Friday, October 30, 2009
By Rev. Nick Federspiel
THIS Halloween through to Christmas many should consider their faith, value foundation and philosophy of life – then make that New Years resolution. Here is what I think based upon two months of offering Sunday morning services at the M-FLC chapel.
Those of you that have attended my inaugural sermon series of God's Country Fellowship Church at the M-FLC Chapel know that I intended to communicate to FLC students Biblical facts vs. myth, fantasy and media entertainment marketing hype in regards to the Bible and Christian history.
Facts brought forth were selected based upon their cornerstone characteristics relative to the Christian religion without regard to the limitations of any particular organized doctrine.
Points made in the initial September and October M-FLC Chapel sermon series included:
The first sermon on September 13th was about science vs. Genesis' creation. Biblical Hebrew dictionaries (Strong's, etc.) provides an alternative translation of "sixth" specific to the feminine gender of H8345 shishishy to Genesis 1:31 thus my translation is: that the 'sixth part' of creation took more days than you can count – an 'over-plus masculine six'- i.e. indicating some large number more than the five fingers of your hand can help a person count. Is there then a conflict between science and God's creation or a miscomprehension of paleo-Hebrew grammar vs. contemporary English?
Next we read word for word ancient literature associated with Biblical Egyptology by third century BCE Greek and Egyptian historians including an Egyptian pagan priest writing of Moses. Their collective documents strongly support the hypothesis that the departure of the Hyksos was at least in part the foundation for the Exodus of the Pentateuch. Was there a great Egyptian named Moses who led "my people" out of Egypt? Certainly. In any event, no other literature of equal merit has been discovered bringing forth evidence to the contrary! Thus Moses is a credible cornerstone for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. Moses, is sound, solid, and supportive of those facts and philosophies that the Old Testament and the Quran convey to their respective faithful.
Old Testament era artifacts from Assyrian (Sennacherib-Taylor Prism, etc) and the Shishak wall in Karnack, Egypt were selected from hundreds of Biblical Archeological 'discoveries' and brought to the congregation's attention as both were directly associated with Biblical history naming names and deeds as within the text of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. The Old Testament as a history book of the "Holy Lands" 1500 BCE to 300 BCE enjoys the support of Biblical Archeology's discoveries and, when applied, competent analysis.
The print and movie media has enjoyed great economic success blending religious history with engaging fiction to develop entertainment products like the well written The Bloodline of the Holy Grail and the da Vinci Code whose marketing strategies depended on the hyper sensitivity that many of the two billion Christians have towards organized religion. I separated the facts from the fictions so that the congregation would be comfortable and remain resolute in their faith and devotion yet 'enjoy' those compositions for what they are – 'contemporary' entertainment.
The Nag Hammadi's "Lost Books" now in the Cairo Coptic Museum were not selected in 397 AD to be in the New Testament canon of Carthage, Africa. I read excerpts from several of these codices published in the "Lost Scriptures", by B.D. Ehrman to explain why each did not satisfy the canon tests of Apostolic content and the Lord's will. Other sects like the Gnostics and Egyptian Coptics edited "Christian books" to serve their purposes but thus by their deeds the content became incongruent with first century Christian codices destined to become scripture compliant with 2 Timothy 3:16.
One does not have to accept the canon, as wise a choice as that may be, as twenty percent of the world's population shares hundreds of alternative religious philosophies. Said another way four fifths of the planet's peoples state that they identify with one of the 'top ten' religions. One truly sympathetic to the social norms of a compassionate society does not need to condemn other's religions (nor should they) to themselves adhere to the precepts of another – Quran Sura 109 and the Gospel's eleventh commandment John 13:34. The New Testament commandment is not, murder the unsuspecting to intimidate others, but to love one another…" When I am in Texas I put it this way: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
The "Q" Gospel and Mark vs. the synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke were a tutorial sermon subject discussed along with the writings of the first and second century "church fathers" who were in-person disciples of the Apostles. Their surviving reviews of the gospels and New Testament text indeed showed that documents have been lost – most likely due to catastrophic events. Libraries were lost by the application of the torch such as the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70 and 135 AD and the Egyptian pagan temples (and thus their archives) by Theodosian decree in 391 - 394 AD. Subsequently, the Roman libraries were lost to the empire's enemies including the Vandals in 455 AD. Cumulatively, historical texts by the tens of thousands from Heliopolis to Alexandria to Jerusalem to Rome were reduced to ashes over four and a half centuries of conflicts. These events were far greater tragedies for today's historians than the decisions of a small group reflecting on the content of 400-600 sectarian codices then existent that may have been candidates for Old Testament and Biblical canon between the first century events of Christ and the councils of the fourth century AD.
