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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Immortality of the Soul Part 2

I have written before about how Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in an immortal soul. They believe that once you die, you are dead, and unconscious until the resurrection.

I have been speaking with a couple of JW's since January to give a little background; and I have spoken with them before on this topic and they claimed that in Genesis 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die." That it was the devil himself here teaching Eve the lie that the soul was immortal.

It is a bit of a stretch to say the least, but I assured them that the doctrine didn't come from the devil but did in fact come from God and was taught in the New Testament.

In Luke chapter 16 verse 19 to the end in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. In brief the story is about two men who die, Lazarus and a rich man. The rich man is in a fiery place for not treating the poor well during his life and Lazarus is now in comfort with Abraham. The rich man asks Abraham to send someone back from the dead to warn his brothers, but Abraham says that they should listen to Moses and the prophets.

Now when I pointed out this story the JW's immediately answered by pointing out that this story was a parable (or as their Bible says an illustration), and that this story was not teaching the immortality of the soul. Instead they told me that the parable was against the rich Pharisees.
I responded by saying that if the story is a parable then it supports my position all the more and here is how:

Every parable is based on reality. Look at any parable; Luke 15 the lost coin, a lady had 10 coins and she looses one, but on finding it, she rejoices. Does that really happen?

In Matthew 13: The sower who throws seed and some gets eaten by birds, some falls on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, and some on good soil. Didn't this happen in Jesus' day?

After this the JW's again repeated the MEANING of the parable to me.
I said look your missing my point. A parable has two parts. They story that is based on reality, that is the first part. Then the second part is the meaning.

I said that they there denying the first part, the part based on reality and that they were just giving me the meaning.

The Catechism says that first interpretation that is to be given is the literal and that all other interpretations are based on it. If you ignore what Jesus says because it doesn't match with your theology then we must conform our heart to his in humility.

So I tried a different approach with them. I said - Now you all believe that this idea of the immortality of the soul is from the devil correct? They said yes. So I said, then we can call it a Satanic teaching. They said yes.

Then I asked, then why would Jesus base the parable of Lazarus and the rich man off of a Satanic teaching? Then they accused me of using worldly philosophy.

If I didn't believe that God's grace could conquer all, I would just feel helpless with these folks.
What are some other verses that show that the soul survives death?

Matthew 17:1-3 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

1 Samuel 28 - The raising of Samuel from a divining witch.

Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Revelation 6:9-10 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Me and Jesus Christianity

In our day, you can find pretty much find any Christian denomination that would fit with whatever it is you choose to believe. Many people say that Christianity has nothing to do with belonging to a group of people. The important thing is belonging to Christ. Here is what the Bible teaches about this:

As you know, the Jesus’ message was not politically correct. He was very specific about who to follow and what to do. For example;
John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Look how Jesus says that the way to salvation is through a specific group of people. He doesn’t instruct her to find her own path to God, he tells her that she doesn’t know what she is worshipping.

Next Jesus is pointing to that very group of people (the Jews) and says this:
Matthew 23:2-3 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
Here Jesus is pointing to those people inside the religion who are hypocritical yet still need to be obeyed.

Does hypocrisy still go on today? Certainly it does, but is this any excuse to leave God’s channel of salvation (namely the church) not according to Jesus.

What about people who say that the church is fine and good just as long as they don’t get in the way of my relationship with Jesus?

Well the Bible is clear that there is no such thing as "me and Jesus" Christianity. It is always US and Jesus.

To begin in the beginning, notice how we weren’t born the garden of Eden because of what our first parents did. This punishment is very corporate.

Also think of Moses on Mount Sinai interceding for the Israelites who had been worshipping false gods down below, if it wasn’t for his intercession the group of them would have been destroyed.
One more example before we get into the NT. In the book of Joshua there God told the Israelites to destroy certain towns and take none of the spoils of war. But there was one guy Achan who had to take a little after a certain battle. Yet come to the next war and the Israelites loose the battle. Knowing that this whole war machine is run by the grace of God, they realize that the reason they lost was because someone had sinned. Soon Achan is found out and put to death. Notice though that the reason they lost wasn’t poor war strategy. They didn’t loose because of poor discipline in the ranks. They lost because one person was spiritually infected with sin and it effected everyone.

In the New Testament St. Paul says:
1 Corinthians 12:19-29 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, …. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
Paul says that we each have a part to play and notice again Paul says
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you,"

Do you listener say I have no need for the leaders of the church? You may want to think again.
(Think also about how we do need the saints in Heaven as well)

What about people who say, but there is no warmth at the Catholic Church, when I go down to Bob’s Bible Church everyone knows me and greets me with love.

I would say first that the worship ceremony that we call the Mass isn’t the place to meet people. That is the place that we are called together to worship God. Now if after Mass you want to meet together to get to know people, that would be a great opportunity to do so. But we can’t abandon true worship just because somewhere else has better hospitality. I would say that is something we need to work on in certain parishes but not during Mass.

