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Exorcists on Standby in Every Anglican Diocese!

 

Anglican theologian:  The lectionary reading for Trinity 1, Year C, is Luke’s version of Jesus meeting and healing the demon-possessed man in the ‘region of the Gerasenes’ (Luke 8.26–39). The account occurs in all three Synoptic gospels; in Mark (the shortest gospel) the story is in the longest and most detailed version; Matthew 8.28–34 is the shortest, and just includes the main points in summary; here in Luke, the story is only a little bit shorter than in Mark, and Luke includes much of the detail…continued

 

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Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac

 

Gary:  What I find odd is that in the Synoptics Jesus seems to find demons in every nook and cranny…yet not one mention of demon possession is found in the Gospel of John! I guess demonology did not fit with the theme of John’s gospel.  It is also odd how prevalent demon possession appears to have been in the time of Jesus, but I can’t remember the last time my local Anglican priest cast out a demon!

 

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Anglican theologian:  That’s an interesting observation, and one that I think has been made before. Worth making some responses. First, all the gospels are selective, so in some ways it seems odd to us that any omit anything e.g. why do the synoptics not mention Lazarus? (There is a simple literary/geographical explanation.)  Second, it is clear that some things we would explain in other ways are accounted for by demon possession. That is not a sceptical comment, merely noting that the gospels were written in a pre-scientific world.  Thirdly, I think it is fair to say that the average parish priest does not represent the eschatological breaking in of the kingdom of God to quite the degree that the ministry of Jesus does. Therefore it is perhaps not surprising that the Evil One is not so stirred to action.  Having said that, every C of E [Church of England] diocese has someone responsible for deliverance ministry, and friends of mine have been directly involved in this.

 

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Gary:   I did a little research on the subject of exorcisms and discovered this: Exorcisms in the ENTIRE Church of England are “rare”. See this quote from an Anglican newspaper, dated January 17, 2017:

“EXORCISM might be an activity with obvious appeal to the makers of horror films, but it is not a word that crops up much in conversation about deliverance ministry in the Church of England. The need for major exorcisms is rare, the Arch­bishops’ Adviser for the Heal­ing Ministry, the Revd Dr Beatrice Brandon, says.”

If we only judged the prevalence of demon possession by the statistics of the Church of England, your suggestion that demon possession was much more prevalent during Jesus’ ministry due to the impending introduction of the “Kingdom”, would appear reasonable. However, as you are aware, Anglicans are not the only Christians on the planet today. If one searches Pentecostal literature, one finds that demon possession is still RAMPANT—all over the world!  (See here)    Entire crowds have been exorcised of demons by Pentecostal preachers, according to these sources. And what’s more, according to these Pentecostal sources, exorcisms in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are MUCH more prevalent than in the United States.

Isn’t it odd that demon possession, now and during the time of Jesus, seems to be much more prevalent among the uneducated, the ignorant, and the highly superstitious? Maybe the reason why so many Pentecostal clergy have exorcised MANY demons, but my local Anglican priest has never exorcised a single demon in his entire pastoral career is because all of his Anglican parishioners are educated, upper-middle/upper class people with sensible heads on their shoulders; people who would never jump up during a mass begging to have “Bob” the demon cast out of him or her?

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God Focused Christians Always Agree on the Will of God

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Gary:

Hypothetical:  A church needs a new pastor. One group of elders in the church is certain that God has moved them to call Pastor X. However, another group of elders believes that God has told them to call Pastor Y. The number of elders on each side is equal. Both pastors are equally qualified and come highly recommended from other pastors within your denomination. Who is right and how would you know? How would anyone know which group is hearing God’s voice and which group is listening to their own internal dialogue?

Conservative Christian:

Your choice of pastor story is complex only because it is concocted and artificial. My experience is that where such division is real, it means someone is not listening to God and may be pushing personal ambition, an ungodly state of mind. Such groups often fall apart.  When they do not fall apart, I have seen apparently unrelated circumstances nullify the work of a partisan group, to the benefit of all who remained. In short, it can be taken out of our hands.  Where people are united in their desire to follow Jesus, I have seen a whole group change mind to adopt the view of one person. That was because everyone genuinely desired the Godly response.  In a God-focused context, your scenario will not arise.

Gary:  You were obviously never a Baptist!

 

 

 

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When Jesus said “Ask Anything in My Name and I Will Do It”, He Didn’t Mean Anything

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Gary:  How often does God answer prayers in the affirmative? Unless you can say 75-100% of the time, aren’t the odds of your prayer being affirmatively answered approximately equal to random chance? And if your prayers being answered in the affirmative are no better than random chance, how do you know that prayer actually works?

