Archive for the ‘religion’ Tag

Forced Compliance in the Medieval Era   Leave a comment

This series is based on my research for Daermad Cycle, a Celtic-inspired fantasy series. Although I did not choose to have the Roman Catholic Church exist in Celdrya, I used the history of the Church as a mirror for other creations of my own.


Image result for image of persecution of catholic hereticsThe Roman Catholic Church set of dogma of fundamental beliefs and principles that distinguished it the Greek and Roman views that had preceded it, and which were to have importance in the future in terms of their economic impact.

First, Christianity proclaimed that all men are the creatures of God, and equal in His eyes. Any inequalities recognized as existing between men should be seen as only the “natural” inequalities that one finds between brothers.

Second, the Church condemned slavery. For one man to hold another in bondage was to make some men gods over others, which was counter to the Christian doctrine that there is only one Lord and Master over all men, and He resides in Heaven. That the Church notoriously acquiesced to or actively condoned slavery at various times did not change the fact that the underlying principle against slavery worked as an acid eating away as the expedient rationales or justifications used in its defense.

Third, the Church declared that work and labor has dignity, and is not the mark of an inferior or a slave. With the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, work was declared to be man’s curse for having disobeyed God’s laws, but honest labor was also an avenue for man’s salvation for the glory of God.

Fourth, charity and alms-giving were among the cardinal virtues of the Roman Catholic Church. But charity and alms-giving were proscribed among the good works that men could do in God’s name, with two limitations. Only the “truly and deserving needy” should be recipients of such gifts, and the giving should be in proportion to the giver’s ability to perform “good works”.

Despite these positive principles, the carnality of Church leaders and the authoritarianism with they insisted upon obedience would eventually create vast separation between the Church and the people they insisted upon controlling.

Posted November 7, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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All-Encompassing Authority   Leave a comment

This series is based on my research for Daermad Cycle, a Celtic-inspired fantasy series.

You can’t really argue that the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church did not act upon their own earthly ambitions for wealth, power, and political control. They even declared and participated in wars of conquest with the Church’s own armies under the command of the Pope. Consider the use of power by the Church during the Papal reign of Innocent III (1198-1216):

“Innocent forced the whole temporal power of Europe under his will. He not only interfered in all dynastic affairs, he even arranged the marriages of the temporal rulers and compelled them to obtain a divorce in case the union did not suit him …

“Innocent thought of himself as pope and Caesar in one person and saw in the temporal rulers only vassals of his power, tributary to him … By the establishment of oral confession and the organization of mendicant monks, Innocent created for himself a power of tremendous scope. Furthermore, he made free use of his strongest weapon, the ban of the church, which with unyielding resolution he imposed upon whole countries in order to make the temporal rulers submissive to him.

“In a land hit by the ban all churches remained closed. No bells called the faithful to prayer. There were neither baptisms nor weddings, no confessions were received, no dying were given extreme unction and no dead buried in sanctified ground. One can imagine the terrible effects of such a status on the spirit of men at a time when faith was regarded as supreme.

“Just as Innocent tolerated no equal power, he likewise permitted no doctrine which departed in the least from the usage of the church, even through entire imbued with the spirit of true Christianity … The dominant ambitious spirit of this fearful man balked at no means to guard the unlimited authority of the church.” Rudolf Rocker, Nationalism and Culture (1947)

The unbending tyranny of this theological authoritarianism expected obedience from everyone. Even Innocent III himself became enveloped in this all-encompassing power, saying “I have no leisure to pursue other worldly things; I can scarcely find time to breathe. Truly, so completely must I live for others that I have become a stranger to myself.”

Image result for image of persecution of catholic hereticsThe Church’s position made it unique in another way, because its domain was neither a single country nor region. By the 7th century, its offices and representatives were located in every part of the European continent in which Christianity had triumphed.

The Church’s representatives shared a common value system – Christian church doctrine. They all spoke through the common language of Latin to share religious, philosophical, and administrative discourse. The Church’s outlook, in other words, was international. This cosmopolitan quality to the Church carried consequences:

All those monks and friars spoke the same unclassical Latin; they heard the same Mass wherever they went; they were formed by an education that was the same in all countries; they professed the same system of fundamental beliefs; and they all acknowledged the supreme authority of the Pope, which was essentially international: their country was Christendom, and their state was the Church.

