Monday, May 31, 2004
The Pharisee Bible
I hesitate to enter the debate on which version or translation of Scripture is the best, but since I receive this question often enough I feel that it is time I added my opinion to the fray.
Let me say first of all that any arguments about the “accuracy” of a translation are largely red herrings. True, some translations may be closer in form to the original vernacular but that does not necessarily make them more accurate. All languages are filled with figures of speech that lose meaning through translations. We may translate the literal words but that doesn’t mean we have translated what those words mean in the way they are used.
When we say, “A horse of a different color” we are not referring to a literal horse. Anyone not familiar with English would need to have this phrase explained to them if it were translated into their language. This is why we say things are, “lost in the translation.”
I use the Authorized Version and do so for a very important reason. The form of English in this version is archaic and fell out of common usage hundreds of years ago. As a result, most people who read this version of the scriptures find it difficult to read and are easily frustrated in their attempts to read through the Bible. So they don’t read it at all. If they ever do manage to read through the Bible, their comprehension is so low; they get very little from the experience. This is the chief reason for sticking to the Authorized Version of the Scriptures.
“But shouldn’t everyone read the Word?” you ask. Of course they should! Scripture reading is one of the signs of spirituality. It is a devotion to reading the word that sets us Spiritual Christians apart from the Carnal Christians that make up the bulk of Christianity. If Bible-reading were easy, then everyone would do it and we wouldn’t have much to brag about as Spiritual Christians, would we? No, for daily Bible reading to have value, it must be difficult and something worth bragging about.
“What if they read through the Bible and still don’t understand it?” is another question I receive. Of course they can’t understand it – they are not Spiritual. Only Spiritual Christians can understand the Authorized Version of the Bible. Their lack of understanding is once again a proof of their carnality. If they would spend more time in the word, then they would understand it, wouldn’t they? But they are lazy Christians and so they aren’t as dedicated to the Word as we are. Thus they are inferior Carnal Christians and should be made to feel guilty for not reading their Bibles.
If they claim to read a modern translation, then we say that it is an inferior translation and doesn’t contain the richness of meaning of the “original.” We say they can’t possibly understand fully what God means if they read from one of these inferior modern translations which are full of errors and mistranslations.
Another benefit to their ignorance is that they have to come to us for answers. What if the Bible were easy to understand and anyone could read it for himself? Where would that put us? Why, we would be out of a job. No, it’s better for us to force people to hold on to a Bible version that they don’t read and can’t understand so we can be the ones who truly know what the Bible says. That way, they keep coming to us for answers and we maintain our Spiritual superiority.
“And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”
Mark 7:9 (NIV)
Friday, May 14, 2004
America has come a long way in establishing equality and appreciation for minorities of every sort except one: fundamentalists. In fact, there is an increasing level of hate-mongering among the general populace who have not taken the time or made an effort to understand fundamentalists. We term this attitude "fundy-phobia". Fundamentalists remain the last unprotected minority in America today and it is time to bring an end to the hate speech, discrimination and vilification of fundamentalists and the fundamentalist lifestyle.
While many fundamentalists have come out of the closet and live an openly fundamentalist lifestyle, the vast majority of them lead normal lives just like the average citizen. They are not all flag-waving, placard-carrying marchers in Fundamentalist Pride parades. These are just the ones who get media attention. Most fundamentalists live peaceably in their neighborhoods; contribute to the civic health of their cities and support community initiatives. Fundamentalists are generally good Americans.
Myth: You can spot fundamentalists by the way they dress.
Fact: While many fundamentalists do wear distinctive dress or dress in a culturally unique way (like fundamentalist women who never wear slacks, make-up or cut their hair), this is by no means common among all of them. Most fundamentalists dress like ordinary people. While it may be possible to identify someone dressed in a particular way as a fundamentalist, it is a mistake to assume that all fundamentalists dress the same way or even in a way distinct from the general population. Nor can you assume that people who have a fish symbol or some other identifying decal on their car are fundamentalists. They may be the parent, sibling or child of a fundamentalist; or they may have simply bought a used car from a fundamentalist. Assumptions about a person's religious orientation can prove embarrassing so don't jump to conclusions about a person's particular lifestyle based on externals.
