Monthly Archives: August 2015

Baby Parts and Nazis!

There is a medical atlas of anatomy created by a physician, Eduard Pernkopf. It is a textbook in which artists were used to create illustrations useful for teaching medical students dissection techniques. Considered a masterpiece, it has been extremely influential ever since its inception and still is relevant for today.

pernkopf

dissection picture illustration from text

A major problem emerged in the 1990s when the atlas came under fire surrounding the source of some of its illustrations. The accusation was that some of the cadavers which were used for the illustrations came from Jews who had been recently killed in the camps and then sent to Pernkopf’s facilities for dissection and for the illustrations for his textbook.

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/11/26/science/doctors-question-use-of-nazi-s-medical-atlas.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC31704/

This became an ethical dilemma on many levels and has never been completely settled, and besides, the issue has been highlighted again due to comparisons to the Planned Parenthood videos regarding the harvesting of baby body parts!

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/08/eduard_pernkopf098611.html

One of the links above mentions that some of the artists signatures on the illustrations bore the marks of Nazi symbols, i.e. swastikas and SS initials e.g.:

Erich_Lepier_signature_with_swastika Erich Lepier signature w/swastika

This helped raise the possibility that some of the cadavers in the textbook could have been Jews. It should be noted that exact identification of those cadavers with any particular Jewish victims of the Nazi regime has not occurred. But there is a strong circumstantial element, so much so, that calls for the discontinuance of this text, no matter the benefit it has offered to many medical students, was called for, and if institutions did continue to use it–that  the historical associations with Nazi influence should be appropriately noted.

What then, are some of the circumstantial factors which “taint” this text? First, Pernkopf joined the Nazi party in 1933 and the Storm-Troopers in 1934, he became Dean of the medical school in 1938, secondly, as Dean he expelled all the Jews for refusing to swear loyalty to Hitler, this was 77% of the faculty! Third, he lectured about supporting the Nazi racial theories and views, fourthly, the first artists he employed were Nazis who often highlighted their signatures with Nazi symbols as mentioned above, and lastly, about 1377 bodies of people who were murdered by the Nazis were delivered to Pernkopf’s school concerning which, he gladly accepted them. Is this proof that some of these bodies were Jews? Many people think the likelihood is great!

http://ahrp.org/1933-1953-eduard-pernkopfs-atlas-of-topographical-and-applied-human-anatomy-a-tainted-beauty/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduard_Pernkopf

http://streetanatomy.com/2007/04/01/the-pernkopf-anatomy-atlas-tainted-beauty/

Another notable occurrence of the Nazi era concerns the number of doctors who joined the Nazi organization. As many as 45% of physicians joined the Nazi Party, some before Hitler and others afterwards. In contrast, 7% of teachers joined. The rate of physicians joining the Nazi Party was far greater than any other group. Why?

http://remember.org/imagine/doctors

Did the desire for the perfect Aryan race induce interest? Did the prospect for “free” medical research on those Germany deemed “unworthy” become too much of a temptation? Did the German physicians who participated in the Nazi horrors just plainly wanted to get rid of Jews and other undesirables as efficiently as possible? Not all doctors participated in the horrors, but it is clear that without many of these doctor’s efforts, the atrocities would not have been as bad!

Planned Parenthood

There is a similarity between the whole Nazi mindset, specifically towards Jews, and Planned Parenthood’s “rationale” for its selling of baby parts! Robert Jay Lifton wrote a book entitled “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”.

nazi doctors

This book tries to discover the rationale and methods used so the Final Solution of the Jews could be accomplished. There was so many inhumane atrocities committed that there had to be many psychological mechanisms brought to bear upon the individual who participated. Planned Parenthood with its justifications also illustrate the “distancing” that is required to justify taking and murdering innocent human life! A lot of the following ideas referring to the Nazis are from this very enlightening book.

One of the paradoxes the Nazis had developed was the “healing-killing paradox (chp. 20 of Lifton). In their twisted logic they somehow felt that the killing of these Jews was a kind of healing process at the same time, a purifying of humanity, etc.

Planned Parenthood doctors also illustrate this same function as they regard the destruction of the baby in the womb as a healing, something that brings relief to the mother. Also eugenic motives arise as many abortions are performed on the poor with the idea that a child born into poverty is detrimental to the mother and society.

How were the possible psychological ramifications, which all this killing the Nazi doctors accomplished, managed? One of the ways was by euphemism. This gave a way for the mind to create “distance” from the actual actions and its consequences on the mind. Euphemisms were used which suggested that a “medical” action, which is what doctors do after all, was being accomplished by the killing. An example would be the gassing of Jews, which was referred to as an “extermination”, as if they were just insects undergoing a fumigation process!