National divisions did not mean to them [the Church’s representatives] what they came to mean in the sixteenth century [with the rise of the modern nation-state]; nothing in the whole range of Dante’s political ideas is so striking as is the complete absence of the nationalist angle.

The result was the emergence of an essentially international civilization and an international republic of scholars that was no phrase but a living reality. St. Thomas was an Italian and John Duns Soctus was a Scotsman, but both taught in Paris and Cologne without encountering any of the difficulties that they would have encountered in the age of airplanes.” Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (1954)

The Edict of 1041 (The Truce of God) emphasizes the significance of the Church’s authority in temporal affairs. The wars between the nobilities and the kings and princes had become so fierce and disruptive of social and economic life that the Church declared Thursday through Sunday as days of devotion and prayer, during which battles and bloodshed were declared sins against the Church. As a consequence, war diminished for a period of time and ceased through large parts of Europe. The cost of maintaining, paying, feeding, and housing sizable armies of mercenaries who could fight only three days a week – Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – was often too great a financial burden for the lords, noblemen, and princes who employed these professional soldiers.

While this partly succeeded in reducing or stopping fighting among many of the Medieval knights and their soldiers, the “sinfulness” only applied to violence between Christians. The prohibition did not restrict violence against non-Christians, so aggression against Jews, Muslims and “heretics” was still considered “moral” activity since they were against the “enemies” of the Church and the Christian faith.

Posted November 5, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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Sexual Immorality in the Church   2 comments

This is going to hurt, but it’s for your own good.

How many couples in your church are divorced and remarried?

I’m not talking about your pastor (although that is also an issue today), but about the people sitting in the pews.

In his first (extant) letter to the Corinthian church, Paul was very clear on this. Remarriage is not allowed in the Christian churches. Read Chapter 7, he’s clear that this is not a command from Paul, but from God. Remarriage following divorce is not allowed in the Christian churches.

No, I didn’t write “divorce is not allowed”. Paul wrote that there were circumstances where Christians could divorce. If a partner became a Christian and the other did not and the non-Christian left, the Christian was free to remarry. The reason for that is simple. God covenants with a man and with a woman separately to make a marriage. They then covenant with one another before a body of witnesses. Non-Christians lack the ability to make covenants with God. So a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian is not a godly marriage and the covenant is one sided. The Christian is required by God to hold to the promise they made to God, but the non-Christian is not, so when the non-Christian leaves, the Christian (having fulfilled their promise to God) is now free to marry, though Paul is clear they should only marry Christians.

The other circumstance is if a Christian couldn’t stand to live with their spouse any longer (as happens in cases of abuse or unremittant adultery), they may elect to separate, but they are to remain unmarried unless reconciled to their spouse.

There are no other alternative excuses for divorce or remarriage.

No – the “God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy” argument is not found in the New Testament. God is more interested in your character than your comfort. Human marriage is meant to reflect the marriage relationship between Jesus and the Church. Paul sought to teach the Corinthian church (which existed in a society with similar sexual attitudes to America and Europe today) how it might reflect its relationship as the Bride of Christ through how its members conducted themselves in their marriages.

Yet, today, divorce and remarriage statistics inside the churches are not substantially different from what they are in secular society. Woe unto us, Church, and until we get that straight, we really have no business pointing a finger at the world about its sexual immorality.

Fruit of the Spirit Redux   Leave a comment

A lot of things in the Bible require a God-centered perspective to truly understand. The Trinity, for example, is a concept that develops through a Christian’s experience with Jesus. A non-Christian may acquire a head knowledge about it, but they will never truly ‘get’ it until they’ve spent time with Jesus, in the Bible and in prayer.

Other concepts can be explained by Christians and, I believe, this is one.

If you’ve ever tried your hand at gardening, you should be familiar with the following concepts.

You reap what you sow.

The branches are defined by their root.

If you plant tomatoes seeds, you won’t harvest peppers. If you are growing tomatoes under the conditions for cabbage, your  crop will die rather than produce.

Here in Alaska, apple trees do not grow naturally. The ground is too cold for too much of the year. But we have hybridized crab apple trees and graphed regular apples to that root stock so that we can grow small, edible apples here. The root must be adapted to our conditions for the rest of the tree to grow.

Christians are like God’s hybridized seeds. He has transformed us (with our permission) to serve His will. He plants us where He needs us to be and we are there to serve His purpose. We draw our spiritual sustenance from Jesus, the root of our faith.

