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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Invisible Angels

I earlier wrote about a documented characteristic of the appearance of angels: they are so bright, it can be hard to look at them. On the other hand, it's also documented that angels can look quite ordinary. There are examples both in the Bible and from anecdotes of both. In this post, I'll address an interesting quality of incognito angels: it appears they can't be photographed.

I got to thinking about this recently when reading the original version of Dracula by Bram Stoker, which brought the term 'vampire' into colloquial English. Among the characteristics of a vampire described in Dracula (and apparently original to Stoker) was an inability to cast a reflection in a mirror. In other words, the phenomenon of seeing a vampire was not due to the physical reflection of light off its corporeal body, but some independent effect on the eye or visual cortex. Such appears to be the case with all visible angels, whether they be elect or fallen.

I base this on the testimony of a friend of mine, returned from a mission trip to northern Ghana. While there--he reported--during a church service, he spotted a dove in the rafters of the church; something not all that uncommon in Ghana. But when he attempted to snap a photo of it on his digital camera, all he could see in the viewer were the empty rafters. Looking directly, he could see the dove; looking at the camera, he couldn't. He snapped a photo anyways, which he showed us upon his return. It showed the rafters, but where the dove would have been the picture was totally washed out, as if hit by an intense beam of light.

I ran across another apparent example of an angel visible to the eye as an ordinary man, but incapable of being captured in a photograph:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865584511/Unknown-angel-priest-prays-with-19-year-old-at-accident-scene.html?pg=all

The priest's image did not show up in a single one of some 70 photos of the crash site. But it turned out he wasn't actually an angel, after all according to a man who admits to having been the mystery priest:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/12/father-patrick-dowling-angel-priest-_n_3746077.html?1376357440

So be careful about stories like this. I trust my friend's testimony, and saw the washed-out digital photo. But I wonder how many other stories like the 'mystery priest' end up being more than they actually were. Some level of science has been brought to bear on investigating this pheonomenon, but it has been roundly criticized for not being rigourous.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Indiana Revival Report - Day 182

It's been six months since Time To Revive first came in force to Indiana. It must be said with some amazement that they haven't left yet. The original six days in Goshen were extended to 52, then another week after a month of rest. This was followed in quick succession by a week in Kokomo, then a week in Bloomington, a week in South Bend, two weeks in the Valparaiso-Gary-Hobart area, and a week in Terre Haute. Finally, a week in Fort Wayne. Each city was followed by a week off, to give the team time to prepare for its next city.

Because every Revive Indiana city was within a 2 hour drive of a previous location, there was a growing army of Revive veterans from each city helping to jump-start the outreach in the next city, or the one after. An array of red T-shirts were designed with the logo of a respective city on the front, all with a map of Indiana on the back, with the "seven rays" design from the state flag superimposed.

Things were supposed to have wound down last week in Fort Wayne, but it didn't happen. From the first day to the last, turnout for the morning and afternoon outreaches was strong and steady. Reports soon came out of people being healed, both in the meetings and on the streets. Over thirty churches got behind the movement in a massive display of unity, and it became clear by the middle of the week that this outpouring was a repeat of Elkhart County half a year earlier. Sure enough, Revive Indiana (Ft Wayne) has been extended through this week. [UPDATE: it's been extended yet another week.]

First Assembly's Senior Pastor Ron Hawkins wasn't eager to get on board when it was first suggested that his church building would be the ideal place for Revive Ft. Wayne to meet. He'd been heavily involved in a general revival that had swept Ft. Wayne 20 years earlier, and wasn't interested in any other than the real thing. These were the five characteristics of revival that he was looking for before he'd get involved. And yes, once he found out that they were all characteristics of Revive Indiana, he jumped on board.

1. God said, I will pour out My Spirit in greater measure in the last days.
2. It will be more in the street than in the building.
3. It will be when "all the brothers are in the house."
4. There will be signs and wonders that rival those in the New Testament.
5. It will not be about a man, a ministry, or a manifestation; it will be about Jesus.

I've written about the lack of impact this revival has appeared to have, for example, on the local crime rate in Elkhart. But that seems to be changing; last night's testimonies included a report of a potential reprisal murder miraculously stopped, and the would-be murderer was there in the meeting to attest to his change of heart--and life.

I'm thinking that the Holy Spirit has a lot more to work with in the Black community--perhaps more on that later.

Monday, 29 June 2015

In which twelve people display a little-known and seldom-seen Christian virtue

[You can begin a chain of linked articles on this topic by clicking here.]

There's something striking about the Charleston Massacre that's not, to my knowledge, yet been commented on. According to news reports a week in (early reports of tragedy always being overturned by later ones), on June 17, 2015, a young man named Dylann Roof joined a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The twelve others present at the Bible study welcomed him, although he had apparently never been seen by any of them before.

