As much as it a pains me to give this guy any more exposure, sometimes you need to in order to expose something.
First, you need to watch the latest video from Joshua Feuerstein to understand what I'm talking about here:
I do this not to further his “cause” or “movement” but rather to counteract it. Mainly with something more practical, but hopefully also with more common sense too.
It's things like this that give Christianity a bad name. I mean really, is this really what Christians should be worried about? Why not do something more useful like feed the homeless and start a movement that'll actually benefit society AND do something Jesus actually commanded and cared about?
Feeding the hungry, helping those in need, comforting the lonely, healing the sick… you know, the things that God and the Bible speak a lot about and places a high level of importance on as ways of living out your faith in a way that pleases God. Getting all offended and upset over coffee cups just seems to be missing the point really. This whole thing is just ridiculous at the end of the day.
I suggest starting a better movement. A movement of people who practically live out and demonstrate their faith by caring and aiding those less fortunate; a movement that if done consistently by everyone who follows Jesus (and not just leaving it to the charities and organisations to deal with) then it could very well make a change and difference in our societies.
I won't suggest a hashtag though because part of living out like this is to also bring humility and make one more humble – not boastful or full of pride on social media by declaring every good deed you do with a slogan for all to see.
Do good, but do it because the love of Christ compels you. Don't do it with the motive and purpose of being seen in order to attract praise. This is not the way of Christ.
There's no need to hashtag your life and good deeds if you're doing things with the right motives, since what you do privately, God will see and know and reward you for that (Matt 6:3-4). There's also no need to start campaigns against non issues in the name of Jesus, either.
Do things right, and do things that Jesus actually cared about and wanted to be challenged and changed within society!
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves … Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
1 John 3:17-18
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
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Luke J. Wilson | 06th January 2018 | Christianity
The topic of human suffering is a subject many Christians struggle with, and is an issue many theologians have written about over the centuries — so it's definitely not something I can fully address in a single blog post! But there are some general principles we can find in Scripture that many Christians can/do accept, which should act as a starting point to addressing this subject, such as: We live in a fallen world due to sin (Gen 3), and so things aren’t perfect and neither are people, therefore suffering can happen from illness, nature, and human action (or inaction). Not all suffering is necessarily “bad”, from a Christian perspective. For example, if we are made to suffer due to our faith, we should rejoice to be counted as partakers in Christ’s suffering — 1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. And, Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Sometimes suffering can be used to test our faith to make us stronger, which we see an example of with Peter in the Gospels: Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And also in James’ epistle: James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. Lastly, sometimes bad things just happen for no good reason. This kind of relates to point one, but with a bit of a different explanation to point out that just because someone suffers, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were under any judgement or that they were any worse than another person — though there are certain times where God's judgement was on someone, but these things are explained in Scripture so we can expect them (see: Acts 12:22-23 and 1 Cor 11:28-32). We can infer consequential suffering from Jesus’ teaching when he speaks about a local tragedy of a tower collapsing and killing some people: Luke 13: 4-5 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No […] Can we do anything about it? Christianity isn't about trying to philosophise about why we suffer, but rather it's to do with how we respond to suffering. We accept that it's a reality of our lives and world, and then go about trying to make it better. James makes the point in his epistle when explaining that “pure religion” is “to care for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). This is similar to what Isaiah declared about the type of worship that God is truly interested in: Isaiah 58:6-7Is not this the fast that I choose:to loose the bonds of injustice,to undo the thongs of the yoke,to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke?Is it not to share your br...
