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Monday, December 24, 2018

The Birth of Jesus According to Isaiah

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." --Isaiah 7:14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." -- Isaiah 9:6-7

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked." --Isaiah 11:1-4


Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Nationalist Church of God International

Pastor Bill Watson's latest offering on CGI's Armor of God "Biblical News Updates & Commentary" is titled Globalism vs Nationalism. If you're a Trump supporter, you'll want to hear this one. If you're not a Trump fan, you may be interested in the group's rejection of the "Globalist agenda" and enthusiastic embrace of Nationalismhttps://www.cgi.org/new-blog-2/2018/12/12/globalism-vs-nationalism

The pastor opens his message by decrying the legalization of marijuana in Canada and within many of the individual states of its neighbor to the south. He also takes a moment to bemoan the fact that homosexual marriages are now recognized in both countries, and that the U.S. is "killing" one million "babies" per year. Then, after taking a quick swipe at Senator Elizabeth Warren for having the audacity to claim Cherokee ancestry, he proceeds to his main topic.

According to Mr. Watson, the world has divided into two camps: Globalists and Nationalists. He goes on to define Globalism as the desire to create one world order and insists that it is the close ally of socialism and communism. Before going on to define Nationalism, he asks us not to recoil in horror. He says that Nationalism has been erroneously linked to things like white supremacy, Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. The good pastor assures us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Watson believes that these erroneous ideas about Nationalism have been generated by the "fake news" (seems like I've heard that term somewhere before) to create a bias against it and its proponents among the public. He insists that Nationalism is nothing more than love of country and a willingness to sacrifice for its good. He informs us that nations act independently of each other rather than collectively, and that these nations have well-defined borders (I suppose they're intended to keep out undesirables).

Satisfied with his definitions, the pastor informs us that Globalism seemed dominant a few years ago - and that things were proceeding to the formation of that one world order. He points out, however, that the European Union now seems to be unraveling and wonders aloud if Globalism is outdated.

If you're wondering what all of this has to do with God, the Bible, the Church or the Gospel, you will be relieved to know that Mr. Watson finally gets around to the book of Revelation. He references the Beast of the thirteenth chapter and points out that this Globalist government will be manifested sometime in the not too distant future. He then moves on to the seventeenth chapter of Revelation and informs us that this Globalist system will make war with the Lamb (there is no acknowledgement that there are alternative interpretations of these prophecies extant within the Christian community).

Unfortunately (or fortunately - depending on your perspective), Mr. Watson can't seem to stay with the Scriptures. Instead, he interrupts his stroll through "God's Word" to inform us that this Nationalist "revival" that we are experiencing has sucker punched the Globalists. Thankfully, according to him, there are still nations with borders, and those who are acting to protect their identities. He assures us that these hearty Nationalists are working hard to thwart the nefarious agendas of folks like George Soros.

Finally, after this little diversion, Mr. Watson returns to the Bible and informs us that that book has an interesting take on Nationalism. He points out the "Table of Nations" and the story of the "Tower of Babel" in the book of Genesis and deduces that God intended for people to exist within separate nations (Doesn't the Gospel message inform us that Christ is going to be the king over all of the earth? Aren't there numerous passages that talk about all nations coming to Jerusalem for worship, healing, etc ? Doesn't the book of Revelation insist that Christ's saints will rule over all the earth with him? And doesn't it teach us that God will be the God of everyone who lives in this community of nations?)

Mr. Watson finishes up with an astounding statement. He tells us that "Globalism is not a good thing for Christians." Wow! So nations shouldn't be working in concert on things like trade, the environment and peace? Pastor Watson tells us that as long as the Nationalists stand in the way of the Globalist agenda we have time to do the work of God! He insists that we need more time to promote the Gospel - that God needs our help to bring His message to the world!

It may just be me, but I'm thinking that it might be a good idea for Mr. Watson and his church to rethink their stance on this Globalist vs Nationalist thing. What do you think?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Mythology of Christmas

Longtime readers of this blog know that I was formerly part of a religious tradition that rejected the celebration/observance of Christmas. We believed that it was inappropriate for Christians to embrace beliefs/traditions/practices that were clearly pagan in origin and had little or no foundation in Scripture. After leaving that tradition, it became clear to me that I had fundamentally misunderstood both the holiday and the issues surrounding it. In short, my rejection of the mythology and substance of Christmas was based on incomplete and inaccurate information.

As I contemplated writing this post, I came across an article written by Mr Vexen Crabtree back in 2014. I found "The Birth of Jesus and the Christmas Story Pagan and Unhistorical" to be an excellent vehicle to discuss the mythology which underpins this popular holiday. For those who are interested, you may read the article in its entirety at The Human Truth Foundation or this link:
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/christianity_birthnarrative.html

The thing that I found most interesting/appealing about Crabtree's article is that it largely ignores the trappings of the modern celebration of Christmas and focuses on the very scriptures which Christians use to justify their observance of the holiday. Instead of discoursing on the pagan origins of Christmas trees and Yule logs, he attacked various aspects of the actual nativity stories recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In other words, he skips the trimmings and goes directly to the heart of the matter! After all, Christians would be hard-pressed to deny that their Scriptures record these two stories about the birth of Christ!

Crabtree wrote: "These two accounts contradict each other in many places. Many elements are certainly untrue. There are no Roman records attesting to the birth (or life) of Jesus. Events such as King Herod's killing of every male child simply did not occur - none of Herod's enemies mention it, for example, despite their routine documenting of his many misdeeds of a much lesser nature. Also unhistorical is the curious Roman census that required (for what reason?) everyone to go to cities associated with their ancestors. But similar stories are found about previous pagan god-man saviors. Likewise with the Virgin Birth, which has now been shown to simply be a mistranslation deriving from the Septuagint. And what of the 3 wise men who follow the bright star to Jesus's birthplace, bearing gifts? Other star gazers of the time, who meticulously recorded many stellar events, did not notice it. It is a Zoroastrian story, even down to the details of the 3 gifts, copied by Christians and made to be about Jesus. The stories of Jesus's birth are rewrites, modernisations, of previous stories from older pagan myths. These facts have led some scholars to cast doubt on Jesus's entire existence."

In the article, Crabtree pointed out (like Richard Dawkins before him) that the gospels were written several years after Christ's death and that the authors of these accounts simply did not know much about the actual details of Christ's origins (and there wasn't anybody who still had first-hand knowledge of those events to ask). Instead, the men who wrote those gospels turned to the Hebrew Scriptures and pagan mythology to create a suitable narrative about those origins (e.g. the messiah had to come from Bethlehem, so Jesus must have been born there and the Zoroastrian story of the three magi). As a consequence, there are numerous historical inaccuracies and adopted pagan mythologies present in the accounts of Matthew and Luke.

Although I found myself agreeing with many of the points that Crabtree was making, I was reminded of my own experiences with this subject and with the experiences of others which I had observed, read or heard about it over the years. This prompted me to ask again some of the same questions that had arisen when I had left my previous affiliation many years ago. Questions like: Why do people believe what they believe? What makes something true or false? Why do people create mythologies and tell origin stories? Do those mythologies and stories serve a legitimate purpose? Is an understanding of the evolution of thinking on a given subject essential to a "true" or proper understanding of that subject?

