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Religion - Roman Catholic

Jorge's Heresy

People might not think they know Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina. As a matter of fact, when asked, most will probably say they’ve never heard of the man. However, if you mention that the fellow changed his name from Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Francis and is currently residing in Rome in the Apostolic Palace, a light will go on and they will nod, “You mean the Pope.” Or perhaps they will use the familiar descriptor “Papa Francisco” to show that they indeed do know who the man is and that they rather like him. An affable looking, round-faced fellow, often smiling, Pope Francis has been touted in the press for humility; he has spoken out against abortion; and he seems not to care for wealth and material goods. Those are indeed virtuous marks with which no fault can be found. But ponder this: the man also prays the rosary three times a day. For those not familiar with praying the rosary, there is this clarification. To pray the rosary properly you begin at the bead holding the crucifix, starting there with saying the Apostles' Creed. Moving to the following bead the “Our Father” is recited. The next three beads take the Aves. That is to say:

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Translated that reads:

Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Gloria Patri follows, and so it goes on throughout the chain of beads. The usual number of beads on a rosary, by the way, is 59, although that can vary. Elevating Mary Pope Francis is very fond of Mary. In the 1980s, while studying in Germany, he found great solace praying in front of a baroque painting entitled “Mary, Untier of Knots.” The painting depicts Mary untying a knot while simultaneously stomping her foot on a serpent. He took the painting back to Argentina and urged people to be devoted to the Virgin. The pope sees her as an untier of problems. The knots represent sins to him, sins that separate people from God. Mary, as shown in the painting, unties these knots and brings sinners closer to God. The pope, and the Catholic Church, wrongly attribute mediatory qualities to Mary. The adoration of Mary is nothing new in Catholic circles. Many stories circulate with regard to her. One such story was reported on in the Nottinghamshire Guardian of September 9, 1864. In this article it was said that a soldier had appeared before the police court in Madrid, Spain. He had been charged with having stolen a gold cup, a gold cup of great value. Exacerbating this crime was the fact that this cup had been placed as a votive offering on one of the numerous altars dedicated to Mary in the city of Madrid. Hat in his hand, the soldier was his own defense lawyer. His family was in great need, he explained to the judge in the police court, and their straits so dire that he went to church to pray. We can imagine the judge regarded him rather blankly and ordering him to go on. The soldier spoke of how while he was engaged in prayer, before a statue of Mary, he beheld the jewels displayed on the statue's brocaded gown. And then, he said, the Virgin Mother stooped down to his person and "with a charming smile" handed over the golden cup to him. No one replied to the defense. It was decided that however inconvenient the admission of the miracle might be, it would be impolitic to dispute its truth. Consequently, the soldier was allowed to keep the cup to aid his needy family. He was also given the severe warning that, should a similar theft occur in the future, the court would be inclined to disbelieve his story. Not satisfied with Jesus alone On average, it takes fifteen to twenty minutes to pray the rosary. You keep track of the various prayers by using the rosary beads. Pope Francis is on record as saying that the Christian who does not feel that the Virgin Mary is his or her mother, is an orphan. The archives of the Vatican Radio tells the story that the pope met with a couple during the seventies, a young couple with small children who spoke quite beautifully of their faith in Jesus. At one point Pope Francis asked them, "And devotion to the Madonna?" They answered him, "But we have passed that stage. We know Jesus Christ so well, that we have no need of the Madonna." The archives then relate that because of their answer the future pope thought of the young couple as orphans, poor orphans, because Christians without the Madonna are orphans. And Christians without the Church are orphans. He said:

A Christian needs these two women, these two women who are mothers, two women who are virgins: the Church and the Madonna. And to make a “test” of a good Christian vocation, you need to ask yourself: How is my relationship with these two mothers going, with mother Church and with mother Mary? This is not a question of “piety.” No, it's pure theology. This is theology. How is my relationship with the Church going, with my mother the Church, with the holy mother, the hierarchic Church? And how is my relationship going with the Madonna, my mamma, my Mother? 

In a December 2014 address to Iraqi refugees, the pope said:

Dear brothers and sisters... You are in the hearts and prayers of all Christian communities, whom I will ask to pray in a special way for you on December 8, to pray to Our Lady to protect you; she is our Mother and will protect you...

