Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Way: Living Radical Faith

Let me ask you some simple questions. Do the members of your church live just like the 1st century disciples of Yeshua? Do they share their wealth and blessings in common? (Acts 2:44, 4:34-35) Do they really care for orphans and widows? Are the members truly in the world, but not of the world? (James 1:27) Do they really believe the same things, and are of the same mind and judgment? Do they honestly avoid all divisions among them? (1 Corinthians 1:10)

I do not think it will come as a surprise that many churches today bear absolutely no resemblance to the early church. Theirs was a unique worldview- a counter-culture all their own. There was never any notion that they had to become more like the surrounding cultures in dress, music style, etc. in order to reach the lost with the Good News. They understood the necessity of separation from all the things today's churches seem to want to emulate. The early disciples understood that they lived in a fallen world, filled with oppression- physical, mental, political, social, and spiritual.Why would anyone in their right mind try to emulate the entertainments, dress, etc. of the diseased world from which they sprang? 

Throughout history there have been those rebels, who sought to overthrow the status quo; to end poverty, stop genocide, make people "equal", end political corruption, bring an end to war, and save the environment from endless pollution of air, land and water. These radicals formed movements like the Communist Party, Cultural Marxism, Anarchy, Social Justice, and a whole host of other equally revolutionary movements. Without a single exception, every one of these movements failed miserably. While they claimed to address those problems, they failed to address the very core of each issue, which is the human condition. Humanity is fallen, depraved, and unable to form a movement that can adequately address those issues. Everything we form is doomed to failure at some level. 

Not so, however, with the movement Yeshua started. 

The most radical words spoken in the New Testament are, "Come, follow me", Yeshua said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Mark 1:17) These fishermen, who would have been rejected by any rabbi they approached, asking to be disciples, were instead invited to be disciples of God incarnate. The radical nature of such discipleship was not lost on the 1st century Jew, nor should it be lost on us today. It would cost them everything.

Discipleship to Yeshua brings with it even more radical promises. Promises like, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:25-30) These promises cut to the very heart of the human condition, the very reason so many turn to man-made movements in an attempt to end that constant nagging pain and emptiness inside. And the 1st century disciples heard and understood. They understood so much that they lived His movement just as radically as Yeshua taught.

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."- Acts 2:42-47

This movement was called The Way. Not a way, or one of the ways, but THE Way- a bold title of exclusive import. Yet another radical statement. Sadly, many Christians today just view their faith as one of the ways humanity can approach God. They are afraid to even suggest that one can only find peace and communion with God through Yeshua. They have lost the radical edge of the original disciples.

And all of the characteristics we find describe in Acts flesh out just how radical this movement was, which brings me to a serious question. How radical are we in expressing our faith? How dedicated and "sold out" to God are we? Are we willing to do what these first disciples did? Are we willing to truly be transformed into the image of the Messiah? Or do we simply want the comfort that faith can bring, without the revolutionary lifestyle that it actually demands? And finally, if the 1st century disciples could live out such a radical faith at a time when it literally cost them their lives, and not just their reputation with co-workers, or friends, then why can't we?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Consciousness: What Is It?

If consciousness exists, it exists as an effect of a cause.
Consciousness exists.
Therefore, it exists as an effect of a cause.

What is the cause, and what is consciousness? Who is the "I" that is aware? Is this "I" just the effect of matter; complex electrical impulses in the brain? When you experience good food, a beautiful sunset, or pleasant music, is it just the body that is experiencing? Is it just the tongue, the eye and the ear? Is this "I" at all distinct from the body?

Philosophers and religious teachers throughout the ages have grappled with these questions. Neuro-Science has weighed in on the topic in recent years, offering a purely Naturalistic answer to the question of consciousness based on evolutionary presuppositions. Through such respected neuro-scientists as Gerald Edelman and Anotnio Damasio, Physicalism (consciousness is simply complex electrical impulses working in the brain) has gained a wide acceptance. The question arises, if indeed consciousness is just an effect of matter, then why is consciousness not present in the body of the deceased? Under normal circumstances, all the constituent parts of the brain and body are there, so consciousness should be present as well. If one responds by saying the matter must be living, then we have to ask what makes matter living? What animates the material body? This brings us back to the question of consciousness. 

