https://youtu.be/O7Ij65SMbyI John 2:13-22 NRSV 13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out…
A reflection by Ken McArthur I have been incredibly fortunate that my career, in Marketing, never felt like work. Oh, there were poor days in the 40 odd years, but I loved it – product creation, research, advertising, pricing, promotion, and so on. However, now…
There’s no blame in this man,” Pilate had said. “My hands won’t be guilty of the blood to be shed!” To Sanhedrin he gave him to put him on trial: To calm the Jews’ uproar was Pilate’s denial.
Green Book. Dir.: Peter Farrelly. Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali By Willem van der Linde Iza and I saw Green Book last weekend. This coming weekend is the glittering occasion of the 91st Oscars, and Green Book has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar….
By Jane Henderson Last January, George put a letter in my post box asking for help in funding his school uniforms and stationery. I appreciated his pro-active attitude and asked for a list of the items he required and their prices. I was most impressed…
By Dr Donna Wyckoff-Wheeler Peace. It was a running theme of the prophetic messages in the Old Testament that a “Prince of Peace” would come someday to rule the world. The angels over Bethlehem announced “Peace on Earth” to the shepherds on the hillside. “Peace,”…
- Monday, November 13, 2017: Psalm 78; Joshua 24:25-33; 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 OR Psalm 63; Amos 8:7-14; 1 Corinthians 14:20-25
- Tuesday, November 14, 2017: Psalm 78; Nehemiah 8:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 OR Psalm 63; Joel 1:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13
- Wednesday, November 15, 2017: Psalm 78; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 24:29-35 OR Psalm 63; Joel 3:9-21; Matthew 24:29-35
- Thursday, November 16, 2017: Psalm 123; Judges 2:6-15; Revelation 16:1-7 OR Psalm 90:1-8, 12; Ezekiel 6:1-14; Revelation 16:1-7
- Friday, November 17, 2017: Psalm 123; Judges 2:16-23; Revelation 16:8-21 OR Psalm 90:1-8, 12; Ezekiel 7:1-9; Revelation 16:8-21
- Saturday, November 18, 2017: Psalm 123; Judges 5:1-12; Matthew 12:43-45 OR Psalm 90:1-8, 12; Ezekiel 7:10-27; Matthew 12:43-45
- Sunday, November 19, 2017: Proper 28 (33)
- Monday, November 20, 2017: Psalm 83:1-4, 9-10, 17-18; Judges 4:8-24; Romans 2:1-11 OR Psalm 9:1-14; Zechariah 1:7-17; Romans 2:1-11
- Tuesday, November 21, 2017: Psalm 83:1-4, 9-10, 17-18; Exodus 2:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 OR Psalm 9:1-14; Zechariah 2:1-5; 5:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
- Wednesday, November 22, 2017: Psalm 83:1-4, 9-10, 17-18; Esther 7:1-10; Matthew 24:45-51 OR Psalm 9:1-14; Job 16:1-21; Matthew 24:45-51
- Thursday, November 23, 2017: Psalm 100; Genesis 48:15-22; Revelation 14:1-11 OR Psalm 95:1-7a; 1 Kings 22:13-23; Revelation 14:1-11
- Friday, November 24, 2017: Psalm 100; Isaiah 40:1-11; Revelation 22:1-9 OR Psalm 95:1-7a; 1 Chronicles 17:1-15; Revelation 22:1-9
- Saturday, November 25, 2017: Psalm 100; Ezekiel 34:25-31; Matthew 12:46-50 OR Psalm 95:1-7a; Isaiah 44:21-28; Matthew 12:46-50
- Sunday, November 26, 2017: Reign of Christ – Proper 29 (34)
- Monday, November 27, 2017: Psalm 117; Jeremiah 30:1-17; Revelation 21:5-27 OR Psalm 24; Jeremiah 46:18-28; Revelation 21:5-27
- Tuesday, November 28, 2017: Psalm 117; Jeremiah 30:18-24; Revelation 22:8-21 OR Psalm 24; Isaiah 33:17-22; Revelation 22:8-21
- Wednesday, November 29, 2017: Psalm 117; Jeremiah 31:1-6; Luke 1:1-4 OR Psalm 24; Isaiah 60:8-16; Luke 1:1-4
Faith – Hansie Wolmarans
In his book The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox notices three important trends in Christianity. The first three centuries he calls the Age of Faith. Followers of Jesus simply embraced the teachings of Jesus. After that came the Age of Belief. Church leaders required Christians to believe in a set of doctrines. In the last fifty years or so, we welcome the Age of the Spirit. More and more, Christians don’t put much emphasis on doctrines, but embrace spirituality. They realise that simply believing stuff doesn’t change the world. It is doing stuff that does it.
