Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Harold Camping May Be Ignorant but at Least He's Not Stoned

Harold Camping does more damage for the cause of Christ than many realize. The biblical skeptic thinks to himself, "Those ignorant Christians. I'm sure glad I reject Christianity because they're just flat out wrong about everything."  Camping's prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011, a prophecy his says is now postponed in terms of its fulfillment until October 21, 2011, reveals the biblical ignorance in both him and his followers. One who trusted Mr. Camping's prediction,  a man named Robert Fitzpatrick,  depleted his life savings and gave $140,000 to spread publicity about the end times. When the hour came and went, Fitzpatrick was left with, “I do not understand why nothing has happened.”

Here is what happened Mr. Fitzpatrick. Like many western evangelicals, Mr. Harold Camping and you have zero understanding that when the Jewish prophets used language like "the end of the world (literally 'the age' in Matthew 24:1-3)," or "the fall of the sun, moon and stars," or "the destruction of  the heavens and earth" and other apocalyptic phrases, they were referring to the end of the OLD COVENANT and the destruction of Jerusalem (the headquarters of the Old Covenant), the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Mosaic economy of law. These Hebrew prophets were predicting the collapse of the Mosaic economy long before it actually occurred in 70 AD. The Hebrew prophets also understood that concurrent with the end of the OLD AGE there would come the establishment of the kingdom of God's Son, called the NEW COVENANT AGE. The contrasts between the Old Covenant Age and the New Covenant Age are startling.

The Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD
In the Old Covenant there was a Temple in Jerusalem. In the New Covenant believers in Christ themselves "are the temple of the living God." In the Old Covenant blessings from God were received by obedience to law (i.e. "keep my statutes and live") whereas in the New Covenant all the blessings of God are received in Christ through faith. In the Old Covenant keeping the sacrificial, ceremonial, ritual laws of God identified the Jews as God's chosen people, but in the New Covenant keeping the Law of Christ--which is "love one another as I (Christ) have loved you"--is THE identifying mark of all those who are in Christ. In the Old Covenant, holiness was measured by one's relationship to the laws of Moses, but in the New Covenant holiness is measured by one's relationship to what James calls "The Royal Law of Love" (see I Thessalonians 3: 12-13). In the Old Covenant, authority came by position within the framework of the Mosaic economy. In the New Convenant all the authority belongs to Christ, and every believer is a "priest unto God" needing no other human being as an intermediary. The Old Covenant--which was the shadow that pointed to the substance of Christ--was fullfilled by Christ and ABOLISHED. No more altars. No more sacrifices. No more tithes. No more holy places or holy days. The New Covenant points people to Christ and the importance of our faith, hope and love relationship with Him as well as the love we display to the world which is, again, THE distinguishing mark of genuine believers (see Jesus' statement in John 13:35).

The laws abolished by the end of the Mosaic economy included Sabbath worship, tithes to the Temple, ritual sacrifices, the celebration of feasts and festivals, and all the other ceremonial, covenantal and ritual laws of the Jewish economy. They were ALL abolished. By the way, any church which tries to substitute itself as the Temple of God and the pastor as the High Priest reveals a biblical ignorance similar to that of Mr. Camping. Ironically, one of the MOSAIC LAWS THAT WAS ABOLISHED by the establishment of the New Covenant is this one in Deuteronomy 18:20:

"But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak... shall die."

Mr. Harold Camping
In the context you find that a prophet speaking "presumptiously" means a prophet who predicts something will happen and then it does not come to pass. Also in the context it is revealed that the false prophet was to die by the Hebrew people "stoning" him. So, at least in Mr. Camping's case, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that his ignorance of the biblical importance of the end of the Old Covenant causes him to make false prophecies regarding the end of the world. The good news is that with the ABOLISHMENT of the Jewish age and the establishment of the New Covenant Age (the kingdom of Christ),  WE DON'T HAVE TO STONE Mr Camping--we simply love him as an ignorant Christian brother who is in need of greater biblical understanding.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The DNA of John Wilkes Booth: Nothing to Lose and Much to Learn about a Tragic Love Story