Again, if consciousness is just the effect of the material body, why do we not experience ourselves as purely a material being? For example, we instinctively refer to our body and its parts as "my body", "my arms", "my legs", etc. If indeed consciousness were just the product of matter, we should instead refer to these as "I body", "I arms", "I legs". We instinctively understand that the body and its parts are the object of something that transcends matter. Something distinct from the body controls it and experiences life through it. 

Another good example of the misguided conclusions of neuro-science is the case studies of Dr. John Lorber, former professor of paediatrics at the University of Sheffield. In 1980, he wrote an article titled Is Your Brain Really Necessary?, which appeared in Science Magazine, a peer reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He found that in cases where the cranial cavity was 95% filled with cerebro-spinal fluid (in other words, only 5% brain matter), half of the subjects demonstrated IQs greater than 100. One university student,  who had barely any discernible brain matter, had a measured IQ of 126 and lived a very normal life with no signs of mental or physical impairment. If indeed consciousness is only a function of the brain, these case study subjects should be severely impaired and not conscious of themselves. And yet this was not the case.

So what is the biblical answer to the Consciousness/Body question?

Genesis 2:7 tells us that God created Man and "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul."

Zechariah 12:1 confirms that God, "formed the spirit of man within him."

Yeshua taught that humans are comprised of two "parts"; the outer (physical), and the inner (the soul).

"You fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?"- Luke 11:40

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."- Matthew 10:28

Paul also refers to this dualistic nature of human existence.

"...but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."- 2 Corinthians 4:16

Biblically speaking, the "I" that experiences material life through the medium of the brain, senses and body is the inner part of Man- the soul.

The reason consciousness does not exist in the body of the deceased is precisely because the living soul is no longer present therein.

"For as the body without the spirit is dead.."- James 2:26

Do not allow yourself to be misled by the answers of Scientism, based as it is on Evolutionary presuppositions. Sacred Scripture holds the key to understanding the mysteries of consciousness, which we have just barely scratched the surface of. Consciousness exists as an effect of the soul, which in turn exists as the creation of God.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Church Fathers and the Woman's Headcovering

"Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God."- 1 Corinthians 11:4-16

Let it be clear from the start that the idea that Paul was only accommodating himself to Jewish or middle eastern practice and that therefore such restrictions no longer apply, is a totally post-modernist and relativist concept.

Tertullian specifically states that this command applies “everywhere and always.”

The Apostle Paul provides us with two reasons for this practice. The first is that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man… the man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man, for the man is not of the woman but the woman of the man.”

The second reason, perhaps less explicit, is that a woman should have a cover over her head (‘power’ being an alternate word for ‘cover’) “because of the angels.”

The first reason seemingly speaks to the subordinate role of women. Paul however is not concerned with the sexes as such, but rather with higher realities of which men and women are reflections.

It is not because Paul is a typical 1st century Jewish male that he says ‘the head of the woman is the man,’ but because she is the type of the Church and he of Christ, just as the Church should have no Head but Christ, so the woman should have no head but her husband.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slavenor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."- Galatians 3:28

The Church Fathers in discussing this issue make it clear that this “subordination” in no way implies that women are inferior to men or in any way limited in their relationship to God. Paul himself says that “in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.”

However, within the social relationship, reflecting the relationship of the Church to Christ, she does have a subordinate position. As Ambrosiaster says “Although man and woman are of the same substance, the man has relational priority because he is the head of the woman. He is greater than she is by cause and order, but not by substance. Woman is the glory of man, but there is an enormous distance between that and being the glory of God.”

Severian of Gabala, another early father is even more explicit: “what we are talking about here is not nature but a relationship.”