Luke J. Wilson | 28th June 2015 | Christianity
The next fifty years in this country (the UK), and the U.S. — the West in general especially really — is going to be very interesting for society; for the Church. Mainly for the Church. Society is going through a major shift, almost on a global scale. A great divide is coming and will hit the Church over issues of sexuality and marriage. More so than it might already seem. A great divide is coming Only one side will come out of it as the dominant "winner". The other, to reside in obscurity in the annals of embarrassing history. Everything is being done under the guise of "love" — almost as if to try and shame the Church into looking as though it's not being or preaching "LOVE" as it's meant to. But it's not love, not truly, it's hedonism with a 'love-mask'. It is lust and desire renamed as "love". The only way the world will be put right is if the Church truly lives out and demonstrates TRUE LOVE. Not fairytale Disney "true love" but real, actual, LOVE. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 The Church needs to step up, stop squabbling, and demonstrate true love. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 Stop worrying about how The World acts and lives, and manage your own house. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 1 Cor 5:12 Act in love towards one another and let that bleed out INTO the World. Let them know us by our love and watch them come. God's house will stand in spite of us....
Luke J. Wilson | 02nd May 2014 | Christianity
By now, most people (in Christian circles, at least) will have heard about the Jars of Clay controversy. For those that are thinking "how on earth could there be controversy over some jars?" let me clarify: they are a contemporary Christian music band. The controversy is because the frontman, Dan Haseltine, tweeted some thoughts on the topic of gay marriage. Shocking, I know. This is what started it all: The treatment of people as less than human based on the color of skin is crazy... Or gender, or sexual orientation for that matter. — Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014 Not meaning to stir things up BUT... Is there a non-speculative or non "slippery slope" reason why gays shouldn't marry? I don't hear one. — Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014 I'm trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But It doesn't hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women's suffrage. — Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014 Plus many, many, more tweets as time went on, with the whole twitter/blogosphere alight with this madness. Apparently even some radio stations had pulled Jars of Clay's music because of this assumed support of gay marriage by Dan, and by association, the band too. Dan has since issued an apology on his blog, and expanded on his thoughts in ways which the twitter character limitations wouldn't allow him to previously. But as much of a hot-button topic as gay rights within the Church is, it is not what I want to talk about now. No, what got me was the way in which the Christians reacted to this news about JoC and the tweets, and how all the bloggers etc. exploded with articles with some hints of condemnation. Jars of Clay at Toronto, Canada. Photo: Ian Muttoo Though I do agree that twitter probably wasn't the best place to voice such questions and thoughts, which I do think were genuine and not merely provocative, that doesn't excuse the way in which people responded. It all comes across as very judgemental, mean and downright nasty in some comments. Completely Christ-like behaviour. Obviously. The whole things just comes across very much with the tone of "you can't question this belief or that doctrine"; but which beliefs and doctrines — well that's entirely up to whoever you speak to! Though in recent times, questioning issues relating to homosexuality — whether secular or Christian related thoughts, can get you in some hot water with certain groups and people. Which is exactly what happened with Jars of Clay. Just take a browse through Dan's twitter feed or the Jars of Clay Facebook page to see the reactions to his thinking out loud. I can't embed Facebook comments, but to give an idea of some responses I'll post a few screenshots which I've taken, and some which Patheos also took when they covered the story: It all comes across as very judgemental, mean and downright nasty in some comments. And my "favourite" has got to be the call to go and basically commit suicide using a veiled reference to Luke 17:2 – Since writing this will probably come across to some as though I'm not "toeing the party line" on the issue, this comment pretty much sums up my sentiments on the "gay issue" as far as this post will go: Whether you agree, disagree, call it sin or not – the fact of the matter is is that the laws of the land (whichever land you happen to be in) are not based on our beliefs. You may say the Bible is your ultimate authority in and for life, but that doesn't make it so for everyone else, and especially not for those in government who dictate the laws. Sometimes I think the sooner we realise that, the better off the Church as a whole would be. It was only last week I was writing a similar post about the online actions of Christians and how unloving they were in regards to Google no...