John Wilkes Booth
The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., and the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, possess three vertebrae specimens that, according to the government, come from the body of the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln.  The vertebrae were taken from John Wilkes Booth during the official autopsy performed on April 27, 1865.  Booth had been killed a day earlier, April 26, 1865, after being shot by Union sergeant Boston Corbett at Garrett’s farm in Virginia. However, there is an ongoing effort today by Booth's descendants, using the services of DNA specialists, to prove John Wilkes Booth did not die at Garrett's farm on April 26, 1865, but actually lived for an additional forty years, dying in his early sixties. Booth's descendants have long believed John Wilkes Booth escaped the Union's attempts to capture him.

Joanne Hulme, a distant Booth relative, wrote on March 2011, "At no time did any of John Wilkes Booth's family identify the body at Garrett's farm; not on the Montague, not at Weaver's Funeral Home, and not at the barn. The government could have brought the Booth family forth, but chose not to. Joseph Booth, John's brother, said numerous times that neither he nor Edwin Booth ever identified the body." Over 95% of all Booth descendants today believe the so-called 'body in the barn' was not that of forefather John Wilkes Booth.

The body buried at the Arsenol
Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the body in the barn to be immediately and secretly buried in the Old Penitentiary on the grounds of the Washington Arsenal, land now a part of Ft. McNair. A grave was dug beneath the prison floor on the evening of April 27, 1865, and the remains, wrapped in an army blanket and placed in a gun box, were lowered into a hole and covered by a stone slab. One photograph of the body had been taken during the Booth autopsy and it was given to Stanton, but the photograph immediately disappeared. Unlike Booth's diary which was also given to Stanton and disappeared but then reaapeared two years later, the autopsy photograph, which could have identified the body as Booth's, never reappeared.  Nearly four years later in February of 1869, President Andrew Johnson ordered the body exhumed and given to the family. Ironically, in Baptist Alley behind Ford's Theater, the very alley in which Booth had made his escape after assassinating the President four years earlier, the casket was opened and the decomposed body, now a skeleton, was for the first time shown to a representative of the Booth family.

The skeleton was then taken to Baltimore and re-buried in February 1869 in the Booth family plot at Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland. Booth's granddaughter Izola Forrester wrote in her 1937 book This One Mad Act that it was common knowledge in the Booth family that John Wilkes Booth did not die in the barn at Garrett's farm. Blanche DeBar Booth, John's niece, swore in an affidavit late in her life that her uncle John tried to contact her after the turn of the century, and that both Edwin Booth (John's brother) and Mary Ann Holme's Booth (John's mother) had personally met with John Wilkes Booth after his alleged death in April 1865. 

Circuit Court for Baltimore, Maryland
In October of 1994, a petition was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore, Maryland to "exhume the alleged remains of John Wilkes Booth from Green Mount Cemetery (in Baltimore)."  Two descendants of Booth, a great-niece named Lois White Rathbun and a second cousin named Virginia Eleanor Kline, filed the petition. The Booth family was assisted by historian Nathaniel Orlowek, historiographer and professor Arthur Ben Chitty from University of the South, and Washington D.C. super lawyer Mark S. Zaid. The cause for the petition was the belief that John Wilkes Booth was not shot and killed on April 26, 1865, at Garrett's farm, but escaped Virginia and eventually lived in Tennessee and Texas under the alias "John St. Helen" and then eventually moved to Oklahoma under the alias "David E. George" where Booth eventually died in Enid, Oklahoma on January 13, 1903 (see Statement of Case: Appellate Brief). Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ruled against the Booth family and declared the body buried at Green Mount could not be exhumed. After losing on appeal, the Booths turned their attention in 2010 on an effort to exhume the body of John's brother, Edwin Booth, buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge MA. Once Edwin's body is exhumed, DNA will be compared to the vertebrae taken from the body in the barn.

If the DNA of Edwin Booth matches the vertebrae the government claims to be from John Wilkes Booth, then the "Booth Legend" will be laid to rest. If not, the interest in the man named John St. Helen/David E. George will explode. Either way, there remains an incredible and mostly unexplored story of love, tragedy and mystery--the story of David E. George.

