Tag Archives: Protestant

THE ECLIPSE OF THE CHURCH

I lost a good friend this week.

We worked together a long time ago.   For many years we’ve been hundreds of miles apart, but we were always able to see each other, with our wives, at our annual church conference.

That is, until the latest split took place.   He and his wife went one way and we went the other.   So, for the last few years of his life, we did not get together.

Church splits can be devastating on relationships.   Even marriages have fallen apart when partners don’t see eye to eye on church affiliation.   More than one church I know of teaches that its followers should have nothing to do with people in other church organizations, even when they are family.

It’s ironic when you consider that Jesus Christ said:  “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35).

Unfortunately, churches are not immune from selfish ambition, differences over administration or doctrinal disagreement, three of the primary causes of splits.

True Christians will always strive to fulfill the words of Jesus Christ; even as others in their midst will deliberately cause division, believing that God is on their side.

One of the root causes of division is that people have a tendency to follow men.   The Apostle Paul wrote about this in I Corinthians where some were following Apollos, some Peter and some Paul.   As Paul said elsewhere, we should only follow one man and that man is Jesus Christ.   That means we should all live in accordance with His words.   What a novel idea!!!

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ECLIPSE OF THE CHURCH

Church splits are one reason why churches are in decline.   This is true of all churches, including mainstream Catholic and Protestant churches.   The vacuum is often filled by other religions. Note the following headline from the Gatestone Institute:

Londonistan:   423 New Mosques; 500 Closed Churches          by Giulio Meotti  •  April 2, 2017

Londonistan is a term often used to describe contemporary London, Britain’s capital.   It is, like many cities in the UK, becoming increasingly Islamic.   But that’s not the only problem churches face, on both sides of the Atlantic.

“For most of the country’s history, white Christian America —the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national conversations and shaped American ideals.   But today, many white Christian Americans feel profoundly anxious as their numbers and influence are waning.    The two primary branches of their family tree, white mainline and white evangelical Protestants, offer competing narratives about their decline.   White mainline Protestants blame evangelical Protestants for turning off the younger generation with their anti-gay rhetoric and tendency to conflate Christianity with conservative, nationalist politics.   White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, blame mainline Protestants for undermining Christianity because of their willingness to sell out traditional beliefs to accommodate contemporary culture.”   (“The Eclipse of White Christian America,” Robert P. Jones, The Atlantic)

Many people still believe in God – they just don’t want to join a church.   Consequently, churches are becoming irrelevant, arguably the worst thing that can happen to a church.

One reason for irrelevancy is that churches have failed to understand the dramatic changes that have taken place in the western world in the last few decades.

The writer and former atheist Peter Hitchens, now a deeply religious man, wrote an interesting book in the late 1990’s, showing how much Britain had changed in one generation.   The book “The Abolition of Britain” compared the United Kingdom at the time of Churchill’s funeral (in 1965) with the country at the time of Princess Diana’s funeral, in 1997.

Whereas the people who witnessed Churchill’s funeral were little changed from those who stood in the crowds at Victoria’s funeral in 1901, by the time of Diana’s funeral the mourners were a nation of emotional basket-cases, rather like Diana herself.   In the interim, churches had been replaced by psychiatrists, prescription drugs, mental health workers, television, movies and celebrities.

At the same time, we have witnessed the collapse of the traditional family.   Many people today don’t even know what a family is – they call friends family and won’t even speak to people to whom they are related.

All of this shows a crying need for churches, for the restoration of basic Christianity and biblical teachings on marriage and the family.   (Forget the doctrinal differences that separate Christians from one another.)   Yet churches are not comfortable with the “un-churched.” That was not a problem with Jesus Christ.   Note the following from Matthew 9:10-13:

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.   And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

This passage of scripture could be speaking to us today.   Many of Christ’s followers were appalled that He was mixing with “publicans and sinners.”   But those publicans and sinners needed Christ and His healing.

Just like people today.   Only today, the problems are different.   It’s unlikely that anybody joining a church today will not have an addiction, whether it be an eating or mental disorder, a sexual or drinking problem.   Each of these requires professional help from outside of the church; but there’s also a need for spiritual healing, to remove the cause of the problem.   This can only come from the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.

