Tag Archives: Tomorrows World

What Is Set Before Our Eyes

As I was watching the news this week and seeing yet another male public figure fall to accusations of sexual misconduct, I paused to wonder about where this is all leading. But more importantly, where does it all come from?

There’s a scripture that comes to my mind when I see this trend: “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes…” (Psalm 101:3). For years and years, what have the majority of themes for sitcoms, comedians, movies and pop culture trends placed before people’s eyes? Television stations thrive on shows that are full of sexual innuendo, double entendre or even explicit sexual talk or scenes. Look at sitcoms going back to the 80s, and you will find them promoting these things time and time again. Look at the music industry today. How many songs are about having “fun” tonight and moving on tomorrow?

So, is scandal and disgraceful behavior now really surprising? Is society simply reaping what has been sown? Sex sells, and after decades of people selling (and buying), the results are painfully clear. Sadly, for anyone to appear shocked would seem naïve and even hypocritical, for many of the same people watching the news in shocked fascination will turn right around and pay to listen to music or watch shows that promote these same behaviors.

An outcry is totally justified; these types of behavior are absolutely unacceptable. Yet, many of those who cry out will sit in the comfort of their living room and boost the television ratings of shows that promote these same scandalous behaviors! Is there any real conviction to banish such things from before our eyes?

The culture all around is submerged in this filth. Women are not honored for who they are, but for what they look like. “Sex culture” is available on every media platform. Society absorbs it, marinates in it, and then acts like somehow there is no connection between this entertainment and real instances of lewd or perverted behavior. 

Women, especially, are objectified and held up for their looks, but men are used this way as well. Advertising agencies use sexuality to sell anything—but ask yourself, why? And more importantly, don’t bury your head in the sand, saying “What are you talking about?” Lust is an inherent human weakness, and for centuries it has been used to manipulate people and to weaken their resolve and fidelity, often for the purpose of controlling or selling them something. The Apostle Paul knew this when he said, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). The Apostle John said, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). How well that represents society today!

What defense is there? What is the right way to see others? Consider this advice God inspired for husbands and wives: “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesian 5:28–29). By extension, this principle can be applied to relations between men and women in general. Here, the word “love” means to respect, to take care of, and to support; the verse then puts this in the perspective of Jesus Christ giving His life for us. This attitude can come to permeate your behavior, and you’ll see and think about men and women as people, rather than the sexualized objects that are set before people’s eyes in so many insensitive and filthy ways.

If you would like further information about how to better develop that mindset, please request our free booklet, God’s Plan for Happy Marriage.

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/what-is-set-before-our-eyes

Why Get Drunk?

In a few hours, the world will celebrate New Year’s Day, and many people will be drunk on these occasions—“just for fun.” But sometimes, the consequences are not so funny. Many people get headaches. Quarrels arise among friends and families. Others will end the night at the hospital—and some will “finish the party” at the mortuary because they died in a car accident caused by driving under the influence of alcohol.

In France, alcohol is involved in 30% of traffic accidents, and is the leading cause of fatalities on the road. Each year, more than 1,000 people die for this reason (securite-routiere.gouv.fr). A few years ago, an awareness campaign for the end-of-year celebrations was entitled “When you care for someone, you hold him (her) back,” with the catchphrase “Do not drive if you are drunk.” But do such efforts really educate people? Or do they only encourage people to avoid the consequences of inebriety, rather than try to deal with drunkenness itself?

God really tries to educate mankind. He gives laws for our good and He explains clearly the consequences of evil and irresponsible behaviours. Moreover, He recorded examples for us in the Bible (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

The Bible speaks specifically about alcohol and God does not forbid its consumption (e.g. Deuteronomy 14:26; John 2:1–10; 1 Timothy 5:23), but He prohibits its misuse! In ancient times, the priests were forbidden to drink “wine or intoxicating drink” when they went “into the tabernacle of meeting… that [they] may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Leviticus 10:9–10). Today, there is no more physical tabernacle (or temple), but the Church of God still follows the same principle, with its ministers not drinking alcohol before preaching.

The first example of drunkenness in the Bible is mentioned in Genesis 9. After the flood, Noah “planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent… and Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father” (v. 20–22). What happened exactly? The Bible does not say in details, but it implied some sort of illicit sexual activity. When Noah “knew what his younger son [that is the youngest son of Ham] had done to him… he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan’, a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren” (vv. 24–25). The word “servant” (’ebed) also means “slave,” so the curse is really serious—being “the slave of the slaves” of his brethren! Noah did not initiate this sin, but it would not have happened if he was not drunk.

A few centuries later, after fleeing from Sodom, Lot found refuge in an isolated area with his childless daughters, “so they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father.” The next day “they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him… Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father” (Genesis 19:30–38).

The daughters of Lot were probably still influenced by the lifestyle of Sodom, because they did not seem to worry about incest—which is clearly forbidden by God (Leviticus 18:7). They also had seen their entire world destroyed, and led their father, Lot, to commit incest unwittingly, because they thought their line would end. He was so drunk that “he did not know when [they] lay down or when [they] arose” (Genesis 19:33, 35). However, like Noah, he could have prevented this situation by not drinking too much.

God prohibits the abuse of alcohol because we can lose awareness (Isaiah 28:7; Ephesians 5:18). He explains, “Do not look on the wine… at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things…” (Proverbs 23:31–35).

Paul wrote that “all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). The abuse of alcohol is one of those things that can subjugate you. Moreover, the abuse of alcohol can eventually prevent you from entering in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10)!