Abortion advocates, and Planned parenthood,  also have their euphemisms also, which evidently works well , as was clearly seen in the first Planned parenthood video, which showed a doctor eating salad and drinking wine, casually talking about the baby body parts industry, fueled by abortion! Most of these euphemisms we are aware of, and some introspection may make us pause in horror as we may perceive how much all of us have been influenced by that! The most basic euphemism is “fetus”, but even then these abortion doctors find themselves slipping and refer to the aborted fetus as a “baby” as some of the videos have shown. Other euphemisms are “reproductive health”, “women’s healthcare”, and so on. And now a new kind of “distancing” has occurred due to the rise of genetic testing, even for babies in the womb. If certain “undesirable” traits such as diseases or other disabilities are found, then that abortion is viewed at as being a service, not only to the mother, but to society. This is the Nazi-doctor way of thinking!

Another aspect of the Nazi doctors actions were the experiments. These are well-documented, e.g. Mengele’s twins experiments. Lifton, in his book, says that “Nazi medical experiments fall into two categories: those sponsored by the regime for a specific ideological and military purpose, and those that were done ad hoc out of allegedly scientific interest on the part of an SS doctor” (pg. 269). Also, Joichim Fest, a German historian, said of that Himmler  that he wished to see himself  “not as a murderer but a patron of science”. The ends somehow justify the means?

Planned Parenthood has been in the news lately because of videos purportedly showing them deliberately harvesting baby body parts for sale to institutions which conduct scientific research. The videos seems to show a number of illegal activities connected to the procurement of these body parts, namely profit making and technique changes to ensure better quality “specimens”. While they deny any legal wrongdoing, the whole spectacle and barbarism associated with their actions shown on the videos has drawn a determined defense from their spokesmen. Their strongest defense, or justification, for the harvesting of the parts is that these actions are necessary for medical research. Supposedly major breakthroughs in many fields may be possible by using these body parts for science. And since the remains would be disposed of anyway, then why not use for a social benefit? So, like Himmler,  a question we as a society need to ask is whether they are “murderers” or “patrons of science”?

Many other things can be cited to show the similarity between the structure of Nazi thinking and the thinking of the abortion industry. History does repeat itself, despite the warnings of George Santayana! The Anatomy textbook of Pernkopf was made possible by using cadavers from many people who had been killed by the Nazi regime. If Jews were actually used, it would make the text even more tainted. Does the Textbook  justify the killing which made it possible? No! But the textbook is still being used, as a kind of redemption, a way of honoring those who inadvertently were “sacrificed” for greater knowledge. That is why it is important to some that the history of the textbook’s possible Nazi connections also be emphasized, it may become a way to prevent a future similar occurrence!

But today, with the baby body parts issue happening before our eyes, do we have to still act similarly? Do we justify the abortion industry’s arguments that discarding their remains as garbage is bad? No! The only reason the Pernkopf Anatomy textbook is used is that the Nazi regime is long gone! This Nazi connection with the textbook was found much later and so a debate ensued about what to do with the existing knowledge. That is far different when atrocities are happening right in front of us. The excuse that it may benefit mankind in some kind of manner should be no excuse for its continuance. That is the ultimate kind of selfishness–we need to try to understand why! And besides, medical research doesn’t really need fetal tissue and it hasn’t been that beneficial anyway, other kinds of tissue can be utilized without killing a baby!  This barbarism can be stopped if society and its politicians have the nerve and wherewithal to do it! Unfortunately, I don’t see it being stopped!

Looking ahead I see something very troubling having occurred in these the videos. The laughing! We know the first video showed such casualness in discussing these babies and their body parts that it made one feel queasy on the inside. I don’t know if I could eat a salad and drink wine and enjoy a good conversation about procuring body parts from babies and selling them. And video seven continues with jokes being made about different things, it makes one wonder how these people evolved to this point and one has to think about what they could be pushed to do, all in the name of science! I wonder how the Nazis laughed and made jokes–would it have been similar to what the videos show? This laughter is what I see as a troubling indicator for our future in this society. Something simple, but we have to try to understand what it takes for an individual to tear apart a baby with such care so that certain organs are preserved for the purpose of getting a good price in the market. And we have to understand how someone can still laugh afterwards!

Where is the Moral Law in the OT?

God has many laws for mankind. Some of those laws were of temporary duration, as occurred with some of His commands to Israel while they were a nation some 3000 years ago. Other laws were absolute, meant to be a standard for all people , of all places, for all time.

When one reads the Bible, there are basically three time divisions: 1) before Moses, 2) the time period of Moses and the Mosaic covenant, in force until Israel was delivered into captivity and eventually dissolved as a nation, 3) New Testament times beginning with the advent of Christ and beyond! A dilemma for the Christian has been the status of the practical use of the OT regarding Christian living. Of what benefit is the OT as far as a rule for our actions? After all, there is this verse in II Timothy 3:15-17:

15And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

These scriptures were basically the OT writings and eventually the principle of this inspiration would extend to the NT writings as they were judged as being inspired and hence accepted over time.  But the OT was pointed at in these verses as an effective present guide in some way for the Christian at that moment!