Myth: You can tell someone is a fundamentalist if they never swear or take the Lord's name in vain.
Fact: Just like one cannot assume that all people who affect lisping voice and speech patterns are homosexuals, one cannot assume that all people who do not swear are fundamentalists. Many groups avoid the use of strong language or taking the Lord's name in vain and to assume that that person is a fundamentalist based solely on the way they talk is offensive to them as well as to fundamentalists.
Myth: Fundamentalists are mostly uneducated, work in low wage jobs and tend to concentrate in certain industries.
Fact: Many fundamentalists have graduated from college and gone on to get advanced degrees. Some of these highly educated individuals excel in all areas of commerce. It is possible to find fundamentalists in institutions of higher learning, science, technology and corporate boardrooms. While certain industries like Christian bookstores and Christian schools may have a high percentage of fundamentalists working for them, it is a mistake to think that there are none in your workplace. Just because you don't know any fundamentalists doesn't mean they aren't there. It may mean they don't feel comfortable "coming out" in your workplace or around you.
Myth: Fundamentalism is a mental or emotional disorder.
Fact: The research on fundamentalism is very clear. Fundamentalism is neither a mental illness nor moral depravity. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that fundamentalists function every bit as well as everyone else. Some people erroneously believe that people are born fundamentalist or with a predisposition to fundamentalism. Others hypothesize that there is a "fundy gene" that makes certain people susceptible to fundamentalism but research in this area is inconclusive at best. At the very least, there is no way to predict who may or may not become a fundamentalist as many times people don't discover their true religious orientation until relatively late in life.
Myth: Once a fundamentalist, always a fundamentalist.
Fact: Many people have left fundamentalism that were previously fundamentalists. By the same token, others experiment with fundamentalism without fully committing to it and adopting a fundamentalist lifestyle. They are exploring their own moral beliefs and a brief foray into fundamentalism does not make them fundamentalist. The chief misconception is that fundamentalism is a "disorder" and that people need to be "cured" in order to leave. In point of fact, efforts to forcibly change deeply held religious beliefs are ineffective and can be harmful. Fundamentalists who have accepted their religious orientation are better adjusted than those who have not done so.
Myth: All fundies…
Fact: First of all, the use of pejorative names is offensive to fundamentalists as well as those who are sensitive to diversity issues. We have learned that language can be oppressive when used to label or marginalize minority groups. Gays, people of color and women have campaigned long and hard to increase awareness of how damaging hate speech can be. It is time we recognized that fundamentalists have the same rights and treat them with respect. Secondly, there is nothing that is true of "all" fundamentalists. They represent a diverse group of individuals with varying temperaments, dispositions, attitudes, feelings and outlooks. We do them a disservice by stereotyping them or categorizing them with uncomplimentary language.
Many people feel that fundamentalists are brainwashed or "recruited". Instead, they are people who have discovered their orientation as a process of maturing. There is a great deal of unwarranted prejudice against them and many people feel that fundamentalists are unfit parents who will only raise up another generation of fundamentalists. Statistics show that over 85% of children raised by fundamentalist parents reject fundamentalism and go on to live a normal lifestyle. Fundamentalists are just as capable of providing a positive, nurturing environment for children as their non-fundamentalist counterparts.
Fundamentalists today remain one of the last unprotected minorities in America. While it is considered in poor taste to tell jokes based on race, gender, sexual orientation or national origin; it is still socially acceptable to make fun of fundamentalists. There is no national recognition of fundamentalists as a marginalized group and many people don't even recognize them as a legitimate minority. This denies them equal protection under the law and there has not been a single successful case in our courts of a fundamentalist who has been the object of discrimination who has been protected by the law. Frequently fundamentalists are the objects of violence and many law enforcement agencies are reluctant to protect them because, in the words of officials, "they were asking for it by displaying their lifestyle in such an outrageous way."
