Jeff Moreau! Congrats, man. I’ll send it out to you as soon as you send me your mailing address. You can facebook it to me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank-you everyone who entered. Next giveaway will happen mid- November and our Roman Catholic friends especially will want to get in on the action.
Right now churches across Canada are covering all sorts of topics and series in their series and sermons. Among these will be series and topics on better sex, happy marriages, how to be a strong leader, parenting techniques, how to manage money, positive thinking, vision casting, spiritual lessons from movies, and a host of other subjects. Good topics all, I suppose, but I can’t help but wonder if those are the best things to be preaching on when we consider what is not being preached on. Let me explain a bit.
I wonder what Pastor here in Fort Murray, if I were to survey their congregation and ask them to define and explain the Trinity, would feel confident that the bulk of the responses would not be some form or variation of arianism, subordinationism, adoptionism, modalism, polytheism, monarchianism, tritheism, patripassianism, appolinarianism, socinianism, monophysitism, or nestorianism. How many people in the Church would be able to offer up a robust, biblical explanation of the Trinity? Could they defend it from Oneness Christians or their Muslim and Jehovah Witness friends and coworkers? To what degree of scrutiny can it withstand?
If I were to ask “Because God, Jesus, and the Holy spirit are one, would it be fair to say that the Father is the Son, The Son is the Spirit, and the Spirit is the Father?’ How many people would answer yes to that question, or be unsure how to answer it? And how many people know that if they did answer yes, they would be affirming the heresy of Sabellianism and repudiating the Athanasian creed?
One could argue that teaching on the Trinity is too abstract, or complicated, or esoteric, or has no bearing or application in the real world. I don’t think that’s true at all and would love to be a dog in that fight. While I know that not everyone in a Church is going to have an seminary-level grasp of the Trinity, are the leaders of the Church confident that most people will have a strong grasp of it most of the time?
And if not, is it possible that it might be important that foundational things are taught like the Trinity [Or Justification, or sanctification, or the nature of the gospel, or a host of other fundamental doctrines] before we embark on an 8 week series on how to manage one’s wealth or how to be a good leader?
Just some food for thought.
There is a microcosm of our popular culture today that is spread and spewed on a daily basis by many members of the Body of Christ, and this is the fact that “gay jokes” are socially and spiritually accepted within the Church. That is tragic, disturbing, and damaging. Most Christians know that you shouldn’t tell dirty or sexual jokes and if you confronted a man telling a coarse joke, more often than not he’ll become embarrassed, self-conscious, and acknowledge that he probably shouldn’t be saying them. There is no such stigma for “gay jokes.”
Congregation members, especially teens and young men, have made this a part of their daily repertoire of insults and wit, specifically using the term “gay” as a disparaging epitaph. Innuendos and insinuations of effeminacy and queerness come naturally and quick. They do this based on perceived character defects, personal mannerisms, speech patterns, clothing style, affectations, interests and oftentimes for no reason whatsoever. It doesn’t really matter what the impetus is, if there is an opportunity to burn another soul [usually in jest] it’s rare that someone would think twice before saying “that’s pretty gay” in order to frame them as a homosexual and demean and marginalize them. That’s part of it. The other part is when people thoughtlessly define “gay” and make it a synonym for stupid, lame, week and boring. They might say “that restaurant was pretty gay” or that band is so gay”. Its very, very common, and Church kids love saying it.
Church kids are being bombarded by one of the worst dimensions of Christian culture which says it’s either alright to make fun of homosexuals, or as is far more prominent and is usually the case, that they don’t care when you make fun of homosexuals. It doesn’t register. They are lethargic and apathetic, and they need to be woken. It is inexcusable. It is an immature, uncaring and unloving practice. Our culture does it all the time, and instead of making this a dividing line where we draw a distinction between the hateful rhetoric of our culture and the loving, welcoming, nurturing character of the Church’s soul towards homosexuals, our young men have joined the party and have become indistinguishable in this regard. The pastors and leaders need to take them to task and correct them when they say things like that. They need to be told that what they are doing is a sin and that it has no place in that community of faith. The pastors need to rebuke, shame and discipline them. Call them out on it and take them aside and help them develop it as an issue of personal sanctification.