Luke J. Wilson | 25th April 2014 | Christianity
The Church is so whiny at times. At least in the West it seems, from the various news outlets which like to showcase the "worst" (and actual worst) of the bunch. Sometimes I read articles and wonder why do certain Christians care so much about this!? It's usually a non-issue really, often under the guise of "principles" or "persecution." Now I realise that some of the articles I linked to above could also relate to serious issues that we, as Christians, should face and discuss. But even from a quick search on Huffington Post and the BBC News for "Christian", the majority of articles (as of writing) from America relate to homosexuality in some form, and for the UK, they are about David Cameron saying we are a "Christian country" (though, admittedly, that last piece of news probably has non-Christian's whining more). Though nothing quite sums up the Christian attitude more than the recent fiasco in the news about Google's doodle for Easter — or rather, lack thereof. Here is the "offending" Google page on Easter day: Shocking, isn't it. Apparently it was/is to many Christians who felt the need to vent their frustrations and outrage on the Google forums (and even declare a boycott), as you can see from the screenshot below (click for larger view): I'm sure there was probably many more comments too. Source: aattp.org Yep, even Google not doing something is something to get in a flap about. The thing is though, Google has done an Easter "doodle" before, and also has done a Christmas "doodle" pretty much every year since 1999! Except the real problem here isn't really the lack of a "doodle," but rather the fact that these Christians are apparently happy when Christmas and Easter is 'doodled' using nothing but secular imagery. Even if Google decided to honour the holiday with a "doodle" — do you really expect them to draw a crucifixion or a nativity scene? No, they are going to, and do, generally appeal to secular culture, rather than pick out a particular religion (unless the "doodle" is about a specific religious holiday) especially since Christmas and Easter have mixed origins and is largely a secular holiday just as much as a religious one. Christmas and Easter "doodles," by Google. How did this happen? When did this happen? One need only type into Google "why are Christians..." and it will auto-complete with "...so mean." Changing the search terms to "...so whiny" will yield many results of people asking why Christians whine about the spelling of "Xmas", or if they really are being persecuted, or various blogs about people getting sick of Christians whinging about nearly everything! I realise the irony that I now may seem like I am whining about people whining, but this is more than that - this is a call to action; a call to get back to our roots. The early church was characterised by complete and total unabashed love for one another and their fellow man. Let's look at a few excerpts from the early Christian writers when defending and describing their faith to others and explaining how and why they do things: The Epistle to Diognetes, c. AD 130 [The Christians] dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners ... They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they a...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd April 2020 | Coronavirus
Lent is a time of self denial and of giving things up, and also a period of lament in the lead up to Easter where we remember the Passion and death of Christ before we celebrated the glorious resurrection. Often this is a personal affair on the discipline side of things, even if it's a practice shared within your church community, but this year has been so very different. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the whole world has slowly gone into lockdown country by country, creating a strange sort of global “Lent” where everyone is having to practice self control and self denial. This has been underpinned with a sense of lament at the way things were, the way things should be, and all of the things—and people—we've lost. I don't think it's coincidental that the most isolating part of this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, causing us all, Christian or otherwise, to stop, step back and reflect on life. While it can feel a little gloomy of late with all the isolation and lack of social and religious meetings, we mustn't think that God has abandoned us—likewise we also shouldn't lose faith. The Bible isn't a stranger to times of lament and distress, and we see it often in the Psalms. At times like this of limited food and resources and job loss, we can probably relate to David when he wrote things like this: Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Psalms 102:1-2 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. And such poetic sadness from the book dedicated to lament; Lamentations 3:16-18 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.” Hope in the face of darkness As we look forward to the end of this pandemic with hope like a light at the end of a tunnel, in the meantime we just learn to live in the darkness as the Apostles did on those gloomy days between the crucifixion and the resurrection; when their world ended but was then reborn better than ever expected! They only had to wait a couple of days to see their hope realised, whereas we have no idea how long this will last. How long will we go without seeing friends and family, meeting up at restaurants or going to church again? Only time will tell, but in the midst of this, we shouldn't worry but rather cling onto the hope of God as the Psalmist did, as the Apostles did and so many others before us. And in the words of the author of Lamentations: “...the Lord will not reject forever … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31,33). There is always light at the end of darkness if we put our hope in Christ. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)...
