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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day Thoughts

As we recognize the anniversary of Saint Patrick's death, I think it's important to learn a bit from this great man of God.

1. Patrick showed the love of Christ towards his enemies

Many people don't realize that Patrick was not Irish, but an English Christian.' His autobiography Confessio explains that he was taken captive by a band of Irish marauders, and held as a slave in Ireland.1 During that time, as he tended flocks, his faith in God grew stronger.' After six years, he escaped as made his way back to his parents' home.' However, God called him back to evangelize the Irish via a dream:
And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: 'The Voice of the Irish'; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry."2

2. Patrick was steadfast in the face of opposition

The Druids saw Patrick as not only a foreigner who upset their ways but a crazy person with a peculiar look and a more peculiar message.  He was most likely beaten and put in chains. A seventh century poem criticizes him by saying:3
Across the sea will come Adze-head, crazed in the head, his cloak with hole for the head, his stick bent in the head. He will chant impieties from a table in the front of his house; all his people will answer: "so be it, so be it."

3. Patrick's Heart for God and Service

Below is a traditional Irish prayer attributed to St. Patrick.  Whether Patrick genuinely wrote this or not, it does show his heart toward his God and the service to which he was called.4


I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

References

1. "Kidnapped by Pirates at Age 16" The Confessions of St. Patrick. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/patrick/confession.ii.html (accessed March 17, 2010).
2. Ibid. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/patrick/confession.vi.html
3. Lydon, James F. The making of Ireland: from ancient times to the present.
(New York:Routledge,1998) p.6
See the book page here.
4. "St. Patrick" New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm (accessed March 17, 2010).
Image courtesy Andreas F. Borchert and licensed via the CC BY-SA 3.0 de license.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The True Cost of the Sexual Revolution - Sexual Insanity

I found an article written about a year ago by Bill Muehlenberg, who teaches at several Australian theological seminaries. He notes that with the Octo-mom and 13-year-olds fathering children we have finally begun to reap some of the ultimate consequences of the sexual revolution..



Of course, on TV and in universities, ushering in the age of unrepressed sexual activity is still lauded as one of the great advancements in society. This, as we all know, is nonsense. To underscore his point, Muehlenberg offers this critique from Chesteron:

As G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago: A society that claims to be civilized and yet allows the sex instinct free-play is inoculating itself with a virus of corruption which sooner or later will destroy it. It is only a question of time. He is worth quoting at length:
What had happened to the human imagination, as a whole, was that the whole world was coloured by dangerous and rapidly deteriorating passions; by natural passions becoming unnatural passions. Thus the effect of treating sex as only one innocent natural thing was that every other innocent natural thing became soaked and sodden with sex. For sex cannot be admitted to a mere equality among elementary emotions or experiences like eating and sleeping. The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant. There is something dangerous and disproportionate in its place in human nature, for whatever reason; and it does really need a special purification and dedication. The modern talk about sex being free like any other sense, about the body being beautiful like any tree or flower, is either a description of the Garden of Eden or a piece of thoroughly bad psychology, of which the world grew weary two thousand years ago.
Muehlenberg ends his article by saying, "We are today witnessing the bitter fruit of allowing sex to become a tyrant. Each day new headlines testify to the fact that when we abuse the wonderful gift of sex, we abuse ourselves and our neighbours. The question is, how much more abuse can we take as a culture before society can no longer function?"

A more pertinent question could not be asked.

References

Image courtesy Polina Sergeeva (Flickr: Anti-teenage pregnancy III) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Salad-Bar Truth: When the Critic Commits the Crime

The LA Times recently ran an op-ed piece by Barry Goldman taking Americans to task for mixing and matching various belief systems. However, Goldman makes the same basic mistake that is at the root of his rebuke towards the public.



Goldman opens his op-ed piece by quoting from a recent Pew study that states:
Large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.
Goldman then sums up the findings by writing "What is striking about the Pew study is not the prevalence of superstition and hocus-pocus, alarming as that is. It is the feeling that we are free to choose from a broad, cafeteria-style menu of superstitious hocus-pocus. Charles Blow in the New York Times called it the construction of 'Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities.'"

It's true that Americans DO take a cafeteria-style approach to beliefs – often holding contradictory beliefs as both being true. This has been a big problem in our culture, primarily because people just don't think through the implications of their belief system. However, Goldman completely crumbles in his analysis. He tries to make a distinction that facts are not things based on preference by referring to the story of elementary class that couldn't tell whether their pet rabbit was a male or female, so they decided to vote about the rabbit's sex. He then opines:
We no longer trust the guys in the seminaries to determine which ideas are inside and outside the community of faith. We feel entitled to make our own decisions. Fair enough; the facts with respect to spiritual matters have always been somewhat elusive. But now many of us feel entitled to decide which scientific ideas to accept. Scientists have their ideas about, say, the age of the Earth or evolution by natural selection, and other people have other ideas. According to this new view, neither has any more claim to legitimacy than the other. There is no fact of the matter."
Goldman concludes his article by saying "We used to be a nation with a broad consensus. If you had a religious question, you asked a religious leader. If you had a scientific question, you asked a scientist. Today, if you have a question (about your enthusiasm for a belief) you ask another enthusiast." Here's where Goldman shows that he doesn't know what he's talking about. He seems to think that expert consensus is the determining factor whether or not we should believe something. That position is ridiculous. If an individual holding to a belief doesn't make the thing true or not, then an expert consensus doesn't make it true either.