The need for Christ has never been greater.   It’s churches that are at fault – many Christians will judge and condemn, when what’s needed most is love and compassion, two qualities sadly lacking today.

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CHURCH AND STATE

It’s not just churches that are divided.

Our countries are also seriously divided, perhaps more so than ever before.   This is especially true of the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British historian Paul Johnson, now 88, observed in his 1972 book, “The Offshore Islanders,” that “disunity has always been fatal for the island nation.”

The book was about Britain’s relationship with the European continent – ironically, that’s the issue dividing the country today.   Although the majority of voters want to leave the EU, there’s a solid hardcore that will stop at nothing to remain in the organization.

A different division exists in America.   There are those who are very loyal to Donald Trump, but others who will seemingly stop at nothing to get him removed from office.

The “antis” on both sides of the Atlantic do not care how much damage they cause – their hatred and anger knows no bounds.   Our countries are in danger of falling apart.   Once again, selfish ambition and greed are at the core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GRANDCHILDREN, THE DEBATE AND THE CANADIAN CROWN

Evan very upset he couldn't have that "juice."
Evan very upset he couldn’t have that juice.

We’re visiting our daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their family in Indianapolis.   Seven of our grandchildren are with us in the house. Our son’s two girls had to stay behind for basketball try-outs on Sunday.

The 5-hour drive south was stressful, to put it mildly.   Not only did we have to contend with road construction that seriously impacted our speed but we had three young children in the van, one of whom hates traveling and kept asking to go home.   Even after we arrived, he still wanted to go home, asking Grandpa if we could leave late at night just to get away from it all. He must have sensed my stress!

It’s now Friday lunchtime.   Just as I sat down to write, Evan, one of Alix’s twins, rode in a laundry basket down the steep stairs and crashed into the front door.   He’s ok – I’m not sure about the door and the laundry basket has definitely seen better days!  (Not to mention Alix’s heart failure!)

A few moments earlier, our autistic grandson who has a tendency to run away and get lost, knocked on the front door.   We’ve no idea how he got out but at least he came back.   He’s 4.   He’s a late developer – I ran away when I was 3.

Evan is clearly a troublemaker.   I have been sipping whisky in an attempt to kill a sore throat, though it doubles as a coping mechanism with all the activity around me.   I just looked up to find Evan took my whisky bottle over to his mom and asked her to pour him some “juice.”

In spite of the occasional stress of sheer numbers, I still think that the opportunity to have time with grandchildren is a tremendous blessing and we truly enjoy every minute of it.

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We are, of course, in Mike Pence territory. He’s been Governor of Indiana for four years and is highly spoken of by, seemingly, everybody.   He’s done a good job governing the state, which has a financial surplus.

I thought he was treated badly on Monday by his opponent Tim Kaine in the Vice Presidential debate.   Mr. Kaine kept on interrupting Mr. Pence so that he could not get his points across.   Kaine was rude while Pence responded like a gentleman.

Another difference between them was over the issue of abortion. Kaine squirmed and waffled while trying to explain how he supports abortion when his own church, the Church of Rome, is against it.   He said he felt it would be wrong of him to force his own view on women who want abortions.   Mr. Pence, a Protestant and regular church-goer, reaffirmed his total opposition to abortion and said that, as Governor of Indiana, he has been promoting adoption as a means of encouraging women to give birth, rather than have their unborn child murdered.   He reminded viewers that Mrs. Clinton supports partial-birth abortions, allowing women to abort babies when they are close to delivery.   He even quoted Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Mrs. Clinton supposedly takes her Christianity seriously – she’s a Methodist, a church now opposed to abortion.

Kaine and Clinton can only be described as hypocrites, supporting the murder of innocent children, while claiming to both be people of faith.

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This year’s US presidential election cannot be encouraging any country to adopt the American system of government.   Comments heard overseas are along the lines of:   “Out of 330 million people, this is the best you can come up with?”