It is a shame in every sense of the word, and it needs to be seriously dealt with. It’s not funny and it demeans the name of Christ when they are being allowed to profligate it with impunity through careless and crass words. Their joking may not all be overt, but they implicitly bleed superiority and condescension when they take a facet of a person spirit that they’ve wept and trembled over and use it as a dismissive disparagement- when they reduce such an important, raw part of gay person’s identity to a punchline to score points.
A while ago I was in discussions with some people about what I would say if I were apologizing on behalf of the Church for how they’ve treated the homosexual community. I think what I wrote then has some relevance to the topic at hand and I figured would share part of it to close out the post;
“I would not apologize for the theology, but rather how we have presented it. I would apologize that we haven’t been more accepting of homosexuals in the congregation and have not aggressively been evangelizing them. I would apologize that we have related to them as lepers, instead of as image bearers needing Christ- and that we are less “leprous” than they. I would apologize that we have not denounced the young men in our congregations who have made a habit of telling “gay-jokes” and other shameful humor. I would apologize that we have been ambivalent and have not paid attention to the men and women in our congregation who have been struggling with same sex attraction. I would apologize for not ministering to them enough, and for not supporting them enough in their desire to be free from this. I would apologize for the tactlessness that certain ministers have exhibited in public forums and for the lack of loving tone with outsiders and unbelievers. Last of all, I would apologize that we have not been clear, intellectual, concise and consistent in our theology of marriage. We have let people who have no theology of marriage hijack the conversation and speak for us. We have let ignorant people with loveless rhetoric and billboards saying “Adam and eve, not Adam and Steve” represent us, instead of thoughtful, wise and well spoken men and women of God who are able to intelligently lay out a loving, clear presentation of why and what we believe marriage and sexuality to be and how that relates to the homosexual and heterosexual.”
*note. the title of this blog point is deliberately provocative and ironically tongue-in-cheek. When contrasted with the content and thesis, I believe it serves its purpose well.
This month’s giveaway is a Bible leaf from the 1531 Biblia Sacra. Containing the full text of Acts 13-15, the Biblia Sacra Vulgata is a Latin copy of Jeromes Vulgate. At nearly 480 years old it is one of the older bible leafs that I will be giving away.
As usual to enter, all you have to do is write a comment in the combox and let me know:
1. What your scripture-memorizing goals are for this year
2. What is the longest string of verses you have memorized.
I will be drawing a winner and announcing it on Tuesday. Your odds of winning should be quite good, so join the conversation.
onnie begins the sermon by recounting a story about her first job and how you can lose authority if you don’t know how to stand on it. We are told that one of the good things about standing on the authority of Christ is that he walks with us and supports us- that we walk in authority as if Christ is walking in authority, because we have the same authority he does. She quotes Mathew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen “
We are Christ’s ambassadors and as believers are compelled by his love to make known his truth and the good news of the gospel. In this, it is his love that compels us to preach reconciliation.
We are given John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. “ and Bonnie asks the congregation to shout out some of the miracles that Jesus did. They offer up things like feeding the 5000, walking on water, controlling the storms, healing thousands of people, raising people from the dead, casting out demons, dying on the cross, and so forth. She then tells the people that they can do likewise.
She tells a story and gives a quote of Elizabeth Elliot, and then says “When we say that we have all authority in Christ Jesus, we so easily say it. It becomes like ‘all authority is in me through Christ Jesus who died on the cross’. But we don’t get it. Until our very will, our very being is in submission to him, that means before we make a step, before we make a life altering decision, that means every day when we open our eyes or when we go to bed at night, that means as we walk along in relationship with one another, that if Christ is at the Lordship of those we are walking in authority. When those things are out of sync, then we do not understand how that authority has become out of sync in our lives, and we are literally walking in our own strength.”