Then there is the Book of Hebrews which came later in the 1st century AD, and which basically dismantles the Mosaic regulations and rules as having been fulfilled in Christ, so that things such as physical sacrifices for sins and the other regulations were no longer applicable. Christ also himself said the whole Law, the Mosaic Law, was somehow fulfilled in Christ, Matthew 5:17! Also in Luke 16:16, Christ said “The law and the prophets were until John: …”.

The problem all of this raises occurs when certain issues and questions , either of a personal nature or social, are discussed. Invariably many OT verses are utilized in these discussions and debates, as if the OT laws and consequences were still a standard for Christians.  But then the NT basically says the OT was fulfilled by the NT, and that the NT is the rule and guide for Christians today. Does that mean that OT verses and ideas have no place in today’s Christianity? That is a deep question! This whole mix of things has been confusing and complex to many people, but there is a “big picture” which hopefully can help bring “order” to all these issues!

The three time divisions in which the Bible logically is divided, is helpful when it comes to these topics. The first division is the parts of the Bible which is before the giving of the Mosaic Law, the second division deals with the Mosaic Law as used by Israel before they dissolved as a nation, and the third division is the NT times and beyond.

I separate out those things which are structural in nature, in other words, those things God has organized society around which is in effect regardless of what other things God does or what time period is experienced. This began in the first time period, before Moses, beginning in Genesis.

There are 2 main ideas which I have in mind here and which are the structural supports for society: Marriage between a man and woman, and then the death penalty. The marriage between a man and woman was rooted in creation after Eve was created for Adam, Gen. 2:18-25. As they were the first parents, they were also the beginning of society. God organized society around family and that family would be started by the makeup up of one man and one woman.

While the Mosaic Law, due to cultural and other harsh realities, softened some of these things for Israel, e.g. polygamy and concubinage, marriage was still the primary institution for Israel  and the original intent for marriage from Genesis was also reaffirmed by Christ in the Gospels at Matthew 19:3-9:

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Even though this was in the context of divorce, Christ prefaced his remarks on what God had originally intended regarding marriage!

 

The second structural idea is the death penalty. This command occurred after Noah and his family disembarked from the Ark. As they were preparing to repopulate the earth, God gave this main command in Gen; 9:5-6:

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

This set the tone for the future government, man’s life was absolutely to be honored and protected! Any taking of that life would require a similar judgment upon the murderer! While the death penalty is controversial today, the message from this was that man’s life was the most important quantity; all other things, such as protection of property, possessions, etc.,  were secondary and eventually would flow logically from the idea of an absolute respect for life. Once that respect for life was established, then other aspects of law could be pursued such as property rights, other human rights, etc. These two structural principles are valid for all time!

 

One of the questions about the time period before the Mosaic Law, which is hard to answer, regards the personal requirements which God placed upon mankind. The Bible is really silent on many aspects of that and when the Mosaic law came about, it did help to fill in the gap of our knowledge about God’s nature and His requirements, in a kind of “retrospection” .

The problem is that many of the laws under the Mosaic covenant seem very different than what we may have expected, and even somewhat arbitrary and confusing. The main question for us is what laws would be normative for all time, or in other words,  what are the moral laws within this covenant which would be still be a valid moral principle for our lives today?

One of the things that needs to be accounted as we try to answer this is that God was using Israel as a judgment on the false gods and sinful activities of the neighboring people’s. Some of the laws and rules were similar to the people around Israel and some were totally different. Some were even quite unusual and are still not understood very well as to what God was trying to do!

All these rules laws had a purpose by God for Israel and a context for the surrounding nations and many of those laws were not meant to be a normative set of rules for all time, for all peoples. But the moral law, if it can be determined, and  which God entwined within the Mosaic covenant, still has usefulness today and still is normative, albeit without the consequences which were for the judicial purposes of Israel.

It is somewhat typical, and helpful, to look at the Mosaic law as being composed of 3 different kinds of laws: Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil/Judicial. While the Mosaic covenant was a seamless and continuous unit to Israel, this division for us helps the Christian to “tease” out what the moral law of God was, which helps the modern church to understand God’s ongoing purpose in pour present day world. Here is an example of the differences  between the three kinds of laws:

Moral Law: Exodus 20:13  Thou shalt not kill.

Ceremonial Law:  Leviticus 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

linen  Linen

man-shearing-sheep-of-wool    Wool

Civil/Judicial Law: Exodus 21: 33-34   And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.

cow pit Responsibility of pit owner!