The ignorance of the rest of the world shown by Gary (“What’s Aleppo?”) Johnson, who is now claiming that knowledge of world affairs is “over-rated,” must be another influencing factor.

So, it’s not surprising that Canadians welcomed Prince William, his wife and two children, to British Columbia and Yukon.   The future King and Queen of Canada, with their son, Prince George, who will succeed his father on the throne 40 or 50 years from now, ensure that Canada’s current system of government will endure for the rest of this century.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, just like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.   There are also 13 other Commonwealth Realms over which the Queen reigns.   In addition, she is Head of the 53-nation Commonwealth of former British colonies.   The British government has no authority over any of these countries.

Although many people think the 90-year-old Queen doesn’t do anything, the left-wing Independent newspaper in Britain wrote the following on her responsibilities:

“Her schedule is incredibly regimented, with multiple formal proceedings, events and processes she has to adhere to every day.

Meetings with ministers and officials take up a large portion of her day and, like most of us, she spends a big chunk of her time at work.

Morning

The Queen’s working day begins at her desk scanning the daily newspapers.   She then proceeds to go through some of the 300 letters she receives from the general public every day.   Some of these letters the Queen reads and replies to herself, while with others she tells members of her staff how she would like them to be answered.

Her Majesty will then see two of her private secretaries with the daily quota of official papers and documents.   She receives a huge number of correspondences from Government ministers and her representatives in the Commonwealth and foreign countries.   All of these have to be read and, where necessary, approved and signed.

A series of official meetings or ‘audiences’ will often follow.   Each meeting usually lasting 10 to 20 minutes.

If there is an Investiture, a ceremony for the presentation of honors and decorations, it begins at 11.00am and lasts just over an hour.

The Queen will then lunch privately although every couple of months, she and The Duke of Edinburgh will invite a dozen guests from a wide variety of backgrounds to an informal lunch.

If Her Majesty is spending the morning on engagements away from her desk and other commitments, she will visit up to three venues before lunch, either alone or jointly with The Duke of Edinburgh.

Afternoon

In the afternoons, the Queen often goes out on public engagements and prepares for each visit by briefing herself on who she will be meeting and what she will be seeing and doing.   Her Majesty carries out around 430 engagements (including audiences) a year and will regularly go out for the whole day to a particular region or city.

The afternoon draws to an end with a meeting of the Privy Council with several government ministers.

Evening

Early evening can involve the weekly meeting with the Prime Minister, which usually takes place on Wednesdays at 6.30pm.” (Independent, 9/9/15)

She is also available to all Commonwealth leaders.

Prince Charles will inherit the same responsibilities, as will Prince William, then George, in turn.

In contrast to the US, where party politics has seriously damaged the unity of the country, the Queen brings people together in a non-political way.

Western democracies, in the main, have one of three distinctly different forms of democracy.

The US presidential system is one.

The “Westminster” (British system) is another.   This is just as democratic.   People elect their representatives to parliament.   The dominant party’s leader becomes the prime minister.   The Queen remains outside of politics, but contributes greatly to political stability and national unity.

The third option is a mix of the two, with a parliamentary form of government and a prime minister but, instead of a monarch, there is an appointed figurehead president, with similar powers to the British monarch.   The Germans, Italians and Irish have this form of government.   A serious weakness was shown with this system in 1934, when the German president died suddenly and the new Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, simply abolished the office and had himself proclaimed “Fuhrer.”   This could not happen in a constitutional monarchy – when the Queen dies, automatically Charles becomes King.

Although some people in Canada would like to see the tie with the Crown abolished when the Queen dies, Canadian John Fraser summed up their arguments this way:   “Queen Elizabeth has done a great job for Canada; therefore let’s make sure there is no monarchy when she dies.”  (“The Secret of the Crown,” John Fraser, 2012)   The reasoning really doesn’t make sense.

Fraser points out that Canada is one of the most successful countries in the world, thanks partly to its political system, which includes a major role for the Crown.   The country’s birth owes its origin to the Crown and the people’s allegiance to it. Even the current Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is committed to maintaining the tie with the Crown – indeed, he invited William and Kate to Canada, along with their two children.   Next year, Prince Charles and his wife will be in Canada to join in celebrations for the 150th anniversary of confederation.