I found myself relating to something that Dennis Diehl had recently contributed to the blog Banned by HWA! He said: "As one of the Three Wise Men in the Christmas Play, I so wanted this story to be true.  Choirs of singing Angels out and about praising God in the Highest to a few lone shepherds seemed pretty amazing.  I did wonder why they didn't perform for the whole town but was told not to ask questions like that again.  I couldn't figure out how a virgin could give  birth and stay a virgin or how God could be the father with out...well you know. But later on learned that Mary was really with child by the Holy Spirit, so that must be God's power that did it. Then someone said the Holy Spirt was the Third Person in the Trinity of the One True God but three.  Huh?  That sounded ever much more kinky I stopped asking questions.  But it was all a grand mystery and who cared. I wanted it all to be true." http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2018/12/i-wanted-it-all-be-true.html I suspect that I'm not the only one who can relate to what Mr Diehl shared about his own experiences and feelings in this instance - which gets me back to some of those questions.

Mythologies and origin stories were created by people who were subject to the same kinds of experiences, thoughts, feelings and emotions that you and I have. They were/are an attempt to answer the questions (why, when, where, how, etc.) that we have about ourselves, each other and the world around us. They were/are an attempt to understand and explain. They were/are an attempt to formulate a rationale for what we are experiencing. As such, the authors of our mythologies and origin stories have never been very concerned with actual people, events or places. Instead, they seek to answer the fundamental questions and to reveal eternal truths (e.g. god(s) as the creator, first cause, source or mover).

When we remind ourselves of these things, the act of borrowing from former mythologies or appealing to an older or recognized authority like the Hebrew Scriptures) becomes more understandable and defensible. Approached from this perspective, things like the exact date or year of Christ's birth are not important. Likewise, it becomes unimportant to us whether he was actually born in the time of Herod the Great or during the governorship of Quirinius. In the end, the essential question is "Do I accept Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures?"

And, if one does accept that Jesus is the Christ (and some of us believe we have good reason to do so), then the inconsistencies, errors and plagiarism of the men who sought to explain his origins does not seem so significant. Moreover, the fact that early Christians sought to explain and embellish the people and events which they had experienced in real time makes us more amenable to the notion that their stories and mythologies have a basis in fact/reality.

For Christians, these narratives about the origin of Christ seek to explain some fundamental truths: That Jesus came from God to save a weary and troubled people from sin, fear, disease and death - that He was the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham, Moses and David - that He came to bring us peace, tolerance and love - that His arrival was worthy of universal acclaim - that it was the most important event in human history - and very worthy of the notice of emperors, kings, governors, magi and shepherds alike - and that it was a great honor for the mother who bore him.

For Christians, the fact that people before them had noticed the special relationship between a mother and her child should not be regarded with amazement or disdain. Likewise, the fact that others before them may have noted the irony that life presents to us in the reality that many of the women who have cared for and nurtured infant sons down through the eons of time have had those sons grow up to save or rescue them from some peril should not trouble or dissuade them from accepting Jesus and his story. Even at this distant date, it is not hard to imagine folks wanting to acknowledge God's greatest gift to us with gifts of their own to Him!

I know all too well, however, that many of the folks who read this will continue to be preoccupied with pagan influences, technical errors and inconsistencies. That is unfortunate. Even so, I have no problem wishing the rest of my readers a very Merry Christmas and rejoicing with them in the words attributed to angels so long ago: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Kids Got Screwed When It Came To Receiving Gifts!

Is it any wonder that most of the children who have been raised in the Armstrong Churches of God don't stay in the church? For the sake of this post, I won't question the motives of Herbert Armstrong and those who have followed in his apostolic footsteps. Nevertheless, if we take an objective look at the consequences for the kids, we begin to see why they might feel like they got the short end of the stick when it came to receiving gifts from their parents and other family members.

Think about it. There was no Christmas - no gifts under the Christmas tree or in their stockings. There were no birthday gifts, because everybody knew that only wicked folks celebrated birthdays. There weren't many gifts any other time of the year either, because "God's Work" needed every penny they could get (and everyone was supposed to be giving a full ten percent of their GROSS income AND special offerings on all of the high days).

What about festival gifts? The official advice/guidance/directive from the church: "Some members have purchased gifts for their children so that the children might better enjoy the Feast. Gifts for small children at Feast time helps make the Feast special for them — a time to look forward to each year. But in other cases, some people have overdone the giving of gifts at Feast time, sometimes buying expensive items they couldn't really afford. Usually such items are used during the rest of the year as well. This goes far beyond the principle of using the festival funds to provide a joyous, happy Feast." https://www.hwalibrary.com/cgi-bin/get/hwa.cgi?action=getmagazine&InfoID=1357653949

And, just in case you might have a little extra money to spend on the kids at the festival, the church said: "it has always been the practice of the Church members who have more than they need to turn in this excess to the Church." (same link) There was also the tithe of the tithe to suck up those extra funds: "Several years ago, because of the considerable expenses of providing the facilities and handling year-round administrative needs for the Feast, Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong directed all members of the Church to send in one tenth of their festival tithe to cover these costs. This is commonly referred to as the tithe of the tithe." (same link)

Poor kids - they never had a chance! Wonder what they were thinking when they saw all of the gifts that their Catholic and Protestant friends received from their family and friends? Oh, that's right, my bad - they weren't supposed to have any friends outside of the church anyway! Never mind.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What Should Christians Be Preaching?

There are a number of preachers who insist that it is their God-given duty to "cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the House of Jacob their sins." (Isaiah 58:1) Many of them go on to assert that they are also obligated to discourse on all things political - that God expects them to bring "His" perspective on these issues to the forefront. Are they correct? Does God expect his ministers to wade into the political fray of this world?

Let's take a closer look at the passage from Isaiah which is often quoted by these ministers to support their preaching. The first thing we notice when we turn to the book of Isaiah is that it was originally addressed to the ancient nation of Israel, and that it was intended as a warning to those people. Nevertheless, if we are looking to apply these scriptures to our own day/time/circumstances, then we should read the entire passage to get the proper context.

We read: "“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon." (Isaiah 58:1-10, NLT)

Now ask yourself: Are the folks who are crying aloud humbling themselves? Are they oppressing their workers? Are they quarreling? Have they freed those who have been wrongly imprisoned and lightened the burden of those who work for them? Have they shared their food with the hungry and provided shelter to the homeless? Have they helped their family members who are in need? Have they removed the heavy yokes of oppression that weigh people down? If not, then they are NOT fulfilling this scripture!

I also seem to recall Jesus Christ (remember, this is supposed to be HIS Church we are talking about) preaching that his followers should not presume to judge each other. He went on to say that it was hypocritical to point out flaws in your brother that are really insignificant when compared to the flaws that are present in your own life. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Finally, when we talk about politics, we should all be mindful of Paul's instruction to Timothy about such things. He wrote: "Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things. Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen." (II Timothy 2:1-10, NLT)

It seems to me that Paul's advice to Timothy should still apply to Christian ministers today. They are good principles, and the message that Paul preached is timeless. What do you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Supporting the Right’s Narrative About Nationalism and Jews


Never let it be said that the Church of God International is not doing its part to support Trump’s brand of Nationalism and the conspiracy theories about a malevolent Jewish influence on world events (especially relative to the United States). In light of the recent spree of pipe bomb mailings and the attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pennsylvania, I think it would be instructive to look at the role that some of the Armstrong Churches of God have played in promoting the divisive and racist rhetoric that has fueled the crazy individuals who have perpetrated these horrendous acts of violence.