What they didn't know was that Dylann had come with one purpose in mind, and that was to kill them--evidently in hopes of starting a race war. What happened was probably different than anyone would have expected, because when he pulled out a .45 pistol and started shooting, none of the twelve resisted him. Rather than a war, it was nothing but a massacre, and when the shooting stopped, nine more martyrs had joined the celestial ranks.

What's unusual about this is that Methodists aren't known for non-resistance. Yes, several Methodists were persecuted for refusing to take up arms against England during the Revolution, but that was probably more due to their loyalist sentiments than their adherence to any biblical doctrine. Yes, the senior pastor of the church, as a South Carolina state senator, had voted for gun control and had even banned guns from his church--but gun control, far from being about the elimination of firearms, is all about the concentration of firearms in the hands of law enforcement, denying them to everyone else but criminals.

Yet for all their lack of theological reasons for doing so, all twelve victims practiced the primeval Christian response to violence: they didn't fight back. Some even jumped in front of the gun, like the girls did in the Nickel Mines shooting, to take a bullet for their friends.

So confused was Dylann by this turn of events that he forgot to count his bullets, and, after reloading twice, failed to save the last one for himself. He put the gun up against his head and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Not having had an escape plan, he fled in disarray and was easily captured the next day.

So, in taking all 15 of his bullets, the congregants at Mother Emanuel saved one more life: that of their killer. There's no other explanation for this, other than that non-resistance, and loving one's enemies to the point of laying down one's life for them, is an inherent Christian virtue.

This was reinforced at Dylann's bond hearing, where the survivors were unanimous in offering him not hate or acrimony, but love and forgiveness. In short, the Methodists of Mother Emanuel acted like Christians.

All hail the martyrs of Mother Emanuel. All hail the Christian virtue of non-resistance.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Nickel and pencing us to death

I was in the store the other day where the cashier had run out of pennies, and was giving out change in nickels to the person ahead of me at the checkout. I pointed out that there were plenty of pennies (and a few coins of a more valuable denomination) in the 'penny jar' which is often found at the checkout counters of small stores. But the cashier wouldn't touch those pennies; apparently using them for any other purpose than providing a cash-strapped customer with access to free pennies needed to complete a purchase. I intended to put a few of those pennies, and maybe even some of the larger denominations, to that very purpose--but as my purchase was being rung up, another store employee returned from a run to the bank, rolls of pennies in hand. I'm sure that bank run cost more than the store saved that day by giving out exact change (an inevitable result of ending all of their prices, already plenty low enough, with the digit 9).

It's been quite some years since I wrote on the upcoming demise of the American penny, and word out now is that not only the penny, but also the nickel, costs more than its face value. Yet the US Mint continues to churn them out, despite my prediction that the Obama administration would see an end to the penny. Well, in the meantime, Canada's penny, which is worth even less than America's, and produced of even cheaper metal, has in fact been pulled from distribution.

So what happens next? If the nickel and penny alike are too expensive to produce--as well as being worth less than a twentieth of what they were a century ago--the next logical step is remonetizing our currency down to the next order of magnitude; perhaps in conjunction with putting the visage of a woman on the new $10 bill.

That's the only way it would happen overnight.

Monday, 15 June 2015

A review of Doug Kutilek’s article on Christian Pacifism and Non-Resistance

I have earlier reviewed Peter Hammond’s take on this question; Doug Kutilek has, I believe, a more balanced approach, but it remains to be seen how it will fare under my scrutiny. I earlier reviewed an article by Doug Kutilek here. This article was printed in his most recent issue of As I See It, which has yet to go online at kjvonly.org. In fact, none of last year's issues have yet been put online, so don't hold your breath. But a copy of the article can presently be seen here.

From a quick glance at the title, one would naturally conclude that Mr. Kutilek knows the difference between Pacifism and Non-Resistance. Alas, he treats them merely as half-segments of a longer phrase, without distinguishing the two. All he distinguishes is between the Old Testament teaching on retributive violence, and that of the New Testament. The only question he sets out to answer is, do the OT laws still apply?

He doesn’t get off to a very good start—citing James 5:7 when he actually has verse six in mind. Verse six talks about the (presumably poor) righteous man being oppressed by the evil rich man, and not resisting him. Aha—this takes us at once back to our previous review of Mr. Kutilek, when he attempted to prove that Psalm 12: 6 was not, as many suppose, referring to God protecting His Word, but rather to God protecting, as verse five of that psalm indicates, the poor who are being oppressed—presumably by the evil rich. Now, if Mr. Kutilek won’t link his exegesis of Psalm twelve with that of James five, then we shall. Here we have two verses—one in the Old Testament, and one in the New—which both appear to reference an oppressed poor person crying out to God for protection from his rich oppressor. Yet God’s approach in the Old Testament is not to provoke the poor man to violence, but to promise to protect him. If God would do this in the old dispensation, how much more so in the new?