Luke J. Wilson | 20th March 2020 | Coronavirus
We currently live in troubled times lately with a lot of uncertainty around us, both locally and globally. But even now as I write this and think on the topic of the virus, one verse in particular springs to mind: Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff — they comfort me. It does feel a little bit like we are all walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” at the moment! But as the Psalmist says, “I fear no evil” for God is with us and comforts us. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get sick (or die), but that no matter what is happening around us, internally we should be at peace and have a stilled mind; not one filled with worry and hopelessness. John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Not to mention the mandate to not worry about what we’ll eat or wear etc. (Matthew 6:25–34) especially in this time of panic buying where shops are facing food shortages. We must strive to avoid this type of thinking and behaviour, because not only does it not help anyone (and is incredibly selfish), it just causes more panic. As Christians we should keep in mind what God has spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10), and what Paul wrote to Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians and Plagues Throughout History Disease, plagues and pandemics are not new things in this world. History is replete with sickness and death, the only difference now is that since around the 20th century, modern medicine and vaccines have improved to such a degree that we are fairly well protected against anything on a pandemic, or even an epidemic, level. Sickness is often relegated to a temporary inconvenience during winter, which we can pop pills for; whereas the more serious sickness and death are hidden away in hospitals and care homes out of sight for the most part. Prior to this time, past generations just had to deal with recurring diseases and plagues killing off the populations fairly regularly. Just take a look at this infographic to see the scale and frequency of them! It dates back all the major pandemics to the second century, of which there are about twenty, so that’s just over one global disease per century. As scary as the current times are, this is nothing new, historically speaking. In these past times of plague and disease, many people would flee their towns and cities if they weren’t obviously sick to try and escape the looming deadly virus — but the Christian communities often had the opposite response: they stayed with the sick and dying! In the year 249 AD, a pandemic swept the Roman Empire known as The Plague of Cyprian, named in commemoration of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, as he was a witness to it. At the height of the outbreak, it was thought that around 5,000 people a day were dying, and it almost toppled the Empire. Cyprian wrote about the plague in his On Mortality, describing its symptoms, which some modern historians think could describe a type of Ebola: This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened… As gruesome as that sounds, Cyprian, a couple of chapters later, writes in praise of those who forsook their own well-bei...
Luke J. Wilson | 14th January 2020 | General Interest
If you follow certain Christian blogs, or have Christian friends on Social Media, then you may have seen a short video clip being shared which has been taken from a recent sermon by popular Evangelical pastor/speaker and author, Francis Chan of Crazy Love ministries. Depending on who shared the clip will depend on which reaction you have seen; some are praising his words, others fearing for his future calling it a “red flag”. And all of this over a short statement he made about communion! I recommend you watch this 3 minute clip below before continuing, if you haven’t seen it already. I would also recommend watching the whole 47 minute sermon for some better context, where he talks about his struggles and journey to this point in his faith around the topic of communion — something he was wrestling with even back in his BASIC series teaching on Communion from around 2012, views which have clearly moved on since then towards a more historical view. Chan says he isn’t making any sort of “grand statement” here, and goes on to give a brief, if little distorted, overview of church history: “I didn’t know that for the first 1,500 years of church history, everyone saw it as the literal body and blood of Christ … And it wasn’t until 500 years ago that someone popularised the thought that it’s just a symbol and nothing more. I didn’t know that. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s something to consider.’” This part isn’t too far from reality, really, though a little over-simplified. But I understand his zeal and excitement about this discovery of his, as I went through the exact same mind-blowing realisation around five or so years ago when I first delved into the writings of the Early Church Fathers and was forced to come to the same conclusion that there was something there to seriously consider. If the Church had always understood Jesus’ words and the interpretation of Scripture in a fairly singular and unified way for nearly two millennia, then who was I to come along and say my understanding exceeds the wisdom of everyone before me? It was actually one of the earliest texts, from a second century bishop called Ignatius, that really tipped me over the edge from a “memorialist” view (that the bread and wine are purely symbolic, nothing more), to a sacramental view (that the bread and wine are a means of grace that God uses). Ignatius was writing against a heretical group who were teaching a false doctrine about Jesus not really coming in the flesh, and uses communion as an example to prove the opposite, which also gives us an interesting and early view on the sacraments: “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.”