Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Patrick & the Racism/Segregation--Pagan/Spiritism Parallel

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the timesto know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command. (1 Chronicles 12:32, emphasis added)
 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
Like the men of Issachar, we need to understand OUR times so that we might know what we ought to do; but we have blind spots. Let me explain.
Segregation is to Racism as Spirit Communication is to Paganism. Huh?
We are approaching St Patrick’s Day, and I think it is appropriate that we address this issue in that light. While a slave, he learned Irish, and was effective in helping to bring Christ to a nation in bondage to paganism and occult practices.
Every generation of Christian’s (contrary to Issachar) seems to have a glaring blind spot/s; so glaring that one wonders how an entire generation/s overlooked it. My parents generation is known as the “Greatest Generation’, and for good reason—living though the Depression and fighting in WW II, ECT.  However, my parent’s generation of Christians, and many generations before them, was either racist themselves or didn’t speak out against it (many exceptions, including my parents). It was a terrible black eye on the church. It was this type of ‘plasticity’ or hypocrisy that fueled the hippie generations rebellion. The 50’s caused the 60’s; there is a flow to human and cultural history.
Indeed, not a few pastors/theologians tried to support racism, or segregation, from the bible. The same had been done with slavery before that. It is hard to step out of one’s historical situation, unless you are saturated with a biblical worldview. But given scriptures clarity, there was no excuse for their attitudes or actions regarding race.
Racism led to the practice of segregation.  It is important to see what is cause and what is effect; sinful racism of the heart led to sinful practices of segregation, which were exceedingly degrading to black people’s dignity.
We would never do that!  Or have we….?
I fondly remember my dad being probably the only business owner in Moore County in NC who did NOT have segregated bathrooms/water fountains in the 50’s, and who hired a black man as an equal.
Shortly after I was converted when I was 17, I was turned on to Francis Schaeffer, and he pointed out this racist blind spot and subsequent black-eye for the church. Forty-five years later, I vividly remember the prayer I prayed then, and continued to pray through the years: “Lord, please show me how MY generation is blind; how am I blind.” Ten years ago, I believe the Lord answered my prayer.
I saw the effect first, before I saw the cause.  The popularity of ghost hunting/spirit communication (effect) led me to see the larger issue of the dominance of the pagan worldview (cause). Just as racism led to segregationist policies, so the ascendency of the pagan worldview has led to communication with the spirit realm and this amongst many Christians. Yes, we are blind.
Ideas/beliefs and worldviews inevitably express themselves in actions. As Dr. Peter Jones points out in “The Other Worldview”, and other books, secularism/materialism, etc, has been replaced by the pagan/neo-Gnostic/occult/New Age as the main worldview enemy of the Truth. But most Christian leaders are still battling against tired, worn out, dying foes, or at least neglecting the primary enemy.
Paganism is to spirit communication (EVP’s, mediums/psychics, energy healers, etc.), as racism was to segregation. Just as racism was the cause behind segregationist practices, so the occult worldview is fueling this mushrooming craze for spirit communication, in all its various forms. That parallel is meant to be shocking, because the reality is shocking. I am NOT saying that Christians, or anyone, who engages in spirit communication is racist—that totally misses the point of the analogy.
But most Christians today (there are many exceptions) are blind to this undeniable fact, or are being silent about it, because they don’t want their pursuit of personal peace and affluence to be disrupted. How selfish we are. How awfully selfish, and our children/grandchildren will scream as they face difficult days ahead:”Why…why didn’t they do something, while they still could?” Indeed, why not? 
It is one of the blind spots of the church today: both the worldview of paganism, and the practice of spirit communication (via EVP's, mediums, psychics, meditation, Reiki, yoga, etc) The blindness is mostly due to a culpable ignorance of Christians in general, and pastors in particular-a vincible ignorance; an ignorance that should have been resisted and overcome. Walk down the aisle of any bookstore or toy store, watch the news, see TV programming, and movies, and you will be surrounded by paganism and spiritism, in countless variety.
Having been a pastor myself for fifteen years, I have a profound respect for clergy. However, it is the responsibility of all Christians, but especially preachers, to be in-tune with OUR generation (like men of Issachar) and to apply the timeless truth of God’s Word to changing culture. However, when was the last time your pastor preached on: understanding a pagan worldview, or the bible’s view of ghosts, mediums/psychics, energy healing, and the like? (Many in their congregations are either curious or confused.) Just as there was a dearth of biblical preaching on racism and segregation in the past, there is a similar lack of preaching on the pagan worldview and spirit communication today. We are always the last ones to see our own blind-spots.
I am using the racist/segregation analogy for its shock value intentionally; to shock Christians, and especially Christian leaders, awake to the fact that we are being just as blind to paganism/spirit communication as our ancestors were to racism/segregation. Just as there was no excuse for their silence regarding beliefs and practices about race, so we, too, have no excuse for staying silent.
I am still in the process of sending out the ‘Open Letter to Christian Paranormal Investigators,’ and as we state in the preface, it is sent with the same spirit and intent of MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” What prompted me to write that letter was the answered prayer of 45 years ago, which has haunted me all these years: “Lord, where are WE blind? Where am I blind?”
In my hometown of Greensboro, NC is where the international sit-in movement got its genesis; four courageous, black Christian men sat at the Woolworth's counter and waited for food. The actions of four college students grew into an international civil rights sit-in movement. They were real change agents. We still have a way to go regarding race, but substantial change has occurred. And it’s my prayer that God would use our humble ‘open letter’ to start a similar awareness and action with regards to paganism and the practice of speaking to the spirit realm, before it’s too late.
Certainly, there are other issues like abortion, but when will Christians see that we, too, have a glaring blind-spot? None of us are above being deceived or blind; like fish accustomed to the water, we have become so accustomed to our generational mindset, that we don’t have the eyes to see the evil and error that has crept in and become ensconced in our culture.
Sadly, in each generation, the very folks who should be quick to see the blind spots are themselves the last ones to see it. Often the secular media picks up on it, and then Christians follow suit. (I doubt that the secular media will ever criticize paganism though). That is wrong, because we should be leading the charge, as salt and light! (See Matthew 5; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 10)
Looking back now, would you have marched with MLK if he came to your hometown, or would you have sneered, or just as bad, said: “I am personally opposed to racism and segregation, but I don’t want to rock the boat?” The unabashed pursuit of personal peace and affluence was/is another blind spot, and has always caused a lack of concern for significant issues. “Just leave me alone to enjoy my life on my terms.”  Selfish and dishonoring to God.
Would you have said:”Okay, Dr. King, you made your point—why do you have to keep harping on it?” And the answer is: he HAD to keep harping on it because few others were. Same holds true today.
I know that most Christians, who are engaged in spiritistic practices, detest racism and segregation. But my question to them, and everyone, is:  in light of scripture’s clarity, why can you not see OUR glaring blind spot? It is all around us and is opening demonic doors in ways unprecedented in human history.
We cannot scratch our collective heads as to how almost the entire ‘greatest generation’ could have been so blind as to what was happening all around them, every day, when we are just as blind regarding the rampant spiritual adultery that has invaded the church. In both cases, the band played on, until enough people spoke up that it began to have an impact.
We are called in 2 Cor. 10 to “tear down strongholds of evil and error…” (Paraphrase) In the ‘Open Letter to Christian Paranormal Investigators’, and in this blog, my intent is to do precisely that.  Note the last verse, in which Paul says he is ready to punish all disobedience. In today’s context what that would look like is this. If I was still a pastor and one of my members was communicating with the spirit realm, they would be privately talked to by the pastor (me); if they resisted then they would be brought before the elders,; and if they continued to resist, then, with tears, would be excommunicated, with the hopes that they would awaken, repent and be restored to fellowship. The purity of the Bride of Christ is at stake.
In closing, I know that spirit communication (in its countless forms of expression) is not as outwardly rampant as segregation was at one point--not yet, anyway. In light of St Patrick’s Day, it is appropriate to mention that IF we do not change, then the USA/Europe will likely become similar to pre-St Patrick Ireland—full of spiritual darkness and Druidic occultism. In the 4th century the church had to fight valiantly against Gnosticism, and now neo-Gnosticism has reappeared 1,500 years later, with Satan much better informed and filled with a furious zeal to destroy the church.
Segregation is to Racism as Spirit Communication is to Paganism.  We need to address the cause as well as the effect, and ‘pull them down’ through the omnipotent Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dalai Lama at the Mind & Life Conference - Reimagining Human Flourishing

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - The Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple, adjacent to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence was the location this morning for the opening of a Mind & Life Conference focussing on ‘Reimagining Human Flourishing’. Participants, presenters and moderators are seated around a large low table set laterally across the main body of the temple. They are flanked by guests and interested observers—100 from the Mind & Life side and another 200, many of them scholarly monks and nuns, invited by the Dalai Lama Trust. When His Holiness arrived he greeted several old friends before taking his seat at the head of the table.

