What Are You Learning?

November 8, 2007

If I were to ask you, “What have you been reading lately that you learned from?” what would be your answer?

Note, the question is NOT: “What have you been reading lately that was edifying?” BUT RATHER: “What has challenged you and taught you?”

Leave your answer in the comments.

(Thanks to Tyler Cowan for the idea)


Rich Televangelists To Be Investigated By Rich Senators

November 6, 2007

The news today reports that 6 prominent televangelists are being investigated by the Senate Finance Committee. Paula White, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, and Eddie Long are all being investigated for potential financial misconduct. They have until Dec. 6, 2007 to turn over their ministry financial statements to the US Senate.

Why are they being investigated? The Senate wants to know if they are using their tax-exempt status as churches as cover for financing their lavish lifestyles. Jets, Bentleys, multiple million-dollar homes, six-figure incomes, extravagant hotel and travel expenses, all add up to the appearance of financial impropriety.

The question is: Are they breaking US tax law? A lot of us have been wondering that for awhile now, so I guess we’re about to find out.

We do know that they are making merchandise of men’s souls, taking advantage of poor people, proclaiming heresy, promoting themselves, and living luxurious lives off of the backs of their gullible donors. We do know that all of that dishonors Christ and His Gospel, and we do know that they will give fearful account for themselves before God on the final day.

I think it is really unfortunate that these “preachers” have never been able to be brought into the accountability of the wider church, despite the efforts of organizations like Ministry Watch and Trinity Foundation, and despite the near-constant decrying of them as false prophets by evangelical pastors and scholars for decades – not to mention the multiple exposé’s done by 20/20, etc. Despite all of those efforts, few of these misleading lovers-of-money have ever fully been brought to task.

I think it is really sad that they are so self-willed and above correction from the wider church that a worldly court is having to exercise its authority over these abusers of people, to investigate them to see if they are abusers of the law.

They have brought this upon themselves. They have been very conspicuous in their use abuse of money. They have raised eyebrows among believers and unbelievers alike, and they have done it without shame, apology, or pang of conscience. They have dishonored Christ, they have embarrassed Christians, and they have caused unbelievers to scorn the Gospel and the church. Now even the secular authorities have serious questions about the legality of what they are doing.

Yes, I find it quite ironic that politicians, of all people, are investigating preachers for misusing donations, abusing the public trust, living lavishly off other people’s money, and even breaking the law. Pot, meet kettle! It’s pretty sad when a group of people widely known for those deeds feel outdone by someone else, and in this case, those who call themselves ministers of Christ.

That’s what makes me wonder if anything productive will come out of this investigation. Politicians investigating other people for corruption isn’t a scenario that offers much hope. Like Kim Riddlebarger wonders, which is worse here, charlatans or Caesar?

So, the jury is out on whether this will turn out to be a good or bad thing. Who knows what kind of negative ramifications this will have on legitimate law-abiding, Christ-honoring churches. I can only hope that the long arm of the law will bring some needed accountability to these televangelists, especially if they have indeed broken the law. It’s too bad they appear to need that kind of scrutiny.


Are We Jesus’ Only Hope?

November 3, 2007

jesus-hope.png

I saw this ad today and was stunned at first and then I figured it out. But figuring it out didn’t make me any less queasy about the ad.

The little boy’s name is Jesus. I assume he’s from a Hispanic heritage, where Jesus is a common name. The ad is for Children International, a humanitarian organization whose mission is to reduce poverty among children. A worthy cause, no doubt. And a worthy little boy, no doubt.

But, in my opinion, the wording of the ad is bordering on the blasphemous. The not-so-subtle implication is that Jesus Christ needs us, and that without us, He has no hope. That is the initial way I think the ad is supposed to catch the reader. It goes for either the shock value, or for the emotional, sentimental-compassion-for-Jesus appeal, or for the guilt factor.

Either way, the implied message is that since Jesus is in such desperate need, that we need to sponsor Him. We can come to God’s rescue. We can have the satisfaction of knowing that we have rescued God from sure peril. If we don’t come to His rescue, He’ll continue to suffer.

Yet, I suppose we could take this yet another way, namely, that the subtle message here is banking on the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus said “as much as you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me,” and therefore Jesus, in this case, could be taken as being represented in this little boy – one whom we should help because it would be helping Jesus by extension.

But even if we take it that way, it doesn’t remove the implication that Jesus Christ is in dire need of our help, and that we’re therefore His only hope.

I realize that the body of Christ (Christians) are one of the key MEANS through which Christ accomplishes His sovereign work on the earth, including through our obedient love, charitable giving, and justice-seeking, but to imply that we are Jesus’ only hope is to WAY underestimate Jesus Christ and to WAY overestimate us, including our resources and abilities – and that’s putting it lightly.