The Suicide of David Elihu George
David E. George
David Elihu George committed suicide in Room #4 of the Grand Avenue Hotel in Enid, Oklahoma on Tuesday morning, January 13, 1903, by drinking strychnine poison. Mr. George was in his early sixties at the time of his death, and little was known about him when he died. David George had come to Enid just a few weeks earlier, in December 1902, and lived in the Grand Hotel paying for a week's rent at a time. He went about town verbally advertising himself for hire as a house painter. Mr. George was in his early sixties, was known to drink heavily at night in the bars on the town square, was occasionally seen by the proprietors of the hotel sitting in the lobby reading vaudeville and/or theatrical journals. He also possessed an affinity for quoting Shakespeare. Very little else was known about this stranger--until after he died.

The Enid Wave published in its January 13, 1903 afternoon edition a one-paragraph article about the David E. George suicide. A local pastor, Rev. E.C. Harper, brought the nickel paper home and read the headline to his wife Jessica. The couple had moved to Enid just a year earlier from El Reno, Oklahoma. While her husband was a pastor in El Reno in 1900, Mrs. Harper had attended to a "David George" on his sickbed. The deathly ill man had confessed to Jessica Harper that he was "John Wilkes Booth," wishing to clear his conscience of "killing the greatest man who ever lived." Mr. George, would eventually recover from his serious illness of 1900, and continued to work in El Reno, never mentioning again his alleged real identity. Mrs. Harper and others in El Reno, including Rev. E.C. Harper, dismissed the George's 1900 'Booth confession' as either the delusions of a sick man or the deception of an insane man.
The Grand Hotel, Enid, Oklahoma today
Upon reading the Enid newspaper account of  David E. George's suicide that Tuesday evening, January 13, 1903, the Harpers wondered if this "David E. George" who died earlier that morning at the Grand Hotel could be the same David George they had known in El Reno. Mr. Harper went down to the town square and entered the Penniman Furniture Store, which doubled as a funeral parlor, and viewed the George body. With no known relatives in Enid, the body was under the care of embalmer W.H. Ryan.  Rev. Harper saw George's body and realized it was the same man that he and his wife had known in El Reno. The minister suggested to W.H. Ryan that government authorities should be notified because "this man confessed to my wife that he was John Wilkes Booth." It was the next day, January 14, 1903, that the Enid newspapers had a field day with the testimony of Rev. and Mrs. Harper. Enid officials did handwriting analysis of David George's and John Wilkes Booth's handwriting and noted uncanny similarities. The body of George was carefully examined and several distinguishing and unique features in common with Booth were noted. The death of David E. George and his "Booth confession" to Mrs. Harper spread throughout the country via newspapers.
Finis Bates
Enter Memphis, Tennessee attorney Finis Bates. Mr. Bates read in the Memphis newspaper the story about David George's suicide and wondered if this man who confessed to being Booth could be the same man Bates knew as "John St. Helen" years earlier in Texas. Thirty years before, in the early 1870's,  Finis Bates was a young lawyer in Granbury, Texas. He had represented a man named John St. Helen in a tax and liquor license case. In late 1872 Bate's client, John St. Helen became ill. St. Helen called for his attorney to come and see him. Just like David E. George would later confide to Mrs. E.C. Harper in 1900 that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth, so too John St. Helen confessed to Finis Bates that he was John Wilkes Booth. However, unlike Mrs. Harper, the curious young lawyer who heard the confession took St. Helen at his word and probed his client about the Lincoln assassination. Bates transcribed St. Helen's answers to his questions and would later discover that John St. Helen knew facts and information about the case that the government had not yet released to the public in 1872. Shortly after confessing he was Booth and giving to his attorney specific details of the Lincoln assassination, John St. Helen disappeared. Finis Bates would eventually move to Memphis, Tennessee where he became what was then called Attorney General (assistant D.A.). Bates worked for over twenty-five years seeking further information about John St. Helen and/or anybody who claimed to have seen John Wilkes Booth after 1865. In 1900 Finis Bates filed paperwork with the federal government, giving them information from the notes he transcribed during John St. Helen's 1872 "confession." Bates requested that the government's John Wilkes Booth reward money be given to him (Bates) on the premise that the government had made a mistake and killed the wrong man in the barn at Garrett's farm. Bates argued to the government that he (Bates) knew the current identity of Booth (John St. Helen) and that he could help the government capture him. The government sent a form letter back to Bates saying Booth had already been captured and killed.