What about when people say that they left the Mass because of all of the scandals.

I ask them to name some scandals but then I say - hey you think that is bad I know a bishop that got paid to have a priest murdered. At this point they either agree or wonder where you are taking them in the conversation. I say yes, Judas who was a bishop was paid to have Jesus put to death. But this doesn’t mean that what Jesus taught wasn’t true. It just means that he chooses sinful men to communicate it, and the miracle is that for 2000 it has been communicated without change.

Read the Old Testament and see how you might stand up for some of those scandals? Could you imagine if after your priest offered sacrifice at your local church, he later went down the street to offer sacrifice to another god? THAT would be a huge scandal. But this doesn't mean that Judaism was false, or that God had not begun that religion, or that you could go start your own church.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's up with John 10:34? - Question from a reader.

John 10:34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'?

This is a quote from a Psalm:
RSV Psalm 82:1 A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I say, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince." 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!

So as we can see this psalm is about men who are to give the judgements of God. They are called 'gods' because of this role. But they are showing partiality to the wicked (ver. 2) They should be just (ver.3, 4) But they themselves will be given an unfavorable judgement (ver. 5-7)

Jesus will say below that they are called 'gods' and 'sons of the most high' because the word of God came to them to be given to others, but these men were wicked.
But isn't Jesus THE WORD OF GOD made flesh? How much more should He be able to be called the Son of God and he is good.

Keep this in mind while you reread John 10:22-42

Jesus is saying to them, 'you are going to stone me because I call myself the son of God? Hey doesn't scripture call some pretty wicked judges (like yourselves) sons of the most high? Why can't I use it then? For which of my good works (and not evil works, like you produce) are you going to to stone me for?

In other words, this is like the scene in Star Wars (Empire Strikes Back) when Dark Vader has cut off the hand of Luke and then tells him that he is his father. Luke screams " NO! I will never join you!" (Terrible example I know Darth Vader being Jesus and Luke being these men.) But this is the opposite. They need Jesus to NOT be the Christ, because he doesn't fit into their gospel.

Now you should also know thet certain groups (Mormons) quote this verse to show that we can become gods ourselves some day. This is not accurate from this verse. This verse needs to be read in the context of it's original meaning from Psalm 82. Now God does deligate some of his characteristics to us; God is judge - He gives others the power to judge. Jesus is the Light of the world - He makes us the light of the world.

Mormons would say that if we have these qualities, while God may have originally given them to us, they are now ours for the posessing that some day we (as gods) will be able to give to others.

Hope this helps - if it doesn't - let me know.

Hell and its Eternity

There are a few who say that hell is not eternal and that some day God’s mercy will overcome his justice and hell will be emptied. What does the Bible and catechism say about this?

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.
CCC 393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death." [St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 2, 4: PG 94, 877]

So the catechism is clear that once we have died we have made our choice. And it is in fact a choice that we make here on earth.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment

So we have had our chance and then comes judgment…now something that we must keep in mind is that God is not a jerk. Everyone is offered the grace to go to heaven. Now to some it might not be as evident as it is to others but that is God’s business. Just because Jimmy down the street saw an apparition of our Lady and you didn’t doesn’t mean that he is guaranteed a place in heaven. He still needs to obey the gospel the best way he knows.

There is also in Romans 2:14-16 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Exactly so keep those things in mind

Continuing on, Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 that Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels.

It wasn’t originally created for humans who had rebelled but for the angels. But now we see that those who share in the sin of disobedience before death share in the fate of the devils and are sent to Hell.

But is Hell eternal! Yes and to those who did not clothe, feed, or visit Christ he will say - Matthew 25:46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Notice that there is a contrast between the eternity of the punishment and the eternity of the reward.

If someone argues that God’s mercy will some day triumph over his justice and thus free the souls from hell, how do we know that at some later date God’s justice won’t triumph over his mercy and send everyone to hell? This is an undependable position.

Mark 9:43-48 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Now Jesus here isn’t recommending a lot of one armed one legged Christians. He is here warning us of the seriousness of this life and its effects on the afterlife. And that somehow he must communicate the terribleness of Hell, Jesus says that it is better to loose a limb than experience the pains of hell.

I would also say that there are some moral and theological danger to the teaching that hell will be emptied.
First is that in the churches 2000 years it has never taught this. So to teach it is to divorce yourself from the churches teaching.
Second I would then wonder what the purpose of purgatory would be - would a person who went to hell still have to go to purgatory?
Third, if I am going to heaven anyway, why not live it up here on earth? Its not like I am going to hell for eternity?
Finally, those who are in hell, have no wish to be in heaven because the one that they refused to serve is there and to see him face to face for all eternity would be worse than hell.
C.S. Lewis said that the door to hell is locked - from the inside. They want to keep God out.