Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How the Power of the Holy Spirit Can be Portrayed in Successful Motion Pictures

"It sort of makes you stop and think, doesn't it?"
As many of my Nineveh's Crossing followers know, I'm primarily a filmmaker, who spends some of his time producing and distributing Christian media. In my film and story consulting work (most of which is in the secular realm with Hollywood writers or producers) I sometimes end up coaching Christians who want to be filmmakers or better storytellers. It's a tough job.

"Christian Filmmakers" Have a Few Problems

First, I define Christian Filmmakers as people who are primarily Christians and only secondarily are they Filmmakers. That is, they are not "Filmmakers Who Happen to be Christians." Second, Christian Filmmakers are not really interested in becoming good filmmakers, they're more interested in becoming good evangelists. A good filmmaker is a good storyteller...preaching is another thing entirely. Third, Christian Filmmakers tend to be more interested in praying than in learning the craft. But prayer has never been a substitute for craft. If it was no Christian would ever bother go to school, or discipline their bodies to be healthy. In fact, it is in Genesis that God said to Adam and Eve, "subdue the earth" and "by the sweat of your brow you will have to work to eat." God did not say "get on your knees and ask me to do the work for you you."

We were made in God's image...God's creative image. Being creative requires work. Yes, ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration...then get off our knees and go to school, learn the craft, sacrifice your time and money, move to Hollywood or New York...and stop hiding in your church basement waiting for the cultural storm to pass over.

The other epidemic thing about "Christian Filmmakers" is that they believe that preaching is the best way to communicate. I wonder where they got that? No, they didn't get it from the Bible. The Bible is 75% narrative and storytelling, a percentage you can come up with by categorizing chapters of the Bible as being either Narrative or Didactic. I wrote a good post on that topic years ago and recently updated it. See it here: How to Change the World at Bedtime over on my Moral Premise Blog. 

Anyway, Christian Filmmakers tend to think that their movies cannot possibly reveal the presence of God or the Holy Spirit without explicit scenes of a character reading a Bible, going to church, listening to a sermon, being counseled by a preacher, or being prayed with. But, God and his Spirit are ubiquitous in our lives by simply breathing and living in cooperation with Natural Law. The Spirit of the Most High surrounds us, and we have a choice to obey or ignore. When we obey we grow closer to God, when we ignore Natural Law we suffer the consequences. Thus, our physical life becomes a spiritual journey... which, BTW is the implicit premise behind my work and my book The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success.

To help "Christian Filmmakers" get a better grip on good storytelling, I wrote the following post for the Moral Premise blog, which I have edited here to appear a bit more spiritual.

How Can a "Christian Filmmaker" Connect With Audiences?

[The overarching answer: Become a filmmaker who just happens to be a Christian.]

Rule No. 1: Audiences connect best with characters when you tell a story that the audience believes is universal, logical, and organic. 
  • Universal means the story centers on a universal values that the audience believes are universally true...that means what is right vs. what is wrong. In 90 minutes you can't change the audience's moral values more than a smidgen, so you better start and end where the audience generally is. You can nudge people, but you can't convert them. If you want to convert people produce a documentary and present the most biased interviews and visuals you can find. But don't figure you can figure which way the conversion will flop. A pro-Trump doc may just turn people against him, as Dinesh D'Souza has probably discovered, and a anti-Trump doc may create more Republican Michael Moore has discovered. 
  • Logical means the story's cause and effect elements are logically consistent with Natural Law. Now, there are two kinds of natural laws. There is physical kind, e.g. gravity, momentum, inertia, etc.; and there are psychological [or spiritual] kind, e.g. guilt, generosity, lust, envy, etc.  You violate one and there will be natural consequences to answer to. [God mostly communicates his moral will to mankind through natural consequences, though it may take a preacher to explain it to the dense and arrogant.]
  • Organic means the filmmaker's ability to surreptitiously foreshadow events... while still being universal and logical. [Explosions and miracles both require a logical basis and universal setting. See Rule No. 4.]
Rule No. 2: Every one of the universal, logical and organic elements consistently conforms to a single Moral Premise Statement:
[some moral vice] leads to [some physical detriment], but

[some moral virtue] leads to [some physical betterment].
To expand: The vice and the virtue in the statement need to be universal values that most everyone in a general audience will understand at some level, e.g. greed vs. generosity, selfishness vs selflessness, arrogance vs. humility, etc.

The detriments and betterments are logically the natural consequences of the vice or virtue. Greed leads to isolation, generosity leads to friendship. In the political arena, arrogance (both Trump and the Acosta) leads to distrust, but humility (Jordan Peterson) leads to respect. 

Rule No. 3: Avoid parochial content and jargon...unless your audience is parochial and expects you to use jargon. For instance, Christian faith films often lapse into trite visuals, scenes, and jargon, the meaning of which is obscured to the non-believer. Someone asked Jordan Peterson once, "Are you a believer?" Peterson's logical response was, "I believe a lot of things." 

Rule No. 4: Tell the Truth.

Seems simple, but here's what it means.

