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-LDS Church (Mormon) Response to Supreme Court Marriage Decision

by Dr. D ~ July 1st, 2015

220px-Salt_Lake_Temple,_Utah_-_Sept_2004-2

          (LDS Temple -Salt Lake: Wikipedia)

The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) has issued an official response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. A letter supporting traditional marriage and prohibiting same-sex marriages and celebrations in their churches and on their properties has been sent out to be read on July 5 in all of their churches in the USA and Canada. From the document:

…Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well?being of society. … Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and vital to eternal salvation.

A family built on marriage of a man and a woman is the best setting for God’s plan of happiness to thrive. …

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. …

Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same?sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there. …

<Read the whole Document>

Response: Every religion, denomination, church and Christian organization in America will now have to clearly declare where they stand one way or another on same-sex marriage.  No exceptions. Well, maybe the Muslims will get a free pass.

Look for the liberal mainstream churches to come out eventually for it and the Catholic and Orthodox and most Evangelical churches and denominations against. Actually the current language being used by the main stream media is not really correct or fair since most of us who support marriage between one man and one woman do not agree with any redefinition that includes same-sex unions. We believe that marriage was defined and ordained by God at the beginning of creation and no government agency including SCOTUS has the right to change it.

The Mormon Church is among the first to commit. Those of us who support Biblical teaching and theology can do nothing but compliment their stand in this case and their timing.

The letter is a clear and unambiguous stand by the Mormons for traditional marriage by God. It also clearly states that no one in their denomination has authority to perform same-sex marriages and unequivocally declares that none of their churches or properties may be used for that purpose or even for receptions or activities associated with it. A model that other churches might want to consult in writing their own declaration.

In the meantime, Christian legal organizations are suggesting that churches and Christian organizations need to clearly define their stands on same-sex marriage and homosexuality in their organizational papers. Several legal groups have offered help in this process. Here’s a link to some guidelines from Pacific Justice Institute.                *Top

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-Does God Have a Gender?

by Dr. D ~ June 8th, 2015

50px-Mars_symbol.svg50px-Venus_symbol.svg

Recently a number of priests in the Church of England publically called for changes in the church’s liturgies to include references to God as a female and mother alongside the traditional male designations. From Christian Today:

Proclaiming "Jesa Christa, crucified" is among the liturgical changes that could help lessen abuse of power in the Church, according to a leading woman priest.

While there is support at the highest levels for the liturgies to be rewritten to represent the female as well as the male side of God, any change would need to go through the General Synod of the Church of England.

Many priests and bishops already substitute "she" for "he" in parish services around the country. At a recent Westminster Faith Debate on women bishops, a woman rabbi sang ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ with female instead of male pronouns.

<Read the whole article>

Does God have a gender?

No.

Gender is a physical characteristic and God is not a created physical being with flesh and blood but a spirit outside of time and space (John 4:24, Luke 24:39).

Nevertheless, even though God does not have a gender as such the conversation continues as a factor of human language and a description of relationship. Since God really has no gender, some have concluded that it really doesn’t matter what pronouns or gender specific language one might use in identifying God. While ‘it’ may sound too disrespectful for worship, in that line of thinking, ‘God the Mother’ is just as good as ‘God the Father.’ Better yet, since it supports the feminist movement and is more in tune with our modern Western culture.

However, I believe that we should be careful to use designations for God that are clearly supported by scripture.

First. The Bible should be recognized as the best and most authoritative source for identifying who God really is. Christianity is a revealed religion. So let’s review what we can find in the scriptures.

Many in favor of using feminine designations for God point to the scriptural passages which use feminine metaphors for the Divine (Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 66:13, Luke 15:8-10). So there are scriptures which indicate that God’s personality may include some characteristics which are normally associated with women.

However, there are also scriptures referring to God as a ‘rock’ (Psalm 18:2), a ‘lion’ (Hosea 11:10), a ‘bear’ (Hosea 13:8), and as a’ bird with wings’ (Psalm 91:4) just to name a few.  So anthropomorphisms and metaphors of God in the Bible are better understood as evidence for character and personality rather than gender.

Fact is , in the scriptures God is most clearly and consistently named and referred to using masculine pronouns and language.

Second. I believe as Christians we should continue to honor the designations Jesus used during his lifetime. Jesus consistently referred to God using masculine names and pronouns, particularly ‘Father.’

