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Patriotism in America

What constitutes being a patriotic citizen of the united States of America? This is a recent enquiry that simply will not leave my brain. Mainly because this is a season of fervor in regard to America and her independence the celebration of such being held on the fourth of July each year.

I shudder every year when this time rolls around, deep into my spine. Moreso than even usual, American churches are singing national hymns such as “God Bless America” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Many throw in the “Star-Spangled Banner” for good measure, as well as the recitation of the American Pledge of Allegiance. All of this is being done in churches on Sunday, amid sermons on how America is the Promised Land, and was founded upon Christian principles.

All of this confuses me so much that it often makes me literally sick to my stomach. Obviously American Christians place a high value on being an American, and a Christian. They perceive themselves as the most patriotic folks that there can be. Therefore my main question is: must you be a Christian to be a patriotic American?

Is patriotism a matter of faith in God? If so, then whose god? Does that mean that atheists cannot be good patriotic citizens? I would argue that atheists are often the best candidates for patriotic fervor, simply because disbelief in a higher power means that their ultimate loyalty is to their nation of origin, and not to a deity or religion. If it is a matter of faith in a deity, is it the Christian god? Does that rule out Jews and Muslims who also claim to worship the God of Abraham?

And if it is a matter of faith in God (the Christian one), then why do so many American Christians equate a lack of pride in America as a sin? Why do they give such honor to the Constitution of the United States, and proclaim that it is inspired by God? (This is exactly what folks are saying when they say that America was founded on Christian principles. They may not realize it, but they are indeed convinced that divine providence had a major part to play in American freedoms). Why do American Christians know the Pledge of Allegiance, but not the Apostle’s Creed? How do they know the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and yet cannot name the Twelve Disciples? How can they read John Locke and Adam Smith, and not have read Irenaeus and Clement?

The Church in America needs your prayers, because it has forgotten that it is not a citizen of the United States – it is the Bride of Christ. Her citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. The songs she sings should be magnifications of the Godhead, and the pledges she should recite are the Psalms. She should honor no graven image, and glory in no death except for the Cross and our Savior who was crucified upon it. Her freedom is bought with a price, but it wasn’t an American whose blood was shed for her – it was a homeless Jewish man who spoke no English, lived in a territory occupied by a ruthless empire, and at one point was a refugee in danger for his life. He lived and died in the region we call the Middle East, and spoke a language very similar to one spoken by those we now deem infidels.

I’ve Moved!

http://www.nicenejosh.com

Hope to see ya’ll over there. This site will remain up as an archive until I can get everything moved over.

Eternity and Hell

I have once been labeled as a universalist – I despise such an offensive accusation. I by all means am no such heretic. Nor shall I ever hold such a position. My theology is firmly rooted in tradition long established by the Church catholic for nigh two millenia.

As such my view of eternity is neither unorthodox nor contrary to the Scriptures. It has in fact been espoused by many esteemed theologians far more learned than I, not a few of whom are honored Fathers of the Church.

Alas, I seem to have drifted from an exposition of my beliefs to an apology of them. Let me then without further ado – and somewhat abruptly – merge into my exposition.

If one accepts Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, then he is guaranteed life eternal. As it is said if one believes in his heart and confesses with his tongue, he shall be saved. This must mean that there is the possibility that there are those who will not be saved. (For none bue God knows the hearts and fate of every man). However Jesus in speaking with His disciples tells them that one shall inherit eternal life if they simply believe upon HIm.

This begs the question, is there then an eternal death? Is it possible to eternally die?

No, the Scriptures do not point to such a conclusion. Jesus even mentions the deaths that a man may experience. A physical death, and a spiritual death. The answer it seems lies in the question. If there is not an eternal death, but there is a temporal one – then the fate of those who reject Jesus as the Son of God, is a temporal death. And as all men are subject to physical death, the punishment of sinners is that of the spiritual death. A death of the soul. The Scriptures say as much.

It is then illogical to assume an eternal hell forever populated by souls gnashing their teeth in eternal torment. Nay, while they may be subject to seperation from God whilst awaiting the final judgement (as such a seperation would indeed induce the gnashing of teeth), the Great God is merciful as well as just. And in His justice and mercy He shall allow them a permanent death – the second death – the death of the soul.

If this then is universalism, then the Lord Himself spoke King James English.

Thought For The Day

Christianity is no such religion that allows one to simply claim adherence to be saved. It makes no promise of earthly wealth nor longevity of the mortal life. What it promises its adherents, is perseuction and ridicule. Yet it asks them to die for the sake of the Gospel. Even so, I can think of no greater honor than to lay down one’s life in the furtherance of such a noble cause.