Instead of dealing with the consequences of inebriety, which can be fatal (physically and spiritually), be sober and moderate when you drink alcohol. Control your mind and your body at all times (the last attribute of the fruit of the Spirit—Galatians 5:22). Thus, we protect ourselves from tragic consequences. Instead of dealing with consequences, we remove the very cause of the problem.

Please read “A Mocker and a Brawler” for more insight on the spiritual problems behind any addiction, and be sure to order your free booklet, The Ten Commandments.

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/why-get-drunk

Marijuana: Is There Any Good Reason to Get High?

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Western society has become virtually unrecognizable to anyone born as recently as 50 years ago. Its values, behaviors and entertainment have largely become the opposite of what was acceptable in the mid-20th century. Today, the increase in jurisdictions legalizing marijuana for recreational use is leading to an even greater abandonment of long-held standards.

In the previous issue of Tomorrow’s World, the first article of this series noted two overriding reasons given for the legalization of pot. The first is that there is a growing acceptance in society that cannabis is a benign drug and thus legalization bodes no harm for society. The second is the fact that great effort and resources are expended by law enforcement agencies to fight substance abuse, apparently to little avail, and marijuana’s illegal status gives organized crime an opportunity to benefit from supplying the drug. Many people reason that if marijuana were legal, these resources could be deployed elsewhere, and the profits from drug sales would no longer benefit the criminal element, but instead would benefit the state.

Also in the previous issue, we saw a portion of the overwhelming body of medical research that demonstrates cannabis is anything but harmless. We quoted research showing that cannabis contributes to loss of motivation, especially in youth, due to diminishing dopamine levels in the brain. It was shown to be a direct contributor to both higher addiction levels and cases of brain impairment (reduced memory and attention span, diminished reasoning capacity, and consequent decline in academic performance). Even government health websites were shown to contain many warnings against the use of marijuana. Health Canada, for example, presents research showing increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, as well as the severe dangers posed to unborn children whose mothers are users.

Marijuana is anything but safe. But what of the second rationale presented by its proponents?

Will Legalization Reduce Crime and Overall Drug Use?

A key argument used by proponents of marijuana legalization is based on the assumption that legalizing the drug will undermine a major source of income for organized crime. The position is put forward that legalizing marijuana would reduce contact between users and criminal elements, and hence lessen the likelihood of contact with more serious drugs.

While it is obvious that removal of marijuana’s illegal status would cause a drop in the crime rate (the behavior doesn’t stop, it is just “redefined” as legal), it does not follow that the illegal drug trade would be significantly harmed.

Even as enforcement of marijuana laws has been relaxed and the drug has become accessible from storefront operations, the use of other illegal drugs has not declined. Despite easier availability and the decreased risk of prosecution, the consumption of even more damaging drugs has increased. Most empirical research shows that marijuana is a gateway drug to more dangerous drugs. Whether marijuana is made legal or not, organized crime will benefit from its increased use.

Dr. Robert Dupont, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, makes the following observation in the New York Times: “… people who use marijuana also consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do people who do not use marijuana.”

He goes on to say: “Legalizing marijuana will have lasting negative effects on future generations. The currently legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are two of the leading causes of preventable illness and death in the country. Establishing marijuana as a third legal drug will increase the national drug abuse problem, including expanding the opioid epidemic” (“Marijuana Has Proven to Be a Gateway Drug,” New York Times, April 26, 2016).

Research and common sense demonstrate that the legalization of marijuana will increase—not decrease—drug crime and drug abuse. Those who seek a high from marijuana are far more likely to seek a more intense high from other substances.

Earlier in my career, I served as an administrator in a large school system of over 80,000 students. One of my least favourite duties was chairing student expulsion hearings. In my experience, the vast majority of such cases involved drugs of some description, often crystal meth, ecstasy or crack. In almost every case, the young person had started with marijuana. Whether legal or not, it is a “gateway drug” to harder drugs, and the inevitable sorrow and loss of potential that follow. Legalizing recreational drugs only results in a weaker and more violent society, in which the only “hope” available seems to be found in getting high.

In fact, in some states in the U.S., legalization has resulted in a 400 percent increase in marijuana-related visits to emergency rooms, as reported by Dr. G. S. Wang of the pediatrics department of the University of Colorado (“Marijuana-related ER visits among kids quadruples at Colorado hospital: Study,” TorontoSun.com, May 8, 2017).

Several studies done in the U.S. and Canada have shown that when marijuana is legalized, or imminent, people believe that the government is designating cannabis as a safe and benign substance. However, users are frequently unaware that the potency level of marijuana today—the concentration of the hallucinogenic ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—is up to five times higher than it was in the 1960s.

Medical Marijuana

For most of the last century, marijuana was an illegal or restricted drug. This made it difficult to do research on any potential medical properties. Under pressure from the pro-marijuana lobby, a number of U.S. states and the government of Canada decriminalized marijuana for “medical” purposes and began to legalize growing operations for medical distribution. In some jurisdictions, an individual may receive a permit to grow a limited amount of cannabis if that person is licensed to consume it for a “medical” reason.

The medical profession has advised caution over what they call a premature application of medical marijuana. Physicians raise a number of key concerns regarding the prescribing of cannabis for a given complaint.

  1. The lack of research identifying any condition that will positively respond to an ingredient in marijuana: There is very little peer-reviewed and reproducible research that specifically identifies a medical condition that can be beneficially treated with cannabis. Hearsay, anecdotes, and personal opinions are difficult to translate into a medical prescription.
  2. The lack of research and clinical trials to determine dosages: Much research still needs to be done to identify which of marijuana’s ingredients should be prescribed, and the correct dosage of that ingredient, based on the patient’s weight, age, sex and severity of condition.
  3. The lack of research on marijuana’s interaction with other medications: Before medicines can be prescribed safely, doctors need access to information about potential drug interactions. Not knowing this could have serious—even fatal—consequences.
  4. The lack of consistency in concentration of the medicinal ingredient: Currently, marijuana growers are not subject to regulations that would result in purity standards or consistency of concentration of the “medicinal” ingredients. Samples can vary significantly in terms of active ingredients.