 

THE POPE AND THE PRESIDENT

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama's first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama’s first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.

The Founding Fathers of the United States could not have imagined such a scene ever taking place in this country.

The scene was played out this morning on the White House lawn. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, together with a US president of African heritage with a Muslim father and other definite Muslim connections.

Whereas the US was 98% Protestant at its founding, today there are arguably only two faiths that matter – Catholicism and Islam.

Certainly, these are the only two that dominate news headlines.

Just a few days ago, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked a question by a man who believed that President Obama is a Muslim.   Because he did not correct the man, it is assumed he believes the same way and he has been greatly criticized for it.   Of course, if there’s nothing wrong with Islam, why should anybody get upset if described as being Muslim!

A day or two later, Ben Carson, another Republican candidate, a quiet, reserved and respectful man who is a double minority, both black and a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, was asked what he thought of having a Muslim president.   He was not in favor of it and has since been accused of racism!

Fifty years ago, when Senator Edward Kennedy sponsored the bill, which became the new immigration law, he said Americans would not see any noticeable change in the fabric of the country.   Here we are five decades later in a very different religious landscape thanks to that immigration act.

It doesn’t take a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson for Islam to make the news every day.   Migrants moving into Europe from the Middle East and Africa underline the dysfunctionality of Islamic countries, racked with ethnic, ideological and religious strife.   Under international law, when people flee one country they should register for refugee status in the first country they come to; but international laws are being broken every day as people push their way through borders and barriers toward their number one goal, Germany or Sweden.   None seems to want to go to any oil rich Arab country, which speaks the same language.   One migrant made it clear when he said: “Europeans have more compassion!”

That compassion stems from Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant.   For centuries, monks and nuns provided the only hospital care available for travelers and locals alike.   They also provided food and drink to the poor.

Yes, Christianity and Islam are very different.   Only the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, seems to be pointing that out, saying his country does not want the migrants.   Hungary suffered for almost two centuries under Islamic rule, so it’s not surprising that they don’t want Muslims back.  Mr. Orban has said that the massive movement of migrants into the country threatens the nation’s Christian heritage.   For this realistic comment, he is being condemned by the emotional majority more influenced by television images of people pushing further into Europe.

It is doubtful the enthusiasm for Muslim immigrants will last long. Then what?

Catholicism and Islam have clashed repeatedly throughout history – and could do so again.   People in the West have largely forgotten this past history or don’t care.   But that’s not the case in the Islamic world where the term “crusaders” is often used to describe westerners, a reference to the Crusades between Catholic Europe and the forces of Islam that began in 1095 and lasted for two centuries.

There were other less famous clashes between the two.   In the eighth century Muslims invaded Spain and France, until they were defeated in 732 by Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne was still fighting the North African invaders decades later.   After the Crusades ended, there were other clashes as the Ottoman Turks advanced westward, conquering islands in the Mediterranean and moving fairly rapidly into the heart of Europe.

The historic rivalry between Rome and the Islamic world will likely be a part of the prophesied clash between the King of the North and King of the South in the last verses of the Book of Daniel, chapter 11.   Earlier this year the leaders of ISIS threatened to invade Rome and kill the pope.

Islam has certainly succeeded in dividing the West in the early years of this century, as both Americans and Europeans hold different opinions on how best to deal with the migrant crisis.   Some are fearful about security while others just want to help, not realizing there are a number of rich Arab countries, which could take the Syrians in.   Not all the migrants are Syrians – a British newspaper revealed last Saturday that only 1 in 5 migrants is a Syrian refugee.   The others are economic migrants and could be sent home under international law.

Is this the end of western civilization, as Mr. Orban fears?   That’s not likely.   What is more likely is that westerners will change their thinking when they experience the reality of greater numbers of Muslims.   Anti-immigrant parties are likely to come to power, promising to do something to restore their countries to what they were.

