjab province of India.

TAOISM

Taoism originated in China 2000 years ago and was founded by Lao-Tse, a contemporary of Confucius in China. His writings the Lao-te-ching are a combination of psychology and philosophy and were written in an attempt to help end the endless and bloody feudal system in China. They describe the nature of life, the way to peace and how a ruler should lead his life. ‘Tao’ is translated as ‘way’ or ‘path’ and they believe it is the ultimate creative principle of the universe, unifying and connecting all things.

Becoming one with the Tao involves ‘Tai-Chi’ which is that slow martial art type practice which you may have seen people performing in local parks etc.

Another concept is yin and yang which symbolise the balance of the dark side and light side. It is a balance of opposites; good and evil, male and female etc

Taoism includes many deities which are worshipped in Taoist temples.

Taoism promotes:

  • achieving harmony or union with nature
  • the pursuit of spiritual immortality
  • being ‘virtuous’ (but not ostentatiously so)
  • self-development

Taoist practices include:

  • meditation
  • feng shui
  • fortune telling (tea leaves etc)
  • reading and chanting of scriptures

It is difficult to tell how many followers of Taosim there are today as it was largely obliterated by the Communist revolution fifty years ago, although the practices above are still popular today.

Next week we will start to look at a few popular cults which you may encounter.

 June 5, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics No Responses »