Indeed, Doug Kutilek does find harmony between the testaments. He quotes Jesus quoting Exodus 22 to show that the Old Testament model was intended not to encourage retaliation, but to curtail it. He quotes Romans 12:20-21 as encouragement to love and be kind to our enemies. So far, he’s right in step with the doctrine of non-resistance. But this is as far as he is willing to carry it; his criterion for deciding whether to submit to one’s persecutors, or to take up violence against them, seems to be strictly utilitarian, and consists of lovingly submitting to persecution only if hopelessly outnumbered—as Israel was under the Romans, who could compel any able-bodied man to carry their rucksacks a mile. Thus, Jesus’ admonition to his outarmed and outnumbered disciples not to resist his arrest.

Now, it is significant that Doug’s son served as an infantry commander in the American forces occupying Afghanistan, and often found himself enforcing US foreign policy through the barrel of a gun, until he was himself disabled by a bullet to the leg. Bear that in mind when Doug writes, “Jesus’ words, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword,” . . . seems[sic] to address specifically those who as a matter of course resort to violence to force their will on others (robbers, gangs, bandits, and the like)." It would appear that the Kutileks exegete Jesus’ words to apply only to those who take up arms for their own personal benefit, rather than for the elusive benefits of a state.

As in the case of former South African Army commando Peter Hammond, we see that the author has a personal stake in parting ways with the non-resisters once the rubber meets the road. Should he accept Jesus’ words at face value, he condemns his own son as a murderer. Or does he? At this point in his essay he attempts to turn the tables on the non-resistors, to show their position as beset with hypocrisy: “Some pacifists and ‘non-resisters’ would insist that Jesus’ words are plain: ‘Do not resist an evil person,’ (Matthew 5:39), which they would take to mean at all times and under all circumstances, that is, we should never defend ourselves with physical force, weapons, etc. no matter what. However, if they really took literally and at face value the admonition (v. 39)--‘Do not resist an evil person,’ then they would never lock their houses or cars, remove their car keys from the ignition switch, or conceal their bank ATM password. And of course they do not do these things. They do resist evil persons’ in matters involving property crimes. And if one may legitimately resist evil in matters of property, how much more may one resist evil when threatened in one’s health, well-being, safety and life?” 

First of all, Mr. Kutilek is committing a exegetical fallacy here, by ignoring other biblical uses of the same word. The word translated ‘resist’ in Matthew 5 is anqisthmi, which is translated as ‘withstand’ in Ephesians 6:13 (KJV): “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.” Clearly God wants His people to resist evil on the spiritual and moral planes; concealing one’s house or car keys—or bank codes—is resisting evil; not physically, through threat of violence, but by avoiding what is called in legal terms “an attractive nuisance,” to avoid placing temptation in the way of an evil person, easily drawn away by his own lusts (James 1:14). 

Now it is that Mr. Kutilek shows his ignorance of the crucial difference between pacifism—which rejects the biblical authority of a government to wield the sword—and non-resistance, which affirms it. The question then raised is, could it be right for a Christian to participate in the sword-wielding activities of the government (as did Peter Hammond and Captain Kutilek)? Doug naturally says “yes,” and points to several biblical examples in his defense. Alas, neither the soldiers who questioned John, nor Cornelius, are ever depicted as doing anything militant. Nor was the centurion of Galilee, in whom Christ found such faith. Significantly, the only soldiers mentioned in the New Testament as doing anything that involved the use of arms were those charged with hunting down and killing the Christ Child, those involved in his arrest and execution, and those who guarded Paul the Apostle following his arrest. If being commended for one’s faith justifies one’s normal occupation, then the soldiers mentioned in Matthew 27:54, who, as Luke records, “glorified God,” justified their occupation of crucifying an innocent man, whilst gambling over his possessions. Would Doug Kutilek commend his son for doing that?

Mr. Kutilek takes another exegetical leap in his last point, “There are times when threats and violence are imposed on us unprovoked, and in such cases we are not required to be “at peace with all men” (in reference to Romans 12:18). Of course it is not required of us—we cannot be at peace with anyone who is unwilling to be at peace with us. Paul’s entreaty here simply means that, insofar as the peacefulness is ours to bring about, we should do so. We can’t be held responsible for a war which someone else declares. But neither do we have any biblical responsibility to fight back. On the contrary, Scripture insists that we should leave that up to God, either through His direct agency, or through His ordained ministers who bear the sword not in vain. And, failing that, we must joyfully submit to any persecution suffered for His Name’s sake, with an attitude of love for our persecutors. To fight back bodily against such persecution—or even to participate as one of those ordained ministers in wielding the sword against evil—is neither commanded, nor ever commended, on the pages of the New Testament.