As the apple trees here can produce fruit because their roots are adapted to our conditions, Christians produce fruit because we are nourished by Jesus.

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5)

This is not ala carte Christianity. A faithful Christian will produce these fruits.

Except …

Remember what I said about growing tomatoes in conditions fit for cabbages?

Plants respond favorably to treatment that suits their needs and unfavorably to treatment that is harmful to them. Christians who choose to disobey God (and it is always a choice) won’t produce the fruit of the Spirit in any appreciable quantity, because we’ve chosen to divorce ourselves from the root of our faith and land ourselves in conditions that favor the works of the flesh.

Is It All About Us?   Leave a comment

The article I posted on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism came to my attention in a roundabout way, but it spoke to my own concerns for the degradation of American Christianity. You can argue with me if you want, but I think the study was dead on and that we’re in trouble.


I don’t think Dr. Smith did a very good job of explaining what he meant by “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. He gave examples more than a definition.


Today’s youth – and to a large extent, today’s adults — who claim the mantle of “Christian” have replaced vital, sacremental, evangelizing Christianity with “moralism” – a set of rules and regulations that can be interchanged for different subsets of society. A suburban congregation might value respectibility and good manners. A liberal, socially aware or hipster group might value ecology, the right attitude on human rights issues and the right political stance. A conservative Christian congregation might focus on sexual morality, modesty and the right religious rituals. None of these moral focuses are necessarily wrong, but morality is not faith. The mistake we’ve made is in substituting the rules and regulations for faith.


Of course, nowadays many who claim the mantle of Christianity have replaced religion with therapy. Rather than recognizing that faith is all about God and worshipping Him, we seek religion to help us in some way. The urban congregation might be all about recovery from addictions, advice on money matters or help with parenting skills. The classic suburban church might focus on feeling good about onesself, the blessings of wealth, or using church to get kids into good private education, the right college and a “good” job.

Religion is seen as useful if it makes us feel good. Whether in a raucous charismatic service or high church aestheticism with ornate ritualism, a feel-good sermon and heart-stirring music are seen as essential to put the congregation in its comfort zone. We don’t want the pastor to preach on painful or controversial subjects. We want our church to be as warm and comforting as a flannel blanket and a well-made cup of coffee, preferably with sugar and cream.


Again, there’s nothing wrong with receiving a good feeling from religious observance, but just as rules and regulations are not faith, good feelings cannot replace the Holy Spirit’s guidance and correction in our lives. Regulations are useful guidance tools and there is entertainment value in good feelings, but it’s not the same as God in your life.

Deism is a belief that God is “out there” and not all that involved in our lives on a daily basis. We believe in God, but we don’t have a regular conversation with Him. As long as we follow the rules and feel good about it, God is pleased and generally, so long as we don’t do anything really bad, He won’t notice.

Because God is a disconnected benevolent father figure rather than an active, personal Savior, our faith reverts to a system of religious rules and regulations, therapy and good feelings. For many, Christianity has become little more than a rock concert (swaying to the music with our hands in the air) or a football game (shouting out our praises in refrain to the cheer-worship leader). Christianity has taken on the veil of hobby or leisure pursuit as our faith has been replaced by religion.

Might I suggest … it’s become all about us rather than about God.

Immorality as a Virtue   Leave a comment

Christians try to not conform to the world-spirit in areas of philosophy and theology. We resist the world’s interpretation and we should be commended for that.

Once we understand God’s truth, we must put it into action. True Bible-believing Christians must affirm the authority of Scripture, but we must also live on Biblical principle. We must walk the walk, not just talk.

It’s not enough for me to say I believe these things. Faith without action is stone cold. I must live according to Scripture.

Let’s be honest! The zeitgeist of my parent’s generation was a fake moral standard. People would teach their children not to murder, steal, and commit adultery, but then cheat on their business partners, affirm their government going to war against nations that weren’t threatening our national security, and read Playboy on the toilet.

By the 1960s, American children were rightfully calling their parents hypocrites.

Those affronted young people then rebelled against their parents’ fake morality with drugs, sex and riots in the streets that accomplished the goals they were aiming for. They then turned around and raised their own children without moral standards. Today’s generation has no moral standards in any absolute sense. We see it in the area of sexual morals. “Every human’s got to lust after somebody right now and if it feels good it can’t be wrong.”

Sexual morals are just the most obvious area, but there are examples in every aspect of morality.