How then does one separate out the moral law when the clarity of Exodus 20:13 is lacking? We can definitely glean wisdom from the ceremonial and civil rules, and while not binding on a Christian’s lifestyle, practical benefits are still there! The verse above, Exodus 21: 33-34, gives great insight into personal responsibility within our community interactions. It allowed their judges to rule on cases similar to this. This can also be extended into many other social and community situations.

The ceremonial verse above, Leviticus 19:19, may lead to insight which farmers may find beneficial, and as a matter of fact, these laws have been studied greatly for those kinds of insights. Though farmers did understand a lot regardless, these rules gave them more things to think about.

The motive for these is that God was in some sense helping His people in a scientific manner but was not exactly understood by them. What may have appeared arbitrary was in fact rooted in the deeper understandings that God has of His creation. But the moral law is the conundrum! It is not always easy how to handle the following verses such as the following and especially the first two which required death as a response from the authorities for the acts:

1. Exodus 22:20    He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

2.  Exodus 21:17   And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

3. Deut. 25:4   Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.

Looking at the above, what can we say?

The first example isn’t really relevant today since Christians don’t sacrifice animals, Christ’s sacrifice sufficed for all time! So is there moral law that we can glean?

The second example we relate to–it is an infinite debt of gratitude we owe to our parents! But we don’t put children to death for this today, at least in the US. Can we gain some moral insight from this?

The third example would be an exercise in futility in trying to tease out some moral principle.

And on and on it goes. It is a challenge to uncover the moral background of the mosaic covenant, but there are some verses which help bring clarity, hence Christians and society would do well to pay close attention to those verses.

Consider the homosexual debate which is splitting churches, households, and the nation, and eventually the globe! This is a major issue and worthy to have everything the bible brings to bear about this issue. When Christians articulate their positions against homosexuality, the arguments range literally from Genesis with the creation of Adam and Eve, a man and woman, which God instituted as family, and then the arguments extends to a certain few  verses in the Mosaic covenant and ends with the NT affirmation in verses such as Romans 1.

Arguments against the OT prohibitions follow the idea that if these few verses concerning homosexuality is followed, then everything else in that covenant has to be followed as well, even the death penalty part! But this is overlooking the fact that that first, the Mosaic covenant was for Israel only and second, the moral law which would represent God’s standard for all time, was still incorporated within the covenant.

The usefulness of the OT in this context is to unearth that moral law which God expects of us for all time, separate from the consequences, which was peculiar to Israel. So the question about moral law in the OT becomes a critical question. If we ignore the OT then there are fewer verses to clarify the issue of homosexuality and the danger of misconstruing God’s intentions becomes greater. The main verses in the OT about homosexuality are found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. They are as follows:

Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)

22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 20:13 (KJV)

13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

The death penalty part is not valid today, but the question is whether God is indicating something about homosexuality that goes beyond a mere “arbitrary” rule for Israel only. The answer is found when the wider context of these verses are considered. Chapter 18 and chapter 20 both have a long list of things which God is against–incest, adultery, bestiality, and a whole host of other “permutations” of sexual sins. But there is a concluding set of verses which set these prohibitions apart in a way different than the other laws in the mosaic covenant. Leviticus chp. 18 ends this way:

Leviticus 18:24-30 (KJV)

24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:

27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled😉

28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.

29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.

 

Leviticus 20 has this near the end:

Leviticus 20: 22-23 KJV

22 Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.

23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.

 

In the context of these lists, these happen to be sins which God was against in the neighboring lands. How could that matter if these rules were arbitrary for Israel and had no meaning beyond their own governance? These verses show that some actions are deemed illegitimate by God regardless of location, circumstance, or nation. Certain things are just wrong! This is an example of moral laws found  within the covenant God made with Israel and which were actions God deemed unacceptable everywhere, not only in Israel. Do we then apply the death penalty as in 20:13? No, that was only for Israel. Does God prohibit homosexuality? Yes, that is for everyone! The moral law in the OT should not be ignored!

 

 

Jude 3, Ephesians 6:13, and the Song of Roland

Jude 3 (KJV)

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Out of all the many things that Christians have to deal with on a personal level regarding living out the faith of Christ, there is also an external threat to that faith which is existential. The body of teachings, which surrounded the arrival of Christ and his ministry and work on the cross, and either explained his work or amplified further the meaning of “living for Christ”, was in danger of being diluted by false teaching and would have severely affected the new members of that beginning church. And from that point  to the present time, there has still been an ongoing struggle between Biblical Truth and those elements which would distort or obliterate God’s message.

The Apostolic age, which was in the 1st century AD, eventually produced the NT and the Bible, composed of the OT and NT, now make up the complete revelation of God to man. In our modern age those kinds of attacks experienced by the early church are experienced by us, and they appear mainly as an attack on the Biblical text and its meaning, since the written text of the NT we enjoy today was still in formation during the 1st century AD.

