Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I Bet You Never Thought That God Was Humble. He Demonstrated It

The Bible makes all sorts of preposterous statements and claims.
It is filled with all sorts of verses such as the following...

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
1 John 1:1-2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-3,14

Those verses imply that the authors claimed that Jesus was God. To make such a statement, however, was anathema to the Jews of His day. It gave rise to justification for their wanting to put Him to death. The following verse illustrates that.

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with GodJohn 5:16-18

Claiming to be God or making oneself to be equal with God, was, indeed blasphemy and punishable by death. Indeed Islam, which came 600 years after the compilation of the New Testament, calls this "shirk"... idolatry, also punishable by death.

Nevertheless the Apostle Paul who'd been educated by the great Rabbi Gamalael, of his day, had the audacity to make the following statement.

For in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Messiah you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.             
Colossians 2:9-10

Such seemingly preposterous New Testament claims about a man being God, or a plurality of God's nature, or God having a "Son" did not just pop up out of nowhere. A veritable plethora of verses hinting at this sort of claim pervade the pages of the Old Testament as well. The possibility of a plurality in the nature of the one true God is hinted at in the following where God speaks to Himself in the first person plural:

Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
Genesis 1:26

Even the Sh'ma of Deuteronomy 6:4, the watchword of the faith of Judaism which declares the oneness of God, in its declaration of the oneness of God, uses the adjective "echod"... which implies a unity which is potentially made of many parts much as one hand is made of a palm, a thumb, fingers, skin, muscles, bones, connective tissue, etc.

Interestingly the Rabbi, Maimonodes of the middle ages, in his contention for the "oneness"of God, in his 13 Articles of Faith, used a different adjective "Yachid" which implies an absolute ONE. In so doing, he resorted to using a term other than the one used by scripture. Hence, one might rightfully ask the question "whom did Maimonodes regard as more authoritative, Torah or Himself"?  And there is one of a number of very important principals in hermeneutics (interpretation)... let the scripture speak for itself.  Don't infuse your interpretation upon the scriptures.

Such verses as the following, imply that God has a "Son"...

“I am weary, God, but I can prevail. Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know! Proverbs 30:1-4

Passages such as the following add leverage to the notion that there exists an individual that can manifest Himself as both exalted and yet humanoid...

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. Daniel 7:13

This particular individual, in fact, approached into the presence of the very Ancient of Days (a synonym for God) without even so much as prostrating Himself.

Indeed, the following verse hints of a "Trinity".

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with his SpiritIsaiah 48:16

So, the notion that God could reveal Himself as a man, did not just come out of nowhere. There is Old Testament precedent for it. However such a notion seems to defy logic. It is no wonder that Muslims might question the veracity of the Bible. Judaism, itself, seeks to interpret Tanaach (Old Testament) through Rabbinic eyes and by so doing, avoid, like the plague, the possibility that God could manifest Himself as a man. I would argue that anyone, as the scripture says, "who has eyes to see and ears to hear" can read the text for himself and determine clearly what it has to say.

But even so, maybe this Book that we call the Bible is, in fact, nothing but good (or bad, depending upon one's taste) literature. Maybe it's not divinely inspired at all!
Despite the fact that the Bible has withstood all sorts of tests from scientific to archeological to historical, through well over two millenia, I would like to pursue a line of thought, which, to this day, I don't think has been adequately approached. Somewhat ironically, it is built around the question "What does it mean to be truly human?"
Let's put the Bible to the test. We've already seen the Bible verse Genesis 1:26 which begins with "Let us make man in our image..." According to this text, in some fashion, if the Bible is, in fact, veracious, man was made in such a way that he is like God. If that's the case, how is He presumed to be like God?

The three major monotheistic religions would argue that there are certain things about God upon which they can all agree...

God is omniscient - There's nothing He doesn't know.

God is omnipresent - He's everywhere at the same time.

God is omnipotent - He's all powerful... There's nothing He can't do.

God is self existing - He always was, He is and He always will be forever on into eternity.

God made and created things ex-nihilo, out of nothing.

Such assumed facts about the nature of God (to which I also subscribe) are certainly beyond human capability. No human knows everything, is everywhere at the same time, is self-existent or is all powerful ('though there are many humans who think they are).

