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A “Sign” of the Times

A “Sign” of the Times

So sorry rabbi…

Recently a friend of mine gave me a short clip out of a local newspaper to read (see below) and asked my opinion about what it said.  My friend knows that I’m a Christian and where I stand on issues of faith, but I think he was trying to get me to see a “broader” picture of the world and God.  That’s just a speculation on my part, but I’m fairly certain he was trying to communicate something to me.  I’m attaching the article below for you to read as I will be addressing it in the words to follow.

 

The clip was written by Rabbi Marc Gellman who shared a weekly column with a Roman catholic priest named Tom Hartman.  Together they formed what was known as the “God Squad”.  They would field questions about God and life from their respective positions and offer advice and guidance to their readers.  The “squad” came to an end when Tom Hartman passed away in February of 2016.  Over the years the two men became good friends and were very amicable toward their readers on both sides.

 

The article comes in response to a request that Rabbi Gellman made of Tom should he be the one who passes away first.  The Rabbi’s request: a sign from heaven from Tom.  In the attached clip, Gellman describes the sign he received from him and how it shapes what he knows.

 

The Problem

I’d like to address several issues I have with the article that deal with truth, scripture, experience, and deception.

 

First let’s deal with truth: the truth of Judaism and the truth Roman Catholicism.  Both believe in God, heaven, hell, sin, creation, angels, the Torah, a Messiah, and mankind as the image bearer of God.  So far so good.  The one major difference they hold concerns Jesus: one says he is the Messiah, the other says he isn’t. 

Now that’s a serious theological difference, and they both can’t be right.  It’s one or the other but not both.  Jesus can’t be the Messiah and not be the Messiah at the same time.  That would be a contradiction and render truth relative.

 

Since Jews claim that there is a way to heaven and Roman Catholics claim another way, it’s obvious that both can’t be right.  If both are right, then religion, the scriptures, and the Messiah are irrelevant.  None of this theological “stuff” would seriously matter in a real sense since everyone goes wherever they want when they die regardless of their beliefs.  In that case, truth would be whatever you want or whatever you believe it to be.

 

Sadly, I suggest to you that this is what the clip written by Rabbi Gellman actually leads to!

…And to be honest, I think the rabbi’s feeling are getting in the way.

 

Now let’s take a look at the scriptures.  This is where we get to hear what God has to say, and where both Jews and Roman Catholics find their doctrine and their differences.  Rabbi Gellman begins by citing both Jewish and Catholic traditions and their prohibition concerning spirits, mediums, and talking with the dead.  He would go further and quote several scriptures that support those traditions.  At this point it seems that both religious traditions agree with each other and have the backing of God’s word – i.e. talking to the dead in any form is prohibited.

 

Here’s where Gellman’s experience comes in.  According to the rabbi, his friend Michael was praying while shaving the morning before they met for lunch and “addresses” Tom (the priest who passed away).  Tom answers him apparently and tells him something that only Geller would understand, that “Sol was in charge”.  Gellman hears this and is blown away!  That was his dad’s name and his dad was always a take charge guy.  To him, this is amazing news and “clearly” the “sign” he’s waited for.  It’s here I sympathize with Gellman as I think his heart for his father and friend may be clouding his judgment.

Despite all of the scriptural indications, and the fact that each of their respective religions condemn such an action, Gellman buys into the “sign” as if it were a certain truth from Tom.  All he knows is that Tom was ok, and his dad was not just ok but actually running heaven.  Although a tender thought, Gellman knows this goes against everything he’s stood for.

 

Sadly, here is where the deception comes in.  Is this “sign” true because it conveys a fact that no one else would know?  I don’t think so in light of the scriptures. 

Isn’t the devil a liar who comes to steal kill and destroy?  Absolutely!  How does the rabbi know this isn’t a demonic messenger masquerading as an angel of light?  The scriptures do warn us of such things.  Now add the fact that God’s word clearly warns against such activities, as well as the respective catechisms of both faiths, and you now have an opportunity for deception to creep in.  We can easily be led by subjective feelings and not objective truth.

 

The last words of Gellman are telling: “I don’t care about the biblical prohibitions this sign violated.  I do care that my dad is in charge of heaven”.  Let me translate: I don’t care what God said about signs or contact with the dead because I had an experience that makes me feel good, and hey, my dad’s in charge of heaven anyway!  In this case, because Gellman is emotionally comforted by this “sign”, he thinks his experience trumps God’s truth which gives him license to deny it.  In doing so, he ends up denying the religious tradition he’s held so dear all his life and was formally trained in.  This highlights the biblical truth that mankind is easily susceptible to being led by it’s emotions.  