Susan Bauer-Wu, President of the Mind & Life Institute, began by welcoming everyone present to this Mind & Life Dialogue, the 33rd altogether and the 13th in Dharamsala. She expressed gratitude to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama Trust and the Hershey Family Foundation for their support in making it possible. In the 26th year of its existence she reiterated the Mind & Life Institute’s aim of working to eliminate suffering and promote human flourishing. On this occasion the intention is to delve again into how to give young people a good education that takes account of secular ethics, attention and compassion, love and forgiveness—an education of the heart, bearing in mind the evidence that compassion can be taught. She closed her introduction by presenting His Holiness with a copy of a new book, ‘The Monastery and The Microscope’, a record of the dialogue that took place in Mundgod in 2013.

This morning’s moderator Kimberley Schonert-Reichl introduced the first speaker, Richard Davidson. He started by thanking His Holiness for his time and inspiration and went on to present a brief historical context for the current meeting. He cited five previous meetings as having a pivotal bearing on this one. The first was the 5th Mind & Life dialogue held in 1995 in Dharamsala, at which altruism, ethics and compassion were discussed. Next was the 8th Dialogue, also in Dharamsala, that dealt with d estructive emotions and led to Dan Goleman’s writing a book that catalysed public focus on them. At this pivotal point, Davidson reported, His Holiness advised the members of the Mind & Life Institute to investigate practical ways to cultivate a virtuous mind and counter destructive emotions.

The third key meeting on ‘Investigating the Mind’ took place at MIT. It was pivotal again because it was the first public meeting to raise questions about the mind and destructive emotions in a mainstream scientific context. The prestigious scientific journal Nature reported it and so brought the mission of Mind & Life to the attention of the world. The fourth key meeting, focussed on Neuroplasticity, revealed that training the mind can change the brain, while the fifth, in Washington, DC, focussed on educating world citizens.

Having reviewed the topics that will be discussed during the course of this conference, Davidson began his own presentation under today’s theme of Early Childhood Development and Social and Emotional Learning. He mentioned neuroplasticity, the role of genetics, sensitive periods and innate basic goodness in early childhood development. He talked about early synaptic overproduction, cortex pruning and prefrontal pruning in the context of a timeline of brain development. Some developments can lead to vulnerability, while others lead to resilience. He also made reference to sensitive periods in childhood development, such as birth, starting school and adolescence.

In the context of thoughts associated with changes in the brain, His Holiness wanted to know, if someone is physically at ease, which comes first the thought or the change in the brain. Davidson replied that many scientists say thought and brain activity co-occur, remarking that this relates to the relation between mind and brain about which he considers little scientific progress has been made for 100 years. This prompted His Holiness to reflect on the purpose of his meetings with scientists.

“One purpose is to extend our knowledge. Several decades of experience have shown that ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind derives from practices to cultivate single-pointedness and analysis—shamatha and vipashyana. It involves knowledge of how to transform emotions that remains relevant today. On the other hand, science presents a challenge to traditional Indian cosmology, which has resulted in my publicly rejecting belief in Mt Meru as the centre of the universe.

“However, since science is only beginning to investigate the mind, I believe ancient Indian knowledge has a contribution to make and that it is important to bring these traditions together. In 1979, when I held discussions with scientists in Moscow, they were happy to acknowledge five sensory consciousnesses, but dismissed mental consciousness as only of religious concern.

“The second purpose of these meetings relates to the crisis of emotions we witness in the world today, which is manifest in the contrast between the peace we enjoy together here and the anguish experienced in other parts of the world where people are being killed or dying of starvation. We need to show more concern for others’ well-being. We need a greater sense of the oneness of all human beings, the sense that we all belong to one community. We need to promote warm-heartedness. Religion can contribute to this, but sometimes religion leads to greater divisions. In such a context, scientists’ finding evidence that basic human nature is compassionate is a source of hope.

“That basic human nature can give rise to self-confidence, trust and transparency. It allows us to smile. Viewing others with suspicion is not a way to be happy. The one billion of seven billion people alive today who have no interest in religion are still human beings. We and they need a secular approach to creating a more peaceful, joyful world. Science shows us, for example, that warm-heartedness is good for our physical health.

“The time has come to think in terms of the whole of humanity not just our nation within its own boundaries. The environment too is telling us that we human beings have to work together as one community, which is the only way we’ll meet such serious issues as the increasing shortage of water. It will require a new approach to education that takes account of scientific findings and that cultivates human qualities on the basis of a secular scientific approach.

“This world with its human population may last another few thousand years, but we have to encourage the next generation to do things differently. I’m nearly 83, so I don’t have that much time left and when I’m gone I may go to heaven, if there is one. But I may be reborn on this planet since I pray to abide to dispel the misery of the world for as long as space endures and as long as living beings remain.

“It is our generation’s responsibility to act. We’ve seen too much war. We’ve seen too much money spent on weapons. To respond to problems by resort to the use of force is out of date. It’s the wrong method and yet we see it being repeated now at the beginning of the 21st century. We have to change, but our education system is too materialistic. However, we can improve that and the work we do now can influence the centuries to come.”

Richard Davidson concluded his presentation noting an increase in depression and suicide among children and young people. He remarked that leading scientists are beginning to acknowledge the potential contribution ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind can make.

After a fifteen minute break for tea Michel Boivin spoke about studies in child development, especially the investigation of the way twins develop. With regard to whether nature or nurture has greater influence in child development he quoted another expert in field asking which is more important to a rectangle, the width or the length.

Dan Goleman considered social and emotional learning in the context of reimagining human flourishing. He spoke of teaching young children to think about what would make a given situation better and what would make it worse. He reminded His Holiness that his friend Paul Ekman had commented that maturity is about widening the gap between impulse and taking action. Amongst social and emotional learning’s advantages are that it leads to greater self-awareness and self-management skills, as well as responsible ethical decision making.

His Holiness remarked that the mind can change and that children are susceptible to being taught to analyse. He noted the ancient Indian approach that reading or listening to an explanation is not enough. You have to think about it to really understand it. And having understood something you have make yourself really familiar with it in order to embody that understanding.

As the opening session came to an end, His Holiness left the temple and returned to his residence. Conference participants continued their discussions during the afternoon. His Holiness will join them again tomorrow morning.

Original link & photos:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dalai Lama Celebrates the Day of Miracles

Celebrating the Day of Miracles

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - The courtyard of the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, was packed with people, Tibetans and others, who had gathered to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning. He was escorted from his residence to the throne set up beneath the Temple under the shade of a huge ceremonial umbrella, to the stirring accompaniment of chanting monks. After His Holiness had taken his seat, the Heart Sutra was recited while tea and sweet rice were served.

After reciting a verse calling on gods, demigods and others to listen to the teaching, His Holiness also repeated Nagarjuna’s verse,

Homage to Gautama
Who, through compassion,
Taught the exalted Dharma,
Which leads to the relinquishing of all views.