Conservative Christian: God only answers prayer as often as people ask for what warrants an affirmative answer.

Gary:   Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  Jesus said if you ask ANYTHING is his name, he will do it.

Conservative Christian:  Really? Does that kind of interpretation make any sense at all? Let’s keep our common sense, eh? It says, “… anything in His name“. That phrase, ‘in His name’, is there for a reason. It means that, as members of God’s family, Christians can speak with His authority.  But to do that, we must also be acting under His authority. If a police officer demanded of a random stranger, “Hey, Buddy, go get me a coffee, now!” the citizen may rightly refuse; the officer would be acting outside her authority. Same for Christians.  The implication of “anything” is that God invites our active participation in His work. Through the scriptures, God is saying in effect, “Here is our goal and purpose; here are your boundaries. Now, you tell Me, what would you like us to create together within that space?”

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Why Evidence and Faith are Incompatible

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“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.”

–Leon Festinger, Stanford University psychologist

 

Someone who has “come to faith in Jesus the Christ” due to an emotional crises or due to a perceived “miracle” is rarely ever going to give up this belief due to evidence.  Emotion-based beliefs are practically immune to evidence.  Ever try to convince a friend that his girlfriend is cheating on him?  If you have, you know that your evidence is almost always rejected.  So maybe we non-supernaturalists should give up trying to prove religious supernatural beliefs wrong using evidence, but rather focus on the unreliability of emotion-based decisions.  Maybe we should stop debating Christians regarding the authorship of the Gospels or the historicity of the Empty Tomb and instead talk to them about the events that led to their conversion.

How many times have you heard a Christian state that he or she converted to Christianity after a thorough review of the evidence?  Ever?  You can find such believers if you look hard enough but they are a small minority.  Google the testimonies of many Christian evangelists and apologists and you will often find their conversion occurred due to a life crises.  Is it wise for people to decide the veracity of fantastical supernatural claims when they are in an emotionally vulnerable state?

Maybe that is the issue we should be discussing with Christians.

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Check out an excellent article that goes into more depth regarding the phenomenon of evidence vs. convictions: here

 

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Why are Christians So Certain About the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus?

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Conservative Christian:   I’m reading these texts [the Gospels] as their authors intended.

Evangelization doesn’t automatically equal fiction. Just because they [the authors of the Gospels] were writing from a bias and trying to prove a point doesn’t mean they were making it all up. The ancients could tell the difference between real history and pious myths. The gospels are written as actual history and don’t evidence the kinds of pious embellishment you seem to think they do. Compared to other Greco-Roman texts the gospels are positively restrained in their accounts of, say, the resurrection.  Just because someone is writing from a bias or trying to prove a point doesn’t mean they’re making stuff up. Nobody is entirely free of bias.

And with the gospels, what they’re trying to get us to believe, is that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily resurrected in the middle of recorded space-time history. They aren’t trying to push a Christianized version of say, the Osiris myth. They knew it and their Jewish and pagan opponents knew it. Jesus was clinically dead then three days latter clinically alive again. Paul knew as well as you do how outrageous that sounds and yet he went to his death insisting that it had actually happened. The various theories that attempt to explain that away take more faith to believe than believing in the resurrection does.

You can’t accept the resurrection because your materialist worldview can’t/won’t allow for it. My worldview can/will accommodate that belief.

Gary:  How can anyone living today, two thousand years later, know for certain that the Gospels were “written as actual history”???  We don’t know who the authors of these books were.  Most scholars doubt they were eyewitnesses or even associates of eyewitnesses.  Most scholars believe that these four books were written in an ancient literary genre that allowed for extensive embellishments.

Those are the facts, my dear conservative Christians.  So why are you so certain that 2,000 year old tales of first century peasants seeing a walking, talking (resurrected) dead body are “actual history”?  I say it is wishful thinking…which is another way of saying…faith.

Faith is not a virtue.  It is a superstitious, irrational way of thinking.

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Why do Christian Apologists and Skeptics Seem to Frequently Speak Past One Another?

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Have you ever been involved in a debate with a Christian apologist and felt like you were speaking a foreign language; neither the apologist nor his Christian readers seem to understand a word you are saying?  You believe that you are on topic, addressing the issues under discussion on the Christian’s blog, but he or she thinks that you are being evasive, off-topic, and engaging in “trolling”?

