Sunday, November 02, 2008

Proof' David slew Goliath found as Israeli archaeologists unearth 'oldest ever Hebrew text'

By Matthew Kalman

Astounding new evidence has been unearthed in Israel that could confirm the biblical story of King David.

Until now, almost nothing has been found  that would prove the biblical account of a shepherd boy from the 10th century BC who slew the giant Goliath and went on to become the King of Israel who founded Jerusalem.

But today Hebrew University archaeology professor Yosef Garfinkel announced the discovery of a tiny, but potentially invaluable, piece of pottery at the site of the ruins of an ancient fortified city south-west of Jerusalem dated to the time of King David.

Enlarge   Proof: Yossi Garfinkel displays the ceramic shard bearing a Hebrew inscription that may be evidence King David slew Goliath

Yossi Garfinkel displays the ceramic shard bearing a Hebrew inscription that may be evidence supporting the biblical story of David and Goliath

Garfinkel said that it carried the earliest-known Hebrew inscription, some 850 years  earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Scholars are still trying to decipher the full text of the inscription, but Garfinkel said they are excited at the prospect of a link to David because they have already translated the words for "king," "judge," and  "slave" , which he said suggested it was some sort of official note from the time of his reign.

Until now, scholars have been unable to say whether King David was indeed the  heroic, psalm-composing monarch depicted in the Bible or the local and unimportant leader of a small tribe.

Enlarge   The archaeological site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa, seen in an undated aerial photograph, where the shard was found

The archaeological site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa, seen in an undated aerial photograph, where the shard was found

Only one biblical-era inscription with the words "House of David" has ever been  discovered, leading some scholars to question whether King David existed at all.

The pottery fragment was inscribed with five rows of text in black ink divided by black lines written in an early Hebrew-Canaanite script.


Archaeologists also found lamps, pottery jars and other items. Carbon-14 tests  carried out at Oxford University dated them to the 10th century BC, the era according to the Old Testament of King David and his son Solomon, who built the Temple in Jerusalem.

The ruins of the Elah Valley fortress was discovered  in 2003 near the modern Israeli city of Beit Shemesh in the Judean Hills, south-west of  Jerusalem. The huge complex is spread over nearly six acres and surrounded by a 700-metre long city wall built with stones weighing up to eight tons each. 

Bible come true? David with the head of Goliath by William Daniels

Bible come true? David with the head of Goliath by William Daniels

Enlarge   Yossi Garfinkel is seen at the excavation site

Yossi Garfinkel is seen at the excavation site

Detailed excavations began only earlier this year.

The fortress would have controlled the ancient trading route from Jerusalem to the coast and overlooks the plain where David engaged in his legendary mortal combat with Goliath, giant champion of the rival Philistines.

Goliath's home town of Gath was unearthed just a few miles away to the south.

"The chronology and geography of Elah Fortress create a unique meeting point between the history, historiography and origins of the early Davidic Kingdom," said Garfinkel.

"This is the oldest Judean city  uncovered to date, and its very construction has unprecedented implications on our understanding of this era." 

Garfinkel said the sophistication and size of the city suggested it was part of  a strong, centrally-planned kingdom.

It has been a busy week for archaeologists searching for King David and his family. In Jerusalem, a researcher said she had found an ancient water drain mentioned in the Bible as the route used by David's forces to capture the city  from the Jebusites.

In Jordan, scholars said they had uncovered an ancient  copper excavation site that tests showed could be the legendary King Solomon's Mines.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What happened at Lambeth 2008

THE 2008 LAMBETH CONFERENCE of Anglican bishops in Canterbury July 16-August 3 was a milestone in this march of relativism. While nothing extraordinary happened - no fist fights or beatific visions - a number of prelates came away from Lambeth realizing the Anglican Communion no longer worked. Its structures were not a place for holy men, but for hollow men: bishops who knew in their hollow hearts they were stuffed with straw, trapped in a purposeless whirl of apathy and spiritual torpor called "dialogue." The Anglican Communion had finally broken, coming to an end "not with a bang but a whimper."

While past Lambeth Conferences have endeavored to speak clearly on matters of common concern as a guide to the global church, Lambeth 2008 was designed to, and did, decline to draw the line between the irreconcilable claims of the left and right. Gene Robinson's cry that "God is doing a new thing," and that the affirmation of his election as Bishop of New Hampshire showed that "God has once again brought an Easter out of Good Friday," was left to stand alongside the claims of traditionalists like Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker, who argued that the standard the church must use in moving forward with change was the rule of Vincent of Lerins: a once-for-all received faith, witnessed everywhere and by all. Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.

While the liberal juggernaut has ground through The Episcopal Church (TEC) over the past generation, carrying prayer book revision and women's ordination with it across the 38-province Anglican Communion, Vincent's 5th century rule had been consistently applied to questions of sexual ethics. At the 13th Lambeth Conference in 1998, bishops of the Communion affirmed by a 7 to 1 margin the church's traditional teaching on human sexuality, as informed by Scripture and the church's unbroken teaching of 2,000 years.

The onus lies with those who seek change to convince the church of the need for it, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, explained after Lambeth '98. Listening to proponents of change acknowledges their honorable motives, he told the clergy of the Diocese of Central Florida in 2003, but entering into a conversation with them does not validate their arguments.

"Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent," George Orwell once wrote of Gandhi, and the same standard applies in the development of doctrine, Lord Carey argued. However, the 14th Lambeth Conference under the presidency of Archbishop Rowan Williams said goodbye to all that.

