Category: Questions and Answers

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Isn’t taking children to church forcing religion on them? Why not let them grow to later decide for themselves?

May I answer this question using this illustration: There are some people who are not happy with their lives and have expressed anger at why they exist. Would it be justifiable then to assert that sexual reproduction is wrong because it precludes the consent of the child to get born? Too ridiculous a question but one which should provoke the common sense in you and I to know that when a male and female decide to bring forth another human being on this planet; much as the new person will later have an independent mind to decide his lifestyle – whether to be a vegetarian or meat-eater, an atheist or theist – he will have no other way to start life apart from first being in the complete control and care of his parents. The control should gradually recede as the person grows older. This situation would not have been so if humans were born adults. But we have found ourselves in a world in which the very initiative and possibility of one’s existence is in the control of his or her parents (i.e. they decided to make love and bring forth the child). Even after the child’s birth, parents will still decide what food or type of schooling is best for the child. When this child grows into adulthood he may adopt an altogether different way of life (become a vegetarian?) and philosophy (adopt theism or atheism?) quite different from his parents. This is acceptable; what should be avoided is indoctrinating the child. In the words of the famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, “What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore that is what you believe.” For once, I agree with him. However, an over-stretch of this statement to mean “carrying your two year old child to church is abuse and indoctrination” would be an exaggeration which would lead to various absurdities of trying to get a child’s consent on different issues which require personal choice (like the afore-mentioned case of birth-consent).

Wise and prudent parents do not force life’s journey on their child; they will give him an opportunity to see the world as they see it, and later when he is mature enough to use discretion, give him space to be aware of other worldviews and let him decide. Is it not for this reason that Richard Dawkins is a man who was raised up by religious parents but himself later became an atheist, and Francis Collins, a son of “free-thinkers”, was an unbeliever but later became a believer? Similarly, John Lennox had parents who, despite being Christians, encouraged him to think and analyse other world views.

In saying all this, however, I do not dispute your observation that some (or perhaps many) people force religion upon their children. Some religions are quite terrible on this. Some Christians are just as guilty when they tell people to believe because they just have to believe. In many churches today, sermons are so much filled with ignorance, even speaking against simple provable facts of science. But to be fair, try to recognise the fact that this is not representative of all Christians; there are still spiritual people (few as they may be) whose faith is not a blind one but one based on evidence and rigorous thought.

“Do you believe in extraterrestrial intelligence?”

“A lot of money has been spent on SETI to search for alien life in space.Why do many scientists believe that we are most likely not alone in the universe? What are your thoughts on extraterrestrial intelligence?”

“Well” I answered: “I also believe that there are aliens out there!”

“Oh, but you are Christian Andrew!” the questioner shrugged.

“Ofcourse, ‘aliens’, as they call them, are first mentioned in the Bible. Is it not the Bible which told us that there is God, angels, and devils, way before the SETI project was ever set up? If the Son of God with angels came today, they wont cry ‘Jesus!’ They will point guns to the sky and alert the world, ‘Aliens have finally invaded!'”

“Is it wrong for a Christian to use donated blood when sick?”

I have seen loved ones get critically sick, and others die, as a result of a religious belief that says, using another person’s blood can impart their spirit on them. Some people justify this belief using Leviticus 17:11 which says that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Others stretch this idea further by demonising the use of kidney (or other body organ) transplants.

I remember an incident of a Jehovah’s Witness patient who was critically ill and urgently required blood transfusion but the family and the patient opposed the idea, much to the frustration of doctors. When his condition deteriorated further he consented but it was too late. He died. That’s just how dangerous and detrimental a wrong belief can be.

Here it is: Life being in the blood doesn’t mean that the blood itself is life. Life is not in the realm of physical matter which can be touched, weighed, carried or conserved from one place to another. Blood is only a medium through which life ‘flows’, similar to how a copper wire can transmit electricity but yet is itself not electricity! A portion of that copper wire can be cut and then replaced by another piece of copper wire, but that, granted that the replaced piece has similar properties to the previous one, won’t amount to a ‘different kind’ of electricity flowing through it. It will be the same electricity but flowing through a different medium.

Blood is a material thing which is reducible to physical particles. Life is not so. To this day Science can’t comprehend this mysterious power called life. Scientists have been able to analyse various media through which blood flows (i.e. veins, arteries, body organs, etc) but yet have never been able to see, confine, and define life itself! The one thing they know is that when life stops flowing through a person, everything stops to work. The system shuts down.

There is no equation that has been fathomed to express life in terms of elements, chemicals, or mathematical equations. If life was the very blood that is in our bodies, when a person dies, all we would need to do is to transfuse life (blood) into him and that would bring them back to life! Ofcourse we still have adventurous people who believe Science can provide a naturalistic answer to any phenomenon and they endeavour to one day settle down the Life-Question. I can only wish them all the best on their expedition. But here is what the Lord Jesus said: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (Joh.6:63). And John, a man who was able to perceive that this Universe had a beginning, way before modern Science could use Hubble’s evidence of an expanding universe, the Microwave Background Radiation, or the BGV theorem, wrote : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life” (John 1:1,4).