When you set up a conflict between a flawed character and a universal vice and universal virtue, remember these three things:

  1. Things Don't Happen by Accident. Either nature delivers, or your character is motivated by some value. 
  2. The Universe is run by the Eternal Purposes of God. Generally, that means Natural Law is benevolent toward humans, unless humans ignore what is benevolently given them.
  3. Novel and unexpected events (e.g. a miracle) occur to accomplish the universe's larger purpose. In such an event, it may appear that Natural Law is violated, but to the clever writer the event is always natural. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Basic Christianity Lecture 3 - Thinking for Yourself in Religion

Lecture 3 - Thinking for Yourself in Religion

This is the third Lecture from Lectures on the Evidence for the Authenticity of BASIC CHRISTIANITY by Stanley D. Walters, Ph. D., a book we're editing for distribution by Nineveh's Crossing or a more prominent publisher. You can read a brief background of the project at the beginning of the first lecture HERE.

Independent Thinking

The lecture for this morning is on the general subject: Think for Yourself in Religion!
Most of us, by the time we are college students have developed a lot of uneasiness about accepting things just because we are told so. If we have some self-awareness, we know that we cannot totally divest ourselves of our childhood training, nor do most of us want to. And at the same time, we begin to think that we ought to understand why we are supposed to believe things, why they are true, on some more substantial ground than that our parents or the pastor says so. And perhaps even more substantial grounds than that the Bible says so, although that’s really an answer of a different sort.
Now, I want to raise the question this morning and try to answer it. “How much independent thinking...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Basic Christianity Lecture 2 - What is a Chrisitan Liberal Arts College

This is the second Lecture from Lectures on the Evidence for the Authenticity of BASIC CHRISTIANITY by Stanley D. Walters, Ph. D., a book we're editing for distribution by Nineveh's Crossing or a more prominent publisher. You can read a brief background of the project at the beginning of the first lecture HERE.


Lecture 2 - What is a Christian Liberal Arts College

On Friday I introduced the course to you in a kind of general way. This morning I want to talk about the subject: What is a Christian Liberal Arts College.
I don't know if this topic really belongs in a course on Basic Christianity. But, it belongs somewhere very early in your college career and maybe this is as good a place to trot this out as anywhere else. So, whether it belongs here or not, here we go.
First of all, what do we mean by Liberal Arts college? And secondly, what do we mean by the Christian liberal arts college? So, let's begin first of all to talk about the general concept what is a liberal arts college.

I. What is a Liberal Arts College?

I want to frame this in terms of things which we hope will happen to you while you are a student at this kind of institution. I'm going to suggest three of them. They are...

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Basic Christianity Lecture 1 - The Goals of this Course

Lectures on the Evidence for the Authenticity of BASIC CHRISTIANITY by Stanley D. Walters, Ph. D. is a book I'm editing for distribution by Nineveh's Crossing or a more prominent publisher.

My wife, Pam, and I had the  privilege of sitting under Dr. Walters at Greenville College (now Greenville University) in 1967 and 1968 for a course he designed titled BASIC CHRISTIANITY.  His influence on our Christian faith was remarkable. And although he was "technically" evangelical and an ordained Free Methodist minister, Pam and I credit him as a significant reason we converted to Catholicism.

There are 32 lectures that are currently being edited, from recordings I made in 1968, the last time he delivered the course. Walters academic pedigree began at Greenville College where he earned his B.A. He then went on to Asbury Theological Seminary (B.D.), Princeton (Th.M.), and Yale (Ph.D.) where is studied archeology and translated cuneiform tablets.

Although Greenville was associated with the evangelical Methodist tradition (and Armenian in theology), Walters had a liking for the discipline displayed by Anglican theologians like John Stott, C.S. Lewis, and other British thinkers and historians such as Plymouth Brethern F. F. Bruce and Quaker  Elton Trueblood. To further broaden his theological resume he spend years after academia ministering in Presbyterian (Calvinism) parishes in Canada and the U.S.

As will be evident from the lectures, he was not a "faith alone" advocate, but lectured heavily in favor of "faith and reason." He preferred critical evidence to blind ideology. The training we received to think critically about religious ideas and our faith focused on the logical, historical, and personal religious experience as empirical evidence that verified Scripture revelation. Such evidence, we discovered, could not be denied and could be repeated.

So, without more at this point, the following posts will offer up excerpts of the lectures to tease you enough that you'll want to buy the book when it comes out...and when that is we have no idea. There's much work that remains.  Except the first few lectures I may post in their entirety. (Stan Williams)

Lecture 1 - The Goals of This Course
Stanley D. Walters, Ph. D.
February 1968 - Greenville College

The BOP Method

Now there are different ways of convincing people that certain things are so. There is the “BOP” method which is often employed here. As a result of the application of this technique, you end up believing things which are completely unrealistic. Further, you end up...

Friday, May 11, 2018

MIRACLES: A Significant Adaptation of Means

I'm editing a book of lectures on BASIC CHRISTIANITY delivered by Dr. Stan Walters over 50 years ago. Walters was an academic fellow from Yale and Oxford, a Biblical scholar and part-time archeologist who taught for years in Christian and secular universities. Imagine a Christian Indiana Jones.

The lectures are unique because they are based on the premise that Christianity is evidence based, not just faith alone. Walters believed that without factual, historical and logical evidence, Christianity is too easily discredited as the fanciful imagination of fanatics. Without reason and evidence, one could believe in anything, and there are many other fanciful religions and versions of Christianity that are not based on facts or logic.