AT LAMBETH '08, Dr. Williams lost the confidence of his fellow archbishops, and left the Communion millions in debt, and on the same trajectory as before the Conference began. Left and right have rejected his pleas for restraint, vitiating the renewed call in Canterbury for moratoria on gay bishops and blessings and cross-border episcopal actions, pending putative rescue by an Anglican Covenant at some uncertain date. New layers of bureaucracy suggested at Lambeth (e.g. a "Pastoral Forum" and "Faith and Order Commission") remain to be developed at a time when many saw stronger measures to restore order as overdue. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic and Orthodox representatives announced the effective end of talks aimed at corporate reunion and the recognition of Anglican orders.

Philosophically, the Lambeth Conference witnessed the retirement of the historic Anglican guides of Scripture, Tradition and reason in divining truth. Scripture was subordinated to experience and culture, reason rejected in favor of political power, and Tradition debased into equal parts antiquarianism and haberdashery.

Click to read full report

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Church makes ‘ludicrous’ apology to Charles Darwin - 126 years after his death

In his Autobiography, Darwin wrote,

"Formerly I was led... to the firm conviction of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, 'it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.' I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind."

In 1880, in reply to a correspondent, Charles wrote, "I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God"

If the church of England is offering an apology to such a person, it has drited too far and is seriously compromising its faith which is a pity for all members who call themselves Anglicans.

Church makes 'ludicrous' apology to Charles Darwin - 126 years after his death

By Jonathan Petre
Last updated at 10:45 PM on 13th September 2008

The Church of England will tomorrow officially apologise to Charles Darwin for misunderstanding his theory of evolution.

In a bizarre step, the Church will address its contrition directly to the Victorian scientist himself, even though he died 126 years ago.

But the move was greeted with derision last night, with Darwin's great-great-grandson dismissing it as 'pointless' and other critics branding it 'ludicrous'.

Rowan Williams

A meeting of minds: Charles Darwin and, right, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

Church officials compared the apology to the late Pope John Paul II's decision to say sorry for the Vatican's 1633 trial of Galileo, the astronomer who appalled prelates by declaring that the earth revolved around the sun.

The officials said that senior bishops wanted to atone for the vilification their predecessors heaped on Darwin in the 1860s, when he put forward his theory that man was descended from apes.

The Church is also anxious to counter the view that its teaching is incompatible with science. It wants to distance itself from fundamentalist Christians, who believe in the Biblical account of the creation of the world in seven days.

An article to be posted on the Church's website will say: 'Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth [in 1809], the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.

'But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests.'

The article has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the director of mission and public affairs of the Archbishops' Council, the Church's managing body, which is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Origin of Species

Revolutionary: Darwin's best-known book, published in 1859

Dr Brown writes: 'People, and institutions, make mistakes and Christian people and Churches are no exception. When a big new idea emerges that changes the way people look at the world, it's easy to feel that every old idea, every certainty, is under attack and then to do battle against the new insights.

'The Church made that mistake with Galileo's astronomy and has since realised its error. Some Church people did it again in the 1860s with Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.

'So it is important to think again about Darwin's impact on religious thinking, then and now.'

Dr Brown argues that there is nothing incompatible between the scientific theories adopted by Darwin and Christian teaching.

The English naturalist, geologist and collector, best known for his 1859 book On The Origin Of Species, scandalised Victorian society with his theory that all species of life evolved from common ancestors.

One of the most venomous clashes over his ideas took place in 1860 during a debate at Oxford University. The Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, asked the evolutionist and Darwin champion, Thomas Huxley, whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed to be descended from a monkey.

Huxley replied that he would not be ashamed to have an ape for his ancestor but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his gifts to obscure the truth.

In his article, Dr Brown writes: 'His [Darwin's] theory caused offence because it challenged the view that God had created human beings as an entirely different kind of creation to the rest of the animal world.

'But while it is not difficult to see why evolutionary thinking was offensive at the time, on reflection it is not such an earth-shattering idea.'

The Church's move will reignite the debate over creationism. In the United States, Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin argues that it should be taught in schools.

In this country, the Rev Professor Michael Reiss, a biologist director of education at the Royal Society, provoked a furore last week when he called for creationism to be treated in school science lessons as a legitimate world view.

Ann Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe: 'We've already apologised for slavery and the Crusades. When is it all going to stop?'

Last night, the Church, which apologised for its role in the slave trade two years ago, came in for fierce criticism for its latest mea culpa.

Former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe, who left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic, said: 'It's absolutely ludicrous. Why don't we have the Italians apologising for Pontius Pilate?

'We've already apologised for slavery and for the Crusades. When is it all going to stop? It's insane and makes the Church of England look ridiculous.'

Andrew Darwin, a great-great grandson of the eminent scientist, said he was 'bemused' by the apology, which seemed 'pointless'.

'Why bother?' he said. 'When an apology is made after 200 years, it's not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organisation making the apology feel better.'

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Association, said: 'It does seem rather crazy for an institution to address an apology to an individual so long after his death.

'As well as being much too late, the message strikes me as insincere, as if there is an unspoken "but" behind the text.

'However, if it means that from now on the Church of England will say "No" to the teaching of creationism in school science lessons, then we would accept the apology on Darwin's behalf.'

A less critical tone was struck by Horace Barlow, 87, from Cambridge, who is Darwin's great-grandson.

He said he thought his ancestor would have been pleased to hear the Church's apology.

'They buried him in Westminster Abbey, which I suppose was an apology of sorts,' said Mr Barlow.

'Darwin was very concerned about offending other people as his wife Emma was a committed Christian. So I think this apology would have pleased him.'

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

Rev. Gabriel Burdett explains Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

Founded in 1987, the ECFR is the world's leading institution of evangelical physics, a branch of physics based on literal interpretation of the Bible.

According to the ECFR paper published simultaneously this week in the International Journal Of Science and the adolescent magazine God's Word For Teens!, there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.

