Category: Topics


Who was Gandhi?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 to a nondescript family in western India, but when he died in 1948 he was one of the greatest political leaders in human history. His influence and character were so strong that, by his mid-forties, he was already being referred to by the title “Mahatma,” meaning “great soul.” During his life, he was also referred with reverence as Ghandi-ji, or more commonly as Bapu, (“father”). Gandhi’s legacy is built on his commitment to nonviolent revolution—or satyagraha—through which he helped India obtain independence from the British Empire. His birthday is celebrated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.

At age thirteen, Gandhi was married by arrangement to Kastur Kapadia, age fourteen. She would remain his wife until her death sixty-one years later. Gandhi attended law school in London, England, but struggled as a trial attorney, as he found it difficult to challenge witnesses on the stand. He then moved to South Africa. For more than twenty years, Gandhi struggled there against racial and religious discrimination. He was particularly bothered by the institutional racism that seemed to accompany British control over their territories. During this time Gandhi began to call for nonviolent revolution as a means to challenge authority. His efforts in South Africa garnered him great respect and a large following.

Gandhi returned to India, at that time still a British territory, and began working directly in politics. His primary goal was a fully independent India, one without any control from British or other foreign governments. His method for achieving this goal was satyagraha, roughly meaning “nonviolent revolution.” This approach focuses on pacifism and diplomacy, escalating to non-cooperation when reason and submission do not work. After decades of struggle, intermittent imprisonments, and setbacks, as well as four failed assassination attempts, Gandhi’s goal was finally achieved in 1947, as India was granted full independence.

Gandhi’s fifth brush with an assassin was his last, when militant Hindu Nathuram Godse shot him three times in the chest in 1948. Less than six months after realizing his dream of Indian self-government, Gandhi was being mourned worldwide.

Interestingly, Gandhi, a Hindu, was heavily influenced by the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Compassion for social issues is foreign to a classical Hindu worldview, and Gandhi’s social outlook was a product of his experiences with Christians and others. Gandhi also viewed Jesus’ method of nonviolent persuasion as the epitome of satyagraha. In particular, Gandhi valued Jesus’ moral commitment to not merely conquer a culture but to convert it. This, Gandhi realized, was the only way of effecting real, lasting change: a complete transformation in thinking. Jesus’ death on the cross, in Gandhi’s view, was humanity’s greatest possible expression of satyagraha: willing suffering, self-sacrifice, and non-violence on behalf of others.

While hailed as a great moral leader and a transforming figure, Gandhi’s legacy is markedly different from that of Jesus. Gandhi’s morals were sometimes conflicted, even contradictory. For instance, while he passionately argued for non-violence, the effectiveness of those efforts depended on a ruling power sensitive to moral arguments. His calls for unqualified pacifism and submission in the face of Fascist regimes such as the Axis Powers of World War II were seen as naïve and unrealistic (see Luke 22:36). And, when evidence of the extent of the Holocaust was uncovered, Gandhi’s suggestions seemed even more unreasonable.

Also, Gandhi himself was not free from morally questionable behavior. Though the details are often misunderstood, Gandhi spent some time in his later years sharing his bed with naked young girls, including children of family members. His claimed purpose for this was to test his commitment to sexual abstinence, despite being married. This behavior was extremely controversial, even among Gandhi’s most ardent admirers. Biblically, we are told not to purposefully seek temptation (Luke 11:4), and also we are not to deprive a spouse from physical intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Like Jesus, Gandhi spoke out against violence (Matthew 26:52), greed (Luke 12:15), oppression (Luke 4:18), and hypocrisy (Matthew 23:28). Gandhi recognized the need for a leader to identify with people (Matthew 11:19) in order to truly change them (John 3:7). However, Gandhi did not fully embrace the spiritual importance of Jesus Christ. As a young man, he referred to Hinduism as a “solace”; as he aged, Gandhi said he was stuck “in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness; I am praying for light.” His morality focused on each person working out his own improvement (Ephesians 2:8–9) under a Hindu sense of karma (see Hebrews 9:27).

Gandhi’s insight that culture needs to be transformed, not merely controlled, needed to be applied all the way down to each human heart (Romans 12:2), including his own. Without the transformation of Christ, our efforts are ultimately just fumbling in darkness (Matthew 6:23; John 8:12).