“Today,” he began, “is the Day of Miracles, celebrated as part of the Great Prayer Festival that has been held in Lhasa for almost 600 years. It commemorates an occasion during the Buddha’s life when he defeated other ascetics in a display of miraculous feats.

“Gods or human beings, we all want to be happy and the root of happiness is in the mind. Liberation may take some time, but we can all find peace of mind if we pay attention to it here and now. Even animals, when they are not in danger, remain relaxed and at peace. What makes us upset is anger, fear and suspicion. It’s the unruliness of our minds that makes us unhappy. The ancient Indian traditions saw dealing with mental afflictions as more important than cultivating sensory pleasure. The Buddhas don’t wash away misdeeds and mental afflictions with water, they show us how to understand reality as it really is—that is how we can overcome them.

“We tend to see things as existing independently on their own part, and when they are attractive we become attached to them. When somehow our access to them is disrupted we get angry. American psychologist Aaron Beck explained to me that in observing people, who he described as prisoners of anger, he saw that they viewed the object of their anger as totally negative. However, he judged that 90% of this response was their own mental projection. Nagarjuna stated similarly that the elimination of karma and mental afflictions, which arise due to our conceptual exaggerations, leads to liberation. Ignorance is a combination of misconception and exaggeration. And it’s because of insights, such as dependent orignation, that today scientists are taking interest in what the Buddha had to say about the mind.”

His Holiness explained that the Buddha did not teach immediately after his enlightenment because he reflected that no one would understand what he had realized. In due course, however, he taught the nature, function and results of the Four Noble Truths.

We cling to the appearance that things exist independently, he said, a distorted view that the Buddha countered by use of reason. Human nature is compassionate, rooted in the love our mothers show us, without which we would not survive. And yet the world is rife with conflict and problems, which occur when we are overwhelmed by anger and attachment. Secular education based on universal values can help us better understand the flaws in this. On the other hand, the Buddha taught that we can put an end to karma and mental afflictions by challenging our view of true existence through meditation on emptiness.

“We need to know who the Buddha is,” His Holiness continued, “which doesn’t mean being able to identify the major and minor marks of his body, but coming to understand his teaching. The more we familiarize ourselves with his teaching, the more we appreciate how scientific it is.

“The Buddha taught different things to different groups of people at different times. He first explained the Four Noble Truths. In the second turning of the wheel of Dharma he explained the perfection of wisdom, and in the third turning he taught about Buddha nature. The Four Noble Truths included a rough account of selflessness, which the perfection of wisdom explains more subtly. In the ‘Unravelling of Thought Sutra’, part of the third turning of the wheel, he clarified that he taught according to his listeners’ different mental disposition.

“Essentially the Buddha taught how to transform the mind, which involves the use of logic and reason. By seeing through our distorted views we can penetrate our mental afflictions. Just as we preserve our health by following a code of physical hygiene, we need to adopt a sense of mental hygiene to achieve and preserve our peace of mind, here and now.”

Noting that the tradition for commemorating the Buddha on this day includes reading one of the Jataka Tales, the stories of the Buddha’s previous lives, His Holiness observed that the collection was compiled by Aryasura, also known as Ashvaghosha, a student of Aryadeva who was the disciple of Nagarjuna. Today’s story concerned a noble, selfless hare, who lived in the forest where he led other animals, an otter, a jackal and a monkey in particular, along the path of virtue.

After reading the opening of the Jataka Tale, His Holiness annnounced that he would also like to read Je Tsongkhapa’s ‘In Praise of Dependent Origination’, transmission of which he received from the Kinnauri Lama, Rigzin Tempa. It begins with a verse of homage to the Conqueror who saw dependent origination and taught it. It is on the basis of this that we can overcome our distorted view of reality that is the root of our mental afflictions. These mental afflictions, His Holiness stressed, are not of the nature of the mind. He remarked that the perfection of wisdom teachings of the second turning of the wheel deal with the emptiness that is the object clear light, while the third turning of the wheel refers to the subjective clear light, the subtle mind that is used to realize emptiness. This mind of clarity and awareness is the basis of the practice of tantra. All Tibetan Buddhist traditions stress the importance of understanding the nature of the mind.

As His Holiness read through the verses he paused to clarify and observe. Understanding dependent origination helps us overcome ignorance, the first of the twelve links of dependent origination, which can involve not understanding the law of causality, or ignorance of how things are. He observed that ‘dependence’ counters the extreme view of eternalism, while ‘origination’ counters nihilism. We know things exist because they affect us, but they only exist by way of designation. In clarifying dependent origination His Holiness mentioned that a result exists in dependence on its cause, but we can also say that something is only a cause because it has a result. There is a similar relation between a whole and its parts.

“The study of logic prevailed in India and we have continued that tradition in Tibet,” His Holiness observed as he was nearing the end of his reading of the text. “The great texts of Indian Buddhist literature were translated into Tibetan, thereby enriching the Tibetan language, which is now the language in which Buddhist ideas can be most accurately expressed. The Buddhist tradition we have kept alive in Tibet is something like a treasure for the world; it’s something for us to be proud of.

“Even after the political fragmentation of Tibet, the Kangyur and Tengyur collections were a source of unity and harmony. They were found and revered in all three provinces of Tibet, as well as adjacent lands like Mongolia and Ladakh. Although I am not very highly educated, I can appreciate that there is knowledge in this literature that can contribute to a wider conversation. For example, the quantum physics view that things have no objective existence resonates with the views of the Mind Only School. The difference may be that in our tradition we try to use our understanding of how things are to transform the mind, which quantum physicists may not do.

“Je Tsongkhapa applied what he learned in practice. We too have to integrate what we have learned into our own minds. We need to study and reflect so that our faith is based on reason. In the past, Namgyal Monastery, the two tantric colleges of Gyutö and Gyumé and nunneries didn’t peruse the philosophical treatises, but at my urging they have taken up their study to good effect. These monks and nuns have set a bright example for the generations to come.”

Dedication prayers were recited as His Holiness descended from the throne. He then walked back to his residence, greeting friends and well-wishers in the smiling crowd on the way.

Original link & photos:

