Has someone polluted the air with a toxin that induces insanity? Have terrorists poisoned our water supply with a chemical that causes people to advocate positions that contradict everything they have ever stood for? Within the past five years, some have adopted inane religious doctrines they once denied and deemed absurd. Whatever this new disease is, it has infected the Lord's church.
But the examples presented as evidence for this thesis are from society at large. Anyone who watched the CBS miniseries, Jesus, would have been shocked to read Cal Thomas' glowing review, "The Greatest Story Ever Broadcast," which appeared on page 8A in the Denton Record-Chronicle on May 15th. Thomas praises the makers of this "epic" for making Jesus "a real man, laughing and cutting up with his disciples...." Apparently, he liked the scenes with Jesus splashing water on the disciples and snapping at them with a piece of cloth. He might have roared if Jesus had put a clothespin on his nose while washing the disciples' feet. There is a difference between appropriate humor and silliness.
Next Thomas prejudices his case by categorizing those who would object to the doctrinal errors in the miniseries as "theological nitpickers," who would "rather curse darkness than light candles." This is a most peculiar statement coming from a man who has devoted himself to setting truth before the minds of the public. Can it be that he fails to recognize that truth is associated with light and error with darkness? A Jesus "who has doubts about Himself and his mission" is not the Jesus of the Scriptures.
Apparently, Thomas has no clue that John did not baptize people by pouring water on their heads, since the Scriptures teach us that John baptized "in Aenon near Salem, because there was much water there" (John 3:23). He is either unaware that baptism means immersion, or he does not care, which reveals (again) a poor attitude toward the Truth.
He liked the final temptation in the garden of Gethsemane, which does fall under artistic license and was a clever idea. But Thomas did not seem to notice that nothing about sin or redemption was included in the entire conversation. He also errs in writing that John recorded that "there were many other things Jesus said and did besides those recorded in the Book." John wrote that there were many other things Jesus did. He did not say there were many other things Jesus taught. In other words, we have all of the teaching of the Lord (John 16:12-13; 2 Peter 1:3).
Thomas spends most of his article highlighting the film's strengths, and it did possess some. The next attempt to portray Jesus on the screen could profit from some of the characterizations in this production. But, in an effort to show the human side of Jesus, He should not be made to look silly or in doubt concerning His mission. And, His mission ought to be the same one that God assigned Him--to save people from their sins. The closest this extravaganza got was in the scene when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Satan mocks Jesus by saying: "You and only you have the truth." Now that would have been a theme worth developing. True, Jesus does die on the cross, but will viewers understand why?
In various locales PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have put up billboards, which have on the left side of them someone's pictorial portrayal of what Jesus looked like (replete with halo). Alongside it appear these words in the following format:
Show respect for God's creatures--follow Him.
Many people in various cities have protested these billboards because they are not true. One lady, who represents PETA, from Norfolk, Virginia, responded to some of these critics in The Dallas Morning News, published on May 8th.
In her first paragraph she encourages people to have compassion on "millions of God's creatures" who "undergo horrors from birth until death." She also advocates that people take the time to view PETA's Web site (meatstinks.com).
In the first place, PETA's name implies something that is not true. Ethics has to do with the "study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by the individual in his relationship with others," according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (450). It is doubtful that anyone has ever tried to extend morals and ethics to include animals--until PETA came along. Certainly, animals have no morals or ethics toward one another. They exercise no morality toward human beings, either. Furthermore, they do not have a position equal to that of human beings. Animals do not have rights, privileges, ethics, or morals. Man was given dominion over them (Gen. 1:28).
Of course, animals may be abused and mistreated; the Scriptures do not condone this kind of behavior, either. "A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Pr. 12:10). The emphasis here, however, is not on the animal's "rights"; it is upon the cruelty of man. We have a responsibility to act appropriately toward all of God's creation, which includes animals, vegetation, the environment, and natural resources. The reason, however, is not that any of those things listed have "rights"; the reason is that we must be wise stewards, because God has entrusted this earth to our care. Human beings are the ones we must treat ethically and morally. Such terms cannot be applied to animals. Otherwise, they could not be hunted, caught, killed, and used for food (which is apparently PETA's goal in the first place).
The next paragraph in the article is devoted to a defense of the billboard's allegation that Jesus was a vegetarian.
One of the greatest theologians of all time, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, author of Quest of the Historical Jesus, explained that Christianity descended from European philosophy, which balked at extending the principle of love to animals because it would mean such a great revolution for ethics.
With all due respect to Dr. Schweitzer's research and accomplishments, the fact is that the Bible does not teach vegetarianism, and European civilization has nothing to do with it. Perhaps he should have lived before the flood because afterward God authorized the eating of animal flesh.
"And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs" (Gen. 9:2-3).