Some have pointed out that he did refer to God once as a woman looking for a lost coin in Luke 15:8-10 but that was actually a teaching parable. But no one would say in a similar passage that Jesus was really calling himself a female chicken (Matthew 23:37 or Luke 13:34) when he refers to himself as a ‘mother hen’ trying to gather together the folks in Jerusalem.

Third. All of the nations and cultures surrounding ancient Israel and Judah featured goddesses even though all of them were patriarchal societies. If the identity of God was merely a function of culture, the ancient Hebrews would have joined the rest of the world by adding a feminine deity to their worship.

However, the Hebrew prophets consistently condemned the inclusion of any goddesses in the homes and the worship of their people. Culturally it would have been a natural response to at lease emphasize a feminine nature of the One True God to combat the problem but that never really happened. Though there is some evidence related to the ‘Spirit of God’ that we will explore later.

Fourth. Traditional Christian Trinitarian theology should not be ignored since the doctrine was formed by carefully analyzing every single scriptural reference to the identity of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is the defining doctrine of God accepted by all major Christian churches and denominations.  So I believe it should be included in the discussions since a number of different issues are raised in the process.

     -God The Father: The  first person of the Godhead was consistently called ‘Father’ by Jesus Christ. Since he had a natural mother- Mary and the scriptures identified him as the ‘Son of God,’ it was natural for him to refer to God as ‘Father.’ But the scriptures go beyond that mere convenience. There really are no references to ‘God The Mother’ in the New Testament. So I don’t see how it can be supported by Christians without appealing to ambiguous and possibly misapplied Old Testament metaphors.

In later Catholic traditions,  Mary is called the ‘Mother of God’ but never is elevated to divine status herself. However, I will concede that I have no real problem with Christians using a more generic reference to God as a ‘Heavenly Parent.’

     -God The Son: Jesus Christ is fully God but lived on earth as fully a man so it is difficult to see how the second person of the Godhead could ever be successfully identified as a female.

While we are at it, the one statement that really bothers me in the key article above is the reference:

"Jesa Christa, crucified"

There is no way that Jesus Christ can ever seriously be identified as such. One has to totally disregard the Gospel record and his life as an actual man in history.

     -God The Holy Spirit: The third person of the Godhead offers the best scriptural evidence for some kind of a feminine identity. The Hebrew and Aramaic word for ‘Spirit’ is feminine. So all the way through the Old testament feminine language is assigned to the Spirit of God (at least 74 references). Also the divine personification of ‘Wisdom’ in Prov. 8:12-31 is feminine. Add to that the fact that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic and there is some real scriptural support for a possible feminine identity for the Spirit of God and a scriptural basis for the inclusion of the feminine in the Godhead. This should not be a complete surprise since God created humankind in his own Image; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

However, a feminine identity for the Holy Spirit is not supported in the New Testament. In the Greek language ‘spirit’  is neuter. But all the way through the NT all of the pronouns referencing the Holy Spirit are masculine and plus several titles (Paraclete, Comforter) applied to the Holy Spirit are also male.  Add to that the fact that in the Septuagint (ancient Greek translation of the OT) all of the references to the Spirit of God are also neuter and do not reflect the possible feminine designations of the Hebrew and Aramaic.

So looking at the evidence in the Biblical languages used throughout the Bible does not completely resolve this issue for us.

Summary

-God does not have a gender. But gender designation may none the less be useful as a factor of language identifying personality and relationship.

-The Bible should be recognized as the best and most authoritative source for identifying who God really is.

-Anthropomorphisms and metaphors in the scriptures are evidence for character and personality but not necessarily gender.

-Patriarchal culture did not necessarily force a masculine identity for God since nearly all of the neighboring nations (also patriarchal) worshiped goddesses.

-The references to God used by Jesus should be honored by Christians.

-Triune references of identity and relationships of the One True God should still be respected since their source was Biblical.

-There seems to be a basis for a feminine identity of God in the Hebrew and Aramaic references to the ‘Spirit’ of God and the personification of ‘Wisdom’ in the Old Testament. However, it is not supported in the Greek New Testament nor by the Septuagint.

-There is also a basis for a feminine side of God in creation since male and female were made in the image of God.

Conclusion

Back to the issue before us. There are a number of priests in the Church of England that are demanding changes in the church’s liturgy to identify God as a female and a mother in addition to the masculine language that has been used traditionally. A lot of the pressure for the change is coming from the modern culture and the feminist movement in particular.