After reading of the death of David E. George and his confession to being Booth, Finis Bates would make his way to Enid, Oklahoma by train in the spring of 1903 to see if George could in fact be the man he knew as John St. Helen. Finis Bates entered Penniman's Funeral Home and, according to Mr. W.H. Ryan, turned white as a sheet when he saw David E. George's body and exclaimed, "My old friend! My old friend John St. Helen!"

Finis Bates believed so much that David E. George/John St. Helen was in fact John Wilkes Booth that he went on to stake his professional reputation on proving it. He was not alone. The first President of the Oklahoma Historical Society, W.P. Campbell, believed David E. George/John St. Helen was John Wilkes Booth. The two books these two men wrote defending their views are available on-line. The titles of the two narrative books are self-explanatory: John Wilkes Booth: Escape and Wanderings until Final Ending of the Trail at Enid, Oklahoma, January 12 (sic), 1903, by W.P. Campbell, and The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth: Or, the First True Account of Lincoln's Assassination, Containing a Complete Confession by Booth (published 1907) by Finis Bates. These two books are lampooned by many, but Bates' book became a bestseller (70,000 copies) within just a few months of its publication in 1907. Both these men wrote emphatically that John Wilkes Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma on January 13, 1903. The impending DNA tests by the Booth family will either destroy their century-old Booth escape premise or the DNA tests will cause many historians who have mocked Bates and Campbell to re-read their material with greater focus.
What piques my curiosity is the life of John St. Helen/David E. George from 1865-1872 and how he came to first encounter attorney Finis Bates in Granbury, Texas. Where did John St. Helen/David E. George come from? Who was he? What about his family? If he is proven not to be Booth, how long did he carry out his Booth deception? It is incontrovertible David E. George and John St. Helen are the same man. One does not have to come close to believing David E. George is John Wilkes Booth to see that David E. George is John St. Helen. Where was John St. Helen prior to appearing in Texas in 1872? I believe the answers to these questions from the beginning of understanding a tragic love story, regardless of your view of "The Booth Legend."

The Mystery of the Love Story Begins
In early February 1903, not quite four weeks after David E. George died in Enid, the mayor of El Reno (Booth's former place of residence for at least three years immediately prior to Enid), received a letter from Mrs. Charles Levine of New York City. The Enid Eagle, Enid's morning paper, reported on this letter in its February 19, 1903 edition. Mrs. Levine wrote that she was the daughter of John Wilkes Booth, and if indeed, David E. George was Mr. Booth, she was entitled to his estate, an estate that the papers were then reporting to be quite sizable (later discovered to be untrue). Most modern historians, including C. Wyatt Evans, dismiss Mrs. Levine's letter as an attempt by a greedy easterner to either glean money or gain fame by inserting herself into the David E. George drama playing out in Enid, Oklahoma. C. Wyatt Evans lumps Mrs. Charles Levine into a very broad category of other crazy "interlopers" who tried to profit from the George death, and only devotes one paragraph to Mrs. Levine in his otherwise excellent book The Legend of John Wilkes Booth: Myth, Memory and a Mummy. Evans places his information about Mrs. Levine in the same paragraph as his description of quack "palm reader"  who also sought to profit from the George story by reading the dead man's hand. I believe, respectfully, that C. Wyatt Evans is wrong about Mrs. Levine's motives for "inserting herself" into the George drama in Enid.