In the Winter 2017 (Vol. 38, No.4) edition of The International News (The Official Newspaper of the Church of God International), Pastor Bill Watson lamented the indifference of the “mainstream media” to pursuing the truth. Sound familiar? He went on to say: “Over and over we see hypersensitive expressions wrapped in hyperbole’s passion all designed to aggravate and exacerbate the protesting Antifa crowds for effect. This is the goal of anarchists who have become the ‘village idiots’ of elitists like George Soros and others, who support his Open Society Foundations, which is nothing more than supporting the globalist agenda so prominent among the progressive rich.”

In the Summer 2018 (Vol. 39, No. 2) edition of The International News, Pastor Bill Watson wrote: “The United States is relearning to express assertive leadership after decades of appeasement, apologies, and accommodation at the expense of its own national well being and security. The question is, Will the world’s community of nations, having been working an agenda of globalism, accept and adjust to this revived nationalistic approach the United States, United Kingdom, and a handful of others within the European Union are now adopting? That remains to be seen as to how it will all play out.”

On October 14, 2018, as a presentation of CGI’s Armor of God broadcast, Pastor Adrian Davis spoke about “Marriage Under Assault” (https://www.cgi). The good pastor sought to give his audience a history lesson regarding the current “war on marriage.” He began with a discussion of Karl Marx and The Communist Manifesto and proceeded to talk about his loyal disciples in Frankfurt, Germany. According to Davis, these Jewish intellectuals and Marxists decided that family loyalty was the reason workers around the world had failed to unite against their capitalist oppressors.

Pastor Davis recounted the story of how many of these folks fled to the United States (he singled out Columbia University for special mention here) when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. According to him, these Jewish Marxists decided to shift from a focus on economics to cultural issues. Davis tells us that these nasty folks concentrated their efforts on stirring up the oppressed and victimized groups within American society (how AWFUL). He then proceeded to single out another prominent Jewish intellectual in the promotion of this cultural Marxism, Herbert Marcuse (ACOG’s seem to like the name Herbert).

Finally, Davis summarized his little history lesson by talking about how Marxists had infiltrated American universities and had attacked the building blocks of Western civilization. Moreover, he simply could not resist a parting shot about the “migrant crisis,” and how this was contributing to the demoralization of Western nations.

Unfortunately, if I hadn’t identified the sources of these statements, many of us would have assumed that they had been lifted directly from a Trump campaign rally! Make no mistake, the men who perpetrated these evil acts are responsible for the hurt and carnage which they have inflicted. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny that CGI and other Armstrong Churches of God have supported the narrative which inspired them. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Goodbye for now...

I remember when Gavin announced his "A Farewell to Arms" on Ambassador Watch. I thought that he went out on a classy note. He wrote:
"I guess I want to say that there's very little I regret. If I've horribly offended anyone unjustly, I apologize. There are a lot of good people in the COGs, battling on, as we all do, according to our best insights. The blogs will stay up, for what they're worth, even if only curiosity value."

I would like to echo those sentiments. I hope that this blog has helped (or been useful to) others, but I can say with absolute honesty that it has helped me. Anyway, it's time for me to move on to other things. May the God who cannot be contained bless everyone who has or will stop by here and give peace and insight to all who seek it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Citizenship in the Multicultural Kingdom of God

From the Second chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into ONE people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself ONE new people from the two groups. 16 Together as ONE body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

And, continuing the thought in the Third chapter of that same epistle:

6 And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Isn't that interesting? The God who cannot be limited is not limited by race or ethnicity! The God who cannot be contained wants to live within the people of this new kingdom!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Herbert Armstrong Versus God

Banned by HWA recently featured a post entitled "King Gerald Flurry, the Stone of Herb and the New Place of Safety." http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2018/07/king-gerald-flurry-stone-of-herb-and.html It discusses a modification made by the current leader of the Philadelphia Church of God (Gerald Flurry) to Herbert Armstrong's old teachings about the throne of David and a place of safety for church members during the Great Tribulation. And, although I commented there on the absurdity of these new understandings, it occurred to me that it might be more constructive and persuasive to take a fresh look at the basis for those teachings and explore again what the pertinent Scriptures actually reveal about them.

Herbert Armstrong's teaching about David's throne appeared in a booklet entitled The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy (which went through a number of revisions over the years). For those who are interested, you may view a copy of the 1967 version of the booklet here: https://www.hwalibrary.com/cgi-bin/download/viewitem.cgi In this booklet, Armstrong presented some rather astounding interpretations of Biblical prophecy and history and presented them as revelations from Almighty God. It is my hope that what follows will demonstrate clearly to anyone who is willing to analyze the scriptures referenced by these men (Armstrong and Flurry) that God's view of these matters is radically different from theirs!

In the seventeenth chapter of the book of Ezekiel, we are presented with a riddle about eagles and a cedar tree (verses 1-10). The prophet then goes on to explain that these things are symbolic of how the king of Babylon will punish the king of Israel for his rebellion against God and his overlord (verses 11-21). The history of how all of this actually played out is recorded in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of II Kings and the thirty-sixth chapter of II Chronicles. And all of these accounts make very clear that David's dynasty was completely overthrown by King Nebuchadnezzar.

Nevertheless, Ezekiel also gives us this hope: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take a branch from the top of a tall cedar, and I will plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. It will become a majestic cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter in the shade of its branches. And all the trees will know that it is I, the Lord, who cuts the tall tree down and makes the short tree grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said!'" (verses 22-24) This is obviously speaking of Jesus Christ.

In this connection, notice this prophecy from the book of Isaiah: "Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment." (Isaiah 11:1-5)

Notice also this similar language from the book of Jeremiah: "For the time is coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6) And, "“In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant [Hebrew a righteous branch] from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ For this is what the Lord says: David will have a descendant sitting on the throne of Israel forever." (Jeremiah 33:15-17)

Finally, we read in the book of Amos: "In that day I will restore the fallen house of David. I will repair its damaged walls. From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory." (Amos 9:11, quoted in Acts 15:16) All of these scriptures make very plain that God's promises to David find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Notice also, this passage from the New Testament which clearly identifies Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the promises to David - in the book of Luke, we read:
"In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, 'Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!' Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
'Don’t be afraid, Mary,' the angel told her, 'for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!'" (Luke 1:26-33) Hence, for those who profess to regard the Bible as their standard, it should be crystal clear that God regards Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of his promise to David.

Continuing, in the book of Ezekiel, we read: "'O you corrupt and wicked prince of Israel, your final day of reckoning is here!' This is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'Take off your jeweled crown, for the old order changes. Now the lowly will be exalted, and the mighty will be brought down. Destruction! Destruction! I will surely destroy the kingdom. And it will not be restored until the one appears who has the right to judge it. Then I will hand it over to him.'" (Ezekiel 21:25-27) In the KJV, the language is "I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." The scriptures already quoted in II Kings and II Chronicles talk about this turmoil within the royal house of Judah before it was finally and completely overthrown by the Babylonians. Notice that after that final destruction that the throne would not be restored "until the one appears who has the right to judge it - then I will hand it over to him" (once again, clearly referring to Jesus Christ).