 

Ironically, Gellman’s discarding of the scriptures is a “sign” for anyone who builds their life on the teaching of the bible.  David’s son Solomon would tell us in Proverbs 1:7 that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Gellman succumbs to this in denying the bible’s clear teaching on communication with the dead and seeking after signs.  I feel his pain, but his emotionalism is a “sign” of the times and religious relativism.

 

Gellman finally says, “there’s no rational way to explain this” and he’s right.  If you abandon God’s word (the source of all knowledge and Gellman’s own religion) you’re throwing rationality out the door.  Using man’s limited understanding and emotional experience to base decisions on is not a good idea. (Prov 3:5)

 

Think about what this situation is communicating to us.

  • Since both Tom (a RC priest) and Gellman’s dad (a practicing Jew) are in heaven, it doesn’t matter what religion you follow since both get to heaven.
  • It doesn’t matter what each of their religious traditions have been teaching for thousands of years because ultimately both have the same result.
  • It doesn’t matter that God warned us for good reason not to communicate with the dead because it can confirm if someone is in heaven.
  • Judaism and Catholicism’s teaching about spiritists, mediums, and contact with the dead is optional.
  • The scriptures aren’t trustworthy.  They aren’t our authority either, experience is.
  • We can disregard the teachings of scripture based on an experience.
  • Our experience is a better indicator of truth than God’s word.
  • Truth is relative.
  • Religious differences don’t matter which therefore renders religion irrelevant.
  • God is not the one in charge of heaven right now, Sol is!     (I’m cringing just typing this)
  • And finally, Jesus is a liar. He said he was the Messiah and the only way, but even Jews and others who reject him as Messiah will end up in heaven.

 

The Danger

The stakes couldn’t be higher for the people reading this article since Gellman is such a well respected man in the religious community.  Many people may misread his words and be duped into thinking that entering eternity is as simple as dying.  I can hear them saying “All roads do lead to God because there are two men with competing religious traditions who are in heaven together – we have a clear ‘sign!’”

But nothing can be further from the truth.  Here I’m reminded of the words in Malachi 2:17:  You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.”

 

Gellman does leave himself an out at the end of the article when he states “on other days I may know more, or… differently, but today this is all I know.”  I sense he is conflicted between the “sign” he received and everything he thought he knew up to that point.  The emotion is real and the love for his dad is deep.

 

Seeking for a “sign” from heaven is nothing new, but if you still want one, listen to what Jesus says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Mt 12:38–40

 

Jesus provides us with a sign that points to him as the one who will be crucified, buried, and raised from the dead conquering death and the grave.  That was a real sign, that really took place, and it radically changed the world going forward.

 

My hope is that you see how easily we can be swayed into trusting experiences that are specifically warned about in scripture against trusting in the authority of God’s word alone.  One will guard you from being deceived and save you, the other will betray you and lead you astray.  

 

I am truly sorry for your loss Rabbi Marc, but respectfully the bible says that my Heavenly Father is in charge of heaven no matter what kind of sign anyone else gets. 

Standing on the unchanging word of God guards us against the instability of our emotions.

 

Here’s the original article by Rabbi Gellman

God squad article

 

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Starting a Grassroots Apologetics Ministry

Starting a Grassroots Apologetics Ministry

Starting an Apologetic Ministry

I had the privilege of speaking with Chris Arnzen of Iron Sharpens Iron Radio about the birth of New York Apologetics and how to start an apologetics ministry.  We know that “unless the Lord builds it, it’s laborers labor in vain”, so we first want to thank our God for this awesome opportunity. 

 

And, although Nick Mitchell and I collaborated together to get this done, there were many people along the way that we learned from, are inspired by, and are still learning from.  I apologize if I left anyone out as there were so many people who have sown into us.

 

We are grateful to ALL of you and hope to continue to build the kingdom together with you.

 

Here is the interview with Chris Arnzen:

 

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Beware the Hebrew Roots Movement

Beware the Hebrew Roots Movement

Hebrew Roots is dangerous!

In my recent radio interview with Chris Arnzen on the Iron Sharpens Iron Radio Show, I was asked a question about the Hebrew Roots movement.  Although I’ve heard about the movement and knew some basic information, I promised to post some better information that would help that caller understand it and refute it.  The basic premise of the movement is that Christians must adhere to the whole law given to the Israelites as given to Moses- basically Judaism plus Jesus.  I hope this helps.