Advertisements

After Noah, his family, and the animals exited the ark, God gave a new command: put to death anyone who murders another person. Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The severest of penalties is to follow murder, and God Himself gives the reason for it.

God specified that murder was to be punished by death because of the nature of man. Man is created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27). As murder destroys an image-bearer, it is a direct affront to God Himself. Humans are unique among God’s creations—none of the animals are created in God’s likeness—and murder is a unique crime.

Another, secondary reason for the mandate is quite practical. The immediate context includes another command given to Noah and his three sons: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Murder, of course, would work against humanity’s being fruitful and multiplying. The death penalty for murder thus served as a deterrent to anyone who sought to thwart God’s plan to replenish the earth. This was especially important when Noah’s family first departed from the ark, at which point only eight people were alive.

Before the Flood, Cain had murdered Abel, and, although Cain was judged by God, he was not put to death (Genesis 4). Lamech, a descendant of Cain, also murdered someone (Genesis 4:23-24). By the time of God’s judgment in Genesis 6, it appears that crime was rampant, including the crime of murder. After the Flood, a new standard was raised as part of the recreated earth: God would no longer tolerate murder. Later, murder was condemned in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The punishment for premeditated murder was death (Numbers 35:30-34).

In the New Testament, Jesus provided a wider application of the Old Testament command against murder. He taught, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). Murder is wrong, and the attitude behind the action is just as wrong. God sees the heart and its intentions (1 Samuel 16:7).

Murder is consistently listed as a sin throughout the New Testament (e.g., Revelation 22:15). Man still bears the image of God, and God’s view of murder has remained the same.

The Assyrians were the inhabitants of a country that became a mighty empire dominating the biblical Middle East from the ninth to the seventh century BC. They conquered an area that comprises what is now Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In the seventh century BC, Assyria occupied and controlled the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The capital of Assyria was Nineveh, one of the greatest cities of ancient times. Excavations in Mesopotamia have confirmed the Bible’s description that it took three days’ journey to go around this city (Jonah 3:3). The Assyrians were a fierce and cruel nation who showed little mercy to those they conquered (2 Kings 19:17).

The Assyrians were a thorn in the side of Israel. Beginning in 733 BC under King Tilgath-pileser, Assyria took the Northern Kingdom’s land and carried the inhabitants into exile (2 Kings 15:29). Later, beginning in 721 BC, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser besieged Israel’s capital, Samaria, and it fell three years later (2 Kings 18:9-12). This event fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that God would use Assyria as the “rod of His anger” (Isaiah 10:5-19); that is, the Assyrian Empire was implementing God’s judgment against the idolatrous Israelites. The sovereign God takes full credit as the source of Assyria’s authority (compare Isaiah 7:18; 8:7; 9:11; and Daniel 4:17). Secular history records that in 703 BC Assyria under King Sennacherib suppressed a major Chaldean challenge.

Given the Assyrian threat against Israel, it is understandable that the prophet Jonah did not want to travel to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3). When he eventually arrived in the Assyrian capital, Jonah preached God’s impending judgment. After hearing Jonah’s message, the king of Assyria and the entire city of Nineveh repented, and God turned His anger away for a time (Jonah 3:10). The grace of God was extended even to the Assyrians.

In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, in 701 BC, the Assyrians under Sennacherib took 46 of Judah’s fortified cities (Isaiah 36:1). Then they laid siege to Jerusalem—the Assyrian king engraved upon his stele that he had the king of Judah caught like a caged bird in his own country.

However, even though Sennacherib’s army occupied Judah up to the very doorstep of Jerusalem, and even though Sennacherib’s emissary Rabshakeh boasted against God and Hezekiah (Isaiah 36:4-21), Assyria was rebuffed. Hezekiah prayed, and God promised that the Assyrians would never set foot inside the city (Isaiah 37:33). God slew 185,000 Assyrian forces in one night (Isaiah 37:36), and Sennacherib returned to Nineveh where he was slain by his own sons as he worshiped his god Nisroch (Isaiah 37:38).