Emphatic challenge, then a simple Question

It was a strange email. The sender seemed set on trying to correct William Branham’s interpretation of the seven angels of Revelation Chapters 2 through 3. William Branham taught that they represented earthly messengers. The email sender ‘knows better’ – they are heavenly angels and not men! “if [you] read Revelation 1:20, its not literal Seven Churchs Ages; its about seven heavenly angels” he asserted. Well, I asked him: “John was told ‘Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…’ Kindly explain to me how John, a human being, was suppose to write a letter to a heavenly angel?” I am yet to receive the answer. A scripture came to mind: “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (1 Tim.1:7).

 

Question: Does the Bible allow a Christian to drink alcohol?

Question from Inbox:

Is it right for Christians to drink alcohol seeing that there are a number of scriptures (e.g. 1 Cor.11:22, Psa.104:15, Mat.11:19, 1 Tim.5:23) which seem to suggest so? Many verses quoted by some Christians (e.g. Eph.5:18 and Prov. 23:20-21) seem to actually address and forbid the abuse of alcohol, not its proper use.

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Did Jesus Christ drink wine? Yes. As a follower of Jesus Christ would I indulge in wine drinking? No. How do I reconcile my two answers? Well, you need to read every word in the following explanation to understand.

First, it is important to know that something can be true but yet not contain the truth. A statement or explanation can be true but yet deceptive. And in this day when most Christians are mainly given to Charismatic emotionalism and not serious study of Scriptures, simple matters can become pretty confusing. Consider when Peter said “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt.16:16). Peter must have felt encouraged when the Lord said that was revealed to him by God. However, one day evil spirits cried out saying, “Thou art Christ the Son of God” (Luk.4:41) but were instead rebuked to hold their peace. The statements of Peter and the demons were both true but only Peter’s constituted a confession of Truth. Truth here is not that word you find in a dictionary but the revelation of God’s Word. Without revelation one will read the Bible the same way they read a novel or a research thesis. The Devil is not afraid of that. Like one preacher said, the Devil is actually eager to let you read letters from cover to cover of the Holy Bible as long as you can’t see the life behind the letters (2 Cor.3:6)!

Now the answer to the alcohol question is not a multiple choice type of a “YES” or “NO.” One needs to comprehend the truth of the whole subject. My explanation will begin by first highlighting the main verses used by Christians against alcohol. Hereafter I refer to them as anti-alcohols. Secondly, I will present verses commonly used by Christians in support of drinking alcohol (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses). Hereafter I refer to this group as pro-alcohols. Finally, I will present what I believe is fully consistent with the Truth of scriptures.

Anti-alcohols

Scriptures commonly used to speak against alcohol drinking include:

  • Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
  • Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Pro.20:1).
  • Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Pro.23:20-21).
  • It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink” (Pro.31:3-4).

Anti-alcohols are so adamant at supporting their position that they would go to extents of presuming that when Jesus made wine at the wedding of Cana (see Joh. 2:1-11), it had not yet fermented! However, with all due respect to efforts of such Christians, who no doubt are sincerely trying to present a teaching that will prevent people from succumbing to carnal and ungodly lifestyles, it is important to know that we cannot use falsehood to defend truth. One can only stand with Truth. It defends itself. At the wedding in Cana when the ruler of the feast tasted the miracle-made wine he remarked, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (Joh.2:10). “Good wine” is the fermented one, not grape juice!

Pro-alcohols

Pro-alcohols often use the following verses to justify the drinking of alcohol.

  • In a parable in Judges, wine is said to cheer both God and man: wine, “which cheereth God and man” (Jud.9:13).
  • Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth which often abused Holy Communion services by over-drinking the wine. He admonished them saying, “have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?” (1 Cor.11:22). There are two important things to note about this verse. First, this verse exposes the error of Christians who use grape juice in place of wine for the Lord’s Supper. This verse shows that the practice of early Christians was to use actual wine. The Corinthian church was only abusing that which was the normal practice. Secondly, pro-alcohols explain using this scripture that it was permissible for Christians to drink wine in their homes.
  • [God] causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (Psa.104:15). This verse indicates that God made wine to excite man.
  • The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children” (Mat.11:19). A winebibber is a habitual drinker of alcohol, a drunkard! So, it appears drunkards would find great solace in this verse. But, does this verse really mean that Jesus was actually a drunkard?
  • Paul in giving advice to Timothy because of his sickness said, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim.5:23).