Under normal conditions the majority of women live within the married state. The family is in fact the building block of any healthy society. Those imbued with worldly ideas of gender roles and family –conscious or unconscious – no longer consider the family as a norm and whatever loyalties they have are more oriented toward cultural Marxism, which encourages single parent “families,” same sex “marriages,” homosexuality and a host of parallel agendas. But for the Christian, the family unit remains the norm, and to understand the proper status of women in the married state we should turn once again to Paul, who speaks to this in Ephesians 5:22-25.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.."

Under normal circumstances the father is head of the family. In this he reflects the elder who is “father” to the local Christian community, and both in turn reflect God who is “our Father in Heaven.” The father of the family is spiritually responsible for those under his care, and following the teaching of Our Lord, he can say: “if you love me you will obey my commandments.”

He is of course himself under the obligation of obedience to Christ. He rules the family by “divine right,” – “right” being an older word for “law.” If he rules by other than divine right, that is, if he institutes his own private rules for those of God, he becomes a tyrant. If indeed the head of the family is to pattern his behavior after Christ, the woman should have little trouble in giving him obedience.

The end result of such a relationship is that the family itself becomes a microcosm of the Church, or a Nazareth in which the children can grow up “subject” to their parents as Jesus was to his parents. Paul tells us in the next sentence that children are obliged to obey their parents. It will be argued that this is a rather “idealized” picture, but if the normal has become only an idealized picture in our age, this is indeed a tragedy, the fruits of which we see all around us.

The feminist agenda holds that women and men are equal in everything. It is the subordinate role that agitates and infuriates the feminist woman. Now clearly justice requires that working women should have equality in the workplace. There is no justification for paying women less or making them work longer hours for the same pay as men. But this in no way militates against the Pauline precept. 

The feminist attitude is not entirely modern. For example, John Chrysostom commented in the fourth century that “a woman does not acquire a man’s dignity by having her head uncovered but rather loses her own. Her shame and reproach thus derive from her desire to be like a man as well as from her actions” (Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 25.4).

He likens the situation to a governor approaching a king without the symbols of his office, and holds that a woman in covering her head in church is approaching God with the symbol of her office. For those in the Christian faith, the same subordinate role requires their obedience both to the rule and to the superior who is spiritually speaking, Christ. If there is “rebellion” in the family, there is even greater rebellion in the orders, and this very often starting with the superiors who are themselves refusing obedience to Christ.

All this does not deny that women are of the same substance as man, but rather gives expression to a relationship between them. As Ambrosiaster says, “man is the head of the woman. He is greater than she is by cause and order, but not by substance. Woman is the glory of man, but there is an enormous distance between that and being the glory of God.” (Commentary on Paul’s Epistles).

The idea of obedience is of course not without its difficulties. Paul stresses this with regard to marriage. It is forgotten that if obedience is incumbent upon the wife, it is also incumbent upon the husband to be Christ-like.

Like a king who rules by divine right - that is by God’s laws, so also the husband must rule as a representative of Christ. If he were to rule by his own law, he would in fact be a despot. If then the husband is truly Christ-like, than obedience becomes a blessing.

What is frequently not realized is that it is far better to live under obedience than to be placed in command. Of course we are all under obedience to Christ, but as is true in any organization, Obedience flows from the “top,” through a hierarchy of authorities to those below. Obedience is not blind and can never be used to command what is sinful. One must always understand what one is obeying.

There is yet another reason why women are veiled, and that is that every soul is, at least potentially, is a member of the bride of Christ. While this is as true for man as for woman, in the relationship that exists between them, it is the woman who most clearly gives witness to this potentiality. And as such, like a bride, she should be veiled.

Again, beauty, a quality that women manifest, is of a mysterious nature, for it is itself a reflection of that quality having its origin in God. But beauty is appropriately veiled, for its real nature is hidden and we see but its remote reflection in the female form. The veiling of women then is not a denigrating imposition placed on them by men, but rather reflects their own intrinsic glory as mothers, daughters and brides of Christ.