That same December the pope sent Christmas greetings to prisoners: "May the blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary keep you under her maternal mantle." And that same month, following the death of an archbishop, he wrote: "I entrust his soul to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary." What is good? Pope Francis is viewed positively by many people around the world. His concern for the poor, his statements about the environment, abortion and same-sex marriage, and so on – whether right or wrong – resonate with many. Many view him as a moral and humanitarian spokesperson for the world, (regardless of the sexual allegations leveled on a seemingly monthly basis against many priests). But the fact remains that he abounds and leads in idolatry. And does it really matter how the world thinks about you? As a young boy in Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio suffered an infection and had half a lung removed. He is 80 years old and occasionally suffers from fatigue, sometimes has difficulty breathing and has lost some weight. How many more years does he have before his body turns to dust? How many more days does he have left before his soul will face the only Mediator between God and man - our Lord Jesus Christ? Will veneration of Mary stand him in good stead at that time?

Christine Farenhorst is the author of many books, including an upcoming historical fiction novel, "Katharina, Katharina," about the times of Martin Luther. This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue. Some lines have been altered from the original version of this story to better reflect when statements are exact quotes.

Parenting

Ignore your inner defense attorney!

My friend Paul Tripp writes that becoming our own defense attorney is a dangerous and destructive practice.  In less formal language Paul is warning about becoming an excuse maker.  These are the words of a defense attorney in action:

• “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be angry.” • “I guess I’m just tired.” • “He was mean to me.” • “If you were just a little nicer, it would be a lot easier.” • “Being inside because of the weather makes me cranky.” • “It wasn’t my fault, I’m just not feeling well.”

Whether these words come from you or your children they are the words of excuse making, defending ourselves from our own shortcomings and sins. Excuse making keeps us from trusting God, erodes relationships and weakens our character and faith. The default mode for the excuse maker is to shift blame instead of looking to God in repentance. Excuse making is evidence of regret over sins. Excuse making is a way to conceal sin. The Holy Spirit warns against concealing sin in Proverbs 28:13: He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Here is alternate translation from respected commentator and scholar Bruce Waltke: The one who conceals his transgressions will not succeed but the one who confesses and abandons them will obtain mercy. The message is clear and profound: Repentance brings hope. Excuses result in frustration and blame-shifting. The flesh acts as our defense attorney by continually offering a stream of excuses so that we can avoid addressing and confessing our sin. This leads to disaster. Waltke makes this insightful observation about concealing sin: People may smash their consciences to avoid humbling themselves, but they cannot avoid the reality that God knows and will punish sin. How much better to give him glory by acknowledging this and to experience his mercy. Concealing sins — making excuses — destroys trust in God. But repentance yields mercy and the blessing of God. There is no freedom in making excuses, only regret and frustration. However, if repentance is your first response you can be confident of God’s mercy. You don’t have to look for an excuse. You know that your are forgiven and can trust God for help to change. Repentance is the path of freedom. Here is a definition of repentance you can teach your children: “changing my mind and turning around to do the right thing.” Here is a prayer for repentance that will be a blessing to you and your children: God, thank you for making repentance possible by sending Jesus to live and die in my place. Thank you that my sin doesn’t separate me from your love. But still, sometimes it is hard to repent, especially when I am stubborn and angry and I just want my own way. Please give me a repentant heart and help me to love you more. In Jesus name, Amen. Don’t listen to your inner defense attorney! Embrace repentance.

Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared.