It is my view that Christians should continue to use and respect the designations that are clearly supported in the scriptures. One might refer to God as our Heavenly ‘Parent’ without any real departure and referencing the ‘Spirit of God’ and ‘Wisdom’ using feminine pronouns has at least some scriptural support. But the idea that God can be called ‘God the Mother’ really has no Biblical support at all and confuses the Trinitarian identities. And finally, a reference to Jesus Christ as ‘Jesa Christa’ is just plain ridiculous if not offensive.             *Top

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-Was Jesus a Real Person? Historical Evidence Beyond the Bible

by Dr. D ~ May 22nd, 2015

Gaius_Cornelius_Tacitus

          (Tacitus via Wikipedia)

I recently read one of the best summaries ever of all of the historical evidence for the real existence of the man called Jesus of Nazareth in a recent edition of the Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan/Feb 2015):

Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” by Dr. Lawrence Mykytiuk of Purdue University

It has become popular in secular and atheist circles to claim that Jesus never really existed as a real person in history. I have noted all of the conclusive historical evidence for his existence before on this site. However, Dr. Mykytiuk does a far better than I have ever been able to do in my past efforts. Please read his whole article- here is his conclusion after looking at the evidence:

1. He existed as a man. The historian Josephus grew up in a priestly family in first-century Palestine and wrote only decades after Jesus’ death. Jesus’ known associates, such as Jesus’ brother James, were his contemporaries. The historical and cultural context was second nature to Josephus. “If any Jewish writer were ever in a position to know about the non-existence of Jesus, it would have been Josephus. His implicit affirmation of the existence of Jesus has been, and still is, the most significant obstacle for those who argue that the extra-Biblical evidence is not probative on this point,” Robert Van Voorst observes.32 And Tacitus was careful enough not to report real executions of nonexistent people.

2. His personal name was Jesus, as Josephus informs us.

3. He was called Christos in Greek, which is a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, both of which mean “anointed” or “(the) anointed one,” as Josephus states and Tacitus implies, unaware, by reporting, as Romans thought, that his name was Christus.

4. He had a brother named James (Jacob), as Josephus reports.

5. He won over both Jews and “Greeks” (i.e., Gentiles of Hellenistic culture), according to Josephus, although it is anachronistic to say that they were “many” at the end of his life. Large growth
in the number of Jesus’ actual followers came only after his death.

6. Jewish leaders of the day expressed unfavorable opinions about him, at least according to some versions of the Testimonium Flavianum.

7. Pilate rendered the decision that he should be executed, as both Tacitus and Josephus state.

8. His execution was specifically by crucifixion, according to Josephus.

9. He was executed during Pontius Pilate’s governorship over Judea (26–36 C.E.), as Josephus implies and Tacitus states, adding that it was during Tiberius’s reign.

<Read the whole article>

Dr. Mykytiuk also notes in the article that “ no ancient person ever seriously argued that Jesus did not exist.“… [N]o pagans and Jews who opposed Christianity denied Jesus’ historicity or even questioned it.” He was consistently treated as a real person in early Jewish Rabbinical writings albeit an apostate.

Anyone who has any question about the historical existence of the man Jesus should read this article. One might continue to disagree with the traditional Christian teaching about who Jesus was and is but the historical evidence clearly supports his existence as an historical figure none-the-less.            *Top

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-Actually It’s ‘Cultural Christians’ That Are Really In Decline

by Dr. D ~ May 16th, 2015


      (Photo: courtesy of TripAdvisor)

For years nearly every American (90%+) identified themselves as ‘Christian’ mostly because everyone they knew claimed it and besides as kids their parents took them to church at least at Christmas and Easter. In the mid 20th century after WWII everyone was considered to be a Christian unless they were Jewish. Now there are more ‘culturally acceptable’ options in America including ‘none of the above.’

Now only 70% of Americans according to the latest Pew Research are Christian so it appears that Christianity in America is in decline? I posted on this research a couple of days ago. In reality it is my contention that it is the ‘Cultural Christians’ who are actually in decline not those with real religious convictions and acted upon faith.

To prove my point, Evangelical Christians, which are more conservative and demanding of their members and still hold to traditional Christian theology and the teachings of the Bible, are actually increasing in number. While the more liberal Mainline Protestant Churches, which reflect the latest changes in American culture, are the ones that are in sharp decline. Most serious committed Christians who actually participate in their faith and attend churches have known all along that their community really didn’t include everyone who claimed to be part of it. It has never been true theologically and now the culture more closely reflects the truth.

A whole new generations of Americans have been raised up at the turn of the centuries with little or no real connection to Christianity never going to church as a child and experiencing only the cultural festivities (Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny}surrounding the religious holidays. There’s no real reason for them to claim to be Christians. Now it is fashionable to be ‘spiritual not religious’ whatever that means.