In 612 BC, Nineveh was besieged by an alliance of the Medes, Babylonians and Scythians, and the city was so completely destroyed that even its location was forgotten until British archeologist Sir Austen Layard began uncovering it in the nineteenth century. Thus, as the Babylonian Empire ascended, Assyria dropped off the pages of history.

Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was destroyed in 612 B.C. by the Medes. This was in fulfillment of the prophet Nahum’s prediction that God would completely destroy the city (Nahum 1). A number of factors combine to determine both the date and manner of Nineveh’s destruction.

During the prophet Jonah’s day, Nineveh was spared by God’s compassion in response to their repentance (Jonah 3). This happened in 760 B.C.

The book of Nahum was written after the destruction of the Egyptian city of Thebes (Nahum 3:8). That event took place in 663 B.C. when it was conquered by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. Therefore, Nineveh was still standing at that time. There is some evidence that Nahum wrote shortly after the destruction of Thebes, because Judah was still under Assyrian control during the time of his writing. This was the situation during the reign of Manasseh (697-642 B.C.) but not during the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.). In addition, the city of Thebes returned to power in 654 B.C., meaning that Nahum likely wrote before then. So, Nahum can be dated between 663 and 654 B.C. Therefore, Nineveh must have been destroyed after 654 B.C. but no later than 612, when the Medes are mentioned as the conquerors of the city.

An ancient account called The Fall of Nineveh Chronicle reveals an account of this time period, providing firsthand, extra-biblical documentation. The translation (with some missing text) reads as follows:

“The king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Assyria. The king of the Medes marched towards the king of Akkad and they met one another at […]u. The king of Akkad and his army crossed the Tigris; Cyaxares had to cross the Radanu, and they marched along the bank of the Tigris. In the month Simanu [May/June], the Nth day, they encamped against Nineveh.

“From the month Simanu until the month Âbu [July/August] -for three months- they subjected the city to a heavy siege. On the Nth day of the month Âbu they inflicted a major defeat upon a great people. At that time Sin-šar-iškun, king of Assyria, died. They carried off the vast booty of the city and the temple and turned the city into a ruin heap The [lacuna] of Assyria escaped from the enemy and, to save his life, seized the feet of the king of Akkad.

“On the twentieth day of the month Ulûlu [14 September 612] Cyaxares and his army went home.” (From http://www.livius.org/ne-nn/nineveh/nineveh02.html#Fall.)

Based on this account, it is clear that the siege of Nineveh came at the hands of the king of Akkad and the king of Media during the summer of 612 B.C. Three months later, the city fell. The king of Assyria died, and the city was plundered until September 14 when the invading army departed. By 605 B.C. the Assyrian Kingdom officially ended, and Babylonia was on the rise.

Despite Nineveh’s great power, the city fell just as Nahum had prophesied. It would not be until the 1800s that archaeologists would excavate portions of the ancient city. Nineveh had indeed been “hidden,” as Nahum predicted long ago (Nahum 3:11).

The kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal sovereign God over all creatures and things (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:3). The kingdom of God is also the designation for the sphere of salvation entered into at the new birth (John 3:5-7), and is synonymous with the “kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of God embraces all created intelligence, both in heaven and earth that are willingly subject to the Lord and are in fellowship with Him. The kingdom of God is, therefore, universal in that it includes created angels and men. It is eternal, as God is eternal, and it is spiritual—found within all born-again believers. We enter the kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that kingdom for eternity. It is a relationship “born of the spirit” (John 3:5), and we have confident assurance that it is so because the Spirit bears witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16).

God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and the ruler over all of His creation. However, the designation “the kingdom of God” compasses that realm which is subject to God and will be for eternity. The rest of creation will be destroyed. Only that which is part of the “kingdom of God” will remain.

LITTLE OCCUPATIONS The Repairer of Neglects Even persons of most generous dispositions and quick perceptions, in the midst of the unceasing occupations of a family, will often forget a number of th…

Source: LIVING THE GOSPEL: LITTLE GOOD WORKS OF LOVE FOR CHILDREN, TEENAGERS AND ADULTS (I)

Origen of Alexandria (AD 185—254), also known as Origen Adamantius, was one of the earliest and most important Christian scholars. He is remembered both for prodigious scholarship and fanatical commitment to purity. He is credited with producing hundreds of works on theology, textual criticism, and biblical interpretation. Among Origen’s most important works are the Hexapla, De Principiis, and Contra Celsum. A few of his views were unorthodox, to the point that later generations debated whether he was a saint or a heretic.