Clearly, the current rush to get “medical marijuana” on the market and into the hands of consumers is premature and even potentially irresponsible on the part of legislators. The American Medical Association—which, on medical grounds, has opposed the legalization of pot—stresses the need to conduct thorough research into the pharmacology of cannabis before the state begins to support it as a pharmaceutical. Other drugs have to go through rigorous testing, and rushing marijuana past this process is deemed irresponsible by scientists. Note the following clause from the American Medical Association’s policy:

Our AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods. This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product (American Medical Association—CSA Rep. 6, A–01).

In a letter to Canada’s then Minister of Health, the Canadian Medical Association similarly stated that there “remains scant evidence regarding the effectiveness of the herbal form of marijuana…” (Letter to Minister Aglukkaq, February 28, 2013). This was followed a few months later by the following statement from the Canadian Medical Association:

The CMA still believes there is insufficient scientific evidence available to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes. It also believes there is insufficient evidence on clinical risks and benefits, including the proper dosage of marijuana to be used and on the potential interactions between this drug and other medications (“New ‘Marihuana [sic] for Medical Purposes Regulations’: What Do Doctors Need to Know?” Canadian Medical Association, 2014).

Associations of physicians resist the use of so-called “medical marijuana,” as there is currently little solid clinical evidence that the drug is effective. There have been some indications that cannabinol, an ingredient in marijuana, may have potential for treating specific ailments, such as seizures. However, much research is needed to determine appropriate dosages, side effects and other information before doctors can ethically prescribe. To those who insist on the medical benefit of marijuana, physicians point out that some dosage-controlled, carefully measured medications already exist: dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®). Physicians can already prescribe either of these medications, though each still lacks appropriate research. So why is there still such a cry for medical marijuana? Could it be that these approved, clinically monitored medications allow the THC to act on the body but do not give the user a desired “high”? One also wonders, if pot is legalized, how long afterward will the demand for “medical” marijuana persist? Perhaps the “medical” aspect is more excuse than reality.

A Deeper Reason Behind Everything—Including Life!

We can conclude with a few statements from a recent editorial by Dr. Diane Kelsall in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In response to Bill C-45, which is designed to legalize marijuana in Canada on July 1, 2018, Dr. Kelsall writes:

Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people. It is toxic to their cortical neuronal networks, with both functional and structural changes seen in the brains of youth who use cannabis regularly. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has stated unequivocally that “cannabis is not a benign substance and its health harms increase with intensity of use” (“Cannabis legislation fails to protect Canada’s youth,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 29, 2017).

Political leaders ought to be driven by a sense of what is good for their citizens, yet those who pander to groups who seek hedonistic pleasure—or to those who possibly have entrepreneurial interests eventually involving convenience store shelves and glamorous packaging—may be more interested in their own welfare than that of the nation.

Marijuana use has been illegal in North America, and in many countries around the world, for a good reason: it is, as science clearly shows, harmful to its users and to the nation. Marijuana and similar drugs, some even more deadly, rob users of potential, leaving behind broken dreams and shattered lives. The loss of human potential to marijuana and other mind-altering substances is enormous.

Long ago, in a letter written to a young minister, a now-famous citizen of Rome and a man of great education—who had held high position and been sought after by rulers of his day—gave the following advice as to how a person, young or old, can achieve a productive and satisfying life. The man, the Apostle Paul, wrote to a young Greek colleague named Titus:

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you (Titus 2:6).

In truth, this is the very opposite of being high, stoned, drunk or any other term that indicates lack of control of one’s mind. One of the characteristics critical for happiness and success is self-control and the inspired wisdom of the Bible stresses the blessings of being in constant control of our minds: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).

Self-control cannot be exercised when one is drunk or high on a mind-altering substance. In such a state, one is at risk of committing actions and speaking words one can regret for a lifetime. Possible addictions that result can destroy families, careers, reputation and potential. A sober mind is an invaluable defense.

As we enter a difficult and dangerous period in the history of our nations—nations which are rejecting God and His Word—we must be alert and sober in order to respond to challenging times with wisdom. This will enable us to cope with the disaster that social change will soon bring upon our lands. Understanding reality and living soberly in accordance with God’s direction will be a source of protection in the coming days. Jesus Christ Himself warned that carousing, drunkenness and the cares of this life will be a distraction as the end of this age approaches (Luke 21:34–36).

It is a tragedy when people, young or old, seek the pleasure of “getting high.” Our human mind is a treasure, brilliantly designed by a great Creator, who plans to offer mankind an awesome future with potential undreamed of in the human sphere. To learn more, request our free booklet, The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? No chemical in the universe can begin to deliver the wonderful sense of fulfillment God grants to those who take pleasure in living His way.

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/magazines/2018/january-february/marijuana-is-there-any-good-reason-to-get-high

The Birth of Calvinism

The Truth Behind

The Protestant Reformation

Part 6

The Birth of Calvinism

Did the Protestant reformers get back to the “faith once delivered”?
Were they led by God’s Holy Spirit? The naked facts in this series of articles are a revelation of long-hidden truth!

The startling fact that rank paganism came in and took over the early professing Christian Church is difficult for some to believe. Yet this has been proven.