This creates a definite conundrum for someone like me who argues that a God of that nature can actually manifest Himself as a baby and later as a man. How can the God who fills the infinite universe take up just 4 liters of space? How could an all powerful God have difficulty bearing the weight of a 30 km. execution stake? How can an all knowing God "Learn obedience" through suffering? (Hebrews 5:8).

My answer may not suffice to convince you. I can't do that anyway, only God can. I can only present my case. And as I've already intimated, it is wrapped up in the question of what it means to be human. Because according to Genesis 1:26 being fully human is, in some way, being like, or in the image of God.
So we humans can't be any of those absolute things that we know characterize God's nature but what about those absolute things that characterize human nature? I think that if we were to look at people today, or throughout history, for that matter, they are decidedly schizophrenic. "How?" you might ask.  People are universally inconsistent.

Sometimes they Love. Sometimes they hate. Most of the time they're ambivalent.

Sometimes they're humble. Sometimes they're arrogant.

This "Yin-Yang" human response to what we commonly call virtue pervades all of our human nature... Sometimes we're patient. Sometimes we're impatient. Sometimes we're generous. Sometimes we're stingy. The list of virtues coupled with their associate vices is quite extensive!

I think it's safe to discern between the virtue and its associated vice as well. For instance...

Clearly Love is preferable to hate or indifference.

Likewise, we can easily discern that humility is preferable to arrogance.

Perhaps I'm mistaken but I think that an objective poll would yield almost unanimous consensus that people would instinctively discern what the virtues are as opposed to their corresponding vices. Yet, in spite of our ability to make such judgments it's, nevertheless, apparently impossible to imagine that anyone could possibly be perfectly humble or loving all the time throughout one's entire life without just a little bit of vice sneaking in somewhere along the way. Such conduct, humanly speaking, would seem impossible to do yet not impossible to conceptualize.

We've looked at omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence etc. and we've seen that these traits of God are absolute. Omnipotence, possibly might be the easiest to illustrate. The physicist defines power as the ability to do work divided by time. Work by definition, is the mass of an object times the distance it is made to travel. Put mathematically...

Power = Mass X Distance
        Time

A rule of mathematics is that as the denominator (time) approaches 0, the value of the equation (Power) approaches infinity.  Hence, if God is able to accomplish any task in no time at all, He is demonstrating absolute power, or omnipotence.

But what if humility, for instance, were measured in absolutes? We pass judgment on individuals and say "this man is humble." This man is not humble". But by what standard can we make that judgment? What is absolute humility? Could an individual's humility be graded according to that standard?

One dictionary definition of humility is "Modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." It seems from this definition that one must have importance or rank in the first place in order to be modest about it.

So what would be an absolute definition of humility? Allow me to posit a suggestion. You're free to accept it or reject it.

Absolute Humility - God (certainly the zenith of importance or rank) willing to give up all the rights, privileges and accolades that are associate with being God in order to become a perfect servant (the utter expression of modesty) on behalf of His entire creation.

Put into mathematical terms (as was the case with our definition of Power)

Humility = One's actual rank or stature divided by
The importance that one holds onto that rank or stature

Therefore, how would we define Absolute Humility?

Absolute Humility = God (The highest of any possible rank or stature or importance) 
God's willingness to relinquish that stature called "God-ness" and become a perfect servant

Again, as the importance of one's rank (that of being God) approaches zero, Humility approaches infinity.

This is entirely consistent with what Paul said referring to Jesus...

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:6-11

In reality, God is both our God and our servant. "Such blasphemy" you might say! But, think about it. Is it not God who gives us life? Is it not God who gives us breath and the food we put on our table? By doing so, is He not serving us?  Without Him serving us, we could not live.

Yes, we can declare the power, might, glory majesty and sovereignty of God. But part of that glory and majesty is caught up in the reality that He is THE perfect servant of His creation. If we lose sight of His servant-hood towards us, we can't even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to worship Him!

In both science and philosophy there exists a phenomenon called an "antinomy". An antinomy is a clash between two totally opposing contradictory rules or phenomena which are derived rationally or even experimentally and are, in and of themselves, totally rational and indisputable. In essence, two irrefutable laws are mutually incompatible. Emanuel Kant, for instance was able to rationally argue that time had no beginning. On the other hand, he rationally contested that time did have a beginning. Both assertions are true, yet they both contradict one another and are mutually incompatible.