The model then is nothing less than the women in Jesus' life, since they manifest all these varied levels and qualities. For example, his mother Mary. While she was the mother of God incarnate, she in many ways remained “hidden.” She only spoke seven times in Scripture and with only one exception always in an attitude that bespoke humility and submission to her role. In this there is a mysterious quality that in fact, every woman has a quality that requires veiling that both protects and hides. This is why in traditional iconography she is always portrayed with her head covered. Just as Mary is the mother, daughter and part of the bride of Christ, so also every woman is potentially the same. And brides are to be veiled in public.

Women who accept the practice of veiling then are assuming to themselves the virtues reflected in the life of Mary and other Biblical women. To reject the veil is to state, consciously or unconsciously, that one has no desire to follow the pattern established by God for women.

The second reason Paul gives is “because of the angels.” Some say this reflects the Book of Enoch and the Church Fathers seem to have by and large accepted the belief that those Watchers who fell out of lust for women should be deprived as much as possible of the vision of their object of lust. Personally, I take this position.

Another reason offered by theologians is, in church, especially during the Lord's Supper, angels are present, and just as veiling reflects the proper attitude of women before God, for they are potentially brides of Christ, so also they should be veiled before His angels, (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret).

Anselm and Clement understand by “angels” not just supernatural beings, but also good and holy men. Ambrose, Anselm and Thomas take it to mean elders and overseers who in Revelation are called angels, and who might be provoked to lust by the beauty of women with uncovered heads.

The commentary on this passage provided by the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture is of great help: “The difference between men and women lies not in their nature, but in their relationship (Chrysostom, Severian of Gabala). Woman is the glory of man, but there is an enormous distance between that and the glory of God (Ambrosiaster). A man who approaches the throne of God should wear the symbols of his office, which in this case is represented by having his head uncovered (Chrysostom). Just as God has nobody over him in all creation, so man has no one over him in the natural world. But woman lives under the protection of man (Saverian). The relation of man and woman to God makes all the difference in understanding their relation to each other (Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom). Being covered is a mark of voluntary subjection (Ambrosiaster), calling the woman to be humble and preserve her virtue (Tertullian, Chrysostom). Since woman is the glory of man, it is shameful for a woman to desire to be like a man (Chrysostom). In the Genesis narrative man precedes woman in the order of their creation (Epiphanius, Theodoret of Cyr). The woman was created with gifts of serving, the man with gifts of ordering (Theodoret of Cyr). Paul appears to be not confining his instruction about hair to a particular plae and time (Tertullian). He appealed to church tradition (Chrysostom), to nature (Ambrosiaster, Ambrose) and to the argument from general consent of reasonable people in these matters (Chrysostom). Since hair is potentially erotic, it can play into temptation (Pelagius). Natural hair is preferred to deceptive wigs (Clement of Alexandria)”.

To avoid the confusion raised by the term “prophesizing” it should be noted that this term is used in several places in Scripture (Chron 30:1; Sam. 10:10) to denote “giving praise to God.” Paul forbids women to speak or take a public role in the assembly, so in what way can she “prophesy”? The Church Fathers interpret this as directing women to sing those parts of the service in which everyone sings.

Some of the Church Fathers point to the fact that man has priority in creation: Indeed, “woman was created after man and for man, to be his helpmate, to serve him and not vice versa” (Theodoret of Cyr).

In conclusion, it is worth noting that in the majority of traditional societies, while women are instructed to take efforts to please their husbands, efforts to be attractive to others is frowned upon. Head covering is therefore seen as an important aspect of modesty and Christ Himself said “let your modesty appear before men“ (Phil. 4:5). It is only in the privacy of the home, in the presence of the family and close friends, that the head is uncovered.

Tertullian tells us that “the gentile women of Arabia will rise up and judge us, for they cover not only the head, but also the whole face.” 

Similarly, “among Jewish women, so customary is it to wear a head-covering that they may be known by it.” 

