Desmond Ford Taught Me that the Truth Matters

Desmond Ford preaches in Melbourne, Australia late nineties

I met Dr. Desmond Ford, a leading and unusual Adventist theologian from Australia, through the word of mouth and vibrant discussions with friends at Newbold College, England in the late seventies. Those encounters led me to seek, photocopy and read his writings and articles available in the college library. 

Those were the days of my personal and desperate search for a kind and forgiving God, who I knew existed but was unable to grasp emotionally. I reached a point in my young life when a distant God would not do any more. Several articles written by Desmond Ford, published by the Ministry magazine, a leading Adventist magazine for clergy, and Spectrum, the journal of the Association of Adventist Forums, started working a miracle in my heart. They led me to dig diligently into the writings of the Apostle Paul, especially into his letters to the Romans and the Galatians, as well as the Letter to the Hebrews. All of those led me further, to other authors who majored in the questions of grace, complete Atonement in Christ, and justification by faith. 

One of them was Robert Brinsmead and his magazine Present Truth, which later in the seventies became Verdict. Throughout the seventies and in the early eighties Brinsmead was publishing by many welcomed articles on the forensic justification. Robert Brinsmead and Desmond Ford, both Australians, for a while were very much complementing each other in their expositions of the grace of Christ. Then Brinsmead (around 1983) disappeared completely in the waters of deism. Ultimately, he completely dismissed the need for Jesus in his faith.

The other book which made a huge impact on me at that time, as hungry as I was for the grace of Christ, was Roland Bainton’s classic biography on the life of Martin Luther, “Here I Stand”. In the words of the German Reformer I too felt that “I had been born anew and that the gates of heaven had been opened. The whole of Scripture gained a new meaning. And from that point on the phrase, ‘the justice of God’ no longer filled me with hatred, but rather became unspeakable sweet by virtue of a great love.” All of this started as the writings of Desmond Ford on the grace of Christ and the “once-and-for-all” completed Atonement in Jesus were introduced to me, and led me further in my search for peace in Christ.

Then came Desmond Ford’s historical presentation, on October 27, 1979 to the audience of 1000 delivered at the Pacific Union College (PUC) Forum in Angwin, California. Ford challenged the SDA  (Seventh-day Adventist) denomination with a message “The Investigative Judgment: Theological Milestone or Historical Necessity.” In the words of Mark A. Kellner Ford’s milestone presentation “signaled a major break with two of the church’s distinctive beliefs: the ‘investigative judgment’ of every person, living and dead, which Adventists believe God has undertaken since October of 1844, as well as the prophetic timing of the sanctuary cleansing described in Daniel 8:14, which led the pioneers to that 1844 time-frame.”

In other words, Desmond Ford argued that the cherished and distinct Adventist doctrine of the investigative judgment stood affront to the firm Biblical understanding that the Atonement was completed once and for all in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of a sinner, without any contribution required from the saved sinner.  He argued that the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment was an offense to the cross of Christ because it presupposed the necessity for human perfection in order to justify God’s own character. 

Somehow, while Adventists have always believed in justification by faith of a repentant sinner, they have also believed that somehow a true believer needed to justify God’s character and His requirements by attaining complete perfection of one’s own character through perfect and complete commandment keeping. Adventists were taught that such perfection comes by grace too, through one’s continuing obedience to the Law of God, and especially by keeping the fourth commandment. And if such a high objective had never been achieved by anyone else throughout the entire history of human race except Jesus, the last generation of faithful Adventists will have to attain this goal fully in order for Jesus Christ to come again, and for his faithful ones to pass the scrutiny of the Investigative Judgment. Those “heroes of faith” of the last generation would then prove that, with God’s help, men and women of God can too, just like Jesus, keep all the commandments of God perfectly.

Desmond Ford’s message declared both, the Investigative Judgment doctrine and the doctrine of 1844 heretical and offensive to the Gospel of Christ, since both denied the complete atonement achieved in Christ on the cross, and made the eternal salvation of human race dependent on human performance. I still have a copy of the audio cassette with the recording of the Ford’s 1979 milestone presentation. 

The recordings of the presentation went viral and created a spirit of anticipation unseen in the Adventist circles since the birth of denomination. Only another event in the denominational history, the release of the book “Questions on Doctrine” in 1957, which made Adventists more acceptable to the mainstream Evangelicals, created a similar kind of anticipation and angst in the Adventist circles. Some hated it, while others loved it. Within the denomination the church was divided between the scholars, pastors, students of theology, and lay people who downright rejected the presentation of Desmond Ford as heretical and damaging, and others who rejoiced anticipating a long needed and awaited reformation of the denomination that would bring it completely in tune with the Biblical understanding of salvation, rooted in Christ alone, and not in the subjective, always drifting feelings of our sanctification. 

I identified with the latter group. I truly believed that very little of fine-tuning was needed for the SDA Church to become a pride of Protestantism. I wanted to believe that the day of Adventist Reformation was fast approaching through the bold ministry of Desmond Ford and a small band of his friends. Many young Adventists, ministers and scholars expected likewise. I was not the only one. 

But the Adventist Reformation was not meant to take place then, or any time later.

Almost a year later following Desmond Ford’s historic presentation at PUC, Ford appeared at what was promised by the church administration a fair and discerning hearing to evaluate his elaborate document and presentation by which he would explain in detail his position on the doctrine of Investigative Judgment. “The meeting of the Glacier View Sanctuary Review Committee Aug. 10-15, 1980, was the most important event of this nature in Adventist history since the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis,” wrote Raymond F. Cottrell, a prominent Adventist theologian. But what was promised by the church administration to be a fair discussion and evaluation, to which 100 Adventist scholars were invited, turned into a trial with the preplanned outcome.  Denominational administrators outwitted the scholars and turned the proceedings into the final judgment for Desmond Ford. Hurriedly and in a humiliating way Ford’s employment with the Adventist church was terminated, and his ministerial credentials revoked.  Ford could no longer preach nor teach in the SDA churches or educational institutions. In short, “the leadership of the denomination had deliberately misled the entire membership”, and especially the millions of its uninformed lay members. 