The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue "so they can make an informed decision."

"We just want the best possible education for Kansas' kids," Burdett said.

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

"Let's take a look at the evidence," said ECFR senior fellow Gregory Lunsden."In Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, 'And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.' He says nothing about some gravity making them fall—just that they will fall. Then, in Job 5:7, we read, 'But mankind is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards.' If gravity is pulling everything down, why do the sparks fly upwards with great surety? This clearly indicates that a conscious intelligence governs all falling."

Critics of Intelligent Falling point out that gravity is a provable law based on empirical observations of natural phenomena. Evangelical physicists, however, insist that there is no conflict between Newton's mathematics and Holy Scripture.

"Closed-minded gravitists cannot find a way to make Einstein's general relativity match up with the subatomic quantum world," said Dr. Ellen Carson, a leading Intelligent Falling expert known for her work with the Kansan Youth Ministry. "They've been trying to do it for the better part of a century now, and despite all their empirical observation and carefully compiled data, they still don't know how."

"Traditional scientists admit that they cannot explain how gravitation is supposed to work," Carson said. "What the gravity-agenda scientists need to realize is that 'gravity waves' and 'gravitons' are just secular words for 'God can do whatever He wants.'"

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pope John Paul II and Suffering

Jack Wintz, O.F.M.

When Our Son Told Us He Was Gay

It is no secret that Karol Wojtyla, as a young man and even during the early years of his pontificate, was a picture of health, vigor and vitality. As an athlete skilled in soccer, swimming, canoeing and skiing, he exhibited a great physical presence.

During his papal trip to the United States in 1979, he rode through Manhattan in the back of a limousine with an opening in the roof that allowed him to be visible to the crowd from the waist up. He was in excellent physical condition, waving to the crowds with just the right amount of drama as the vehicle moved slowly along. (This was before the 1981 assassination attempt in Rome and the days of the "popemobile," with its bulletproof glass protecting the pope.)

These are all reminders of John Paul's healthier days when he had all the physical stamina and charm any human could want. The pope did regain—for a time—his health and vigor after recuperating from the 1981 assassination attempt.

In the early 90s, however, a series of health problems began to take their toll. In 1992, the pope had colon surgery, involving removal of a noncancerous tumor. The next year he fell and dislocated a shoulder. In 1994, he suffered a broken femur in another fall. An appendectomy followed in 1996. During these years, moreover, a Parkinson-like condition, if not the disease itself, began to reveal its visible effects.

The point of these sobering details is to show that John Paul was clearly entering the part of his life's journey marked by failing health and suffering.

Describing the Holy Father in the fall of 1998, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stated: "The pain is written on his face. His figure is bent, and he needs to support himself on his pastoral staff. He leans on the cross, on the crucifix...." Certainly John Paul was beginning to lean on Christ's cross in more ways than one.

Click to read the full article

Friday, May 16, 2008

Infinite Crisis

Having heard so much about Infinite Crisis, I wanted to read it, but I first had to read Crisis on Infinite Earths. Having finished that last month, I was elated to find a copy of the collection of the mini-series Infinite Crisis at Bishan Community Library.

Infinite Crisis is a vast improvement, in terms of storyline, over Crisis on Infinite Earths It is a lot more violent as well, with decapitations and dismemberments, which I rarely see in D.C. comics to this extent.

One definitely has to read Crisis on Infinite Earths before embarking on Infinite Crisis however, as the villains of Infinite Crisis are really the heroes of Crisis on Infinite Earths, namely, Earth-Two's Superman, Earth-Three's Alexander Luthor, and Earth Prime's Superboy.

As far as I can tell, Earth Prime is a world where the only superhero is Superboy. Earth Three is where Lex Luthor is the only superhero in a world of supervillains, and Alexander Luthor is his son saved from the end of the world in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Earth Two's Superman belongs in a purer world, compared to Earth-One, which is the world that existed for the 20 years between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. It is a more innocent world where the good guys are really good, and the good guys always win in the end.

After observing the years in between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, Alexander Luthor decides to create the perfect world and manipulates Earth-Two's Superman into believing that Earth-Two is the perfect world to be recreated.

This illusion is shattered only when Earth-One's Superman reveals a stunning truth: Any world belonging to a Superman is not perfect because a perfect world doesn't need a Superman.

A major part of the plot involves comparing the older, purer world before COIE and the newer, more violent, and darker world post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. It is a D.C.U. (D.C. Universe) which my parents frequently complain about - where the good guys are not really good, and the bad guys are not really bad, and the moral line between good and evil is blurred.

Infinite Crisis is a great read, especially for those who, like Earth-Two's Superman, long for the older, purer world.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pope calls for a new Pentecost to launch renewal of American Church

Apr 19, 2008 - Six thousand people flocked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York this morning for a Mass that Pope Benedict celebrated for clergy and religious. In his homily, Benedict XVI called for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church in America so that it can overcome divisions and allow all of its gifts to be spent for the sake of spreading the Gospel.

After thanking Cardinal Egan for his welcome and recalling the examples of the pioneers of the Catholic Church in America, Pope Benedict turned to the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

“As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!” he exclaimed.

The Pontiff then pointed to the example of the late Cardinals Cooke and O’Connor whose “heroic witness to the Gospel of life” should inspire this kind of zeal. “The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization,” the Pope said.

“This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts,” the Holy Father encouraged.

Pope Benedict said that the challenge in some ways is to bring this message of life in abundance to “a society where the Church seems legalistic and ‘institutional’ to many people.” The Church’s “most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love”, he said.

He then turned the congregation’s attention to different aspects of the architecture of St. Patrick’s.