If we can't understand Time, therefore, how can we even begin to understand God?

If there's one thing that I know for sure... it's that I am not God. How could God, who governs the infinite vast universe, who's power, wisdom and knowledge is limitless, at the same time, take the form of a baby occupying 4 liters of space? How could this eternal God endure death while still governing the universe? I do not know the answers to such questions. I'm not God.

Yet, I know, for instance that God desires for each and every person that He's created to demonstrate the virtues that make up our humanness... humility being one of them. Furthermore, when we fail at manifesting this virtue, we are without excuse because God, Himself, showed us that it can be done. If Genesis 1:26 is true, therefore, by virtue of the fact that we were made in God's image, we are required to reflect that image perfectly. Hence, in light of our failure, we are deserving of nothing but eternal condemnation.

But God, as has already been alluded to, possesses absolute virtues that we humans inadequately display as part of our humanity which are really poor reflections of God's nature. the actual umbrella for these virtues is love. And for us, as we shall see (if we don't already know), love is necessary for our well-being.

Hence, I ask... "What would be the definition of perfect love? Does God manifest this virtue perfectly as well?"

Might I suggest that perfect love be defined, not just as love for one's friends or family but for all people, including complete strangers and even the bitterest of enemies. This love has total empathy for the condition of even these enemies and is so self-less and concerned about the well-being of the "other" that it's willing to absorb the punishment that is rightfully due the objects of that love for whatever wrong actions and attitudes of which they might be guilty.

Put another way (according to our mathematical method of communication)...

Absolute Love = Willing endurance of punishment deserved by the one loved (times) Everyone
(since everyone is loved)

NOTE: As the number of objects of love grows larger, love grows larger.  In light of that I would say that "everyone" is a pretty large number!
Put another way... God manifested absolute love by being willing to endure the punishment deserved by everyone. And what is this punishment? From our discussion of humility we've concluded that lack of humility deserves condemnation. Now take that virtue and multiply it by all the other virtues and I think it's safe to say that our ineptness at practicing the virtues we were created and supposed to demonstrate leaves us deserving of eternal condemnation.

But Jesus, having taken on this condemnation Himself, rescues us from its consequences.

Paul alluded to this when he said...

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Messiah's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation
Colossians 1:21-22

So what are we to conclude, having said all this? God is ONE (Echod). This remains a constant, goes without saying, and is irrefutable. However, If GOD had not manifested Himself as an entirely human individual, capable of and, in actuality, perfectly practicing the virtues that inherently are part of our humanity, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN INCONSISTENT WITH HIS NATURE.

It is commonly said that "to love someone is to know that someone". In Deuteronomy, we've been commanded to "love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength". But how can we love God if we don't know Him? Jesus said to one of His disciples "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father". Conversely, if you don't know Jesus there is no way that you can know the Father.
Furthermore, if we willfully choose not to know Jesus, we've willfully chosen not to love the Father and our eternal condemnation remains on us.

It is my hope that you would choose to know Jesus.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Israel's God Granted Us Our Independence Let Us Never Forget



The American war for independence was fought by ill trained, over taxed, over-burdened Colonists who pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor believing that this call for independence was supported by a “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”.

It was remarkable that America had won her independence.  The ragtag colonists had pitted themselves against the most powerful, best equipped military in the world at that time.  And yet, they prevailed.

At his inaugural address George Washington declared:

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency... We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.1

Just about all of the founding fathers saw God’s hand in the making of America. 

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying…

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel.2

John Adams said…

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 3

Contrary to the opinions of many, the majority of the founding fathers of the United States had a deep and abiding trust in God.  And who was this God?  We get a hint from Benjamin Franklins afore mentioned quote.  This was the God manifested in the Hebrew scriptures.

The Bible refers to the eternal God of the Universe over 200 times as the “God of Israel”.  Elsewhere He’s described as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… the Patriarchs of the Jewish people.

But why would the God of the Universe be so exclusive as to focus on identifying with Israel?  The answer to that question is far more involved than I can communicate in a simple essay.  Suffice it to say that God’s identification with Israel is necessarily His plan for blessing the entire world by ultimately trading in man’s plea for “tolerance” with the preferable attribute of love which brings with it  genuine peace.