On Prayer

Please note before reading that this is a paraphrase of the introductory chapter to Origen’s work, On Prayer. I am indebted to William A. Curtis’ translation which was the base for my project.


Things that are so great that mortal men cannot rationally understand, God’s will became possible in the limitless overflow of the Divine grace that God pours onto men, by Jesus Christ the minister of His ultimate grace to us, and through the willing Spirit. So though it’s impossible for humans to gain wisdom, because according to David – God made everything in wisdom; through Jesus it is possible for humans to become wise, because Jesus is wisdom from God and provides righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Why does man deserve to know God’s wisdom, or who can say what the Lord wills? Because mortal thoughts are weak and our actions are bound to fail; for the flesh weighs down the soul, and the mind with its memory is troubled by it’s earthly temple; and earthly things we can predict with some trouble, but who can reveal the things in heaven? Is there anyone who wouldn’t say that man can’t reveal what goes on in heaven? Yet by the amazing grace of God, the impossible becomes possible; because the man who saw heaven revealed these things, through hearing words that cannot be heard, words that men are not allowed speak. So who can say men can understand the mind of the Lord?

But God also gives us through Christ this which was said to His disciples: “No longer do I call you servants, because the servant knows not what his lord’s will is, but I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”; so through Christ the will of God is made known to those who are now His friends rather than his servants. Even more, just like nobody knows what goes on in a man’s mind except for him, neither does anybody know the things of God except for the Spirit of God.

Now if nobody knows the things of God except for the Spirit of God, it’s impossible for man to know the things of God. But see how this is also possible: because we have not received the world’s spirit, but God’s Spirit, this allows us to know the things given to us by God, and we talk about these things with the wisdom of the Spirit, not with human wisdom. But I’m sure you are wondering why I am saying all of this about things impossible for man becoming possible by God, when the topic at hand is Prayer. [In this last sentence Origen is addressing Ambrosius, a man whom he describes as being pious and industrious; and Tatiana a woman who he describes as being discreet and manful, who he believes is not weak like most women just like Sarah in the Old Testament.]

The fact is that I believe putting forth a comprehensive account on prayer is an impossible task because of our weakness. It is something that should be written with accuracy and reverence, and account for how we should pray, and what we should say to God in prayer, and when we should pray. The apostle who saw the revelation wanted to make sure that none would give him credit for anything he did not see or hear. He confessed that he didn’t know how to pray as well as he should, because what we should pray we don’t know how to pray. It’s necessary to not just try to pray, but to pray in the right way in the right manner. Because even though we are now able to understand what we should pray, that’s not enough if we don’t pray in the right manner too.

On the other hand, what good is praying in the right manner if we don’t pray for what we should? What I mean is that the correct topic is the language of prayer, while the correct manner is the personal choice of the one praying. So the first is shown by “Ask for the great things and the little shall be added unto you,” and “Ask for the heavenly things and the earthly shall be added unto you,” and “Pray for them that abuse you,” and “Entreat therefore the Lord of the harvest that He send out workers unto his harvest,” and “Pray that you enter not into temptation,” and “Pray that your flight be not in winter or on a Sabbath,” and “In praying babble not” and verses like them; the latter by “I desire therefore that men pray in every place lifting up holy hands without anger and questioning, and in like manner that women array themselves decently in simplicity, with modesty and discretion, not in gold or pearls or costly raiments, but as becomes women of pious profession, through good works.”. They are instructive as well, for praying in the manner that we should is the passage:

“If then you art offering your gift at the altar and there think you that your brother hath aught against you, leave there your gift before the altar, and go back – first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift;” for what greater gift can be given to God from a rational creature than aromatic words of prayer that are offered from a pure conscience, free from Sin? Similarly instructive is, “Deprive not one another, save by agreement for a season that you may give yourselves to prayer and may be together at another time again, in order that Satan may not have occasion to exalt over you by reason of your incontinence.”

Because praying in the correct manner is not possible unless the acts of marriage which keep us from praying are engaged in with more sobriety and less passion, the ‘agreement’ referred to in the passion is about destroying the discord of passion and destroying unrestraint, and preventing the evil glorification of Satan. Again useful in praying in the correct manner is the passage: “If you are standing at prayer, forgive aught that you have against any man;” and also the passage from Paul, “Any man who prays or preaches with covered head dishonours his head, and any woman who prays or preaches with unveiled head dishonors her head” is descriptive of the correct way in which we should pray.