Noting how from the outside the stained glass windows appear dim but from the inside of the Church their true beauty is revealed, the Pope said, that communicating the joy and love of God “is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, ‘from the outside’”.

Besides a spiritual conversion, Benedict XVI explained that an “‘intellectual’ conversion” is necessary to be able to discern “the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission”.

“For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family,” Benedict said.

The solution to these divisions, the way to move forward, Benedict explained, is “if we turn our gaze together to Christ!” Turning away from division and towards Christ, is the way that true spiritual renewal will occur, the Holy Father said.

Pope Benedict once again brought up the sexual abuse scandal in the context of striving for unity.

“I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents.”

Benedict drew attention back to the architectural structure to make his final point.

“The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity – as Saint Paul has told us – of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose. For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, as our Lord promised in this morning’s Gospel, into the fullness of truth.”

“So let us lift our gaze upward!” the Pope called out.

Calling on the Holy Spirit to help the Church grow in holiness, he added, “If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles, let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!”

Pope Benedict closed by calling on American Catholics to “go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of unending joy and life. Amen.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Religious Pluralism

Religious Pluralism

Religious pluralists point out that nearly all religious texts are a combination of an assortment of human observations documented, for example, as historical narratives, poetry, and morality plays. Accordingly, a distinction exists between what may be claimed as literal in a religious text and what may be metaphorical. The text, therefore, is open to interpretation. In this light, no religion is able to comprehensively capture and communicate all truth.Although all religions attempt to capture reality, their attempts occur within particular cultural and historical contexts that affect the writer's viewpoint.

Adherents of religious pluralism, in this sense, hold that their faith is "true". That is, their religion is the most complete and accurate revelation of the divine available, yet they also accept that other religions teach many truths about the nature of God and man, and which establish a significant amount of common ground.

Read Article

Hinduism and New Ageism

Hinduism and New Ageism

Hinduism is a set of beliefs and traditions which have evolved over a vast period of time. There is no central organization like a Church to control its movements or progress. The word Hindu is derived from the river Sindhu, or Indus, primarily a geographical term that referred to India or to a region of India (near the Sindhu). Hinduism entered the English language in the early 19th century to describe the beliefs and practices of those residents of India who practice the ancient believes of India and did not practice Islam or Christianity.

A common manner of describing Hinduism among its adherents is as a way of life, as "Dharma." It defies dogma and thus seeks to instead align the human body, mind, and soul in harmony with nature.

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Many hold the view that Buddhism is a philosophy, but the Buddha did not preach mere philosophical or intellectual theories. The Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) deals with reality and truths which Buddhists believe that they can verify by personal experience. Unlike a philosophy, this shows a path that leads to the elimination of all forms of suffering and release from conditioned existence. One can discuss endlessly whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy; - It is a way of life. In fact, some of the ancient teachings are very much in keeping with modern scientific thought, therefore some even call it a 'Science of Life'.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Seven Steps of Bible Study- LUMKO Method

Steps 1-4 help us to "persevere" with God, to "Iisten" to participate in the biblical action, "to surrender ourselves to God".

Step 5 brings us together as brothers and sisters because we risk sharing our experience with God with one another. This is not the most important step, but it gives great joy to all those who want to build and experience a deeply human community in God.

In step 6 we confront our life with the Word of God. It is often the case that in this atmosphere of prayer, individuals discuss problems which they wish to resolve as a group.

In step 7 all are invited to share in spontaneous prayer.

FIRST STEP: We invite the Lord

Once the group settles down, the facilitator asks someone to volunteer "to invite the Lord". The belief in the living presence of the Risen Christ in our midst is the presupposition and basis of our meditation.

We want to meet the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. We remember Jesus´ promise: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I shall be there with them." (Mt 18,20).

SECOND STEP: We read the text

The facilitator announces the chosen text. First the book, then the chapter. He/she waits until everyone has found the chapter and only then does be announce the verse.

When everyone has found the passage, the facilitator invites someone to volunteer to read the text. A moment of silence follows.

THIRD STEP: We dwell on the text

The facilitator continues: "We dwell on the text. Which words strike you in a special way?"

In doing so, almost the entire text is listened to again. The participants spontaneously read aloud the word or words that have impressed them. Whole verses are not read, only short phrases or individual words.

The participants are encouraged to repeat those words silently to themselves three or four times. It is extremely important that a moment of silence be kept after each person has spoken, allowing the message to "soak in". As a result of this step, "simple" words often take on new meaning.

FOURTH STEP: We are quiet

After spending time on the individual word, the entire passage is read again slowly. Then the facilitator announces a time of silence, giving the exact length of time, for example, three minutes.

We advise the people to spend this time in silence before God. "We are open to God." "We allow ourselves to be loved by him." "We let God look at us."

A helpful practice during this silence is to repeat a specific word.

Meditation: Simply to be open to God, to wait for him, to be with him, "in fact he is not far from any of us" (Acts 17,27).

FIFTH STEP: We share what we have heard in our hearts

After the time of quiet, the facilitator announces the next step: "We share with each other what we have heard in our hearts."

We do this to share with one another our faith experience and to help each other to grow in the faith. The entire Sacred Scripture is nothing less than a God experience which the People of Israel and Jesus "share" with us.

It is somewhat strange that we can talk to friends about almost every aspect of our life yet when it comes to sharing with others our experience with God, we become shy. In this Bible meditation method, however, anyone can learn "to risk" this sharing in a very natural and unpressured way.

SIXTH STEP: We search together

The facilitator announces: "We search together."

Now the time has come for the participants to examine their lives in the light of the Gospel. At this stage, a basic community might discuss everyday problems as:

Someone needs help in the neighborhood...
Children need instruction in the faith...
Who will lead the the Word next Sunday, since the Pastor will not be there?...
How can we settle a discord that has arisen?...
What can we do about getting the street lamp repaired?...