— Ignatius Of Antioch: Letter To The Smyrnaeans (c.108 AD) At first reading I was stuck by the literal nature in which Ignatius spoke of the Eucharist (communion), and as I read more of the Early Church Fathers, that same, common thread kept appearing: they all held to a view of Communion which was definitely more than simply a symbol or memorial (you can read some more quotes on the topic here). Chan later talks about unity in the early church and how he longs to see that type of unity again in the Church globally, explaining that making communion more central to worship would help with that. Chan then laments about the apparent disunity within Protestantism, citing the dramatic statistics of there being “30,000 denominations” in the Protestant world. It’s a common claim, often from Roman Catholic apologists, but it’s not exactly accurate; there’s really only about six general umbrellas if you boil it all down: Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal/Charismatic. Most “non-denominational” churches are still largely Baptist in their theology, despite avoiding an...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd December 2018 | Missions
You've probably seen it in the news lately: John Chau, the American guy who tried to evangelise the secluded Sentinelese tribe off the coast of India. Much of the debate in secular media has centered around the grief of his friends and family; how he could have brought outside disease to the tribespeople and potentially killed them all (despite this not being their first contact with outsiders, with no known ill effect), or that he ventured there completely in ignorance with no preparation or wisdom — something which the missionary agency, All Nations, has recently debunked. But the question I want to look at is this: was Chau's mission total madness or is he a modern-day martyr? Well first, what is a martyr? The dictionary definition is simply: “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs”, and the word itself comes from ancient Greek meaning “witness”. For those who may be unfamiliar with the whole story (as much as we can see), John Chau had said since 2011 that he felt called by God to go and tell the good news of Jesus to the Sentinelese people. After many years of preparation, about two weeks ago in late November, he succeeded in getting to the remote island via a fishing boat (which was illegal to visit under normal circumstances). But after a few attempts at making contact, he is believed to have been killed. The fishermen saw some tribespeople dragging Chau’s body across the beach, so it has been assumed that he is dead – and no one knows any differently to date. So in the strictest sense as the definition above, he may not be a martyr as he wasn’t necessarily killed because of his beliefs, as the tribespeople couldn’t even understand his preaching, and on the face of it, it does seem like madness. In the broader sense of the word, I think it’s fair to call him a martyr, as that would be one who “sacrifices his or her life, station, or something of great personal value, for the sake of principle or to sustain a cause”. His cause was Christ, his principle was to spread the Gospel and he sacrificed his life for it. This was living out the message of Jesus to its fullest. Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. There are those who argue that he died purely because the islanders were hostile towards any who would try and step foot on their land, and his death had nothing to do with whatever purpose Chau went there with, therefore he wasn’t technically martyred. But if that is the case, then you could make the same point about many of the early Christian martyrs who were killed by the Romans. Sure, there were times of specific and targeted persecutions against the Church, but there was also times where persecution was more of a by-product of the Roman Empire’s hostility to those were disloyal to the Emperor. The men and women who were killed during those times were still seen and declared to be martyrs for the faith since they stood strong in their convictions in the face of death. For example in the early centuries, on pain of death, the people of the Roman Empire had to swear loyalty to the Emperor and publicly perform some act of worship and veneration towards him. This wasn’t an attempt to root out Christians necessarily, but they did refuse to partake due to their beliefs in worshipping God alone and not committing idolatry by performing an act of worship towards the reigning Caesar. As far as the Romans were concerned, the Christians were traitors and committed a treasonous act. It didn’t really matter why, only that they couldn’t be convinced otherwise and were killed for it to be an example to others. Were these early Christians martyrs or completely mad? How you answer that, I suspect, will inform you of how you view young John ...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd March 2021 | Easter