The mystery of the woman’s beauty is reserved for the husband and the home, and a woman who sincerely wishes to please the Lord will follow this biblical teaching.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Apostles: Extinct?

Most Christians react very negatively to any suggestion that apostles (Heb. sh'liachim) could or should exist today.  It is true that Jesus (Yeshua) personally chose and called the 12, and spent His entire ministry living with them, eating with them, and teaching them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This, of course, uniquely qualified them for their callings. I would never suggest that anyone today could meet these same qualifications, nor deny that this is a significantly special preparation.  
However, when we examine Sacred Scripture closely, we find that the aversion to others being apostles is not really biblically founded, but emotionally rooted.  
The Apostle Paul wrote that the resurrected Savior appeared to “the Twelve” and later to “all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). The clear implication here is that there were other apostles outside the special 12. We also find several others outside the 12 referred to as Apostles in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6Romans 16:7 seems to imply that Andronious and Junias were considered Apostles as well.  In Acts 14:14, Luke referred to Barnabas as an Apostle. Then in Galatians 1:18-19 and 2:9 we find James, the brother of Jesus, numbered among the Apostles. Apparently the 1st century community of disciples did not share the modern aversion to the idea of Apostles other than the 12. Is there a difference between these two "classes" of Apostles?
The 12 are unique not only in their having lived and studied directly at the feet of Yeshua, but also in their having been witnesses to the resurrected Messiah. This would have qualified James and Paul to be Apostles, since both were witnesses to His resurrection as well. These men were called by Jesus to be His representatives in a very unique way. (1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:11-2:10) These men were sent out by Yeshua in person, while the other "class" of Apostle is called and sent out by Yeshua in Spirit. They are witnesses to the truth of the resurrection and successors of the 12 in their ministry to lead, teach and evangelize. (Acts 13:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:23) They are responsible to faithfully transmit and keep that which the original 12 Apostles taught, and to preserve the "faith once delivered to the saints."(Jude 1:3)
Based on Acts 1-7, 8:12, 15:1-2 and 21:17-18, it seems likely that most of the 12 Apostles were centered in Jerusalem for a number of years.  While there, the 12 were mostly engaged in sharing the Good News with their fellow Jews and organizing the local community of disciples. That did not remain the case, since when Paul made his journey to Jerusalem, all indications are that the 12 had left to other lands to spread the faith, and only James was left. (Acts 21:17-18). History and the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers tell us that the 12 became traveling teachers, spreading the Good News, founding congregations, and then moving on to the next place, sometimes returning to previous places to continue teaching. Paul followed this same pattern. He spent a little over a year in Corinth (Acts 18:11), roughly 2 years in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10), and 2 years in Rome (Acts 28:31).  
The second "class" of Apostles should follow this same tradition in a contemporary context. Modern Apostles do not bring any new teachings, no new practices, nor any new prophecies. They merely teach and lead the congregations, appoint elders to tend the local congregation in their absence, and defend the Apostolic traditions they have received. If Apostles are extinct, it is only because Christians have misunderstood them and their role for a very long time.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Didache and the Teacher-Disciple Relationship

As I have often said in my articles here, the modern concept of discipleship is lacking the same quality of the 1st century Jewish concept. It is not that modern Christians ignore the original understanding, but more that they have never really been taught. The early Christians, however, understood the Jewish approach and kept it intact. This is perhaps why we find that the Didache admonishes disciples as follows:

"My child, you shall remember, day and night, him who speaks the word of God to you, and shall honor him as the Lord, for where the Lord's nature is spoken of, He is present." - Didache 4:1

What does it mean to honor the teacher of God's word as the Lord? Does it mean we are to worship the teacher? Pray to him? Or does it mean we show him the same honor, respect and dignity we would show Jesus, because the teacher brings us the knowledge of the gospel?