None of these problems need to have a direct connection to the Bible passage which had been read and shared. However, they emerge and can be resolved because of the mutual confidence that now exists in an atmosphere of the presence of God. Things look different when God is allowed to be present.

SEVENTH STEP: We pray together

The facilitator now invites everyone to pray.

The words of Scripture, the various experiences of God´s Word, the daily problems - these all become fuel for prayer. Some find this form of sharing in prayer the easiest way to communicate with others.

The participants are encouraged to incorporate in their personal prayer whatever has been of special importance to them during the meditation.

Only at the end is a formal prayer known to everyone recited


Is the Anglican Social Doctrine Inadequate for Church of Ceylon to look Toward Karl Marx?


Views I sent to the Anglican Church Sri Lanka in October 2007

Annual Council sessions were held at the Anglican Cathedral on Saturday 20 th October, 2007.

Around 37 voted against the resolution while 47 abstained. Thus it is an  indicator that a majority of those present were not in favor of such changes being implemented at this stage without deeper reflection.

A  reporter said that "Winds of change have blown into the Church of Ceylon, better known as the Anglican Church, as the leaders of the traditionally conservative Christian denomination passed a seemingly revolutionary resolution that could shake the foundations of one of the oldest churches of the country".

Similarly, Anglican church worldwide is facing many problems at present. Today's news from overseas says:

The President of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa(CAPA), Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, says that Anglican crises hinge on leadership, doctrine -    in which the failure of the instruments of the Communion to exercise discipline had called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith, as is supposed by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels: the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality," he added.

It is my view that at a juncture such as this we need to exercise greater caution and have a finer grasp of deeper theoretical underpinnings before such resolutions are passed. The reporter expressed surprise that the resolution which was loaded with complicated wordings, was passed with surprisingly less resistance and justified the necessity for this fundamental "paradigm shift" as a necessity for the church "in the context of the present post-modern political, social, economic and cultural reality in Sri Lanka".

What disturbed me more was a statement of Fr. Selvan who proposed the motion mentioned during his speech, a synthesis between the teachings of Jesus and Karl Marx .

Even though it did not elaborate, it further said that The Bishop of Colombo made a few telling observations in support of the resolution before it went into voting while only one priest spoke against the resolution and tried unsuccessfully to bring an amendment to the clause on "paradigm shift" calling it to be changed rather into "Return to the teachings of Jesus".

The resolution also called the members of the church to "work towards a life style of the poor" which some speakers criticized as "impractical" before it was passed .

What Fr. Selvan must remember is that Marxism left  a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction. Capitalism,   has failed to bridge the distance between rich and poor and is giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.

Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves and this ideological promise has proven false. 

Even though we must  reaffirm the church's preference for the poor, we must not lose sight of the fact that social change begins with the transformation of the individual believer.

My mind goes back to the words of Paul VI in his "Profession of Faith" "We profess our faith that the Kingdom of God, begun here below in the Church of Christ, is not of this world, whose form is passing away, and that its own growth cannot be confused with the progress of civilization, of science, and of human technology, but that it consists in knowing ever more deeply the unfathomable riches of Christ, to hope ever more strongly in things eternal, to respond ever more ardently to the love of God, to spread ever more widely grace and holiness among men. But it is this very same love which makes the Church constantly concerned for the true temporal good of mankind as well. Never ceasing to recall to her children that they have no lasting dwelling here on earth, she urges them also to contribute, each according to his own vocation and means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to lavish their assistance on their brothers, especially on the poor and the most dispirited. The intense concern of the Church, the bride of Christ, for the needs of mankind, their joys and their hopes, their pains and their struggles, is nothing other than the great desire to be present to them in order to enlighten them with the light of Christ, and join them all to Him, their only Savior . It can never mean that the Church is conforming to the things of this world, nor that she is lessening the earnestness with which she awaits her Lord and the eternal Kingdom."

Analyzing the issues further , H.H The Pope Benedict XV1, then writing as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger responded:

The warning of Paul VI remains fully valid today: Marxism as it is actually lived out poses many distinct aspects and questions for Christians to reflect upon and act on. However, it would be "illusory and dangerous to ignore the intimate bond which radically unites them, and to accept elements of the Marxist analysis without recognizing its connections with the ideology, or to enter into the practice of class-struggle and of its Marxist interpretation while failing to see the kind of totalitarian society to which this process slowly leads."

The acute need for radical reforms of the structures which conceal poverty and which are themselves forms of violence, should not let us lose sight of the fact that the source of injustice is in the hearts of men. Therefore it is only by making an appeal to the moral potential of the person and to the constant need for interior conversion, that social change will be brought about which will be truly in the service of man. For it will only be in the measure that they collaborate freely in these necessary changes through their own initiative and in solidarity, that people, awakened to a sense of their responsibility, will grow in humanity.

The class struggle as a road toward a classless society is a myth which slows reform and aggravates poverty and injustice. Those who allow themselves to be caught up in fascination with this myth should reflect on the bitter examples history has to offer about where it leads. They would then understand that we are not talking here about abandoning an effective means of struggle on behalf of the poor for an ideal which has no practical effects. On the contrary, we are talking about freeing oneself from a delusion in order to base oneself squarely on the Gospel and its power of realization.

One of the conditions for necessary theological correction is giving proper value to the social meaning of the Church. This teaching is by no means closed. It is, on the contrary, open to all the new questions which are so numerous today. In this perspective, the contribution of theologians and other thinkers in all parts of the world to the reflection of the Church is indispensable today.