Media bias

Proverbs 18:17: the antidote to Fake News

In the era of, not so much fake, but exaggerated, partisan, and selectively reported news, how can we discern the truth of a matter? God shows us the way in Proverbs 18:17, where we are told the first to present his case seems right until a second comes and questions him. What does it look like, to put this verse into action? Let’s take a classic example from the US gun debate. In the early 1990s Emory University medical professor Arthur Kellermann told Americans that owning a gun was associated with a 2.7 times greater risk of being murdered. Kellermann shared that in his study of three metropolitan areas they had found three-quarters of the victims were murdered by someone they knew, and nearly half by gunshot wounds. That raised the question of whether having a gun in the house might increase rather than decrease a person’s chance of being murdered. The New York Times, and other media outlets, spread these findings far and wide. But was the anti-gun case as compelling as it seemed? To find out, we have to continue on and hear from the critics – the first has presented his case and now we need a second to come and question him. Critics noted that Kellermann’s study showed an equal risk increase associated with owning a burglar alarm. National Review’s Dave Kopel pointed out, this study overlooks “the obvious fact that one reason people choose to own guns, or to install burglar alarms, is that they are already at a higher risk of being victimized by crime…. Kellermann’s method would also prove that possession of insulin increases the risk of diabetes.” The National Rifle Association wanted people to understand that a study of homicides couldn’t give a good measure of how effective guns could be for personal protection. "99.8 percent of the protective uses of guns do not involve homicides," explained NRA spokesman Paul H. Blackman, but instead would involve brandishing the weapon to hold off an assault, or perhaps firing the weapon to scare or wound the assailant. The first presenter might have had us thinking guns clearly needed to be banned. But that was only half the story. Even after hearing from the critics we don’t have the full picture – veteran newsman Ted Byfield once noted that to provide every side of a story we’d need more ink than exists in the whole of the world – but by hearing the two sides argue it out we have a much better picture. God tells us in Prov. 18:17 that if we hear only one side – even if it’s our side – then it’s likely we’re going to miss something. So if the truth matters to us we want to give even our opponents a hearing. At least the thoughtful ones (Prov. 14:7).

Pro-life - Fostering

7 ways to help a foster family

So you’re not able or ready to plunge into foster care? That doesn’t mean you can’t still be involved! Here are some practice ideas for how to help out a current foster family. Educate yourself Educate yourself on the local foster care system. Educate yourself on trauma and how it affects children. Educate yourself on what “reunification” means, and why we need to have a heart of forgiveness and compassion. Educate others The Church can play a big role in supporting the foster care system in your community. Find your local (Christian) foster care and adoption agencies and give freely, both financially and with your time. In our local church we did a special service offering at Christmas for a local foster care agency. Locally we also have a volunteer-run short-term “House” that is a place where children entering into foster care can spend their first few days before being placed…instead of in a hotel or social worker’s office. Get involved there! Search in your community for worthy organizations that are striving to repair the foster care system, and are Christian-based. Share with others, and pull together as a church to support them! Meals If you know a family that is fostering, chances are they have a houseful of children already, and have a lot of mouths to feed. Whether they’ve taken in a new placement or not, showing support by bringing a meal (or even some snacks to stock up the cupboards) goes a long way. They are likely spending a lot of time communicating with the team of people involved with their child, or helping the child work through trauma, or something along those lines. That’s why food is so appreciated! Items Foster parents in Washington State receive a monthly stipend from the state to cover costs but as you can imagine, the costs involved with becoming licensed, as well as ongoing costs incurred can, at times, exceed the stipend. Sometimes a child comes with nothing but the clothes on their back and suddenly the foster parent is making a trip to the store to get formula, diapers, PJs, toothbrush, shoes, underwear – you name it! In our case, we are licensed for ages 0-10, boys and girls. As you can imagine, it’s impossible to store clothes and items for each age group and gender. Also, as we were becoming licensed, we were required to have certain items available in our home (medicine cabinets that could lock, fire escape ladders, emergency food supplies for 8 people for a full week, as well as a bed available for each age of child, etc. etc.). This did become quite costly, so every little bit we got donated to us really helped. If you know of someone going through the licensing process, ask them what they are in need of, maybe you happen to have it lying around! Childcare Whether it’s offering to take their biological children for a time, or the foster child, it might just be exactly what they need. A date night? Groceries kid-free? Or maybe their foster child has yet another appointment (here in Washington State they’ve required what seems to be an overabundance of doctor and dentist appointments) and they’d love to not take along their other children. Whatever it may be, offer! Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, but if it’s offered it might just be what they need right at that moment. House, yard, and transportation help This can be so helpful, especially around the time of a new placement entering a home. That’s when all the house and yard work gets moved to the bottom of the importance pile. The family needs time to bond, organize, and have a lot of communication with the new team of people that are now in their life. They need to spend that first critical week loving on that child, attaching and adjusting. Offer to come fold a load of laundry, or weed their gardens, or clean a toilet. Or, maybe they’d love you to run an errand or two for them, or pick their kids up from school, or bring a child to their lessons or practice. Just ask! Prayer Please lift these families, as well as the children they are fostering, up in prayer! Ask them if there are specifics to pray for.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Eph. 6:18

News, Science - Creation/Evolution

Why haven’t we heard from ET?