Dr. Stan Walters lectures at Greenville College in 1968
His lectures so captured my imagination that while still in college I obtained permission to record an entire semester of his course on Basic Christianity from the college radio station (WGRN) where I was production manger.

 Little did I know it would be the last time he taught the course. (There's a chapter about Dr. Walters in my memoir, Growing Up Christian, and his thinking about the evidence in Christianity informed my web-series The Logical Case for Catholicism.) Recently, I was able to transfer the tapes to digital format and transcribe them. And with his permission, he lives not far from us, I'm now in the midst of editing the lectures and hopefully next year will release them as a book.

Today, I edited the last of three lectures on MIRACLES. They are astonishing, and so I wanted to share with you an excerpt from the conclusion. Here it is.

------- Start of lecture excerpt -------

Miracles - A Significant Adaptation of Means

The regularity of nature, what we call the laws of nature, is God doing the same thing in the same way, most of the time, day-after-day. God does this in order to provide a stable environment so we can develop character and responsibility. Without the stability of nature, if nature was really random, we could never plan what we were to do the next day and would too easily give up telling others what time we'd be over to help them, because time would be unpredictable.

We need to think of the universe and its laws as designed to run in a way to achieve God's purpose, of showing us love. Thus, the universe and its laws are the means to an end, where the end is God revealing his love to us by giving us a stable world in which to live and grow. But sometimes we need an extra dose of love, and so we are confronted with miracles, whether through answered prayer, or just an angel who swoops down and saves us from disaster. It is from these moments that Dr. Walters invokes Dr. Elton Trueblood's definition of a miracle as "a significant adaptation of means." That is, God adapted natural laws significantly in some way to help us. God significantly adapted the laws of the universe: the means to his end of loving us.

The point is, ordinarily the means that God uses to do things are the means we know about all the time. But, if he wishes, he may make a significant adaptation of means and then there occurs something which we're not accustomed, to which we do not find it possible to explain by ordinary cause and effect, and which we would call a miracle.

Now, this idea, that God controls, and manipulates the universe for his own purposes, leads to three implications for our life.
Three Implications

1. Things Don't Happen by Accident to the Christian

One of them is this. There is a sense in which things do not happen by accident.  When he was a university student at Oxford the late William Temple (1881-1944), whom some people consider the greatest Christian philosopher of the 20th century, wrote a letter home to his parents in which he discussed a particular examination that he had taken. Temple wrote that he'd done rather well on the exam, better it seems than he had expected to do. And he wrote, "I was going to blaspheme and say 'Lucky'."

Now, why should Temple say that "Lucky" is blasphemy?  Because lucky implies there isn't any pattern. There isn't any purpose. It is random that things just happen without being part of some overarching purpose. And the Christian cannot say that, ...not and believe in the God whom he meets in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ. Because the God whom we meet in the Scriptures is in charge of things.

It is true that the universe operates according to patterns describable by us most of the time.  But from the Biblical point of view, God is somehow in these operations working out his eternal purposes. And to say "Lucky" would be to say there are some things that God wasn't in, they just happened. And that would be saying the Creator is not the Creator. He's only a part of this operation. And it would reduce the Creator to the level of the creature. We ought to take this more seriously. Things don't happen by accident to the Christian.

2. The Universe is Run by the Eternal Purpose of God

Secondly, there's an interesting implication, for me at least, in this about prayer. When I first began to see the ideas that I've been trying to develop for you in these periods, it made prayer much easier for me, because I saw that in praying what I really had to do was something like this:

Oh God, here is a particular need.  Will you use any means necessary to meet that need? You pick the means Lord. And you know what it's going to take to meet that need. Devise and use whatever means are necessary to meet that need.

I think it's helpful to our prayer life to see that the universe is run basically by the eternal purpose of God and not by a cast iron set of causes and effects.

3. Christians Need to be Open to the Novel and Unexpected

The third implication is that Christian people are required to have a very great openness to the novel and the unexpected. You don't know when it may suit God's purposes to vary things just a little. And therefore, the novel may occur. The resurrection of Christ was an extraordinary novelty for which any kind of meaningful precedent was almost totally lacking. And yet we think that it happened. God is never bound by precedent. And in your life and mine and in those communities of Christian persons which are nearly everywhere in this world, there ought to be great openness so that God may do what he wishes to do even if it is something just a little different than we're used to.

------- End of lecture excerpt -------

The Lesson in This Post

In a recent post I shared a picture of a large tree limb that had fallen on my wife's car. It destroyed the passenger door, the windshield and frame, an "A" pillar, and most notably the structural steel in the roof panel.  Pam had just acquired the car from her elderly father, and it was special, although it had modestly high mileage. And while it was in generally good shape with no rust (we live in Michigan where they use salt on the roads in winter), we had already put over $1,000 in repairs just in the last few weeks. She loved the car, but I was worried a bit about the future expense of keeping it up.

Unfortunately, AAA Auto Insurance had to "total" the car because the parts were no longer available and it could not be repaired. We were both devastated. We could not afford another car payment, and Pam needed the car for her ministry at church and several other families.

What was interesting about the event was where she had parked the car just minutes before the limb fell (during a wind storm). It was in our driveway, but about six feet further away from where she normally parked it. And that was because while doing some yard work I had temporarily placed something in her side of the garage preventing the car's entry. But, had she parked the car in her normal spot in the driveway, the limb would have missed the car entirely. The circumstances leading up to it, and the limb's falling on her car, were both novel and unexpected. But was it a miracle?