Marriage License of John W. Booth to Louisa J. Payne February 1872
Mrs. Charles Levine was born Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth in Payne's Cove, Tennessee, a few miles west of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1873. She was the daughter of Louisa Holmes Payne and John Wilkes Booth (see marriage certificate to the left).  Louisa J. Payne was a Confederate Civil War widow. Her first husband, Confederate soldier C.Z. Payne, died in 1865 toward the end of the war.  Louisa was left to care for her young son McCager (or "Cage"). Louisa worked as a seamstress for the recently opened University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. In 1871 Louisa met a man named Jack Booth who claimed he was a "distant cousin" to John Wilkes Booth. Louisa fell in love, and she married Jack in February 1872. However, after the wedding, Jack told Louisa that he had a past, and his name was not really Jack. When she pressed him for the truth, Jack told her he was actually John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of the Republican President. Louisa, a devout Christian and southern Democrat, could forgive her husband for his war actions and personal deceptions to her,  but she insisted that he sign their marriage certificate with his God-given name. And so, on February 24, 1872, a new certificate was signed in the presence of Rev. C.C. Rose, listing the marriage of John Wilkes Booth and Louisa Payne. The late historiographer for the University of the South, Dr. Arthur Ben Chitty, did extensive research into Louisa Payne and her marriage to the man claiming to be John Wilkes Booth. Dr. Chitty eventually discovered the marriage certificate itself, located in the Franklin County Courthouse in Winchester, Tennessee. Dr. Chitty archived at The University of the South several audiotape interviews of men who personally knew McCager Payne, who in 1872 became John Wilkes Booth's step-son. Dr. Chitty discovered that McCager had intimate knowledge while a youth that his stepfather was actually John Wilkes Booth.

As a newly married couple Louisa and John Wilkes Booth moved to Memphis, Tennessee because, as Louisa would later say, "my husband had been told he would be paid a large sum of money owed him for his offical work on behalf of the Confederacy." While in Memphis, Louisa overheard some men on the street discussing her husband and pointing out where the "skunk" was now living. Louisa informed John that men knew who he was and his life was in danger. John told Louisa that it would be better if they separated for a season. He would go to Texas and she should go back to Tennessee until things cooled off. John promised Louisa that he would return to Tennessee after things settled down.

Louisa went back east to Payne's Cove Tennessee and the man claiming to be John Wilkes Booth headed south. Unbeknown to the couple at the time, Louisa was pregnant with John's child.  Louisa Payne would give birth to Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth, named after one of John Wilkes Booth's sisters while living alone in Tennessee in early 1873. Her second husband, the man she first knew as "Jack Booth," but later claimed to be "John Wilkes Booth" went to Granbury, Texas -- and would change his name to John St. Helen. Historian Steven Miller suggests that John St. Helen, the man who confessed to being "John Wilkes Booth" to attorney Finis Bates, is a different man from the person who married Louisa Payne. My research on a book about the Lincoln assassination and the bizarre connections to Enid, Oklahoma suggests they are the same man. This man--Jack Booth/John St. Helen, David E. George, is either a deluded and deceptive man who pretended to be John Wilkes Booth for over four decades, or as many in the family of John Wilkes Booth now believe, this man was actually John Wilkes Booth himself.

DNA testing in 2011 could help solve the mystery.

Back in Tennesee in 1873, Louisa Booth received financial help from the family of her deceased first husband (C.Z. "Zeb" Payne). She went to work caring for her son McCager and her newborn infant girl. Louisa kept hope that her husband would return to her from Texas, but she never heard from him. In 1879, seven years after marrying the man who claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, beautiful 36-year-old Louisa Payne was raking and burning leaves in her front yard when her dress accidentally caught fire. Louisa ran to the creek in an attempt to extinguish the flames, but the burns on her body would prove to be fatal for her. Before she died, Louisa called her six-year-old daughter Laura Ida Booth and her fourteen-year-old son McCager Payne to her bedside. The mother informed her children that Ida's father was John Wilkes Booth. McCager would later tell friends at the mill where he worked late in his life that he already knew John Wilkes Booth was his stepdad because of conversations he had overheard between his mom and stepdad when he was a boy. Caught listening in one time by his step-dad, McCager was threatened that if the boy told anyone that his step-dad was John Wilkes Booth, "I will kill you."