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Lordship Attributes

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
We call God “Lord” all the time, but what does it mean? To say that God is ‘Lord’ includes at least these three things: His control, His authority, and His presence. Let’s briefly look at each. This has nothing to do explictly with the paranormal, but I have long thought (and said) that the greatest need in the church in general, and those interested/involved in the paranormal in particular, is a greater understanding of who God is: theology proper. Knowledge of God and knowledge of are ourselves is inextricably connected in a thousand different ways.  So, for many reasons, the doctrine of God and understanding His Lordship attributes , are of immense practical benefit.
In God’s dealings with Israel, He regularly connects His lordship with His sovereign power; controlling ALL things. He shows mercy and grace to whom He wills, and withholds it from whom he wills (Exodus 33:19); whatever he intends to do, He accomplishes, and nothing or no one can thwart Him. Nothing is too hard for Him (Jer. 32:17) His Word is never void of power (Isa. 55:11) God controls the forces of all reality (visible and invisible) including nature, human history, and free human decisions (including sinful decisions by men and Satan/demons). It is God who is sovereignly powerful in salvation. The following texts show the comprehensive reach of God’s absolute sovereign power.
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
    unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that good and bad come? (Lamentations 3:37-38)
 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11 emphasis added)
 God’s authority is His right to tell His creatures what they must and must not do. Control is about might; authority is about right. Control means that God makes everything happen; authority means He has the right to be in control of all things and the right to be obeyed in all things. Authority implies obligation on our part to obey Him. Just as God told Moses that all the people must obey Yahweh, so Jesus says that we are to obey His commandments as an expression of our love for Him (John 14:15, ect). His authority flows from being both our Creator and our Redeemer—the ascended King. God’s authority is absolute, which means that we should not doubt or question it; it also entails that His lordship must transcend all our other loyalties. And to say that God’s authority is absolute, means that it covers every area of human life. (1 Cor. 10:31) He has the right to order every aspect of our lives; nothing is autonomous, morally neutral, or in a ‘personal compartment’. For example, no matter how much ‘in love’ you may feel, neither your feelings nor your conscience, may sanction illicit sex which God forbids. And there is no quicker way to open yourself to demonic influence than through illicit sex. Under God’s authority, this gives the evil one legal rights.
In a sense, this lordship attribute is the most precious; His commitment to be present with us, personally. The essence of God’s covenant was/is His promise: “I will be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Jer. 7:23; Gen. 17: 7; Ex. 6:7; Rev. 21:3) HE IS WITH US! The transcendent Creator is with/in us, His children. He places His Name upon us and dwells within us. Jesus is “Immanuel”, God with us. (Matt.1:23) At Pentecost, He sent the Holy Spirit as the agent of the Trinity, to dwell within in His children, and be a Trinitarian homemaker within us. (John 14:23) 23 Jesus answered him,“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” How lovely! How comforting and precious!
Power, Authority, and Presence
Since we have been discussing the law and ethics recently, I want to apply these lordship attributes to Christian decision making and the structure of Christian ethics. And I might add, all of these, considered individually or collectively, are supremely comforting!
By His control, God plans and rules nature and history (including our own personal history), so that certain actions are conducive to His glory, and others are not. By His power, God protects us from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Only God knows how many catastrophic and tragic events His power has protected us from, as well as overwhelming temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13) In a sense, every second of our lives, is a “God thing.”
By His authority, He speaks to us clearly in His divine Word (Old and New Testaments), giving us norms to govern our thoughts, actions, and deeds. The Holy Spirit works in tandem with the Word, which He authoritatively inspired.
By His presence, He is with us in our ethical decision making; we are not orphans. His presence within us empowers us with the ability to do good and to set us free from the enslaving power of sin and the devil. (John 8:34-36)
What is the appropriate response to each lordship attribute?
His control teaches us to trust in God and not fret, and that Romans 8:28 is literally true! His absolute sovereign power means that every atom that bounces off of you was ordained by God. It means that in every step you take, you can take comfort in God’s sovereign care for you. He is our mighty fortress!
His authority means that we need to learn to obey Him, in all areas of life. (Deut. 6:1-3).
You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. (Psalm 119:4-6)
God’s control of all things motivates us to trust Him, and His authority motivates us to obey Him.
And when we become aware of God’s presence, we are moved to worship; when the King enters, we bow down! It has been said that all theology should lead to doxology, and none more so than an awareness of God’s intimate presence with us!
Faith/trust, obedience, and worship: these responses to the lordship attributes provide the foundation for ethical decision making. In all ethical decisions, we should consider this triad of lordship attributes: Am I trusting the Lord in this situation, or am I sick with worry/regret? Am I obeying Him, or bowing before an idol? Am I worshipping Him, or am I quick to complain?
One of the most precious promises is Romans 8:28. In order for God to be able to ‘deliver’ on that promise, He has to have absolute, sovereign power over all things; He must have divine authority over all things; and His presence must be intimately near. This triad of Lordship attributes guides the weaving of the ‘tapestry’. God’s lordship attributes ensure the realization of this blessed promise in Romans 8:28 for His children.
And when you combine all three, then we realize that in every situation we find ourselves in (including my sitting in this chair at this exact moment) has been ordained by God, and I meet Him personally in all my steps—or sits! Every trial, every blessing, all the slogging through a tough day, every step, we meet God. Every step is holy ground because He has ordained that step, He has the authority to do so, and His Holy presence is with us in that step. Every foot-fall is holy ground. It is quite amazing, actually, when you consider the implications of how all three of these lordship attributes bring purpose, comfort, confidence, security, significance, and love to every moment of our lives. Power, authority, and presence.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Dalai Lama Says Restrain Yourself from Extreme Self-Centredness

‘Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas’ and Avalokiteshvara Preparation

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India - Arriving at the Kalachakra Maidan early this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama first of all took a seat next to the teaching throne, facing in the opposite direction towards the pavilion containing the Avalokiteshvara mandala. For more than half an hour he undertook the preliminary procedures to prepare himself to begin to grant an Avalokiteshvara empowerment later in the morning. Once they were complete he sat on the throne.

A group of Mongolian monks gave a stirring recitation of the ‘Heart Sutra’ in their native language. When they were finished most of them offered His Holiness the sapphire blue silk scarves favoured by Mongolians. They were followed by a mixed group of Japanese who chanted the ‘Heart Sutra’ again in Japanese to the rhythmic accompaniment of a ‘mokugyo’ – a wooden fish bell. Elderly monks of Namgyal Monastery offered the mandala and the threefold representation of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind.

“First we’ll read the ‘Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas’, His Holiness announced. “Because the author Togme Sangpo lived at the Ngulchu Hermitage, Ngulchu was added to his name. He was also referred to as ‘Gyalsay’, which means ‘son of the conquerors’, to indicate that he was a bodhisattva. One of his contemporaries was Buton Rinchen Drub who had pains in his arms and asked Togme Sangpo, as a bodhisattva, to blow on them in blessing. He apparently experienced some relief as a result.

“Another story about Togme Sangpo tells how he was robbed on a mountain pass of offerings that had just been given to him in the village below. He was good-hearted enough to warn the robber which direction to take to avoid the patrons who had donated the offerings in order to keep out of trouble.”

The first verse of the text advises listening to teachings, reflecting on them and then meditating on what has been understood to thoroughly familiarize the mind with it. His Holiness remarked on Buddha Shakyamuni’s courage and determination to engage in spiritual practice for countless aeons. Once he had attained enlightenment he taught the path from his own experience. Where verse 10 advises ‘develop the altruistic attitude’, His Holiness asked, “If you remain selfish, who will trust you? The more altruistic you are, the more you will also fulfil your own goals.”

He told the story of a monk from Labrang Tashi Khyil who was due to be executed by Chinese soldiers in Tibet. He asked the executioner to wait and made a prayer to his spiritual master—“Bless me to take on the negativities of others and give whatever excellent qualities I may have to them.” He then told the soldier, “Now you can shoot me.”

Verses 15 and 16 correspond to the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’ and verses 18 and 19 counter pride. From verse 25 the author explains the six perfections—generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. His Holiness drew attention to the first lines of verse 36, ‘whatever you are doing, ask yourself, “What’s the state of my mind?” He observed that Togme Sangpo’s text is very useful for people otherwise swayed by anger and attachment.

Telling the audience that monks of Dzongkar Chödey had asked him to give the transmission of a text he had written called the ‘Inseparability of the Spiritual Master and Avalokiteshvara’, His Holiness read it. He pointed out that some understanding of emptiness is essential before engaging in the practice of tantra. He mentioned that emptiness was explicitly taught during the second turning of the wheel of dharma, which deals with the object clear light. During the third turning of the wheel, in the Tathagata-garbha or Buddha Nature Sutra, he taught about the subjective clear light of the mind.

He noted that all states of mind have a basis of clarity and awareness and that both object clear light and subjective clear light are employed in Highest Yoga Tantra. He remarked that object clear light corresponds to emptiness of intrinsic existence, emptiness of self (rang-tong), while the subjective clear light of the mind is empty of other (shen-tong).

His Holiness then read from the same booklet a sadhana and a prayer to Avalokiteshvara to guide practitioners from life to life.

Following Nagarjuna’s definition of the fourfold sangha as consisting of fully ordained monks and nuns as well as lay men and women holding precepts, His Holiness offered to give lay person’s precepts to those who wished to take them. He followed this with the granting of bodhisattva vows following the style and ceremony described in Asanga’s text, ‘Bodhisattva Grounds’. His Holiness recalled receiving bodhisattva vows, which he now renews daily, from Ling Rinpoche here in Bodhgaya. Prior to that ceremony Ling Rinpoche had taken them afresh before the statue of the Buddha inside the Mahabodhi Stupa.

“The main practice in relation to these vows,” His Holiness clarified, “is to restrain yourself from extreme self-centredness, to avoid indulging in a self-cherishing attitude. If you can do that, you won’t breach the 18 root downfalls or the 42 secondary commitments.”