Much like any major Christian holiday, there are the usual arguments and accusations about how it’s all just pagan festivities with a “Christian mask”. Easter is no different, and usually gets hit the hardest over its so-called “pagan roots”, or in the month or so preceding it, Lent being some “invention of the Catholic Church”. Table of Contents The Lenten Fast The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Is the Name “Easter” really the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre? Chocolate eggs and bunnies? Concluding Thoughts Further Reading and Sources I like to try and observe Lent, as it is one of the most ancient customs in the Church, which led me to researching its origins, along with the Easter celebration, to see where they have their basis. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that much of the accusations against Easter and Lent as “pagan” are either fabricated or is just misinformation. So let’s examine the different aspects of Easter to see how we got from Passover to resurrection, to little bunnies and chocolate eggs! The Lenten Fast A forty day fast prior to Easter has been a long established practice within the Church dating back to possibly within the first century. This is well established from ancient letters we still have available, such as from Irenaeus in the second century: For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more. In fact, others fast forty days … And this variety among observers [of the fasts] did not have its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors.–Irenaeus (c.180) Notice here that Irenaeus mentions that this was a practice passed onto them by their “predecessors”, a term often used in conjunction with the Apostles themselves, or those who immediately came after them, putting the origins of this Lenten fast much earlier than when Irenaeus wrote in 180, and also possibly having Apostolic origin. The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Back in the days of the early church, there arose a controversy around the celebration of Easter (or “pascha” as it was known then). But no, before your imagination runs wild, it wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds and still had nothing to do with “paganism”. The dispute was over which day to hold the festival! Yep, the controversy really is as mundane as that. In fact, it was one of the issues raised at the council of Nicea to be discussed and hopefully settled, and is officially known as the Quartodeciman (lit. Fourteenth) controversy/dispute. It’s called this due to the issue being over whether the Easter celebration should follow the Jewish pattern of Passover on the 14 Nisan or not and simply follow the days of the week (Friday and Sunday). It became a bigger issue when the not only the Jewish community of believers wanted to follow this method, but when the Gentile Asian communities also claimed that their Quartodeciman practice was of Apostolic origin! It was a disciple of John the Apostle, and bishop of Smyrna, called Polycarp (c.69–c.155) who followed this practice in one of the seven churches of Asia as well as Melito, bishop of Sardis (died c.180). Irenaeus tells us that, in his old age, Polycarp visited the bishop of Rome to discuss this matter with him as the Roman church had diverged from the Quartodeciman custom and celebrated the resurrection according to the day Jesus rose instead: Sunday (the first day of the week). We gain an important glimpse about this whole dispute from Irenaeus though, when he tells us of the meeting between Polycarp and Anicetus: Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. … And they parted from each...
David Jakubovic | 17th March 2021 | Book Review
This is a guest post by David Jakubovic. The views are that of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of That Ancient Faith. A 20 year update of the 1996 book by the same name, this slim volume (211 pages) is a helpful cross-section of current evangelical thought on Final Punishment, sampling Denny Burk on Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT hereafter), John Stackhouse Jr on Conditional immortality (CI hereafter), Robin Parry on Christian Universalism (CU hereafter) and Jerry Walls on (a Protestant) Purgatory. Preston Sprinkle pens both Introduction and Conclusion, plus there are Scripture, Author and Subject indices. The Introduction sets the scene, listing the 3 historically available views along with speculation about post-mortem purgatorial sanctification, before clarifying that it is not the existence of hell that is here in doubt: “They agree that hell exists, but they differ on what this hell is like.” (11) Sprinkle lists verses used by all 4 views, then introduces the academic background of the 4 essayists. He finally issues a substantial challenge to the reader: “You, of course, will probably agree with only one of the following essays and disagree with the other three. But keep in mind: disagreement is not refutation. We must be able to refute the evidence of the views that we disagree with and then provide more compelling biblical evidence for the view that we uphold.” (15) Burk kicks off Chapter One (‘Eternal Conscious Torment’) with a startling parable. He visualizes a man torturing creatures in increasing order of complexity and dignity: first torturing a grasshopper, a frog, a bird, a puppy and finally a human baby. Burk states: “In each of the scenarios above, the ‘sin’ is the same – pulling the legs off. The only difference in each of these scenarios is the one sinned against…The seriousness of the sin is not measured merely by the sin itself (pulling off the legs) but by the value and the worth of the one being sinned against.” (19, italics his) This macabre thought-experiment is of course a gruesome version