After the death of her mother, young Laura Ida Booth would go to live with friends and family. Laura Ida Booth eventually became an actress herself and married a fellow actor named Charles Levine in New York City. When Mrs. Charles Levine heard of David E. George's death in Enid, Oklahoma in early 1903, and that David E. George had claimed to be "John Wilkes Booth" before he died, Mrs. Levine sent her letter to the mayor of El Reno claiming George's estate "if indeed he is John Wilkes Booth."

Mrs. Charles Levine was serious in her query about Booth's estate, believing herself to be his daughter. Her letter should also be taken seriously by historians. Again, one of two options is possible regarding the man who appears as Jack Booth/John St. Helen/David E. George/ and who fathered Laura Ida Booth: (1). Either this man is a devious and/or deluded individual who kept up a false front for four decades about being John Wilkes Booth, or (2). This man is actually John Wilkes Booth.

To take the latter position opens oneself up to ridicule from mainstream historians. I remain personally unpersuaded. What is certain, however, is this: The DNA testing of the vertebrae from 'the body in the barn' will either be a match to John Wilkes Booth and lay to rest the "Booth Legend" or the DNA testing will NOT provide a match and the escape theories for Lincoln's assassin will explode. Either way, historians ought to give Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth (Mrs. Charles Levine) and the letter she wrote to the mayor of El Reno in February 1903 far more serious attention than they are currently being given.

Stay tuned ....

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Connection Between Christian Patriarchy and Sexual Abuse in the Home

I have written the Foreword to Jon Zen's new book No Will of My Own, a short treatise on the connection between sexual abuse and Christian patriarchy. The Foreword, reprinted below, gives you an indication of the importance of Jon's new book. Newspapers are headlining with stories of sexual abuse in patriarchal homes, and it is incumbent upon those who love Christ and follow the teachings of Scripture to not remain silent in the face of such abuses caused by the error of patriarchalism.

"I am embarrassed to write the Foreword for this excellent little book by my friend Jon Zens for a couple of reasons. First, the person who should be writing it is Paulo Fuller of the Philippines. Paulo serves as the Director of Renew Foundation, a ministry devoted to help women and children escape the sex trade in Angeles City. Unfortunately, due to the publication deadlines for this book and Paulo's non-stop work in Angeles City, Paulo just does not have the time to write this Foreword. Jon Zen's wife, Dotty, and Bonnie Jaeckle from the United States are assisting Paulo in Philippino Filipino bar/street ministry for four weeks in early 2011. Paulo is far more qualified to talk about No Will of My Own. I am a pastor who understands intiutively and theologically the problems associated with patriarchy, but Paulo is on the streets and understands them experientially. For those of you who may be doubt the connection Jon Zen's makes between particarchy and sexual sins behind closed doors of Christian homes, Paulo's ministry and the dozens of others like it can sadly confirm what Jon writes. Many of the girls who wind up in the sex trade come from patriarchal homes.

Second, the content of this book is not easy to read. What Jon writes is important to read and understand, but it will not be comfortable to digest. To write a foreword for a book that deals with incest, sexual abuse and other forms of immoral behavior in the Christian home is something I'm not proud to have to do. Were it not for the false belief system that serves as the underpinnings of patriarchy, there would be no need for this book to exist.

Patriarchy is the belief that men have complete authority in the home, and that husbands should rule over their wives and children. Most conservative Christians who advocate patriarchy base their views on what God told Eve when she rebelled and God, pronouncing judgment on Eve, said:

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

Patriachalists say that the last portion of Genesis 3:16 means that (1). God commands that a woman should display sexual desire for her man (i.e. “your desire shall be for your husband”), and that (2). The male is to be the head, authority and ruler over the women in his home (i.e. “and he shall rule over you”). Women should be subservient to the men, and the Christian home ought to be governed by men, because God commands it to be that way, say those Christians who hold to patriarchy.

However, using basic principles of interpretation, one can easily see Genesis 3:16 is a consequence of sin and not a commandment from God. The woman’s desire for her husband in Genesis 3:16 is not, at least linguistically and contextually, a sexual desire. The word translated "desire" (teshuqah) is used in the next chapter, Genesis 4:7, where teshuquah refers to sin’s desire to control Cain. Thus, letting the Bible interpret itself, the word “desire” in both both Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7 means “a desire to control.”