Desmond Ford’s wife Gill Ford, a very eloquent Ford’s life companion, explained further the manipulative character of the Glacier View hearing in her recent Facebook post: “Des’s fate was decided before Glacier View. If you go careful through the witness statements, leaders from GC (General Conference) were saying this clearly ahead of time. Glen Parmenter told a group here in Australia a week before Glacier View that his father was going over to fire Des. In 1983 in the meetings you attended, Bob Spangler and Duncan Eva said the same. Parmenter insisted that Des must be dealt with that week.” In short, it seemed that the administration was not interested at all if the merits of Desmond Ford’s findings. They could not or they did not want to see that what Ford was teaching would have brought the Gospel of Christ to stand more prominent in the Adventist Church. Keeping the church unity at the expense of the truth of the Gospel mattered much more.

What followed was a sequence of sad events. From the denominational pulpits Desmond Ford was demonized, patronized and his views caricatured. The weekly Sabbath School lessons, advanced with a sense of renewed urgency the “historic”, traditional and distinctive Adventist beliefs in somewhat refined but still fundamentally unchanged ways. 

It is not true, however, that after the Glacier View trial all who remained in the church were in agreement with the administration of the church. Many Adventists who in their hearts of hearts hoped to see their church reformed in tune with the Gospel were profoundly disappointed and mourned the injustice done to Desmond Ford, but have nevertheless decided to stay in the denomination. Over a number of years of my denominational and pastoral ministry I’ve had numerous opportunities to meet and talk with many who like me were affirmative of Desmond Ford but have nevertheless stayed in the church. 

I remember very well the years of my theology studies at Newbold college, England (1984-1989). We, students of theology and religion, knew among ourselves very well those who aligned themselves with the traditional, fundamentalist, overly distinctive Adventism, and those who majored in the Gospel, grace and salvation without strings attached. When Desmond Ford spoke once or twice at the locations near Newbold College, there was quite a sizable representation of Newbold students attending his presentation, unofficially. Likewise, the post Glacier View audio tapes featuring debates on Sanctuary and Investigative Judgement between Desmond Ford and Smuts van Rooyen in one team, and William Shea and Alex Ortega in the other, were in wide circulation among the Newbold students of theology and religion at the time. 

Desmond Ford explains his views to the students of Newbold College, mid eighties

Later, when I assumed the pastoral work in Croatia and in Australia my sermons resonated with the messages of the Gospel about the finished work of salvation in Jesus, judgment with the gospel in its center, Atonement completed on the cross, justification by faith alone, and objective perfection of Christ. I never preached a sermon advocating the Investigative Judgment doctrine, or affirming the prophetic meaning of 1844. And when I served as pastor in Melbourne, Australia (1995-2000) I aligned myself with those Adventist pastors who were of the “evangelical” mind. We knew each other very well, and affirmed the work of each other. And, when Desmond Ford visited Melbourne on a couple of occasions at that time, some of us, evangelical Adventist pastors would come to his preaching venue to listen and share in the fellowship. Personally, it was his clear affirmation of the Gospel of Jesus that had attracted my attention and respect for Desmond Ford 40 years ago, and has continued to do so for so many years. 

The most tragic and lasting outcome of the denomination’s handling of Desmond Ford almost forty years ago was that it actually managed to create a new generation of Adventists ignorant of the Reformation that was almost achieved but failed through a foul play in 1980. Ask any Adventist younger than 40 today if they knew who Desmond Ford was, and most of them would not know, or would have a very vague, caricatured knowledge of him. 

Even more tragic outcome was that the kind of dishonesty by which the denominational administration treated the Glacier View findings 40 years ago continues to be practiced today. One only has to observe how the General Conference continues to treat unfairly the question of the women’s ordination. Similar kind of dishonesty has been applied also with the content-manipulation of the more recent Sabbath School lessons. The unnamed General Conference editors are taking the liberty to manipulate with the original and already approved texts, without the approval of the authors, even to the extent that their message often becomes the very opposite of what the authors intended to say. All of this is done so that the main teaching tools of the church would fit the ever increasing conservative, fundamentalist agenda of the current denominational leadership, who desires to emphasize again human perfection as the standard for our salvation. In short, the same dishonesty that led the administration of the Adventist church in the early eighties to use the Glacier View against Desmond Ford, seems to be leading the latest errants of the church. 

Meanwhile, in all of those years Desmond Ford remained a gentleman, unfairly disgraced but never bitter, striped of his denominational credentials but always responsive to his God-given calling to teach, preach, write and serve whosoever would listen. Sadly, for the past forty years, his own denomination treated Desmond Ford as “a prophet and reformer without honor.” A true man of God, Desmond Ford lived and died with dignity borne out of his firm trust in the finished, saving work of Christ. His wife Gill wrote a short time ago: “He was a man always in a hurry, driven by a mission to serve God and proclaim Christ. He would urge you to take up the work he has laid down. As many of you know, he would say, Meet you here, there or in the air. He has gone ahead of us. And the world is a far colder place.” 

I am not embarrassed to admit that the teachings of the Gospel, as delivered by Desmond Ford in the late seventies and early eighties, and later significantly shaped my faith, and directed it on Christ alone. What I really loved about Desmond Ford was his greatness manifest through genuine humility, his leadership of integrity despite humiliation and challenges, and his love for the truth of the Gospel of Christ which mattered to him more than his own status or advancement. Ford taught me that the truth matters. 

In the end, one has to say this too: the Adventist denomination did make a visible shift towards a healthier, more balanced understanding of the Gospel of Christ, despite the fact that there have always been forces within that have been and are still trying to bring Adventism back to the more sectarian, almost cultic days of its infancy of almost two hundred years ago. Whatever advancement the church has made towards upholding a more Biblical view of the Gospel, this has taken place because of the major impact Desmond Ford’s work had on the church forty years ago, regardless of whether one gives a credit for this to Ford or not. Even the official Adventist paper “Adventist Review” agrees.  Gerhard Pfandl wrote only a few days ago: “Most Adventist scholars and pastors today have accepted Ford’s definition of righteousness by faith.”  After all, maybe there is a hope that Adventist Reformation is still in coming?

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:23. 