Simultaneously faith is no longer viewed as doctrinal certainty, but as hopeful thinking. It is a faith that motivates us to achieve great things. It helps us to win the love and affection of a lover, succeed in a sports contest, or work for an achiever award. We maintain this kind of faith in the face of all odds; otherwise we may quit trying. In its final instance, it is a faith that life is stronger than death, that love trumps hate, and that hope prevails over despair.
There is much reason to despair in South Africa. Our economy is technically in a recession, and one rating agency after another is downgrading us to various degrees of junk status. Several overseas documentaries on South Africa has an undercurrent of Afro-pessimism—the perception that we are too riddled with corruption, patronage, and violence for good governance and economic development to be possible.
How are Christians to react to this situation? The answer is simple: To do life, to participate fully in the Age of the Spirit. The original meaning of spirit is breath, the breath of life. Many of us were shocked that the public relations Company, Bell Pottinger, was involved in the White Monopoly Capital Campaign. To divert attention from their involvement in State Capture, the Guptas contracted them in to play the race card in a highly irresponsible manner, aimed at fueling racial tensions. To do life in this context simply means to be a magnificent alternative, a light in the darkness, the salt of the earth which acts to preserve what is good, what is noble, what is honest and what is decent—simply to promote life in all its forms.
Each and every one of us is invited to participate, to assist in building our community, to welcome the outsider, to start new initiatives, to pull together in a team, to spread the word, to embrace the lonely, to touch the sick, to heal the bereaved, to constructively criticise, to love, to live, and to have faith that when a few good people do things together great results are achieved.
Fake News, Christians, and Confirmation Bias
Outraged as we are about it, Christians are not immune to the spreading of fake news. On Easter Sunday 1475, the body of a two and a half year old boy, Simon of Trent, was found in a ditch. A priest, Bernardine of Feltre, had previously delivered a series of sermons in which he slandered Jews. Rumours were spread that local Jews had murdered the child, drained his blood, and drunk it to celebrate Passover. Therefore, the Jews in the city were arrested, tortured to confess to the murder, and fifteen were burned at the stake. The rest were expelled and for the next 300 years Jews were not allowed there. Fake news caused untold suffering.
One would expect Christians to act differently. Jesus said to his disciples (John 8:32) ‘the truth will set you free’—not even to mention the ninth commandment forbidding the bearing of false witness. So why do Christians continue to spread fake news?
A while ago, I received the following ‘true’ 9/11 story on WhatsApp. Due to a flat tyre, a pregnant woman was prevented from boarding one of the ill-fated aeroplanes. Her husband previously raised his concerns that his father, Jake Matthews, a firefighter, was not saved. Jake died while rescuing victims. Two years after the tragedy, they received an unexpected visit from a couple with a small child. They informed them that they had named their child ‘Jacob Matthew’ in honour of the firefighter who had saved their lives. Sobbing, the couple informed them that they had ‘led Jake to Christ’ before he had died. The moral of the story was that God had planned everything in such a way that Jake’s grandchild would be saved from death, and that he would go to heaven.
This was fake news. No firefighter or person with the name of Jacob Matthews had died in the 9/11 attacks. Yet, Christians are still willing to uncritically scatter its fake news. Similar stories still do the rounds. Think about the Shroud of Turin with a presumed image of Jesus imprinted on it (it has been carbon dated to the Middle Ages!). Then there is the email informing the gullible that skeletons of giants were discovered. It supposedly confirms Genesis 6:4 which tells that giants roamed the earth. They were born after angels from heaven copulated with beautiful girls on earth. Many of the faithful forward the story of the Muslim man in Egypt who murdered his wife because she was reading the Bible. He buried her with their baby and eight year old daughter still alive. Fifteen days later the little girls were found alive under the sands. According to the eight year old, a man ‘wearing white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us’. She identified him, of course, as ‘Isa’ (Jesus).