We are told that we need to bow under his Lordship each and every moment of the day. “Are you possessed, are you consumed, are you compelled by the love of God, by the truth of his word? If you are then you walk in authority.” She then quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 and points out that she will quote some verses out of context. She applies the verse to herself and says that Isaiah 61 should be our mission and goal. [which is pretty curious when you consider that in reality it is a messianic prophecy about Christ as found in Luke 4:16-19. I'm not sure if that's what she had in mind when she said she was going to quote it out of context, but she is right- its definitely not there. ]
She jumps to Mark 5 and the story of the demon-possessed man and offers a brief synopsis of the chapter, highlighting the healing of Jairus’ daughter. We are told that if you read the chapter in the context of authority that we are able to ask ourselves the questions of on whose authority did Jesus do miracles? Are we doing it? Are we doing what Jesus did and more? [Interjection, is that the proper contextual lens that we are supposed to view this chapter through? ] We are told that Satan cannot resist the authority of Christ, and that “We carry the authority of Christ wherever we go. The authority of Christ now indwells within us, and is walking with us, before us, beside us.”
She quotes Mark 6: 7-13 “And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them” Jesus sent them out and gave them this task, and likewise this is our task. Jesus wasn’t telling them what to wear because he wanted to be an authoritarian, but rather he wanted them to not be constrained by what would distract them, so that they would only have as their sole focus his authority. [ It is unclear as to whether or not we are to follow his command, but it appears we are.]
Bonnie then exhorts the congregation that this day they need to make a decision to walk 100% in the authority of Christ, and that The Church is not dead, powerless, or defeated, but rather it is powerful and undefeated. We are weak and powerless to serve effectively under Jesus’ authority because of our own lack of faith to claim healing and deliverance, to walk in power and authority. We are also told that we can’t walk effectively if we are having negative thoughts about others.
She ends the sermon by saying that all authority and power resides in Jesus, and that we have the same authority that he did. We are told that we can control nature, we can raise people from the dead, we can walk on water, we can go to hospitals and heal everybody, and that we can do all these things when our will and affections are subjected to him.
I really did not care for this sermon at all. There were so many times that I was pulling my hair out, trying to follow everything she was saying and trying to anchor it in the scriptures. But It can’t be done. There is a lot of conjecture happening here- a lot of things which just simply have no basis in the word. I think what threw me off is that she was so blatant about saying that we should be doing all these miraculous things. Usually you hear people asking, oftentimes rhetorically why we aren’t seeing more people saved or more people being healed. But it’s rare to have a preacher straight up saying “In your private life you have the power to and you should be doing greater miracles than Jesus.” To that effect, there are quite a few things I wanted to point out and comment on.
1. Several times she affirms an incredibly high view of scripture that I would certainly agree with. She goes through great pains to emphasize the pre-eminence, authority, and perspicuity that the scriptures have, but that high view doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t rightly divide and preach it. For example, several time she claims that we have the same authority that Christ has- ie “all”. It begs the question “If all authority has been given to Christ in heaven and on earth, do we also have all authority in heaven, or just on earth, and how would you biblically show the difference?” Furthermore, and specifically, I would ask where in the Bible does it say we have all authority? The biblical case is that we believers have some authority, not all. The foundation of this sermon is knocked off kilter when we see that early on she makes a leap from Matthew to John that she had no basis for making. That is a problem and that is cause for much of the confusion we’re seeing.
2. In the context of us being able to do everything that Jesus can do, she says “This is from Jesus. This is not Paul telling us, this is not Peter, this is not Matthew. This is Jesus words himself. “I tell you the truth.” This is something that you can stand on. This is something that is guarantee. This is something from all eternity. “I tell you the truth anyone who has faith in me will do what I am doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the father.”
Would it make it any less authoritative if Paul or Peter was saying it? Would it make it any less truthful? Is there any practical difference between Jesus telling us and Peter and Paul telling us something, under the power of the Holy Spirit? If not then why make that distinction? Paul is speaking with equal authority as Jesus spoke, and so I don’t like the seeming second class scriptural citizenship that Paul is being relegated to. Just a really…unfortunate distinction to make.
