The Tithingman

Church services are not always the most thrilling events. Everyone knows this, especially pastors who are in charge of such events. You can’t be on your A Game all the time.

You all have it pretty easy today. Most periods of church history had much longer church services. Marathon sermons and prayers that took up a large portion of your Sunday.

What’s a pastor to do if church services are boring and they last a long time?

Invent a new church office: The Tithingman.

The Tithingman’s job was two-fold.

First, he made sure people actually showed up to church. If he caught you somewhere other than church on a Sunday, or saw you walking through town, he’d jump out and drag you into church. How he did this while being in church himself is still beyond my mental capacities.

Secondly, he made sure people in church were behaving, or as was more likely the case, not sleeping. He was given a long stick. One end was sharp and the other had a softer thing on it, like a feather or rabbit’s foot.

A Tithingman and his stick of discipline. Amen.

The Tithingman would go ahead and whack a sleeping man or an unruly child. Women got the soft end and a little nudge. Either way, they woke up. If you persisted in your disrespect to the church, the Tithingman had the right to punish you, often with time in the public stocks.

Although we often look back at history as darker times and people who were backward, the Tithingman seems like a really good idea. I’m all for it.

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Always Doubt “Prominent” Theologians You’ve Never Heard Of

I’m reading a book written to show that Muslims, Jews, and Christians should all be able to get along since we all hold Abraham highly. We just need to agree on Jesus and everything will be fine.

The book is written by a Muslim, so the majority of the book is written to disprove the idea that Jesus Christ was actually God in the flesh.

If Christians would stop saying Jesus was God, then Jews and Muslims and Christians would be at peace.

One slight problem: if Christians did that there would be no Christianity. Christ being God is kind of our thing.

While attempting to disprove the deity of Christ, the author pulls up many texts and theological books to cast doubts on the person of Christ.

This is not my first theological book I’ve ever read. I’ve been around a while now. I’m adept at spotting signs that a guy is puffing up a weak point.

One tactic he uses frequently is in quoting a theologian (always one who is doubting the divinity of Christ) he says “noted theologian” or “prominent theologian.”

I’m a well-read Christian. I am familiar with all prominent and noted theologians. I’ve heard of just about everyone. If I haven’t heard of them, trust me, they aren’t noted or prominent.

In fact, those are superfluous words. If a theologian is prominent or noted, people would already know them. “Prominent” means “immediately noticeable, widely known.” If you have to inform us he’s prominent, then he isn’t prominent.

This is by no means unique to this particular author. I’m sure the reason he does this is because he’s writing primarily to a non-Christian audience who wouldn’t know a Christian theologian if he smacked them in the face (not that a Christian theologian would ever do that). But I’ve seen this many times, and never once have I read it about a theologian I’ve heard of.

There are a lot of bad theologians out there and a ton of false information. Be skeptical of quotes from “prominent” and “noted” people.

–Written by Jeff Weddle, prominent moron

Sunday Sabbath and Letters From Jesus

The Catholic Church, like many churches, have invented their fair share of new doctrines. Convincing people to buy into these new doctrines was not always easy.

One of the ways employed several times to convince people was to suddenly find or receive a letter from Jesus Christ telling people to do exactly what it was the Catholic Church had been telling people to do! Pretty handy.

There was one letter, received from heaven, telling people that Sunday was the Sabbath day and should be a day of rest.

Although Constantine had made Sunday the official day for Christian worship (although it was hard to tell who he was actually telling people to worship), tying in Jewish rules of rest into Sunday’s was a much later idea.

Initially, Sunday Sabbath didn’t catch on too well. Until, lo and behold, Jesus done wrote us a letter!

Here are the contents of Jesus’ letter from heaven telling people to not work on Sundays.

                 A LETTER OF JESUS CHRIST.