We have seen from numerous historians the admission that pagan ceremonies and traditions were embraced by the early Catholic Church. We have seen that many pagan beliefs were woven into professing “Christendom” after the death of Christ and the original apostles.

Martin Luther rebelled against the corrupt and apostate organized “Christianity” of his day. But at the same time he rebelled against all the authoritative commands of God and His word. We have seen that Luther presumptuously added a word to the Bible and taught, “The just shall live by faith alone.”

Having an aversion to the stress James puts upon obedience to God’s law, Luther called this inspired book “an epistle of straw.” Courting the political favor of the German princes to back his movement, we have seen that during the Peasant War, he urged the princes to “smite, strangle, and stab” the peasants in the name of God.

When the sexual lust of one of his political backers became too strong, Luther and his fellow theologians gave written permission to the Landgrave of Hesse to take a second wife and commit bigamy! Unlike certain Old Testament heroes with whom Luther’s followers like to compare him, Luther never really REPENTED of these vile acts and the “reasoning” behind them.

In the fifth part of this series, we began the story of the Swiss reformation, and saw the part that Ulrich Zwingli played in it. Again, we were forced to observe that Zwingli’s example was also in striking contrast to the teaching and example of Christ and the early apostles. Zwingli’s violent death in a war he himself had urged certainly confirms Jesus’ warning, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Often, we have paused to ask: Was the Protestant movement a reformation of God’s true Church gone wrong? Was this movement inspired and guided by God’s Holy Spirit?

Now we will come to the story of the man who really dominated the Swiss reformation—and has dominated much of Protestantism since.

The Reformation Under John Calvin

John Calvin now enters the Reformation drama, and we will see that the powerful influence of his mind and personality will dramatically shape the doctrinal system of the reformed congregations for generations to come (Kurtz, Church History, pp. 304–305). Like Luther and Zwingli before him, Calvin was trained for the Catholic priesthood. Thus, he too, had deeply ingrained in his mind many concepts imparted by the Roman Church, although his doctrinal break with the papacy was more complete than Luther’s had been.

It is nevertheless significant that the three most prominent leaders among the early reformers were all trained as “Roman” theologians before beginning their reformatory activities. Perhaps this may explain, in part, why they all retained many pagan concepts and traditions that had crept into the Roman system during the Dark Ages.

While Zwingli was busy transforming the religious and political life of Switzerland, John Calvin was still a youth—training for the Catholic priesthood.

Calvin was a Frenchman, and he was born in the year 1509 at Noyon, in Picardy. His father was a fiscal agent, and Calvin was educated with children of noble birth. At just twelve years of age, he was appointed to a chaplaincy with an income sufficient for his support.

Soon after, he was sent to Paris to study for the priesthood, but his father later changed his plans and wished Calvin to become a lawyer. He then went to Orleans and Bourges, and studied under celebrated doctors of the law. He was such a brilliant scholar that he was often invited to take over in a professor’s absence.

At this time, he came under the influence of a relative, Peter Olivetan, who was the first Protestant to translate the Bible into French. By studying the New Testament in the original Greek, Calvin further strengthened his interest in the Protestant doctrines.

Not long after publishing a learned humanistic treatise on the writings of Seneca, his “sudden conversion”—as he later described it—took place. He now desired to throw himself upon the mercy of God, and began an earnest study of the Bible (Fisher, The History of the Christian Church, p. 319).

Calvin returned to Paris and soon became a recognized leader of the Protestants there. Persecution drove him out of the city, and Calvin eventually settled temporarily in Protestant Basel.

It was at this time that the French monarch, Francis I, was trying to get the aid of the German Lutheran princes against the emperor, Charles V. In order to justify his persecutions of French Protestants, he accused them of all the lawless fanaticism of some of the extreme Anabaptist sects.

This called forth from Calvin an elaborate defense of his French fellow believers. This work was intended to prove the falsity of Francis I’s charges, and to set forth the Protestant beliefs in a systematic and logical way that might win sympathy from the king and others for the reformers’ cause (Kurtz, Church History, p. 302).

Calvin’s Institutes

This work was entitled, Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was regarded as a tremendous contribution to theology, and to literature as well. No French Protestant had yet spoken with such logic and power. This work is still regarded as the most orderly and systematic presentation of doctrine and of the Christian life that the Reformation produced (Walker, A History of the Christian Church, p. 392).

To briefly comprehend Calvin’s doctrine as contained in the Institutes, we can do no better than to quote excerpts from Walker’s summary of the position Calvin took in this work:

Without Luther’s antecedent labors, his work could not have been done. It is Luther’s conception of justification by faith, and of the sacraments as seals of God’s promises that he presents. Much he derived from Butzer, notably his emphasis on the glory of God as that for which all things are created, on election as a doctrine of Christian confidence, and on the consequences of election as a strenuous endeavor after a life of conformity to the will of God. But all is systematized and clarified with a skill that was Calvin’s own.

Man’s highest knowledge, Calvin taught, is that of God and of himself. Enough comes by nature to leave man without excuse, but adequate knowledge is given only in the Scriptures, which the witness of the Spirit in the heart of the believing reader attests as the very voice of God. The Scriptures teach that God is good, and the source of all goodness everywhere. Obedience to God’s will is man’s primal duty. As originally created, man was good and capable of obeying God’s will, but he lost goodness and power alike in Adam’s fall, and is now, of himself, absolutely incapable of goodness. Hence no work of man’s can have any merit; and all men are in a state of ruin meriting only damnation. From this helpless and hopeless condition some men are undeservedly rescued through the work of Christ.

Since all good is of God, and man is unable to initiate or resist his conversion, it follows that the reason some are saved and others are lost is the divine choice—election and reprobation. For a reason for that choice beyond the will of God it is absurd to inquire, since God’s will is an ultimate fact.