Simply put, sin causes a desire to dominate or control. The curse of sin becomes a constant battle for control. This is not how God created relationships between men and women to be. Many conservative Christians, though, have made the mistake of interpreting Genesis 3:16 to teach that God commands the woman to stay home, give sexual fulfillment to her man, while God has given the man complete authority to control and govern the women in his life. This theology of male domination can, left unchecked, lead to incest and sexual abuse.

When the God of all grace, however, gets a grip on the home, no longer will there be a fight to see who dominates and controls the other. Rather, there will be mutual submission between the husband and the wife because there is mutual equaility (i.e. Ephesians 5:21 – “submitting to one another in reverence to Christ”). Mutual submission, with no thought of control, is God's design for the home. It should be the effort of every Bible-believing church, pastor and teacher to instruct husbands and wives on the sinful nature of any husband or wife who seeks to dominate the home.

Dr. Richard Hess, Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Denver Theological Seminary comments on Genesis 3:16. Dr. Hess said all Christians should attempt to pull down any patriarchal system of domination and control in the Christian home, and then responds to those who object to any attempt to end patriarchy:

"It is no more a sin to end this consequence of the fall than it is to use weed killer to end the promised weeds and thorns in the following verses. No, the emphasis (in Genesis 3:16) is on the terrible effects of sin, and the destruction of a harmonious relationship that once existed. In its place comes a harmful struggle of wills."

In No Will of My Own author Jon Zens gives evidence how patriarchy's warped view of male dominance can lead females to the dark place of having no will of their own. My prayer is that pastors and Christian people will read this book and find help to resist any involvement in the patriarchal movement that purports to be from God but gives experiential evidence to the contrary."

Wade Burleson
Emmanuel Baptist Church
Enid, Oklahoma, January 2011

The Imminence and Suddenness of Death Pictured in the Cloud of a Tsunami

This incredible photograph was taken near the shores of Sumatra Island, Japan, just seconds before the March 14, 2011 tsunami smashed into this oceanside neighborhood. The wave that hit Sumatra measured  105 feet high. The cloud of dust preceded the tsunami by a second or two. This digital photograph was found in a camera plucked from the rubble by Japanese rescuers. The person who took the picture did not survive. What you are seeing is the last image in the iris of the photographer's eye before his life ended on earth.
It vividly impresses on us the power of our Creator and the truth that He is the ultimate Captain of our destinies and not we ourselves.

It could easily be argued that "the prince and power of the air" (Lucifer) is responsible for the death and destruction resulting from tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other events that insurance companies and lawmakers used to call "acts of God." It cannot be argued, however, that nothing happens on earth except the Lord Himself permits it, prohibits it, or promotes it. In the end, all things work together for good to them who are the called according to His purpose. How would you respond when confronted with the knowledge your life will end in seconds? To those loved by God, ransomed by Christ, and at peace with the Creator, the coming tsunami of death should evoke a settled sense of rest within the soul. You can't stop it, you can't prevent it, you can only accept it. The knowledge that through Christ you have escaped the wrath of God due your sins is the confidence of the redeemed.

You and I may not have been in Japan, but our tsunami is moving toward the island of our lives.

"Prepare to meet thy God."

Monday, May 02, 2011

Christians Should Not "Celebrate" the Death of Osama Bin Laden

The joyous celebrations that have broken out among Americans over the death of Osama Bin Laden are understandable, but also regrettable. Granted, there are differences between the celebrations of Muslims on September 11, 2001 and the spontaneous expressions of joy that broke out among Americans late in the evening of May 1, 2011, but there are far too many similarities to be ignored by Christians.

Below are five reasons why any expressions of joy over the death of Osama Bin Ladin ought to be muted:

(1). God Himself takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

God says "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 18:32). It would seem that the Judge of all men, the one who passes judgment upon individual sinners, is the One from whom we should receive our example of conduct when a sinner dies. Rather than dancing and chanting "USA," we possibly ought to take a moment of silence and solemnly reflect on the awful condemnation Osama Bin Ladin is receiving from a holy and righteous God for his rebellion against God's laws and his murderous actions on earth. If the judge is not celebrating the punishment He is meting out, we who love the Judge ought not either.