The teacher-disciple relationship in 1st century Judaism was quite different from what we might expect. A rabbi generally never approached a potential disciple. Instead, the potential disciple would approach the rabbi and ask for his permission to follow him. If the rabbi felt the disciple was worthy of his time and had potential, he would permit him to follow him for a period of time, during which the rabbi would assess the disciple. If, at the end of this period, the rabbi felt the person lacked the necessary intellect, moral uprightness, etc., he would dismiss him from his presence. Rarely did common Jewish men ever get accepted as disciples. Fishermen would certainly have been among those who were commonly rejected (should they dare to even approach a rabbi), as they usually lacked the ongoing Torah education most of the teachers expected. If a man was accepted as a disciple, he would then be expected to conform to the image of his teacher. That is, he would speak as he spoke, teach what he taught, dress as he dressed, eat what he ate, sleep when he slept, etc. Why? Every facet of the teachers life and conduct were considered important to emulate as they were meticulously shaped around the Law. Thus the disciple would be assured of properly living the Torah day to day. And, when the time came, the disciple would become a teacher to others, who would show him the same respect they would have shown his rabbi. 

Jesus did something a bit different. Rather than wait for potential disciples to approach Him, he chose most of His twelve by going to them and telling them to "follow me" (Matthew 4:19). He  even chose those whom the great teachers of the time would have rejected out of hand. There were those who approached Him in the traditional manner, however. We have the story of John the Baptist, accompanied by his disciples, seeing Jesus walking by, declares to them, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

"When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" 

They said, "Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you staying?"

"Come," he replied, "and you will see."- John 1:36-39

These men were not simply curious to know what Jesus' house looked like, or to sit on His porch and drink lemonade. What is implied here, given the historical context, is that they were asking to be His disciples.

So how does this connect to the Didache and from there to us? Simple. The Didache is telling us that we are to follow this ancient Jewish custom of the Teacher-Disciple relationship. We should respect these teachers as they are emissaries (Heb. sh'liachim), of Jesus. Recall as well the words of Jesus and how they connect the dots on this issue for us.

"Whoever receives you, receives me, and whoever receives me receives Him who sent me."- Matthew 10:40

It is not that we are to worship the teacher of the gospel, but that we are to afford them the same respect we would Jesus, since they are His emissaries. To the extent that their lives and personal conduct reflect His teachings, we should imitate those things. Ultimately, we are all being conformed to the image of Jesus, and all imitating His attitudes and actions.

How much do you respect those who teach you the gospel in both word and deed? Do you show them the respect you would show the Lord, as the Didache admonishes, or do you take them for granted? Do you have a healthy Teacher-Disciple relationship? If not, why? I do not expect anyone to take my word for it on this issue, as it is of vast importance. I do, however, encourage my readers to pray about this issue and research it for yourself. I think you will find it is both the ancient Jewish custom, as well as that of the early church.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Divine Mercy

We should not think, as one skeptic said to me, that to ascribe self sacrificial mercy to God is to imply He is sad and weak, which are anthropomorphic attributes, not divine. "A deity must be all powerful and stoic!", he claims. Of course, the same skeptic also claimed God is cruel for allowing souls to go to hell. In other words, God was either a horrid human invention, or a cruel despot. The truth is, this skeptic was really drawing on the problem of suffering, though he couched it in rhetoric. Yes, there is suffering in this life, and potentially in the next for some. That is a reality no serious theologian will ignore. Having just observed Good Friday and having Easter in front of us, it is reasonable to take note of the fact that Jesus suffered as well. In fact, He suffered more than any human can possibly imagine, having taken upon Himself the tremendous weight of the sins of all humanity.

Because he loved, He suffered. 

Even while being crucified He cried out for the forgiveness of His enemies, and by virtue of that prayer, we are shown that mercy and justice are not mere human sentiments, but divine attributes which we seek to emulate so poorly. There are numerous references to the mercy of God throughout Sacred Scripture. The parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Shepherd show how Christ emphasized this quality, while His treatment of the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, and the so-called "good thief" are living examples of the mercy of God in action. 