3. Where in the Bible does it say, as Bonnie attested to in her sermon, that we have to walk 100% in authority with Christ to do greater miracles? Where does it say we can only accomplish these miracles if we bow under the Lordship of God every minute of every day? Those are assertion, but they are not proven. If we are to take John 12 in the same way as Bonnie is doing, all it says is that if we believe in him we will be able to do the work he is doing, so why all these added unbiblical caveats? Bonnie recounts that Jesus says, concerning his ability to do awesome miracles “I tell you the truth; anyone who has faith in me will do what I am doing” What biblical defense could be offered to the charge that if people aren’t doing these miraculous work then they are not believing and they do not have faith in Christ?, or at the very least are being disobedient?
4. Bonnie says, when speaking about Mark 5 “Jesus looks at Jairus and says “do you trust me? do you trust me?” and I think those are key things that we need to remember in our lives when God asks us to take that step of faith and we hear that nagging sense in our gut and in our head “do you trust me?’ And Jairus’ daughter was risen from the dead because he trusted.”
That’s not what Jesus said and that is an incorrect conclusion to draw. We read in Mark ” While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” In Luke 9 we read Jesus saying “ Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” There is nothing about “do you trust me?” Jesus never says that. The call to believe is to believe in who he is and his ability to heal, not in voices in our heads and sensation in our guts. This is an improper handling of the scripture and she is drawing improper application.
5. Bonnie states “We have the authority today, that when we are being tempted, that we are being bombarded by the evil one, we have the authority to say “be gone” and the only response, when we stand on Christ’s authority, when we do it in Christ authority, the only response is “ok, I’m gone.” Cause there is no other response from Satan himself. When Christ is in the room, Satan isn’t. There isn’t a conversation going on here between God and Satan, wondering whose going to battle over your soul. If you have given your heart to Christ then you stand on the authority of Christ, and when you say Satan, evil one, evil thought, temptation be gone, it is gone, because of that authority.”
It seems that Satan and Christ have been in the same “room” together [If one can could a desert as a room] and that there have been conversations going on between God and Satan over a man. [Job] The real crux of this is that as Satan is not omnipresent, I’m not sure that we can be speaking to him/are speaking to him. I would like to know where in the Bible it says that the only response from Satan will be “ok, I’m gone.” It seemed that the demons exchanged a fair amount of banter between them and Jesus, and I’m wondering where this is revealed? Also, if even the Apostles couldn’t cast out some demons, but rather they only left after fasting and praying, doesn’t that suggest that we can’t just say “be gone” and it will always happen that way?
6. Bonnie says that “The key to having authority is not just head knowledge of scripture, but passionate knowledge of God.” Where in the bible can I read more about this key? Where is this stated or inferred from the scriptures?
7. Bonnie says that “God is interested in knowing that you are being available and humble enough to be used by him.” Where does the Bible say that I need to humble myself by my own efforts so that God will use me? How humble do I have to make myself? Will Christ use me if I am 75% humble and only 25% proud? Am I solely responsible for my own humbling, or does Christ help me out in any way? Where is this played out in the Bible?
8. If doing greater, more spectacular miracles than Jesus is normative for all who believe, why is it that no one has ever done them? Can Bonnie name 10 people in the last hundred years who has done this? How about in the last couple thousand years who have done greater works than Christ? I know we’ve all heard stories of people healing tribespeople “in Africa” but who can be named that has, without a doubt, preformed greater miracles than Jesus that have not been contested or challenged? Is there not a single person who has been able to fall under the category of “I tell you the truth; anyone who has faith in me will do what I am doing”? Has no one been able to get it right? Have all the hundreds of millions of Christians been so deficient that not one has been able to walk in authority enough so that they could do those phenomenal miracles?