Back in the early 20th century, the “robber barons” amassed huge amounts of wealth for themselves, but they also built libraries, hospitals, museums, and schools and endowed them for future generations, available for everyone to use. They understood that their wealth came in part from the honest efforts of others and they sought to give back to the community in a tangible way. Make use of what was available and any man could do well in society. This was how men like Wally Nickel and Ross Perot became wealthy themselves, though they came from humble means.

Today, our corporate “robber barons” take the money and run. Greed is now called corporate bonuses.

There was a time when men might take charity when they needed it and pay it back when times got better. Today, welfare recipients cheat on their paperwork and the long-term unemployed claim disability to keep receiving benefits.

IMAGE: Bong Hits 4 Jesus bannerStealing is commonplace. We just call it welfare now.

“We must cry for our present world because the idealists who have screamed so loudly (in the 1960s) against the falseness and hypocrisy of the (Greatest Generation) have ended up in an even worse position ….”* producing a generation who deems immorality a virtue.


*Francis Schaeffer, No Little People (1981)

It’s a Rocky Path   2 comments

There’s a flip side to the argument that a good lifestyle won’t get you to heaven. That teaching has led to a heresy that Christians can do whatever they want and “get away with it”. This heresy existed as far back as the writing of Revelation, AD 90-95.

There are some people who think that since we are saved by Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can just go on sinning and God will forgive us.

This is a complicated concept. Once saved, always saved, and Christians are forgiven when they sin, but good works will result from a true saving faith. Thus good works are evidence of a saving faith, but they do not impart salvation. This is very different from saying that we are saved by being a good person. While the Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s grace through faith, the Bible does not teach “easy believism.” Christianity is an active faith; it will show evidence beyond walking an aisle or attending church.

The complication comes because all humans sin. We will never be anywhere near perfect and even “good”. The uncomfortable truth is that Christians are all hypocrites and that it is impossible for us not to be. Our goal is not perfection, which is impossible, but obedience to God to the best of our human abilities, which are limited by our humanity. Christians will have ups and downs, but a true Christian will repent of his sins continually and surrender his life to God, continuing to improve his/her relationship with God over time through a process the Bible calls sanctification. So, while we are saved as a gift of God available to all who trust in Christ, after being saved, a Christian, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will seek to conform his life to God’s will—as best he understands God’s will and his duty.

So when the world sees Christians who are not perfect, it’s best to understand that the Christian life is more about direction than perfection. Jesus is perfect. His followers are human. Humans are not perfect. Only God is perfect.

Christianity Wanes   2 comments

Everywhere you turn these days, Christianity is on the wane. Islam is experiencing aggressive resurgence and people just aren’t going to church so much anymore. Islam is the second-fastest growing religion worldwide and will become the biggest religion during this century. We hear it from boosters of the Muslim community, from alarmists seeing the formation of the next caliphate, from anti-religionists who want to ban (or at least silence) all monotheistic, exclusivist religions (there are three, by the way). God is dying and His followers are not so much deserting the sinking ship, but sleeping in.


The reports of the death of Christianity are somewhat exaggerated! It is true that Islam (and atheism and universalism) is growing in the West. Most of the growth in Islam in America and Europe is do to the high birth rates among Muslims and immigration.

But …

Someone should inform the media that the United States and Europe are not the entire world. I think they call that ethnocentrism. Contrary to popular belief (driven by media misreporting), evangelical Christianity is exploding around the world.

There are about four dozen Chinese Christians attending my church. These are China’s best and brightest, professors, researchers  and graduate students from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, practioners of the hard sciences like geophysics. All but two of them (who are children) accepted Christ in China.

Yes, in China!

Offically, China remains an atheist country and official numbers of Christian conversions are suppressed by government authorities. China’s Protestant community had only 1 million members in 1949 when the communists took over, but some estimates put the current Christian population in China around 111 million. The underground evangelical movement is thought to be larger than the 75-million-member Chinese Community Party.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.” Prof. Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. By 2030, at current trends, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, making it the largest Christian nation in the world by mid-21st century.

The members at my church estimate 10,000 Chinese converts to Christianity every day. Most of the growth, they say, is in illegal house churches.

“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”

In What’s So Great About Christianity Dinesh d’Souza wrote that 80% of Christians in 1900 lived in Europe and the United States. Today, two out of three evangelicals live in Asia, Africa, and South America. South Korea now holds the title as the second-place country for sending out missionaries. The number one country is the United States, but we have six times the population and Korea is closing on us fast. In fact, Korea sends missionaries to the United States.