Selected verses from the Dead Sea Scrolls per Wise, Abegg Jr, and Cook were read to show how text authored between 300 BCE and 68 - 70 AD correlated to the translations of the Bible Old and New Testament that we consider "authorized" today. Today's translations hold up well in analysis.
Perhaps not many locally subscribe to professional trade media such as Biblical Archeology Review. The November/December, Vol. 36, 2009 issue features an examination of the "Secret Gospel of Mark" (pg 49) and the comments of second century Clements of Alexandria that were discovered with it. The article is about forgery vs. Biblical Archeological discovery. Those of the God's Country Fellowship Church congregation will find familiar almost every point made in the thirteen page feature. Also in the issue is "How did Israel become a People?" Its facing page is of the 1250 BCE Israel-Egyptian stele discussed in the sermon on Biblical Egyptology.
My objective was to help God's Country Fellowship Church attendees to become aware of their religion's history so that they would be comfortable with their selection of Christianity as their religion regardless of any preexisting specific doctrine and affiliation,. Further those who have / had questions about religious philosophy and the merits of being a believer vs. an observer heard facts and had an opportunity to ask questions germane to their issues.
Out spoken Apostles and Church Fathers were devoted to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many of these evangelists succumbed to inhuman suppression and yet ironically their Christianity became the state religion of its most powerful suppressor overcoming not only the swords of suppression but the imbedded concepts of paganisms. Ultimately Romans, pagans, and the politics of sectarian interests not withstanding they confirmed from volumes of documents the Holy Bible that now guides two billion faithful – a book conveying a history and philosophy I proudly support to the best of my ability.
Sadly, only one Fort Lewis College student attended any of the above services held at the McPherson Fort Lewis College Chapel on Sunday mornings so far this semester… As sadly, their loss is also ours. Academics and religion can coexist as can science and Genesis as can Egyptian historians and the Torah and the Assyrian artifacts with 2 Kings 20. Science has no answer for the creation of non biological matter in the universe existent in quantities beyond human comprehension. Atheism is said by some observers to be the fastest growing 'religion' in America yet it does not by definition answer any social, philosophical, spiritual or creative issues as do the teachings of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Asian disciplines. The absence of religious knowledge and commitment on the part of anyone is regrettable, but reversible.
Would we all be happier in this world if our neighbors, associates, politicians and government administrators all were devotees and practitioners of the eleventh commandment? Few if any of the 'organized religions' are void of editing of their original beliefs and of exploitive acts. But throwing away the bushel due to the discovery of a bad apple is as illogical as believing this whole universe has no purpose and thus was created from nothing by nothing or endowed by and for the forces of evil. Devotion to any major faith is not an insurance policy against the omnipresent occasions of joy and sorrow inherent in life. But miracles happen to many every day and yet when hurt happens it still hurts. In most philosophies it is not whether you win or lose but it is indeed all about how you play the game of life.
Greek mythology is not a contemporary religion. We are not toys of the gods procreating for their amusement. We were all made in "our God's image" which does not mean we are blondes or six feet tall or white or black. The image means we all have within us an element of the Holy Spirit that can be nurtured and expanded so we can identify what is good and achieve for the benefit of the one and all.
So now that the goblins are out of the closet let the fresh air of knowledge in. God certainly appreciates the devoted as well much as he welcomes the newcomers. The doors of the churches around Durango are always open to those who seek the ministry of their staffs and congregations. Knowledge is power and faith is good and the knowledge of one's faith's and its heritage is power supreme. Today is a good day to reflect, the holiday season a good period to devote to learning and New Years Day is a good day to commit. Why commit to what? If that is your question ask your local ministers. First century religion is timeless and timely; think not that it is not.
God's Country Fellowship Church
Rev. Nick Federspiel, DCS, Minister
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