9. Is it the opinion of Bonnie that we Christian should be controlling the weather, raising people from the dead, healing whole hospitals, and that we should be able to appear and disappear on whim? If Jesus on one occasion fed the 20,000, would a greater miracle mean that I could go somewhere and feed 100,000 people at one time, and in fact that should be an every day occurrence if only I had the right authority? If Jesus could appear and disappear during the events of Emmaus, would a greater work that I can do mean that I am expected to appear at several places at once? Perhaps it means I can crisscross the country or the world.
10. Bonnie says “Until our very will, our very being is in submission to him, that means before we make a step, before we make a life altering decision, that means every day when we open our eyes or when we go to bed at night, that means as we walk along in relationship with one another, that if Christ is at the Lordship of those we are walking in authority.” Where is this definition of authority come from? Where in the Bible is this stated and conceived?
I realize that is a lot to critique, but there is a lot there. I’m not trying to kneecap anybody, but rather I welcome a thoughtful, biblical response. Because note: I have spent several hours listening to this sermon and researching it and have taken great pains that I do not misrepresent the position of Bonnie, but rather that I bring forth substantive concerns. If you take exception with anything I say here, I would love to talk about it in the combox and have robust dialogue concerning it. But shallow, content-less argumentation that does not respond to what I have said, but rather consists of “you’re mean, stop judging” will be dismissed. I have not studied the issue of a believers authority very much at all, and I am desiring to learn and be corrected in this arena so that I might develop a meaningful, biblical understanding of it.
It seems that if I had all that put on me, the pressure of needing to do the miraculous, that I would get very depressed very easy. It would be so discouraging to be told that I can do these things, and that I should be doing these things, and then find myself in my private life struggling to be 100% committed and utterly, completely submitted. The fear is that If I’m not humbling myself enough and submitting my heart and mind to God enough, then I won’t be able to walk in authority and won’t be doing what Jesus expects of me and in fact commands me to be doing, which is greater miracles and signs and wonders than he did. Most importantly though is that I just don’t think the case can be made biblically for much of what she said here. There was no careful exegesis, no meaningful interaction with the text, just made up assertions that I’m pretty sure she can’t back up, and in fact that I know she can’t back up. That’s what concerns me. Its spiritual, but its not scriptural. For a more thoughtful, biblical response to her John 12 claims, I would point you here. which offers an alternate analysis of the idea of going greater works that Christ.
There is a well known apologetic that is given as evidence regarding the resurrection of Christ. Preachers, teachers, theologians and laypeople point to the deaths of the Apostles as circumstantial evidence concerning that event. They say things like “People will die for a cause if they believe it to be true, but they won’t die for a lie. The 12 Apostles suffered horrendous deaths as martyrs for the cause- now why would they endure such profound suffering if they believed it a lie?
It seems to be a given that almost all the Apostles were martyred and that their gruesome, grotesque end is known. They say things like “Church tradition has it that……” or ” Church history tells us that….” and that seems to be the end of it, as if such matters are settled and secure. They have an assumed confidence in the historicity of these accounts, supposing we have sufficient certainty to know what actually happened, and in turn recount this to others without impunity.
There are several problems with this though, the least of which is that even a cursory examination of the accounts of the deaths of the apostles show gaps, contradictions, conflicting testimony, unreliable witnesses, suspect testimonies and incredible uncertainty. The whole thing really is a complete mess, and it seems that if someone told me “Church tradition has it that they all died a martyr’s death” and I would ask them “What traditions? What church fathers” No one would even have a clue. Its a good line, but it harder to back up once you go deeper than surface-level sound clips.
To offer an example, the one I want to focus on is the supposed martyrdom of Bartholomew the Apostle. Finding primary sources for the Martyrdom of Bartholomew has been a nightmare. What we typically see is “Some local traditions have him going to India. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia. Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia”. In the NewAdvent entry on Bartholomew by John Fenlon, we read without sources or citations “Other traditions represent St. Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea; one legend, it is interesting to note, identifies him with Nathanael. The manner of his death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia, is equally uncertain; according to some, he was beheaded, according to others, flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia.” I find that incredibly unhelpful and have not been able to track down most of those so-called traditions. To that end after some careful research I’ve managed to dig up the most relevant and recent sources for the evidence of the Martyrdom of just one of the Apostles.