The key word in the passage of Jude is “earnestly contend”, which is one Greek word but took two English words to bring out the proper force of meaning. This phrase is related to another Greek word which has the meaning of “fight”, “contend”, “contest”, “carry on a conflict”, but with a higher level of intensity, hence the reason why “earnestly” was added to “contend”. What was “earnestly contended for” was “the faith”, which was Christianity itself as it was preached and which centered on the redemption which God initiated through Christ and his atonement. This eventually became fully embodied in the NT. A good question regards those which the recipients of Jude’s letter were supposed to “contend” against? Jude 4 gives one indication:

Jude 4 (KJV)

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Clearly if these false teachers were successful then the status of that group Jude wrote to would be in a precarious situation. This is not new in the early church, after all, in Ephesians 4 there is given a justification for an intellectual emphasis that the Church should incorporate and which would help to preserve those things the Apostles preached long after they were gone:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

It was important that the intellectual component which adhered to the message of Christ was understood so that an effective defense could be mounted against those who wanted to destroy Christianity. Many things have come against the Truth down through time and in our generation we also have to endure this battle. The affront to the message of the Bible is continual, evolving, and due to the rise of technology, “instantaneously global”, in other words, statements on behalf of the Bible can be confronted almost immediately from anywhere in the world. But Christians still have to “earnestly contend”, it is an unavoidable reality for the preservation of the Gospel message! The question has now become, which is actually very open, is whether we understand what “the truth once delivered unto the saints” consists. On that depends the future of Christianity!

 

Ephesians 6:13

Ephesians 6:10-18  KJV says:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

armor of god

This is a classic set of verses which illustrate primarily defensive weapons in character, with the only overtly offensive weapon mentioned being the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. This is the spiritual equipment of the well-rounded Christian! Hence, protecting what you have is of immense importance!

One of the enigmatic aspects of the Christian faith is what constitutes the measure of success. What follows may seem counter to history, but the Christian worldview has enjoyed a wide ranging influence on culture the last 2000 years. It has been a major contributor to much of the progress towards the betterment of life during that time. But even that is not the main measure of success. I argue that the ultimate measure of success is that individuals accept Christ and maintain their faith all the way unto death! That is the ultimate success!

Hence, in v.13, in light of the dark spiritual powers which happen to be beyond our physical view, and which are organized against the Christian, the Christian is exhorted to take on all those spiritual weapons which can counter the attacks of that unseen enemy. And what is the goal or result which is desired? To stand!! Not to win in the sense we may be used to, but winning in the context of this verse is to maintain faith in Christ.

Does that mean we shouldn’t be an influence in society as we have the last 2000 years? Not by any means, but we should recognize that we have minimal control over the will of mankind and its actions. We have enjoyed significant influence, but in the last few decades it seems like the trend is reversing, quickly and completely. There are many reasons for that but regardless, the future now looks bleak for a replay of the success the Christian worldview has had in our society but we still have to be faithful.

What we don’t want to do and which I think has been done too much already, is to compromise the true faith so that we can “appear” to be relevant in our society. We are in danger of eventually becoming absorbed into such an anti-Christian thought-world that losing our faith in Christ could be a real danger! We definitely won’t see a return to a Christian-based society that way!

A perceptive statement from a philosopher who gave up Christianity early in his life seems relevant here. It was from Friedrich Nietzsche of all people! His statement is actually against someone who claimed to give up on God but actually it was a pretense. Nietzsche castigated him for that duplicity with the following quote which is from the book “NIETZSCHE The Man and His Philosophy”:

“They (some group he had been talking about) got rid of the Christian God, and now feel obliged to cling all the more firmly to Christian morality: that is English consistency…With us it is different (Nietzsche is talking about his group here). When one gives up Christian belief, one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality…Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces…Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendental…it possesses truth only if God is truth—it stands or falls with the belief in God.”

nietzsche

Even though he used this argument as a judgment against the inconsistency of a particular individual, Nietzsche did recognize the consistency and interconnectedness of the Christian worldview even though he rejected it. The Church will lose much if we decide to”compromise” Truth so that we can remain relevant instead of “to stand“, no matter the outcome, as Ephesians 6:13 declares! While some “apparent” victories may be realized with these compromises, as time goes we will become unrecognizable as God’s Church, we may be approved by society but not by God!