of Anselm’s ‘Status Principle’, namely that to sin against an infinitely good God merits infinite or eternal punishment. But fellow pro-ECT essayist Walls squashes this analogy: “There is profound disanalogy in the parable that undermines the central point he wants to establish. This resides in the fact that we do not have the power to do anything to God that is remotely analogous to the harm the character in the parable inflicts on helpless creatures ranging from grasshoppers to human infants. Indeed, God is so far above us in power, glory, and moral perfection that we are utterly incapable of harming him.”1 Burk even ventures that ECT “will ultimately become a source of joy and praise for the saints as they witness the infinite goodness and justice of God.” (20) Yet it is grossly incongruous to place ECT side by side with notions of ‘joy’, ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’ as these are universally understood. The very philosophical logic behind the ‘Status Principle’ is itself highly suspect, as Kronen points out when dismantling the ‘Classical Doctrine of Hell’ (CDH): “It is by no means obvious that an offense against an infinite being must be punished by the sorts of torments envisioned by CDH. One might sin more or less gravely against such a being, and in that case it does not seem that just any sin against an infinite being would merit eternal, continuous, and excruciating pain.”2 Spiegel adds that “human guilt is at most maximally great, not infinitely great”3, meaning that human guilt is still finite: “Finite guilt, however great, presumably does not warrant endless punishment in the form of ECT.” (Spiegel, op. cit. 41) He adds that, under the ‘Status Principle’, even the first sin you commit as a child is enough to incur ‘infinite guilt’, but this does not allow for the vast spectrum of p...
Luke J. Wilson | 08th March 2021 | Etymology
For many people today, non-Christians and (low church) Christians alike, when they hear the word “Catholic”, certain images spring to mind: the Pope, the rosery, Catholic school, big old churches buildings, choirboys, maybe monks or statues of Mary even; and sadly more recently, sex abuse scandals. But generally speaking, all of these are actually aspects of Roman Catholicism — a particular branch of Christianity, and not what the word “catholic” truly means as we’ll see when examining how the early church used the word and what the original Greek word means. καθολικός (katholikos) The Greek word where we get the English word “catholic” from is καθολικός (katholikos) meaning “universal”, which comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning “on the whole”, “according to the whole” or “in general” (catholicus in Latin). In non-ecclesiastical use, it still retained its root meaning in English in some literature from the 1800s, though that usage has fallen out of common use in modern times. The first reference to this word can be found in Acts 9:31 when speaking about “the church throughout [all] Judea, Galilee, and Samaria...”. The words “throughout” and “all” are καθ (κατά) and ὅλης (ὅλος) respectively in Greek, which together come to form the word καθολικός. The earliest historical use of the word in the context of the Church can be found in one of the letters of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written around AD 107, where he writes: Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. From here on we begin to see that the word catholic was used in reference to mean “orthodoxy” (the word “orthodox” means “right belief”) as opposed to the non-orthodox heretics who were then by definition not catholic as they were not ‘according to the whole’ which was, as Jude wrote, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Catholic Church, in its original and Apostolic sense, would have meant the entirety of the Body of Christ across the world; i.e. all of the believers wherever they may be, rather than it being “universal” in the physical sense that the institution of “church” should be all encompassing (like as an official, global institution that all must attend). The difference may be subtle, but it’s an important one. Historical Use of the Term As we saw above, Ignatius was the earliest Christian writer we have who applied the word katholikos to the Church. Some people object to using Ignatius as evidence of this, as some of the letters attributed to him are considered spurious (not authentic), though scholarly opinion on this is pretty universal in which are genuine letters as neither Eusebius nor Jerome makes any reference to the eight spurious epistles. Justo L. Gonzalez explains in his book, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation, Volume One: The original meaning of Catholic church referred to this episcopal collegiality, as well as with the multiform witness to the gospel in several canonical gospels. … It was the church “according to the whole,” that is, according to the total witness of all the apostles and all the evangelists. The various Gnostic groups were not “Catholic” because they could not claim this broad foundation. … Only the Church Catholic, the church “according to the whole,” could lay claim to the entire apostolic witness. (pp.81,82). The other early uses that appear after Ignatius are in the Martyrdom of Polycarp (around AD 150), “…and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place…”, and then also in the earliest New Testament list from around AD 177, the Muratorian fragment the phrase is found three times: “…in the esteem of the Church catholic …...