1. The Biblical Evidence. There is no biblical extant evidence of the fate of Bartholomew. The Scriptures are wholly silent on the matter.
2. Hippolytus of Rome [170-235] . Though in his own day he was considered to be a prolific writer, the details of his life and his writings were quickly forgotten and little is known about him. He wrote that “Bartholomew, again, preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Allanum, a town of the great Armenia. [Hippolytus. "On the Twelve Apostles of Christ." Ante-Nicean Fathers, Vol. 5.] Hippolytus does not give us sources for this account, and likewise his authorship of said source is highly disputed. That is to say- we don’t even know if he actually wrote it. But if he did, it is also interesting to note that Hippolytus reports natural deaths for four of the twelve disciples [John, Matthew, Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot, which would contradict Eusebius and others regarding other apostolic deaths.
3. Eusebius of Caesarea, [AD 263 – 339] Recounts only that Bartholomew went off to India. ” Pantænus was one of these, and is said to have gone to India. It is reported that among persons there who knew of Christ, He found the Gospel, according to Matthew, which had anticipated his own arrival. For Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them, and left with them the writing of Matthew in the Hebrew language, which they had preserved till that time.” [Eusebius. Church History. Book V. Chapter 10.]
4. Jerome. [ 347 – 420] In his commentary on Matthew he mentions a number of no-longer-extant apocryphal gospels, including a document entitled The Gospel of Bartholomew [Sometimes called the Questions of Bartholomew] This document is strongly Nestorian [The Nestorian heresy taught that Jesus existed simultaneously as two distinct entities: the human Jesus, mortal and finite; and the divine Logos or "Word of God," which had existed with God the Father throughout all time] and was condemned as heretical by the Gelasian decree. The Questions of Bartholomew describes several conversations between Jesus and the Apostles, after the Crucifixion, Christ’s Harrowing of Hell, and the Resurrection. Jesus explicitly grants Bartholomew power and authority over the denizens of Hell, which gives him the ability to question Satan about his battle with Heaven. Written possibly as early as the 6th century, it does not cast light on his death
5. There is a non-Biblical document called the “Martyrdom of Bartholomew” written as early as the 5th century, which claims that Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armenia: “Then the King rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded.” Interestingly enough, in this book the demons are speaking amongst themselves about how to recognize him, and they are given this description “And the demon answered and said: He has black hair, a shaggy head, a fair skin, large eyes, beautiful nostrils, his ears hidden by the hair of his head, with a yellow beard, a few grey hairs, of middle height, and neither tall nor stunted, but middling…His voice is like the sonnet of a strong trumpet; there go along with him angels of God, who allow him neither to be weary, nor to hunger, nor to thirst; his face, and his soul, and his heart are always glad and rejoicing; he foresees everything, he knows and speaks every tongue of every nation.”
6. Moses of Chorena, a writer who lived either in the late 5th century or sometime in the 7th century, wrote “There came then into Armenia the Apostle Bartholomew, who suffered martyrdom among us in the town of Arepan. As to Simon, who was sent unto Persia I cannot relate with certainty what he did, nor where he suffered martyrdom. It is said that one Simon, an apostle, was martyred at Veriospore. Is this true or why did the saint come to this place? I do not know I have only mentioned this circumstance that you may know I spare no pains to tell you all that is necessary.” [ History of Armenia . Section IX]
7. The Acts of Phillip. A bizarre, mystical, Gnostic apocryphal late 4th century book. In a later addition to it we read “And the Saviour said: O Philip, since you have forsaken this commandment of mine, not to render evil for evil, for this reason you shall be debarred in the next world for forty years from being in the place of my promise: besides, this is the end of your departure from the body in this place; and Bartholomew has his lot in Lycaonia, and shall be crucified there; and Mariamne shall lay down her body in the river Jordan. [Addition to the Acts of Phillip. Paragraph 52]
8. Allegedly there is an old Roman Breviary which states “In Great Armenia Bartholomew led the king, Poplymius, and his wife, in addition to twelve cities, to the Christian belief. These conversions very much enkindled the jealousy of the clergy there. The priests succeeded in stirring up the brother of King Polymius, Astyages, to such an anger that he gave the gruesome order to have Bartholomew skinned alive and then beheaded. In this martyrdom he gave his soul back to God.” I have not been able to locate any source for it.