Paul knows all these sayings and could subtly cite from the law and prophets and gospel in each case; but in his modest and truthful way, and because he sees how much was lacking in knowing the correct way to pray, he says “but what we ought to pray we know not how to as we ought,” and adds that people don’t know how to pray as they should because they are ignorant, but that they can learn:

“The Spirit himself more than intercedes with God in sighs unspeakable and He that searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because His intercession on behalf of saints is according to God.” And so the Spirit who cries “Abba Father” in the hearts of the blessed, anxiously knowing that their concerns in the temple can only weigh down sinners, “more than intercedes with God in sighs unspeakable,” because of His love for man He takes our concerns; and in His wisdom seeing us humbled and humiliated, He does not use any common words when He intercedes for us with God, but uses unspeakable words similar to the unutterable words that people cannot speak. But He is not happy with just interceding with God, so the Spirit intensifies His intercession, “more than intercedes,” for those who more than conquer, one of whom I believe was Paul, who says “Nay in all these we more than conquer.”.

He simply interecedes I think for those who are conquered, not for those who are more than conquerers. It is similar to the saying “what we ought to pray we know not how to as we ought, but the Spirit more than intercedes with God in sighs unspeakable,” is the passage “I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit; and I will sing with the understanding also.”

For we are not even able to understand what we pray unless the Spirit leads us, no more than we can sing properly in real harmony except with the help of the Spirit who understands the depth and power of God. I think it was the realization of not being able to pray properly due to human weakness, which was discovered by hearing the Savior pray to the Father firsthand, that moved one of the disciples to tell the Lord when he had quit praying, “Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples.” The whole passage is: “And it came to pass, as He was at prayer in a certain place, that one of His disciples said to Him when He ceased, ‘Lord, teach us to pray even as John also taught his disciples.'”

Is it possible that a man, who had been taught the law and the prophets and went to the temple all of his life, didn’t know how to pray until he saw the Lord pray? It’s ridiculous to think that he prayed in the traditional Jewish way but saw that he needed more knowledge about prayer. Also what did John teach the people that he baptized, I don’t think he would share his vision for prayer with everyone he baptized, but only with his followers.

Those are the prayers that are really spiritual, because the spirit is praying in the hearts of the saints recorded in Scripture, and they are filled with unspeakably wonderful declarations. In 1 Kings is the partial prayer of Hannah (because not all of it was written down due to her speaking from the heart) when she continued in prayer to the Lord; and the 17th psalm has the title “A prayer of David,” and the 90th psalm is titled “A prayer of Moses, man of God,” and the 102nd “A prayer of a poor man at a time he is weary and pours forth his supplication before the Lord”.

These are prayers because true prayers are spoken with the heart and are filled with declarations of the wisdom of God so that someone might see the truth they proclaim “Who is wise that he shall understand them? And understanding, then he shall fully know them.”. Since it’s such a great feat to write about prayer, in order to think and talk truthfully about such a great subject, we need special guidance from the Father, and the teaching of the Word, and the inner workings of the Spirit, I pray as a man – because I do not by any means give myself any credit for the ability to pray – that I may be granted the Spirit of prayer before I begin writing about it, and I hope that a full and spiritual writing upon the subject may be allowed and that the prayers recorded in the Gospels may be revealed and understood.

So let us now begin our discussion on Prayer.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the serpent is a symbol of Satan. Jesus Christ knew the only way he would stop Satan was by becoming one in nature with him. You say, What did you say? What blasphemy is this? No, you hear this! He did not take my sin; He became my sin." - Benny Hinn

There are those among the Faith who believe that supernatural acts and miracles are guaranteed to happen based upon our salvation in Christ. They are perpetrators whether unknowingly or not of heresy against true Christian doctrine. This doctrine began as a branch-off of those within the Pentecostal movement, and was widely promulgated by E.W. Kenyon in a series of eighteen books. It is not the intent of this writing to oppose the beliefs of Pentecostal doctrine, which is indeed true to the orthodox faith. The intent of this writing is to oppose those doctrines espoused by Kenyon and those who have followed after him – such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn.

Hagin wrote (in How To Write Your Own Ticket To God) that Christ had revealed to him a message for anybody to get whatever it was that they wanted or needed by simply following four steps: say what it is, act as if you have already received it, receive it by faith that it is done, and then tell others about it.

This however is not classical Pentecostal doctrine, this borrows much more from New Age mysticism and Theosophy than its adherents would admit. Particularly when its deification claims part ways significantly with traditional views on the subject usually referred to as theosis. This is not always readily apparent. For instance Copeland once said in his sermon The Force of Love, “You don’t have a god in you, you are one.” This could easily be made to fit within the confines of orthodox views of theosis. However further examination of the view set forth by Copeland would reveal the exact nature of his false theology. He stated on his television show Believers Voice of Victory in February of 1987, “Pray to yourself, because I’m in your self, and you’re in Myself. We are one Spirit, saith the Lord.“.