At first, we would never have called it that. But as time went on and as we prayed for wisdom, several things occurred to Pam's mind about the car and its demise. They were incidental things, but they related to two people she was always praying for. Were these people connected directly with the car? Not really. But the car being totaled gave Pam fresh ideas of how to pray for those individuals and how Pam's life and theirs were related. But what to do, we were in a quandary. We expected a settlement check form AAA, but it wouldn't be enough to get another car, and we were already cash strapped.

Then, not thinking of the unexpected, a few days later AAA made a cash settlement for the car in an amount that was far more than what we thought the car was worth. And with a small savings Pam had, it appears she will be just able to acquire a newer car, with fewer miles, that will allow her to continue her ministry in a less expensive manner. Much less, in fact. And, had she tried to trade in the car, she would not have gotten as much for it, and getting a newer car, with less miles, would have been out of the question. So, the limb falling oddly on the car was a blessing? Who would have guessed that?

Pam and I pray together each morning and evening, in addition to our private time of Bible reading and prayer. We try to keep our faith strong, but there are times, like this, that test us. Then, as this car and tree limb situation was unfolding, I was editing these chapters on miracles, and came to the section I've shared with you above. While we do not know the real reason why her car was totaled, the oddity of how it happened brings the implications noted above into focus for us.

1. Things don't happen by accident for the Christian.

2. The Universe is Run by the Eternal Purpose of God.

3. Christians Need to be Open to the Novel and Unexpected.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On the Call to Holiness

I finished reading Pope Francis's ON THE CALL TO HOLINESS this morning. I have not liked much of what Francis has written, but this is excellent. Pam and I grew up in the Evangelical holiness movement, so we're glad to see this emphasis promulgated in Catholicism.  The link above is to a PDF of the exhortation. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Basic Christianity Lectures - New Product Development

Dr. Stan Walters lecturing at Greenville College, 1968. The year book that
year was dedicated to him. He was the class of 1968 class sponsor.
Fifty years ago, in college, I took a course titled BASIC CHRISTIANITY. It was required of all graduating students at Greenville College (now Greenville University). G.C. was then and still is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, an Evangelical denomination.  The course was taught by Princeton fellow,  Dr. Stanley D. Walters. At the time, our first names and initials were the only thing I had in common with this man. He was a scholar, graduated with honors from Princeton (I was lucky to get into college), he read Greek (I was struggling with English slang), he was smart, articulate, and confident (I was the campus AV geek with a ring of keys on my belt and an empty pocket protector.)

If, as an incoming freshman, you were deemed smart, Dr. Walter's class was assigned to you to take the very first semester you were at college. The slightly less than smart students took the class the second semester of their freshman year. The dumb students took the class their first semester of their sophomore year, and the dumbest (lucky-to-be-in-college) students took Walter's class their sophomore year, second semester. That's where I ended up. If I didn't pass this course I would be sent home and the school would keep my parent's money just for their trouble I gave them.

There were three text books for Walter's class, all very small paperbacks, but all written by Anglican scholars from Oxford (the one in England), not the township named Oxford in North Dakota. That the texts for a course in Basic Christianity at an Evangelical college came from Oxford scholars who were Anglican should have been a warning to Greenville's administration. It took them seven years to catch on that Walters was not your the die-hard "faith alone" Christian. In fact, Walter's perchance for Christianity required a great deal of faith and reason, and the Basic Christianity course he designed and taught provided reams of empirical evidence for the authenticity of the faith. This irritated some stalwart administrators and Board members at G.C. who believed that one needed to take Christianity on faith alone and not have to think about it.

But I wanted to think about it. I was a physics major. I liked empirical evidence.  If reason wasn't involved, if evidence wasn't involved, if it was "blind faith" then, it seemed to me, any religious belief system would have could make one up, put on the blinders and believe it. It wouldn't be true, but if "faith alone" was the criteria, who should care?

Thus, it was that Walter's course deeply appealed to me.  Although my liking the course and liking Walters wasn't good enough to earn me anything better than a "C." Remember, they didn't let me take the course until my 4th semester. But I was still captivated. I took voluminous notes, which I will have. I tried reading Lewis, Bruce and Stott, (the three Anglican texts) but I understood little. Yet I kept the notes.

Halfway through the next year a girl I knew from high school transferred to G.C. and we started dating. The first semester she was on campus they made her take Walter's Basic Christianity. She was one of the smart ones, although she transferred in as a sophomore. By now I was working part time at the college radio station and had a ring of keys to the audio books in the lecture halls. I got permission and started to record Walter's lectures. Put them on 4-track tapes at the slow speed. I tried to fit 8 lectures on each 7-inch reel-to-reel but screwed up and recorded over one or two, and for some reason missed a whole week of lectures. But in the end I had 40 lectures.  Last year I rebuilt the 4-track, digitized the lecture to my MacPro, and with the help of we've completed the transcription. Now, we're turning them into a book—50 years later. Dr. Walters lives south of me 2-hours and is enjoying reading his lectures from way back when. His daughter, who has since become Catholic, and is the editor of a diocesan newspaper and website, will co-edit the book with me. We are both set on preserving her Dad's "voice" in the text. It's unique.