Three institutions have been divinely established by which the Christian life is maintained—the church, the sacraments, and civil government. In the last analysis the church consists of “all the elect of God”; but it also properly denotes “the whole body of mankind… who profess to worship one God and Christ.” Yet there is no true church “where lying and falsehood have usurped the ascendancy” (Walker, pp. 392–394).

Calvin’s Doctrinal Position Examined

We can see that Calvin’s doctrine of justification by faith alone came from Luther. Yet Calvin did believe that a “saved” person is to produce good works as necessary fruit of his conversion.

Calvin emphasized man’s responsibility to follow the law of God as a guide to the Christian life (Walker, p. 393). However, in no sense did he mean this to include the letter of the Ten Commandments, but only the “spirit” of God’s moral law as it came to be defined by Calvin. In actual practice, as we shall see, there were many times when this led men to break both the letter and the spirit of the literal Ten Commandments. We shall cite examples of this later.

Without question, the foundational principle of Calvin’s entire theological system is his doctrine of predestination. In it, all other things were made to conform to the irrevocable will of God. As did Luther, Calvin derived many of his ideas on this subject from Augustine (Fisher, History of The Christian Church, p. 321).

In the section on predestination in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin dogmatically states:

No one who wishes to be thought religious dares outright to deny predestination, by which God chooses some for the hope of life, and condemns others to eternal death.… By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he has decided in his own mind what he wishes to happen in the case of each individual. For all men are not created on an equal footing, but for some eternal life is preordained, for others eternal damnation… (Bettenson, Documents, p. 302).

As the Protestant historians themselves tell us, this is the essence of Calvinism!

Let us consider the meaning of these dogmatic assertions. First, Calvin says that all men are not created equal before God. But the Apostles Peter and Paul were both inspired to write: “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11).

Next, Calvin tells us that—regardless of what they may do—some men are absolutely predetermined for eternal life, others for eternal damnation.

Calvin’s Idea of Predestination

Thus we find that the terrifying proposition that men are born to be “saved” or “lost” was one of the basic tenets of Calvin’s doctrine. According to this theory, you are predestined from all eternity to either the joys of heaven, or the torments of a burning hell. Of your own will, you are not able to repent and be converted. This is only possible for those whom God has “elected” to grace.

As we have seen, Calvin also taught that once a person has been forgiven and justified through Christ, he can never fall away. Viewing this practically, it means that no matter how wicked a “saved” person might become, no matter how utterly depraved, blasphemous, and reprobate he might be at the end of his days, he is nevertheless foreordained and bound to inherit the unspeakable delights of heaven through all eternity. Those predestined to be “lost” are doomed—as the “reformed” preachers would put it—to an eternity in the burning, screaming, horrifying tortures of a neverending hell.

Such was the doctrine of John Calvin. And this became the teaching of the “reformed” congregations as they later spread throughout parts of France, into Scotland, to other nations of Europe, and finally—through the “Puritans”—to the New England states.

Calvin at Geneva

Shortly after publishing his Institutes, Calvin visited Italy for a brief time. On his way back to Basel, he had to pass through Geneva. An event occurred there that changed the course of his life.

In 1532, after the Protestant defeat at the battle of Cappel, a reforming preacher named William Farel had come to Geneva to revive the Protestant forces in their city. Like Calvin, he had been driven out of France by Catholic persecution. Because of his powerful and unrestrained preaching, he had at first been expelled from Geneva. But he later returned, and led the Protestants to gain complete control of this city.

Because all “worldly” pleasures and entertainment were banned by his religious party, a great deal of strife had arisen and the city was in turmoil. Farel, therefore, knowing the great ability of Calvin and his interest in the Protestant cause, persuaded him to stay and help the reformed party control the city. Calvin at first had preferred the quiet seclusion of the scholarly life, but finally yielded when Farel warned that “God’s curse” would fall on him if he refused to help.

Calvin then set to work immediately. He composed a catechism for the instruction of the young, and aided in formulating a stringent set of laws that forbade the people to wear “vain” ornaments or participate in “obnoxious” sports and other worldly amusements (Fisher, The History of the Christian Church, p. 324).

But the Libertines, as the opposing party was called, soon gained the upper hand and banished Calvin and Farel from the city.

This was 1538, and Calvin went to Strasbourg, where he spent most of his three years’ absence from Geneva. He took charge of a Protestant church for French refugees there, and soon took a wife. It was here also that he formed a personal acquaintance with Melanchthon, who gradually came over to his view of the Lord’s Supper, though the two never agreed on predestination.

He was now recalled to Geneva to help the triumphant reformed party found a political and ecclesiastical government upon the principles of their belief. From here on we notice Calvin’s increasing involvement in politics and resulting religious strife (Walker, pp. 397–398).

Calvin’s Return to Geneva

Calvin returned victorious to Geneva in 1541, and set up a new political and ecclesiastical order. It was surprisingly similar to the Catholic church-state relationship of obedient nations within the Holy Roman Empire.

The state was dominated by the religious leaders, and was bound to foster the interests of the church, carry out its orders, and to punish or execute all those who opposed the established religion. Calvin had never rid himself of the Catholic concept of the church ruling the state and mixing in worldly politics.

Not only profaneness and drunkenness, but innocent amusements and the teaching of divergent theological doctrines, were severely punished. Nor was this all. Trifling offenses were visited with severe penalties. It was impossible that a city of twenty thousand inhabitants should rest content under such stringent discipline and such stern enactments. The elements of disaffection disclosed themselves soon after Calvin’s return. His chief opponents, as before, were the Libertines (Fisher, History of the Christian Church, p. 325).