In the book of Jeremiah, we learn about God's commission to Jeremiah as his prophet (Jeremiah 1:5). We read: "Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, 'Look, I have put my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.'" (verses 9-10)

Later, in the same book and speaking specifically about Israel, we read:
"In the past I deliberately uprooted and tore down this nation. I overthrew it, destroyed it, and brought disaster upon it. But in the future I will just as deliberately plant it and build it up. I, the Lord, have spoken!'...'The day is coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,' says the Lord.
'But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,' says the Lord. 'I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,' says the Lord. 'And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.'" (Jeremiah 31:28-34)

Notice also, the full context of that passage from the thirty-third chapter of Jeremiah (quoted above):
"'The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. 'In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: 'The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’
For this is what the Lord says: David will have a descendant sitting on the throne of Israel forever. And there will always be Levitical priests to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings and sacrifices to me.'
Then this message came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord says: If you can break my covenant with the day and the night so that one does not follow the other, only then will my covenant with my servant David be broken. Only then will he no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. The same is true for my covenant with the Levitical priests who minister before me. And as the stars of the sky cannot be counted and the sand on the seashore cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of my servant David and the Levites who minister before me.'
The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 'Have you noticed what people are saying?—‘The Lord chose Judah and Israel and then abandoned them!’ They are sneering and saying that Israel is not worthy to be counted as a nation.
But this is what the Lord says: 'I would no more reject my people than I would change my laws that govern night and day, earth and sky. I will never abandon the descendants of Jacob or David, my servant, or change the plan that David’s descendants will rule the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, I will restore them to their land and have mercy on them.'" (verses 14-26)

In reviewing these scriptures, it is clear to me that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to David; and that ANY OTHER understanding is inconsistent with what the Bible states. And, although this treatise should preclude the acceptance of any of Herbert Armstrong's speculations regarding David's throne, as far as his contention that Queen Elizabeth II currently occupies David's throne, I have previously addressed this in a number of posts on this blog:
http://godcannotbecontained.blogspot.com/2016/02/god-david-and-anglo-israelism-part-1.html
http://godcannotbecontained.blogspot.com/2016/02/god-david-and-anglo-israelism-part-2.html
http://godcannotbecontained.blogspot.com/2016/02/god-david-and-anglo-israelism-part-3.html

Finally, as for a "place of safety" for Armstrong's and Flurry's followers, this teaching is easily refuted. In his message to the church in Philadelphia, we read that Christ promised, "Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world." (Revelation 3:10) Please note:
1) Protection is promised, but no mention is made of a "place of safety"
2) This "time of testing" is for "those who belong to this world," not those who belong to God.

If one accepts that the messages to the seven churches reflect seven distinct and successive eras of church history, then it would follow that protection for these folks will mean death, as the folks from the Laodicean era would be the ones who actually lived through these events. OR If we acknowledge that these characteristics apply to folks in all eras of the church, then the teaching about church eras is rendered meaningless.

Likewise, if we look to the twelfth chapter of Revelation, we see that the wording there clearly refers to the entire history of the church - NOT just the time of trouble at the end. We read there:
"Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth.
Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.
She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.
Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, 'It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.
Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus."

Hence, however one chooses to interpret the symbols in this chapter, history (both Biblical and secular) makes clear that Mary and the Church were protected in the world - they were NOT physically isolated from the rest of humanity in some cave or desert stronghold! Indeed, the entirety of the Bible reflects a Divine inclination to protect people in broad daylight. Even if we look at individuals who fled for their safety (like David and Elijah), we see that God eventually called them back to face their challenges. God clearly doesn't need physical isolation, barriers or weapons to protect "His" people, and the Biblical record reflects that fact.

Thus, for this blogger, Armstrong's and Flurry's teachings are shown to be inconsistent with Biblical prophecy and history. Moreover, after taking a close look at some of the scriptures which they have employed to support their teachings, it is clear that God's vision of the future is clearly different from theirs (and much more exciting to contemplate)! 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

God in the Verdict of War?

A recent discussion over at Banned by HWA that focused on the potential for civil conflict/war erupting within the United States inspired what follows. As most Americans realize, there is a great divide now extant in our culture and body politic. It centers around two competing visions of exactly what it means to be an American. The rhetoric and vitriol evident on both sides is enough to cause concern among even those who are devoted to a civil and respectful discourse.

Humankind has resorted to force and bloodshed numerous times over the course of its history on this planet to resolve differences among individuals, families, tribes, groups and nations. It is also customary to view one side as being righteous/good (usually the winner) and the other side as being evil/bad (usually the loser).

However, when we actually take the time to examine and dissect these conflicts, it becomes much more difficult to justify them on religious or moral grounds. Moreover, when we consider the high costs associated with these incidents (human lives, materials, financial expenditures and emotional damage), it is much harder to make the case that God was favoring one side over another.

Faced with the bloodiest war in the history of the United States (the American Civil War), Abraham Lincoln mused in the fall of 1862:  "In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds." Later, in his Second Inaugural Address he observed that, "Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other." He continued, "The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes." He suggested that the terrible costs which the nation had endured might be considered by God as payment for the horrible national sin of slavery. He concluded:  "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

When all of the deaths associated with that war were tallied together, they estimated that over a million people perished as a consequence of the American Civil War. It has further been estimated that the Union spent about 9.5 billion dollars on costs and pensions associated with the war, and that the Confederacy spent over 2 billion more (those estimates have not been converted to what those expenditures would be in today's dollars). So much of the South's infrastructure was destroyed that there is no estimate available that would begin to do justice to the cost. Maybe Lincoln was on to something in his assessment of the Divine Will?

In the nineteenth chapter of the book of Judges, there is an interesting account of a horrific crime that was committed against a Levite's concubine (she was gang-raped and murdered). Indicative of the barbarity of the day, the Levite then dismembered the corpse and sent a piece to each one of the tribes of Israel demanding justice. As a consequence, we read in the twentieth chapter of the book that the tribes got together and demanded that the tribe of Benjamin surrender the perpetrators of the deed. The Benjamites refused, and a civil war ensued. Clearly, right was on the side of the Israelites, but the casualties on their side were horrendous. Eventually, the Israelites triumphed against their brother Benjamites (virtually annihilating that tribe), but the victory had not come quickly or easily. One has to wonder, if God was in the verdict of this war, then why was the cost so high to the victors? Does God really view violence as the best way to resolve matters of this kind?

We could also point out the consequences of the Crusades, and a more recent war (WWII) that most Americans still regard as righteous (and if you think that I'm suggesting they're wrong, you still haven't gotten the point of this article). We have to ask ourselves:  To what degree (if any) is God involved in our wars? Does God have any role in them? Does He allow or approve of them? And, if we say that "He" allows or permits them, are "His" purposes/objectives the same as our own? If someone is forced to do something at the end of a sword or bayonet, what does that say about Free Will? In short, is war our way or God's way? What do you think?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Theology: Mathematical Precision or Conviction Based on Faith?

If we Google the term theology, we find that term defined as "the study of the nature of God and religious belief" or "religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed." Of course, when we speak of the study of God and religious beliefs, we would all hope for objectivity and the unbiased pursuit of transcendental truth (how realistic those expectations might be is another matter). However, when we speak of theology in terms of a system of beliefs, we would all do well to be very careful in our use of the terms true and false.

For Herbert Armstrong and his followers, theology was/is an exercise in mathematical precision. Everything is based on proofs, direct or indirect. For these folks, everything (or at least the fundamentals) is clear. There is truth, and there is falsehood or error.