If you are concerned about these or other issues, we are here to help. The Fundwall Union exists to educate, inform and promote the rights of fundamentalists. You can be supportive by:
• Avoid hateful words - don't call them "fundies"
• Don't laugh at fundamentalist jokes
• Use inclusive language - don't say things like "you people" or "your kind"
• Encourage open-mindedness and tolerance
• Recognize diversity - not everyone shares your religious orientation so celebrate diversity among others
• If someone comes out to you, know that it is a big deal - be sensitive to people who share (and those who choose not to share) important aspects of their identity with you
• Don't assume that someone is not a fundamentalist just because they haven't told you so. Not everyone chooses to disclose their religious orientation.
"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:35 (NIV)
Saturday, May 08, 2004
One of the things I do as a Pharisee pastor is to inform my reading public of the state of the Persecuted Church. I try to keep close ties on martyrs for the faith in other countries and pray fervently for their freedom. An important part of my ministry is informing others of the desperate plight of these dear persecuted saints. I had no idea that my e-ministry of keeping people apprised of this vital information would be a source of criticism.
A harshly critical "brother" who had been removed from my Pharisee Phundamentals group for being so contrary to the plain truth continues to send me his vituperative e-mails. Before I put him on a "blocked senders" list he managed to accuse my ministry for martyrs as an exercise in hypocrisy. He claimed that he wanted to know how I could admonish people to pray for the persecuted church in China
, the Sudan and around the world when, according to him, I wouldn't "spit on a non-Pharisee church in this country if it were on fire." What he fails to understand is that the non-Pharisee churches in America are all purveyors of falsehood, lies and perverters of the faith and deserve to burn. The persecuted church, by virtue of its persecution, is kept pure and spotless from the taint of false doctrine and is deserving of our prayers and support.
He told me that it is dishonest for me to preach against the modern English versions of the Bible and then pay to send "modern" versions of the Bible to other countries. In this he only reveals his ignorance rather than wisdom. Churches in America who do not use the Authorized Version of the Bible are preaching a false gospel because they do not have the pure and spotless Word of God. I am not hypocritical for sending Bibles to other lands that are not the Authorized Version for one very simple reason. They don't speak English. An Authorized Version would do them no good. There is nothing wrong with sending them The Infallible, Inspired Word of God in their own language. The whole issue of Bible versions doesn't come up in these counties for another simple reason: they only have one version of the Bible in their native tongue. Therefore whatever they have IS the word of God in their language. If it weren't then God wouldn't preserve it. It is only in English that we see the proliferation of per-versions of the Bible.
Nor am I a hypocrite for saying that the use of modern media devices in the church in America is a sin while others promote its use overseas. The reason is because movies, video, music and other media are inherently corrupt in America. They are the offspring of the Hellywood crowd and their evil taints everything in this country. Even Billy Graham has gotten into the act of trying to release feature films to theaters and I still refuse to go because I don't want to support establishments that show the other vile offerings of the movie industry. By contrast, the movies and other media we send overseas are pure and spotless works of Christians going into a culture that is untainted by the evil influence of American film. So, while I would never show a movie or video in my church because of its evil association in this country, it is perfectly fine for missionaries to do the same in countries where movies are not associated so closely with evil.
I could go on and on with the criticism and scorn that he heaped on me but as you can tell, he was speaking from ignorance. It is abundantly clear that the persecuted church is the True Church because if they weren't then they wouldn't be persecuted. Why would Satan waste his time persecuting his own? And the fact that false churches in America are not suffering persecution is proof that Satan is unconcerned about their state since they are already serving him. The only church in this country that is the object of such intense hatred by both those who do and don't claim the name of Christ is the Pharisee church. Come to think of it, this "brother" is actually persecuting me by calling me a hypocrite. Instead of proving me a hypocrite, he has demonstrated my faithfulness by making me a martyr to the cause of Christ.