His Holiness then proceeded to go through the preparatory procedures for the Avalokiteshvara empowerment that he will give tomorrow. This included distribution of ‘protection cords’ and pieces of purifying kusha grass. Reminding his audience that the appearance of the Buddha and his teaching is as rare as an udumbara flower, His Holiness urged them to rejoice that they had been able to hear apt instructions, and to take the lay person’s vows, bodhisattva vows, as well as the preliminaries for the Avalokiteshvara empowerment.

As he climbed into the car to return to the Tibetan Temple, His Holiness turned to wave to the crowd that had apparently been transformed into a field of kusha grass.

original link & photos:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Concerning the ‘Open Letter’: The Continuity and Discontinuity of Old Testament Law

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Referencing the 2-9-18 blog An Open Letter to Christian Pparanormal Investigators (with signatures)

It has become apparent to me that the main objection to our ‘Open Letter to Christian Paranormal Investigators’ is the view that the Old Testament moral law has been abrogated, or done away with, by the New Covenant. I wish we had more time to deal with that issue in the ‘Letter’ but it had already had become long enough!
Four preliminary comments: First, those who reject our summons to repentance are assuming this is merely an OT matter but the NT affirms the same principles!(as we’ll see) Second, the burden of proof really lies on those who jettison large portions of God’s holy Word as being not relevant for today, especially in light of Matthew 5:17ff and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. (I’m doing this because honest questions deserve an honest reply)Third, we all have biblical principles we struggle with, and we need to recognize when we have a vested interest, and how that colors our interpretation. I can honestly say that in this case, I have no vested interest except God’s truth. Lastly, we are not being divisive: the division already existed; we just addressed it.
However, any serious student of the bible will recognize a tension between verses in the NT which uphold the OT moral law, and verses which seem to abrogate it. Below are two sections of verses which are representative of both views; I’ve labeled them ‘discontinuity texts’ (OT moral law seems to be discontinued) and “continuity texts” (those which affirm the continuing validity of the OT, especially the moral law)
Discontinuity texts
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.(Gal. 3:23-26)
Continuity texts
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)
12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (Romans 7:12) 
The text in Hebrews 8 actually says that the old covenant has become obsolete and is ‘growing old,” and ready to vanish!  I’ve included other such verses which affirm that, in some sense, the old covenant is obsolete, enslaving, and temporary, ect. So, we must affirm that, in some sense, at least part of the Old Testament has become ‘obsolete’. We have to because the bible clearly says so. But how has it become obsolete, and why? Only an exegesis of the text can answer that. There are other verses which affirm that every inch of the OT is inspired and profitable for instruction, encouragement, and for teaching unto righteous living—a guide for how to please God. How can we reconcile these two emphasis? Perhaps the key is the word “emphasis”; context of what is being discussed makes all the difference in interpretation.
So, the IMPROPER (but common)thing to do is to simply choose sides, and prefer one over the other; jumping ‘whole hog’ on one emphasis and totally ignoring the other. However, a basic rule of hermeneutics is to compare scripture with scripture; meaning that we need to do the hard word figuring out how these two ‘seemingly’ contradictory viewpoints can be meshed. I say ‘seemingly’ because we know the bible neither errs nor contradicts itself. Surely we all can agree on that, right? The integrity of Scripture demands that we do that, so that we may rightly divide the Word of truth.
Another way of putting it is that we need to find the proper balance between the continuities between the Old Covenant and the New, as well as the discontinuities between the Old and the New. Surely, that is preferable to simply jumping ‘whole hog’ on one position or the other, while not doing justice to the full range of biblical teaching on the relation between the two covenants. That is, to simply say that all Old Testament moral law is done away with is not proper, and neither is denying that the New Covenant is NEW and that the Old is obsolete, in some sense!
The context of Hebrews 8 is that Jesus is shown to be the eternal High Priest, ministering from heaven in the true tabernacle and enacting the better promises of the New Covenant (v. 1-3).Jesus is God with us, Immanuel. But note that the fault is not found primarily with the Mosaic law itself, but with the people’s failure to keep the law (seen in quote from Jeremiah, v.9). But even in that, it serves a valuable purpose: exposing our sin and need for a savior (see Romans 7:7).
The larger context of Hebrews is that Jesus replaced the shadows (V.5)of the ceremonial/temple practices of the Mosaic law with the once for all sacrifice of Himself. Hence, we may say that the Old Covenant is ‘obsolete’ in that the reality which the shadows pointed to has arrived, and He ushered in the New Covenant.  Since the New Covenant has arrived the Old is now Old! Specifically, the obsoleteness means that Christians are no longer living in the Old Covenant; we no longer look to the earthly tabernacle and its priestly functions. We look to Jesus and His finished work on the cross! At the timing of when Hebrews was written, the temple was devoid of God’s presence, and had become the synagogue of Satan because of rejecting its Messiah. In a sense, the writer is saying: behold the New Covenant in all it’s beauty is now here! The Old Covenant was powerless to bring eternal salvation. Once the King had come, He established a new kingdom. Beyond that, the meaning of this text can only be fully explained by comparing it with other scripture.
The passage in Romans 15 is clearly referring to the Old Testament, which is given to us as a gift: to teach us, encourage us, and to instill hope. Pretty clear, isn’t it?
In Matthew 5, Jesus says that He came to fulfill the OT and not to abolish it (Law and prophets means the entire OT). These verses are the key to interpreting the entire Sermon on the Mount and indeed the whole of Jesus’ ministry. How did Jesus fulfill the OT? And how does that square with the text in Hebrews 8? All of the OT points to Christ (thus, serving a valuable function); in its specific messianic predictions of Him; fulfilling of sacrificial system; many events in Israel’s history foreshadowed His life as God’s true Son; in the Laws which only He obeyed perfectly; and He was the divine embodiment of all the Wisdom literature. This passage and 2 Timothy 3 clearly teach that Jesus did not replace/abolish the OT but fulfilled it. So, whatever Hebrews 8:13 entails it is substantially clarified by these texts.
But Jesus goes further: in v. 18 He confirms the full divine authority, and current applicability, of the entire OT, as scripture for all time (“until heaven and earth pass away”), and its ethical normativity for NT believers, as re-stated by Paul in 2 Tim. 3.
Hence, the entire OT is an expression of God’s will for His NT children. Furthermore, Jesus warns against relaxing or doing away with any OT laws (correcting any wrong interpretations of Hebrews 8)—with the proviso that He had stated regarding fulfilling the OT law. Some laws, as we’ll see, must not be literally practiced, but still have divine authority and ethical normativity in application, such as for teaching us regarding the Person and work of Christ.
James refers to the ‘perfect’ law (referring to Mosaic law) as ‘the law of liberty” (1:25)—for Christians. Here is where we are getting to the heart of the matter! The Old Testament law in itself did not have the ability to empower sinners to obey it. Thus, the Old Testament law did not liberate people but ‘enslaved them’ (Gal.3) But, and this is key, the OT law is now one of “liberty” for us because it (the OT Law) comes with the liberating word of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts. Please read that again. Thus, for New Testament believers, the entire OT law is now the “law of liberty”, which we are now commanded and enabled to obey! We are now His children, with greater privileges, power, and responsibilities.  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead empowers us to live righteously.
Perhaps this analogy will help: suppose you are hiking a mountain and someone hands you a 25-pound bag you have to carry in your hands. Very soon it becomes an intolerable burden, and lactic acid is burning your arms. However, if you take that same load and place it in a nice, sturdy backpack on your back, then the load becomes hardly noticeable as you bound up the trail. The load is the same, its just been evenly distributed in something that was designed to carry it. The same load which once burdened you beyond your capacity is now entirely bearable.
In similar fashion (and no analogy can do the gospel justice), with the weight of the law carried by Christ (as He both lived it perfectly for us, and died for our transgressions against it for us), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live the law; out of gratitude for God’s grace—that is liberating! The burdensomeness of the Law has been taken out of our hands and placed on ‘Christ’s back.’. Jesus carried the burden for us, and the once burdensome law is now a law of liberty instead of burning the lactic acid in our spiritual muscles. Yes, we still struggle against sin (Gal. 5:17) but we are forgiven and we have the Holy Spirit in full measure!