There have been many times where "asking a scientist" has given a wrong answer just as asking a religious leader did. Two examples I can think of right away are the science of genetics – where Gregor Mendel's findings didn't achieve widespread acceptance for some 40 years, since Mendel's theory collided with the Darwinian view of blending inheritable traits from parents – and the age of the universe, where the desire for an infinitely old universe was so strong, it caused Einstein to add a fudge factor to his equations.

Goldman really stumbles here. What he should have said was that we hold to certain ideas because we believe them to be true. We have knowledge because we have justification for a certain belief. If a belief that we hold is contradictory – either internally (such as a Christian believing in reincarnation) or externally (such as calling a male rabbit a female), then that cannot be true – we must rethink our position. Experts can help, but that presupposes that they have also critically examined their field of study. However, it may very well be that the experts are wrong. It's quite possible the public could see this and choose to reject the belief.

Rational examination and holding to a belief because its true are the golden standard. Goldman may dismiss matters of faith as "the facts with respect to spiritual matters have always been somewhat elusive." This shows that Goldman has never investigated faith matters seriously. If there is a God, then dismissing the hard work of finding Him out is like the class who would rather choose the rabbit's sex than work to find the answer. Goldman is committing the same crime he's accused us of – choosing which beliefs fit his worldview and then running with them while he sanctimoniously rebukes everyone else.


Image courtesy "RELIGIONES" by ReligijneSymbole. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Three Essential Gifts for Christmas

In order to properly celebrate Christmas, there are three specific gifts that one must have. These have always been given since the very first Christmas and the wisest among men will continue to offer them, not only in this season, but all year long.


1. Gold
Gold is the first gift, a symbol and recognition of His kingship and divinity. Like the divine nature of Jesus, gold never tarnishes – it always maintains its purity. Because of this, gold is considered highly valuable. Also, gold endures where other elements would decompose when "attacked". No single acid can dissolve it. Silver can be dissolved by nitric acid, but not gold. Thus nitric acid was used as the original "acid test" for purity.

We offer our "gold"—the things we value the most in this world—for the untarnished and incorruptible gold of Jesus who is our divine mediator. He is our King and our God.

2. Frankincense
Frankincense is the second gift, a symbol of Christ's priestly work in atoning for sin. Incense was an important element of worship for Israel. Given the nature of animal sacrifice, the stench of death could be overpowering in the temple. The burning of frankincense would provide a pleasing aroma, covering the smell of sin and death. It is offered to God, symbolic of the prayers of repentance and requests of forgiveness. Frankincense only worked when it was burned – made nothing. We remember that Jesus made Himself nothing by humbling Himself to become man so that all men may live.

We offer up our sins – with their smell of death and corruption – to Him in exchange for His pleasing aroma before the Father. He is our high priest, consumed so that He may cover our sins with His blood.

3. Myrrh
Myrrh is our last gift, a symbol of Christ's death for us. The word myrrh derives from the Hebrew word for bitter. Used throughout the ancient world as an embalming fluid, myrrh was usually created by combining the resins of two different plants. Jesus had combined His divine nature with a human one for the express purpose of dying for humanity. As a fragrance, myrrh reacts differently than most resins in that "it expands and 'blooms' when burned instead of melting or liquefying."1 Jesus' death allowed His salvation to expand across the entire world. Myrrh was also used as an antiseptic medicine (re: Smyrna) to promote healing.

In recognition of His offering of His life for us, we offer our lives in return. But we can never outgive God. In offering up our lives we receive life everlasting. Jesus said "he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matt 10:39)

I pray that you and yours will have a blessed Christmas this year – and that you won't forget to put the three most important gifts on your list. You see, these really aren't gifts from us. These are gifts to us, and a greater gift no man has known than the gift of Jesus.

(1) "Myrrh" Wikipedia article accessed 12/24/2009.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Proclamation - U.S. Congress 1782

For your Thanksgiving edification, I thought I'd reproduce one of the earliest Thanksgiving proclamations issues from the Continental Congress of the United States in 1782. Given that many today claim that the Christian roots of this country are in doubt, I offer up just one piece of evidence that Christianity was not merely deemed important, but the congress encouraged all individuals to "testify to their gratitude to God for his goodness" and made the even bolder declaration that this could be done "by promoting... the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness."

This is taken from a full class I gave entitled "Thanksgiving and America's Christian Heritage." You may download this class at http://bit.ly/69hQ0P, but hurry - it won't be available for long!

IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged----
Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness. 
Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, AD 1782.
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