Were the founding fathers, therefore exclusivist?  By no means!  George Washington was quoted as saying

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.4

(As an aside, note, if you will, Washington’s words in bold.  I believe that that is a statement particularly relevant in this day.)

Against all odds, the United States was created with the blessing and aide of Almighty God.  This God has certain characteristics of not only power, omnipresence and all of those attributes that are universally assumed by monotheists, but of love and intimacy, justice, kindness and absolute adherence to what would be universally known as virtues.  He manifested His nature to us throughout scripture but most explicitly through the manifestation of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. 

For the most part, it seems that what is commonly known as “the Church” forgets the reality that the God they profess to worship identifies Himself as the “God of Israel”.  It does tend to remember this fact once a year when it traditionally sings “born is the King of Israel”.

The King of Israel died and rose from the dead not so that we can with cavalier abandon take what He accomplished for us on the cross for granted.  Nor are we to put words in His mouth and condone that which He, in reality and according to His Word, the Scriptures, condemns.  Historically when we’ve condoned what God condemns, He’s punished us.  Lincoln interpreted the Civil War as punishment from God for not having eliminated slavery.5

The King of Israel died and conquered death so that we might serve Him and obey Him, not so that we can pursue our own self-interests.  If we fail at this task as individuals and fail to encourage this as of foremost importance collectively we will certainly lose the freedom that the God of Israel desires for all people, and subsequently our “independence”.

1 https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals/inaugtxt.html


3 Ibid 

4 Ibid

Thursday, June 8, 2017

FAKE NEWS: That Christianity's NOT Jewish

Nowadays it seems that “Fake News” is the only thing that’s in the news.  News outlets, politicians and pundits seem only intent on reporting those stories that agree with their predetermined biases whether they be factual or not.  In fact, more often than not, we’re seeing evidence of people making things up to counter contrary evidence.

People don’t really know what to believe anymore.  Most folks, rather than pursuing truth have chosen to simply disregard the facts. 

But as Koheleth (The Preacher of Ecclesiastes) says, “There’s nothing new under the sun”.   “Fake News” has always been around.

We humans have a terrible inclination to deceive ourselves.  On a fundamental level, we are all confused about how we got here.  Some say we “evolved” out of some primordial goo and there is no God to account for our existence.  If these folks are right (which is not my opinion) I really do find it hard to believe that they’re able to find significant meaning in life.  Even their so called good deeds or achievements seem to have only temporal value.

Others have said that there are many gods.  Others have said that there are many many gods.  Some have said, and history has confirmed, that these gods actually demand human sacrifice.  Unimaginable horrors have resulted from human misunderstanding of our origins.

Some have taken these many gods and gotten rid of all except one and declared that this is the one and only true god.  Some of these folks have killed a lot of people who’ve not agreed with them.

All these speculations concerning our origin are just that… speculation… Fake News.

There is in the human heart an innate knowledge of good and bad. We have an awareness that there are virtues and vices.  We can distinguish between, for instance, humility and arrogance, patience and impatience, compassion vs. dismissiveness, hopefulness vs. despair.  We can distinguish between loyalty and back-stabbing, kindness and cruelty.  I would hold that the virtues are conducive to life and the vices are more conducive to death.

These virtues are behaviors and attitudes that all of we human beings ought to be able to display all the time, but none of us do.  Some of us are better at it than others but none of us is perfect at it by any means.  Culture, religion (or lack thereof) pervert and distort our understanding of the importance of these virtues.  For instance, there actually are people groups who say that it is more virtuous to be deceptive than to be straight-forward and honest.1   Many in the “west” have come to be brainwashed into thinking that what one regards as “success” is more important than the personal exercise of virtue.

Sadly, our variant perspectives on how we got here impact how we deal with this inadequacy on our part which, for the sake of argument, I’ll call as “guilt”.   Some of us live with remorse.  Some engage in self-sacrifice.  Some of us go to war on behalf of our fake cause.  Some of us think we can mollify our guilt by engaging in, what we think are charitable or righteous endeavors.  And many fake religions have promoted ways of mollifying our guilt whether it be through good deeds or “throwing money into the coffer” or recitations of mantras of some sort.  And the real news is that none of those endeavors work.  They’re like putting a band-aid on a cancerous skin lesion.