When you look at the context of Galatians 5:1, it is dealing with the controversy over the OT ceremonial law as a means of salvation. In Gal. 5, as in chapter one, the issue was people reverting to the law to be saved, which was never its purpose; from Adam onwards, we have always been saved by grace through faith.(see Romans 4) Hebrews 8 and Gal. 3 and 5 concern the discontinuance of the ceremonial law and temple complex, as well as correcting heretical views of salvation, and the Holy Spirit’s enabling us to obey OT law, so that is not burdensome. Obedience to OT law as a guide for pleasing God was not the issue in these texts; it wasn’t the emphasis. Because of the complexity of OT law and its relation to the NT, it is imperative that we pay careful attention to each text’s context or emphasis.
Furthermore, all the continuity texts above affirm that every word, every letter, is inspired by God Himself, and is still useful for instruction, encouragement, and training in righteousness for us today. Indeed, the OT was the only bible most of the first generation Christians had for making ethical decisions (along with oral recollection of Jesus’ words), as the NT was still being formed. And it served its purpose well until the full canon was formed.
When you compare scripture with scripture, then Jesus’ and Paul’s words clarify the enigmatic text in Hebrews 8. But that still does not clarify the distinction between the continuities and discontinuities totally.
The theologian John Frame has a useful tool for dealing with this conundrum: he speaks of general normativity and literal normativity. Let me explain.
The idea is that ALL OT laws are applicable today, in some way, because, since they are divinely inspired, they are normative and require implicit obedience from us. General normativity means that a particular text is not to be literally obeyed, but the underlying, general principle is normative for us and must be applied/obeyed (hence, general normativity).
 Literally normative texts are also inspired by God and express timeless, and transcultural truths which are to be literally obeyed; they are normative in a literal way (hence, literal normativity) How does one distinguish between the two?
Theologians have distinguished between three kinds of OT law: ceremonial, civil, and moral. These are rough and ready distinctions because there is overlap and they are often mixed together, as in Leviticus.  According to Frame (and many others, including myself), it is only the moral law which is LITERALLY normative today, while the ceremonial and civil laws are generally normative.
Any law which is not ceremonial or civil is a moral law.  Note that all of the OT is ethically normative in this scheme (consistent with Matt. 5 and 2 Tim. 3); its just that the civil and ceremonial laws are generally normative. What does that mean? It means that they are not to obeyed literally, but they still are inspired teaching with absolute divine authority regarding important instruction that imposes ethical obligation upon us. Both common sense and careful exegesis of each passage is needed in determining which texts are ceremonial, civil, or moral and how they are all to be applied in our situations, in an appropriate way.
Ceremonial law mostly involves the OT temple, priestly duties, and sacrificial system. An example of ceremonial law and how it is generally normative is Leviticus 1-5. In this section, the five major kinds of sacrifices are discussed: burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering.  The NT is adamant (e.g. Hebrews)that these are not to be offered anymore, as Jesus embodied on the cross all five of these sacrifices. So, in Hebrews 8 we can see why, in this sense, these laws are obsolete! However, they are still generally normative because the ‘continuity texts’ above tells us ALL of the OT is useful for instruction and training in righteous living—belief as well as and practice. And in this case, a study of these five offerings can deeply enrich ones understanding (and be encouraged by it!)of the full-orbed nature of the atonement; it is like a finely cut diamond with many lovely facets! If we had the time, we could show how Jesus fulfilled all five of these sacrifices/offerings. That is how we apply those verses today; they are inspired instruction which is still normative for us to obey in terms of understanding how each of these offerings shed light on how we are to view the atonement of Christ, and how to live as a result. Is not a richer understanding of the Person and work of Christ a good thing?! That is general normativity. So, though they are “obsolete” in one sense (not to be literally offered), they are also generally normative in that they teach unchanging principles regarding the nature of the once, for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and how we should then live.
The civil law has to do with the laws of Israel as a theocratic nation under the kingship of Yahweh, which obviously are not literally applicable today either (just like the ceremonial) because the ‘promised land’ is now the entire earth. There is no longer a theocratic nation under God.These laws were designed to show the holy nature of God and of His people, who were surrounded by pagan nations. Circumcision would be an example. Civil laws, generally speaking, were not meant to be extrapolated to other nations.
Another example of civil law, which is generally normative today, is Deuteronomy 22:8 :“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” Huh? In ancient times, roofs were often flat and were used to sleep on when it was hot. A parapet was basically a railing, and the principle was concern for the value of human life and safety. It is not literally normative today because we are not a theocratic nation and we don’t live on our roofs! However, this text is divinely inspired and we need to ask how can it be applied today?  Remember it is generally normative and we are ethically obligated to apply it.  An example of application might be a homeowner who has a pool, who builds a fence around their pool out of concern for the value of human life, and safety of the two year old child in the home/neighborhood. Do you see the general normativity principle? Its not literally applied but the text is divinely inspired and imposes upon us ethical obligation regarding belief and practice, but we have to use common sense and the Spirit’s guidance in properly applying it.
These are examples of what general normativity mean and ‘looks like’. It does justice to the texts above, which affirm that every inch of the OT is inspired and applicable, IN SOME WAY, but not necessarily literally.
We come now to ‘literally normative’ texts. These are moral texts—neither ceremonial nor civil—and ARE meant to believed and practiced by NT believers in a literal fashion; either in belief or practice, or both. There are texts which are literally normative: they are to be believed and/or imitated literally today, because they express timeless, objective moral values stemming from God’s holy nature, which were not shadows of the coming New Covenant, nor civil laws for His temporary theocratic nation, but express God’s unchanging attitude towards certain beliefs and practices—both good and bad, which can be seen throughout the OT and NT. God’s commands regarding pagan beliefs and practices, such as communication with the spirit realm, are a clear example of literally normative texts. These are literally normative for believers today, and not just generally normative. They must be obeyed in the letter and spirit of the law.
In stating it this way, I think we now have a way to safely navigate this confusing terrain. On the one hand, we can affirm with Hebrews that some practices/laws were abrogated, while also affirming that ALL of the OT law is inspired and profitable for instruction and training in godly living, and in some sense, still normatively applicable today; and that some laws are still to be followed literally. Common sense, and careful exegesis, is needed in determining which texts are which—generally normative or literally normative.
The text in Deuteronomy 18 is clearly in this literal normative category as it is neither civil nor ceremonial in nature; not to mention the fact that a messianic prophecy is found in it (v 15). I submit that this way of looking at the two sets of texts above is the best way of doing justice to the injunction to ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’ It affirms both the continuity and the discontinuity of the OT.  The moral law is what is neither ceremonial or civil in nature, and expresses a clear , explicit moral obligation based on the character of God—which is unchanging and was not restricted to Israel. Remember that the Canaanites were destroyed in Deut, 18 because of their systemic spiritism, which God has always hated and always will.
 Remember that Jesus quoted 3 times from Deuteronomy when being tempted and said ‘gegreptai’…”It is written”, in past perfect tense (something written in the past with current normative authority). Are you ok with jettisoning the moral laws which Jesus quoted as His sword?  Jesus modeled this principle of the moral law in the OT having binding, literal normative authority over us.
Deut 18 is perfect example because of how clear it is; it contrasts morally illegitimate and morally legitimate means of acquiring knowledge of the spirit realm. Are these not timeless? And God appeals to His own nature in expounding these laws. How can these be temporary when God ‘s nature is unchanging? Such as, ‘be holy for I am holy’. It has nothing to do with ceremony/temple, nor Israel as a theocratic state, but specific moral commands, which express God’s heart for all time. We must seek God’s prophets/apostles vs seeking knowledge via attempts to contact the dead or through psychics or mediums. Has God’s hatred of paganism and the occult changed in the NT? Absolutely not!