Fake news should outrage us. The website, wmcleaks.com, continues to spread false stories about the White Monopoly Capital Conspiracy. This gives Christians in South Africa much more reason to set a shining example.
Fake news is appealing, alluring, and tempting, because it tends to confirm the biases people have. The sermons of Bernardine fed anti-semitism. The 9/11 story confirms the belief that, in the chaotic world we live in, the faithful are protected and God is control. The Shroud of Turin, and the Nephilim giants, support literal readings of the Bible. The miracle story of the two children saved by Isa, confirms Christianity as the only true religion. The White Monopoly Capital myth, says that South Africa’s problems are not caused by nepotism, corruption and theft, but by a white capitalist conspiracy.
Christians should remember that we can never support the truth by lying. Our first and foremost commitment should be to truth, how uncomfortable it may be. This should be expressed first and foremost where it comes to what some regard as ‘unassailable truths’: that the Bible was faxed from God; that God is like a puppet master pulling the strings of history and our own lives, and that the stories of the Bible should be read literally.
Darwin, Child Abusers, Women Assaulters, Gay Bashers, and 500 Years of Reformation
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is famous for his theory of evolution. It is a little-known fact that he went to Cambridge University to study for the priesthood. There he became interested in natural history. It changed the course of his life, as well as his religious views.
Initially he believed that God created through natural laws. Later he argued that creation was an ongoing ‘blood stained’ process. Evolution progressed through chance, not design. At first he viewed God as all-powerful, merciful, and responding to prayers through miracles. That changed too. He would later declare that there is no evidence for such a God. In fact, miracles (like walking on water, resurrecting a corpse, or a virgin birth) are wishful thinking.
Originally he believed the Bible to be literally true. That changed in his later life. The stories of creation were incompatible with the facts of evolution. He wrote in one of his letters: ‘I am sorry to have inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation and therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.’
He took issue (though not publically) with most of the traditional Christian doctrines. The facts of evolution do not bring us to a sinless condition in paradise, from which Adam and Eve ‘fell’. In fact, we developed from animal origins into beings with consciousness. Like animals and plants, we don’t possess an immortal soul. When we die, we are taken up in the cycles of life and death. Therefore he could not agree with the concept of an afterlife, heaven and hell. On page 87 of his autobiography he wrote:
“I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe and this would include my father, brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”
He continued to attend church for most of his life, but stopped after the death of his daughter, Annie, at the age of ten. For the next thirty-one years of his life he would take strolls in nature when his family attended church.
Darwin respected religion, but religion disrespected Darwin. He argued that religion developed during the process of evolution. Groups who practised it, had a better chance of survival. He wrote in his book, Descent of Man:
“There can be no doubt that a tribe … possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”
Evolution is nowadays regarded as a fact and not as a hypothesis any longer. However, there are still Protestant churches, five hundred years after the Reformation, taking issue with science. They are forgetting that the Reformation was driven by the ideas of the Renaissance. These included the notion that our opinions should be based upon observation and reasoning. In theology, the concept of ‘natural revelation’ developed. It simply means that God also reveals Godself through nature. If the Bible says the earth is flat and stands on pillars, and science tells us it is round and orbits around the sun, then natural revelation is to be believed.
This insight should make the Church extremely careful and humble not to make statements about things they have little expert knowledge about: that would include the condemnation of homosexuality, or that God ‘created’ women to be obedient to their husbands, or that God’s way of disciplining children is corporal punishment.
The motto of the Reformers was that ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est—the Church of the Reformation should be always in a process of reformation. Our TV screens explode daily with revelations of powerful men abusing their positions to gain sexual favours from women; clergymen accused of child molestation; corrective ‘rapes’ of lesbians; and teachers and officials committing statutory rape in our schools. Surely churches should ask how they are complicit in this by condemning homosexuality, by proclaiming the subordination of wives to their husbands, by stating that children should be seen not heard, and by requiring attitudes of non-doubting and non-questioning.
In James 2:19 it is said that even the devils believe in the doctrine that God is one. This same author declared (1:27) with the utmost of conviction that a pure and faultless religion is to “look after orphans and widows in their distress…” This agrees with Darwin’s notion of the origin of religion. He certainly should have a venerated place in our churches and amongst our saints—because he gave us God’s revelation in nature.