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The Peace Found in Forgiveness of Others

By Denny Smith

If you or I or any other were asked to compile a list of the ugliest traits of character that a person could have and that we run across in people I am sure that things like hatred, anger, bitterness, malice, and an unwillingness to forgive would all rank up there near the top of our list. People who possess these traits are not pleasant to be around. That is not to say they have no friends but only that the kind of person that takes up with them is very likely to share some of the same traits they have. And, I might add, one of the positive things about family is they are likely to love you no matter what so they will put up with you.

While I listed 5 traits it is easy to see how they are all related. Why is a person unwilling to forgive or lacks the desire to do so? Is it not because of hatred, anger, bitterness, and perhaps even malice (a sort of revenge motive of I will get even with you even if that mechanism is only by being unwilling to forgive).

Yes, we all have people who have done us wrong whom we have been very angry at, maybe bitter against, but I have never seen a time in my own life but what time heals and the things that seemed so great an issue at the time has over the years palled into insignificance and no longer matter. We are going to get hurt in life. That is just life. But, we also have to remember as we have been hurt so have we hurt others whether intentionally or not.

Why is it we take the hurts we receive to heart but see as insignificant things we have said or done to others (or even things we should have done as acts of consideration or kindness or love but failed to do)? Why is it we come to see everything as one sided as though it is the world against us but our purity is as of the new fallen snow without spot?

Certainly, there are some things that would be hard to forgive – adultery committed against us, desertion by a husband against his wife and children, physical abuse, lies told against us, hurts done to our children, etc. But, even so, where does holding on to the anger and bitterness and hatred get you? Does it bring you a happier life? Does it bring you joy? We all know the answer—it just brings greater suffering and sorrow, more misery, as we dwell more and more on the hurt we have received rather than a rebuilding of life that can bring joy and peace.

So far I have talked about the common experiences of man but we need to put a biblical perspective on these things not only because we are talking about Bible subjects but also because we are spiritual beings subject to the supreme spiritual being—God himself. It is not the physical man that gets hurt, who develops anger and bitterness and hatred and who is unwilling to forgive, but the spiritual man.

Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). As we have received hurt at the hands of others we have to remember we all, every one of us, have hurt God with our own lives. This has been true of man from the beginning. “And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart.” (Gen. 6:6 NKJV) This was because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5 NKJV)

It is easy to say that was generations ago and times have changed, we are not that way today. Yes, easy to say but also easy to know we are deceiving ourselves when we do so. Paul said to Christians, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 3:30 NKJV) If a Christian can grieve God how about all those who know the truth of the gospel but will not obey it? Do you think they grieve God? If you think the one you will not forgive is your enemy do you think you are God’s friend all the while grieving him? So we see the one who will not forgive needs forgiving himself.

It would be good to hear some scripture on the subject of forgiveness and our great need to forgive others.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15 NKJV) “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 NKJV) This forgiveness must be “from his heart” (Matt. 18:35 NKJV) which means of course sincerely.

If Jesus could have a heart of forgiveness toward those who were crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV), then surely no one has done such evil to you as that done to him. (I am not saying those who crucified Christ were forgiven without repentance and obedience to the gospel but only that Jesus’ prayer was from a heart desiring their forgiveness which came to many as they obeyed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost). How is our heart toward God and our fellowman when we relish hatred and enjoy the bitterness and anger that accompanies it? And why, why is that so? Why are we that way? Why would we rather destroy ourselves than to forgive? Is there any sense or reason to it?

There is comfort to be found in the Christian life in not only our own forgiveness by God but also the burden that is lifted from our heart when we from the heart forgive those we have so long held anger and bitterness against. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (‘harsh words’ in the NLT—DS), and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31-32 NKJV)

It is so much easier to live life when surrounded by people that are kind and tenderhearted and forgiving, people who are not out just for themselves, or just to get you, or just to get even and reap vengeance but rather people that care about you. No, life is better when you are able to say yes I need forgiveness myself and I will no longer hold anger or grudges against others but I forgive as I seek God’s forgiveness also in my own life.

It would be good to talk a little about God’s loving kindness and willingness to forgive. God gives us all hope. The apostle Paul was at one time a very evil man. He says of himself, “many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” (Acts 26:10 NKJV) Yet, God showed him mercy and Paul later says concerning this, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:16 NLT)

Of those 3,000 on the day of Pentecost who obeyed the gospel and were saved that day Peter says to them about Jesus, “you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death,” speaking in reference to what they had done to Christ. Surely, if God would forgive them he will forgive you, me, and all of us if only we are willing to give up our sin. We need not live in hatred and malice and unforgiving of others as that is a personal choice. We choose to be that way. We do not have to be. No one forces us to be unloving and unforgiving and full of pride that will not let us repent.

David said, “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms 34:14 NKJV) It is a choice. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.” (Psalms 37:8 NKJV) God is ready to forgive. “For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon you.” (Psalms 86:5 NKJV)

There is a passage in Ezekiel that we all ought to learn for even though it was written for another people at another time it is still applicable today (Rom. 15:4), “’Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore turn and live!’” (Ezek. 18:30 NKJV)

We will all be judge individually, “every one according to his ways,” so it is not what kind of attitude the other man has who we have it in for but it is our own attitude that we must account for. Repentance can save us, “Repent…so that iniquity will not be your ruin.” It is up to us as we can get ourselves “a new heart and a new spirit.” No, we do not have to be the way we are if we are unloving and unforgiving.

In closing let me ask a few questions for your consideration. Why did Jesus come into the world? Who sent him? Why is Jesus called the Savior? Why did he die on the cross? Has God given us a choice (free will)? Is it possible to change our attitude, our life, and our hope? Why do we choose to hate, have bitterness and anger, to be unloving and unforgiving? What joy and happiness do we find in that? Is there a better way of life? Can peace and joy and hope of life everlasting be found or is the way hidden from us?

I think we all know the answers to these questions so there is only one other question to ask. It is the question in the old gospel hymn we have sung since the days of my childhood which is now many decades past. It is the question, “Why do you wait o sinner?” “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV) There is peace in forgiving and in being forgiven.