But that semester, in the Spring of 1968, would be Walter's last year at G.C. After 7 years the authorities finally figured out that he was turning us all into thinking Anglicans, and not devout faith alone Free Methodists. (Ironically, Walters as an ordained F.M. minister.) So, the lectures I captured were the last time he delivered the course. At the end of the semester, as sort of a lame apology for forcing him out, the powers to be let him deliver the last chapel talk of the year. I recorded that, too. It was classic Walters. You can listen to the mp3 and/or download it here. Or, here is a PDF of the printed version. It's formatted for the upcoming book, with wide outer margins. Enjoy.

Oh, and that girl that transferred to G.C. in time to take Dr. Walter's class?  She became my wife. Pam and I have been married 49 years as of August 2018.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 and the Apocrypha-Deuterocanon has a long post declaring authoritatively that the Deuterocanon should not be considered in the Canon of Scripture. You can find the full article here:  
My answers are in red, indented. The black is the blueletterbible's post.Starts now:
The Old Testament Apocrypha consists of eleven or twelve books, depending upon how they are divided, that the Roman Catholic Church adds to the Old Testament.
Let's correct this Protestant arrogance....the Roman Catholic Church did not ADD the Second Canon (aka Deuterocanon) to the O.T. It was the Protestant publishers in 1830's who REMOVED them. It was the Protestant Reformers that SEPARATED them from the other books in their publishing of some of their first Bibles, most notably the KJV. But the Deuterocanon was always and still is IN the canon of Scripture. And there was no council or authoritative body that removed them. It was the typical Protestant protest. -- "We don't believe the Bible was inerrant when it was first put together, so we changed it. And NOW it is inerrant...but only after 1500 years when we changed it (without any authority) is it now inerrant. We did it all by ourselves, and since we are always right, we are now right. Oh, and we have thought up a bunch of reasons to defend our unilateral acton."  
Right. And by what authority did you do this? Do you have something in Scripture that tells you this? Where is your "list" where it says, "It is written, these shall be the books." Your claim of Sola Scripture demands such, doesn't it?  You realize, of course, that such a list exists for the 46 books (not the 39) of the original Christian O.T. by an authoritative council?! Have you ever considered that list? Or do you just ignore it because you think your pronouncements are inerrant, and the early councils were in error. I wonder where the Holy Spirit was back then? 
The Protestants reject these books as Holy Scripture for the following reasons.

1. The Apocrypha Has Different Doctrine And Practices Than Holy Scripture
False Premise. As is often the case with petulant protestants, you have assumed a false premise. If we accept your premise we might have to accept some of what you attempt to detail below. But your premise is false. You claim that The seven books of the Deuterocanon are "apocrypha" when they are not. 

  • "Apocrypha" properly means not in the canon by reason of being false and not to be read or considered.  But the 7 books of the Deuterocanon have always been in the original collection of books of the Bible. Even those who did not want them in the canon (and who were overruled by councils) said the 7 books were profitable for reading by Christians. You have not shown that the Deuterocanon books are apocrypha. You just assume that as a premise.  
  • Since the early councils the collection of books that have made up the accepted Bible (later authorized by Trent in 1563) included the Deuterocanon AS SCRIPTURE. So, you have assumed that the Deuterocanon is not Scripture, when most Christians in the world today, and all of Christian history (until the late Protestant Reformers who were excommunicated, by the way) accepted the Deuterocanon as Scripture. Not sure why I would accept the words of people who remove books from the canon and are excommunicated.  Why do you?

  • Have you considered the Holy Spirit? If the Bible is Holy Writ, inspired and inerrant by the Holy Spirit, removing the 7 Deuterocanon books (as Protestants did) claims that the Bible from 300 to 1500s/1800s or so, was in error, that the Holy Spirit got it wrong. Can you spell heretical?   
  • So, let's not equivocate. Your premise has little basis outside your opinion. It is the opinion of the Church (led by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for over 2000 years) that the Deuterocanon IS Scripture.
There are doctrines and practices contained in the Apocrypha that are contrary to what the Scripture teaches. They include the following.

They Teach A Person Is Saved By Works

In the Apocrypha proof texts can be found to support the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by human works and not faith alone.
You have clearly lied about what Catholic doctrine teaches.  
The Roman Catholic church has NEVER taught that justification is by human works, and these "proof" texts don't do that least not any more than James 2:24 (NIV) where James says, "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." This is the only place that "faith alone" appears in the Bible, and James clearly states that actions/works/what-is-done, counts, not just the mental ascent of faith.  
The reality of Catholic teaching is that faith and works are two sides of the same coin. Catholic doctrine teaches that we are justified by faith alone, as long as there are the actions and works that prove the faith is really there.  
The Apocrypha contains the following verses.
For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life (Tobit 12:9).
In another place in Tobit it says.
So now, my children see what almsgiving accomplishes, and what injustice does it brings death! (Tobit 14:11).
In the Book of First Maccabees it says.
Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (First Maccabees 2:52).
The Bible, on the other hand, says that a person is saved by grace through faith. It is not based upon our good works.
Oh yeah!?  What about James 1:22, (which is where James references First Maccabees 2:52) "Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? That's in your NT, so are you going to be like Martin Luther and try to remove James from the NT. He wanted to do that, you know.
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Ephesians 2:8,9 does not mention FAITH ALONE. Recall the Church teaches that Faith and Works are required. But don't take my word for it. Here's what Jesus says about the importance of works...and this is just a smattering...notice NO MENTION OF FAITH IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT...ONLY GOOD DEEDS (WORKS).
  • Matthew 5:20: I tell you that unless your righteousness (works, not faith) surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  
  • Matthew 5:26: Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
  • Matthew 5:27-28 The command not to commit adultery in your heart.
  • Matthew 5:34 Do not swear at oath at all...
  • Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks  you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matt 6:14 Forgive others if you want your sins forgiven
  • Matt 6:19 Do not store up treasurers on earth
  • Matt 6:26 Do not worry
  • Matt 7:1 Do not judge others
  • Matt 7:7ff: Ask, Seek, Knock
  • Matt 7:21 The only ones that get into heaven are the one who DOES the will of God
  • Matt 7:24 Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them INTO PRACTICE is like a wise man.