Saturday, May 01, 2004
WHEN UNBELIEF MASQUERADES AS BELIEF
This has been a very difficult week for me at my online Pharisee ministry. As the founder and moderator of the Pharisee Phundamentals group, I have had to remove some rather opinionated individuals who did not see eye-to-eye with the membership. Our group is not meant to be a place to "explore the meaning of Christianity in our contemporary culture" as some wish it was. Instead it is a list of like-minded Pharisees who assent to all the same truths of the Bible and express our strong misgivings about the sorry state of Christianity today. Occasionally, someone stumbles into our group and tries to get things started up on a variety of topics and this week has been one of the worst. The most insidious culprits who sneak into our group are those who claim to believe the Bible but in practice actually deny its truths.
Let me state first of all that it is easy to pay lip service to being a Bible Believer. Most of the so-called evangelical and fundamentalist denominations claim to believe the Bible. Indeed, they could not long survive if they told their congregations that they did not hold to the truth of God's word. While many of these people are sincere, we must note that they are sincerely deluded. They may think they believe the Bible but they actually believe their own denominational interpretations of the Bible.
This week I had to remove three individuals who tried to convince me that I did not believe the Bible myself. They claimed I believed in my own personal interpretation of the Bible and not the actual scriptures themselves. And then they tried to convince me that their interpretation of the Bible had just as good a chance of being right as my interpretation of the Bible. What utter blasphemy. While I don't claim to have divine knowledge, I do have access to the Holy Spirit who is able to guide me into all truth. But this week's column isn't about me; it is about those who claim to believe the Bible but substitute their opinions and preferences Bible truth.
The first proof that they don't believe the Bible is a willingness to mix the truth with error. We call this "leavening" of the truth. By mixing truth with error, they deny a true belief in I Corinthians 5:6 which says, "... Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" These people freely admit to the possibility that their interpretation could contain error. If they would listen to me, I would assure them that not only is this a possibility, but it is a certainty that it contains error. Any position that does not exactly match mine, is one which contains error. "It's only a tiny error," they reply, "and what can be so bad about that?" Don't they understand that ANY admixture of error with the truth only corrupts the truth and makes it unfit for consumption? If we tolerate even the tiniest bit of error, we destroy the whole foundation of Truth.
These people also fail to understand the subtle, crafty nature of false teachers. No one is going to come into a church and say, "I am a false teacher." Instead they are going to look like True Christians, walk like True Christians, talk like True Christians and claim to be True Christians. But all the while they are seducers and deceivers. They only pretend to teach the truth, all the while leading people into error. They will talk about "seeker sensitive services" and "contemporary worship styles" when all they mean to do is preach a feel-good gospel and play devilish rock and roll music, all the while leading people into damnable error. These teachers are not interested in the truth or reaching the lost for Christ like good Pharisee churches, but simply want to drag down the spirituality of gullible Christians. The fact that these churches are growing and appeal to a wide range of people is proof that they are not biblical. Jesus never appealed to the masses, never had a large following or associated with sinners of the vilest sort. Nor should we.
The third evidence that they don't believe the Bible is that they rate the details in the Bible as unimportant. They want to unite on the "basic truths that we can all agree on" and all the while let important truths fall by the wayside. We should have an attitude like the Psalmist, "Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:128) Those who say there must be freedom for "unity in diversity" don't get their ideas from the Bible. We are not allowed the liberty to abandon the clear teachings of scripture. Those who don't accept the woman's place in the church as it is stated in the Bible for example are substituting their own opinion for scripture. Yet they still claim to believe the Bible. The next thing you know they will say that passing an offering plate or having an altar call are unscriptural as well. Some things are too major to be considered "minor doctrines" not worth dividing over.
I could go on for a long time about those who claim to believe the Bible but deny it in practice. Unlike us true Bible-believing Pharisees, they believe only their interpretation of the Bible. It should be clear to you that our Pharisee churches place a high value on the word of God and would never substitute our personal opinions for it. Those who say the Bible makes no mention of smoking cigarettes as a vice and even promotes the consumption of alcohol in various places as "proof" that we add our opinions to scripture are only fooling themselves. It is their ignorance of the Truth of scripture that prevents them from seeing the Truth of God's word properly.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Matthew 12:1-8 (NIV)