Calvin tried to enforce this kind of dogmatic system on the entire city from this time until his death. Naturally, it could lead to nothing but trouble, and the chronicle of Calvin’s later life is mainly concerned with his problems in trying to suppress the city of Geneva and coerce its inhabitants into yielding to his views. There is no denying the fact that he was a kind of religious dictator!

The Calvinistic Discipline

Beyond noting the famous case of Michael Servetus, which will be covered in a later issue, a detailed explanation of the cruelty and rigor with which Calvin enforced his system of belief on the hapless Genevans is unnecessary. The only thing that needs to be said is that the “fruits” of Calvin’s teaching at Geneva make a striking contrast to the inspired statement of Paul: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, KJV).

The following summary of the effect of Calvin’s “Theocracy” on Geneva should provide ample basis for comparison:

Let us give a summary of the most striking cases of discipline. Several women, among them the wife of Ami Perrin, the captain-general, were imprisoned for dancing (which was usually connected with excesses). Bonivard, the hero of political liberty, and a friend of Calvin, was cited before the Consistory because he had played at dice with Clement Marot, the poet, for a quart of wine. A man was banished from the city for three months because, on hearing an ass bray, he said jestingly: “He prays a beautiful psalm.” A young man was punished because he gave his bride a book on housekeeping with the remark: “This is the best Psalter.” A lady of Ferrara was expelled from the city for expressing sympathy with the Libertines, and abusing Calvin and the Consistory. Three men who had laughed during the sermon were imprisoned for three days. Another had to do public penance for neglecting to commune on Whitsunday. Three children were punished because they remained outside of the church during the sermon to eat cakes… A person named Chapuis was imprisoned for four days because he persisted in calling his child Claude (a Roman Catholic saint) instead of Abraham, as the minister wished, and saying that he would sooner keep his son unbaptized for fifteen years. Bolsec, Gentilis, and Castellio were expelled from the Republic for heretical opinions. Men and women were burnt for witchcraft. Gruet was beheaded for sedition and atheism. Servetus was burnt for heresy and blasphemy. The last is the most flagrant case which, more than all others combined, has exposed the name of Calvin to abuse and execration; but it should be remembered that he wished to substitute the milder punishment of the sword for the stake, and in this point at least he was in advance of the public opinion and usual practice of his age (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. VIII, pp. 490–492).

Schaff’s plea that Calvin’s “mercy” was in advance of his age sounds somewhat hollow when we remember that he and the other reformers condemned the papacy for the same brutalities and referred to Christ’s example of love by way of contrast.

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that Jesus taught Christians in His age, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). And again, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

This teaching certainly is in contrast with Calvin’s “theocracy” in Geneva. We continue Schaff’s description of that frightful system:

The official acts of the Council from 1541 to 1559 exhibit a dark chapter of censures, fines, imprisonments, and executions. During the ravages of the pestilence in 1545 more than twenty men and women were burnt alive for witchcraft, and a wicked conspiracy to spread the horrible disease. From 1542 to 1546 fifty-eight judgments of death and seventy-six decrees of banishments were passed. During the years 1558 and 1559 the cases of various punishments for all sorts of offenses amounted to four hundred and fourteen—a very large proportion for a population of 20,000 (Schaff, p. 492).

Thus we see that Calvin was willing not only to punish, but to execute those who failed to go along with his theological system. Two years after the burning of Servetus, the Libertine party in Geneva made a last determined effort to overthrow the religious hierarchy that Calvin had set up. They first attempted intrigue and secret diplomacy, but finally resorted to armed conflict in May of 1555.

But Calvin’s forces were the stronger, and this last rebellion was a death blow to the Libertine party. Many now had to flee for their lives from the “justice” of Calvin (Walker, p. 400).

At this point, we should take note of the fact—as evidenced by the foregoing examples of Calvin’s system—that he was the primary reformer who stressed the idea that men are to forsake all pleasure in this life.

Therefore, as we have seen, such trifling things as card-playing, dancing, jesting and theatre-going were treated as major sins. In many cases, Geneva’s religious courts would punish such an offender with public whipping or even possibly death!

These harsh measures were the result of the concept that God is a stern, unrelenting Judge who wishes all men to suffer. He frowns upon any of the common pleasures of man. Most pleasing to Him, taught Calvin, is a life of barrenness, poverty and severity.

Perhaps without realizing it, thousands of Protestants to this day have been influenced by this concept and have a feeling of guilt even regarding many of the innocent pleasures of life. The strict “blue laws” of the New England Puritans are an example of this, and the same tendency is evident to this day among many of the stricter Protestant sects.

It is well to realize that this teaching did not come from the Bible. For the most part, it came from John Calvin’s rigid mind.

Calvin’s Last Days

The Libertine rebellion having been crushed, Calvin was the undisputed master of Geneva. In 1559, he founded the “Geneva Academy”—later to be known as the University of Geneva. It soon became the greatest center of theological instruction in the Reformed communities, as distinguished from the Lutheran.

Those in all nations who were struggling to advance the cause of Reformed Protestantism looked to Geneva for instruction and support. It became the great seminary from which ministers went forth to France, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany, and Italy. Almost as an absolute ruler of Geneva, Calvin, as Hausser comments, “acquired and maintained more power than was ever exercised by the most powerful popes” (The Period of the Reformation, p. 250).