It happens a lot, even to non-Christian New Testament scholars!  This is what agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman had to say regarding his online debate with conservative Christian theologian, Rev. Matthew Firth:  “It was like talking to a brick wall!”  (link)

Why do you think this occurs?  These people are not stupid.  Many of them are highly educated, highly intelligent people.  Yes, some of them may simply be trying to avoid being backed into a corner, but it can’t be all of them.  What’s up?  Check out this conversation with conservative Christian theologian, Joel Anderson, for an example of this phenomenon:

Anderson:  Let’s just try to think independently, Gary. How many Christians do you think were in the Ephesus/Colossae region in the late 1st century?  Scholars generally agree that the Apostle John ended up in Ephesus by then. Papias and Polycarp were born around 70 AD, both were bishops in Hieropolis and Smyrna respectively. So if they lived in the area and ended up being bishops in the area, don’t you think it isn’t too much of a stretch to think they had contact with John [the Apostle]? That doesn’t seem that outlandish to me.

Gary“Scholars generally agree that the Apostle John ended up in Ephesus by then.”  Source?

Anderson:  Virtually every NT history book

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Gary: Really??

Encyclopedia Britannica:  John’s [son of Zebedee] subsequent history is obscure and passes into the uncertain mists of legend. At the end of the 2nd century, Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, claims that John’s tomb is at Ephesus, identifies him with the beloved disciple, and adds that he “was a priest, wearing the sacerdotal plate, both martyr and teacher.” That John died in Ephesus is also stated by St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon c. 180 CE, who says John wrote his Gospel and letters at Ephesus and Revelation at Pátmos. During the 3rd century two rival sites at Ephesus claimed the honour of being the apostle’s grave. One eventually achieved official recognition, becoming a shrine in the 4th century. In the 6th century the healing power of dust from John’s tomb was famous (it is mentioned by the Frankish historian St. Gregory of Tours). At this time also, the church of Ephesus claimed to possess the autograph of the Fourth Gospel.

Legend was also active in the West, being especially stimulated by the passage in Mark 10:39, with its hints of John’s martyrdom. Tertullian, the 2nd-century North African theologian, reports that John was plunged into boiling oil from which he miraculously escaped unscathed. During the 7th century this scene was portrayed in the Lateran basilica and located in Rome by the Latin Gate, and the miracle is still celebrated in some traditions. In the original form of the apocryphal Acts of John (second half of the 2nd century) the apostle dies, but in later traditions he is assumed to have ascended to heaven like Enoch and Elijah. The work was condemned as a gnostic heresy in 787 CE. Another popular tradition, known to St. Augustine, declared that the earth over John’s grave heaved as if the apostle were still breathing.  –End

Gary: So who do we believe? Polycrates? Irenaeus? St. Gregory? Tertullian? St. Augustine?

Let’s put them all together: John the son of Zebedee, was a Jewish priest in the Temple AND a Galilean fisherman; he was boiled in oil…but escaped unscathed; he died in Ephesus where his dust healed the sick. To this day, his grave “heaves” as if he is still breathing!

My, my, my…

C-A-T-H-O-L-I-C tradition! No more believable than that the church in Alexandria had the bones of John Mark (later stolen by the merchants of Venice) or that multiple churches throughout Europe possess splinters from the very cross of Jesus. This is not history! This is propaganda for the relic trade!

Anderson:  I’ve had enough. It amazes me that you ask for evidence. Evidence is provided–No one doubts Papias/Polycarp were born around 70 AD; no one doubts they were bishops of Hieropolis and Smyrna; Irenaeus, who was a student of Polycarp, says they knew John the Apostle. There is nothing “miraculous” about these claims. Irenaeus’ testimony fits with other aspects of early Church testimony. But you just go to every possible other thing, you go to APOCRYPHAL works, look for the most unbelievable nuggets of the furthest things out there, and then you circle back to the most basic, most unmiraculous claims that fit within the accepted historical framework we know of the early church, and you say, “Who you gonna believe? We can’t know ANYTHING!”  I’ve said it before, you are not serious. You have a specific agenda, and there isn’t one piece of evidence from history that isn’t too hard for you to explain away. Please stop commenting on my blog.

 

Dear Readers:  Correct me if I am wrong.  Did Dr. Anderson answer my request to provide a source for his statement,  “Scholars generally agree that the Apostle John ended up in Ephesus by then.”   Telling me that Polycarp knew John the Apostle does not support the claim that “scholars generally agree that…“.  Telling me that Irenaeus said such and such does not support that claim.  Telling me “Virtually every NT history book” is not giving a source.  This is a generalization.  If scholars generally agree that John the Apostle was living in Ephesus at that time, then I will accept it as an historical fact!  Just give me a reputable source which confirms your claim, Dr. Anderson!  Is that so hard?

Ist das so schwer, Herr Doktor?

 

 

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