The Non-biblical Doctrine Of Purgatory Is Taught In The Apocrypha

The doctrine of purgatory - a place of purging between heaven and hell - is taught in the Apocrypha. It says.
So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin (Second Maccabees 12:41-45).
Actually, the doctrine of purgatory does not come from Maccabees. It comes from Rev. 21:27, Hebrews 9:27, Matthew 25:31-32, Luke 12:2-5, Luke 12:59, Luke 10:7, 1 Cor. 9:13-14, 1 Peter 3:19...and only then does the Church reference 2 Macc. 12:43-45. You really should study Catholic doctrine and understand it from a competent source before you claim what you do. Here's a good link with plenty of quotes from the Catechism and Scripture. Catholic Answers is one of the premiere sites for explanting the Catholic faith without the errors induced by belligerent Protestants.
The Bible teaches that, upon death, one either goes to be with the Lord or is sent away from Him - there is no middle place. The writer to the Hebrews stated.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
According To The Apocrypha God Hears The Prayers Of The Dead.

We find the Book of Baruch teaching that God hears the prayers of those who have died.
O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel, the children of those who sinned before you, who did not heed the voice of the Lord their God, so that calamities have clung to us (Baruch 3:4).
The dead do not pray for the living. Only the living upon the earth pray for the other living ones on the earth.
Your understanding of eternity is limited by temporal space and time. The dead indeed pray, not only before they die (in an earthly sense) but after they go on living in heaven (and perhaps hell). Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16). Now you may consider that story fictitious and a metaphor but it did come from the mouth of our Savior. But then there are the saints in heaven praying (Revelations 5:8).  
Then there's this: Consider that when you pray, your prayers enter a realm we might call eternity...and in eternity, there is no time. So, the prayers you pray, indeed reach God's ears before and after you die...for there is no time involved, no chronology. So, in that way we even pray for the dead...e.g. our prayers for a deceased person can either reach them (via a messenger from heaven) while they are praying before Christ's throne (they are not really dead, do believe that), or our prayers reach into eternity and travel "back in time" to when the person was alive...and offers them support from the eternity of heavenly beings. Thus, today you can pray for an event in the past, because your prayers are NOT bounded by time...for God does not live inside of time.
2. The Apocrypha Is Never Cited In The New Testament As Scripture
Easy rebuttal:  "Why is this a criteria?" Where did this requirement come from? That's a good question to ask about this whole list. This list of yours is comprised of strawman and other fallacious reasons. They're "made up" I suspect because you don't want to concede that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus founded. So you make up these reasons....which are not part of any council, they are the collected opinions of protestors from John 6:66. Have you read that passage lately. Yes, Protestants were in the New Testament.
Though the New Testament cites directly, or alludes to, almost every book of the Old Testament as Scripture, it never cites the Apocrypha as being God's Word. The Apocrypha was not the Bible of Jesus or His apostles. While Jesus and Hs apostles often quoted from the Septuagint, they never quoted from the Apocrypha.

Allusions Are Not The Same As Scripture

While there may be some allusions to the apocryphal books by New Testament writers there is no direct quote from them. An allusion is not the same as a direct quote.
No, but they indicate that the New Testament writers were using the Deuterocanon as Scripture, or at least worthwhile references. They clearly were not using the Deuterocanon as "apocrypha" or false teachings. New Testament sources clearly accepted the Deuterocanon. But you're spinning their acceptance to say more than they suit your end goal. 
No Statement Introduced By "It Is Written"

In addition, no New Testament writer ever refers to any of these books as authoritative. Quotes from the accepted books are usually introduced by the phrase, "It is written," or the passage is quoted to prove a point. But never do the New Testament writers quote the Apocrypha in this way.
If this is to be a requirement, then we must throw out most of Paul's Epistles, because he never says "It is Written." You make up this stuff to suite your argument, but it still fails.
Furthermore no book of the Apocrypha is mentioned by name in the New Testament.
So if a book is referenced in the New Testament but it is not mentioned by name, we should reject the statement from it?  That would include a great porition of the Old Testament.
3. The Apocrypha Has Always Been Rejected By The Jews As Scripture

The Jews have never considered these works to be divinely inspired. On the contrary, they denied their authority. At the time of Christ we have the testimony of the Jewish writer Flavius Josephus that they were only twenty-two books divinely inspired by God. These books are the same as our thirty-nine in the Old Testament. The books of the Apocrypha were not among these. The same testimony is found in Second Esdras - the Ezra legend. This work was written in A.D. 100. Therefore these books were never part of the Hebrew canon of Scripture.
I'm curious how you would then allow the inclusion of the New Testament into the canon of Scripture because Jews rejected all those books as Scripture. Right? 
You go on and on with your reasons, and they become increasing silly and irrelevant, and I'm, I'll jump to your conclusions.