To the end, Calvin labored diligently in preaching and writing. He came to look upon the spread of the Protestant Churches over the world as being synonymous with the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Here is one of the most significant differences between Calvin and the previous reformers. He rejected their expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord and projected the final cataclysm into an indefinite future. Luther looked wistfully for the end of the age before his own demise and the Anabaptists often set dates. But Calvin renewed the role of St. Augustine who terminated the early Christian expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord, and envisaged successive acts in the historical drama in which the Church came wellnigh to be equated with the Kingdom of God. Even so Calvin substituted for the great and imminent day of the Lord the dream of the Holy Commonwealth in the terrestrial sphere. Its erection depended upon human agents, God’s chosen instruments, the elect (Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, p. 114).

This attitude caused men to become so absorbed in what we today must sadly speak of as “churchianity” that they failed to grow into more spiritual truths than Calvin had found and to correct his peculiar errors. It also caused a notable lack of interest in and understanding of the prophetic portions of the Bible, which has persisted to this day.

Calvin’s Death and the Spread of His Doctrines

We will not attempt to cover in detail the spread of Calvinism, or the Reformed theology, to other lands, because the doctrinal pattern remained substantially the same. The same spirit guided the movement everywhere. Indeed, the Reformed churches to this day still bear the indelible stamp of Calvin’s powerful mind and personality.

From Geneva, Calvinism spread into France, Holland, England, Scotland, and New England. The pattern of Geneva could not be reproduced in these lands, at least not at the outset. A single city might be turned into a select community. In the case of an entire land this was a very difficult matter. Eventually the ideal was most nearly achieved in Scotland and New England (Bainton, p. 121).

When we read of the public whipping post and of burning people at the stake in the “Puritan” New England settlements, we may realize that this was just a continuation of Calvin’s system. As illustrated in New England, and with John Knox in Scotland, Calvin’s adherents tried whenever possible to rule or at least dominate the political government and the entire population by force.

Even to the time of Calvin’s death, his mind was alert and sharp, although his body was wasted with disease. When he felt his time had come, he sent for the Senate, in whose deliberations he had so often participated and dominated. He urged its members to guard the State from enemies who still threatened it.

Shortly after, he died peacefully. His fellow ministers were full of grief, for his great personality had inspired them all—and his death left a vacuum, which no one else could fill. His dominant mind and personality were such that “he excited the most profound admiration in some, and an equally profound aversion in others” (Fisher, History of the Christian Church, p. 329).

This very dominance of Luther and Calvin was, in many ways, detrimental. It led men to accept without question their doctrine and practice—never thinking to prove these ideas by the holy word of God.

Actually, as we have seen, many of the tenets and actions of the leading reformers are as far removed from the teaching and practice of Christ and the apostles as would seem possible in a civilized religious society!

Perhaps the Protestant doctrine was an improvement over the corruptions of the Roman church and its authoritarian popes. But how much of an improvement was it? Was it a genuine restoration of the original Christianity’s faith and practice?

Even a respected Protestant historian has stated:

Protestantism deposed the infallible pope in a large part of Europe and it did well. It was, unfortunately, too much disposed to make infallible popes of the Reformers and to place Luther and Calvin, the infallible theologians, in the place of Christ Himself as an authority that could not be gainsaid. This tendency was, perhaps, its strength at a time of conflict, when it avails much to have intense beliefs and no doubts, to march and to battle at the word of command. It was a source of weakness and stagnation when the battle was over and theology became more a matter of accepted dogmas than a creed to live by and fight for. Calvinism, like Lutheranism, degenerated into a sort of scholasticism against which it had been, in part, a protest (James MacKinnon, Calvin and the Reformation, p. 291).

As MacKinnon has wisely observed, Protestants today—instead of open-mindedly seeking for more truth—have “accepted dogmas,” which they strive to defend in the manner of medieval scholastics. God commands us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Protestants often have tended to make infallible popes out of Luther, Calvin and the other early reformers.

In the next issue of Tomorrow’s World, we will continue this factual and gripping series with the shocking account of the real facts behind the Reformation in England and the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII. Be sure to read it.

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/magazines/2018/january-february/the-birth-of-calvinism

A Little Fire

The tiniest spark of fire can grow quickly into a raging inferno, consuming thousands of acres of forest or whole blocks of buildings. Likewise, a few ill-spoken words can escalate into a quarrel or all-out brawl, damaging a person, a family or a business.

We have seen the tremendous destruction caused by the recent fires in California. Ash, soot, stone and metal frameworks are all that remain. Thousands of acres of trees and vineyards have been destroyed, as well as hundreds of homes with their contents. The toll of the damages amounts to tens of millions of dollars and is rapidly climbing as fire-fighters battle the voracious blazes. But the damages assessed in dollar value do not account for the emotional devastation experienced by victims who have lost their homes and possessions.

The essential ingredients necessary for fire are heat, fuel and oxygen. Stop any one of these, and the fire ceases. Otherwise, once a fire is started, it will burn until there is no more fuel or oxygen.

Fire is a good thing when used to make our coffee or tea, cook our food and warm our houses. And fire can also do great damage as previously mentioned. Likewise, words are positive when used for good, to encourage, to build up and bring peace. But words can also spark “fires” that can quickly escalate and spread, hurting and damaging people.

Words are as old as mankind. Most of us have been taught (at least that was the case when I was young, and I can only hope that today’s children are still being taught), that we shouldn’t say hurtful things to or about other people. I’m not naïve, understanding that we humans often fail to practice what we have been taught—a real human frailty. Sadly, it seems we don’t learn until we “get burned” by the consequences our words can bring: dissolved friendships, damaged reputations, confrontations and fights and wars.

Perhaps tainted by a past personal grievance with or jealousy of someone, we may develop negative opinions of that person. This negativity can be easy for us to share with others, and can potentially be imparted into the minds of such listeners. Sadly, this just “lights the fire.”