This is a steep deviation from anything that could be considered Christianity, where man has made himself into God. The correct doctrine of theosis teaches that we are continually being made in the likeness of Christ, that we are a work in progress. Always being molded and shaped to be better servants of God. It is through this belief that prayers and petitions to God for health and wealth become commands to the Almighty. That He might somehow bend to our will.

Those who teach the Word of Faith doctrine teach that God wants all of his children to be financially prosperous and in good health. This is an appealing idea, although theologically incorrect. The movement teaches that suffering does not come from God, but from Satan. And that if someone is suffering, it is because they have allowed Satan control over their lives. According to the movement, God is not allowed to work miracles unless given explicit permission by that person. They even go so far in their claims as to believe that Jesus and his disciples were wealthy. In spite of passages such as Luke where Jesus claims that “foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”. An obvious indication of homelessness and solidarity with the poor.

It is widely believed among the movement that words have power, and using certain words can bless or curse a person. In The Laws of Prosperity, Copeland states this much, “You can have what you say! In fact, what you are saying is exactly what you are getting now. If you are living in poverty and lack and want, change what you are saying. It will change what you have. Discipline your vocabulary. God will be obligated to meet your needs because of His word. If you stand firmly on this, your needs will be met.” Although those within the movement would deny it, this is as much occultic practice as chants and incantations in Wicca or other pagan rituals. Benjamin Creme, a follower of New Age philosophy says, for example, “One doesn’t pray to oneself, one prays to the God within. The thing is to learn to invoke that energy which is the energy of God. Prayer and worship as we know it today will gradually die out and men will be trained to invoke the power of deity.” (The Reappearance of Christ and the Masters of Wisdom). The similarities between the two beliefs are remarkable.

The Scriptures warn to be on the lookout for false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing. There is no doubt that the Word of Faith movement is full of such prophets. It is a movement that focuses on individual health and prosperity without any regard for others. It is a religion inspired by pagan mysticism, and a theology of entitlement that the Scriptures do not provide. And it is to be regarded as a false religion by true followers of the Faith.

Blessed Art Thou Among Women

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

I wonder how many people still grow up like I did, with parents who truly cared about the well-being of their children. Parents who never fought in front of them while they were growing up, and stayed married regardless of the storms. How many can say that their mother literally waited on her husband hand and foot, doing just about anything for him. It’s something one doesn’t find that often anymore, for better or worse.

The same was practiced in their spiritual lives. My father always was the spiritual head of the family. He was on the Board of Deacons at our church, always lead mealtime prayer, and we were at church for every service. I remember we would sit in the car and wait on Sunday mornings for my mother to finally finish being ready. All the while he would honk the horn and yell at the top of his lungs, “Andele! Vamonos! Let’s go! I don’t wanna be late!”. My father was the head of our family, both spiritually and physically.

Yet somehow, his being the head of the family never gave him pause about my mother being a licensed minister. He was always supportive of her and never thought of his spiritual role as being usurped by a woman. My mother submitted to my father, and he loved her as Christ loved the Church. The supposed problems that could arise by a woman being a minister never arose in our household. My father was the spiritual head of the family, and my mother was a spiritual head of the church.

You might be wondering what all of my family past and information has to do with anything. The thing is that I am hearing a lot from neo-Calvinists is that a woman has no place behind the pulpit. That her being there somehow shames her husband, and herself. They claim that a woman cannot teach men. We encountered this problem once in my family. My mother was teaching Sunday School and a gentleman and his wife came to visit the church. After the lesson was over with, the gentleman proceeded to argue certain semantics of the lesson with her. He then left, dragging his wife along behind him, and they never came back. It was later revealed that he had issues with women in church leadership.

This is par for someone like my mother, a woman in ministry. Those who would deny her authority to teach like to twist Scriptures and misquote St. Paul, never once acknowledging the context within which the text was written. Never once acknowledging Church Tradition in the matter at hand. Only their pride which tells them that women are inferior to men and should be treated as such.

You see they cannot conceive of a world where a woman minister submits to her husband. Or that the husband might actually still be able to fulfill his role as spiritual head of the household while his wife helps to guide the church. Things will change as we grow stronger in our faith and teach sound doctrine. But if anyone claims a doctrine that denies women equal rights with men, then I have no hesitation in calling them a heretic. God gave the gift of childbirth to women, so that it might be a woman who would give birth to a Savior.

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