(2). What should be applauded is the redemption of the sinner, not the sinner's death.

Osama's death rings the bell that marks the passing of our own lives, for the "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Anytime we hear of the death of a fellow human, it should remind each of us that we are nearer our own death. The prospects of giving an account of our lives on earth to the One who created us should cause fear in each of us; a fear that drives us to the Deliverer. Those, however, who have mocked the Son in this life should be pitied, not celebrated. It is the unredeemed sinner that gives an account of his actions to God for judgment purposes--an accounting that is necessary, but not celebrated. God's judgment is like the cutting of a surgeon's scalpel before the surgeon heals; nobody is ever seen clapping the scalpel's work, but the cut is necessary for the healing. Only the healing is applauded.

So too, the wicked and their judgment are necessary, but not celebrated. The wicked and their judgment are only part of God's plan for the gathering of His redeemed. We don't clap at the judgment of the wicked, only the redemption of the sinner.

Nature also teaches us that we ought not clap at death and judgment. Herman Hoeksema point out: "When a farmer sows seed in his field, he sows much more than he needs. When the seed falls into the earth and dies, there appear not only the kernels of wheat, for which the seed was planted, but also the stem, the straw, and even the chaff. Without the stem and the chaff the grain could never have germinated and ripened. The stem and the chaff serve the grain, the seed. Yet both will presently be burned by fire in order that the grain may be gathered into the barn. Here also we find election and reprobation, and in such a way that the latter serves the former, and is necessary to it." I would add, necessary, but not celebrated.

(3). Vengeance on earth for the crimes of the wicked is foreign to Christianity.

The book of Romans tells us that "government bears the sword of vengeance," (Romans 13:4) but not individual Christians. In other words, on this earth there will always be a separation of God's kingdom from human kingdoms. The Christian is personally told by God that "It is mine to avenge, I will repay," (Romans 12:19) and that we are to forgive and love our enemies. However, when a Christian finds himself by God's ordination in a position of civic or governmental power (i.e. President, judge, congressman, etc...), there are decisions that must be made for the sake of justice on earth that the individual Christian would never make outside of his position of earthly power. God ordains governmental leaders as "His ministers" to bring about justice on earth through vengeance, but no individual Christian is called upon to exercise such revenge.

But some might object by quoting "...when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness" (Proverbs 11:10). This verse is a statement of fact, not a commandment. God's commandment to His people comes from the same book: ""Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble" (Proverbs 24:17)

The United States government and military can, and should, avenge the death of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 for the sake of justice on earth. However, any celebration by individual Christians over Osama Bin Laden's death should be muted -- silent satisfaction rather than joyous jubilation.

(4). When we celebrate the death of Osama, we look much to similar to the Muslims who celebrated 9/11.

I know there are differences. Too many to articulate here, but my point is how we look to the Muslims. When we dance in the streets at the death of their hero, we look to them like they looked to us when they danced in the streets on 9/11. The death of Osama Bin Laden was necessary; the celebrations are not. This fourth reason for muted celebrations is only pragmatic, and I have found that many Americans, and sadly even Christians, are more moved by the pragmatic than the theological or philosophical reasons for right behavior. So be it. Don't dance at the death of Osama because you inflame the hearts of Muslims.

(5). The only death that ever should be celebrated is the death of Jesus Christ.

Why celebrate His death? Because in the death of Jesus the Anointed One there is power over death. In short, there is the death of death in the death of Christ. Jesus conquered death, taking upon Himself the punishment of the Creator for sins, rising from the dead, and delivering all those sinners who will trust Him. If you wish to celebrate someone's death, celebrate His death and resurrection, for in it, you will find the righteous and holy punishment of God for your sins satiated.

Someone might object and say, "But the world is safer because Osama is dead!" Yes, it is. But the principles above override any thought of future personal safety, for the truth of the matter is, you are not even guaranteed your next breath. Personal safety on earth is a far inferior motivation for celebration than the understanding of God's infinite and holy justice that should bring a muted and solemn silence from Christians upon hearing of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson