Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Does Satan Have a Special Hatred for Israel and the Jewish People?

There is a sense in which Satan has a special hatred for Israel and the Jewish people, just as he has a special hatred for the church and the Christian people. From the beginning, Satan has hated God, God’s authority, and God’s plans for the human race (Genesis 3:1-15; John 8:44) He has always had a special hatred for God’s faithful servants (Job 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 12:7), including the faithful of Israel and the church, which is made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Above all, Satan hates Jesus Christ (Luke 22:3-4; Revelation 12:3-4), as Christ embodies God’s plan for all the ages.

The reality of satanic hatred for Jews and Israel inclines some people to believe that any criticism of Israel places one on the side of Satan. People with this perspective naturally tend to side with Israel in its conflicts. This perspective, however, fails to recognize that not all criticism is motivated by an evil hatred. There is a kind of criticism that is motivated by truth, love, and a longing for justice and mercy. If we don’t recognize the difference motive makes, we might conclude that something as important as the Protestant Reformation should have never taken place.

Scripture shows Satan’s hatred is motivated by his desire to disrupt God’s redemptive plan, from the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, through the events leading to the flood, the trials of the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ himself.

In 1 John 3, the children of the devil are contrasted with the children of God. The children of the devil are described as being in the spiritual line of Cain. This is consistent with the two “seeds” of Genesis 3—the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (v.15 nkjv).

This division between the children of God and the children of the devil includes both Jews and Gentiles. John 1:12 declares that those who received Jesus Christ and believed in His name are the children of God. The apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 niv). He went on to link the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) with the children of God: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (8:14). Speaking to a Jewish audience, Jesus himself referred to the division between the children of the kingdom and the children of the devil. He said the “father” of His Jewish enemies was not Abraham but Satan (John 8:42-44).

Here we find ourselves faced with an important distinction we can’t afford to miss. Jesus himself took issue with His own Jewish countrymen, and even with His own disciples when their hearts were aligned with the purposes of Satan rather than the redemptive plan of God (Matthew 16:23).

This Christ-based readiness to take issue with anything that is not according to the justice and mercy of God helps us understand why the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles describe in great detail the intense and unrelenting hostility of a segment of Jews to Jesus Christ and His followers (John 8:39-47; Acts 7:54–8:3; 12:1-3; 21:27-31; 25:2-3). The book of Revelation even refers to these as the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9).1

This hostility towards the Christian gospel didn’t end with the apostolic era. Before the end of the first century, Christian Jews were excluded from synagogue worship.

About ad 90, a member of the Sanhedrin named Samuel the Less reworded one of the blessings recited daily in the synagogue so as to make it include a curse (against Christians) . . .

For apostates let there be no hope, and the kingdom of arrogance do Thou speedily uproot in our days; and let Nazarenes and heretics (minim) perish as in a moment; let them be blotted out of the book of life and not be enrolled with the righteous. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

This revised edition of the prayer was authorized by the Sanhedrin and adopted in synagogues, so that Jewish Christians, by keeping silence at this point might give themselves away and be excommunicated(F. F. Bruce, New Testament History, pp. 385-86).2

From such biblical and historical examples, we see that like any other group or institution, the people of Israel may need loving, patient confrontation rather than support and affirmation. As the apostle Paul knew from personal experience, many of his Jewish countrymen had hearts open to God and the truth, but were blinded to the identity of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:5-6).

Scripture makes it clear that the eschatological punishment of both Israel and the Gentile nations is based in God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred (Isaiah 3:1–4:1; 13:9-10; Jeremiah 30:1-7; Ezekiel 13:1-7; Joel 2:1-11; 3:14-17; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:7-13). Perhaps the most striking Old Testament prophecy is Zechariah 14, where God brings the nations of the earth against Jerusalem and unbelieving Israel before turning in judgment against those same unbelieving nations (vv.2-3).

Just as Christians do the church no favors when they ignore its abuses and corruption, they do no favors for Israel when they ignore or fail to lovingly call attention to the injustices and unbelief of the one nation on earth that, more than any other, bears the name and redemptive history of God.

  1. This hostility of a segment of Israel to the gospel conforms with the prophetic portrayal of Israel’s endtime suffering as the result of God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred. In Matthew 24, Jesus declares:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (24:14-22 nkjv).