So here’s where we are; concerning the apostolic work of St. Bartholomew we have only unreliable and contradictory statements. The earliest accounts have been lost. The first that have been preserved originated between 450 and 550 in the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire with traces of Nestoriansim. His manner of deaths range from being beaten, beheaded, flayed, crucified, and a host of others ends. He is said to have died in dozens of different places and countries, and most of the information that supposedly sheds light on his death was written hundreds of years after his actual death, in unreliable, unbelievable, fantastical sources. I would suggest that during the first several centuries after Christ, stories about Him, the apostles, and their lives — not to mention writings on the meaning of Christ’s life, the duties of a Christian, and predictions about the end of the world — exploded into existence and the adventures of Bartholomew consists entirely of that- stories, traditions, myths and legends.
To that end, the title of this post is a bit misleading but it makes its point well. While we have stronger and more solid evidence for the martyrdom of other Apostles, the point I want to make stands; we don’t even know that Bartholomew was martyred. We don’t know how, why or where. We don’t with any certainty know a single detail about his death, other than that he indeed did die. Appeals to Church history and Church tradition are useless and confusing, and so because we want to speak the truth, we need to be precise. I think it’s fair to say something like “While we have a mess to sort our regarding which apostles died where how and why, its reasonable to conclude that many of them if not most of them probably were martyred for their faith” It doesn’t have the impact that “They were all martyred for their faith and suffered this specific gruesome fate..”, but the purpose is not maximum impact, but maximum truth so that God may be glorified.
The National Post in their religion section, had this article. It is slightly long, but offers a compelling read into the decline and demise of the United Church of Canada. Much of it revolves around Mardi Tinda, the recently elected new moderator of The UCOC who is essentially the voice and face of the United Church of Canada. The Church itself was formed less than a hundred years ago as an amalgamation of four different protestant denominations in Canada, with the hopes of creating one strong, unified denomination.
To that end, instead of creating a strong unified denomination, it has been reduced to a ragtag bunch of irrelevant rebels whose only conviction is their insistence that inclusiveness reign supreme. As the face of the Church, we read that her passion and mission is to “help heal creation” by reducing humankind’s “carbon footprint.” She says the United Church is fighting for “climate justice” and in fact, she just returned from a leg of her Spirit Express, a series of town hall meeting across Canada to talk about environmental issues. This, it seems, is little more than an exercise in missing the point. When I think of Christ and his apostles, their mission seemed to be one that was focused on seeking and saving the lost- of calling all men to repentance and faith and for the latter preaching Christ and him crucified for our sins. I think creation care is as important as the next person, but what a striking, damning indictment against this woman and her Church that when asked what is her passion and mission as the public face of the church, that is her response.
When asked what are the minimal requirements for church membership in the UCOC, she seemingly balks at the idea that there would even be requirements, or that she has the right to foist them upon others. She personally believes the Jesus rose from the dead, but she would not demand that other people believe that in order to be a part of her Church. She states “I’m of a faith tradition that would say we are humble in knowing we carry partial truths. Truth is always God’s truth. It’s always being revealed to us more fully. And as we live in this life it seems to me there are enough religious voices that would say I have all the truth and in my experience that does not open us to greater understanding.”
