Friday, November 18, 2016

Christians convert more people to atheism than to Christianity

I know this title may seem a bit far fetched, the idea that Christians turn more people to atheism or agnosticism sounds absurd, but hear me out. The main friction Christians have with the rational world is with science and namely evolution. This seems to be what creates more tension between Christians and scientists, or anyone that believes in evolution, than anything else. So I will attempt to show why this battle tends to create more atheism than it does create new Christians.

We as a people, Christian or non-Christian, need to be open to new ideas and information, if we are not we doom ourselves to being simple minded and backwards, unable to progress as a human being both mentally and spiritually. When scientists present us with data, we need to accept it. Of course we first need to be critical of what they present to ensure that what they present is true, thats how science works. But we should not immediately reject any new ideas because it supposedly conflicts with our religious convictions.

As with evolution, Christians tend to think that it is incompatible with scripture. As an evolutionist and a Christian I reject this. I once took this stance that the two were irreconcilable. But over time as I began to realize that science had a point about evolution and it was backed by hard evidence, I understood too that I was not a scientist, I had to accept the reality of evolution. So, what of my faith? Should I abandon it because it conflicts with scientific fact? It was at this point that I realized that it was not scripture that evolution was in conflict with, it was my literal interpretation that was conflicting. As new evidence arose to prove evolution true, I understood that my view of scripture must also change. The creation story in Genesis is not a literal one, it is metaphorical. (detailing that could produce an entire book about the metaphorical meaning so I will spare you). One must also understand the audience Moses was speaking to, former slaves who were almost entirely uneducated and illiterate. He had to present a simple explanation almost like he was talking to kids, hence the reference to the jews as "children."

Moses was not interested in giving a detailed scientific explanation as to how the world came into being, he was giving them a simplistic story that was easy to understand, but not literal. Had Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson, and perhaps Bill Nye, been those amongst the Israelites, he probably would have began with "billions of years ago..." But he didn't do that for the specific reason that the Israelites would not be able to grasp this idea, it would be foreign to them and they were already hostile towards Moses and very untrustworthy of him. He was forced to make a simple explanation.

How do Christians create atheists? Well, when a hardline Christian with a literal view of the bible and no understanding of science debates with a scientist, he goes against all evidence presented, ignores it and then says "well the bible says so its true." This willful rejection of scientific fact and all the research and knowledge of a plethora of scientists who have studied this for years tells them that Christians are dumb people who reject evidence and fact, and denounce all use of reason. Why on earth would that scientist ever want to become a Christian? This tells him or her that Christianity does not hold reason or fact in high regard, and if they reject fact for fiction then none of it must be true. This does not make Christianity appealing to a single one of them.

My advice is to stop rejecting science and leave science to the scientists just as you expect scientists to leave theology to the theologians. Nobody is saying that science proves God does not exist, in fact there are many scientists who do believe in both God and evolution, they see God in creation and it is entirely possible that God used a discoverable way in which to create all things. The big bang most likely happened and this was most likely the method with which God created all things. It is still a miracle that we can all marvel at regardless of how all came into being.

My logic is this, all matter must have an origin. That matter could not have come into being by any materialistic or natural means because we simply do not observe matter creating itself today. If I see a computer or television it is rational for me to say "who made that?" That is logical, and I assert it is also logical for all matter. It is irrational to think matter can come into existence of its own will, matter is inanimate, it just cannot self exist. Some would say, well, then who created God? But this is not a fair question because in asking this we either bring God, an infinite being, to the level of matter or elevate matter to the level of God. It would be like asking where does infinity end. God, by His very nature, has always existed. This is a very difficult concept for finite beings to grasp because our nature is to be born, grow old, and die. We cannot conceive of anything other than that because it is beyond the scope of our understanding. That is, at least, my thinking on the matter.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Christianity was meant to be classless

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need." Acts 4:32-35

This is a passage in scripture that is almost completely ignored by all Christian denominations. In fact I would wager that most people who identify as Christians are completely unaware of this passage or what it even means. Its quite simple, early Christians gave their wealth to the church and it was distributed equally among the people. This did a few things, it eliminated class within the church putting everyone on equal footing, and made sure that all were united as one. They were either all poor or all rich, and maybe there were many in between. But the point is they were all of one class. 

Why is that so important? Because when you have classes, a rich and a poor, the rich tend to think of themselves as better or in the Christian context, chosen by God. After all their riches must come from God, that meaning they are appointed. This often leads to the rich then running the church and leaving the poor and middle class out of the decision making. It can often mean leaving the priests out of the decision making as well, since it is the rich that contribute most and therefore pay the salary of the priest. Therefore the priest is put in a position of being under the rule of the rich within the church.