Before I proceed to present my answer I would like to state here that I have found it interesting to note that both Christians and non-Christians (including drunkards) often despise and doubt the testimony of one who professes to be a Christian but yet is a drinker of alcohol. However, there are worldly people who feel comforted of their situation when they hear someone quote a scripture to support the drinking of alcohol. But,…

What is the Truth?

To see the truth one needs not to look at the ‘trees’ but see the ‘forest’ of Scripture. A common mistake with regards to this (and other similar) subject(s) involves looking at the ancient Jewish custom of drinking wine through the modern setting of consuming beer. When one uses the modern term “beer” in place of the term used in the Bible, “wine”, a subtle error is already introduced so that “Jimmy drinks beer” and “Jesus used to drink beer” means Jimmy does what Jesus used to do. To an undiscerning person that seems to be the case, but yet there is a clear mis-presentation of Jesus into a modern setting of what connotes beer drinking. Beer drinking is well understood today as a practice that has moral issues attached to it. It is for this reason that when a Christian is spotted drinking beer people will talk about it, and they will question his character. But how is this so when in Jewish culture wine was such a well-known beverage that would be taken even by men of God and during holy ceremonies? Firstly, it is important to properly understand what constituted drinking wine in the Jewish culture and in the Torah. Secondly, one needs to understand God’s dealings with His people through time, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And lastly, it is important for a believer to know that a Christian has an obligation to not only do what is justifiably right but that which will give the right impression for the edification of another person.

Jewish culture and the Torah

Rabbi Menachem Posner notes:

Wine’s ability to bring joy is because it relaxes our inhibitions and weakens the body’s natural defenses. This “weakening of the body” allows the soul to shine through. After taking [wine] one is more easily inspired, because the body offers less resistance. This obviously applies only when one drinks in moderation and on special, holy occasions in an attempt to make them a bit more festive and to introduce an inspirational ambiance (Posner, 2017).[1]

In a perfect world, where every human being was wise, morally upright, subscribed to the same moral code, and worshiped one God, there would be no problem with the subject of wine. There would be no need to include lines in codes of conduct of organisations which forbid officers to be drunk whilst on duty; they would know what to do because they are all morally upright. However, since the Fall in Eden, man has a terrible moral problem so that even when he knows the right thing to do, he finds a thin line between right and wrong, so that on a scale of modest and excess, each person devises their own knobs of what is acceptable to them. In the Jewish society there were the noble and wise who knew the proper use of wine. They drunk wine sparingly and appropriately. And there were also the foolish who indulged in alcohol (Pro.20:1). And then there were Nazarites who were completely consecrated to God and were forbidden to drink wine. These were called to “separate themselves unto the LORD” (Num.6:2-4).

A Nazarite presents an important lesson here. His abstinence represented the ideal practice for mankind.

Some people would drink wine wisely, and others would drink it foolishly. God permitted the foolishness because of the fallen condition of man. Not only did He permit the foolishness (like in the case of Noah getting drunk), but he let hopeless man (born and shapen in iniquity and filled with trouble on his mind) drink it to forget his worries – “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wineGive strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more” (Pro.31:4-7). Notice here that the noble should not drink wine, but those in misery are to drink it to remember their misery “no more”. But how long is this “no more”? Certainly, it is only as long as one is in his drunken stupor! When he sobers up, the problem and misery is still there! But again, why should God provide such an imperfect solution? Well, we need to understand God’s dealings with mankind through time.

God’s dealings with His people through time

A patient experiences chronic excruciating pain in the head. There is a pain killer, A, he has been prescribed to ease the pain but for which he has been warned that prolonged use may lead to bad side-effects.  He only uses the drug for a week and then a new drug, B, is discovered which is not only more effective but has zero side-effects. It certainly would be ridiculous for the patient to refuse drug B in preferring A!

The Old Testament presents the picture of man as a patient of sin and iniquity. He chose sin wilfully. The gentle God had to let man partake of the fruit of his chosen way – “They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” (Pro.1:30-31). Even so, God in His mercy was so patient, to the extent of permitting certain things which were unpleasant in His eyes. Some things permitted were divorce and polygamy. However, like the Lord Jesus Christ explained to the Jews, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Mat.19:8). However, note that it is God who spoke to Moses to let people divorce. That doesn’t mean he sanctioned divorce. He permitted it because of the weakness of man. However, God knew that there would come a time when man would be delivered from the bondage of sin by the power of the blood of Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Ghost (Jer.31:31-34, Eze.36:27), and when that happens, that which was permitted would no longer be allowed.