Hence, it is no surprise to find a minister among the Armstrong Churches of God speaking of "True Theology" see http://cgi.org/audio-archives/2014/3/17/wayne-hendrix-true-theology?rq=true%20theology To these folks, the Sabbath is a feature of TRUE theology, while Sunday is a feature of FALSE theology. Likewise, the Feast of Tabernacles stands in stark contrast to the observance of Christmas. Binitarianism is TRUE theology, while trinitarianism represents error.

Then, along comes Pope Francis, who proclaims: "This is the novelty that grace ignites in the heart of those who open themselves to the mystery of Jesus: the non-mathematical certainty, but even stronger, interior, of having met the Source of Life, the life itself made flesh, visible and tangible in the midst of us." see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/belief-in-christ-cannot-be-reduced-to-a-formula-pope-francis-says-95860 Of course, there are a great many Catholics who would agree with the ACOG view of theology (the truth vs. error aspect, not the particulars).

Who is correct? For Christians, should our pursuit be one of mathematical certainty or one of reinforcing our conviction that Jesus is the Way to Life? And, Is the pursuit of absolutes even reconcilable with a Faith-based approach? Hasn't the pursuit of mathematical precision only led to confusion, embarrassment and disillusion? And, doesn't certainty short circuit our study of God and religious beliefs? What do you think?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Nature of Reality and A New Theory of Everything

Scientific American has published an article on Dissociative Identity Disorder that should be of interest to everyone who has ever thought about the nature of the life (and world) that we currently enjoy. Bernardo Kastrup, Adam Crabtree and Edward Kelly wrote the article together, and it is based on some of their observations regarding the research of others. You can read the entire article for yourself here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/could-multiple-personality-disorder-explain-life-the-universe-and-everything/

The article was of particular interest to this blogger in relation to past posts that have appeared here. Indeed, regular readers of this blog will recall that I have discussed the possibility that our individual minds/consciousness could be small parts of the mind/consciousness of God. Stated another way, we could say that EVERYTHING (including us) exists within the mind of God. And, of course, such a theory would have profound implications for the very nature of reality itself.

Kastrup, Crabtree and Kelly provide a sequential and easy to understand framework for the philosophical tree that underpins their article. With this background in place, they are in a position to make their point. They write: "So, for idealism to be tenable, one must explain—at least in principle—how one universal consciousness gives rise to multiple, private but concurrently conscious centers of cognition, each with a distinct personality and sense of identity.
And here is where dissociation comes in. We know empirically from DID that consciousness can give rise to many operationally distinct centers of concurrent experience, each with its own personality and sense of identity. Therefore, if something analogous to DID happens at a universal level, the one universal consciousness could, as a result, give rise to many alters with private inner lives like yours and ours. As such, we may all be alters—dissociated personalities—of universal consciousness."
They conclude: "Idealism is a tantalizing view of the nature of reality, in that it elegantly circumvents two arguably insoluble problems: the hard problem of consciousness and the combination problem. Insofar as dissociation offers a path to explaining how, under idealism, one universal consciousness can become many individual minds, we may now have at our disposal an unprecedentedly coherent and empirically grounded way of making sense of life, the universe and everything."

Was the Eighteenth Century philosopher George Berkeley right after all? Could this help to explain the mathematical universe that Max Tegmark has so eloquently written about? Doesn't the ability to imagine such things at the very least make them a possibility? A world/universe within a single mind - is that possible? (think JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin) What do you think?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Seeing Yourself in Scripture

While we would all do well to learn from the life examples recorded in Scripture, we should all resist the temptation to see ourselves in prophecy! To be sure, there are lessons that are relevant and applicable to our lives from the stories of folks like Adam, Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Job, David, Peter and Paul. Nevertheless, the alarm bells should be deafening for any of us who would attempt to insert him/herself into Biblical prophecy, or for anyone who might feel self-important enough to interpret some passage as applying to them personally!

Unfortunately, this very thing happened many years ago to a man named Herbert W. Armstrong, and it appears to be an affliction that he has shared with his would be successors. Over at Banned by HWA, there was a recent post about a new booklet by Mr. Gerald Flurry of the Philadelphia Church of God. You can view the article here: http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2018/06/pcg-gerald-flurry-will-soon-be-sitting.html (there is a link there to the booklet). The article and the booklet make plain Mr. Flurry believes that "King Gerald will soon be sitting upon that throne <King David's> passing out judgment and hastening righteousness."

Clearly, Mr. Flurry is delusional, and anyone who accepts his interpretation is even worse off than he is! I hereby prophesy that the only throne that Gerald Flurry will be occupying anytime soon is one of porcelain construction. Moreover, I am also certain that he will need a roll of Charmin because what he is going to be passing out on that throne will likely require copious amounts of t.p. to clean it up! What do you think?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Christians and Counterpunching

"When someone attacks me, I always attack back...except 100x more. This has nothing to do with a tirade but rather, a way of life!" --Donald J. Trump

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." --Jesus Christ

"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." --The Apostle Paul

Friday, June 1, 2018

SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE EATING LUCKY CHARMS?*

In answering this important question, we must first address the fact that we are talking about “LUCKY” Charms. Notice what Verse By Verse Ministry has to say about Christians employing the notion of luck: “From an earthly perspective, things may seem to happen at random, but throughout the whole of Scripture, it is clear God is in control of all His creation and is able to take the random acts of natural law, the free will of both good and evil people and the wicked intent of demons and combine them all to accomplish His good and perfect will (Genesis 50:20; Job chapters 1 and 42; John 9:1-7). Christians, specifically, are given the promise that God works all things, whether seemingly good or bad, together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).” They go on to “recommend a Christian not use the phrase ‘good luck.’”https://www.versebyverseministry.org/bible-answers/should-a-christian-use-the-phrase-good-luck

The folks at Compelling Truth remind us that “The word "luck" does not appear in the Bible.” They go on to inform us that “Eastern religions in particular believe luck can be somewhat controlled by superstitious actions. Religious rites are performed (like rubbing the stomach of a Buddha statue or lighting incense) to induce supernatural powers to change the fortune of an adherent.” Continuing, they underscore the fact that “What the Bible categorically condemns is the use of superstition to gain the favor of God or any deity to bring fortunate results. Religious rites to draw luck from a pagan god are useless, as pagan gods don't exist and, therefore, can't act on behalf of anyone. And God so hates being manipulated by worship practices that He'd rather we abandon those traditions He put into place and worship Him from the heart than obey Him for the sole purpose of gaining favor (Amos 5:21-24).” https://www.compellingtruth.org/luck.html

Hence, it should be clear that Christians should not be involved with anything that relies on the pagan notion of luck. Likewise, it should be noted that a typical box of Lucky Charms is literally full of little marshmallows that take the form of PAGAN symbols! We have hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, UNICORNS, rainbows and red balloons in each box of cereal. Do we, as Christians, really want to be eating these pagan symbols? Do we want to expose our young children to these symbols?