The books of the Apocrypha should not be considered as Holy Scripture because they do not give any evidence as being authoritative. Except the authority of the early councils and Trent. Did you forget them? What authority removed the Deuterocanon from the O.T.? You haven't given any evidence of that authority for removal, while there is authority for their inclusions...the Council of Rome and Trent. Protestants deny the canonical status of these books on the basis of both internal and external evidence. This evidence includes the following.

First, the Apocrypha contains doctrines and practices that contradict what has been previously revealed in Scripture. Add to this the Apocrypha is never cited in the New Testament as Holy Scripture. This is in contrast to the canonical books - almost all of them are cited.
False. You have not done your research. Ex: Purgatory comes from many passages in the New Testament and not from Maccs. 
The Jews rejected the Apocrypha as being part of God's Word. For one reason, these books were written after God had ceased giving divine revelation. In these years God was not giving any authoritative word to His people.
Therefore you should also remove the New Testament from the Bible. Also, Gary Michuta in two books ("Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger" and "The Case for the Deuterocanon") details the various Jewish sects at the time—some accepted the Deuterocanon, others did not. There are more Jewish sects that you account for.
The fact that the Apocrypha is found in the manuscripts of the Septuagint proves nothing - we do not know the content of the Septuagint in pre-Christian times. Furthermore there is no evidence of a wider Alexandrian canon of Scripture. The Jews, wherever they lived, used the same Hebrew canon that did not include the Apocrypha.
Some Jews, not all. And if you keep using that argument about the Jews, I expect you to immediately reject the New Testament. But it's funny, you have never mentioned why you reject the various decisions of the early councils that included the Deuterocanon as a whole or in part: e.g. Council of Sardica (ca. 342) - only a part, Laodicea (343/381) - only a part, Council of Rome (382) - the whole Deuterocanon used today. 
The Apocrypha was not on any early list of Christian books that were considered Scripture. While a few church fathers quoted them as authoritative, most did not. In addition, none of those fathers who cited the Apocrypha as authoritative Scripture knew any Hebrew.
Whoa! Not true. But you say "a few church fathers quoted them as authoritative...." what about them? What?! They didn't know Hebrew? So what?  When the Holy Spirit inspires something, is the human who receives the inspiration required to know Hebrew? Where is that in your Sola Scriptura lexicon?  Is such a requirement ever mentioned anywhere, except by a protester trying to avoid Rome? 
Further, just because someone does not do something you can't claim the opposite is true. That's arguing from a negative. It's a major fallacy.  
But then, there is the Council of Rome (382) that listed all Deuterocanon as canonical. And that council included a lot of information about what the early church fathers would have considered canonical. The Council of Rome overrules you.  It had the authority? And you?
There is also the problem with the exact content of the Apocrypha. The books contained in the Apocrypha are not well defined - not everyone can agree on which books are authoritative.
Really? Seems the Council of Rome didn't have a problem with that, neither did Trent.
Augustine, while a great thinker, did not read Hebrew and knew very little Greek. Furthermore he accepted the fanciful account of the origin of the Septuagint. Jerome, a real Hebrew scholar rejected the books outright.
Well, based on this insight, let's reject just abut everything that Augustine wrote. I mean you say he did not read Hebrew and knew very little Greek. That makes him totally irrelevant, evidently. What kind of logic is this? It's called arrive at a false conclusion. But your Jerome comment is amazing. You're right, Jerome did not like the Deuterocanon books. But guess what Jerome did, anyway. Unlike you, Jerome obeyed the Church, translated the Deuterocanon books, and they all ended up in his Latin Vulgate. What do you say to that? You see, there's something at work here which you totally reject, and which Jerome accepted....the authority of the church under Christ who claimed that they would come to know ALL TRUTH and be infallible in their decisions about faith and morals. You want to claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Well, which Bible is that? Jerome's Bible?  If so, you're guilty of rejecting what the Holy Spirit inspired and included. Jerome obeyed the infallible decision of the Church, which authorized the infallible Bible and inerrant. On what do you stand? Your infallible reasons?
Many Roman Catholic scholars, to the time of the Protestant Reformation, rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture.
So what? Many roman Catholic scholars were excommunicated. Are we talked about the same ones? One was Luther. You remember him.
While some Protestants make some use of the Apocrypha it has always been rejected as Scripture.
Let's define "always" shall we?  When does that start? Let's see when were the first Protestants?  Oh, yes, it was in John 6:66...yes that's 666—the sign of the beast. Do you know what that verse states? You ought to look it up. It's where disciples of Christ rejected his teaching the real presence of Himself in the Eucharist. (which is in all Protestant Bibles, by the way, not in the Deuterocanon.)  
But, if you want to use the more traditional term for Protestant, you have to start sometime after 1517 AD. So, if that's when Always may be right. Protestants have always rejected a lot of Scripture, like Matt 28:18-20, Matt 18:18, John 16:13, James 2:24, John 6, —the list is huge. And then the Protestants come up with Scripture that doesn't even have a reference, like the verses about Sola Scriptura. I could never find those. Do you know where they are?
Another major problem for the Apocrypha is demonstrable historical errors in it. This is not consistent with God's Word being error-free. Furthermore there is no evidence in these books of divine authority - fulfilled prophecy is lacking. Add to this there is no claim within the books of God's authority.
Whoa again there. (1) there are many historical inaccuracies in the 39 books of the O.T. which is not literally consistent with God's Word being error-free....and if you start to take the poetic books literally we have a major problem. (2) the evidence that the Deuterocanon is authoritative rests in the same infallible authority that constructed the Bible in the first place (The Church and its Councils) which included the Deuterocanon. (3) If there's no claim in the Deuterocanon of God's authority, what other books might we have to delete from the Bible because they don't claim to be authoritative either. Do any of the Gospel claim "God's authority"...I mean the books as a book, not the occasional words of Christ? This is a false reason. The authority came from the Church which selected the books.
Finally we have the testimony of Jesus. He said the Scriptures were true and could not be broken. However the Apocrypha was not Scripture to Him. Since neither the Jews, Jesus, or His apostles considered these writings as part of the Old Testament neither should we.
There are many theologians that would disagree with you, since Jesus and the NT writers refer to those writings many times. Gary Michuta has exhaustively cited those and many other evidences in "The Case for the Deuterocanon," "15 Myths, Mistakes and Misrepresentations about the Deuterocanon," and "Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger." All available at Amazon
We conclude that the present thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are the complete Scripture that God has given us. There are no other divinely authoritative books of Scripture that belong to the Old Testament.
And 2000 years of Church history, thousands of bishops and theologians over the centuries, and not just a few Church councils, know you are wrong. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Causes of Gun Violence in Schools