The religious makeup of the world is changing, but the media focus on the West distorts the reality of that change. Christianity, particularly evangelical Christianity, is spreading more evenly throughout the world and those non-Western-based churches have begun to recognize the need to evangelize the post-Christian West. Someday, soon, expect someone with broken English and a Bible to knock on your door and announce he’s from the Seoul International Baptist Church and he’d like to talk to you about the most important question you can ever ask.

In a France suspicious of religion, evangelicalism’s message strikes a chord   3 comments

In a France suspicious of religion, evangelicalism’s message strikes a chord.

Christianity is on the wane in the United States as church attendance drops and most of the growing mega-churches are more about entertainment and prosperity than the gospel message of repentance, forgiveness of sin, salvation and living a Christ-centered life.

It’s often been said that the US is following Europe into a post-Christian era.

Ah, but Jesus Christ doesn’t listen to the pundits!

Maybe a decade or two from now, the US will be following France into the next Great Awakening.

I am A Christian!   3 comments

Hello, my name is Lela and I’m a Christian.

That is a connotation-laden word “Christian”. You might think you know something about me because you read the label I have placed on myself, but in saying “I am a Christian”, I am saying something as fundamental as “I am a woman” or “I am an Alaskan”.

Being a Christian is not something I am only on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. It’s not something I store up in my heart like secret bread to be supped in secret. It is who I am 24-7, at home, at work, in the grocery store, while driving on the highways, reading a book, and casting my vote. I can no more segregate my Christianity from the other aspects of my life as you can segregate your gender. It is all that I am and it affects everything that I do.

I know there are plenty of people in modern society who would prefer that I keep silence on this subject. They consider my living my faith out loud to be a violation of their rights. We’ll get to why I think that’s a modern religious fallacy and a violation of individual rights … later.

For now, I want you to understand what I mean when I use the word “Christian”.

The word “Christian” means different things to different people. When my parents were growing up, secular Americans broadly understood it to mean anyone who wasn’t another religion, like Jewish or Buddhist. Saying “I’m a Christian” was considered by most to be similar to saying “I’m an American.” Indeed, most of the world assumed you were a Christian if you hailed from America.

Recent polls have found that 92% of Americans believe in “God” while 83% of Americans call themselves “Christian”. The polls just basically ask people to self-identify. A friend forwarded an essay a while back that explains a certain group accepts as Christian any individual or group who devoutly, thoughtfully, seriously, and prayerfully regards themselves as Christians, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, conservative, mainline and liberal Protestants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and thousands of other sects that identify themselves as Christians, including those who do not identify themselves with any particular religious group. You are a Christian if you say you are a Christian.

As a civil libertarian, I uphold anyone’s right to believe what they want to believe and to call themselves what they want to call themselves. I have only two sticking points.

1)      It really complicates our conversations when definition of the word “Christian” is constantly up for grabs

2)      I’m not sure that God agrees with most people’s definition of “Christian”.

My acceptance of your right to hold an divergent opinion does not imply agreement. You can hold divergent views about reality and still be my friend. That does not mean I have to agree with you. I base my faith on the Bible, so I want to know what the Bible says about what makes a Christian.

In determining the definition of Christian, it’s important to recognize that the Bible only mentions the word Christian three times.

  • “And, in Antioch the disciples were first called “Christians”” (Acts 11:26)
  • “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
  • “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1Peter 4:16)

The name “Christian” was given to believers by others outside of their group. Prior to the use in Antioch, Christians called themselves a variety of different names – disciples, believers, brethren, saints, the elect, etc. The direct translation of the word “Christian” is “those belonging to the Christ party” and it was not meant kindly. It was a term of contempt. Over time, believers adopted the derogatory term as a positive designation, but in the New Testament there is a sense of suffering and reproach attached to the term.

According to a dictionary, a Christian is “

  1. One who professes belief in Jesus Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teaching of Jesus.
  2. One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.”

I take away a number of things from both the use of the term in history and the dictionary definition.

Christianity is not accidental. You are not “born” as a Christian and you are not a Christian because your parents were. Christianity is not like being Irish. You choose to be a Christian, to step out from your family of birth and your culture to do something that is different from what you were physically born into.

Christians are distinctive. The non-Christians around Antioch knew who they were. They didn’t necessarily like them. The Bible doesn’t record why or why not, but when has the world ever liked groups that chose to be different?


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