And let’s not forget that this cereal isn’t just tasty – it’s “magically delicious!” In fact, if we go to the cereal’s own website, we are told that consuming it could be “The Most Magical Part of the Day!” The manufacturer goes on to tell us: “All you need is some extra magic to start your day off right. And lucky for you: Lucky Charms marshmallow charms are pretty magical.” https://www.luckycharms.com/

What does the Bible have to say about magic and those who practice it? In the book of Acts, we read about a man named Simon “who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria” (Acts 8:9). We are further informed that this Simon “saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands,” and that he offered them money to share their power with him! (Acts 8:18-19) Peter, however, rebuked the man and told him to repent of his sin! (Acts 8:20-21) We are also reminded of the fact that Moses had to face Pharaoh’s sorcerers and magicians in fulfilling his God-given commission to free the Israelites (see Exodus 7). In fact, sorcerers and magicians are portrayed throughout the Bible as being antithetical to God and His religion. Indeed, we are told twice in the book of Revelation that they will have no part in God’s Kingdom! (Revelation 21:8 and 22:15)

It should also be noted that the cereal is promoted by a leprechaun! Indeed, an image of the magical creature adorns the very box that contains the cereal! LIVESCIENCE informs us that “Leprechauns are a type of fairy, though it's important to note that the fairies of Irish folklore were not cute Disneyfied pixies; they could be lustful, nasty, capricious creatures whose magic might delight you one day and kill you the next if you displeased them.” https://www.livescience.com/37626-leprechauns.html Do you want your children exposed to such pagan rubbish?

Remember, God’s Word tells us “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2) Remember too, that God instructed the Israelites: “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” (Deuteronomy 18:9) And, finally, Christ reminded his followers about something that Isaiah had said about the people of his day: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

Do we want to satisfy the lust of our eyes and bellies or follow the will of God? Do we want to pollute our temples with a highly sugared cereal (one 36 gram serving contains 30 grams of carbohydrates, most of which is sugar!) or do we want to eat healthy foods without any taint of paganism? For TRUE Christians, the answers to these questions should be obvious. Christians should NOT be eating Lucky Charms!

*This post was intended as satirical commentary on Herbert Armstrong's reasoning surrounding Christian avoidance of things with pagan origins. This Christian blogger enjoys a bowl of Lucky Charms every now and then (and even shares a bowl with his grandchildren on occasion)!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Did God have anything to do with moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

A great many Christians have recently experienced something akin to sexual arousal over Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (see https://religionnews.com/2018/05/14/some-christians-and-jews-hail-embassy-move-to-jerusalem-as-key-to-a-biblical-plan/). Some even hailed it as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy (see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeanine-pirro-trump-biblical-jerusalem_us_5af92283e4b032b10bfbf607). But how do these views/claims square with what is actually recorded in the Bible? More importantly, is the near obsession of some Evangelical Christians with the modern state of Israel justified by the Scriptures they claim to revere and follow?

Although many Christians would agree with Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro that Trump is merely giving a nod to historical reality by recognizing "that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state," the historical and biblical record does not support this view (see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2018/05/fox-news-trump-fulfilled-biblical-prophecy-by-moving-embassy-to-jerusalem/#disqus_thread). As any good student of the Judeo-Christian Bible and history knows, Jerusalem has not always been the capital of the Jewish state. Prior to the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, the Bible maintains that authority floated among a number of judges and the cities which they called home. Prior to the establishment of Jerusalem as the focal point of the political and religious life of the Jews, Scripture informs us that Shiloh fulfilled that role. When the kingdom was finally established under Saul, the capital was not at Jerusalem. David spent the first part of his reign as king at Hebron. When the kingdom was divided after Solomon's death, Jeroboam used Shechem and Peniel as his capitals and made Bethel and Dan religious centers. Later, the Bible informs us that Tirzah served as the capital for Israel's kings. Later still, we are told that King Omri established Samaria as the capital of Israel. Hence, we can clearly see that Jerusalem was not the only capital of the ancient Jewish state.

 Even so, my Evangelical friends will point out that God placed his name at Jerusalem when Solomon completed his temple there. But what about everything that happened after that event? What about the Babylonian captivity when the Jewish state ceased to exist and Jerusalem was destroyed and abandoned? Moreover, even when we consider the "restoration" which these folks point to under Cyrus, we must acknowledge that the Jews did not regain their sovereign status as a nation (they continued to be a small vassal of a greater empire). Now the Jews did briefly regain their independence as a nation under the Maccabees, and the Hasmonean kings did rule from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, we all know that the Jewish state was eventually swallowed up by the Roman Empire, and that Jerusalem was also destroyed by them, and that there was no Jewish state on planet earth for one thousand nine hundred years!

Which brings us to another question: Was the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 a fulfillment of biblical prophecy? Was that  event necessary to usher in the "time of the end"? (see the offering of the Jehovah's Witnesses on this topic: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2010813). In this connection, it is interesting to note that ALL of the prophecies associated with the restoration of the Jewish state and Jerusalem are associated with the Messiah. In other words, the fulfillment of these prophecies in both Jewish and Christian eschatology is still in the future. What happened in 1948 was not associated with the Messiah or God. It was the work of a small group of Jewish people in coordination with the United Nations, Britain and the United States.

The Apostle Paul said:  "For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No , a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people." (Romans 2:28-29) Christ raised up children to Abraham. Christ made it possible for ANYONE to be a spiritual Jew and a part of his Messianic Kingdom. The establishment of the modern state of Israel was certainly an interesting development on the world stage, and we should all be interested in what happens to Jerusalem and the Palestinians; but none of that should be interpreted as fulfilling prophecies that can only be fulfilled by the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.

It is foolish for us to mix politics and religion and try to interpret ancient prophecies by comparing them to current events. Moreover, it is dangerous for our politicians to attempt to move prophecy along and give God a hand in fulfilling them. Instead, the people of all Abrahamic faiths would do well to heed the words attributed to David: "Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper." (Psalm 22:6) 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

What it takes to be a TRUE believer!

If you want to be a member of the One True Boy's Club, the Grand Poobah requires that you perform certain rituals and follow the standards prescribed in the OTBC Manual (California Version). A brief summary follows:

You must apologize to your mother for stepping on the cracks in sidewalks and promise NEVER to do so again.
While standing on one foot, you must allow a licensed plumber (electricians, carpenters and bricklayers are excluded from performing this ritual) to spread chocolate pudding (Jello brand only) all over your body (including the top of your head).

You must follow the Seven Rules of Living Right for the rest of your life:
1) Never disrespect the President of the United States.
2) Never kill fireflies.
3) Never eat black jelly beans.
4) Always remember to silence your cell phone in movie theaters.
5) Never bump fists with women.
6) Never listen to music by the Swedish Pop group Abba.
7) Never watch television in your underwear.

True believers are also strongly encouraged to not wear pink shorts on Sundays, only eat turkey based hot dogs and give the IRS an extra $1000 every year.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

God can accommodate all of the names we attach to Him/Her/It

Have you ever noticed that it's not just the sacred name folks who get hung up on what to call God? Theists, atheists and every shade in between just can't seem to leave this one alone!

As long time readers of this blog know, it is the premise of this blog that God cannot be bottled up by our concepts of the Divine. In short, this blog advocates a bigger view of God - a view that surpasses our weaknesses, prejudices and limitations.

Unfortunately, many of the folks who are willing to take a more expansive view of God, religion and spiritual things still trip over names/labels. For many Judeo-Christian believers, God is ELOHIM or YHWH, "He" couldn't possibly be ALLAH! Likewise, many atheists and agnostics deride the use of YHWH as a moniker for God (if God exists, "He" couldn't possibly be equated with the vindictive and homicidal YHWH of the Hebrews). And let's not even get started on gender assignment - Is God our Father, Mother, Grandfather, Grandmother, Brother or Sister? Could God be all of those things?