    This judgment is based on the corruption and hypocrisy Jesus described in the previous chapter:

    Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. . . . O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (23:33-39 nkjv). Back To Article

  2. Soon the Talmud (a compilation and expansion of the man-made legal rules that Jesus called the “tradition of men” [Mark 7:5-8] that became the supreme document of the Judaism that survived the wars with Rome) officially declared Jesus a blasphemer, sorcerer, and bastard son of a prostitute. (See Peter Schaefer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press.)Hostility towards Jesus Christ still exists among a large segment of Jews today. In fact, the modern state of Israel officially suppresses propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Back To Article
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Should Christians Trust What They Read on the Internet?

Lots of Christians question the Internet as a source of reliable information, but an historical perspective can help us understand its potential.

In biblical times, lots of people had rudimentary reading ability, but only a small portion of the population could read and write well. These were the priests, scribes, educators, historians, and lawyers—the ruling class in general. One of the reasons most people couldn’t write well was the relative scarcity of writing materials. Documents were handwritten on parchment made from animal skins, in soft clay or wax tablets, or on paper (made from papyrus in the Mediterranean world). If someone wrote something important, the only way it could be propagated was by painstaking hand-copying.

This was the state of the ancient “media”: People relied on what they heard by word of mouth, and their worldview was shaped by religious, political, and family leaders who were ultimately dependent on a small number of handwritten sources. Until the invention of the printing press, the consensus reality of the masses was based on a small group of scholars and scribes with access to hand-copied documents.

Even though many other significant social, cultural, and technological changes occurred by the 15th century, there was no important advance in “media” technology. False reports and mistaken viewpoints from respected sources still had tremendous influence. Although millions of people had been exposed to the gospel, under medieval conditions the gospel was badly distorted and corrupted.

The Gutenberg printing press (1440) confronted the ignorance and corruption of the political and religious hierarchy with printed books that a much larger portion of the population could afford. With relatively inexpensive printed material available in unprecedented quantities,1 important new ideas spread rapidly. Of course, just because something was printed in a book didn’t mean it could be trusted. Pamphlets and books were circulated by wild-eyed fanatics as well as by conscientious thinkers, and even conscientious thinkers made mistakes. Nevertheless, the overall impact of printing technology was an advance in knowledge. It is hard to see how the Enlightenment or the development of modern science could have occurred without this means of rapidly disseminating (and comparing) ideas.

In the centuries following the Reformation, pamphlets, broadsides, and books became commonplace, along with tremendously popular new forms of literature (the novel, the newspaper, the magazine, etc.), and most people in countries under the influence of Western civilization learned to read and look to printed material as a main source of information about reality. The effects of the Gutenberg press traveled around the world.

In recent history, 20th-century technological progress introduced other new forms of media, including recordings, motion pictures, radio, and television. In the midst of world wars and tumultuous cultural changes, these forms of media also began to shape the worldview of a now mostly literate population.

Because of the importance of printed material as a source of information, most people consider freedom of the press and related media an essential foundation for a healthy society. In some countries, freedom of speech and press are constitutionally protected.2 But the scale of society is much greater today than in the early years of representative democracy. Even though freedom of expression still exists and offers some residual cultural and political protection, it has diminishing influence as mass communication has become monopolized. The costs of producing and distributing ideas through the mainstream media are now much too high for most individuals and groups to compete. Corporations, governments, and other groups with very deep pockets control much of what the masses (i.e., you, me, and other evangelical Christians) are permitted to know.

The control of today’s “principalities and powers” over information is similar to the power the ruling elite held over information in the 15th century, but the means of control and manipulation today are more sophisticated and done on a much larger scale. In fact, the control of information is so extensive that we are generally unaware of how much our worldview is shaped and how badly our consensus view of reality has been distorted. We have been trained to rely on “experts” to tell us what is “true” (or socially acceptable) to the degree that we have almost forgotten that the “experts” promoted in the mass media have been selected on the basis of their willingness to tell us what the “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12) want us to hear.

This is why the Internet is so important. It is the Gutenberg press of the 21st century. It offers the potential for true and unbiased information to be propagated to an ultimately limitless audience without the backing of great wealth and power, and it gives conscientious people and truth seekers the opportunity to network directly with each other without elite control or censorship. At the same time, like other forms of media, it can be used to corrupt and mislead as well as to educate and edify.

Christians should “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:2). Evangelicals today need to be just as skeptical about the consensus reality propagated by the mainstream media as the Reformers, Christian humanists, and scientists of the 15th century were about the worldview and “consensus reality” dictated by the ruling elite of their day. The kingdom of God is just as revolutionary today as it was when Jesus proclaimed it to the multitudes in Galilee and Jerusalem.

  1. There were possibly “upward of 10,000 titles” published in pamphlet (Flugschrift) form during the first half of the 16th century (Kenneth E. Strand, “A Note on Reformation-Era Flugschriften”).Back To Article
  2. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights) guarantees freedom of the press, along with other basic rights pertaining to freedom of expression and association, to United States citizens. Back To Article
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Can We Rely on the “Mainstream Media” as a Source of Information?

Compared to past generations, 21st-century people have access to an unprecedented amount of news. We see live coverage of disasters and conflicts in distant places and are flooded with information and commentary on thousands of subjects, from politics and social problems to religion and popular science.

Much of the news we get from mainstream media is based on real events and reliable reporting. But most of us also know that political parties, corporations, and nations at war often contribute large amounts of spin, selective reporting, and even disinformation.

Interestingly, another reason for wondering about the reliability of mainstream media comes from the pages of the Bible. The New Testament describes the kingdoms of the world as being under the control of an evil spirit that is deceptive by nature (Luke 4:5-6; John 8:44; 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4). The author of 1 John declares: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (5:19 nkjv).

In spite of these scriptural warnings, we often overlook the ways that governments, political parties, and ruling classes of every age try to shape the news in ways favorable to their interests. In modern times, these efforts to shape the news are called “propaganda.” 1

Propaganda was first used in a systematic, scientific way in the early 20th century in association with WWI. Most historians now realize that the First World War began as the result of reckless military alliances and unanticipated events. Many people in the United States sensed that the war was a dreadful tragedy with no clear heroes or villains, and a large majority was not interested in getting drawn into European bloodshed. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned as a peace candidate in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”

Although President Wilson publicly maintained a neutral posture, he and most other powerful US political leaders lent support to the English war effort in ways that inevitably drew the United States into the war. After entering the war, President Wilson created a commission to win the support of the American people. The President’s Committee on Public Information, launched a giant propaganda campaign utilizing all of the new media technologies.

The Committee on Public Information (also known as the Creel Commission) was successful beyond its organizers’ highest expectations. It portrayed a complex and tragic European conflict as a stark struggle between good and evil. Violations of international law by Britain and its allies were overlooked, while Germans were portrayed as Huns, rapists, and baby killers. Within 6 months, most US citizens were supporters of the war. Hatred towards all things German reached such a peak that orchestras no longer played music by German composers; German names for cities, towns, and streets were replaced; and the German language was no longer taught in schools. Congress passed legislation (Espionage Act 1917; Sedition Act 1918) that threatened dissenters with prosecution and imprisonment. Prominent critics of the war were thrown into prison.

One of the key members of the Committee on Public Information was Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays was to become known as the “father of modern public relations.” In his 1928 book, Propaganda, he acknowledged propaganda’s crucial role in fostering popular support for WWI:

It was, of course, the astounding success of propaganda during the war that opened the eyes of the intelligent few in all departments of life to the possibilities of regimenting the public mind (p. 54).

He explained why and how the ruling class should continue to use propaganda to control the thinking of the masses:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind (p. 37).

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it (p. 71).

In place of thoughts [the group mind] has impulses, habits, and emotions. In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader (p. 73).

Edward Bernays’ principles have been accepted and applied by government and corporations ever since WWI. The public relations industry is based on them. As a result, modern mainstream media does more than provide the public with objective information about current events. Powerful interests continue to use the media to manage and shape public opinion. This doesn’t mean that journalists and editors are conscious liars who conspire to conceal the truth. Actually, if journalists were conscious conspirators and liars, the media would have less influence, as journalists would be struggling against their own consciences and be much less believable. Media misinformation and propaganda are more insidious. Most media spokespeople are probably unaware of their biases or the way they “spin” the news. They rise to the top of their professions by being outstanding representatives of the interests that pay their salaries and grant their promotions. They soon discover the themes and subjects that are taboo.

The reality and effects of government and corporate propaganda have been extensively documented. One example is a 1980s study of media coverage of the Vietnam War. Based on a painstaking analysis of the news coverage of the period, the authors showed that the mainstream media 2 “inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda” of the ruling class by “selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone” and “keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises.” 3

Today a handful of large corporations control television and cable news networks. Such corporations are not altruistic, but present the news in ways that promote their agendas and protect their profit margins.

Sensing that corporate news sources are superficial and biased, many people have turned to “talk radio” commentators who seem more reflective of their concerns. Unfortunately, such “independent” talk show stars are usually less concerned with conscientious commentary on the news than they are in generating good ratings and relationships with networks and sponsors.

Many today are awakening to the fact that mainstream media have long been misleading us about some of the most important events, issues, and facts of our time. Our struggle is truly not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 nkjv).

  1. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of propaganda is “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person” and “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also a public action having such an effect.” Back To Article
  2. Mainstream media (MSM) are those media disseminated via the largest distribution channels, which therefore represent what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter (Wikipedia). Back To Article
  3. Here’s a quotation from the study’s conclusion:

    In contrast to the standard conception of the media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and their independence of authority, we have spelled out and applied a propaganda model that indeed sees the media as serving a “societal purpose,” but not that of enabling the public to assert meaningful control over the political process by providing them with the information needed for the intelligent discharge of political responsibilities. On the contrary, a propaganda model suggests that the “societal purpose” of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises. We have sought to show that the expectations of this model are realized, and often considerably surpassed, in the actual practice of the media in a range of crucial cases. We quite agree with Chief Justice Hughes, whom Lewis also cites, on “the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press” if democratic processes are to function in a meaningful way. But the evidence we have reviewed indicates that this need is not met or even weakly approximated in actual practice. (Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, p. 298). Back To Article

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Does Deuteronomy 22:5 Imply that Women Should Not Wear Pants But Only Skirts?

Neither men nor women wore pants in Bible times. Men and women both wore tunics, which were very similar in their design. (The woman’s outer tunic descended to her feet, while the man’s descended only approximately to the level of the knees.) The Ryrie Study Bible note on this verse states:

In that society male and female dress were similar, making distinctive styles for the sexes especially important.

The New International Study Bible makes the following observations:

Probably intended to prohibit such perversions as transvestism and homosexuality, especially under religious auspices. The God-created differences between men and women are not to be disregarded (see Lev. 18:22; 20:13).

Obviously, God was not requiring women to dress in a radically different manner from men. If that were the case, the Jewish people would have been required to have a clear distinction between the clothing worn by men and the clothing worn by women. (For example, if a drastic difference were required, Hebrew men would have worn pants as men do in our society, and women would have worn dresses.) However, since both men and women wore tunics, it is apparent that what God was concerned with was the conscious imitation of male clothing styles on the part of a woman or female clothing styles on the part of a man. Since our culture has long considered the wearing of slacks to be acceptable feminine attire, we don’t believe that the commandment in Deuteronomy 22:5 would in any way forbid it.

In 1 Peter 3:3-6, women are encouraged to seek the beauty that comes from within (“the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”). Women should seek to dress in a manner that honors their femininity but is at the same time tasteful and modest. It is important that a woman place her main emphasis not on her exterior beauty but on the things of the Spirit—her spiritual beauty.

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Are the Ten Commandments for Christians?

The Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, was given to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17), not Gentiles. It included both moral principles and ceremonial laws and regulations. It was intended to bring awareness of sin and guilt (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-13; 1 Timothy 1:7-11), not to be a way of earning salvation. (Hebrews 11 explains how Abraham was saved by faith long before the law was given through Moses.)

The Jews referred to the Ten Commandments as “the ten words” (Deuteronomy 4:13). They were the basis of the entire Mosaic system, and as such they contain principles that remain the foundation of Christian ethics.

Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law (Romans 5:5; 8:1-4), so that Christians are no longer under the external Law of Moses (Galatians 3:1-14; Colossians 2:8-17). The Ten Commandments contain elements of ceremonial law. Christians aren’t required to follow these. Yet, when obedient to the Holy Spirit, Christians manifest God’s love and righteousness in harmony with the Ten Commandments’ moral principles (Romans 13:8-10).1

  1. The works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5 demonstrate clearly how impossible it would be to live a Spirit-filled life while violating the moral principles within the Ten Commandments. Back To Article
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Does the Bible Permit Women to Run for High Political Office?

The Bible was written at a time when women were not allowed prominent positions in society. The structure of ancient culture denied women many of the opportunities they rightfully enjoy today. However, in spite of the fact that women were suppressed by culture, the Bible contains many examples of influential women. In the Old Testament, for example, women served as prophetesses (Exodus 15:20; Numbers 12:1-2; Judges 4:4; 2 Chronicles 34:22), and judges (Judges 4–5).

Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and founder of the Christian faith, accepted women as equals in an age when women were regarded as inferior. He recognized no authority besides that of the leader who takes the role of a servant. He defied many of the customs of His day that tended to keep women secluded and in subjugation.

In the New Testament, Priscilla instructed the famous preacher Apollos (Acts 18:26). In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul seems to be assuming that women will be speaking openly in mixed church gatherings. Earlier we learn that women had the authority to preach in the apostolic church (Acts 21:8-9). There are many passages in the New Testament that describe the important role played by women, a role they held in spite of many severe, culturally imposed limitations. A significant number of women were included in Paul’s list of valued coworkers in Romans 16.

In general, Scripture clearly portrays the equality of the sexes before God (Genesis 1:27; Acts 10:34; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Galatians 3:28). The prophet Joel spoke, after all, of both men and women prophesying (“your sons and daughters will prophesy,” 2:28), and when the gifts of the Spirit are listed and described in the New Testament (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:7-16) no distinctions are made on the basis of sex.

Although there is some controversy over the specific roles women should play in church leadership, there is no reasonable scriptural basis for believing that women should not serve in secular leadership roles, including top political roles such as United States Senator or President. Candidates running for such important roles should be selected on the basis of their character and wisdom, not because of their race, sex, or any other nonessential criteria.


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Were Disagreements Over Christian Doctrine the Main Cause for European “Religious Wars” of the 16th and 17th Centuries?

Many people assume the separation of church and state established in the US Constitution resulted from 16th- and 17th-century “religious violence” and “religious wars” in Europe. The wars of this period included the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) and the English Civil War (1642–1651).

These wars were foundational to the development of the political institutions of the West. They were part of a vast social/cultural/political process that ultimately replaced feudalism and the “divine right of kings” with the centralized, capital-based governments that dominate the world today.

The ferocious wars of these centuries made a deep impression on the collective memory of European people. Estimates of Central European deaths in the Thirty Years’ War run from 3 to 7 million (many of these resulting from starvation and disease among the civilian population). Deaths from war, disease, and starvation during the English Civil War have been estimated at around 800,000, or 4 percent, 6 percent, and 40 percent of England, Scotland, and Ireland’s populations respectively. Because nearly all of the participants in these wars had religious loyalties and convictions, religious feelings were often exploited by rulers. But religion was not the underlying motivation.

Two well-known examples involved the establishment of Lutheranism and Anglicanism. In the 16th century, Martin Luther’s reasons for breaking with the Catholic Church were theological, but the Reformation would have been quickly crushed if it hadn’t been supported by powerful European rulers whose motivations were primarily political and economic. King Henry VIII of England separated from Rome and formed the Anglican Church for pragmatic, nonreligious reasons—largely due to the refusal of the pope to grant an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He believed the Catholic Church was interfering with the internal affairs of his kingdom. He also wanted to nationalize the vast holdings of the Catholic Church in England to consolidate his power.

In The Myth of Religious Violence (Oxford Press), William Cavanaugh refers to recent scholarship to show that the underlying causes of the “religious wars” of the 16th and 17th centuries weren’t religious. Cavanaugh includes eight pages of examples, of which the following quotation is only the first:

If there truly were a war of all sects against all, one would expect that war would have broken out soon after Europe split into Catholic and Protestant factions. However, between the time that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517 and the outbreak of the first commonly cited religious war—the Schmalkaldic War of 1546–1547—almost thirty years would pass. The Catholic prosecutor of the Schmalkaldic War, Holy Roman emperor Charles V, spent much of the decade following Luther’s excommunication in 1520 at war not against Lutherans, but against the pope. As Richard Dunn points out, “Charles V’s soldiers sacked Rome, not Wittenberg, in 1527, and when the papacy belatedly sponsored a reform program, both the Habsburgs and the Valois refused to endorse much of it, rejecting especially those Trentine decrees which encroached on their sovereign authority.” The wars of the 1540s were part of the ongoing struggle between the pope and the emperor for control over Italy and over the church in German territories (The Myth of Religious Violence, 143-44).

Cavanaugh provides massive documentation showing that rather than the state being the peace-making force that eventually solved the problem of religiously motivated violence, the process of centralizing public authority in a secular state was itself the most significant cause of violence. “There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the transfer of power to the emergent state was a cause, not the solution, to the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” (ibid., p. 162).

These wars replaced the religion of the church with the religion of the state.

The historical evidence renders . . . the idea that the modern state saved Europe from religious violence . . . unbelievable. State building . . . was a significant cause of the violence. An important aspect of state building was the absorption of the church by the state, which exacerbated and enforced ecclesial differences and therefore contributed to warfare between Catholics and Protestants. In the process, the state did not rein in and tame religion but became itself sacralized. The transfer of power from the church to the state was accompanied by a migration of the holy from church to state (ibid., p. 176).

(The reason many still consider religion the primary cause of war and violence is discussed in (Is Religion Evil?)



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Do recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters indicate the endtimes?

There have been some powerful earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and other natural disasters recently, but they aren’t unique to our time. Because population density is much higher today than in past centuries, more people tend to be killed when natural disasters occur.

People of Jesus’ day were superstitious and believed that natural events contained clues about the future. When Jesus’ disciples asked him what the signs of the end of the age would be, Jesus gave them a careful response:

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:4-13 nkjv).

Jesus may have realized that the disciples would expect the destruction ofJerusalemand the temple to occur in close conjunction with His return and the end of the age. To make it clear to them that they shouldn’t linkJerusalem’s fall with His second coming, He told them specifically not to trust false Christs. He also warned them not to think manmade catastrophes such as wars or natural catastrophes such as famines, epidemics, or earthquakes meant the end of the age had arrived. Such catastrophic events should not be viewed as “the birth pains of the Messiah,” as the Jews sometimes viewed them, but as “the beginning of the birth pains” (v.8 niv) of events that would take place throughout history. Christians should be prepared for these things and for the severe persecution that would rise against the church from time to time.

What Jesus prophesied came true—Israelwas judged andJerusalemdestroyed in the Jewish-Roman wars. Yet, as He said, the horrors of siege and battle along with the natural disasters of that period were in fact only the “beginning of the birth pains.” Thousands of catastrophic events of all types—wars, famines, plagues, and earthquakes—have occurred in the intervening centuries, some of them apocalyptic in scale.


Antioch,Syria, ad 525, 250,000 killed;

Aleppo,Syria, 1138, 230,000 killed;

Shaanxi   Province,China, 1556, 830,000 killed.


“Great Famine” of Europe, ad 1315–17, millions died;

Indian famine of 1896–1902, millions died;

Chinese famine under Chairman Mao, 1958–61, 20-40 million died.


Antonine Plague (smallpox),Roman Empire, ad 165–180, 5 million died;

Plague of Justinian, 541–542, 25 million died;

Black Death, the Middle East andEurope, 1338–1351, 100 million died.


Thousands of wars and armed conflicts since the time of Jesus Christ have caused millions of deaths.

People who lived during these times can be excused for suspecting that they were living in the end time. However, the wisdom of Jesus’ words of caution regarding the linkage of human or natural disasters with the arrival of the end time has endured.  His declaration that we cannot know the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36) is as applicable to us today as it was to the apostolic church.

(See Can we know if current events are the fulfillment of prophecy? How often have people misapplied prophecy? and How serious is false speculation about prophecy?)





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Don’t the Boundaries Promised to Abraham Imply that Modern Israel is Entitled to More Land?

The boundaries of the land God promised Abraham are given in Genesis 15:18-21:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Gen. 15:18-21 nkjv).

These boundaries included all of the land occupied from the river of Egypt on the south to the River Euphrates on the north. As Israel made preparations to enter the land, they also captured some of the area on the east of the River Jordan, and 2 1/2 tribes were given this area (Num. 34:14-15). The area just west of the River Jordan was occupied by the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, Issachar, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh.

No one can make a certain identification of the “river of Egypt.” Some identify it as the River Nile. But Israel was clearly not in the Promised Land when it was in Egypt. Others think this river is a desert stream that flows during the rainy season. This would concur with Kadesh-Barnea being the southern border. It was from Kadesh-Barnea that the spies entered the land.