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Recommended:

Ten years ago, The Campus Hill SDA Church, Loma Linda CA, invited Dr. Desmond Ford to preach to its congregation on the theme of Justification by Faith.

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Sermon Highlights: Lessons from the Early Church

Sermon Highlights: Lessons from the Early Church. Tihomir Kukolja preaches at the International Christian Fellowship Church, Belgrade, Serbia, June 2018.

How much does the Christianity today reflect the Christianity of its early days? How much are we like or unalike this movement that was born two thousand years ago? How come Jesus Christ did not create a religious order, something like in the Old Testament days, with 10 or 600 new laws and regulations, orderly structured to govern the movement of his followers? 

Instead Jesus just said: “Follow me!” He said: “Look at me! Look at what I was doing when I was with you. Listen to what I was saying when I was with you, and follow me!” At the end of the second and fourth chapters of the Book of Acts we find descriptions of what this movement looked like at the beginning. 

Firstly, there was a clear awareness among the early believers of the importance of community. The conversion of people was not only an individual matter. Tragically today the Christian church is either too institutionalized, individualized, secularized or ridden by nationalism. I do not believe Jesus had ever intended that His church should look like that. Church is meant to be much more than just a holy place to visit at given times. It is a family of support. It is very hard to be a follower of Jesus in isolation. 

At the very beginning the Church of Christ was not a fancy building to go to. It was there with the believers in their fields, in their homes and houses. I can see them every night, after their daily work was done, going to different homes to share meal, to read the Word of God, to pray, to talk about Jesus, to encourage each other. Those meals they shared had much more profound meaning than the way we eat our meals today. 

Then, their lives were centered in the person of Jesus, and not on some shallow spirituality that was based only on emotions without content. Today, unfortunately there exists a Christian culture that teaches many to believe that they are saved by default, with no need for repentance and clear understanding of sin; where people do not believe that Jesus had to die for our sins. Historical Christianity is in the process of becoming lost. 

I’ve heard pastors and preachers whose sermons sound like a beautiful flower arrangement. Roses, everything is there, even a shakespearean way of crafting the words, but 10 minutes after the sermon was over one couldn’t remember what was said in the sermon any more. This is because everything was there, except Jesus and the challenge of the Gospel.

Finally, the early Church teaches us that suffering for Jesus was not an option. It always comes one way or another. The Bible says that “whoever wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.” 2. Timothy 3:12. Those early believers did not consider suffering as an unfortunate thing. Today we are reaching the point when all areas of apparent safety from persecution for Christ are gradually diminishing. The days are coming soon when your and my faith will be tested; when we will either be or not to be. 

Already the number of people who are hated for the sake of Christ has gone beyond the total number of all persecutions of the previous centuries. The older I am getting the more I understand that I need to stand for my Jesus.

Lessons from the Early Church, ICF, Belgrade




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Beloved and Dangerous Cult

A group of friends are discussing the prospective origin of a beautifully designed chair in the room. It was a solid, antique Victorian wooden armchair, almost royal in appearance covered with red leather upholstery. Although they knew very little about the origins of this chair all of them instantly concluded that it had to be designed and crafted by a skilled craftsman-designer. Having established with ease the basic fact that the object they witnessed in the room was indeed a Victorian chair, they now tried to figure out who could have been its designer, and how did it come to be in that room.

Let’s imagine now that from the outset these friends disagreed about the most obvious fact; that the chair was the result of the creative work of at least one craftsman. Imagine that one or two of them started to argue adamantly that the chair was not a product of the intelligent design, but of a brainless and impersonal set of coincidences, pushed forward without anyone’s assistance, over a period of countless millions of years?  I am sure that the rest of the group would have been seriously concerned about the mental state and sanity of their friends given to an insane fantasy. Who would have in his or her right mind ever suggested that an object wonderfully crafted could have ever come into existence in any other way than by being deliberately and thoughtfully created and modeled by someone who knew what he was doing?

So is the case with everything else that surrounds us: tables, pianos, cars, houses, rockets, the most sophisticated computers, artificial intelligence – they came into existence because someone intelligent enough designed and created them. None of those just happened to be by themselves. One does not need any kind of scientific sophistication to understand that. 

But, wait! As soon as one applies this kind of reasoning to more complex and sophisticated creations – such as the huge universe with its countless celestial systems and bodies, or to our own earth with its ecosystem, including all living organisms and spices, animals and human life, and much more – the ‘educated’ reasoning suddenly changes in favor of those who argue that none of those needed a designer, and that literally everything that exists and supports life came into existence, and continued to develop beyond our wildest imagination, purely by chance, with no outside help. 

In fact, it is this kind of belief that is embraced today as the official science of our civilization, taught in schools, and advocated by the media as a demonstrable fact, and embraced by a growing number of churches and spiritual gurus who have added only a gentle theistic injection into it. It is known as the Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Today, those of us who continue to believe that the spacious universe needed its own designer-creator just as much as the most ordinary chair needs its own creator,  are being scorned, laughed at and humiliated, and called primitive lunatics. 

Why is that so? The answer is very straightforward and scientifically simple. 

The origins of everything and anything can be argued only one of the two ways: either someone big, smart, supper intelligent created the universe and all life, including human life; or no one created anything, suggesting that literally everything must have originated out of nothing, and moved along by the invisible train of mindless coincidences. There exists no third choice, even if one were to introduce the cosmic aliens into the equation. 

Since responding affirmatively to the question of creation and intentional design would lead by necessity to the questions of our accountability to the Creator, the world that does not want to be accountable to anyone, has a-priory chosen to reject any involvement of the Creator God in our origins. Instead, it has wholeheartedly and unquestionably embraced an ear-tickling theory of blind chance.

The theory of evolution is not a science. It is a story of a mafia stealing an airplane and changing its manufacturing and ownership documents, and selling it as a new product to unsuspected customer. It is a story of a spoiled child stealing a toy from another child and claiming it as his own property. It is a story of counterfeiting, ideological manipulations, and crippled truths. It is a fiction that has got only a few minor elements of its theory right. But even those are not capable of proving the factuality of the weakest links of the theory – those about spontaneous transitions from one living kind to another. The very much needed fossil record of the multitudes of transitional spices, which should be scattered everywhere in plain sight for everyone to see if the theory was right, does not exist. 