In this connection, the account of God's conversation with Moses in the third chapter of the book of Exodus has always been interesting to me. We read there:  "And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you." (verses 13-14)

According to Blue Letter Bible, the Hebrew word translated into English as "I AM" is "hayah." It means "to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen..." https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H1961&t=KJV
In other words, don't worry about it! I am bigger than any moniker that you could conceive of or attach to me!

Hence, while it would be appropriate to point out that the names ELOHIM, YHWH, ALLAH, ADONAI, FATHER, MOST HIGH, THE ETERNAL and FATHER are all inadequate, we can see that it would be equally foolish to exclude them! Yes, God is bigger than any of those names. In fact, God is big enough to accommodate all of them.

We (humans) are so arrogant and full of ourselves sometimes! Do you honestly believe that God cares what you call "Him"? Do you honestly believe that God doesn't listen to folks who call "Him" Allah or Mother? Really?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Is British-Israelism An Inherently Racist Teaching?

If you want to provoke the ire of folks in the Armstrong Church of God culture, then all you have to do is tell them that the doctrine of British-Israelism is inherently racist in nature. The staunchest defenders of this teaching take immediate offense at anyone who has the audacity to suggest that their belief is racist at its core. Sure, some of them will admit, that a "few" folks have carried the teaching "too far" and have manifested the classic characteristics associated with racism (they love to cite the dictionary definition of racism); but they will insist that they do not share those "extreme" views, and that it would consequently be inappropriate and unfair to characterize their belief as being racist in nature.

In February of 2005, the Church of the Great God attempted to directly address this question in an article on their website (https://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.CGGWeekly/ID/213/Is-British-Israelism-Racist.htm). In the article Is British-Israelism Racist?, Richard Ritenbaugh admits that some of the folks who adhere to this doctrine exhibit "a weak and prejudicial nature" and "could carry this to the point of snubbing, abusing, or persecuting individuals of these supposedly lesser ethnicities." He goes on to say: "Sadly, some advocates of British-Israelism have done just this, shining a bad light on other believers who do not share their racially motivated hatred and violence."

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has obscured the issue of racism for many years and has allowed the phenomenon to continue to flourish among many "white" Americans to this day. It's a neat trick - If you define racism as extreme and associate it with hatred and violence, then you can disassociate the more subtle manifestations of the phenomenon as having anything to do with racism.

In his article The Easiest Way to Get Rid of Racism? Just Redefine It, Greg Howard noted how the definition of racism has evolved in America. (see the full article here https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/magazine/the-easiest-way-to-get-rid-of-racism-just-redefine-it.html) He wrote: "Soon, nearly everyone could agree that racism was the work of people with hate in their hearts - bigots. This was a convenient thing for white Americans to believe. Racism, they could say, was the work of racists." He went on to say: "Racism ceased to be a matter of systems and policy and became a referendum on the rot of the individual soul. Calling people racist was no longer a matter of evaluating their opinions; it was an accusation of being irrevocably warped at the very core."

In his article defending British-Israelism against being labeled as inherently racist in nature, Ritenbaugh states that "the irrationality of a handful of kooks does not - or should not - malign the majority of sincere believers who base their understanding and practice on true biblical principles." He must marginalize the "handful of kooks" who hold extreme views so that the vast "majority of sincere believers" aren't tainted with the label of racism. For him and the other "sincere believers," it is crucial that we recognize that their beliefs are based on "true biblical principles."

Hence, we can see that Ritenbaugh's apologetics for the doctrine of British-Israelism depend on what I consider to be two very dubious premises: 1) a narrow definition of racism which eliminates any association of the term with systemic policy/thought, and 2) the notion that the doctrine is derived from God/the Bible and consequently cannot be characterized as racist. Ritenbaugh explains that: "God did not choose Israel because of anything they had going for them - in fact, they were a small, insignificant people. He chose them because He loved them, and that love has its basis in His relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Most Israelites have lucked into God's blessing, as it were, by being born of Israelite stock; they have done nothing to deserve what God has bountifully given. Their receipt of the blessings is based solely on God fulfilling the promises He made to the Patriarchs."

According to Ritenbaugh, the belief cannot be characterized as racist because the special status which these folks enjoy is derived from God. They simply "lucked" out! God decided to love them more than anybody else. How then can anyone dare to question God or characterize them (or anyone who accepts this teaching as legitimate) as racist? These folks enjoy this special status by God's choice - they don't have any voice in the matter. Hence, it is absurd to question their status or characterize anyone who recognizes this "truth" as racist!

Oh sure, Ritenbaugh goes on to state that the Israelites "are bound by their 'lucky birth' to be a model nation to the rest of the world of God's way of life," but that constitutes their responsibility in the matter as far as he's concerned (and he does go on to acknowledge that these folks have largely failed to do this). In fact, he goes on to say that "Because of Israel's rejection of God, He is now working with select individuals whom He calls, makes a New Covenant with, and converts to His way of life. To these He gives His Spirit, and they become His witnesses among the nations." In other words, Israel's failure to be that example to the world has resulted in a change of plans.

Even so, Ritenbaugh continues to be oblivious to the implications of what he's saying and returns to the importance of the special status of these folks. He asserts that "God is not finished with the Israelites," and that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was intended mainly as a message for them. For those acquainted with the racist teachings of Herbert Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God, that should sound familiar. And, if you still can't see that such a view is inherently racist, then you must be one of the unfortunate few who still adheres to the teaching of British-Israelism.     

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Things I would tell a young me

God loves you, and that love is unconditional and without end. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all of your sins, so that you could appear before God without guilt and shame. God and Jesus Christ want you to learn, grow and be happy; and they want you to be a part of their kingdom.

Don't make an idol out of the Bible! Do not regard it as inerrant and without contradiction. Remember that men wrote the Bible, and that those writings reflect the times in which they were written and the personal prejudices and human imperfections of the authors. Remember that God is the ultimate authority, not a book about him. 

Question any religious doctrine, interpretation or teaching that is not consistent with science, common sense or personal experience. In fact, never stop questioning and exploring everything. Always be willing to entertain the possibility that you could be wrong. Be very suspicious of anyone who claims to have all the answers or professes to be the conduit of God's truth.

Remember that love is always appropriate. It is good to love God, yourself and others. It is always good to be patient, tolerant, kind, compassionate and empathetic. It is never OK to be hateful, spiteful or mean to yourself or others. Always strive to remember what it feels like to be human - what it feels like to be judged, rejected, lonely and isolated. Strive to be quick to forgive yourself and others, because you and they will make mistakes.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Wrestling with God!

In a comment regarding the post which preceded this one, Byker Bob made a statement that really caught my attention. He wrote: "I believe that you really have to look at the way in which people see themselves in terms of their relationship with God. That is what is important. David was a man after God's own heart because no matter how he failed and sinned, he didn't turn his back on God. He steadfastly kept praising Him, and he kept on praying to Him. He knew that like all of us, he was born to sin, but refused to allow that to separate him from God."

Immediately after reading that comment, I was reminded of a story in the book of Genesis. We are told there that Jacob wrestled with a strange man for the better part of one night. We read: "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." (Genesis 32:24-28)

In the story, Jacob holds on to God's representative and refuses to release him until the man promises to bless him. Is this story a metaphor about how all of us should approach our relationship with the Divine? Do the experiences of these two very imperfect men (Jacob and David) teach us to keep on keeping on with God until we prevail? In other words, while our understanding of God and our attempts to follow "His" will may be very flawed/imperfect at present, does God consider the effort/struggle to understand and follow "Him" worthwhile?