What I have witnessed in many churches is Christian adopting the right wing republican or libertarian view that poor people are poor by their own choosing. They have not worked hard enough and do not deserve any sort of help. This also adds to the idea that they, by virtue of being rich, are somehow better or chosen and therefore are entitled to lord over everyone else. The feeling is that they are rich, therefore they are better decision makers, better thinkers, better people, and or are chosen by God.

The trouble with this is obvious. It creates classes within the church and gives all power to the rich. Christianity was founded by poor people for poor people. Christ did not exactly have positive things to say about wealth and or rich people. This is why it was a requirement in the early church to give up your wealth for the greater good of all the people within that church, to make everyone equal. Yet we see inequality within every church. In nearly every church you will see someone driving to church in a car on its last leg and at the very same church others will be driving expensive luxury cars that are worth more than what that poor person makes in a single year, or two. You will almost always see people who have no worry of medical insurance and those going without medical insurance in that very same church.

This passage in Acts shows graphically that the early church sought to eliminate that by creating a classless society in which all were equal. What changed this and when I do not know but I am sure it happened over a period of time. Slowly but surely the Christian church became a church governed by rich people, for rich people and the poor slowly shut out.

Ask yourself, would anyone in your church be willing to give up their wealth for the good of all people within that church? Would you personally be willing to give over all your wealth for the greater good of all the people within your church? We must ask these questions because it is obvious that every denomination has strayed from the early church and its intent on creating equality within the church. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Diagnosis and Prescription

There are many problems facing the Coptic church today, many indeed. However the people seem unable or unwilling to address these problems and instead choose to bury their head in the sand. What is worse is if someone, especially a non-Egyptian, points these out, they are essentially shunned for speaking it. Here I will diagnose the problems first, then prescribe each problem a remedy. I will lay out the problems and how they can be solved since everyone seems clueless that they exist and or how to fix them.

1. Clericalism
Clericalism is rampant in the church. The priesthood is often, but not always, treated like an exclusive mens club. These men will come to the aid of one another regardless if he is in the wrong or not, rather than approaching a situation in an unbiased manner. Clergy will immediately defend one another against the people, even when the evidence overwhelmingly shows that clergy has done something wrong. This is especially a problem in the Coptic Church as when a priest does wrong he is simply moved to another church and the issue not addressed. The people allow this so the clergy continue to do it. Many seem to have this idea that speaking out against clergy is wrong. That is the furthest from the truth. In the 4th century St Cyril the Great, one of my favorite saints, incorrectly tried to canonize Ammonius who attempted to murder the prefect Orestes and was killed as a result of this attempt. The people rose up against St Cyril in defiance, and they were correct. St Cyril, the pillar of faith, was forced to reverse his decision.

Prescription - The people need to hold clergy accountable for their actions. This does not mean people need to constantly attack clergy, but if a clergyman is corrupt then his actions need to be made public, especially since we cannot count on the leadership of the church to defrock these priests, we know they will be protected and simply moved to another church. Perhaps starting a registry in which clergy can be rated according to personal experiences from people who have interacted with them, a website that people can check. This will force honesty from the clergy who abuse their position of power and hopefully keep corrupt people from becoming clergy in the first place. The leadership needs to understand that these positions attract mentally unstable power hungry people not interested in actually serving the people but only serving themselves. Those clergy need to be punished swiftly and severely, not coddled.

2. Ethnocentricism
The church suffers from a good dose of ethnocentricism, which makes evangelizing nearly impossible. Many expect catechumens to not only learn and accept an entirely new religion, but an entirely new culture and language. Neither of these are essential for salvation. However catechumens often feel left out or set aside, especially in churches where they refuse to use english. This often borders on racism, which I have seen a fair share of from people within the church who come to this country a persecuted people and then look down on black americans, another persecuted people. This is entirely unacceptable but is also rampant within the church. Many of these congregants seem to only be coming because it is their culture and not for salvation. So they see it as maintaining their culture and not as a means of healing the soul.

Prescription - When you come to any country the liturgy should be done in the language of that country. The people themselves need to use only that language to as not to alienate the people who come seeking Christ. Do not expect people to adopt your culture, but you should adopt theirs and adapt it to Orthodoxy. Copts seem to immigrate to countries with no plan whatsoever pertaining to the culture of the land they are immigrating to. This gives people the idea that Copts view their culture and language as superior to the land they immigrated to, which turns people off. Adapt to the surrounding culture in which you live so as to make it an easier transition for people converting.