In the year 202, Origen’s father was beheaded for his Christian faith. To support his family, the teenaged Origen began teaching grammar and basic Christian beliefs. His writing and education career grew quickly. Before long, he was running an entire school and hosting visits from politicians and academics. All the while, Origen produced scholarly work both in high quality and massive quantity. At one point, he was said to have kept seven scribes working at top speed. The scholar Jerome (AD 354—420) would later ask, sarcastically, “Has anyone read everything Origen wrote?”

Origen studied under non-Christian philosophers in his birth city of Alexandria, Egypt, in order to better understand their arguments. This fueled one of his most important works, De Principiis (On First Principles). This is believed to be Christianity’s first comprehensive work of systematic theology. In it, Origen not only laid out a structured approach to Christian belief, but did so through (then) contemporary Greek philosophy.

Another of Origen’s most important works is his Hexapla (Sixfold). This book is one of the earliest examples of textual criticism and scholarly apologetics, as well as a true interlinear Bible. The Hexapla is formatted in six columns: one column of Hebrew text in parallel with five columns of various Greek translations. Origen’s purpose in compiling this was to counter Gnostic and Jewish attacks on early Christianity. This work also provided Christians with a comprehensive guide to the Old Testament. The original is estimated to have been more than 6,500 pages long and took more than 28 years to complete.

Origen also responded to an anti-Christian work, written shortly before his birth, by the Greek philosopher Celsus. Celsus’ work broadly attacked the history, philosophy, prophecies, and social duties of Christianity. In Contra Celsum (Against Celsus), Origen produced a detailed, powerfully intellectual defense of Christianity, one of the first and best of the early church era. In it, Origen answers Celsus point by point, weaving evidence, logic, and philosophy together in support of Christianity.

Understanding Origen’s work can be challenging. He believed all Scripture had three levels of meaning: literal, figurative, and moral, and he often expounded various ways to interpret the same passage. Origen is a prime example of early church scholars accepting non-literal interpretations of certain passages, such as the creation account of Genesis. He was also a vocal critic of the view that only specially ordained men had the spiritual authority to interpret Scripture. Much of his work was a deliberate effort to promote knowledge over mere authority, including church leadership.

Some of Origen’s ideas were unorthodox and put him at odds with fellow believers. For instance, Origen believed in the pre-existence of souls and that one’s status in the present world was proportional to one’s commitment to God during this pre-existence. His negative attitude toward the material world wasn’t much different than that of the Gnostics he so strongly opposed. He also considered the Trinity a ranking, not an equality, and believed that everyone, even demons, would one day be forgiven and purified by God. These claims were key to his being declared a heretic by various councils in the centuries after his death.

Origen’s radical approach to purity of lifestyle was infamous. He lived in extreme asceticism, without shoes or a bed, and often worked instead of sleeping. He fasted twice a week and avoided all meat and wine. According to Roman historian Eusebius, Origen’s quest for purity led him, through an extremely literal interpretation of Matthew 19:12, to self-castration. Even among his admirers, this was seen as an extreme and unnecessary step, though later scholars would debate whether or not Origen actually performed the deed.

Eventually, Origen’s uncompromising attitude toward Christianity and knowledge ran him afoul of the Roman Empire. Sometime after AD 251, a plague swept through Rome, and Emperor Decius laid blame on Christians for failing to worship him as a divine being. During the Decian persecution, Origen was imprisoned and brutally tortured but purposefully kept alive, in hopes he would recant his faith. True to his reputation, “Adamantius” remained a “man of steel” and was released from prison when Emperor Decius died. Unfortunately, Origen’s body hadn’t weathered the torture as well as his faith, and he died from his injuries very shortly after being freed.

Origen devoted his life to making evidence, reason, and Scripture accessible to as many people as possible. His legacy is an excellent counter to any claim that early Christianity was shallow, superstitious, or anti-intellectual. Heretic or not, Origen is among the most important figures of the early church.