One day, the one and only true creator God of the universe manifested Himself to one man by the name of Abraham.  This God was about to destroy two cities named Sodom and Gomorrah because the people of those cities were universally and irredeemably displaying no virtues and only vices.  As Abraham was looking down into that valley with those cities infected by corruption, God said of Abraham

“…I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” 
Genesis 18:19

The Bible gives a record the early history of the Children of Abraham, which today, we call “the Jewish people”.  And the Bible’s stark honesty displays our collective inability to “do the righteousness and justice” that Abraham had commanded of us.  Despite our failure however, two things emerged with unchanging and irrevocable certainty … the absolute standard of virtues as opposed to vices and the Messiah who came into the world through those people whom we call the Jews.  What is objectively good or virtuous is as prevalent as the air we breathe.  It cannot change!  To compliment that, the Messiah is the only person among the billions upon billions of people who’ve lived on this planet throughout its history, who had determined that always, in every instance, in time, choosing and practicing virtue over vice was more important than even survival itself.  He was the way that God would be if He would ever choose to manifest Himself as a man.

His death alone was capable of compensating for our inadequacies.  His death alone would pay for our guilt.  By comparison, all the money we would “throw into the coffers” or any of the sacrifices we would make on behalf of our pseudo perception of God are thoroughly inadequate because we are inadequate.

The news of this man and the wonderful forgiveness available to anyone who would simply trust in Jesus’ death as the appeasement of God’s wrath towards us, was spread by Jews with names like Shimeon, Yaakov, Yehudah, Shaul, Yochenon and others.  The “Church” however, has hidden the Jewishness of this story.  It changed the names of these men to Simon-Peter, James, Jude, Paul, and John respectively.  It drew pictures of Jesus with a halo around His head or with wavy blond hair or it made him look weak and effeminate.  The church certainly made Jesus to not look Jewish!  In fact, it changed His Name to Jesus which really has no meaning.  Jesus is a transliteration of His real Name which is the Hebrew name Y’shua which means “the salvation of God”.  The Church called the afore mentioned disseminators of the Gospel “Christians” whom, by virtue of that epithet along with the “gentilization” of their names, were now no longer perceived as Jews.  The Church made up its own holidays and traditions which further disguised the origin of their faith.  Much of the Church even went so far as to say that the Old Testament is irrelevant which is quite ridiculous of the by virtue of the fact that literally 33% of the text of the New Testament consists of Older Testament quotes.

The Church removed the cultural trappings of the context in which Jesus lived and replaced them with its own culture and even forbad Jews who wanted to “join the church” from practicing elements of their own culture disregarding the reality that much of Jewish culture, by virtue of its link to the Old Testament, which speaks of the nature of, time of manifestation and foreseen accomplishments of the Messiah, compliments the Gospel message.

Admittedly Jewish leadership has also been responsible for historic Jewish rejection of Jesus.  The end result of all of this separation of Christianity from its Jewish roots is that it is now, perceived as something which is fundamentally not Jewish.  Consequently, it is viewed as just another religion like Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam.  It is not!  GENUINE CHRISTIANITY IS A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ONE AND ONLY LIVING AND ETERNAL GOD  who has an infinite, selfless love specifically for you and He manifested that love through the excruciatingly agonizing death of Jesus.  I don’t know how He does it, but I’ve come to realize that because He’s God, you are the very undivided focus of His attention.  He loves you as if you were the only person who exists.  And you may find it difficult to believe, but all things that take place in your life, even the difficult things, take place because He specifically loves you!  As scripture says...

    "God causes all things to work together for good to 
     those who love God and are called according to His      purpose."
                                                                  Romans 8:28

Hey, maybe you might think that what I’m telling you about God and Jesus is fake news.  I certainly hope not.  But whether you agree with that or not, disregarding the trappings that have come with the Church, and going right to the source… the scripture, whether you believe the scripture or not, you will discover that both the Old and New Testaments are thoroughly Jewish books.  This is undeniable.  Check it out for yourself!  And I dare say that to claim that Christianity is NOT Jewish is FAKE NEWS.