Islam means “submission,”   In spite of denials by national news presenters, this makes the religion incompatible with the US Constitution, which is based on freedom.   And just as Islam is incompatible with freedom, so is Roman Catholicism, a religion that dominated Western Europe for over a thousand years, until the Protestant Reformation introduced an element of religious freedom.   It was English Protestants who founded James Town and Protestants of mostly British descent who founded the United States.   Today’s Protestants seem to have very little influence in the country, a fact that increasingly threatens religious freedom.

What we saw today on the White House lawn was, in a sense, a profile of three religions – Catholicism, represented by the Pope; Islam, represented by the American son of a Muslim Kenyan father; and Protestantism, represented by the White House itself, the US Constitution, and the soldiers in early American uniforms.

The first two are on the rise – the Church of Rome and Islam!

TEN YEARS AFTER 7/7

7:7 remembrance service

A Service of Remembrance was held in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral today, to commemorate 7/7, England’s 9/11.   It came just eleven days after another terrorist attack in Tunisia claimed the lives of thirty British tourists.

Ten years ago exactly, 52 people were killed when four home grown Islamic terrorists blew up three subway trains and one bus.   Dozens more suffered life-changing injuries.

At times, the service was deeply moving.   In attendance were Prince Andrew, the Prime Minister David Cameron and his predecessor, Tony Blair, who was prime minister when the attacks took place, together with his wife, Cherie.   Family members of the deceased filled the great church, built in the late seventeenth century following the Great Fire of London.

London is, arguably, the most multicultural city in the world.   The deceased were drawn from different cultures and different religions.   The perpetrators of the atrocities were all Muslims, born in England, and all from fairly affluent backgrounds.   Their actions were not motivated by poverty or lack of opportunity.

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, pointed out, that:  “the majority of the victims were young, they came from all over the UK and all over the world. There were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Humanists . . . London is an astonishing world in a city, but beyond the diversity… this was a terrible crime that robbed us of family and friends.”

He continued:  “Our London is a laboratory for testing whether it will be possible for the cosmopolitan civilization, which is becoming a global reality, to hold together.”

“We are in the midst of a debate about identity, including what it means to be British.   Some in the world are reacting to change by retreating into ever narrower definitions of their identity.   At the same time, merely invoking the universal concepts of tolerance and respect, with which we probably all agree, does not generate one iota of the energy required to transform lives and to build a community.   We cannot exorcise the Satanic by creating a spiritual vacuum.”

The Bishop’s comments were thought-provoking.   Some might disagree with some of what he said.

He talked of our “cosmopolitan civilization, which is becoming a global reality,” when, in truth, it really isn’t.   The suicide bombings that were being commemorated were the acts of second generation Muslims.  The countries their families came from are not cosmopolitan.   They do not allow westerners into their countries except on short-term contracts – they certainly cannot settle and become citizens no matter how long they stay.   Britain and other western nations allow immigration from the Middle East and grant citizenship, thereby encouraging a cosmopolitan society, which clearly has its challenges, when young citizens, far from appreciating the country their parents moved to, instead try to kill as many of their fellow citizens as possible.

He also talked of the “universal concepts of tolerance and respect.”   Sadly, these are not universal concepts.  They are concepts that developed over time in Protestant countries, when the proliferation of different sects necessitated learning to live peaceably alongside each other.   They are western concepts.   They do not even extend to Eastern Europe, let alone to China, Russia or even Japan.

The bishop’s remarks highlight the great gulf that exists between the West and the Rest.   Multiculturalism is largely one-sided, with people in the West having to bend over backwards to accommodate other cultures that have moved into their territory and are now demanding they get their own way.   And, when they don’t, they will blow other people up to make a point.

It’s not surprising that a BBC straw poll taken on Saturday, found that 95% of British people say that multiculturalism is not working.

Further, today’s British papers quote the ex-head of British Counter-terror as suggesting that it’s time for the British government to provide charter flights to Syria, encouraging homegrown jihadists to fly out and join ISIS, after surrendering their passports.   This is, finally, recognition that many Muslims in their midst will never show the tolerance and respect that living in Britain requires.