No one author portrays the “Judeo-Christian history” and the “Antiquities of the Jews” as does “Flavius Josephus”.

Since their release in the first century AD, the writings of Flavius Josephus have become a primary source of Judeo-Christian history. According to The Life of Flavius Josephus, [by Josephus] Josephus “was born to Matthias in the first year of the reign of Caius Caesar” (1:5), being AD 37. At “fourteen years of age, [he] was commended by all for the love [he] had to learning; on which account the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to [him] together, in order to know [his] opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law” (2:9).

Observing the Jewish sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, Josephus spent three years with a hermit named Banus (2:11–12) and, upon returning at nineteen years age, “began to conduct [him]self according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees” (2:12). Traveling to Rome to defend persecuted Pharisees, he returned with an admiration for the Roman way of life. Soon after, a rebellion by Jewish forces against Rome occurred (AD 66), and Josephus found himself becoming a commander in Galilee where he “took care to have arms provided, and the cities fortified” (14:77). However, despite his attempts, Josephus surrendered at Jotapata, which “was taken by force” (65:350). When the “siege of Jotapata was over, and [he] was among the Romans, [he] was kept with much care, by means of the great respect that Vespasian showed [him]” (AD 69) and was soon accompanied by the emperor’s son Titus back to Jerusalem (75:414–416).

Despite Josephus’s attempts to quell growing revolts, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Josephus returned with Titus to Rome, where he “had great care taken of [him] by Vespasian; for he gave [him] an apartment in his own house, which he lived in before he came to the empire. He also honored [Josephus] with the privilege of a Roman citizen, and gave [him] an annual pension; and continued to respect [him] to the end of his life” (76:423).

The works of Josephus are few in number, but large in volume. The Wars of the Jews is the harrowing and partly eye-witness account of the wars involving the Jewish nation from the Maccabean Revolt (as told in the apocryphal 1 Maccabees) to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, through which Josephus lived. The Antiquities of the Jews details the history of the Jewish people from the creation narrative (Genesis in the Old Testament) to the time of Josephus’s writing (New Testament and thereafter). Against Apion is an insightful apologetic of Jewish theology and thought against critics and students of Greek philosophy. Josephus is best known however, among Christians for his referral to Jesus in The Antiquities of the Jews, one of the earliest pieces of historical evidence for Jesus outside the New Testament. Below is the paragraph from The Antiquities of the Jews (18:63–64), with what is commonly believed to be additions by a later Christian translator in brackets:

“At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to refer to him as a man]. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. [He was the Messiah-Christ.] And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. [For on the third day he appeared to them again alive, just as the divine prophets had spoken about these and countless other marvelous things about him.] And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

Later in The Antiquities of the Jews (20:200), Jesus is again mentioned, in passing this time, as Josephus focuses his discussion on Jesus’ half-brother James (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19). The passage is again worth quoting in full:

“But this younger Ananus, who, as we told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent. . . . He assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Messiah-Christ, whose name was James, and some others. When he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them over to be stoned.”

Despite the occasional bias of his historical works, Josephus is a relatively credible historian whose work provides a thorough understanding of Jewish life in the first century and the Jewish War. Without such histories, our knowledge and understanding of these two areas would be far less rich.

Great post which deserves recognition :

Citizen Tom

churchill's empireI am in the process of reading a book about Sir Winston Churchill. For the most part, what I know about Churchill relates to his role as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. Churchill’s Empireby Richard Toye focuses on focuses on Churchill’s beliefs and his role with respect to British imperialism (see here,here and here for reviews).

I doubt most Americans give the matter much thought now, but at one time the British Empire was huge.

By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time.The empire covered more than 33,700,000km2 (13,012,000sqmi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area.As a result, its political,legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase “the empire on which the sun never sets” was often used…

View original post 1,424 more words

On this our Veterans Day….. Please view it and pass it along. Thank you!

Branson Shows Blog

happy-veterans-day“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

— John F. Kennedy

Happy Veterans Day from Branson Shows! We are so thankful for our courageous Veterans and the sacrifices they have made, and continue to make, every day for our great country.

View original post