About the Author:

Visit Denny Smith’s web site to read more of his articles and also listen to over 110 audio sermons on many different subjects from “Where Are the Dead?” to “The Weaver’s Shuttle,” to “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”

Article Source: The Peace Found in Forgiveness of Others


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Dealing With Denial

I am spotless!

Image by Vanny via Flickr

By: Domenic Marbaniang

One issue that leaders face continually is the issue of denial. “Denial” may be defined as the act of asserting that something alleged is not true. Such assertion may either be verbal or behavioral, or both.  Psychiatrists refer to it as a kind of defense mechanism in which a person denies the reality of certain facts in order to avoid the discomfort associated with them. The denial may be of the reality of a fact or of the seriousness of it, or of both. In many cases, it also appears as a mechanism to avoid responsibility in a given situation. Though, lying is a direct form of denial, there are still others like false justification, caricaturizing, and minimizing that also fall into the category of denial. In this article, we’ll look at denial with regard to leadership situations.

Few examples of denial are as follows:

  • Adam denied his responsibility in the crime at Eden. He projected the blame on Eve, instead, to somehow escape divine censure.
  • Pharaoh denied the greatness of Jehovah despite being struck by the plagues. His political obsession with keeping Israelites as slaves made him minimize the seriousness of God’s command.
  • Saul refused to recognize the choice of David by God for the throne. He imagined that, somehow, what had been prophesied against him wouldn’t happen and that he would retain the throne.
  • The worshippers of Baal kept on hurting themselves in hope that their god would respond.
  • Gehazi denied being elsewhere when he had really gone after Naaman. His memory somehow denied the prophetic ability of Elisha as he succumbed to greed.
  • The Israelites kept doing things against the Law, despite the warnings of the prophets, saying “the Temple is here, the Temple is here”. They were denying God’s definition of holiness and used the Temple as a shield behind which they could do their works of darkness.
  • The people in the days of Haggai refused to build the Temple since they didn’t consider it to be very important.
  • The Pharisees and the Sadducees rejected the claims of Christ despite Scriptural and providential (miraculous) proofs.
  • Peter denied any relationship with Christ in face of persecution.
  • Felix refused to listen to Paul anymore when he began to speak about things pertaining to God’s Kingdom.

Often times, the act of denial leads to a kind of self-deception in which memory itself begins to get conformed to the false tendencies of the will. In such cases, a return is almost impossible since the imagination has already overshadowed reasonability. While denial may be looked at as a defense mechanism of the organism; yet, one must be careful to not deny the role of will in deciding for or against any ideas arising from a situation. One must remember that falsehood is never beneficial at the end.

Voluntary and Involuntary Denial

Voluntary denial refers to that denial which is willful and persistent. It persists in falsehood despite evidences contrary to it. Involuntary denial refers to that in which the decision of the will is absent or delayed. It is mechanical in nature and often is an initial response through a defense mechanism of the organism that seeks to avoid the unpleasant. For instance, when someone hears of the death of a beloved one, the initial response might be disbelief or denial. Such initial response of the organism prevents against hasty shock and might be preparative and directive in the ascertaining of truth.  Such denial doesn’t fall under the purview of morality since the will has not yet been brought into rational accountability in it.

Hamartiological Analysis

Spiritual Roots

In John 8: 44, Jesus declares the Pharisees to be the offspring of the devil. He says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (RSV).

Obviously, the devil was not their genetic father but a father in the sense of their being part of the rebellion of falsehood began by him. Falsehood and lying are natural to the devil since, by rejection of the truth of God, he has turned his back on all truth-values. The demonic kingdom operates basically on falsehood and influences the kingdoms of the world to do so. Worldly politics, religions, and businesses use falsehood as an instrument to gain and retain power over human minds. Jesus categorizes all such leadership practices as demonic in origin. Tendencies towards falsehood are sharp in any intellect that refuses the rule of the Spirit of God.

The Pharisees were incapable of acknowledging Jesus as the Christ of God because their inclinations were in favor of the devil’s desires – “Your will is to do your father’s desires,” He said.  All rejection of God-given leadership is an instance of demonic rebellion (1Jn. 3:12; Jude 1:11; 1Sam. 19:9ff).  Even within Christian leadership, Paul asks Timothy to not include a novice as a candidate for leadership; for it is possible that he become lifted up in pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil (1Tim. 3:6). Similarly, Christians who haven’t matured and are still carnal can’t properly accept or acknowledge the value of the other in the family of God since they are ruled by worldly standards of acceptance and egotistic desires for self-aggrandizement (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1ff) after the manner of the devil (Isa. 14:12-14).

Spirits of Deception

The tendency to reject demonic influence in hamartiological analysis (or analysis of sinful instances) is a mark left by secular theologies. Of course, there is the danger of extremism in both cases and one need to draw a line of balance. In the preface of his The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

The Bible clearly states that “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1Tim. 4:1,2). The warning is against those who renounce the truth by embracing falsehood. This is one way in which cults arise claiming hold over some particularly distinct truth unsupported by the Scriptures. The elements of deception in the world that keep people blinded from the truth of God also fall into the purview of the kingdom of darkness.

The Bible, therefore, exhorts one to be watchful (1Pt. 5:8), never give an occasion to the devil through prideful or resentful anger (Eph. 4:26), and to beware of the wiles and deception of the devil (Eph. 6:11; 2 Cor. 11:13-15) who attempts to destroy the Body of Christ.

Selfish Carnal Passions

Jude talks about mockers in the last days (those who deride the things and offices of God) as those “who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 19). The psalmist draws a picture of their departure from truth in Psalm 1:1:

  • Step 1: Walking after counsel of the ungodly: Placing worldly wisdom and views above the Scripture.
  • Step 2: Standing in the way of sinners: Expressing one’s approval of or neutral opinion regarding things that the Bible expressly calls “sin”.
  • Step 3: Sitting in the seat of the scornful: Assuming the position and the role of the rebel, the derider and opposer of all God’s truth.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” because it’s evident that the enemy of our souls can easily use situations in life to distort reality and confuse decisions. Such followers of sinful flesh easily rebel against all truth. The temptation to give in slowly to the current of worldly opinion is strong and leaders must beware of that.

Dealing with Denial in the Self

Jesus gave the first code of examination when He stipulated,  “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). He told the hypocrite to first remove the beam in his eye before he could remove the mote out of his brother’s eye (v. 5). Self-examination is crucial for a leader’s spiritual health.

Following are some questions that can help ascertain if one is a denier:

  1. Do I try to justify some action of mine that my conscience accuses me of (1Jn. 1:8-10)?
  2. Am I angry with someone for some fault of mine (Gen. 4:5-8)?
  3. Do I feel threatened by someone’s progress (1Sam. 18:7-9)?
  4. Do I have doubts regarding the Bible, God, and ministry (Ex. 32:1ff; Pro.30:9; 1Tim. 4:13-16)?
  5. Am I doing or saying things to make people think of me what is not really true of me (2Cor. 12:6)?
  6. Do I regard the Biblical warnings as not very serious, particularly in connection with my situation (Jer. 7:10)?
  7. Do I consider someone as inferior to or less important than me (Phil. 2:3)?
  8. Do I try to defame or slander someone (behind his back or openly) without regard to any proof in favor of him/her (Prov. 19:5,9)?
  9. Do I wish to be safe, regardless of what happens to others (2Sam. 23:16)?

Following are some ways to deal with denial in one’s self:

  1. Examine oneself in the light of Scriptures (1 Cor. 9:27; Ps.1:2).
  2. Confess and renounce all sin and false justifications (1Jn.1:9).
  3. Be committed to the truth in every situation (2Cor.13:8).
  4. Deny self and seek to please Christ alone in every situation (Matt. 16:24; Gal. 1:10).
  5. Encourage others and invest in them for the glory of God (1Thess.5:11).
  6. Confront sin in others; this guards against compromise (Eph. 5:11; 1Cor. 5:2; 1Tim.5:20).
  7. Make prayer, hearing from God, and fellowship a priority (1Thess. 5:17; Prov. 28:5; Heb.10:25).

Dealing with Denial in Others

One must beware of the following things when confronting denial in others:

  1. Do not be hasty in confrontation (Pro. 14:29; 29:20).
  2. Do not let hearsay cloud your opinion about the other. In fact, do not even let appearance influence your view of the other person for in doing that you can be partner in evil (Jn. 7:24; Pro. 17:4).
  3. Before confronting someone, make sure that you’re first of all in the right (Matt. 7:1-5).
  4. Do not confront unless you’re certain that you need to (Acts 24:25).
  5. Do not confront unless you’re confident that you’re equipped for it (1Tim. 3:16; Tit.1:9).
  6. Listen to the Holy Spirit before you’re going to confront and speak (Jn. 16:7, 8).

The steps of confrontation may be as follows:

  1. Recognize the individuality, dignity, and freedom of the other as given by God (Gen. 1:26).
  2. Be updated about the denier’s latest position. This is important since it’s possible that the denier might already have been feeling remorseful and has repented of his falsehood. One way to do that is to ask questions in that direction. Jesus provides a classic approach to this when He confronts Peter without talking about the three denials he made. On the contrary, He just asks him if he loved Him more than the other things; and when he replied in the affirmative, Christ asked him to work for Him (Jn.21:15-17).
  3. Be confident of your authority from God, not to destroy but to construct (2Cor. 13:10).
  4. Be gentle and caring (Matt.11:29;  2Tim. 2:24; Jas. 3:17)
  5. Only proceed if you’re sure that the person is open to reason, to a fair discussion (Isa. 1:18; Jas.3:17; Prov. 1:5; 10:8).
  6. Remember that God is the one in total control of the situation (Acts 5:34).
  7. Gently show the person the facts of his/her situation and give space for his/her approval or denial of them (Jn. 4:9-19).
  8. Remember that the person reserves the final decision to accept or reject the truth and God oversees it all (Prov. 16:1,2).
  9. Provide answers as long as you’re sure that the denier is honest about his/her questions (1Pt. 3:15).
  10. If you’re unable to answer sufficiently, do not fail to express your disapproval of falsehood in any case (Jn. 9:24-33).
  11. Seek the help of other leaders if necessary (Matt. 18:17).
  12. Aim at restoration (2Cor. 2:4-11).

© Domenic Marbaniang, Published in BASILEIA, April 2009

About the Author

Dean of Post-Graduate Studies, Professor of Theology, Religions, and Missions, Author, Editor of Theological Journal, and Pastor

Article Source: With Denial


Failure Changes Us, But Sometimes We Fail to Change

Image via Blogger

By PK Christian Writer

I am a slow learner. All the basic things in life that a boy my age is supposed to know, I learned them quiet late.

Basic bathroom rules, tying shoes laces, drinking milk in a glass instead of a baby bottle, and so on.

I was not the physically proficient as well, as far as sports were concerned.

Why am I talking about all this today? Because I feel the need to put some things in perspective. The mind can process only so much information, and hence it is better to write it down.

Life is not going smooth. As time passes, I am realizing that it isn’t supposed to go smooth. And yet we are expected to stay calm and keep moving forward.

I still remember the day when I woke up during the school holidays and sat at the breakfast table. As I was eating, my parents broke the news that they collected my result from school, and that I had failed the 9th grade.

I didn’t know to how respond. Neither did my parents. This mutual numbness (for a lack of a better term) continues to this day whenever we are faced with bad news.

It was sad to have flunked, but even worse was the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to understand the situation. Was I supposed to apologize, grieve, or hurt myself? I couldn’t  bring myself to open up emotionally, and hurting yourself physically requires courage, which I obviously lack.

But then the best thing happened to me. I was born again.

To cut the long story short, I was experiencing a change in life as started my personal journey in the Christian faith.

I found something that gave direction to my life and I was able to push myself through school, while also managing to get couple of other personal issues resolved .All the while, I engaged in worship, research, debate, and fellowship.

Things went on like this for another 5 years, and then I woke up one day to realize that we are going through a financial crisis. Once again, I did not how to react. The numbness returned.

Anger and frustration started boiling inside, and eventually it all burst out. My emotions got the better of me, and this changed my relationship with the people closest to me.

Today, I have put on more weight than I had when I started my life in Christ, even though the Bible calls gluttony a sin. I also experience occasional bouts of anger and depression. I am also exhausted, both mentally and physically, which is why you may notice some typos despite the fact I did proof-read the article.

It as if failure once changed me for the better, but now I have failed to change myself.

But there are other things that happened in this same period:

  • I developed a personal collection of books on topics like evolution, astro-physics, comparative religion, history, poetry, psychology, and of course, Christian theology. Currently I am reading Jacobo Timerman’s The Longest War and The Greek Myths by Robert Graves.
  • Still an undergraduate, I am earning more than $400 per month in a country marred by unemployment, and where the minimum wage is around $120.

What is the moral of the story? At 22, I am too young to make a learned comment on what pattern a person’s life takes. But what I do know is that as my faith changes me for the better, I have not grown immune to failing. New challenges will influence me, but God will continue to make his presence known.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I also started this blog around the same period, and today is it’s 2nd anniversary. In the coming weeks, I will not only post new articles, but also translate some selected posts into Urdu.Click here to subscribe.

About the Author

Suleman, M. John – I am a writer who creates content for clients (and myself as well). I think, read, and surf a lot, but my strong areas of research and writing include religion, history, literature, and online content creation (especially ghostwriting).

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Prominent Christians, Past & Present

English: The Ten Commandments, illustration fr...

The Ten Commandments, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By PK Christian Writer

While preparing for Sunday school lessons on the Bible, I gave the children a few examples of noted Christians who did not only believe in the Bible, but excelled in the secular sphere as well.

I later published it online, and to my surprise, someone it shared it on another website as well.

Note that all entries in this article may not be considered “orthodox” Christians. Nevertheless, here is an overview of the influence of the Bible, and ode to people who rightfully were the “salt of the earth:

·         The Bible was the first major book to be printed in the world.

·         The Bible is still the highest selling book in the world.

·         The Bible is translated in more than 2000 languages. Almost 93% of the world’s population read the Bible in their mother tongue!

·         The King James Version has helped to develop the English language as well.

·         Scientists such as Isaac Newton, Galileo, Robert Hoyle, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, and Copernicus were Bible believers.

·         Famous sportspersons and athletes like Shawn Michaels and Eric Liddell have even preached the Bible.

·         Famous actors like Gregory Peck (Oscar Winner) and Johnny Lever are also known for their devotion to faith.

·         Johann Sebastian Bach and Mozart have a timeless influence on both secular and Church music.

·         Florence Nightingale, a Christian, was the founder of modern nursing.

·         William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian, led the movement which ended African slavery.

·         Top universities like Oxford, Harvard and Yale were started as religious institutions.

·         Christian missionaries have helped local communities in poor countries immensely. Indeed, it is not a coincidence that education and health care came with arrival of missionaries in the third world

·         Many astronauts on both Apollo 8 and 11 were believing Christians. They read the Bible in space, and even performed Eucharist while orbiting the Moon! Infact, an athiest onboard on Apollo 8 actually filed a lawsuit against Christians reading Genesis in the Spacecraft.

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal...

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This does not go without saying that adherents of other religions have not contributed in anyway to the development of humanity. Nor do I argue that Christians have never acted in way that has harmed mankind.

But history has shown us one thing: Christianity is a religion of revival. There have been dark periods in Church history, but today the nations influenced by Christianity stand on the forefront of modern civilization.

Most importantly, all major atrocities committed by the Church were stopped by the members of the same faith. Whether it was the slaughter of Jews, war with the Turks, or the burning of innocent women, every time it was the Christians themselves who rose against the evils done in the name of God by their own brethren.

This is one, but not the only one, reason that Christianity still holds some relevance today.

About the Author

Suleman, M. John – I am a writer who creates content for clients (and myself as well). I think, read, and surf a lot, but my strong areas of research and writing include religion, history, literature, and online content creation (especially ghostwriting).

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Rock and Roll in Church

What some people say! – Image via Tumblr

By Verona Raymond

Why do some churches have old time hymns and others have several guitars, drums and other types of instruments that weren’t in churches twenty plus years ago? Are we getting away from what a Christian church should be, and forming something else that maybe isn’t acceptable to God today?

I know some conservative churches that never allow anything but a piano and a church organ for their music. They sing the old time hymns (from when I was a child in church), of which many are still beautiful and really nostalgic.

Other churches allow most any musical instrument. Christian songs by new Christian artists of today are played and sung as well. I’ve got to admit that some of the music that is popular is really beautiful, and touches my heart. One of them is “I can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. It describes what we will feel when we are standing before Jesus someday. It gives me goose bumps every time it’s played! There are many more beautiful Christian songs that are out right now as well.

Do you ever feel the Lord’s presence within you at church when you are singing? According to the Bible, singing and praising the Lord is what he loves for us to do.

Here is a verse from the Bible that talks about David:

David and Saul

David and Saul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 2 Samuel 6:5

It seems like there was quite a collection of instruments! I don’t recall any drums mentioned in the Bible, but cymbals were mentioned and timbrels which are similar to tambourines. Psalteries were stringed instruments that were made out of a flat wooden box.

I really believe that when you are in church and praising the Lord with singing, it doesn’t matter what style it is as long as you are joyful in doing so. Singing feels good and makes your heart glad that God loves us, and at the same time you are thanking God for all he has done and continues to do. Singing out loud is a perfect release!

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Psalm 98:4

About The Author

Verona Raymond – Living Life with God’s Purpose in Mind

Verona maintains Christian websites filled with uplifting Christian articles and information.

This article may be reprinted freely as long as all links remain active.

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Early American Bibles: The First 200 Years of Bible Publishing in the U. S

English: WPA poster-Ephrata : Visit the ancien...

English: WPA poster-Ephrata : Visit the ancient cloisters of the early German pietists in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: Ron Davis

The Bible, New Testament, and various books of the Bible were translated into fifteen languages in America by the time of the Civil War. In the first 200 years of Bible publication in America the Bible or New Testament was printed in Algonquin, German, English, Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Cherokee, and Hawaian, it that chronological order. Scripture portions were translated into three additional Native American languages: the Gospel and the Epistles of John into the Delaware language in 1818; the book of Genesis in 1835 and the Gospels in 1850 into Chippewa; the books of Acts, Romans and Galatians in 1835, and the book of Isaiah in 1839, into Mohawk. Portions of Scripture into Cherokee were begun in 1831, and the New Testament was printed in 1857. The New Testament with Hawaian and English text in parallel columns was also published in 1857.

The most famous and valuable early America Bible, the first Bible printed in America, was in the Natick dialect of the Algonquin language. The Bible was tanslated by John Eliot (1604-1690), a Congregational minister and missionary, and published in Cambridge, Masschusetts for Native Americans. Eliot had graduated from Cambridge University in England and had migrated to America in 1631. The New Testament was published in 1661 and the whole Bible in 1663, having been printed by Marmaduke Johnson (sent over from England) and Samuel Green, with help from an Algonquin. The first book ever printed in America, The Bay Psalm Book, a Psalter, had previously been published in Cambridge in 1640, with the help of John Eliot and Cotton Mather. The book, though frequently reprinted, is now rare. When a copy does come to auction, it brings the highest price of any book printed in Colonial America.

John Eliot saw at least 4000 Native Americans turn to Christ during his thirty years of missionary work. Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the Irish-born chemist and physicist, and formulator of Boyle\’s laws of gases, was a major contributor from England to the Eliot Bible. Because substantial financial support for publication came from England, and because the ‘Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England’ had been organized in England in support of the mission work in Massachusetts, Bibles were sent back to England. Forty copies of the 1661 first edition were sent to London to the Governor of the Commissioners of the New England colonies. Later they were placed in public institutions in England. Darlow and Moule summarize the historic significance of the Eliot Bibles, ‘They constitute the earliest example in history of the translation and printing of the entire Bible in a language as a means of evangelization.’

The first Bible published in America in a modern language was by Christoph Saur (1693-1758). This German Bible was published in Germantown, Pennsylvania, adjacent to Philadelphia. It is essentially a Martin Luther version, but with revisions from the Berleburg Bible (published 1726-1742). Saur was an immigrant from Germany and of pietistic Anabaptist (Brethren) persuasion. He published the Bible in 1743, in a large and heavy quarto. In 1745 and 1755 he published a German New Testament. Saur published these Bibles for fellow German refugees in Pennsylvania, and stressed that ‘for the poor we have no price.’ Saur sent a dozen copies of his 1743 German Bible to Dr. Heirich Luther in Frankfurt, Germany, since Luther had sent the metal type to Saur to print the Bibles. The Bibles sent to Luther are now in public institutions in Germany. In 1940 Edwin Rumball-Petre, in America\’s First Bibles registered 134 copies of this Bible in America, Germany, and England.

Christoph Saur II (1721-1784) published the second Saur Bible in 1763, the first Bible printed in America on American paper. Rumball-Petre located only 125 copies of this edition in public and private collections worldwide. In addition the son printed at least six editions of the German New Testament, the last being in 1775. Finally, in 1776 Christoph Saur II printed the German Bible in an edition of 3000. It has been dubbed the ‘Gun Wad Bible,’ because the Bible pages were supposedly used by American or British soldiers to make gun wads for their rifles, as well as for firewood and horsebedding. In a sad footnote to American history, Christoph Saur II, in 1777, was accused, apparently falsely, of being disloyal to the American colonies. He was arrested, and his property, including the printing press, confiscated. Christoph Saur II, a Brethren elder, was a pacifist, but not a Loyalist. Two of his sons, however, were apparently Loyalists and migrated to Canada after the war. Much of the 1776 edition did not survive; in 1940 only 195 copies of the 1776 German Bible were registered extant. Rumball-Petre registered 454 copies of all three editions (1743, 1763, 1776) of the Saur Bible, the earlier editions being scarcer and more valuable than the 1776 edition. Christoph Saur II also published Psalters in the 18th century.

Samuel Saur, the youngest brother of Christoph Saur II, published Psalters in 1791, 1796, and 1797, the 1796 Psalter likely being the first portion of Scripture published in the South. He developed, according to Isaiah Thomas\’ History of Printing in America, a type making business in Baltimore, S. Sower & Co., which cast type for a small Bible, the ‘First American Diamond Edition,’ published in Baltimore in 1812. Variations on the Saur name are Sauer and Sower, books printed in the English language using the latter spelling.

In 1787 German New Testaments were also printed in Pennsylvania by Dunker brethren of the Ephrata Cloister and by a German Lutheran  printer, Michael Billmeyer. Both the Ephrata Brethren and Billmeyer had Saur connections.

German Seventh Day Baptists led by Conrad Beisssel had established the Ephrata Cloister, a Protestant monastic community in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Christoph Saur I had been with Beissel in Ephrata before either man had established a printing business. Saur, in his first year of printing, began work on an 800-page hymnal for Ephrata. The Ephrata Cloister\’s own publishing business began soon after Saur\’s, and between 1745 and 1795, produced over 40 books. In addition to German New Testaments, Psalters, and hymnals, the Cloister published, in German, The Bloody Arena (Martyrs Mirror), the most masive book ever printed in Colonial America. Christoph Saur and Conrad Beissel were the first German-language printers in America, besides Ben Franklin, who had experimented with a German-language periodical.

Ephrata Scripture items are now scarce, and, remarkably, are not listed in O\’ Callaghan\’s meticulous, 19th-century reference book on the Bibles printed in America prior to 1860. The Ephrata imprints are described in books by Oswald Seidensticker (1889) and John Wright (1894). The Ephrata Brethren published New Testaments in 1787 and 1795, and Psalters in 1793 and 1795. The two Testaments and two Psalters are all in different versions. These were all printed in duodecimal (12 mo). The Ephrata 1787 New Testament, Das Ganz Neue Testament unsers Jesus Christi, is according to Oswald Seidensticker ‘not Luther\’s translation, but one originally made in Switzerland.’ Wright\’s Early Bibles in America (3rd edition) illustrates the title page of the 1787 Ephrata Testament, and elaborates on the book, ‘It is printed in bold, clear-faced type, and is a most admirable example of early book-making. It is greatly prized by collectors, and brings a high price.’ A note at the end of the New Testament explains that this version was ‘Formerly printed in Zurich. Basle, as well as Frankfort and Leipsic: now however, at Ephrata, at the expense of the Brethren, in the year 1787.’ Four hymns are also printed at the end of the New Testament. This fairly scarce New Testament is in collections of the University of Bern, Switzerland, the Naturalistes Parisiens (Society), and Goshen College, Indiana among others.

The 1795 Ephrata New Testament lists Salomon Mayer on the title page, as does the 1795 Ephrata Psalter. The 1795 Ephrata Psalter, Das Kleine Davidische Psalterspiel der Linder Zion\’s is the same version as Samuel Saur\’s 1791 and 1797 Psalters. Seidensticker writes of this German Psalter, ‘The American reprint became popular with some Sects, Dunkers, Mennonites, etc, as evidenced by the numerous editions of the book: 1744, 1760, 1764, 1777, 1778, 1781, 1791, 1795, 1797, 1813, 1829.’

Michael Billmeyer (1752-1837), a Lutheran, with his father-in-law Peter Liebert, a Brethren minister, acquired, in 1783, what was usable of the Saur printing eqipment. They established a printing business in Germantown. After about three years, Liebert started a new printing establishment, and Billmeyer became sole proprietor. Billmeyer was a prolific printer of German New Testaments in the Martin Luther version. The Testaments have the following publication dates: 1787, 1795, 1803, 1807, 1808, 1810,1811, 1815, 1819, 1822. These are duodecimals with brass clasps on the leather. The Billmeyer New Testaments, particularly the 19th-century editions, are easier to find than the Saur and Ephrata Scriptures.

Billmeyer also printed Psalters in 1803, 1815, and 1828. The Psalter was widely used by Lutheran churches, but also by other groups. For example, the same Lutheran Psalter printed by Billmeyer  was also published in 1793 by the Ephrata Cloister of Dunker tradition. The Billmeyer Bibles, Psalters and related religious books are in library collections especially where the German heritage is significant.

In 1805 Gottlieb Jungmann in Reading, Pennsylvania printed a German Lutheran quarto. In 1813-14 Rev. Freidrich Goeb, in Somerset, Pennsylvania, printed the first Bible west of the Alleghanies, also a German Lutheran quarto. In 1819 Johann Bar in Lancaster, Pennsylvania printed a massive German folio Bible, the largest book printed in America to that time. The Bar Bible was substantial in both printing and binding.

The Aitken Bible was the first Bible published in English in America. This was shortly after the close of the Revolutionary War. During the War of Independence, Bibles from England were unobtainable, and Congress considered importing them from Holland and Scotland. In the Colonial era, England had banned the printing of the English Bible in America in order to give a monopoly to British publishers licensed by the Crown. Robert Aitken (1734-1802), a Quaker and Scottish immigrant, had been one of five printers who had made bids to Congress to print Bibles. Aitken already published the Congressional Quarterly and owned the largest bookstore in Philadelphia. His publication of the New Testament in English in 1777 had been a financial success so he published reprints of the Testaments in 1778, 1779, and 1781, including a school edition in 1779. In 1782 Aitken published 10,000 copies of the whole Bible, a small duodecimal (just over 5 by 3 inches in size) without pagination and with almost no margins. It was the only Bible ever authorized by Congress, but ruined Aitken financially. He had published the nearly 2,000 page Bible in a large edition, the Revolutionary war soon ended, and better and cheaper imported Bibles became available. Aitken never again published Bibles. In 1940 Rumball-Petre registered 71 copies, and estimated that there were less than 100 extant copies worldwide. These are in either one volume or two, and typically in poor condition. Aitken sent a presentation copy of the 1782 Bible to Oliver Hazard in London England, ‘the frist copy of the first edition.’ It was in two volumes and bound in olive green leather. This Bible is now in the British Museum. Another, almost perfect, copy in original binding, is at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, an important repository of old Bibles and canonical manuscripts.

In 1790, Mathew Carey (1760-1839), an Irish journalist and immigrant, printed, in two volumes, the first

Bible (and first quarto English Bible) in America from the 1763-64 Challoner edition of the Rheims-Douai version. This was printed in smaller numbers (about 470 copies) than any other early American Bible. This was because there were far fewer Catholics than Protestants in early America. John Carroll, the American Catholic superior who had encouraged Carey, estimated a Catholic population of 25,000 out of 3.5 million inhabitants in America in 1785. The Carey Catholic Bible is rarer than either Eliot\’s Bible or Aitken\’s Bible. In 1954 only 35 copies of the Carey Catholic Bible were located. Carey didn\’t publish another Bible for over ten years, but in the first two decades of the nineteenth century he became one of the biggest booksellers, and the most prolific publisher of King James Bibles in America. He also became one of America\’s most prominent and respected printers. He was the first president of a company organized in 1801 in New York that represented American booksellers nationwide.

Saur, Aitken and Carey the first three printers of Bibles in modern languages in America, were from Philadelphia. Another Philadelphian, William Young, printed in 1790, according to bibliographer Margaret Hill, the first American Bible (a duodecimal) that contained the Metrical Psalms of David (Scotch version).

Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) colonial printer, philanthropist and patriot, published the first folio Bible in America in Worcester and Boston in 1791, offering buyers a choice, which included fifty plates of illustrations. He had previously published A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible for children in 1788, with 500 small woodcuts. He published quarto, octavo, and duodecimal Bibles between 1791 and 1798, including the 1797 United States of Columbia Bible. Thomas was editor of the Massachussetts Spy newspaper, and founder of the American Antiquarian Society, which is still active today. He wrote The History of Printing in America in 1810, and pioneered the illustrated Bible in America. Thomas\’ son-in-law Anson Whipple printed the first New Hampshire Bible in Walpole in 1815.