Now this text is as old as any verse of Scripture in the Bible. It was translated from the Hebrew to the Greek about 275 B.C.--long before any European monarch ever thought of having a fox hunt. Someone is always making an allegation that certain individuals kept certain doctrines out of the Scriptures. Anyone who has studied the history of the Bible (or is familiar with the numerous manuscripts and other writings) knows that such allegations are absurd.
The concluding sentence of this letter to the editor states: "Although no one has proof positive that Jesus was or was not a vegetarian, we think that Jesus would agree today that it's a fine idea." First, this "Senior Writer" for PETA has admitted that she does not know whether or not Jesus was a vegetarian. So why have they put up these billboards which affirm that He was one? How can the organization advertise nationwide what its Senior Writer acknowledges is unknowable?
Second, the New Testament corroborates the fact that animals can be used for food. In Acts 10 Peter saw all manner of animals in a vision; he was commanded to kill and eat (Acts 10:11-13). The Jews had not been allowed to eat certain meats, but now God had cleansed them all; they are fit for man's consumption of them.
Third, Jesus was Jewish. We know that He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22); thus, He must have always observed the Passover feast. In fact, He did so on the night He was betrayed. He told His disciples: "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). Of what did the Passover meal consist? The main course was a lamb without blemish, which could be taken from sheep or goats (Ex. 12:5). It was to be killed at twilight and its flesh eaten on that night (Ex. 12:6, 8). Jesus could not be both an obedient Jew and a vegetarian.
Fourth, Jesus obviously approved of His disciples' practice of eating fish--even after His resurrection. They brought some of the fish they had caught (at His suggestion) to Him. John 21:13 says: "Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish."
The claims of PETA are false. Jesus ate meat Himself and encouraged others to do likewise. If Jesus really meant anything to this group, they would honor the Truth that He taught (John 8:31-32). They should also be aware of whose company they are keeping when they speak and advertise that which is a lie (John 8:44).
In this "age of toleration" we discover that some are not. Recently, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle (May 19th), a group called Campus Crusade for Christ mailed out 400,000 videotapes about the life of Jesus to residents of Palm Beach County (6B). "The Orlando-based group spent $1.2 million on the project."
Of course, some are not going to want these materials. In America it is not unusual to receive unsolicited advertisements in the mail or unsolicited calls over the telephone. Homeowners are constantly contacted by telemarketers to see if they need vinyl siding, their yard sprayed with chemicals, or their long distance service changed. In the mail Americans probably receive two or three "opportunities" a week for a new credit card. Insurance companies want residents to check with their company before they renew their policies.
The point is that we receive all manner of "junk" mail, and we usually just throw it away. But in Palm Beach County, the Jews are upset about these Jesus videos. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to pitch them in the garbage or find a way to tape over them and make good use out of it. But apparently they were offended mightily.
"We've never had as many people call or as many returns in the 22 years I've worked here," Cecile Sasso of the U. S. Postal Service in West Palm Beach said.
They called the post office? Why? If someone pays for postage to have something delivered to a person's house, is it now the post office's job to decide what might offend someone? One wonders if the Jewish residents would have been as offended if they had all received a copy of Playboy?
Some residents--many of them Jewish--were so angry about the unsolicited mailing that they bundled bricks with the tapes to increase the return shipping charge, said Rabbi Stephen Pinsky of Wellington's Temple Beth Rorah.
What a mature response! We presume that the Jews in the community expect people to act tolerantly toward them; is this the example they set? It sounds as though Palm Beach County could use a huge dose of graciousness. Most people receive unsolicited religious materials frequently. Various groups go through neighborhoods passing out literature; sometimes information comes through the mail. Most of us just discard it if we are not interested. How sad that some go wacko!
The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ruled this week that the denomination's constitution does not prevent ministers from blessing same-sex unions so long as it is clear that the ceremony is in no way comparable to a traditional marriage between a man and a woman (The Dallas Morning News, May 27th, p. 6G).
What kind of gobbledegook is this? Two homosexuals can enter into a "same sex union," but it will not be referred to as marriage? This is the height of absurdity. What it amounts to is this: people will use whatever terminology on the "same-sex union" license that the Presbyterian Church desires, but everyone involved will still call it a wedding.
Decisions such as this one (although perhaps not so looney) can be expected from various religious denominations who make no pretense of following the Scriptures anyway. They allow women "pastors" and female elders; they have their own constitution and apparently their own court system--none of which is authorized or found in the New Testament. Of course, for that matter, neither is the Presbyterian Church.
Decisions such as this one serve to highlight the folly of man-made religious laws. When "Christians" depart from the New Testament to build their own structures, they should not then be surprised when rules are made that violate the Word of God. The very first premise of denominationalism--that we need something besides the New Testament--leads eventually to a point like this one. Men will rewrite the rules on divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, drinking, gambling, and anything else they fancy. This decision proves it (if any evidence were needed).
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "HAS EVERYONE GONE WACKO? (6/11/00)."