WHOSOEVER worketh on the Sabbath-day shall be cursed, I command you to go to church, and keep the Lord’s Day Holy, without doing any manner of work. You shall not idly spend your time for bedecking yourself with superfluities of costly apparel, and vain dresses for I have ordained a day of rest.  I will have that day kept holy that your sins be forgiven you.  You shall not break my commandments, but observe and keep them, write them in your heart, and steadfastly observe that it was written with my own hand and spoken with my own mouth.  You shall not only go to church yourself, but also send your men-servants and your maid-servants, and observe my words and learn my commandments; you shall finish your labour every Saturday in the afternoon by six o’clock, at which hour is the preparation of the Sabbath.  I advise you to fast five Fridays every year, beginning with Good Friday and continuing the four Fridays immediately following, in remembrance of the five bloody wounds which I received for all mankind.  You shall diligently and peaceably labour in your respective callings, where in it hath pleased God to call you.  You shall love one another with brotherly love; and cause them that are baptised to come to church and receive the Sacrament, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and to be made members of the Church, in so doing I will give you a long life and many blessing; and your land will flourish and your cattle bring forth in abundance; and I will give unto you many blessing and comforts in the greatest temptations, and he that doth to the contrary shall be unprofitable. I will also send hardness of heart upon them till I see them, but especialy upon the impertinent and unbelievers. He that hath giving to the poor shall not be unprofitable, remember to keep holy the Sabbath day, for the seventh day I have taken to rest myself.  And he that hath a copy of this my own letter, written with my own hand, and spoken with my own mouth, and keepeth it without publishing it to others shall not prosper; but he that publisheth it to others, shall be blessed of me, and though his sins be in number as the stars of the sky, and he believe in this he shall be pardoned; and if he believe not in this writing, and this commandment, I will send my own plagues upon him, and consume both him and his children, and his cattle. And whosoever shall have a copy of this letter, written with my own hand, and keep it in their houses nothing shall hurt them, neither lightning, pestilence, nor thunder, shall do them any hurt, and if a woman be with child, and in labour, and a copy of this letter be about her, and she firmly put her trust in me, she shall safely be delivered of her birth.

The letter didn’t go over too well. But it does show the growth of the idea that Sunday was the Sabbath and that Jewish laws must be kept on that day.

Anytime someone has to get “new revelation” to prove their point, you can rest assured they are making stuff up. Don’t fall for it.

For more information on the subject of Sunday, check out this book I am currently reading.

Sixteen Precepts for Attaining Knowledge

Thomas Aquinas, a rather intelligent individual, was once asked how one should go about attaining knowledge. Here are his 16 pointers, all worthy of reflection. Keep in mind he was a monk with all stereotypical monkish behaviors. Not sure you need to go to that level, but in general, there is sound wisdom here.

1. Advance up the streams, and do not all at once plunge into the deep: such is my caution, and your lesson.

I bid you to

2. Be cautious of speech,

3. Slower still in frequenting places of talk:

4. Embrace purity of conscience,

5. Pray unceasingly,

6. Love to keep to your cell if you wish to be admitted into the mystic wine-cellar.

7. Show yourself genial to all:

8. Pay no heed to other folk’s affairs:

9. Be not over-familiar with any person, because over-much familiarity breeds contempt, and gives occasion to distraction from study.

10. On no account mix yourself up with the sayings and the doings of persons in the outside world.

11. Most of all, avoid all useless visits, but try rather to walk constantly in the footsteps of good and holy men.

12. Never mind from whom the lesson drops, but

13. Commit to memory whatever useful advice may be uttered.

14. Give an account to yourself of your every word and action:

15. See that you understand what you hear, and never leave a doubt unsolved:

16. Lay up all you can in the storehouse of memory, as he does who wants to fill a vase. ‘Seek not the things which are beyond thee’.

Noah Webster and the Vulgar King James Version

The King James Bible is too vulgar.

This was the opinion of Noah Webster, best known for his dictionary of American English.

Webster thought there were too many vile things not suitable for reading in the King James Version. He wasn’t talking about the stories of rape and murder; he literally meant some King James phrases.

For instance, the King James’ phrase describing men as those who “pisseth against the wall.” Or the people in Isaiah 36:12 who will “eat their own dung and drink their own piss.”

Webster thought this was crude, so he just called them “males” instead of referring to their direction of pissing. Instead of eating dung and drinking piss, he went with “they devour their vilest excretions.”

Webster also eliminated the names of certain body parts and avoided such words as “stinketh” in order to be pure. He said the King James phrases were “so offensive, especially to females, as to create a reluctance in young persons to attend Bible classes and schools.”

Noah Webster’s Bible initially sold for $3. Then for $2. Eventually it sold for $1.50. It was reprinted once before disappearing from book stores.

It was a nice try. I appreciate the attempt. But, in all honesty, this is where Puritan ideals implode. Humans are humans, and humans are gross.

There’s a lot of stuff in the Bible about bodily discharges. We can puritanically pretend it’s not there, or we can be real.

At the same time, there is too much flippancy and stuff done for shock value over bodily discharges. Finding someone who has enough sense to be polite is nice.