Everything we are and everything we have come from Him to begin with. God does not NEED us in the slightest. We need Him more than we can comprehend.

Paul says in Acts 17:24-25:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

God says in Isaiah 46:3-4:

Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

I don’t want to make more of this little ad than is warranted, because without a doubt, I think little children like the boy in the ad surely deserve our help. Yet I didn’t want to fail to pass along my impressions of what I think was clearly meant to be implied in the ad (even if the implications were only meant to be the initial hook, and then to be quickly bypassed for the correct meaning of “Jesus.” In other words, I think we are meant to initially think the ad refers to Jesus Christ, and then afterward to figure out that it refers to a little boy – otherwise they would have used another child’s name altogether. But they didn’t, and that’s the point.).

The reason I take issue with this approach is because I think that this is exactly how too many people do, in fact, perceive God. That’s why the ad works. We think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of God. We make God out to be like ourselves – we humanize Him. And we make ourselves out to be like little gods – we deify ourselves.

We commit the colossal error God pinpoints in Psalm 50:21:

“You thought that I was altogether like you.”


Should Husbands Beat Their Wives?

November 2, 2007

According to Saudi author and cleric Muhammad Al-‘Arifi, the answer is: Yes, as long as the beating is light and not on the face. Here’s the transcript of the translation of the remarks he made on Saudi TV.

“Admonish them – once, twice, three times, four times, ten times,” he advised. “If this doesn’t help, refuse to share their beds.”

And if that doesn’t work?

“Beat them,” one of his three young advisees responded.

“That’s right,” Al-‘Arifi said.

Although he went on to explain that they shouldn’t beat them on the face:

“Beating in the face is forbidden, even when it comes to animals,” he explained. “Even if you want your camel or donkey to start walking, you are not allowed to beat it in the face. If this is true for animals, it is all the more true when it comes to humans. So beatings should be light and not in the face.”

“He must beat her where it will not leave marks. He should not beat her on the hand… He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage. He should not beat her like he would beat an animal or a child — slapping them right and left.”

Watch him for yourself at MEMRITV. News story here.

Surprising?

Well, wouldn’t the teachings of Islam justify his remarks?

Muhammad was asked about this subject: “What rights does the woman have with the man?” He replied, “He should feed her if he eats, clothe her when he dresses, avoid disfiguring her or beating her excessively or abandoning her except at home.” (hadith 7.62.77)

So, it appears to me that Al-‘Arifi has a basis in Islamic teaching that justify his counsel to Muslim married men.

This approach to animals and women also seems consistent with references like these that speak of the inferiority of women:

“Muhammad asked some women, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?’ The woman said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is because of the deficiency of the woman’s mind.’” (hadith 3.826)

Speaking to a group of women, Muhammad said, “I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you.” (hadith 2.541)

I’m curious to know what Muslims make of this, especially Muslim women.

In Christianity, men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5). That’s sacrificial, unconditional love, not angry, violent, manipulative attempts to control. Physical violence is prohibited (1 Tim. 3). Withholding sex (as the cleric also suggests is an appropriate tool against one’s wife) is considered defrauding one’s spouse, since each spouse’s body belongs to the other (1 Cor. 7).

Marriage in Christianity is a picture of the covenant love Christ has for His people (Eph. 5). We are to treat each other with the same grace He’s treated us in saving us from the just punishment of our own sins. If we loved like that, we wouldn’t even think about resorting to physical violence.

In fact, all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins are all equal in God’s sight – male, female, rich, poor, etc.. There is no superiority or inferiority according to gender, race, class, etc., since all who are born from above are equally God’s sons and daughters by faith.

Gal. 3:26-29 – “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

That’s the difference that the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes in a marriage.

NOTE: If you want to comment, please observe the following rules, or risk having your comments deleted:

  1. Please make comments which make it obvious that you actually read this entire post,
  2. AND which make it clear that you understand that while Christians aren’t without their faults (Christians disobey Scripture – even by mistreating women), the clear teachings of Christianity in the Bible do not in any way condone the oppression or mistreatment of women in any way, but in fact, categorize it as sin.

Prince Caspian trailer

November 1, 2007

180px-princecaspianposter.jpg

For you C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia fans, check out the link to the trailer for the next Narnia film, Prince Caspian. It won’t be released until May 16, 2008 in the US, but at least this might whet your appetite.

*UPDATED LINKS*:
View trailer at Ben Barnes’ blog at the Narniaweb site
OR at slighly lower quality at YouTube

Get the Apple Countdown Widget

Also, the third film in the series will be Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and is set to be released May 7, 2010. More info at Narniaweb and at the official Disney Narnia site.

(HT: Tony Reinke)