Words can be used positively to spark enthusiasm, inspire confidence and encourage the accomplishment of great things. But words can also dampen enthusiasm, spark discouragement and foment antagonism, which may escalate into a fight or a riot, bringing significant personal and property damage to people, businesses or institutions.

The analogy of words being like a fire comes from the Bible. A well-known passage in James 3 speaks of our human propensity to stumble in our words. It makes a comparison of the small bit of flesh we call the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth and to a ship’s rudder. The bit and rudder are small but effective in controlling the horse or ship. But our small tongue can kindle a “fire” that can burn down a whole forest, so to speak (vv. 1–5). The next few verses explain that no man can tame the tongue, which can be used for good to “bless our God,” or for bad, to “curse men”! Our tongue is “an unruly evil” (vv. 8–10)!

We can prevent or extinguish fires by removing the ingredients: heat, fuel or oxygen. We can do the same with word “fires.”

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:20–21). Remove the heat of anger, the fuel of contention and the oxygen of gossip to put out the word fire.

You may find the article “Choose Civility!” to be helpful, as well the booklet: What Is a True Christian?

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/a-little-fire

A Cool Spirit

There is a spirit of anger in the land. You see it all around you. There is disillusionment as iconic figures in entertainment, news organizations and high political office are exposed as being lecherous, licentious, predatory sexual abusers. There is anger when elected officials fail to deliver on promises to reform regulations and laws that adversely affect working people and small businesses. The political discourse has been particularly raucous and hateful for the past few election cycles, which has fanned the flames of partisanship and acrimonious dealings on the simplest matters of public policy. The opposing political parties can’t agree on anything.

While this frustrating situation roils on, the hostility and resulting unrest on the streets of America and many other countries has reached a fever pitch. Racial tensions, class warfare, religious strife and street crime feed the feelings of unrest and hostility that permeate the citizenry of many nations today.

Weekly, it seems, someone with murder in their heart bursts into a church, night club or concert venue and slaughters as many people as possible. Misguided religious zealots have used vehicles to run down pedestrians on crowded city streets. Increased security measures, while necessary, have complicated our normal course of coming and going, increasing the irritation and stress in daily living.

Beleaguered police departments and local law enforcement officials are seemingly flummoxed with being unable to prevent this violence and having to deal with the grisly aftermath. So, we see anger and rage on the part of the perpetuators, the protectors and the general population in these troubled times.

The causes of these complex and seemingly intractable problems are many. They are rooted in mankind’s rejection of the Laws found in the Bible and the influence of an evil being that the Bible identifies as the Adversary, or Satan the Devil, who delights in the chaotic conditions on earth. The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “The way of peace they [mankind] do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace” (Isaiah 59:8, NRSV).

While this is the prevailing attitude, there is a Biblical approach that each person can take that does help to assuage the rage and resulting stress and anxiety. We read in the ancient book of Proverbs, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so, stop before the quarrel breaks out…. One who spares words is knowledgeable; one who is cool in spirit has understanding” (Proverbs 17:14, 27, NRSV).

King David, who had a temper, came to realize this when he wrote, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8, NRSV). His wise son, Solomon, gave this instruction: “Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9, NRSV). When calmness is required, remember; “Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention” (Proverbs 15:18, NRSV).

Finally, it is good to know that there is a time for anger, as in righteous indignation, but it should be dealt with promptly and rationally—not left to simmer and to grow into rage. The Apostle Paul gave this advice in Ephesians 4:26, 31–32 (NRSV): “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil….  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” An insightful thought about choosing friends is found in Proverbs: “Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads, or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (22:24–25, NRSV).

As your days unfold, put these Biblical principles into practice and resolve to have a “cool spirit,” avoiding the angry attitudes all around you. Our flagship booklet, The Ten Commandments, is a great study guide—and it is totally without charge. You can find it online or order it in print, right here.

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/a-cool-spirit

Plight of Refugees

Many parts of the world are overflowing with displaced persons. Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee camp is one of the world’s largest, with 285,000 residents, mostly from South Sudan (PRI, September 22, 2017). Uganda’s government expects that most of these refugees will become either long-term or permanent residents. Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp is the second largest in the world, with over 230,000 people (UNHCR, November 30, 2017). It opened in 1991 and is filled with mostly Somali refugees. More than 1,000 children are born each month in Dadaab, and many residents have seen children and grandchildren born there. The Kenyan government has considered closing the camp, which places a tremendous strain on limited national resources (Times Live, December 13, 2017). On a recent visit to Ghana, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Ghanaians to remain at home rather than to risk their lives as refugees traveling to Europe (Deutsche Welle, December 12, 2017). And in Syria, 5.1 million refugees have fled the country since 2011, while six million are displaced within the country (World Vision, July 13, 2017).

Refugees flee their homes mostly due to war and economic hardship—which are the result of selfish and inept governments. When leaders care more about themselves than their citizens, the consequences are misery and heartache! Today’s refugee crises seem to be unending and promise to intensify. However, the Bible speaks of a far more encouraging future. When Jesus Christ returns to the earth as the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” conditions in the world will change (Revelation 11:15–18; 17:14; 19:16). The government of God will be established on earth and bring unprecedented peace (Isaiah 2:2–4)—and people will be resettled in their own lands (Isaiah 27:13; Jeremiah 31:7–9). The gospel that Jesus preached about a coming Kingdom of God will finally end the plight and suffering of refugees. To learn more about this exciting future reality, be sure to read or listen to The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like?

Article source: https://www.tomorrowsworld.org/news-and-prophecy/plight-of-refugees