Where does the Song of Roland fit into all this? The Song of Roland is a French medieval work in a genre of literature called “Chanson de Geste” or “Song of Heroic Deeds”. Roland was the right-hand man of Charlemagne, who was fighting the Muslims in Spain. One last town was left and the soldiers being tired, the Muslims were convinced to accept peace. Roland recommended another man named Ganelon to go the Muslims and negotiate the peace deal.

roland

Ganelon thought he was being set up by Roland to be killed by the Muslims and so upon arriving to the Muslim leaders, he instead set up a treacherous plan that would have the Muslims ambush the group of men Roland was leading as a rearguard. Charlemagne was far ahead of that rearguard and when the ambush occurred, Roland and his men were totally annihilated. The chivalry and spirit of Roland is what stands out in this song. He willingly and honorably “stood” against that enemy and fought right to the very end–which was death!

300px-Mort_de_Roland  Death of Roland

A powerful story which illustrates those aspects of humanity which are important in society and especially important for the Church. In the US particularly the question is for the Church “How do we stand?”. An important question with a lot riding on the answer!

United States and the Trajectory of Sin

History flows in one direction, then another. Events lead into other events. Thoughts and ideas are raised, considered, and either disappear or become the foundations for the future. What would determine, for example, whether my thoughts, which are being put down in this article, could become something that could influence the future? Well, unless there were some special circumstance which made that conclusion obvious, it is a matter which one just takes a chance upon.

When we widen our scope of reality to include a omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God who is active in the world, then a different perspective is added. God knows all and sees all, and he allows world history to play out and he also intervenes in certain critical moments. All of the events of history are governed and controlled by God, either by his allowance or by his intervention.

BUT, sometimes ideas, thoughts, philosophical positions, etc. continue because of decisions which are made in the spiritual realm and are beyond our immediate view and understanding. Many of these events happen to be determined by societies. Those events involve society’s attitude towards God, his existence, and the behavior which follows from that attitude.

Paul in the New Testament Book of Romans chp. 1, particularly verses 18-32, describe the Gentile (as opposed to Jewish) development historically as far as their spiritual status before God. Verse 18 (using KJV throughout) speaks of the “wrath of God” being revealed against mankind. The wrath here is “anger” and is directed towards mankind’s handling of the those ideas and truths which could be understood about God but was then denied or ignored.

This description goes back to antiquity’s beginning but is still in operation today. How mankind understands God and what man decides to do with that determines a lot about the kind of society and life he will either enjoy or endure! When Adam sinned and lost the Garden of Eden, humanity came under the power and rule of sin. That state was made worse when God was pushed further away and mankind acted on its own thoughts and ideas and will.

Sin has an organized aspect to it and is structured such that if certain critical sinful actions are realized God takes a particularly harsher attitude towards those things and then “steps back” from those actions and lets the consequences follow. In these verses of Romans that “stepping back” is described as “God gave them up…” in v.24, “God gave them up…” in v. 26, and finally “God gave them over…” in v. 28. Three clear actions by God!

The results from these actions have already endured for all of history, having been somewhat subdued by the advent of Western Civilization, in particular the Christian aspect. One of the peculiarities of present history, is that while we can’t go back and relive this original trajectory of sin, the United States and its history does mimic this same trajectory, albeit on a smaller scale. How this is occurring will be the main emphasis of this article.

This has to be introduced by analyzing how God handles nations, and the Bible does that for us in a number of ways. One of the things that the Old Testament shows is that nations could, in some sense, accept God and his law, and be “blessed”, Psalm 33:12 states: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…”. Clearly Israel illustrated that “blessed” aspect as they were his chosen people and hence accepted his Law and lived according to those things which are written in the Torah.

A large part of the Old Testament is devoted to the history of Israel, on the one hand their blessings when they obeyed and on the other hand, their troubles when they disobeyed. The blessings of God  were so evident the that there are a number of instances when neighboring peoples did whatever they could to be included within the covenant that God had with Israel, for example the Gibeonites in Joshua 9: 3-15.

Fast forward to the United States and its founding and it is easy to see that a concern for God and his law was paramount to those early leaders. Just like Israel, we have tried to make God a priority in the actions of our nation. The following link especially the “quotes from our founders” section  gives a few examples of our founder’s attitude towards this country as a nation:

http://www.shadesofgrace.org/2010/05/05/is-america-a-christian-nation-more-quotes-from-our-founders/

This nation’s history is in no way perfect, but there has always been an attempt to keep God in view, not only in the structure of our country, i.e. the government, but also in the consciousness of the whole citizenry. While the amount of people who profess to be Christians were always less than unanimous, there has always been enough faithful people to keep Christianity alive and important in our governing affairs. And it is because we have quickly turned our backs on God so abruptly that the similarity to Romans 1 is appropriate to describe the present circumstances and future possibilities as well.