At the least, the area promised by God to Abraham would be all of the area west of the River Jordan from Wadi-el-Arish on the south to the Euphrates River on the north. (The area occupied by the 2 1/2 tribes east of the Jordan River was not specifically promised by God.)

Does God’s promise to Abraham entitle modern Israel to expand its territory? We need to remember that God promised to chastise a disobedient Israel by taking away its national sovereignty, place it under foreign rulers, and exile many of its people (Deut. 28:15-68). These warnings were fulfilled first under the Assyrians and Babylonians and then under Rome (ad 70 and 135). Prophecies of the spiritual restoration of Israel in the last days have not been fulfilled.

 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” (Ezek. 36:27-32 nkjv).

How does this prophecy of Ezekiel relate to modern Israel in its current state of unbelief? It states that at some future time a spiritually repentant and renewed Israel will be given security and peace in her ancestral homeland. However, we can no more assume God’s blessing on the unbelieving state of Israel today than we could have assumed God’s blessing on Israel before its destruction by Assyria, Babylonia, and Rome. God allowed the reestablishment of Israel, but He often permits things He doesn’t approve.

It would be helpful to remember that the rabbis who survived the Jewish-Roman wars of ad 70 and 135 fervently taught that a return to the land should occur only under the leadership of the Messiah himself.

Because of all of this and other reasons the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world, as is explained in the book Vayoel Moshe. If we transgress this injunction, He will bring upon us (may we be spared) terrible punishment. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International)

This seems wise counsel, given the warnings of Deuteronomy and the disastrous past attempts of Jewish nationalism to achieve independence in the land on its own. In contrast, the atheistic leaders of the Zionist movement1 had little patience with the heavenly ideals of the religious who advocated patience in waiting for Messiah. They employed worldly means—political intrigue, economic influence, propaganda, violence, and terror—to establish and expand the modern state of Israel.

What are we to think? Christians should have a heart of compassion for Israelis and Jews, but genuine compassion involves willingness to confront injustice. We are under no obligation to help an unbelieving and unrepentant national Israel use worldly means to acquire the land promised Abraham. We should take biblical prophecy with great seriousness, realizing we aren’t called to be mere spectators of history. We shouldn’t enable Israeli discrimination, injustice, and violence towards non-Jewish citizens and neighbors any more than we should enable that of other nations towards their citizens and neighbors.

In accordance with the words of the prophets, if the state of Israel continues to pursue a path of unbelief and injustice, it will bring judgment upon itself—and its supporters.

  1. The founders of Zionism were all atheists who denied the Torah. All the Torah sages of that time opposed them and opposed Zionism, saying that Zionism would lead only to destruction. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International) Back To Article
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Does the Bible Show Contempt for Women When it Refers to God as Father?

The Bible presents God as Father and uses masculine pronouns to refer to Him. But God isn’t limited by the sexual distinctions of His creatures. God is eternal Spirit, and should not be perceived in an anthropomorphic way. He may be conscious, personal, and masculine in some significant way, but His consciousness, personality, and masculinity so far transcend our experience of these things that we should always be on guard against thinking of Him in merely human terms.

Many people believe that since the Bible was written in an age when women were often perceived as being of less worth than men, they automatically portray God in a way demeaning to women. However, since the New Testament teaches clearly that women and men are equal in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28), this premise is questionable.

Scriptures written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit cannot be assumed to express a bias against women. It is unlikely that when the Lord Jesus instructed us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), He was expressing contempt or disrespect for mothers and women in general. Jesus demonstrated high regard for women (Matthew 9:22; 28:1-10; Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; John 4:7-29).

Is it safe to assume that inspired Scripture has no reasons for referring to God in masculine terms? And if so, why then is the church described in feminine terms in relation to God (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 21:2; 22:17). Does this metaphor of the church (obviously including both sexes) as “wife” and “bride” also bear unnecessary “cultural baggage”?

C.S. Lewis outlined the dangers of such a perspective in his brief article “Priestesses in the Church”:

Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. . . .  Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.

We should not think lightly of altering the figures of speech used by the prophets, apostles, and our Lord. Judging from the metaphors of Scripture, God clearly relates to us in a masculine way (a masculinity uncontaminated with human flaws), but this doesn’t mean that femininity (including the feminine role of the church) isn’t based in and created by Him as well!

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