Impatience and a desire for results has led certain Christians, despairing of every other method, to turn to what they call "Marxist analysis. " . Their reasoning is this: an intolerable and explosive situation requires effective action which cannot be put off. Effective action presupposes a scientific analysis of the structural causes of poverty. Marxism now provides us with the means to make such an analysis, they say.

It is true that Marxist thought ever since its origins, and even more so lately, has become divided and has given birth to various currents which diverge significantly from each other. To the extent that they remain fully Marxist, these currents continue to be based on certain fundamental tenets which are not compatible with the Christian conception of humanity and society. In this context, certain formulas are not neutral, but keep the meaning they had in the original Marxist doctrine. This is the case with the "class-struggle." This expression remains pregnant with the interpretation that Marx gave it, so it cannot be taken as the equivalent of "severe social conflict", in an empirical sense. Those who use similar formulas, while claiming to keep only certain elements of the Marxist analysis and yet to reject the analysis taken as a whole, maintain at the very least a serious confusion in the minds of their readers.

Let us recall the fact that atheism and the denial of the human person, his liberty and rights, are at the core of the Marxist theory. This theory, then, contains errors which directly threaten the truths of the faith regarding the eternal destiny of individual persons. Moreover, to attempt to integrate into theology an analysis whose criterion of interpretation depends on this atheistic conception is to involve oneself in terrible contradictions. What is more, this misunderstanding of the spiritual nature of the person leads to a total subordination of the person to the collectivity, and thus to the denial of the principles of a social and political life which is in keeping with human dignity.

When modes of interpretation are applied to the economic, social, and political reality of today, which are themselves borrowed from Marxist thought, they can give the initial impression of a certain plausibility, to the degree that the present-day situation in certain countries is similar to what Marx described and interpreted in the middle of the last century. On the basis of these similarities, certain simplifications are made which, abstracting from specific essential factors, prevent any really rigorous examination of the causes of poverty and prolong the confusion.

In its positive meaning the Church of the poor signifies the preference given to the poor, without exclusion, whatever the form of their poverty, because they are preferred by God. The expression also refers to the Church of our time, as communion and institution and on the part of her members, becoming more fully conscious of the requirement of evangelical poverty.

But the "theologies of liberation", which reserve credit for restoring to a place of honor the great texts of the prophets and of the Gospel in defense of the poor, go on to a disastrous confusion between the poor of the Scripture and the proletariat of Marx. In this way they pervert the Christian meaning of the poor, and they transform the fight for the rights of the poor into a class fight within the ideological perspective of the class struggle . For them the Church of the poor signifies the Church of the class which has become aware of the requirements of the revolutionary struggle as a step toward liberation and which celebrates this liberation in its liturgy .

A further remark regarding the expression, Church of the People, will not be out of place here. From the pastoral point of view, this expression might mean the favored recipients of evangelization to whom, because of their condition, the Church extends her pastoral love first of all. One might also refer to the Church as people of God, that is, people of the New Covenant established in Christ.

 But the "theologies of liberation" mean by Church of the People a Church of the class, a Church of the oppressed people whom it is necessary to "conscientize" in the light of the organized struggle for freedom. For some, the people, thus understood, even become the object of faith.

Building on such a conception of the Church of the People, a critique of the very structures of the Church is developed. It is not simply the case of fraternal correction of pastors of the Church whose behavior does not reflect the evangelical spirit of service and is linked to old-fashioned signs of authority which scandalize the poor. It has to do with a challenge to the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church, which was willed by the Lord Himself.

The partisan conception of truth, which can be seen in the revolutionary praxis of the class, corroborates this position. Theologians who do not share the theses of the "theology of liberation", the hierarchy, are thus discredited in advance as belonging to the class of the oppressors. Their theology is a theology of class. Arguments and teachings thus do not have to be examined in themselves since they are only reflections of class interests. Thus, the instruction of others is decreed to be, in principle, false.

The new hermeneutic inherent in the "theologies of liberation" leads to an essentially political re-reading of the Scriptures. Thus, a major importance is given to the Exodus event inasmuch as it is a liberation from political servitude. Likewise, a political reading of the "Magnificat" is proposed. The mistake here is not in bringing attention to a political dimension of the readings of Scripture, but in making of this one dimension the principal or exclusive component. This leads to a reductionist reading of the Bible.

Faith in the Incarnate Word, dead and risen for all men, and whom "God made Lord and Christ" is denied. In its place is substituted a figure of Jesus who is a kind of symbol who sums up in Himself the requirements of the struggle of the oppressed.

An exclusively political interpretation is thus given to the death of Christ. In this way, its value for salvation and the whole economy of redemption is denied.

 In a general way, this brings about what can be an inversion of symbols. Thus, instead of seeing, with St. Paul, a figure of baptism in the Exodus some end up making of it a symbol of the political liberation of the people.

Thus a great call goes out to all the Church: with boldness and courage, with far-sightedness and prudence, with zeal and strength of spirit, with a love for the poor which demands sacrifice, pastors will consider the response to this call a matter of the highest priority, as many already do.

The Catholic church provides a comprehensive set of guidelines in their " Compendium of Social Doctrine" : Section 12 says thus :

12. This document is proposed also to the brethren of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to the followers of other religions, as well as to all people of good will who are committed to serving the common good : may they receive it as the fruit of a universal human experience marked by countless signs of the presence of God's Spirit. It is a treasury of things old and new (cf. Mt 13:52), which the Church wishes to share, in thanksgiving to God, from whom comes "every good endowment and ever perfect gift" ( Jas 1:17). It is a sign of hope in the fact that religions and cultures today show openness to dialogue and sense the urgent need to join forces in promoting justice, fraternity, peace and the growth of the human person.