3. Protestantism
The church has a serious problem with this. Many are attempting to adopt many aspects of protestantism into the church. Either knowingly or unknowingly destroying the church. I have written 11 books on the subject with the backing of Anba Youssef of the SUS Diocese in America. Sadly nobody has listened and the influx of protestantism into the church has continued. It has started with simply singing their songs, but take a look at what many of these people post on facebook and you can see that they are delving into protestant teaching. Not just C.S. Lewis, but frauds like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. Many seem to see no difference between Orthodoxy and protestantism and consider all 40,000 denominations to be Christian. This is dangerous as it equates protestantism to Orthodoxy, telling people they can get the same result without being Orthodox, which is untrue.

Prescription - Stop singing protestant songs. Stop seeking protestants for theological advice. Start delving into the rich history of your own faith. There are countless writings from Orthodox Christians that far exceed what any protestant could produce. The early writings of the church, especially the commentaries on scripture, are invaluable, use them. Sadly many Copts have no idea when it comes to early church writings and are content settling for superficial teachings and teachings that focus on pulling emotional strings. Listen to those that spent time as a protestant and converted, stop thinking you know it all and listen to those that actually do know. You are destroying the church so be humble for once and listen to what people are saying who are against it.

There are a number of other problems facing the church, I felt these are the most important and if these are fixed the others will eventually work themselves out. You may be surprised that I did not include islam on this list. Islam is merely a physical danger and in no way presents a theological danger to the church. As Tertullian said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, we should not be worried about physical persecution. Our numbers grew in the early church when we were physically persecuted. The danger came when people became complacent and theological errors entered into the church, fracturing it. Incorrect theology poses a far greater danger then someones ability to persecute another.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Defining What is Christian

How do we define a Christian and why is that important? It would seem that the definition of Christian is ambiguous, having been watered down my countless denominations that continually redefine Christian theology. Why is this important? It is important to define what a Christian is because if we do not then anyone can call themselves a Christian and be misled or mislead others into incorrect teachings. It is important to define what a Christian or Christianity is so that people can know the truth. If we accept anyones profession that they are a Christian without having first investigated then we will be held accountable.

The easiest way is to contrast everything against the sacrament of sacraments, the Eucharist. In the Orthodox Church this sacrament is considered to be the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, not as in the Catholic teaching of transubstantiation, but a mystical or spiritual transformation, not a transformation of substance. It is not considered symbolic at all in Orthodoxy. It is not considered symbolic by Christ in the Gospel of St John either, He says: "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum."

Christ does not say that this is symbolic in any way, He is literal, in fact when the people were grumbling He reiterated that He was being literal. This caused many to desert Christ, so why didn't He explain that He was only speaking symbolically? To further prove this point, when Christ instituted the Eucharist in Mt 26:26 He said: “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Notice that Christ does not once say that this is a symbol but that this is My Body and this is My Blood. He then refers to this as His blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins. This is literal, not symbolic in any way.

Christ says in John 6:53 that: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed,[h] and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." This again is clear in that we must partake of the Eucharist, which Christ instituted and said is His Body and His Blood. Christ says that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we will have no life in us, meaning we cannot receive salvation unless we partake of the Eucharist.

So it stands to reason, whomever rejects the Eucharist rejects Christ and in turn rejects their own salvation. This we cannot consider to be Christian. Any denomination that either rejects the Eucharist or teaches that it is merely symbolic cannot be considered Christian. For any Orthodox to suggest that one who rejects the Eucharist is Christian is heresy because they are stating that a person who rejects Christ is in some way a Christian. This is in no way a condemnation of the people who may believe this as most probably do it out of ignorance. It is important for Orthodoxy to strictly define what it means to be Christian, and this is one way of doing that.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why the Apostles were not liars

There seems to be a lot of denial when it comes to Christ and Christianity these days and more often than not the Apostles and their accounts are portrayed as unreliable and fanciful tales of magic. If one did not stop and think critically this would seem to be the case. How could someone be brutally tortured, crucified and then raise themselves from the dead? Where is the evidence for such a claim? I will tell you, it is in the lives of the Apostles and disciples of Christ. If anyone knew that the resurrection, and other claims in scripture, were false, it would be them. So why is this important and how does it prove anything? Generally speaking when some religious person makes outrageous claims they do it for a purpose and that purpose is power, money, women, fame, or any of the trappings that come with the ability to manipulate people. But this is not the case when it comes to the Apostles nor the disciples. Many of them were martyred for their faith and all of them lived very poor and meager lives, hardly reminiscent of cult leaders.

If anyone had a reason to steal the body of Christ it would have been the Apostles, this would have given weight to their claims and the claims of Christ. So that means they would have been living a lie, but for what reason? They gained nothing. Every Apostles, aside from St John, was either tortured then martyred or just martyred. I could see maybe one Apostle doing this and being so delusional to think that his lie was real and being martyred for it, but 11 of them? Surely one of them would have broke and admitted this to save his own skin. What of St John the Apostle? Why wouldn't he admit that this was a lie to save himself from being exiled an old man to the obscure island of Patmos? St Peter, who seemed to have been a weak in faith at times, was crucified upside down at his own request. Now why didn't he break and admit this was a lie? After all it was him who denied Christ three times out of fear for his life, if anyone were to break it would have been him, but he didn't.