Some 70 years ago physicist Enrico Fermi looked up at the stars and wondered where everyone was at. With billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, it seemed inconceivable to him that ours would be the only planet to evolve life. So where was everyone?

Fermi’s Paradox

His query is now called Fermi’s Paradox, and on March 18 a group of about 60 scientists met in Paris to share their latest theories as to why we haven’t heard from any of our galactic neighbors. Live Science’s Mindy Weisberger shared some of their creative ideas:

  • The “zoo hypothesis” – Earth is like a galactic animal reserve where aliens are leaving us alone to be observed in our natural habitat.
  • We’ve been quarantined – aliens know about us, but don’t like us.
  • Aliens are trapped by their superplanets’ intense gravity and they can’t come out to meet us.
  • Aliens have come and gone, dying off before we had a chance to connect with them.

Three days after the Paris conference Cosmos dug deeper into Fermi’s Paradox with an even more vexing question: where are all the “von Newmann probes”?

Von Newmann probe

What’s a von Newmann probe, you ask? Well, back in the 1960s, mathematician John von Newmann argued that a sufficiently advanced civilization would be able to build a space probe that could mine raw materials on other planets and use those to make replicas of itself. These replicas would, in turn, build other copies. And as the process repeated, the number and spread of these self-replicating “von Newmann probes” would expand exponentially until, as Cosmos’ Lauren Fuge put it, “in a relatively short space of time – perhaps as little as 10 million years – the galaxy would be teeming with these exploratory machines.”

But there are no hordes, teeming or otherwise. So, again, where is everyone?

The Cosmos article offered, as a possible explanation, astrophysicist Duncan Forgan’s “predator-prey hypothesis,” soon to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Astrobiology. Forgan argues that “self-replication could result in encoding errors” and that maybe some of these coding errors could lead to some of these probes taking a predatory turn. If they did, then perhaps the reason we don’t see these teeming hordes is because the predatory probes are hunting down and destroying the other probes.

Hmmm….

While these various hypotheses make for incredibly creative speculation, they all share one thing in common: there are no facts to back them up. In fact, the only “evidence” for any of these theories is that aliens haven’t contacted us.

So why did scientists bother meeting to swap what amounts to untestable, unverifiable, just-so stories? Why did Live Science and other media outlets bother covering the Paris event? And why did Cosmos think Forgan’s theory worth sharing? 

They covered them because these stories – to the undiscerning – seem to offer an explanation to Fermi’s Paradox and the problem it presents to evolutionary theory. But they’re just stories. And what does it say about the theory if its defenders are willing to hype stories that the public will mistake for scientific, factual, or evidence-based?

If luck can do it, why not the best and brightest?

Here’s a different sort of hypothesis to consider: what if ET just isn’t out there? What if life, instead of being easy to come by, only happens via miraculous means? And God only did so here on Earth?

It’s worth noting that there is nothing in the Bible that speaks against the possibility of life being on other planets. It would be hard to reconcile intelligent life with the Bible – here on Earth all Mankind fell through Adam, and Jesus became Man to save us, so how could intelligent aliens have any part of that? But there wouldn’t seem a biblical problem with microscopic or even animal life existing elsewhere in the universe.

But while the Bible allows for life on other planets, evolution would seem to demand it – if life can just happen, then someone else should be out there. It’s only when life is miraculous that it becomes understandable that it might be rare.

Now here’s a question for our evolutionary friends: if we suppose that dumb, unplanned, undirected luck can create life, why can’t the world’s most brilliant minds, using available blueprints (from living creatures), and working with quadrillions-of-calculations-per-second supercomputers, in laboratories staffed with every device and chemical they could possibly want, manage to make even a single living cell? If living things can come about by chance, why hasn’t anyone created them on purpose?

Looking at evolutionists’ still-lifeless labs we can’t help but ask again: where is everyone?

*****

In 2013 cartoonist Zach Weinersmith crafted a cartoon and gave the talk below on his “Infantapaulting Hypothesis” in which he theorized that the reasons babies are so aerodynamic is because they used to be catapulted into neighboring villages, to increase their chances of finding a mate among a more genetically diverse population. He was satirizing the tendency among evolutionists to indulge in “just-so stories” – to indulge in creative hypotheses that might fit the available evidence but which are not testable. If a fellow who still believes in Darwin’s theory can be this brilliant, insightful, and hilarious in exposing evolutionary flaws, can creationists take this further and be even funnier?   


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