Luke J. Wilson | 21st September 2020 | Eschatology
Most people have some idea about what the rapture is – or do they? Generally there is an idea or concept of a form of escapism from the world when Jesus returns, which happens pre, mid or post tribulation and in some connection to the millenium. Now, if you understood any of those terms, you are most likely on, or aware of, the Dispensationalism side of things. There’s a lot of doctrine all bundled together in “end times” beliefs, and a fair bit of speculation around “the rapture” with its timing and logistics etc. which makes the whole thing a but murky, but nonetheless, it’s pretty much taken for granted as a staple belief within the Evangelical world. But has this always been so, and does it have any biblical basis? In short: sort of. What is The Rapture? This is the primary verse where the doctrine finds its footing: …then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. — 1 Thessalonians 4:17 On the face of it, that is a pretty obscure (and short) text, yet so much has been written on and speculated about around this event. I’m not going to cover every aspect of rapture doctrine here, but rather want to just highlight the context of this verse and its parallels in Paul’s other letters, as this seems to get lost under centuries of doctrinal baggage, which, incidentally, also the leads to the next point to look at: is the rapture biblical? The origin of The Rapture The word “rapture” itself comes from the Latin word rapere, which means: “to seize” or “to abduct”. It is a translation from the Greek word that is rendered as “caught up” (ἁρπάζω / harpázō) in our English Bibles today. For many, asking if this belief is biblical is a non-starter because it is assumed so based on 1 Thess. 4 so obviously it is. But this is a presupposition, reading the modern ideas of what “the rapture” means into the text. The modern idea being that Jesus comes back briefly (and maybe secretly), whooses all the Christians into the sky and takes them to heaven, away from all the troubles on the earth, before coming back later to do a proper “second coming”. John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century theologian, is often credited with creating this premillennial rapture doctrine, followed closely by C.I. Scofield who wrote a best-selling annotated Bible which promoted Darby’s rapture views in its footnote commentary. This particular Bible became wildly popular across America in the early 1900s and ended up solidifying the futurist dispensational viewpoint for generations to come within Evangelicalism. Despite the popularity of Scofield’s Bible, what it (and Darby) taught was a novel idea which had not been seen nor heard of before in the previous 1800 years of Church History, yet many Christians accepted it without hesitation, likely due to it being part of the exposition alongside the Scripture they were reading, and therefore a seeming authority. I realise there is somewhat of an irony here in that I’m acting similarly like an authority telling you that this belief is wrong whereas Scofield was writing as though it were accurate, but in an even more ironic twist, just a handful of verses later, the same letter to the Thessalonians says to “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). This is what I would invite you to do: don’t just take my word for it, test everything and see if what I say is accurate. The context of The Rapture So what is the context of these verses, if not about being whisked away into the sky with Jesus? A couple of things, but one slightly more obvious than the other, though still overlooked by people, I’ve noticed; the other requires knowing some more about the ancient Greco-Roman culture of the time. Firstly, we only need go back a few verses to see what Paul is writing about here: he begins the passage in verse 13 by say...