Out Attitudes Determine Our Altitude



1. The world wants to be on the side of victory but the appalling results worldwide indicate to us that these desirable goals are not being met.

2. In order to be victorious we need to realize that God made us in His image yet we have to follow His rules that balance mind, body and spirit in order to get optimum results. The more we worship human intellect and ignore God, more appalling results will follow.

3. One such area that makes us win or lose is our Attitudes that need to be closely monitored. All the talent in the world cannot make up for the wrong attitudes.

With the right attitudes, our efforts in service to the Lord are enhanced and live up to their full  potential

4. Apart from our attitudes toward God we need to be concerned about our attitudes towards:

a. ourselves as individuals

b. toward our colleagues

c. toward the work we do together



1. A humble estimation of one's self is very important - Ro 12:3,16

2. Humility includes a willingness to serve, even to do "menial" tasks - Jn 13:6-17

3. "Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things and I'll show you a man who cannot


1. To be teachable is to be wise -Pro 15:31,32

2. Teachability includes:

a. An eagerness to learn and grow

b. The ability to learn from correction, to profit from advice and criticism

3. The old as well as the young need a teachable attitude


1. This includes a willingness to admit our mistakes - cf. Ja 5:16

2. And a willingness to correct them

--Everyone makes a mistakes; a congregation that functions well and grows is one

filled with people who learn from their mistakes!



A. LOVE...

1. Jesus taught us the necessity of loving our brethren -Jn 13:34-35

2. We have been born again that we might love one another fervently -1 Pe 1:22-23

--If we truly love one another, how can we not work together?


1. This involves a willingness to work together, as God intended -1 Co 12:21

2. We need to be able not only to work, but to work together!

3. "It marks a big step in a man's development when he comes to realize that other men can  be called on to help him do a better job than he can do alone." (Andrew Carnegie)

-- Where there is cooperation, a good way of doing things will be more productive

than a better way of doing thing where cooperation does not exist!


1. We need to appreciate what others are doing - e.g., 1 Co 1:14; 1 Th 5:12,13

2. True appreciation for others will eliminate destructive criticism, gossip, divisiveness

--Expressing appreciation is like grease on the gears of a makes others

do their work much better!


1. Christians are to be hospitable -Ro 12:13

2. This includes both hospitality to strangers and to brethren - cf. He 13:2; 1 Pe 4:9

-- A factor in the rapid spread of the church in the first century was the hospitality

extended by the Christians - cf. 3 Jn 5-8


1. We see this expressed by those in the church at Jerusalem -Ac 2:44-47

2. It continued with the saints in Antioch -Ac 11:27-30


1. Especially necessary in dealing with the spiritual weak -Ga 6:1

2. But also in dealing with those who oppose us -2 Ti 2:24-26




1. Paul certainly possessed this attitude -1 Ti 1:12; 1 Co 15:9,10

2. Do we appreciate what an honor it is to offer service in kingdom of our Lord?


1. Remember, God loves a cheerful giver -2 Co 9:7

2. Nothing is so easy but that it becomes difficult if done with reluctance

3. Nothing is so hard that it cannot be made easier with enthusiasm


1. Like those in Nehemiah's day, we need a "mind to work" - Neh 4:6

2. If we are to serve men "heartily", how much more the Lord - Co 3:23

3. Some people are like blisters...they never show up until the work is almost done

4. The slothful person is just as harmful as the destructive person -Pro 18:9


1. We are to do things without murmuring and grumbling -Ph 2:14

2. The chronic complainer and the negative thinker are obstructions to the work of a



1. We must have the attitude of Christ, not just to do, but to finish the work of God -Jn 4:34

2. We need "finishative" as well as "initiative" - cf. He 6:12

3. Then we can say with Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have  kept the faith." -2 Ti 4:7

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spe Salvi Facti Sumus

Spe Salvi facti sumus……in hope we were saved: A great message during this Advent Season

Tue, 2007-12-11 03:44 -Asian Tribune

By Prof. Lakshman Madurasinghe

Pope Benedict's latest encyclical is a timely reminder of the value of hope and a challenge to Christian Legal Theorists as well.

Pope Benedict who has distinguished himself as an accomplished Theologian of our era has displayed his erudition once again with a scholarly exposition on hope which will undoubtedly re-kindle the hope in his readers at a time when many people in the world are struggling without faith and hope.

It is also timely that he chose to release it during the season of advent when the coming of Jesus as the redeemer is heralded worldwide. Redemption being the central theme of this Encyclical, it deals with a subject not alien to the law and therefore no stranger to Catholic legal thought and theory. These inputs are invaluable for the Catholic legal theorist who must grapple with the question of how the law and legal systems can best serve the development and flourishing of the human person who is created in God's image, Imago Dei, and revealed to us in the person of Christ.

In the encyclical about hope running into about 75 pages, Pope Benedict is not proposing a facile hope in heaven undoing injustices of life on earth. Indeed, this is where he brings in Dostoyevsky. The Pope asserts that "the last Judgment is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope". A world without God is a world without hope, and "God is justice". Only God can provide the justice that sustains hope in the better future­the eternal life­for one and all. "God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things­justice and grace­must be seen in their correct inner relationship."

With justice comes grace, yet "grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on Earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoyevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel "The Brothers Karamazov". Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened."

Elaborating on the resurrection of the flesh he goes on to say in section 43 that there is justice. There is an 'undoing' of past suffering, reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgment is first and foremost hope­the need for which was made abundantly clear in the upheavals of recent centuries. He is convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any cases the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfillment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; He further explains that to protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph 2:12). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so"

Spe Salvi facti sumus…..In hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.