Science is a big word today, most often used for misleading purposes. Science that is genuine does exist indeed. It is empirically observable and demonstrable. Its results are easily proven and repeated. The same scientific principles that operate in the most sophisticated laboratories of the world are observable in the kitchen of anyone’s favorite restaurant. When you order your favorite meal, you know what the outcome of your order would look like because the restaurant cook would work on your meal by scientifically mixing together all required ingredients in the ways that would with certainty create your delicious dish. 

But then there exists a wistful thinking, ideologically dangerous ‘science’ with properties of a cult, known as the theory of evolution. It is driven by atheism that has predetermined in advance that it did not need God. It is a morally corrupt theory lacking all the ingredients needed to qualify as science. It cannot be demonstrated, observed, subjected to repeated examination. It is a smokescreen ideology advanced by the superstitious civilization, desperate to do away with any sense of accountability to God, and in its place a superman eager to master a new age of “guided evolution”. It is a hallmark of the age of fake facts and dangerous ambitions persued by the high priests of human self-worship, dreaming of completing the unfinished Tower of Babel. 

OS Guinness, a well-known author and social critic is more than hinting at the moral decadence of this kind of science in his book “Impossible People, Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization” as he writes: “Belief in God as Creator has been replaced by confidence in Man as Creator. ‘We can now engineer the human race,’ the MIT Technology Review tells us modestly. We can be certain that ‘if it can be done, it will be done’. Our scientist-kings and our brave new age of biotechnology (and then astrotechnology: the engineering of space) are the latest in giant steps that will take this Babel drive to a new level. At the spiritual level it carries with it the greatest boost to the pretensions of human autonomy and idolatry since Babel and takes it far beyond such disastrous stumbles as the fiasco of Stalin’s ‘new man’ and Hitler’s ‘new race’. It will also resurrect the specter of new and refined forms of eugenics that could make the appalling Nazi experiments and China’s horrendous gendercide policy look primitive.”

All of this comes under the inspiration of a dangerous vision of “guided evolution”. There where God is considered dead, humanity created in God’s image is being killed too, and replaced by the civilization of beasts. In other words, if the preachers of ‘science’ built out of smoke succeed in convincing us that we have come so far riding a train of countless coincidences, without the need for the engine or the driver, then what is there to stop some bold souls of this “brave new world” to give the theory of the survival of the fittest a sinister helping hand? For the generation that is increasingly short of any sense of accountability towards the Creator, will be even less accountable to its fellow human family. 

It remains, at the end, that advancing the theory of spontaneous evolution through natural selection is like advancing a cult. It is the ambitiously dishonest, immoral and idolatrous theory. It is a cry of defiance of a foolish and rebellious civilization, blindfolded by choice, with its angry fist raised high against God, and shouting: “We don’t need you God. We will continue to create the gods in our own image, to lead us.” 

Indeed, the words of the wise man ought not to escape us at this time: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” Psalm 14:1.

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Video Feature: Where are They Now?

Three years ago the Renewing Our Minds volunteers witnessed the incoming waves of refugees entering Europe via the Balkan route, and crossing Serbia and Croatia.

We were only a small part of a much bigger effort that engaged churches, faith based organization, non-profits and individuals who dedicated days, weeks and months, and some of them years to diligent and passionate service to refugees, in order to make the lives of the refugees moving along the Balkan route more bearable. We were inspired by the words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for the list of these you did for me!” Matthew 25:40.

With the featured video we are going back in time intent at not letting this precious experience vanish. Even more importantly, three years later we want to ask a question that not many dare ask nowadays: “Where are they now? Are they still wondering from one country to another, unwelcome, shifted and tossed around? Are they alive? Are their families together? Are their children safe?” 

Listen to the genuine reports made at borders, in cornfields and refugee camps by those who volunteered on the refugee trail in Serbia and Croatia three years ago. This is a must-watch video feature. Share it with your friends. 

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Offensive Simplicity of the Gospel

Crossroads Bible Study Class, MDPC, Houston, Sunday, December 9, 2018. A supplement to the bible study.

Jesus is in the business of saving people. Paul says: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9.),and adds: “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:38.39.).Could it be that simple? But rather than being a source of great joy, radical simplicity of the Gospel offends most people. The saving prescription is so simple that even a child will embrace it, and an elderly person whose mental faculties are already weak will find in it his or her ultimate comfort. It states: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13.)

My late father even on his death bed, whenever asked to pray, would pray the most beautiful prayer of assurance, reliance and dependence on Christ. This radically simple, almost childish truth, which he cherished in his heart and mind by faith for many years, proved to be the most important statement of his life even when the memories of everyone and everything else faded away. 

Although the beauty of God’s revelation in Christ remains profoundly deep and beyond our rational grasp, at the same time it remains so radically simple that no excuse will do on the day of reckoning, when Jesus asks, “What have you done with me?” 

It is this radical simplicity of the Gospel that says, “Trust in Jesus, and you will be saved,” that is so offensive to so many human hearts who desperately, deceitfully and foolishly want to believe that they are somehow in charge of their lives. It is due to the arrogant rejection of this profound simplicity of God’s gift in Jesus that the unsaved will have to blame no one else but themselves on the judgment day, because by their rejection of Christ they will say: “Sorry Jesus, you were not good enough for me!”

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I especially like this part of the same Bible study. This is only a 4.30 minute highlight of the 40 minute long Bible study on the Paul’s Letter to Romans, chapters 9 and 10, which I had a privilage to delivere, at the Crossroads Bible Study Class at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, Sunday, Dec 9, 2018. 


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The Whole Creation Is Groaning

“The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth up to the present time…” Romans 8:22-24

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” Revelation 21:5.1.

Human beings and their most immediate living environment are not the only ones in the state of groaning in the anticipation of redemption reaching its climax. The entire universe, including its most distant parts, are groaning just as much. 