This type of response is typically known as a humble hermeneutic, which when stripped down is anything but. In fact, I consider it arrogance in its highest form. Under the guise of humility and the reluctance to make any sort of definitive doctrinal statement they effectively dismiss the scriptures, ecclesial traditions, the church fathers, the ecumenical councils, and two thousands years of historical Christian orthodoxy. That is why they suppose there are no easy or definitive answers to questions like “Does God exists? Was Jesus God? Did he rise from the dead?” They don’t have anything they can point to to back up any of those questions. In fact, someone can answer “No” to all three of those questions and yet still be considered a Minister in the Church of Canada.
Case in point would be Reverend Gretta Vosper, an avowed atheist and a UCOC minister in Toronto. [Yes, you read that correctly] While she would be considered a two-fold son of hell and excommunicated by any other denomination, she is tolerated and even celebrated in the United Church of Canada. Mardi Tindal points out the positive side of having an atheist in the pulpit. “I celebrate Gretta and others like her who cause us to think more deeply about the nature of our faith…One of the things we’re seeing is a greater tolerance for paradox. What Gretta has done has ignited a fresh conversation and invigorated the discussion. This is in the DNA of our Church: to invite this open, deep broad conversation to be the body of Christ…Besides, you can’t talk about post-theism without talking about God.”
This should not come as a surprise though, as one of their prior moderators, Bill Phobbs, stated. “I don’t believe Jesus was God, but I’m no theologian,” David Giuliano, the most recent moderator before Ms. Tindal, stated “I don’t remember Jesus requiring anyone to subscribe to a doctrine before he healed them. To suggest that one needs to subscribe to a narrow understanding of who God is and who Jesus is seems antithetical to the understanding I have of Jesus revealed in the Gospels.” As it were, the root of all this nonsense comes down to two simple facts: These people hate the Bible and they hate Jesus.
In the UCOC, the Bible is not regarded as inspired or even particularly useful. Rather it is a collection of stories, oftentimes comprised of myths, contradictions and falsehoods that is meant to inspire people, but not mean to reflect or communicate any standard of truth or morality. This creates bizarre situations where people pick and choose certain parts of the bible that they agree with and discard others. For example, they would applaud Jesus sermon on the mount, as recorded by Mathew, but would reject other statements of Jesus, also as recorded by Mathew. The only filter seems to be what seems good to them to believe, which then lets them free to embrace illogic, paradox and contractions while being humble and spiritual about it. It is a mad way to live and view the world. The fallout from this is evident. Words and meaning don’t matter. Post-modern notions of truth and reality are championed and lauded. Its hard to wrap my head around it, exactly, but the conclusion is that God, the Bible, Christ, Creation, Love, Hate, Belief, Faith, Life, Death are all defined and determined by the person experiencing them. The standard is themselves.
As for the provocatively titled blog post, I do mean that quite literally. Her erosion of membership has been a breathtakingly beautiful sight to behold, coming fast and strong and gaining in momentum over the years. I think the best thing would be for the Church to wholesale repent of her idolatry and blasphemy, but barring that, I would actively pray that her membership dwindles as fast as it possibly can, so that the denomination ceases to be no more.. The United Church isn’t even a “Church” anymore. They have become a religiously-themed social/political advocacy group, pushing an agenda that most other Christian denominations would be horrified at. They can point to other “progressive Christian” figures in the past as the inspiration for their slide away from Christ, but it definitely doesn’t help their cause. They bite the hands that feeds them because they hate the historical, Biblical Jesus, all the while begging for scraps at their imagined, idolatrous Jesus. It is pathetic, and the sooner this monstrous, blasphemous, satanically- inspired entity disappears, the better.
*Note, there is a United Church of Canada Church here in town. I do not know anything about them, as they have not returned my calls and have no website that I can visit and glean more information about them. I would suggest that they are innocent until proven guilty, and scriptural sound until proven unsound. Its possible they are a minority in the wider denomination that are still faithful to the word and to Christ, even as their denomination is leading tens of thousands to hell. If anybody knows anything about them, please contact me and let me know.
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 1For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17-18.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead atHis appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 2:1-4