I want to thank you for reading this essay.  If you don’t already, I do hope you’ll come to agree concerning what I’ve said about the universality of virtue and your and my inability to practice it.  I hope you’ll come to realize that the only way of forgiveness for this inadequacy is through Jesus’ death and that His subsequent resurrection opens the gates for eternal life for you and for me.  I would argue that despite the failures of the “Church”, it, for the most part, got those universal fundamentals right.

May God bless you.

Benyomin Ellegant

1. https://www.amazon.com/Peace-Child-Unforgettable-Primitive-Treachery/dp/0830737847

2. http://www.biblecharts.org/newtestaament/percentageoftheoldtestamentfoundinthenewtestament.pdf


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Monday, June 5, 2017

What Is Your Source of Authority? A Leader? an Expert? or the Truth?

Many have argued that “more wars have been fought in the name of religion than for any other reason”.  I think that in correlation with that one might also say that religion is the cause of more deaths than any other causative agent.

The intent of this essay is not to debate that point even though during the last century over 65,000,000 Chinese people died at the hands of Mao Tse-tung’s anti-God Communist “great leap forward”, another estimated 26,000,000 people perished under Marxist Soviet control, a purely political, atheistic movement, and another 60,000,000 people met their demise during World War II… a bloodbath instigated by a fanatic German dictator who probably only worshipped himself and a Japanese emperor who also was the object of worship by those whom he governed.

I would hold that all violent deaths, be they the result of war, political oppression, or violence at the hands of fanatics… is the result of an authority problem.  The massive deaths I mentioned earlier were the result of blind trust in the veracity of some authority figure.

But what about religions?  It seems that religions tend to promote experts who advocate for the veracity of their religion, however interestingly enough, in the process, they come to total disagreement on the nature of God.  In light of that, I somewhat bemusedly like to call an expert “someone who has the authority to disagree with another expert”.  The Muslim starting point for determining truth is the assumption that the Quran is the unaltered, unalterable word of God.  The Imam assumes that the eloquence of its Arabic is unsurpassed, it’s perspicacity concerning scientific knowledge is miraculous and the word-for-word unchangeableness of its texts attest to its superiority as a document.  Yet the Imam neglects to investigate the Quran from the skeptics’ point of view, rationally defending the challenges to its veracity that are thrown its way. 

Does the Muslim scholar consider the reality, for instance, that some of the scientific claims in the Quran are questionable?  For instance, Sura 23:13-14 states that bone was formed followed by flesh to cover it during human embryonic development.  However, this is an inaccuracy.  Mesoderm in an embryo divides to form bone and flesh simultaneously1

Does the Muslim scholar consider the fact that eloquence is not a test for “Holiness”?  Eloquence is a subjective measure.  It is in the eye of the beholder.  One can psyche oneself into believing that something is eloquent or repulsive.  People in the West would say that a Shakespearean play is eloquent.  Should we, likewise, regard it as holy?

Does the Muslim scholar consider the reality that when Zaid ibn Thabit compiled the Quran, it was a very daunting task and even after its completion there was evidence that some verses of his compilation had been left out?  If Allah had carefully preserved his word, should it not have been an easy task?  How does he explain that Aisha had commented that, upon Muhammad’s death, a goat had eaten a verse?  How does the Muslim scholar apologist explain that the ultimate cause for the alleged immutability of the Quran was because the Caliph Uthman, in an effort to standardize the Quran, and thus, unify a dividing Muslim world, had every verse that didn’t belong in what had been subjectively determined to be the final manuscript, burned because there was significant disagreement among the memorizers? 2

By contrast, for the purposes of this essay, I need only say that no document in the history of the world has faced the level of skeptical scrutiny as has the Bible.  And with every test, it has passed.  Archeology, history, and science, with each new discovery has only served to corroborate the claims of the Bible.

I will not indict Islam, alone and leave everyone else off the hook though.

I also fault the Rabbis who demand that you have them be the ones who interpret scripture for you.  Judaism, although it teaches good and worthy things gives vent to a tacit rejection of the notion that Jesus could possibly be the Messiah.  The stereotypic response from the Jewish community is “Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because the Messiah is supposed to bring peace to the world and we don’t live in a world of peace”.  Any cursory look at the Book of Daniel chapter 9 would tell you not only that Messiah was supposed to have come already but after the Messiah’s being killed, there would be “wars and desolations until the end”.  After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Rabbi Shmuel BenNahmani, in the Talmud, said in the name of Rabbi Jonathan, "Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end.  For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come.”3

Rabbi Shmuel, having assumed that the Messiah hadn’t come refused to allow anyone to use such texts as Daniel 9 for making such calculations.  I ask rhetorically, why not allow the texts simply to speak for themselves?  They’re quite straight forward!  I would hold that it's because they didn't believe their own texts.