The moment Adam and Eve made a fatal decision to distrust God something drastically altering happened to the design and the inner workings of the entire creation, entire world, entire universe. Sin, death and decay shook the universe, and altered its character just as dearly as they impacted our human character. So, when we are today wistfully looking at the distant stars and planets, hoping that one day our human salvation will come from one of those alienated places, we are forgetting that we are seeking to find our rescue in the realms of sin and decay no different than our own. 

Since the day of the Fall we have been living quarantined within the boundaries of drastically altered universe. With the help of our physical and mental faculties alone we are capable of perceiving the truth of God’s creation only as far as the affected alternations would allow. Thus, when we try to look within ourselves, or as far as the most powerful electronic telescopes would guide us, we always see caricatured and misleading shadows and shapes of the originally intended design. We see only what the flickering lights are projecting on the walls of the Plato’s cave. The transgression of the first couple (Adam and Eve) has infected us all profoundly. Everything integrated into the realms of God’s creation shares in the painful consequences of rebellion, sin, death and decay.

When God closed the gates of the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:23), that meant much more than only an inconvenient separation from the conveniences of a beautiful and comfortable home. It meant that they were locked out of, and veiled from enjoying the wholeness and the wellness of God’s creation, and thus from the proper understanding of how it operates. We, human beings, together with our earthly world, and the entire universe with its most beautiful galaxies have been ever since on lockdown.

This simply means that we who used to live in the golden age of a three-dimensional world (or more),  metaphorically speaking, have been demoted to living in the flatness of a two-dimensional shadow. The bottom line is this: the entire universe contained within its space and time limitations has got the expiration date, the same way as our human death marks the expiration date of our human lives. There is no evolution available to save us through the mechanism of endless improvements leading towards perfection. All the fascination with grabbing the evolution fantasy and turning it into our own savior through genetic manipulations, or merging with artificial intelligence advancements are a big delusion that by each new step of preceived advancement only further reveal how crippled we are.

No wonder Paul talks about the whole nature (people, animals, whole natural world, universe) “groaning as in the pains of childbirth up to the present time.” Romans 8:22-24. In other words, in its own way the entire universe moans, groans and cries: “How long, Lord? How long?”

But the good news is here: “In Christ, and only in Christ (the second Adam) the veil is taken away.” 2. Cor. 3:16. Because God decided to reveal Himself in a radical way through Jesus we are not going to stay forever in the Plato’s cave of flickering lights, spiritually and empirically blind, and with only a shadowy and sketchy access to the ever-evading truth, always delusional and always substituting a shadow for the truth. 

The promise is ours. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” Revelation 21:5.1.

Until then we will continue to see the reality of God’s creation only “through a glass, darkly.” 1. Corinthians 13:12.

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A Metaphor for the Hijacked Church

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The newly elected Brazilian president Jair Messias Bolsonaro promised: “God above everything. There is no such thing as this secular state. The state is Christian and the minority will have to change, if they can. The minorities will have to adapt to the position of the majority.”

The statement of the far-right Brazilian president sounds sweet to the ears of Christian supremacists and dominionists in the US, who are rejoicing in what they see as the important international fruit of the leadership of the American president Donald Trump. In their view America and Brazil are being conquered for Christ. Like the recently resigned Attorney General Jeff Sessions they would like to see the separation of church and state dismantled first; this archaic obstacle in their path to the ushering in of the Kingdom of God in the US, Brazil, and elsewhere soon. So, the emerging of the Brazilian president, barely elected and already declaring that the non-Christians of Brazil will have to submit to the rule of Christians, comes as a glad tiding to the ears of American Christian supremacists.

In their view Jair Bolsonaro is a God’s choice, divinely appointed and anointed at this time to lead Brazil the same way the current US President was “divinely” elected two years ago. This should not come as surprise when one considers that Brazilian “evangelical leaders have used their pulpits, church rolls and massive media outlets to unabashedly push Mr Bolsonaro’s upstartcandidacy,” despite the fact that president’s pre-presidential record has for years been anything by godly. The same man was reported as having said that Afro-Brazilians are “lazy and fat”, in the same breath calling refugees from Haiti, Africa, and the Middle East as the “scum of humanity”. About the use of torture, the love of all dictators, he said: “The dictatorship’s mistake was to torture but not kill.” He was also reported saying about a fellow female Brazilian politician: “I would never rape you because you don’t deserve it”.

Sounds familiar?

Should anyone think that the religious radicalism of the newly elected Brazilian president is just a coincidence with no serious consequences, consider that in the US, which still holds the banner as the world’s leader in the advancement of religious freedom, a far-right Washington Republican winner of the reelection bid  Matt Shea, apparently holds and promotes even more radical views for which he is investigated by FBI at this time. He believes that in “Christian America” all ‘unbelievers’ will eventually have to yield to armed Christians. Matt Shea recently constructed “Biblical Base for War”,  a four page “Bible study” document intended to guide ‘the church militant” in how and whom to kill in the “holy war”, led by a “holy leader” and executed by “born again” warriors, under the direct guidance of the “warrior God”.

Apparently Matt’s ‘holy war’ outline explains “how to establish Christian law through armed struggle, calls for the end of same-sex marriage, abortion, and the death of all non-Christian males in the US if religious law is not upheld”. The document is actually an elaboration of the Old Testament theocratic rules for war applied in the days of Moses. They look very much like what a jihadist rule book might look like that describes how to treat ‘the infidels’ who would not “yield” to their particular interpretation of Islam.

Matt Shea is a Christian Dominionist. He is a part of a small but vocal branch of Evangelical supremacists who believe that Jesus gave Christians the authority to rule over the world in his name, in the most literal sense, with guns and full assistance of the law. He and many other Evangelicals believe that their day has come to “reclaim America for God”, by all means necessary. Over the past two years we have been witnessing the increase of people from the religious fringes coming out of their ideological closets of political insignificance, united in the belief that the current US President is God’s gift to them to finally bring about “the reign of God” in America.