The Pope's fundamental point is about the goal of redemption for humanity and the corresponding responsibility of hope in the reaching this objective­an objective that relies on but does not depend ultimately on human institutions such as the law. He illustrates the right relation between God and human enterprise in this endeavor. And proceeding to justice requires hope and patience on behalf of the human family­as Benedict states, "The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life."

Spe Salvi instructs readers that the Christian message is not only "informative" but also "performative, " that is, "the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing," Pope Benedict says. It is in receiving God through Jesus Christ that we receive hope. He illustrates this point narrating the life of the African slave, St. Josephine Bakhita. He uses the images of the downcast, the slave, and those on the margins of society to reinforce the theme of hope in the one who came to save us all so that we may be redeemed and live with Him forever.

The Holy Father takes note of the human alternatives that exist in this word to achieve one type of freedom that can liberate the marginalized­an endeavor with which the law has a great interest. But as he argues throughout the letter, the forms of liberation that rely solely on human resources are imperfect: "Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a 'not yet'. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future." For Benedict, there must be a renunciation of exclusive reliance on the things of this world to provide authentic relief to those who suffer in this world:

Engaging in a deeper analysis of Heb 11: 1 " faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen" he uses the un- translated word used for substance- hypostasis- Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen". He elaborates that the "substance"­there are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty: this "thing" which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not "appear"), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence.

He very rightly elaborates that to Luther, who was not particularly fond of the Letter to the Hebrews, the concept of "substance", in the context of his view of faith, meant nothing. For this reason he understood the term hypostasis/substance not in the objective sense (of a reality present within us), but in the subjective sense, as an expression of an interior attitude, and so, naturally, he also had to understand the term argumentum as a disposition of the subject. Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a "proof" of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a "not yet".

The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future. This new freedom, the awareness of the new "substance" which we have been given, is revealed not only in martyrdom, in which people resist the overbearing power of ideology and its political organs and, by their death, renew the world. Above all, it is seen in the great acts of renunciation, from the monks of ancient times to Saint Francis of Assisi and those of our contemporaries who enter modern religious Institutes and movements and leave everything for love of Christ, so as to bring to men and women the faith and love of Christ, and to help those who are suffering in body and spirit. In their case, the new "substance" has proved to be a genuine "substance"; from the hope of these people who have been touched by Christ, hope has arisen for others who were living in darkness and without hope. In their case, it has been demonstrated that this new life truly possesses and is "substance" that calls forth life for others.

For this to make sense, the Pope acknowledges that redemption, and the human role in it (through hope in God) must understand what life, including eternal life, means. This is where the role of Jesus's salvific mission must be taken into account for it means something to the existence of every person whose life begins in this world but will continue elsewhere.

Inspired by the writing of Henri de Lubac, the Pope distills the essence of human existence by identifying the individual and social nature of hope, faith, salvation, and redemption: "salvation has always been considered a 'social' reality." For Benedict, sin­the product of human free will­destroys the unity of the human race by fragmenting the person and the society in which he or she lives. The Pope sees a remedy to this problem of fragmented liberty: it is redemption which reestablishes the unity in which individuals come together in a union that begins to take shape in the community of believers.

The Holy Father also notes the importance of Christian faith-hope in the modern age. In the encyclical letter, Pope Benedict analyzes the false utopian dreams of the modern age and points out the untold suffering they have caused human beings. From this point of view, redemption is no longer through faith in God's saving action but from what human beings can achieve through the application of technical knowledge to all of society's problems. A praxis-oriented science draws on an understanding of progress as the overcoming of all dependency to make room for a "kingdom" in which God is no longer at the center. It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level. Thus hope too… acquires a new form. Now it is called: faith in progress. For Bacon, it is clear that the recent spate of discoveries and inventions is just the beginning; through the interplay of science and praxis, totally new discoveries will follow, a totally new world will emerge, the kingdom of man.

It is this "kingdom of man" in which Benedict argues the purely political departs from the exercise of right reason that leads all to the eternal life and the Kingdom of God. He relies upon illustrations from the French Revolution and Marxist theory and praxis to make his point convincing. While promising "freedom," both of these political events removed authentic freedom for reason.

What are critical to the success of the Holy Father's proposition are two further realizations. The first is that right state of human affairs cannot be guaranteed by human-designed structures alone even while acknowledging their merits. Second, it is essential to understand the essence of human freedom: "the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last for ever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom. Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself. If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined­good­state of the world, man's freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all."

He cautions us that it is not "science" that redeems us; rather, it is love, specifically the love of God in Jesus Christ, the one who came to save us all. Moreover, this love is the source of all life­both now and in the future. This love characterizes a crucial relation in human beingness, relation with our Savior. But this love which takes us into the eternal life also has a role in the life of this world. As Benedict states: "[Christ] commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others, for the whole."

Atheism may be "understandable" when mankind is confronted with evil and suffering, but the attempt to banish God, he wrote, "has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice," whether through Marxist revolution or the science that produced the atomic bomb.

In section 5 he says… "It is not . . . the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love­a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love".

As he has often done in his writings, Benedict emphasizes his points in several passages by summing up the arguments against God as well as any doubter could. In section 31 speaking of the Kingdom, he explains "His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is 'truly' life.

He wanted the Protestants to take note that we cannot­to use the classical expression­'merit' Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something 'merited', but always a gift ".

"But then the question arises: do we really want this ­ to live eternally?" he asked. "Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive."

He continued, "To continue living for ever ­ endlessly ­ appears more like a curse than a gift," before describing a heaven that is not, as he put it, "monotonous and ultimately unbearable."

"It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time ­ the before and after ­ no longer exists," he wrote. "We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy."

He urges people to continue to pray: "When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone.

May these thoughts inspire you during Christmas and encourage you never to lose hope.

- Asian Tribune -