Make no mistake, rather than mercy being anthropomorphic weakness, it is in reality a divine attribute analogous only to the human sentiment. God's mercy is a virtue of His beneficent will. What the skeptic missed is that, if it is characteristic of the weak to be sad, it is a characteristic of the good and powerful to be merciful. When human weakness is conscious of its desperate need in all its frailty, and appeals to God's mercy, then weakness is reversed and becomes a strength.

In fact, when weakness asks for mercy in order to glorify God, weakness becomes a blessing. 

God shows His mercy in justification of a depraved humanity. To justify the sinner is a greater display of God's power than the creation of the cosmos, since, while the creative act produced the cosmos from nothing, the greater miracle of divine mercy brings good out of evil, blessing out of cursing, peace out of chaos, and eternal life out of death. And the center of all of this is love.

Love strengthened Him to carry the cross, and that same love is extended to you and I, right now, right where we are. He is merciful because He is all powerful and loving.

Have a blessed Paschal holiday.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Occult Roots of Alt Right Philosophy

It may come as a surprise to some that the very same occult foundation of National Socialism (Nazism) exists today, and is indeed an important part of the fabric of the Alt. Right and modern National Socialists. The legacy of the Alt Right variety of esotericism is due to the efforts of several occult "Identitarian" philosophers, including in no small part a woman known as Savitri Devi. 

Savitri wasn't German as one might expect of such an ardent Nazi (and she indeed was), but of French, Greek and English parentage. She had become obsessed with the National Socialist Party in the late 1920's as well as the Indo-European myth of colonization of India. She moved to India to immerse herself in the culture, which she saw as the earliest manifestation of Hitler's Aryan race and the potential model for the coming Aryan "Golden Age". She viewed the most rigid application of the caste system as being the natural manifestation of Aryan survival and the height of its culture. She spent the entirety of the reign of the Third Reich and of World War II in India hoping for an Axis victory, after which she and her Brahmin husband (more on him to follow) hoped to assist in the establishment of a racially pure National Socialist subcontinent. During these years she developed her own peculiar religion. In essence the cult she developed is very much akin to Theosophy, being a synthesis of Hinduism, Nordic mythology, and National Socialist racial theory that also included the mythological polar origin of the Aryan race, the Vedic cyclical view of human history, and the centrality of the incarnation of Kalki, of whom she viewed Hitler to have been an avatar. She regarded the Third Reich as “the holy land of the west, the stronghold of regenerate Aryanism.” Oddly enough, this virulent racist married Dr. Asit Krishna Mukherji, perhaps India's only true National Socialist. Mukherji was well versed in National Socialist philosophy and political theory, and from 1935-1937 he published the pro-National Socialist paper “The New Mercury”. Mukherji openly praised the Thule Society and it's influence on National Socialism and may have helped his wife form many of her mystical ideas. Savitri began writing a book on the Pharaoh Akhenaton during the war years, and even chose him as her personal deity to whom she rendered worship. Eventually she developed her own trinitarian divinity which included the Pharaoh, Genghis Khan, and Adolf Hitler.

When the Third Reich collapsed she became a National Socialist apologist throughout Europe. At one point the British occupation forces in Germany arrested her for promoting National Socialism by distributing pro-Nazi leaflets and literature. While in prison for three years she became friends with many Nazi's who were unrepentant. After her release from prison she made even more friends from among those committed Nazi's hiding in the underground such as Hans Ulrich Rudel, a much decorated Nazi fighter pilot, and the Nazi commando leader Otto Skorzeny who played a key role in maintaining a global Nazi support network. She met with many Nazi's fleeing Germany to Spain, Egypt and the Middle East and was a founding member of the World Union of National Socialists in the 1970's. She was embraced by these unrepentant Nazi's because her writings added renewed strength to the National Socialist underground by transforming what many felt was a now dead political philosophy into a spirituality of race, mythology, deep ecology, and deification of Hitler. For Savitri and other members of this Alt Right cult, Hitler's words in his last will and political testament were prophecy:

“It is necessary that I should die for my people; but my spirit will rise from the grave and the world will know I was right.”