Their intentions are not a secret. They are using Google, Facebook, YouTube and many other social media platforms generously to promote their radical worldviews. You will see them featured in videos, praying for God’s favor, with their guns and Bibles proudly in their hands. Their self-styled prophets are mass-producing “the word of the Lord” in support of President Trump as their champion, while their heavenly dreams and revelations are warning their audiences of former President Barack Obama’s plot to return, this time as the Antichrist, and declaring the judgments of God upon America for all “the sins of Democrats”. They appear convinced that their fight is for Christ, His kingdom, and the rebirth of America as an undiluted Christian nation. And when that day comes, their versions of “Christian nation” will not tolerate homosexuals, Muslims, communists, immigrants, and – rest assured – Christians who do not fit their ideological paradigm.

It would not be fair to present Donald Trump as a Christian Dominionist. Certainly not yet. Neither are most Evangelicals there yet. But all kinds of Christian supremacists and reconstructionistslove love to be around the president, serve in some capacity close to him, be his spiritual advisers, take photographs with him as they lay their hands on him while prophesying over and about him. They all believe that Trump is their man, God’s anointed, the Cyrus of our days who will make the work of their radical evangelism flourish.

And Donald Trump loves them too.

Earlier this year I wroteabout a somewhat unsettling gathering of prophetic minds called “The Turnaround: An Appeal to Heaven National Gathering”, that took place, with the blessing of the President, in the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC last March. Over one thousand Dominionists in attendance prayed in earnest for the “unleashing [of] angel armies against Trump’s enemies.” The organizers claimed claimed that the gathering will launch a worldwide spiritual revival, and spiritual breakthrough at home. All who dare stand in opposition to the current president were portrayed as “the Antichrist forces”. They declared that “now that the church woke up” it needed to “move from pleading with God to ruling with him and Trump”. They decreed also that God is now “authorizing the church to destroy all God’s enemies and all the enemies of America, in the name of Jesus Christ”.

Dutch Sheet, the self-proclaimed prophet and driving force behind the event, “decreed” that Donald Trump “will accomplish everything Almighty God sent him into that House to do, regardless of who likes it or who doesn’t”. He prayed defiantly against everyone who dared oppose the president: “You will fail! The (Church) will take you out. The outpouring of Holy spirit will take you out. Angels will take you out. You are no match for any of the above. You are no match for his prophetic decrees. So, we push you back. Your finest hour has come and gone. And the church now raises to the place that he has called us to walk in. We now rise up and I call that new order into the earth.”

When one considers the threatening arrogance and raw boldness of such ‘prophetic’ utterances, it does not take much to imagine what groups of fanatics, biblically illiterate militants eager to “do the bidding of the Lord” could be capable of doing “in the name of the Lord”, provided the circumstances are favorable. Imagine what the rallies of “God’s warriors”, caught up in a holy frenzy, could literally do to former president Barack Obama, if only “the affirming word of the Lord” comes to some of them? Imagine, under such circumstances, what an ugly scene it would be if former Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were to be delivered into the hands of a mesmerized crowd of ‘holy warriors’ yelling “Lock her up! Lock he up!”?“People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction”, wrote Italian novelist Umberto Eco.

Freedom of religion has become a fashionable promise under the current US leadership. However, the best safeguard against finding ourselves one day ruled by any form of Christian dictatorship, fascism or tyranny is to guard jealously a state of clear separation between church and state, whether we speak of the US, Brazil, or the countries of secular European Union that are increasingly becoming vocal about the need to protect their millennial Christian heritage; and there are more of those in Europe today than Hungary, Italy and Poland only. Tragically human history has amply demonstrated that when Christianity and earthly power blend into a single entity instead of staying apart, a beautiful promise always turns into a beast that devours not only non-Christians but Christians who are not of the desired brand too.

Are we heading that way?

Only a few days prior to the midterm elections I was driving along a major Houston highway when I saw a domineering billboard (two weeks later it is still there) displaying the image the American President, posing seemingly as an emerging American evangelist, overlaid with the Biblical quote “The Word Became Flesh”, and undersigned with “Make the Gospel Great Again”.  It is dubious who is behind this highly visible and costly piece of advertising displayed along important highways in at least several US cities, although Facebook  hosted a group that claimed to be responsible for its placement. The group that is calling itself MGGA, or “Make the Gospel Great Again” explained on their Facebook page (the Facebook page has been taken down a few days ago): “God does send his messengers to us, and just as King David liberated the faithful in his day, President Trump is doing this today through his protection of the unborn, defense of our land against foreign invaders and standing up for Israel. Compared to the disaster of a president we had in Obama, how is this not the “word become flesh” for Americans”?

Was someone joking, intending to insult, having a good laugh in the pre-midterm election days of hyphened anxiety, or trying to evangelize America in a highly provocative way? Or, could it be that the whole visual and verbal billboard design penetrates much deeper into the hidden parts of the soul of average white American Evangelicals who, unlike Jesus, are not willing to resist the addictive temptation to get hold of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” if only they bowed down to the Deceiver? Whatever the case the billboard left me with a feeling of disgust, because its display has become a metaphor for the hijacked Christianity in the US, in which many white, right-wing American Christians are in so many ways placing a divisive, deceitful, vane, narcissistic, self-serving, discernment-lacking and hate-filled Donald Trump on par with the loving, serving, truthful and saving mission of Jesus Christ.

In other words, the billboard depicting a preaching Donald Trump as “the word becoming flesh” is a painful reminder that over the past two years the outlook of American Christianity has become morally degenerated.  The outcome of the 2018 midterm elections has demonstrated that deliberate cognitive dissonance still governs the minds and hearts of the 80% of white American Evangelicals, whose zealotry made the election of Donald Trump possible two years ago. It seems obvious now that no repentance or sobering-up has ever taken place in their hearts and minds. Instead they are continuing quite comfortably to sell the historical Christianity, and the Gospel of Christ for a bowl of plausible and fictional national greatness.

And what does the bowl of American national exclusivism, that tastes sweeter than the Gospel of Christ, consist of?

Historian John Fea describes it well in his sobering and recently published book “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”: “Trump promised to place a conservative on the Supreme Court, to build a wall along the southern border, to protect white America from all the ‘rapists’ who were illegally streaming across the border; to round up undocumented immigrants and kick them out of the country – even if it meant dividing families; (to) prevent Muslims from entering the United States; to bring an end to the Affordable Care Act; to defend ‘religious freedom’ by repealing the part of  the IRS code that prevents churches from endorsing political candidates; (and) to move the location of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem;” – all of which would only boost white nationalism, racism, pride, control, injustice, militancy and wrong theology; none of which would ever advance Christlike empathy and compassion for the poor, homeless and immigrants. Meanwhile the love for human life in its holistic entirety (and not only from the conception to birth) has been completely forgotten.