Please see the below information that will help you refute this teaching:

Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement

The Hebrew Roots Movement has influenced hundreds of thousands of Christians in recent decades. This article describes the nature of the movement, examines some of its major beliefs in light of relevant biblical passages, and challenges those who have been influenced by its teachings.

What is the Hebrew Roots movement?

What is the Hebrew (Hebraic) Roots movement? Is Messianic Judaism and the Hebrew Roots movement the same thing?

Refuting Hebrew Root Theology**

Since we have in the past and now just recently run into people who are either in Hebrew roots theology or are asking questions about it; it was time we did a post on it testing it against God’s full Word.

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Monday’s Musings and Thoughts on False Hebrew Roots Teachings

http://thelineoffire.org/shows/line_of_fire_02_06_12.mp3 [Download MP3] Dr. Brown catches up on the weekend events and shares some concerns about sensationalistic, false teachings. Listen live 2-4 pm EST, and call into the show at (866) 348 7884! Other Resources: 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices by Dr. Brown: Dr. Michael Brown answers sixty common questions about Jewish people and Jewish culture.

 

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Who was Jesus? | NY Minute

Who was Jesus? | NY Minute

New York Minute We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

There are only five possible answers to the question: If Jesus is not God, what is he? The bottom line on the argument for Christ’s divinity is that:

1. Jesus was either Lord, liar, lunatic, guru or myth.

2. He could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru or myth.

3. Therefore “Jesus is Lord” (the earliest Christian creed).

This argument can best be understood if it is developed slowly, step by step, from its simplest to its most complex form.

The Dilemma: Lord or Liar?

The dilemma is as old as the earliest Christian apologists: Aut deus aut homo malus, “Either God or a bad man.” That is the classic argument. Spelled out, it looks like this:

1. Jesus was either God (if he did not lie about who he was) or a bad man (if he did).

2. But Jesus was not a bad man.

3. Therefore Jesus was (is) God.

Few would challenge the second premise. But if the first premise is added, the conclusion necessarily follows. Therefore, non-Christians must challenge the first premise. What justifies this premise?

Common sense. Someone who claims to be God and is not, is not a good man but a bad man. Merely a “good man” is one thing Jesus could not possibly be. By claiming to be God he eliminated that possibility. For a liar is not a good man, and one who lies about his essential identity is a liar, and a mere man who claims to be God lies about his essential identity.

It is attractive and comfortable to say that Jesus was neither a bad man nor God, but a good man. To say he was a bad man offends Christians, and to say he was God offends non-Christians. To say neither offends no one. Therefore non-Christians want to say neither.

But that position offends logic.

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The Deity of Jesus: the alternative | NY Minute

The Deity of Jesus: the alternative | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

 

The Impossibility of the Alternative

What is the alternative to this conclusion that Jesus is God? What do unbelievers say to this argument? Jesus claimed to be God, and Jesus is believable, therefore Jesus is God. The conclusion follows from the premises. Which premise can be denied?

Concerning the first one—that Jesus claimed to be God—perhaps the New Testament texts lie. Perhaps traditional Christianity is a myth, a fairy tale, a fantasy. But this raises questions even more unanswerable than the question of how a man could be God.  Here are seven such questions.

1. If the Gospels lie, who invented the lie and for what reason? Was it Jesus’ apostles? What did they get out of the lie? Martyrdom—hardly an attractive temptation. A liar always has some selfish motive.

2. Why did thousands suffer torture and death for this lie if they knew it was a lie? As Pascal points out, the human heart is very fickle, especially the heart of a liar; all the enemies of Christianity needed to do to destroy this new religion from the beginning was to produce one confession from one of Jesus’ disciples that it was all a lie, a hoax. They used many forms of torture and bribery. They never succeeded.

3. What force sent Christians to the lions’ den with hymns on their lips? What lie ever transformed the world like that? What lie ever gave millions a moral fortitude and peace and joy like that? Christianity conquered the world mainly through the force of sanctity and love. Saints, not theologians, converted the world. You can fake theology, but you cannot fake sanctity. Saints are not liars and liars are not saints.

4. If it was not a deliberate lie but a hallucination or a myth sincerely mistaken for a literal truth, then who were the naive fools who first believed it? There isn’t another idea a Jew would be less likely to believe. Imagine this: the transcendent God who for millennia had strictly forbidden his chosen people to confuse him with a creature as the pagans did—this Creator-God became a creature, a man—a crucified criminal. Hardly a myth that arises naturally in the Jewish mind!

5. And if it was not the Jews but the Gentiles who started the myth, where did the myth come from in the New Testament? Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, twenty-five were written by Jews.