That emphasis our nation made about spiritual things is important, especially in regards to the structural part of our nation. The Books of Kings, Chronicles, and many prophetic writings  in the Old Testament illustrate another important principle: as the leaders go, so the blessings upon the nation as a whole follow. If the Jewish kings were good, blessings followed, even if many of the people still pursued false gods and idols, and if the kings were evil, curses came upon everyone, regardless of the individual’s personal standing before God. The leadership is what is important, in our country, which was very different from Israel, that would be our 3 main branches, Executive, Judicial, Legislative.

If those governmental entities of ours acted in such a way which reflected a critical negative attitude towards God, he would “step back” and allow consequences to follow. I believe this evolution of sin according to Romans has happened to this nation and that we are at the edge of the third “wrathful” action  from God. Now these are judicial reckonings of God, he is not actively making bad things occur but he is allowing the fruit of our own twisted thinking to play itself out, or in other words, allowing us to have our way!

1st stage of God’s wrath:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

The characteristics of this first stage is:

1) knowledge of God

2) failure to glorify

3) non thankful towards Him

Instead we became:

1.”vain” or futile in thinking

2. became foolish despite attitude of being wise

3. began to turn towards creation more than God

First stage culminated in early 1960s with two Supreme Court decisions. What contributed to this change in attitude? That is hard to say since these thoughts have always been around. It could be that post WWII created an idea that we could solve most problems ourselves, along with a pessimism towards God as to why he allowed some of the atrocities committed. Also technology improved life by leaps and bounds, and so “the sky was the limit” as the saying goes and hence we became somewhat “unstoppable” as far as our abilities were concerned.

Since we had so many new abilities to make life easier, God ended up becoming an impediment since some practices had possible moral objections to them. At this time also, many in society began to turn attention to the environment and so creation began to slowly morph into a kind of idol. Secular ideas asserted themselves more and more into society’s thinking and so the time became ripe for a “reevaluation” of God in some sense and also a reappraisal whether he was that important still to be included in our affairs, “death of God” theologies started about hits time as well.

That reappraisal became official with the two Supreme Court decisions which were Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abingdon School District v. Schempp (1963).

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engel_v._Vitale   and     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abington_School_District_v._Schempp

These decisions impacted prayer and the use of the Bible in public schools, and though there has been some accommodation since, the result is that the importance that had been placed in the spiritual practice of prayer and the passing down of Truth from the Bible to each generation had become quite trivialized. And since it occurred in public schools, which is the place each generation is trained and also because it was the Government which sanctioned this–this became like a “fist in the air” event with a public proclamation stating  that we do  not need God!

Critics may say that some schools already had prohibited things like this. That may be, but this decision affected everyone and it was a government action. As said above, as the leadership goes, so goes the nation, at least as far as God is concerned! So I assert that God decided to “give us up” as v. 24 says. This is a spiritual judgment, this is a judicial decision which plays out within our mind, our thoughts, our hearts. God steps back and allows us to follow through with our new ideas. We can’t see that at the time but eventually the “error of our ways” asserts itself and a change can be noticed.

Consequence of that spiritual judgment:

v. 24 says we were given up to “dishonour their own bodies between themselves”. This is a sexual pronouncement and it shouldn’t be surprising that the sexual revolution occurred in the 1960s and has created negative consequences ever since. While sexual practices of all kinds have been around, they now became sanctioned in a public way and was encouraged as a new freedom without consequences once some certain outdated modes of thinking, that is, Biblical thinking, was reduced. But we didn’t get away with it since diseases are out of control, marriage which provides stability to children has declined, and many social problems, which has become very intractable, has occurred. And the worst part is that this so-called “wisdom” society thought they gained only led to a deeper foray into sin, which led to the second stage.

2nd stage of God’s wrath:

25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Characteristics of this 2nd stage is:

1) changed the truth to a lie

2) creation became a substitute for God

The thoughts and ideas set up by the first stage crystallized further and went into a deeper rebellion against God. Sexual activities expanded along with many more consequences. The Environmental Movement became more active and influential and really had a dramatic moment when the first Earth Day occurred on March 21, 1970. It was meant to “honor the Earth” and was celebrated mainly in the USA but now has global reach. Environmental concerns covered a wide range of things.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day

Environmental issues has since gravitated to become one of the most important problems regarding the future existence of mankind, according to some, that is. Creation has become the idol in many parts of our government and even the United Nations gives priority to many of the “fear” scenarios some scientists proclaim. This is not surprising, when God is rejected, man needs something to replace him and it happens to be the created order.