So, when ahead of the midterm elections Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, urged Christians to “vote for the candidates who most closely align with the Biblical values”, one should have had every reason to ask what candidates and principles did Mr. Graham have in mind, considering that his entire faith-based and political constituency continues to prefer loyalty to Trump’s promises of the new American supremacy, to the clear counsel of the Lord that “whatever we do to the least of those – immigrants, refugees, homeless, beggars, the poor, and the racially, ethnically, religiously ostracized – we do it for the Lord!”

What kind of Biblical principles are the 80% of white Evangelicals really adhering to if by their choice and continuing support they have become an accomplice in the creation and sustenance of the national and international nightmare? What kind of leader are we recommending our fellow Christians too when, according to the words of Michael Gerson, The Washington Post columnist and former top aide to George W. Bush, Trump’s “unapologetic materialism, his tribalism and hatred for ‘the other’, his strength-worship and contempt for ‘losers’, smacks more of Nietzsche than of Christ”? Moreover, what principles of Jesus are we talking about when the white Evangelicals, with their willing submission to Trump, are holding the rest of Christendom hostage?

Finally, lest we missed the main point, the Trump evangelism billboard implies that Donald Trump has become just as sacrificial, effective and living “Word of God” in his work of “making America great again”, as Jesus Christ was effective in the work of salvation of the world from our sins. Apparently, God sent both of them for our salvation: one for our spiritual salvation, while the other for our national salvation. In this way this billboard broadcasts a blasphemous message that confuses the kingdom of God with the kingdom of the United States of America.

We are living in the days of humiliating transition for the Christian church. To quote again the words of a well-known columnist Michael Gerson, followers of Jesus, like myself, are finding it “difficult to see something (we) so deeply value discredited so comprehensively.”  80% of white Evangelicals in the US have kidnaped Christianity, stripped it of its clothes, and given it the character that is offensive to the character of Jesus. Many have gullibly fallen for a deepening deception that the Kingdom of God looks like a wistful “kingdom” of America. Together with Christian dominionists, nationalists, supremacists, racists, lovers of the prosperity gospel or “health and wealth gospel,”  and the leftovers of Christian Right  – they all see it as the golden opportunity to “reign” with Trump in the re-emerging American Christian nation.

Gregory A. Boyd, a Christian writer with a clear grasp of the Gospel, warned us in his book “The Myth of a Christian Nation”: “A Kingdom of God citizen could (and should) argue that the Christian version of the kingdom of the world was actually the worst version the world has ever seen. For this was the version of the kingdom of the world that did the most harm to the Kingdom of God. Not only did it torture and kill, as versions of the kingdom of the world frequently do – it did this under the banner of Christ”. He wrote, ”If violence and oppression are demonic, violence and oppression ‘in the name of Jesus’ is far more so. The church of Christendom thereby brought disrepute to the name of Christ, associating his kingdom with the atrocities it carried out for centuries. Hence, in the name of winning the world for Jesus Christ, the church often became the main obstacle to believing in Jesus Christ.”

Someone warned and it has been repeated millions of times: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  How much have we learned? Have we learned anything at all?

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PS: Nov 14, 2018: A few thoughts from the John Fea’s book “Believe Me” would strengthen the argument of this article that flirting between the President and militant elements of the Evangelical America is a much more serious issue that what we would often like to admit: “Trump was appealing to a different kind of evangelical voter. His business success and wealth made him attractive to those Christians sympathetic to the gospel of prosperity, or the ‘health and wealth gospel’ movement. Some of the powerful leaders of the Independent Network Charismatic (INC) Movement, an oft-overlooked segment of American evangelicalism, prophesied a Trump victory. In September 2015, when Trump met with nearly three dozen evangelical leaders at Trump Tower, the room was filled with Pentecostal, prosperity gospel, and INC leaders, such as Gloria and Kenneth Copeland, Jan Crouch, Paula White, and Mark Burns. By January 2016, Trump had also secured endorsements from Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.” 

PS: November 15, 2018: Another few eye-opening thoughts from the book “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump by John Fea that complement the subject of this article, which I came across after the completion of my article. This time they are about Ted Cruz: “Ted Cruz’s grassroots campaign among evangelicals led to his eventual victory in the Iowa caucuses. Endorsements rolled in from James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family ministries and one of the architects of the Christian Right’s ‘family values’ campaign, and Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council. Ted Cruz turned fear-mongering into an art form. The Cruz campaign mirrored the old days of the Moral Majority. Anyone who attended one of Cruz’s rallies or watched him on television came away from the experience with a sense that he and his followers were on God’s side and that everyone else was working with the forces of evil to destroy America. Cruz talked about the need to ‘reclaim’ or ‘restore’ America. His father, traveling evangelist Rafael Cruz described his son’s campaign for a Senate seat as a direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The elder Cruz  told the congregation that God would anoint Christian ‘kings’ to preside over an ‘end-time transfer of wealth’ from the wicked to the righteous. This ‘end-time transfer of wealth’ would relieve Christians of all financial woes, allowing true believers to ascend to a position of political and cultural power so that they could build a Christian civilization. When this Christian nation would be set in place (or back in place), Jesus would return. 

There is nothing wrong with this Bible, and yet there is much that is wrong with its visual presentation and the reason for its release. What do you think is inappropriate with the message its cover design gives?
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Aren’t We in a Coma Already?

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Timothy Snyder reminds us in his book “On Tyranny” (book I would highly recommend): 

“Until recently, we Americans had convinced ourselves that there was nothing in the future but more of the same. The seemingly distant traumas of fascism, Nazism, and communism seemed to be receding into irrelevance. We allowed ourselves to accept the politics of inevitability, the sense that history could move in only one direction: toward liberal democracy”. 