6. Whether Jews or Gentiles started the myth, they could not have done so during the lifetime of those who knew the real Jesus, for it would have been publicly refuted by eyewitnesses who knew the facts. Other religious founders, like Buddha and Muhammad, were indeed “divinized” by later myths, but at least two or three generations (more usually two or three centuries) had to pass before such myths could be believed. But the “myth” of Jesus’ divinity goes back to the very earliest times and documents.

7. Why has the “myth” continued to attract the brightest minds in history? If you pit Paul of Tarsus, John the Evangelist, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, John Damascene, Origen, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Boethius, Erigena, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Bonaventura, Scotus, Ockham, Nicholas of Cusa, Cajetan, Luther, Calvin, Kepler, Ignatius Loyola, Dante, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Berkeley, Copernicus, Newton, Kierkegaard, Newman, Pasteur, Jaspers, Marcel, Galileo, Tolstoy, Chesterton, Dostoyevsky, T. S. Eliot and C. S. Lewis against Machiavelli, Hobbes, Renan, Freud, Darwin, Marx, La Mettrie, Skinner, Nietzsche, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Ayer, Paine and the ACLU, it would hardly be a fair fight.

Conclusion:

Aquinas argues that if the Incarnation did not really happen, then an even more unbelievable miracle happened: the conversion of the world by the biggest lie in history and the moral transformation of lives into unselfishness, detachment from worldly pleasures and radically new heights of holiness by a mere myth.

The fundamental difficulty unbelievers have is with the data. How can they explain the data of history: a good and wise man who claimed to be God? No one has ever satisfactorily answered the simple question: If Jesus is not God, as Christians say he is, then who is he? If any answer to that question had even a specious staying power, it would have served as a mainstay of all unbelievers’ arguments for all time. But hypothesis after weak hypothesis is tried, and each fares about as well as fog on a sunny morning.

 

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Jesus’ Divinity leads to Trustworthiness | NY Minute

Jesus’ Divinity leads to Trustworthiness | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

Christ’s Trustworthiness

Everyone who reads the Gospels agrees that Jesus was a good and wise man, a great and profound teacher. Most nonreligious people, and even many people of other religions, like Gandhi, see him as history’s greatest moral teacher. He is, in short, eminently trustworthy.

But what a trustworthy teacher teaches can be trusted. If he is trustworthy, then we should trust him, especially about his own identity. If we do not trust him about that, then we cannot say he is trustworthy, that is, wise and good.

In fact, if we do not trust him even to know who he is, then he certainly is not trustworthy, wise and good. If there is any one thing that disqualifies a person from being trustworthy, it is not knowing himself. A man who thinks he is God when he is not God clearly does not know himself!

The size of the gap between what you are and what you think you are is a pretty good index of your insanity. If I believe I am the best writer in America, I am an egotistical fool, but I am not insane. If I believe I am Napoleon, I am probably near the edge. If I believe I am the archangel Gabriel, I am probably well over it. And if I believe I am God? … Would you send your children to Sunday school to be taught by a man who thought he was God?

Why then did anyone believe Jesus’ claim to be God?

The psychological, personal, motivational reason—as distinct from the objective, logical, theological reason—is because he was so good and wise and trustworthy. This is the same reason so many believed Buddha’s almost equally incredible claim: that we are all living in perpetual illusion; that all our thoughts are false; that you and I and space and time and past and future and matter and soul are all illusions; and that the only thing that is real is totally nameless and indescribable, except to say sunyata (“emptiness”) and neti, neti (“not this, not that”). They believed this doctrine not because it seemed true but because Buddha seemed true. How could he deceive or be deceived? He was “holy to his fingertips.” The same psychological principle explains how Christians, from twelve apostles 2000 years ago to a billion believers today, believe this even more astonishing claim: they believe it because they believe him. To deny it, you would have to deny him. And that is unthinkable.

There is an instructive parallel in Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lucy has entered another world, Narnia, through a wardrobe, and told her siblings about it. They disbelieve her, of course. A wise old professor adjudicates the argument by asking Peter, Lucy’s older brother, whether Lucy is a liar. Peter is confident she is not; he knows her too well. Well, then, is she insane? It is obvious from her behavior that she is not. Then there is only one possibility left, concludes the professor: Lucy must be telling the truth.

If Peter knows Lucy better than he knows the universe, it is more reasonable for him to believe Lucy and change his beliefs about the universe than vice versa. If we know the humanity and trustworthiness of Jesus better than we know what is possible for God to do, it is reasonable for us to believe Jesus and change our theological expectations, rather than vice versa.

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