Last of all, I will not let the supposed “Christian” off the hook.  Who is your source of authority?  Your preacher or the Bible itself?  Even the lauded Apostle Paul was questioned on more than one occasion.  The people of the town of Berea, however, went back to their homes and examined the scriptures to confer as to whether what Paul had been saying to them was correct or not (Acts 17).  To the Bereans Paul would not have had any credibility if what he’d been saying was inconsistent with, what we would call, the “Old Testament Scriptures” which were the only scriptures available to people of that time.

The questions that I present to you therefore are… 

1. "Do those whom you regard as leaders bas their opinioins on assumptions and predetermined biases?"

2.  "Are they willing to rationally defend their beliefs against the arguments of skeptics or do they merely brush off the arguments presented against their opinions as tacitly invalid?"

3.  "Worse yet, do they condemn the skeptic as a "heretic" or
"infidel"?

    When these questions are addressed to you… the individual, I’ll concede, the challenges presented by the skeptic can be extremely uncomfortable.  They can potentially turn your entire world upside down.  But I assure you… it’s the only way that you can gain any genuine approximation to truth.  By the same token, dismissiveness towards the challenges of your world view is the sum and substance of the content of human discord. 

Best Regards,

Benyomin Ellegant

1 Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity – Qureshi, Nabeel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI  2016, p 233.

2 Ibid: p 237 (via Sahih Bukhari)

Talmud: Sanhedrin 97 b.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

An Open Letter to Franklin Graham


I sincerely appreciate the work you do.  You, like I, have a burden for America to come to repentance.  You have a heart for lost souls as do I.  Your work with Samaritan’s Purse is very commendable.  Yet, out of fear of sounding like one of the letters to the seven Churches in Revelation, “I have this against you”.  You are insensitive to the Jew.

As you undoubtedly know...
Peter was a Jew
Mark was a Jew
John was a Jew
James was a Jew
Paul was a Jew
Jude was a Jew
Barnabas was a Jew
The writer of Hebrews was a Jew.
The first martyr was a Jew
Jesus Himself, came as a Jew
and
There are some who argue, and rather convincingly, that Luke was also a Jew.

None of these facts are conveyed and yet I hear from your podium “A crowd of Jews cried “Crucify Him (Jesus). Crucify Him”.

I’ll not deny the truth of your quote.  It’s in scripture and it’s an historical fact.  Yet, the fact that it was Jews who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles is brushed under the rug as irrelevant by most of Christendom.

I would like, if you don’t mind, to consider your audience.  Your target, as I understand it, should be unbelievers who are curious about what you have to say about Jesus. 

And what is an unbeliever who comes to believe in Jesus called?  He is considered as “Born again”.  And what is someone who is born again?  He is a “babe” in Christ.  And what do babes drink?  MILK.  And the Word of God, our Bible, is regarded as nourishment for the believer.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians, implies that the Bible contains milk for the young believer and solid food for the mature believer.  And so you have included in the milk that you are serving the potentially new believer, whittingly or otherwise,  the position that “the Jews killed Christ”.  (As an aside I'm sure you agree that it was in collaboration with the Romans). Only if he delves into the scripture will the "new born" learn that it was also the Jews who brought the Gospel to the Gentile... maybe.

Jews of the pale in Russia used to die at the hands of people who poured out of passion plays incensed with the desire to take revenge on those “Christ Killers”.  And so, I rhetorically ask “Would a white person feel at home attending a Louis Farrakhan rally?”  “Would a black man feel particularly comfortable attending a Ku Klux Klan rally?”  Therefore, Why would a Jew attend a Franklin Graham meeting if he knows that his people are going to be demonized as has been the case by Gentile Christians for the past 1900 years? 

I know, beyond a doubt, that that is not your desire.  I’m not asking for you to deny or reject history, but I am asking that you might ask God on how you might become more sensitive on this issue.