As we said in “ the Open Letter”, the latter half of Deut. 18 contains a Messianic prophecy. So, to be consistent, those who reject the validity of Deut 18 have to toss out the prophecy as well. Some texts are clearer than others, but none are more clear than this one. Common sense would dictate that you see this as different from ceremonial or civil law; it is our unchanging God expressing His unchanging laws regarding how we approach the spirit realm, and His persistent expressions of hatred for attempting to communicate with the dead, from the dawn of time though the entire span of redemptive history.
Without being simplistic, the heart of the pagan/occult belief (with all its vast variety) and practice is the rejection of the distinction between the Creator and His creation, as manifested through multiple means of attempting to communicate with the spirit realm: that is, attempting to acquire illicit knowledge via necromancy and psychics/mediums.
For our purposes, we must ask: are God’s OT laws regarding attempted communication with the dead, and the use of psychics and mediums, abrogated or not? Are they generally normative or literally normative? Do we simply glean principles from them or are they an expression of God’s eternal and unchanging character, which are to be literally obeyed?  Does not the text in Deut. 18 give us timeless, literal truths regarding the way to determine a true prophet? Are not the injunctions to obey God’s prophets, especially the coming Divine Prophet, literally normative? So, why should we reject the illicit means of communicating with the spirit realm, which the Holy One of Israel has hated since the shape shifting appearance of Satan in the garden? The text below from Isaiah shows the same principle of contrast: seeking wisdom from mediums/necromancers or from God’s holy law? This is many centuries after Moses, so it shows the persistency of God’s detestation of His children’s illicit attempts to engage in spiritism and mediums.
19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20)
To Christian Paranormal Investigators, I would say: shouldn’t you seek wisdom from the Word of the Living God and not from demons? To the teaching (the law) and the testimony! Amen!
Dispensational theology (Schofield Bible, Charles Ryrie, ect) has introduced an unfortunate view toward the law as well as the gospel itself (easy believism, which is a false gospel)—totally disregarding this distinction between general and literal normativity. In some forms, it views the different covenants as water tight compartments. In reality, they (covenants) are progressive and assume and build upon the preceding one. The divine words given to Adam were sufficient for him, but not for Noah because of the coming flood, so God graciously gave Noah more divine words which added to the Adamic covenant. But it did not displace the covenant with Adam; rather it enriched it with progressive revelation. The covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David all assumed and built upon the preceding covenants; progressive revelation.
Think of all the OT covenants and NT covenant as concentric circles, with the NT on the outside—building on its very Jewish heritage. There is a very real sense in which the Mosaic covenant was the richest of the OT covenants because God revealed so much more of Himself to His people. : 6 “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children. (Deut. 4:6-9 emphasis added).
I say all this because some people have the mistaken notion that the Mosaic covenant was totally miserable and is to be completely rejected by NT believers. How sadly mistaken! Read psalm 119 to get a godly OT perspective on the Mosaic law. Would that we had such a fervor and love for God’s law which teaches us so much about Himself, ourselves, the world, and how to love others!
The first ethical obligation/law is found in Gen. 1:24ff-subdue the earth and fill it. The institution of marriage is a law of God, as is the cultural mandate; the distinction between male and female is a law of God-are we free from those? Do you reject these because they are OT?
 The prohibition to not eat of the tree of illicit knowledge is prior to the Fall and hence a creational ordinance. At the heart of paganism is this persistent attempt to eat of the tree of illicit, hidden knowledge. Paganism at its core is some attempt to communicate with the spirit realm, just as investigators are doing.
So, I ask again, which laws are you referring to as being abrogated? It seems odd to me that many of the same people that bemoan that the 10 commandments have been taken out of the classroom, also say that is the Mosaic law that has been abrogated. But why pick on Moses when law was given from the very beginning in the Garden? And the Mosaic law was a good thing (Rom. 7:7,12)—designed to help re-establish the creational paradise in one nation, Israel--as well as pointing us to see our sinfulness and need for Christ’s grace? (Romans 1-4)
Let me ask you this: what is God's perspective on pagan beliefs and practices in the OT and NT? Does God like paganism? Is He indifferent to it? Is it not true that from the dawn of time, and right up until today, the main enemy of God and His truth has been paganism? Did not God punish Adam and Eve for what was essentially an occutlic/pagan sin-speaking to a spirit being/Satan to achieve secret knowledge? Did not Adam know that He was speaking illicitly? Did He not judge and utterly destroy Canaanite countries for their paganism and occult practices—which included spiritism and mediums? Has not pagan beliefs and practices been the chief enemy of true religion since the Fall? Did not the prophets persistently plead with Gods people to stop their spiritual adultery due to succumbing to paganism—which included spiritism, and the use of mediums/psychics? Do not the psalms, which many of you read and cherish, frequently condemn paganism and delight in God’s law? Do not the historical books record the sad history of Gods people flirting with paganism, and that they were severely judged for it, and ultimately exiled?
So, the 3 sections of the OT—the Law, the Prophets and the writings are all in agreement—paganism breaks Gods heart and is viewed as spiritual adultery. Over and over and over and over and over again, Gods prophets rail against this especially repugnant sin—paganism—and its lustful attempts to communicate with the spirit realm.
From my study, I cannot think of a motif in scripture that is more persistently repeated than God’s utter detestation of all attempts at illegitimate communication with the spirit realm. This speaks to the fact that this is a literally normative principle and not generally normative. It is certainly and most emphatically not abrogated, as it is repeated in the NT as well!
“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations.” (Ezekiel 6 8-9, emphasis added)
I recently read through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and was astonished at how persistently God expressed, in the most graphic and shocking terms, His utter hatred of pagan beliefs and practices. When I read the text above, in which we have a glimpse into the holy chambers of God’s heart, and He says that the abominable practices, such as listed in Deut 18, break His heart…”I have been broken…”—I just stared at that text for a long time and wept. How can we look at our actions, knowing that they have caused God to be broken, and callously continue on?
Pagan practices and beliefs that God so passionately hates, such as are being practiced by paranormal investigators,  is a thread that runs from not only Genesis to Malachi, but from Genesis to Revelation.  Does God hate paganism or not? Yes or no? And if what you are doing is pagan/occultic in nature then its clear what God thinks about it.
I think we have done justice to the twin emphasis of continuity and discontinuity, and being faithful to the bibles teaching as a whole regarding OT moral law. Given how persistently God rails against paganism and the occult, then it would need to be explicitly stated to be abrogated in the NT…but that is not what we see.
And then we come to the NT. Has God’s character changed? Has His blazing hatred of communicating with the dead via spiritism or mediums evolved?  Say what you will about some specific laws, but can you picture Jesus, Paul, or Peter consulting a medium or attempting to contact the dead?  The notion is so outrageous that I cannot even imagine it. They never attempted to contact the dead in the gospels or Acts. Instead we see Peter and Paul confronting those engaged in occultism. And the only spiritual entities Jesus spoke to were demons, whom He was exorcising—neither Jesus nor His apostles ever communicated with deceased humans, as paranormal investigators are attempting to do all the time.
 In Acts 19 recent converts expressed their true repentance by a book burning of 6 million dollars worth (in today’s currency) of occult books and paraphernalia. Would you burn, or sell, your investigation devices, as Dana Emmanuel did, as a sign of repentance?
In Galatians 5—we see that ‘sorcery’ (humanly invented means of communicating with spirit realm) will prevent someone from inheriting the kingdom.  That is intensely sobering.
In Revelation 21 anything smacking of the occult is forbidden in Gods holy new heavens and earth.  These are but a sampling of NT teaching on pagan beliefs and practices.
Jesus IS the New Covenant. Should we not embrace our Creator and redeemers view of OT law (Matt. 5)?
The purpose of this article was to show that the objection to our Letter, that was based on the rejection of the bible’s clear condemnation of pagan practices, because the OT laws were allegedly abolished, has been shown to wrongheaded in several ways. God hates all attempts to communicate with the spirit realm, and Christian paranormal investigators must repent of their current practices, or risk not inheriting the kingdom. God is tender and gracious; ready to forgive, if we repent.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dalai Lama Discusses Human Values