He continues to write: “In doing so, we lowered our defenses, constrained our imagination, and opened the way for precisely the kinds of regimes we told ourselves could never return. This is what is called a teleology: a narration of time that leads toward a certain, usually desirable, goal. (But) the politics of inevitability is a self-induced coma.” 

I would dare add a thought here too: 

The best illustration to date that we are being comatose(d) more and more into tyranny is what happened yesterday at the White House press conference. This press conference was fitting a dictator, autocrat, despot, and certainly not a leader of the free world.

A well known accredited journalist was stripped of his credentials by the president for doing his work because the president did not like his questions. He called a black journalist a racist because he did not like her questions. At the same time the president was ranting and fussing without anyone daring to try to wrestle the microphone out of his hands.

And by the way, “When did all the people who think that grabbing women by the ‘pussy’ in private is acceptable decide that touching a woman’s arm in public is appalling” – asked today James O’Brian the LBC talk radio presenter in London, England?

The fact that the White House blatantly lied into our faces, and released a doctored video to try to cover up the fact that they lied about a reporter assaulting an aid (we can all easily find the original recordings to see the truth) is already Orwellian enough, pointing towards the increasingly authoritarian style of leadership of the current president. The most alarming thing though is that all of this is becoming a new normal, acceptable norm of leadership. 

Aren’t we in a coma already if we are continuing to believe that we are still living in the days called “the business as usual”? Aren’t we naive enough if we believe that tomorrow will be a better day somehow, of itself? Aren’t we (deliberately) blind if we do not see the nightmare deepening? 

Of course that God is in control. He was in the days of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin too. But let us not patronize God by reconciling with what no sane person could or should ever reconcile with, while the instruments of democracy are still available.

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Devouring Midterm Elections

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This is what I blogged eight years ago, on November 2, 2010 exactly:

What to say about all the fuss, negative political campaign, demonizing and dehumanization of political opponents through offensive political advertising on TV, and of all religious euphoria pursued by too many militant Christians who believe that the 2010 midterm elections are a God given opportunity to “reclaim America for God”? What to say as an outsider who has lived in the US long enough to see what is going on, but enjoys still a luxury of not getting passionately engaged in all the hustle?

Foremost, I want to look at those questions as a follower of Jesus who believes that Jesus of Nazareth was not joking when he called us to love our neighbors and enemies as we love ourselves; and as someone who continues to believe that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). Most of Americans still claim that they are Christians, living in a country built upon the Judeo-Christian values, and praying that God would  at this time replace the “ungodly” leaders with the those who are pro-life, who will display Ten Commandments in the courtrooms again; and who are against the current government healthcare reform. 

Sadly, some of those issues might seem godly, but I’ve seen nothing godly in the ways the current midterm campaign has been pursued across the American nation.

Let me give you an example of a Christian radio station broadcasting for the Houston area. This is a radio station that is at one moment able to deliver a wonderful sermon, church service, a feature on how to love our neighbors, or how to receive Jesus as “our personal Savior”; or talk passionately about the need to love our neighbors, the poor and needy (especially those in distant countries and missions); while at the very next moment it produces a negative and character defaming, completely disrespectful advertising against the current US President in order to advance a certain political candidate.  It also features a daily talk-show produced by a “born again” producer who brags that the purpose of his life and radio program are to “bring one soul to Jesus at the time” while, at the same time, he passionately demonizes anyone in the political arena he does not approve of – believing that by doing both he advances the Kingdom of God.

What concerns me more than the prospective outcome of the midterm elections today is the jihadist wrath of so many Christian zealots who are in their angry hearts and minds removed only one degree of separation from their religiously fanatical counterparts in some other parts of the world.  Often I feel that they would fight for the Lord with fists, clubs and worse, given a chance.

At this moment I do not know who will win the midterm elections. The next day or so will unveil the outcome. But I strongly suspect that it won’t be God. The devouring nature of the current campaign reflects more of the character of someone described in the Bible as “going around seeking who to devour”. (1. Peter 5:8.)

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The van belonging to Cesar Sayoc unmistakably reveals the source of his inspiration.

Observation, Friday, October 26, 2018: What happened this week did not take place in a vacuum. It was not the work of a “loner” acting without the inspiration created by a favorable context. It was the work of a sick mind indeed, but the mind that has been nourished for the past two years with conspiracy garbage and the bullying rhetorics …… In fact the climate that is today producing fanatics such as Cesar Sayoc has been in making since 2008. It was already alive and well  in 2010 when I wrote this reflection. What is even more scary is that today there are too many Cesars roaming around, agitated enough to desire “martyrdom” for a twisted cause. 

Observation, Saturday, October 27, 2018: What happened today belongs to the same narrative. They differ only slightly in the degree of madness.

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Reflections, Romans: Jesus Without Strings Attached

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Wherever a Christian culture exists that encourages its followers to believe and act as if their salvation, or sense of God’s approval depended on our human works (whether they are the works of the Law, or our own rules, or the rules dictated by church); or the works of our own subjective feelings – all of them are demonstrating that we are not sure if trusting in Jesus alone is enough to keep us in the saving relationship with God. Thus, the grace of Christ, as the supreme and all-sufficient agent of our salvation is compromised, diluted, even lost.

Today many are praying for unity, quoting the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one”. Unfortunately, they are forgetting that the only legitimate call to unity shared between the followers of Jesus is the one where Jesus is firmly occupying the throne, and deciding the rules of the game. “That all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You”’ prayed Jesus. John 17:21.

Jesus never prayed for unity at all costs. Unity that does not have Jesus-plus-nothing in the center is a hijacked unity. Cosmetic or politically driven unifications are not based on the truth but on the compromises that always sacrifice the Gospel. There where Jesus Christ is not on the throne, some other christ will be enthroned. This is why the warning of Paul the Apostle sounds so urgent and uncompromising: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned”. Galatians 2:8.

As long as we are adding anything to Jesus, whatever that may be, to which we are crediting even partial redemptive attributes, we have not grasped the heart, meaning and continuing urgency of the Reformation.

The 16th century Reformers understood that the heart of the Gospel was the gift of grace in Jesus Christ without human strings attached. This was the landmark which they did not dare compromise or subject to improvisation. Neither should we.

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