Savitri might have simply faded into the shadows of a terrible neo-Nazi history if not for the work of Holocaust Revisionist Ernst Zundel. In 1982, Zundel published and promoted Savitri Devi and her teachings. Her writings promoted a National Socialist metaphysical worldview that encompassed her strange mystical ideas and connections between Hitler and Akhenaten, animal rights, and “Green” ideology (with a decidedly National Socialist slant), vegetarianism, and as noted earlier, Hitler as the avatar Kalki. 

Kalki is a Hindu deity and an avatar of Vishnu, who is believed to be the final coming avatar who will destroy confusion and ignorance. Interestingly, Savitri stated that the only problem with this avatar was that he was too compassionate. In other words, in her view Hitler should have been more brutal. Essentially, she built around Hitler a mythological tapestry drawing on a variety of religious symbols that appealed not only to racist groups, but some sections of the New Age Movement, particularly those dedicated to traditional Theosophy. Her ideas actually do much to reveal the deep shared connections between the spiritual background from which National Socialism sprang and the New Age Movement.

Savitri viewed humanity's relationship to nature in a very impersonal way. Nature in her view is a constant struggle of violence in which humanity had no special rights or exalted place. She wrote:

“I worship impersonal nature,which is neither good or bad, and knows neither love nor hatred.” - The Pilgrimage

Oddly enough, much like Hitler, she demonstrated a special love for animals, while exhibiting contempt for “non-Aryan” humanity, the weak, and the handicapped. She shares this in common with Himmler and Alfred Rosenberg as well, both of whom loved animals but viewed segments of human society as “unworthy of human life.” Interestingly, this occult approach to human life has never gone away, but is alive and enjoying immense popularity among adherents of the Alt Right. 

Once the crimes of the Third Reich came to light and the world learned of the Holocaust, Savitri had this to say:

“A 'civilization' that makes such a ridiculous fuss about alleged 'war crimes' - acts of violence against the actual or potential enemies of one's cause - and tolerates slaughterhouses and vivisection laboratories, and circuses and the fur industry (infliction of pain upon creatures that can never be for or against any cause), does not deserve to live.” 

Such was her cold concern for fellow human beings that animals were considered of more value in her philosophy.

Her book “The Impeachment of Man” (1959) was a manifesto against the Judeo-Christian worldview. In fact, she actively worked as an “anti-missionary” in India. She toured tribal villages and engaged in arranged debates with Christian missionaries and was reportedly very successful in her efforts to keep people from converting to Christianity. This was not because she held some deep conviction of the truth of Hinduism, but more a reflection of her hatred for Christianity as a "Jewish religion", and really as an act of deception. Commenting on this she said, “From the racist Aryan viewpoint, it was necessary to give the most backward and degenerate aborigines a false Hindu consciousness.” For her, keeping these people Hindu meant that they would eventually be easily assimilated into a National Socialist society as a slave class. A repugnant opinion at best.

She eventually took to traveling across Europe, speaking at gatherings of various racist groups, including National Socialists, extolling the virtues of “Aryan purity”, dedication to Hitler as the “man against time” (a phrase denoting his divine authority to defy the ages), and the Nazi mantra of “blood and soil”. Finally in 1982 this priestess of the Black Sun died in the home of a friend preparing for a speaking tour of National Socialist groups in America. 

But this was not to be the end of the racial paganism for which she was an apostle. It would continue to grow and gather followers, only the imagery would change. While few in the Alt Right are outright National Socialists, the paganism of Savitri Devi continues to exist in different forms, and has had other voices added to it. Such esotericists as Miguel Serrano, Julius Evola, and Alain de Benoit continue to add philosophical fuel to the movement, which means that, just as its predecessor-National Socialism- it is essentially a pagan/occult worldview.

Christians can have no association with such a worldview, not only because we reject occultism, but because we understand that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Gentile" (Galatians 3:28), and thus racist views and politics are antithetical to our faith and an insult to our Jewish Savior.