Talking to Bihari Students & Inaugurating the Wat Pa Buddhagaya Vanaram Temple

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India - A cheer went up from an estimated 7000 local Bihari students when His Holiness the Dalai Lama stepped onto the stage at the Kalachakra Maidan this morning. He had been invited to address them by the Alice Project, an educational foundation set up by an Italian,

After offerings of welcome had been made, His Holiness was requested to release Giacomin’s latest book, ‘Universal Ethics’. Giacomin then gave a welcoming speech in which he explained how he had met His Holiness in Dharamsala more than 30 years ago. His Holiness told him then that it would be excellent if he could continue to work with education in India. Consequently, the Alice Project, focused on sustainable education and a culture of peace in an intercultural and interreligious school, was launched in Sarnath in 1994 with branches established later in Bodhgaya and Arunachal Pradesh.

He said that a major aim of the project was to find a solution to the current crisis in education that results in students showing a lack of discipline, poor attention and a general fall in academic performance. One reason for this is that modern education tends to have materialistic goals with too little time given to inner values. The Alice Project schools make a point of providing opportunities for meditation and exploring ways to lead a happy life.

“We have to know our own minds and reach beyond the limits of selfishness,” Giacomin asserted, “and we have to realise there are no barriers between ourselves and others. We focus on the inner change from which discipline and altruism are born, which also provides for improved academic performance. It is possible, as His Holiness has urged, to revive the ancient knowledge of India and combine it with modern education. On behalf of the students and staff of our schools, I’d like to thank His Holiness for meeting us here in this sacred place.”

“Good morning everybody, did you all sleep well last night?” His Holiness asked from the podium, “I hope everyone’s mind is fresh and alert.

“It’s a great honour for me to be here and I’m happy to meet so many members of the younger generation, as well as my old friend from Italy who has been trying to fulfil our educational goals.

“Time is always moving on; it never stands still. The past has gone. Only a memory remains, and the future has not yet come, which gives us an opportunity to create a better world. Young people like you represent the future. It rests on your shoulders and in your hands.

“Basically, in order to be happy, every living thing, even these flowers, despite their having no mind, wants to survive. For human beings and animals trying to survive is a part of trying to be happy. All of us want to lead a happy life. Since we human beings have such marvellous brains we have the ability to think over the past, to learn from it and to plan for the future. We’re also able to look at reality from different angles. So, we need to use our brains to explore what brings us unhappiness and suffering and what makes us happy.

“Education is a key factor because education increases our ability to think and analyse how things come about. Although none of us wants problems we face a host of them, many of which are of our own creation. Our existing modern education is inadequate for ensuring that as individuals, families and communities we are happy. This is something we need to think seriously about. One of the reasons is that our existing education tends to have materialistic goals, whereas for humanity to be happy depends on peace of mind. We have to give serious thought to how to incorporate inner values into our education on a secular basis.

“These days I am committed to trying to revive ancient Indian knowledge about the workings of the mind and emotions. We need to understand better how to tackle our negative emotions through reason and analysis from a strictly secular point of view.

“There is a long tradition of karuna and ahimsa in this country and one of the ways they are expressed is in the thriving of religious harmony. At the same time India’s secular stance of showing equal respect to all religious or spiritual traditions makes it a model for others to follow.

“You young students shouldn’t just accept what you’re taught. You should think about it, analyse it, examine the reasons behind it, and compare it to other points of view. This was the spirit of Nalanda, the great University that flourished in Bihar. Think about how everything is dependent on other factors.

“As I said, the future is in your hands. You young people have the opportunity to make a better world, but you’ll have to make an effort. I may not live to see it, but if you make the attempt, in 20 to 30 years the world could become a much more peaceful place. Education is one factor, but within that we need to pay more attention to tackling our disturbing emotions. This will entail adopting a sense of emotional hygiene corresponding to the hygiene with which we protect our physical health.”

In responding to students questions His Holiness pointed out that consciousness has no beginning and that our experience of happiness and suffering is due to our own karma. He confirmed that anger is the factor that most often disturbs our peace of mind, whereas karuna or compassion is its polar opposite. With regard to religious practice he said it’s fine for individuals to think in terms of ‘one faith and one truth’. However, as far as the wider community is concerned we need to accept that there are several faiths and many aspects of the truth. He reminded his audience of his admiration for India as the only country where all the world’s major religious live together in harmony.

The practice of concentration and insight—shamatha and vipashyana—common to many of India’s indigenous spiritual traditions has given rise to experience in transforming the mind. It is understood that suffering results from mental afflictions like anger and hatred. Their source is ignorance and to counter that we need to cultivate wisdom.

His Holiness left the stage to the students’ fulsome applause. He then drove the short distance to the Thai Bharat Society’s Wat Pa Buddhagaya Vanaram Temple behind the Mahabodhi Stupa compound. He was received on arrival by Phra Bhodhinandhamunee and Dr. Ratneswar Chakma and paused to watch graceful Thai dancers reminiscent of offering goddesses giving a welcoming performance.

His Holiness turned down the offer of a ride in an e-rickshaw and circumambulated the temple on his own feet along with his hosts. He blessed the Sangharaja Kuti on the way. Inside the richly decorated new temple with its gilded statues of Buddhas and Arhats and scenes from the Buddha’s life painted on the walls, His Holiness sat with the senior monks. Verses of refuge and the Mangala Sutta were recited as the dancers performed once more.

Dr. Ratneswar Chakma formally welcomed His Holiness, who he described as a model of compassion. Phra Bhodhinandhamunee declared the Thai Bharat Society’s intention to provide opportunities for all comers to learn and practise meditation in the new temple.

When it came to His Holiness’s turn to speak, he acknowledged that historically the Pali Tradition derives directly from the Buddha’s first teachings, which make its followers the most senior disciples. Followers of the Sanskrit Tradition also rely on the Perfection of Wisdom teachings that came about as part of the second turning of the wheel of dharma.

“I have great respect for all our Dharma transmissions, just as I respect both theistic and non-theistic religious traditions, because humanity benefits from them. Today, even scientists are showing interest in what Buddhism has to say about the mind and emotions. The knowledge we’ve kept alive remains relevant because it can help reduce our negative emotions and the power they have over us.

“Discussions I’ve had with scientists have been mutually helpful. One of the few casualties has been my belief in traditional Buddhist cosmology. However, it’s clear to me that the Buddha came to teach the Four Noble Truths not to map or measure the universe. He introduced a realistic approach to suffering, an approach that is also scientific. I’d like to see scholars, scientists and practitioners gather here and sit in a circle to discuss the content of the Tripitaka, the three collections of scriptures.

“We have to study if we are to understand what the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are, what the cessation of suffering is, how to achieve it and what the path implies. Of course, we also need to understand selflessness.

“In the 70s, some of our monks went to Bangkok where they learned Thai as well as participating in various aspects of practice. They’re old now, but we could send young monks again and welcome Thai monks to our monasteries. Tibetans could learn Thai and Thais could learn Tibetan. There are some Buddhist teachings only available in Pali and others only available in the Sanskrit tradition. We should engage in research and an exchange of experience. We need closer relations and a common effort to present Buddhism in the 21st century.

“The essence of Buddhism is compassion or karuna. Since the world needs more compassion we should look into how we Buddhists can contribute to it. It’s not a question of converting others to Buddhism, but of seeing how we can contribute to human peace of mind, by, for example, showing how to tackle our negative emotions. That would really benefit humanity.”

Following a vote of thanks and a presentation of gifts, everyone present was invited to partake in a sumptuous lunch which offered a choice of delicious Thai and Indian food. When that was over and a series of commemorative photographs had been taken, His Holiness returned to the Tibetan Temple. Tomorrow, he plans to offer Bhikshu ordination to 60 monks.

original link & photos:

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