In 1790 Isaac Collins, a Quaker from Trenton, printed the first Bible of New Jersey, a large quarto. Remarkably, he obtained the support not only of Quakers, but of Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Baptist bodies of the state. His family and others meticulously proof read this Bible, and were paid for any errors found in the text. Because of the accurate text, Collin\’s Bible became a standard for later Bible printers.

Hugh Gaine printed the first New Testament in New York in 1790. In 1792 Hodge and Campbell printed, by subscription, the first complete Bible in New York, a folio without pagination. It was an edition of John Brown\’s Self Interpreting Bible. George Washington was the first subscriber.

The first Septuagint translated into English was completed by an American Presbyterian, Charles Thompson, who had been Secretary of the American Congress from 1774 to 1789. The Septuagint was a very early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) done by Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Africa about 250 years before Christ. The Thompson English Septuagint was printed in four volumes by Jane Aitken, daughter of Robert Aitken. She was likely the first female publisher of a Bible.

The first Greek Testament (12mo) printed in America in 1800 was by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. A New Testament with Greek and Latin in parallel columns was published by John Watts in Philadelphia in 1806. America\’s first Hebrew Bible, based on Van der Hoog\’s 1705 Amsterdam edition, was printed by William Fry and published by Thomas Dobson in Philadelphia in 1814. The first French Testament published in America was in 1810 in Boston; the first French Bible in America was published by the New York Bible Society in 1815. The first New Testament printed in Spanish in the Western hemisphere was in 1819, a duodecimal by the American Bible Society in an edition of 2500. It is today very rare, only a few copies being found in collections. A Catholic Spanish Bible was published by A. Chandler in New York in 1824, and a Catholic Portuguese New Testament was published by the American Bible Society in 1839. The American Bible Society printed bilingual New Testaments with the texts in parallel columns in the 1850\’s: German/English (1854), French/English (1854) Dutch/English (1856), Spanish/English (1856), Hawaian/English (1857), Greek/Latin (1858).

Mathew Carey, Isaiah Thomas, and other commercial publishers could only compete with the non-profit Bible societies by going to more expensive, illustrated Bibles. The first stereotyped Bible in America was printed in 1812 by the Philadelphia Bible Society with plates imported from England. The U.S. and England were at war, but cooperated in this Bible publication effort. Stereotype printing greatly increased the availability of Bibles in America over the next decades. The American Bible Society, established in 1816 in New York, was, by the Civil War, publishing over a million Bibles a year. Its first Bible was printed in New York in 1816 by E & J White.

Noah Webster (1758-1843) published a revision of the King James Bible in 1833 in New Haven, Connecticut. He updated antiquated vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation. He, unfortunately, removed words which he considered offensive. The octavo Webster Bible was not a financial success, the King James Version being popular.

Harper Brothers produced (1843-46) the most extravagant Bible ever produced in America. Harper\’s expenses amounted to over $20,000, a large amount for the nineteenth century. The Illuminated Bible was embellished with 1,600 engravings by J. A. Adams, mostly from original drawings by the American artist J. G. Chapman. The first electrotype from woodcuts had been done in in America by Adams in 1841, enabling the making of this Bible. A reprint of the Harper Bible was printed in 1859.

Isaac Leeser (1806-1868), from Prussia, was a leading Jewish Rabbi, and foremost Jewish scholar in America. In 1846, he published, in five volumes, the Pentateuch in Hebrew and English, titled The Law of God. In 1849 he published the Hebrew Bible with points (vowels). In 1853 he published The Twenty-four Books of the Holy Scriptures, an English translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Leeser spent fifteen years in preparation for this work, the only English work consulted being Bagster\’s Bible, a King James edition.

Leeser\’s Philadelphia contemporary was Francis P. Kenrick, who produced, from the Latin Vulgate, the first Catholic translation of the Bible in America. It was published in six volumes between 1849 and 1862. The four Gospels came out in 1849, the rest of the New Testament in 1851, and a complete one-volume New Testament in 1862. Kenrick published the Old Testament in four sections: The Psalms, Books of Wisdom, and Canticle of Canticles in 1857; Job and the Prophets in 1859; The Pentateuch in 1860; The Historical Books in 1860. Kenrick became the Archbishop of Baltimore. He died in 1863 before he would complete a revision of the whole Bible for publication in a single volume. The Kenrick Bible never became an official Catholic version.

The first 200 years of American Bible publication in America (1660-1860) have been explored. The importance of the early American Bibles historically is being more widely recognized. Some of these Bibles, particularly the Eliot, Saur, Aitken, and Thompson Bibles, are highlighted in exhibits around America from a collection of Bibles and manuscripts assembled by the Steve Green family, founders of Hobby Lobby. The Green Collection contains over 40,000 Bibles and manuscripts, the world\’s largest private collection. The collection is to be permanently housed in a museum in Washington, D. C.

Works Cited:

Darlow, T. H., and H. F. Moule. Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scriptures in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 4 volumes. London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1903-1911.

Herbert, A. S. Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525-1961. London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1968.

Hills, Margaret T. The English Bible in America 1777-1957. New York: American Bible Society and The New York Public Library, 1961.

O\’ Callaghan, Edmund Bailey. A List of Editions of the Holy Scriptures and Parts Thereof Printed in America Previous to 1860. Albany, New York: Munsell and Rowland, 1861 (Detroit: Gail Research Company, 1966).

Rumball-Petre, Edwin A. R. America\’s First Bibles with a Census of 555 Extant Bibles. Portland, Maine: Southworth Anthoensen Press, 1940.

______________. Rare Bibles. New York: Philip Duschnes, 1963.

Seidensticker, Oswald. The First Century of German Printing in America 1728-1830. Philadelphia: Schaefer and Noradi, 1893 (New York: Krause Reprint Corporation, 1966).

Simms, P. Marion. The Bible in America. New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1936.

Thomas, Isaiah. The History of Printing in America. 2nd edition. Edited by Marcus A. McCorison. New York: Weathervane Books, 1970.

Wright, Rev. John. Early Bibles of America. New York: Thomas Whittaker, 3rd edition, 1894 (Mansfield Centre, Connecticut: Martino Publishing, 2004).