It makes little to no sense for a group of people to maintain a lie like this for no reason. None of them gained anything. They were constantly persecuted and ridiculed. They were poor and ended up dying miserable deaths. Unless all of them were totally insane I see no purpose for them to lie. The probability of all of them being insane has to be off the charts, and then you would have to explain how these insane and unstable people were convincing educated and uneducated, rich and poor of their claims. The only logical conclusion is that the Apostles were not lying about the things they saw, that these things were not some fanciful musings of an insane person, but reality.

One also has to understand that Christ did these things in full view of the public, for all to see and hear. If the Gospel writers were lying surely someone would have come forward to discredit them, but even the jews did not deny that Christ did something, calling Him a "sorcerer" (Sanhedrin 43a). They aren't denying the existence of Christ or that He indeed did miracles or some kind. If Christ did not exist certainly the jews would not admit to His existence. If Christ and or his followers were lying about His "miracles" certainly the jews would have made no reference to it, but they instead try to explain it as being sorcery.

We know from several sources outside scripture that Christ existed historically, I don't even think people cognizant of the facts would deny this. What is in question is, was He who He and His followers claimed? There is enough evidence to suggest that Christ was who He and His followers claimed He was. This is not indisputable evidence, it is inferential evidence that one could base their conclusions upon.

It defies logic that the Apostles would have knowingly upheld a lie and not buckled under the pressure of persecution and a life of poverty. It also defies logic to say Christ did not exist at all and that all the stories are made up. If Christ did not exist surely the jews wouldn't admit to it and if Christ did nothing that could be considered a miracle then why would the jews attempt to explain it away as sorcery. To say there is no evidence is to state a falsehood, there is evidence. It is inferential evidence, not undeniable truth. But one could easily take these facts and base their faith on it as the foundation of their faith. There is truth there. It is not as if there is nothing to base faith on, there clearly is, this however is the choice one must make based on what we know.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Inequality in the Church

One thing I think that bothers me most, aside from the growing influx of protestantism into the church, is inequality. I cannot speak for every church as I have not been to every church. I know there are churches where the congregant are relatively poor and ones where the congregants are relatively rich, and some that are in the middle. From what I have seen there is inequality to some degree within most of the churches. There are people who have and do not have worry and there are those that do not have anything but worry because they are lacking. This is not how it was originally meant to be.

In Acts 4 we read in verse 32 that "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need." If we are apostolic then why do we not do this, not necessarily exactly this but something akin to this? Why are there people within our own church lacking while others have abundance? At what point did we get away from this and why? These are questions I am not sure I have or can find the answer to. But one thing is certain this is a problem that I do not think many people want to address.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rationalizing the Existence of God

I believe in the big bang, and science in general. I believe that God created in a way that is scientifically discoverable and understandable. I also believe that the account in Genesis is more metaphorical than literal. What does this have to do with rationalizing the existence of God? I believe that the big bang could not have happened without God as the motivating factor. We know that matter cannot self exist or decide to create itself unless someone creates it. We also know, as far as I am aware, that matter does not decide to explode creating life through the process of evolution.

We seem to, however, come to the same conclusion with God that we do matter. What created matter? I assert that God created matter and initiated the big bang. Well then, what created God? This seems to be a big, if not bigger, problem than what created matter. But that is assuming that God can be created or come into existence like matter. It is lowering the creator to the level of creation and there is no comparison.

For instance, mankind can understand, observe, and test matter. We can know its properties and how it behaves through the scientific method. We can, with a degree of certainty, predict how matter will behave. We cannot do the same for God, by definition he is beyond matter, above it, outside it. A finite being trying to understand and grasp an infinite being is impossible, which is why we, as finite beings, lower God to an understandable level like that of matter. Its like infinity in mathematics, which has driven people absolutely mad in trying to grasp it, and there are a number of examples of this because the nature of infinity is not something a finite being can fully understand.

Its like comparing a computer to its creator. Yes the computer is complex, but it is explainable and understandable. The human, however, is far more complex. A single strand of human DNA is far more complex than the most advanced computer system today. In fact most people do not understand DNA, the believe it and accept it, but its beyond their capability to understand. Now compare an infinite being to a finite being. Its impossible.

So I assert that matter cannot always exist, it is finite and therefore must have an infinite creator. To assert that matter has "always existed" would be to infer that matter is infinite and we know that this is not the case. So, there must be a God outside creation yet inside creation at the same time.