Meanwhile, 35% say they are Evangelical ‘born-again’ Christians which now represents half of all American Christians. Plus, over half of those folks attend church nearly every week. Also overall church attendance in America is still at 40% which is close to where it was at in the 1940’s.

So what is really on the decline? The cultural popularity of Christianity. This has been reflected in the American media for some time. Christians have been portrayed in negative ways on TV and in the movies. Also, the main stream news media reflects a bias against conservative Christianity since so few journalists are Christians anymore or actively participate in any religion for that matter.

So how will these trends play out in the future? Unless there is a new revival or another religious awakening in America, Christianity will continue to decline in cultural popularity since the core teachings of the faith no longer reflect the PC progressive ideals of the dominant American culture. The current issues of same-sex marriage and LGBT civil rights could well bring with it actual persecution of conservative Christians and churches in the near future. Christians will need to stand up for their faith and convictions in the future or religious freedom and liberty will decline in America. It is time to pray for America as never before.           *Top

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-Is Islam Compatible with Western Democracy?

by Dr. D ~ April 20th, 2015

DontVote-300x200

A few years ago we all witnessed on TV news the sight of thousands of protesters in Tunisia and later in Egypt calling for a change of government. The Western media and the Obama administration called it the ‘Arab Spring’ and celebrated it as a movement in favor of establishing Western style  democracies to replace the dictatorships running those countries at the time. However, when the regimes fell the people used their votes to usher in radical Islamic sharia compliant dictatorial governments that were far removed from any kind of democracy.

Meanwhile, Muslim political/terrorist groups like al Qaeda, ISIS, the Boko Haram (the name itself means: Western education is forbidden), and the Muslim Brotherhood (which the Obama administration seems to favor), have continued to tell us directly and in many different ways that Islam is not compatible with Western culture and Western style democratic government.

So how do the more ‘moderate’ Muslims living in Western countries feel about this issue? Just last week I found a recent poll that showed that 42% of Canadian Muslims believed that their faith was incompatible with the Western society they lived in. I believe in reality a far larger number actually feel that way. Even more proof can be found in the reports all over Europe of ‘no-go zones’ in Muslim immigrant communities where the police are not welcome and roving vigilante groups enforce some kind of neighborhood sharia compliance. It seems to be the younger generation of Muslims that are more radical and observant in their faith and more demanding of sharia provisions than their parents who originally immigrated.

Now comes this latest report from the UK that blatantly demonstrates that some Muslims in that country support a change of government and in the meantime are telling fellow Muslims not to vote. Here’s the story from the Daily Mail:

Posters (See above) telling Muslims not to vote in the election were plastered across an area of Cardiff yesterday.  …

The full message on the poster reads:

 ‘Democracy is a system whereby man violates the right of Allah and decides what is permissible or impermissible for mankind, based solely on their whims and desires.

‘This leads to a decayed and degraded society where crime and immorality becomes widespread and injustice becomes the norm.

‘Islam is the only real, working solution for the UK.

‘It is a comprehensive system of governance where the laws of Allah are implemented and justice is observed.’

<Read the whole article>

Response: The Western media, academic and progressive circles, and most government officials refuse to admit that there may be a real problem for Muslims to whole heartedly accept Western ideals and Western forms of government since they do not recognize and apply the Islamic sharia laws contained in the Quran and Hadiths of Muhammad.

Many have adapted and most Muslims are peaceful citizens. Nevertheless, given the choice undoubtedly many would prefer a society and government that recognized Allah and the teachings of the Quran. However, most would also prefer to live in a country that is safe, peaceful, with individual freedoms and a higher standard of living which is why they immigrated to the Western countries in the first place.

Ironically, Muslim dominated countries do not offer the same kind of stability and economic opportunity, so very few Muslims would choose to go back. Nevertheless, many hope that the culture and government where they now live in the West will eventually convert and become more ‘Islamic,’ failing to recognize that changes of that kind would probably bring on the same conditions they fled from in the first place.

In final analysis, I believe that it is an unsolvable dilemma for Muslims living in the West. Their religion contains provisions for society and government which cannot be implemented without completely destroying the current forms of democratic government. Therefore, only a more moderate, individualistic, and incomplete form of Islam can exist in Western countries without conflict and civil unrest. To say such a thing might be considered ‘Islamophobic’ but it is a truth that most do not want to face or admit.               *Top

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