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About the Author

Physician whose passion is glorifying God in living a world Christian lifestyle. Involved in mission mobilization and community health evangelism. Supports pro-life issues and opposes ongoing genocides . What does the Lord require of me but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God (paraphrasing the Bible prophet Amos).


Krishna, Buddha and Christ: The same or different? (Part 5)

The Holy Spirit as a dove in the Annunciation ...

The Holy Spirit as a dove in the Annunciation by Rubens, 1628 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A Final Word on Violence

In Christian mysticism, peaceful living and spiritual growth go hand in hand. As the believer increases in perfection and becomes closer to God the soul usually experiences an overall increase in heavenly graces.

The ideal Christian washes not just the outside but the inside of the proverbial cup to receive the pure waters of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 23:26). In this metaphor the cup represents the self, the soul, and the person who ultimately is bound for heaven.

So Christian mysticism never justifies violence but rather, gentleness and humility.

One might object to this claim by citing Joan of Arc, her inner voices apparently coming from God and urging her to lead the French army into battle. But it was the Catholic Church which eventually canonized St. Joan. The New Testament Gospels, themselves, never condone violence.

God or no God?

As noted earlier, religion can get complicated. Whenever one forwards a given assertion, an exception usually arises. On the issue of violence, we might point out the notion of the Just War and, for the matter, the bellicose Old Testament which Catholics embrace as originating in God. Having said that, the New Testament and Buddhist ideals about non-violence clearly differ in the sense that Buddhists do not believe in an ultimate, omnipotent, omniscient and eternal God, while Christians obviously do.

To repeat, Buddhists do not believe in God. Instead, Buddhists normally contextualize the idea of God saying “God” is just another cultural idea to surpass on the road to Nirvana, a journey involving the belief in reincarnation.

In Christianity, however, an unselfish love of one’s enemies arises from inviting the living presence of God to dwell in one’s heart. Happiness isn’t just inside, as so many non-Christians (and even some Christian pop singers) say. Rather, happiness is having a good relationship with God, who ultimately exists beyond the self but also immanent.

Unlike Buddhism, Christian salvation cannot entirely rely on one’s own contemplative efforts because God, and not oneself, is seen as the source of all goodness and being. Some see this ultimate dependence on God as a weakness but from a Christian perspective it’s just the way things are. One can only go so far through one’s own initiative. And that, for many Christians, is a significant limitation for Buddhists and for any New Age thinker who thinks they can reach the highest high through their own efforts.

To complicate things, Buddhism does speak of compassionate and intervening bodhisattvas who dispense graces to seekers along the way. But these exalted beings are not regarded as God. A monotheistic God is never present in Buddhism and at some point even bodhisattvas must be surpassed to enter into the nothingness/fullness of Nirvana, a place where the apparently illusory idea of individuality also vanishes.

Granted, some Christian mystics do talk about losing the self in a boundless ocean of God’s love, but God never disappears from the picture. And it’s doubtful that Christian mystics are advocating a complete loss of individuality. Instead, their metaphors seem more like happy fish in a boundless, beautiful ocean instead of the more Asian notion of drops of water dissolving in the sea.

Heaven and Hell

The Buddhist perception of heaven and hell is related to a discussion about violence and non-violence. Hell isn’t eternal for Buddhists. It’s more like a stopover in a lousy hotel room where one eventually checks out. Likewise with heaven. Heaven is described as a sort of ‘spiritual health spa’ enjoyed between lifetimes. So the reincarnating soul eventually departs from heaven to become fully enlightened. In fact, in Buddhism one encounters numerous heavens and hells before attaining full enlightenment.

Upon attaining enlightenment, Buddhists say the soul realizes it, itself, doesn’t exist. And at this point, even the idea of past lives becomes illusory. After all, how can you have a past life if you never existed?

These are interesting philosophical ideas but a Christian hoping to reach everlasting heaven might wonder if the Buddhist heavens could be astral realms and not heaven as understood within Christianity.

Since Buddhist hells are not eternal, they perhaps would be closer to the Catholic notion of purgatory because for Christians hell is eternal. Nor is the Christian hell a mere way-station or, for that matter, trendy or humorous Hollywood fantasy as portrayed in movies and video games. “See you in hell!“¹

For the vast majority of Christians, hell is just hell, forever and ever. And when it comes to the opposite, namely paradise, the Christian understanding of grace as a living presence that guides believers to everlasting heaven is relativized and absent in Buddhism. True, different Buddhist schools speak of emptiness, fullness and enlightenment. And they mention transitional grace and temporary heavens and hells. But Buddhist do not believe in everlasting heaven and hell as articulated within Christianity. So it stands to reason that the graces that Buddhists speak of are not the same thing that Christians talk about.


This brief comparison indicates that the scriptures and beliefs emerging from Krishna, Buddha and Christ have points of similarity but are not equivalent. As we’ve seen, the Mahabharata speaks of peace but in the Gita Krishna emphasizes holy warfare. By way of contrast, Christ, as part of the Holy Trinity is said to be co-equal with God and the Holy Spirit and, rather than engage in violence, is willing to sacrifice himself on a cross. While non-Christians may see this as misguided and some Buddhists (like D. T. Suzuki) say it’s “distasteful,” for Christians it is the ultimate point. This world is not it, and fighting and killing for material gain is not the way to get to eternal happiness.

We’ve also seen in the above that the Buddha doesn’t believe in God, and Buddhists say that the Buddhist nirvana surpasses the Christian understanding of heaven and hell.

The Hindu Krishna and the Buddha each speak of many lifetimes and associated opportunities for salvation through reincarnation, whereas the Christ of the Gospels entreats disciples to get it right the first time because (presumably) there is no such thing as reincarnation.

To overlook these and other differences may be well-intentioned but it’s also imprecise. And it’s doubtful that a fuzzy, misinformed belief in religious homogeneity will contribute to meaningful dialogue and genuine interfaith harmony. Promising commonalities can be discerned among today’s faith groups, but it will take clear and honest thinking for humanity to walk peacefully into the 21st century and beyond.


© Michael Clark

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