God also became reinvented and began to be made into an image which society wanted him to be. This reinvention included reinterpreting the Bible to fit many of the new ideas of the time. Feminists chopped up the so-called “patriarchal” emphasis of the Bible and tried to make the Bible more palatable for women, other minorities caught on and tried to do the same, e.g. Black Liberation theories, “God of the oppressed” theories, and the rise of eastern religions in the USA became a challenge to Christianity. These are just a few things which turned the “truth of God” into a lie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_liberation_theology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_theology

The sexual revolution went even further due the rise of contraception and the increase of no-fault divorce. I think the main event during this time which led to the next “giving up” by God, was the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in Jan. 22, 1973. This gave the sexual revolution the ultimate safeguard to the consequences of their actions. This was also tantamount to an act in which society took the place of God regarding the power of life and death towards innocent people and declared that we have the right to do this! We began to act literally as God and this was the ultimate changing of “truth into a lie”.

Consequence of this 2nd spiritual judgment:

God “gave us up to a deeper perversion–homosexual practice–which was hence pushed and expanded by the “gay liberation” movement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_liberation

These actions have also been around as well, but was done mainly in secret, at least in more modern times. Now it became a new social cause of a new kind of freedom and right. Homosexual practices though, has brought a major negative spiritual influence to our society with such things as gay marriage, gay adoption of children with its confusing parental roles, the AIDS phenomenon, gender amplifications, just to name a few things. We didn’t get away with these changes and they have caused our society to get even worse spiritually!

http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/HIV.htm

The trajectory of sin which the USA has followed fits well the pattern of original mankind who came after Adam and Eve illustrated in Romans 1. The last phase though, is the most critical because that spiritually takes us as far from God as possible.

3rd stage of God’s wrath:

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Characteristics of this 3rd stage:

1) retention of God avoided

2) filled with long list of sins

The last few years has seen an extra effort at removing Christian symbols of all kinds from public places associated with our government. From the Decalogue monuments, to phrases with Christian emphasis, Christian prayers before events such as football games and government meetings, all kinds of Christian things  are up for grabs for “cleansing” from the mind’s eye. There was even an attempt by a Texas city mayor to collect church sermons about homosexuality, with a view to intimidate.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/city-of-houston-demands-that-pastors-turn-over-sermons-addressing-homosexuality-or-gay-mayor-annise-parker-128144/

Clearly this society is illustrating the verse in Gospel of John 3:20 “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light…” . Society has also become more “sin-oriented”, not only individually but publicly as well. Just the rise of reality TV with emphasis on drama involving lying, cheating, backbiting, etc. as a way to garner ratings. What society doesn’t recognize is that with the removal of God and his light from view, the only result is a deeper sinful state.

A critical point of this last spiritual stage, I believe, is the legitimization of homosexual marriage by the Supreme Court. This completed the “wrath of God” for the second stage, when God “gave us up” to homosexual behavior, the evolution of that attitude brought us to this point.

The time is set for the last spiritual judgment: “reprobate mind” of v. 28. The English translation of the Greek language doesn’t quite bring out the import of meaning the writer intended. There is a play on words the people of  Jesus’ day would have picked up that we miss. The phrase “did not like” has the idea of “testing, examine, prove by testing”. This was done with God as the one being tested or examined. He was rejected! The spiritual judgment was that God “gave them over” to a reprobate mind. The Greek word for reprobate is related to the “did not like” phrase in that this word represents “a disqualified mind”, which implies that mankind was the one that was actually tested and it failed!

The prelude to this last judgment is the phrase of v.29 “being filled” or literally, “having already been filled” based on the kind of Greek verb used here. That verb implies something already accomplished, which means for our society, we will gravitate to a deeper sinful state and then at some point  God will “step back” and let us have our way. When one reads that list of sins, that is not much to show for our so-called “wise” progress! The deeper problem for us is that those sins have been increasing through the other stages anyhow, and they will only metastasize  further.

In my view the first two stages seemed to have a key political moment before the next stage started. The first stage started with school prayer decision and the Roe v. Wade decision brought that to a climax. That second stage started with homosexual behavior and reached its climax with homosexual marriage. How will the third,  and last, stage occur? It is different than the first two since this is as far as we can go spiritually. That list of sins from v. 29-32 will become more prominent and I believe it isn’t a chance event that the Planned Parenthood videos have occurred now, only a few weeks after the gay marriage decision. The final spiritual test upon our society is here!

If we as a society end up doing nothing over Planned Parenthood and its destruction of babies and the subsequent harvesting of body parts, then how much lower can we go? The most innocent are mere spare parts, used to make our lives better through research! This is our “valley of decision”, if somehow this is allowed to continue, I don’t think there is much hope for our nation as a political entity. We will slowly become more consumed with sins and its consequences. God will “stepped back” and let us have the fruit of our own thinking! The progress we think we have accomplished will instead be a spiritual state completely removed from God. All those individuals who are trying to serve Christ can still do it, but it will be under a more  harsher and violent atmosphere. The churches who have embraced many of these sins as somehow being progressive should realize that in God’s eyes, it is a failure of a test and they should repent before God. The question becomes whether we as a society can actually reverse this. Time will definitely tell!