The logical causes of gun violence in schools... 

  • Legalization of abortion.
  • Removal of Judea-Christian moral instruction from schools (Prayer and Bible Study)
  • Marginalization of Judea-Christian faith in homes 
  • The unrestricted interpretation of the First Amendment that allows violence to be promoted by the entertainment industry to children. 
  • Self-centered culture that celebrates victimhood and individual rights above the common good.

How legalizing abortion leads to school killings.

If we each out children that the lives of babies in the womb are unimportant then we teach our children that their lives and the lives of their peers are unimportant. To the national moral psyche, if killing a fetus is a moral right, then killing children must also be a moral right. 

How removing Judea-Christian moral instruction from homes and schools leads to school killings.

We teach children that civil law can be made and repealed at will by politicians. Therefore, civil laws are not universally truth.  But Judea-Christian moral laws are not subject to human interdiction and hold for all times and all places. Man has no control over God's judgement in this life or the next. Evil exists in the mind before it takes physical form, and it tries to persuade us that there are no such eternal and universal moral laws. So, killing becomes easy for there will be no judgement. But what is good and true teaches us there are eternal consequences to our thoughts and actions that are beyond civil laws.

Removing the Ten Commandments from schools and public places teaches children that there is no universal consequence to breaking the Ten Commandments. 

Removing prayer and Bible study from schools reminds us that there is no consequence beyond civil law and this life. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Easter 2018 is April 1

In our twenties, Pam and I loved in an apartment in Nassau Bay, Texas, about 20 miles Southeast of Houston. 

I worked at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center for McDonnell Douglas as a Skylab checklist writer, systems engineer, and crew (astronauts) trainer. Halfway between our apartment and the gate to NASA was (and still is) Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (Mo Synod). Rev. Leo Symmank was the pastor then...and he still lives in the area, where he is mostly retired but occasionally fills pulpits around TX. The altar at the small Gloria Dei church was in the middle of six rows of chairs that encircled it, with the pulpit to one side. We liked Rev. Symmank and his ministry and although we were not Lutheran, we were involved with the church...we even taught Sunday School classes and unofficially were the Youth Group leaders which we called The Mustard Seed; the teens would come to our apartment for fun activities and Bible studies. 

Here's a letter I recently wrote to Rev. Symmank.

Dear Leo*,

Pam just told me that the Sunday you have longed to preach on is this EASTER. It’s April 1. 

I have told the story of you preaching on a Sunday at Gloria Dei in Nassau Bay, TX that was close to April 1 back in the 70s. It was Easter. Remember that?

You have to dig that sermon out and preach it again this year, record it and send it to us. Please. Please.  It was one of those sermons one never forgets.

As I recall it was the Easter Sunday of the Church picnic. You mounted the pulpit and began to preach. You said something like this.

Well, it’s a beautiful day outside. And today is the Church picnic. I can smell the casseroles sitting out in the hall way, plugged into the wall. So, I think we’ll just dispense with the sermon today and get out early and enjoy the picnic. You got down out of the pulpit….walked to the altar to pray over the Eucharistic elements…and then you suddenly stopped. Something was wrong. I still recall the look on your face. It was sheer delight and surprise. You raised your arms with a big smile on your face you yelled,  “APRIL FOOLS.”

You then DID preach a wonderful sermon about how when the women and apostles came to Christ’s tomb on Sunday the angel’s said to them, “April Fools. He’s not here. He is risen.” 

Preachers all over the world need to do that this Easter.

WOW! I’m going to pass the word and give you credit.