You’re a good man and I sincerely  appreciate your work.

God bless you,

Benyomin Ellegant
(A fellow babe in Christ) :-)
K'hilat Memphis
(Memphis Fellowship)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The United Nations Has Done to Israel what Israel has done to God

Some with a pre-conceived agenda may disagree but in my mind, Israel is probably the most compassionate country in the world. 

When Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake in 2015, the tiny country of Israel deployed more aid personnel than any other country in the world1.

In 2010, when Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake which killed over 300,000 people and left over 1 million people homeless, Israel, along with a handful of other countries each, deployed over 1000 aid workers per nation to help in the relief effort2.

Since 1957 Israel has provided relief assistance to 140 countries which have faced disastrous circumstances3 in efforts to feed the homeless, heal the wounded and save and restore the lives of millions.

Israel is a compassionate country made up of people whose history has turned them into a compassionate people.

Israel not only exceeds in compassion but it is a leader in Agricultural technology, solar power technology, medical technology, Artificial Intelligence and a whole slew of other areas of development4.

Yet despite Israel’s exemplary record on human rights as the only democracy in the Middle East, her display of compassion, and her technological achievements, much of the world seems to remain staunchly against her very existence.

In December of last year, the United Nations passed Resolution 2334 which states that any Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in Jerusalem are illegal according to international law.  In essence, this makes Israel a pariah on the world stage.  The resolution was based upon the assumption that the legitimate boundaries of Israel were the boundaries it had prior to the 1967 war in which Israel pushed back against Arab aggression.  The resolution declares that prior to 1967 that territory was Palestinian territory. 

If the UN had done its homework, it may have noticed that prior to 1946, the majority of the population of that territory was Jewish and that it had been ethnically cleansed by the nation of Jordan.  Furthermore, the majority of Jerusalem had been Jewish.  Additionally, the definition of a “Palestinian” was a resident of the territory be he Arab or Jew.  Israel merely won that territory back in a defensive war.

But history is inconvenient to the so-called contemporary “Palestinian” cause.  If the UN had really done its homework they might have also discovered that the city known as Jerusalem is mentioned over 760 times in the Bible.  The Quran, the “holy book” of the majority of Palestinians, doesn’t even mention Jerusalem once.  Yet the UN wants to award Jerusalem to people who have no historical claim to it and prior to 1946 were a minority population there.  I can’t help but recount my amusement when I’d seen an article in the New York Times which declared that a Palestinian museum had been dedicated in May of last year and had opened without any exhibits5.  As I researched this essay, I see that it still has no exhibits.  Might I suggest that the reason for this museums dearth of exhibits is because contemporary Palestinians have no history in the West bank and that, in fact, by definition, they were Jordanians!

But I’m not going to let Israel off the hook in this essay because what the UN has done to Israel is precisely what Israel has done to God.  JUDAISM (the religion) IS A DENIAL OF HISTORY!  Some 2000 years ago the God of the Universe… the God of the ancestors of the Jewish people… the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, entered upon the human stage of history as THE TSADIK (THE righteous one)… the very actualization of the way that God would be should He become a man and the way that man should be but is not.  “He was rejected by His own and His own did not receive Him” (Yochenon 1:11).  He experienced a horrific, unwarranted death, which enabled Him to experience full empathy with the human condition, and He conquered death.  There is ample evidence to support this claim.  I need only site Roman records which were meticulously kept of individuals undergoing martyrdom because they had actually witnessed the resurrection of this man from the dead.  I can see dying for a military or a national cause or dying in the process of trying to save a loved one, but dying because you saw someone raised from the dead is absurd unless, of course, it’s true.  There are other arguments based on history and archeology which defend the historical account of Jesus many of which are discussed in books like those of Josh MacDowell’s, “More Evidence that Demands a Verdict” (Footnote 6) and Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” (Footnote 7)

Of course, this evidence can be disputed but dare I suggest that it is disputed in the same fashion as the UN disputes the Jewish claim to Jerusalem and the west bank.  History is distorted in the name of politics and theology.  Consequently, like a chain reaction set off by historical distortion, reality is also distorted.

Truth takes a back seat to presumptuous theology. Hence, the UN has done to Israel what Israel has done to God.