So, in the New Testament we seek the perfect will of God. As was stated earlier, a man in the Old Testament was permitted to drink wine to make his heart merry and forget his misery – “Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more” (Prov.31:7). But the “no more” was only as long as the drunken state. When he sobered up, the problem was still there. That was the agony of hopeless man. Wine could only solve the problem “in part.” It was not THE solution! When Christ came, He gave the invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28-29). On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given and the believers staggered with the ‘new wine’. The joy that comes with this new wine is abiding. Surely one won’t seek the joy that comes with the drunkenness of the old wine when he tastes the new wine, simply because “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor.13:10). When medicine B has come, I don’t want to have anything to do with medicine A.

But, what if someone says, “Well, I don’t drink it to get merry in order to forget problems; I have a clean conscious. I would just take it as a drink to refresh myself”?

We abstain from things that hinder others

The Christian walk is not all about doing something simply because your conscience doesn’t condemn you; it has much to do with what impression you portray to another person and the general community around you. Understand that Jews had a well-developed moral code which was far ahead of many Gentile nations. Jews would never gather in a church and get drunk in a service the way Corinthian (gentile) believers behaved. Clearly, alcohol consumption among gentiles was quite abused. And although they received the Gospel, it took severe rebukes of apostle Paul for them to learn about the new life in Christ. Paul had a hard time establishing the Corinthians in the truth. In the church there were such terrible sins as one of a young man committing fornication with his father’s wife. This was not a heathen but a brother in a congregation. They were certainly so very far from understanding the Gospel. Thus, when Paul admonished them saying “have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?” (1 Cor.11:22) we need to understand that he wasn’t sanctioning their indulgence in alcohol; he was speaking to a morally bankrupt people. Consider this: I have once told a cigarette smoker, “Please sir, kindly smoke outside this room.” That in no way meant I sanctioned his smoking wherever he went outside the room!

I should emphasise here that Paul had a hard time to establish Gentile people. Although now in the Gospel, there were many of them who had a ‘hangover’ of their past life. These were people with a different culture and attitude towards things like wine. A thing like wine which was used appropriately in Jewish religious gatherings found itself being abused among gentiles. To this day, the problem of drinking is widespread around the world. Drinking has become an addiction for many people. The last thing a Christian wants to do is to be identified with the thing which has become a symbol of sin and immorality and is destroying many people’s lives. Wisdom speaks – “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Rom.14:21), and “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor.8:13). But more than this, know that if you are hoping to one day rule with Christ, then live as a king now, for He has “made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev.5:10). And if you are a king then this verse is for you – “It is not for kings…to drink wine” (Pro.31:3-4).


[1] Posner, M (2017). What is Judaism’s take on alcohol consumption? [Online] Available from: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/581082/jewish/What-is-Judaisms-take-on-alcohol-consumption.htm [Accessed October 25, 2017].

 

Question – Is purgatory scriptural?

Purgatory, in Catholic doctrine, is a place where people go after death. It is believed that the people are destined for heaven but must first be purified inorder to attain the required level of holiness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrfice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (available on www.vatican.va).

One scripture used to justify the performance of a religious ritual on behalf of the dead is 1 Corinthians 15:29 which states, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” A casual reading of this verse surely seems to justify the assertion that early Christians baptised living believers on behalf of those who died. However, a simple closer look at the words immediately reveals that saint Paul actually did not identify himself with the practice. He refers to those who practised the doctrine as “They“.

As Ellicott’s Commentary correctly points out, there existed amongst some Christians at Corinth who believed that a person could be baptised on behalf of another who was dead. St John Chrysostom, a 4th century archbishop and prolific writer, described the practice in detail:

After a catechumen (i.e., one prepared for baptism, but not actually baptised) was dead, they hid a living man under the bed of the deceased; then coming to the bed of the dead man they spake to him, and asked whether he would receive baptism, and he making no answer, the other replied in his stead, and so they baptised the ‘living for the dead.’

The fact that this was a practice done at the time of Paul does not mean all Christians believed in it. Remember that there were many doctrines and heresies right at the time of Paul in many Christian circles. Some people believing that the resurrection was already past (2 Tim.2:18) and  others asserted that there was no such thing as the resurrection of the dead. It is the latter false doctrine that Paul was addressing to the church at Corinth, in Chapter 15 of his epistle. He admonished the Corinthians saying: “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor. 15:13-14). Paul went further to show the inconsistency of “they” who didnt believe in resurrection but yet practised the erroneous baptism of the dead. Clearly, if there was so much concern for the baptism of a dead person, did it not logically follow (from their practice) that there was hope of life after death? For that is what the physical practice of baptism illustrates – a body being laid in water to symbolise death, and being raised, to symbolise the new life  – “Therefore we are burried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised  up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life(Rom.6:4).

The Scripture is clear about holiness: it is not something we attain after we die. We should attain it in this present life. 1 Peter 1:15 was not written for dead people: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” And we are also admonsihed that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim.2:19). Thus, to tell people that there is a chance to complete their ‘holiness requirement’ for heaven is to give them a false hope. They will believe wrongly and hence live wrongly.