I believe that these examples are indicative of the very personal nature of our salvation through Jesus Christ. In a very real sense, each of us must wrestle with God and refuse to let go until we receive the blessing. Although Jacob and David had many personal weaknesses and failures, neither one of them ever stopped trying - they never turned their backs on God and walked away from "Him." And, of even greater interest to us, God never abandoned either one of them. Like the man who wrestled Jacob, God remained with them both until they obtained the blessing. The lesson: Perseverance is rewarded.

Paul told the Philippians to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12) Maybe that is why Christ instructed us to focus on the beams in our own eyes rather than attempting to remove the speck from our bother's eye? (Matt. 7:1-5) Maybe we should all be focused on this important wrestling match in which we are currently engaged - this match that continues through the long night? What do you think?   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!

The story of Adam and Eve has been used by conservative Christians to invalidate homosexual relationships and defend the traditional definition of marriage for many years now. "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" they proclaim with a self-assured grin (as if this simple statement has settled the matter beyond all doubt). In the real world, however, things are rarely as simple and clear as they first appear; and it's usually a good idea to dig a little deeper if we are truly interested in understanding some phenomenon.

First of all, even if we confine ourselves to the subject of human sexuality, any serious student of the Judeo-Christian Bible would have to acknowledge that there is a lot going on in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. And one of the first things we notice is that there are two very distinctive stories about the beginnings of humankind.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that God created all plant and animal life to reproduce after its "kind." Next, we read: "And God said, Let us make man (Hebrew Adam) in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man (Hebrew Adam) in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28, KJV)

Hence, in this initial story of the beginnings of humankind, Adam (man) is both male and female. We are also told that this Adam (male and female) is designed to reflect God's persona. As a consequence, we ask: Doesn't this suggest/imply that both genders derive their traits/characteristics from God? Is this story about a literal person or persons? OR Is this story meant to be representative of the origins of humankind in general?

God goes on to tell Adam (male and female) to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth..." To me, this instruction makes clear that this story was written to describe the origins of humankind. Adam is clearly told to reproduce and fill up the planet with his/their offspring.

Is this instruction general or specific in its application? Does God expect Adam to "replenish the earth" on his/their own? In other words, is it reasonable to conclude that God expected the first man and woman to populate the earth by themselves? Is that what happened? OR Did the population expand gradually over many generations of humankind? Isn't it clearly understood that this scripture refers to the origins of the entire human race and was intended to apply to Adam (humankind) in general? And, if it did only apply to one man and one woman, we must admit that they failed miserably in fulfilling this instruction!

In the second chapter of Genesis, we are given an entirely different account of the origins of humankind. Instead of the man and woman being created simultaneously on the sixth day, we are told that Adam was initially created as one male. We read: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

Next, we are told that God "planted a garden eastward in Eden" and placed the man in the midst of it (verse 8). Later, we are informed that God observed that "it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (verse 18) The Hebrew indicates that God felt that Adam needed an aid or a helper. Toward that end, God brought representatives of all of the different species of animal life to the man and allowed him to name them (verse 19). Then we read: "And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." (verse 20) In other words, none of the animals proved to be a suitable companion/aid/helper for Adam.

As a consequence, we are told that God decided to create a female human. We read: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." (verses 21-22) This apparently solved the problem of providing Adam with a suitable companion/aid/helper as we are told: "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (verses 23-24)

In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated here into English as flesh is indicative of the body. In other words, this woman's bones were derived from his bones, and her body was made from his body. Thus, in later generations, an Adam would leave his parents household and cleave to this companion/helper/aid and become one body again.

Now, once again, we ask: Is this about one man and one woman or humankind in general? Do these scriptures apply to the first man and woman? OR Do they apply to all subsequent generations? Doesn't the language about leaving his parents household make plain that the broader application is more appropriate? And, is this story about the inadequacy of animal companionship in fulfilling human needs? OR Does this story suggest that only female companionship is appropriate for males? And, although it's not explicitly stated, does this story suggest that sexual intercourse between one man and one woman is the only kind of human intimacy that can make one body?

Aren't we all Adam? Don't you and I possess the bones of his/their bones and the body of his/their body? And, if we do, doesn't that imply/suggest that the sexual union of any two people could make one flesh/body?

Finally, do ANY of the verses which make up this second creation story in the second chapter of Genesis say ANYTHING about procreation? In other words, isn't the entire focus of the second story based on suitable human companionship?

The chapter concludes with the statement: " And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (verse 25) Now this verse is also very interesting when we consider the puritanical attitudes of many Christians with regard to nudity and human sexuality. This scripture seems to indicate that the natural state of humankind is to not feel shame/embarrassment about their bodies and how they function!

Hence, it is not unreasonable to conclude that God created Adam, Eve and Steve. While a narrow reading of these scriptures is certainly possible, I think we have demonstrated that a more general interpretation is not only possible but is also more consistent with the context than the narrow one. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

God, Natural Law Theory and Homosexuality

In his challenge to my Bloomington Statement, Mr. Jensen Carlyle has referred over and over again to Natural Law Theory. Hence, in anticipation of some statement by him on the subject, I thought that it would be helpful to him, the readers of this blog and myself to dig a little deeper into the theory. It is hoped that this exercise will offer some clarity on the subject and better articulate my view of its impact on the viability of the Bloomington Statement.

To begin, it is clear to me that Natural Law Theory (NLT) means different things to different people. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) tells us that NLT can refer to either a moral or legal theory. As a moral theory, the IEP article on the subject https://www.iep.utm.edu/natlaw/ states: "the moral standards that govern human behavior are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature of human beings and the nature of the world." The same article goes on to say that, as a legal theory, "the authority of legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part, from considerations having to do with the moral merit of those standards." Now that seems clear enough, doesn't it? Don't get too comfortable with our definitions just yet. The IEP article goes on to inform us that there are many different manifestations of these theories.

For instance, most would probably agree that classical NLT finds its best expression in the writings of the Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas discusses his view that there are four types of law (eternal, natural, human and Divine). He wrote: " Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law...it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law." You can read more at this location: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum229.htm

Now others would point out that Aquinas was not the first to espouse these theories. They would point to antecedents among the Greek philosophers (Aristotle, Plato), which many conservative Christians would say automatically disqualifies the theory (by virtue of its having roots in pagan philosophy).

However, to avoid distraction with another lengthy and complex set of arguments, let us assume for the sake of argument that Aquinas was correct. I have pointed out that it is in the nature of at least some humans to be sexually oriented toward members of their own sex. I have also pointed out that because something occurs with less frequency in nature than some other occurrence, it does not necessarily follow that it is abnormal or unnatural. Earthquakes may not be the norm, but they are certainly part of the nature of the planet on which we live. Finally, I have pointed out that a rationale exists (though Jensen would say it is flawed) for believing that homosexuality does not exclude the possibility of moral behavior. Hence, from my perspective, homosexuality is not incompatible with Aquinas' notion of NLT.

As for some of the other expressions of NLT and their relationship to this subject, I would point to the works of others who find problems inherent in interpreting NLT in a fashion consistent with Jensen Carlyle's previous comments on the subject. For those who are interested in pursuing the subject further, I have provided a number of links for your convenience:
The Morality of Homosexual Conduct: A Response to John Finnis - https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1416&context=ndjlepp