The Hebrew text does say those “who pisseth against a wall.” That’s the literal translation. That’s how men were described. It’s life. Should we then go around referring to other men as wall-pissers?

No, there is decency. Ephesians says we should put away from us foolish talking and jesting. There is a line of decency. There are cultural terms that are offensive to the next generations. But there is also a maturity that understands that and goes with it and treats it as maturely as possible.

I don’t think we should edit God’s word. I think we should rejoice that our God understands humanity and that humanity is represented realistically in the Bible. There is no sentimentalism attached to God’s view of your humanity.

Use this realism about humanity, which is gross, to drive us to God who is pure. Let us all anxiously await the day we can put off this body of our humiliation!

Great Name in Church History: Mesrop Mashtots

I am reading a book about the history of Bible translation and came across one of the greatest names in all of Church History: Mesrop Mashtots.

I conclude that it is impossible to improve upon this name.

It also reminds me of Napolean Dynamite.

Not only does Mashtots have a great name, he actually was an incredible person, one worthy of emulation, and also one most have never heard of.

Mashtots had a dream to translate the Bible into the Armenian language. Only one problem: the Armenian language had no alphabet.

But this didn’t stop Mashtots. He got on his donkey and rode around Armenia paying attention to the common sounds of their language. He teamed up with a calligrapher who associated Greek letters to these sounds and developed the 36-letter Armenian alphabet.

Alphabetizing the language didn’t solve the problem, because no one knew how to read it! So, get this, Mashtots persuaded the government to establish a nationwide school system!

Finally, after years of effort, Mesrop Mashtots created a literate Armenian nation able to read the Bible. Mashtots also invented the Caucasian and Georgian alphabets! Busy guy.

That my friends, is a life well spent. Makes my life look pretty pathetic.

Let Mashtots inspire you today: Find something helpful to do and go do it.

The Flat Earth, Heliocentric Universes, Science and Christianity

Modern Science/Atheism is intent on proving that Christianity, and religion in general, is anti-science. Although I cannot speak for everyone, this is just plain silly.

But, in an attempt to ridicule the other side (a common tactic of insecurity, by the way), the Church is accused of having believed in the Flat Earth and rejecting Heliocentric astronomy, etc.

However, if a person gets past the rhetoric and examines the accusations, you will realize that many of these attacks are fabrications.

The whole Flat Earth thing appears to be entirely invented by later generations to bash the medieval Catholic church. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to bash the Catholic Church, there is no need to invent more.

Many have said that Columbus’ voyage was ridiculed because he’d fall off the end of the earth. This appears nowhere in historical evidence. Rather than fearing Columbus would fall off the end of the earth, they were concerned the globe was too large for him to make it around before running out of supplies.

The Columbus falling over the edge myth seems to have been invented by Washington Irving in 1828. In fact, Professor Jeffrey Russell in his book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians, says “No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the Earth was flat.”

So, what about Copernicus and his Revolution that the sun was the center of the universe and not the earth? Yes, the Catholic Church had a problem with him. The Council of Trent, which had a problem with everyone not Catholic, laid down rules to handle heretics. Copernicus was lumped in there with Luther and the rest of the “heretics” of the day.

Having the sun be the center of the universe did shake things up. It would be similar to suggesting today that Darwinian Evolution was wrong. Everyone knew the earth was the center, as sure as we know your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandma was a monkey.

The Catholic higher-ups, who were quickly losing power and influence, freaked. There is an account in Joshua where it says “the sun stood still.” Clearly it is the sun that moves, not the earth. Some also pointed to Psalm 93:1, which says in part, “the world also is established, that it cannot be moved.” A simple understanding of how figures of speech work can explain these phrases.

There is even a supposed commentary by John Calvin that says of this verse, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?” Problem is, no one has ever found anywhere where Calvin ever said this.

Andrew Dickson White is the originator of this “quote.” In his book, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, written in 1896, is where White makes this accusation. He also, incidentally, invents other myths about Christian hostility and supposed scientific facts. No one takes his work seriously.

However, these lies get told and retold, and after a while they become cited reality. Now, it is true that the Catholic Church tried to censor Copernicus. I will not defend the Catholic Church because the vast majority of their history is entirely insane.

But to assume that the Catholic Church represents all Christians is like assuming Joseph Stalin and company represent all atheists.

The Catholic Church actually never banned Copernicus’ book. They gave out edits that were to be made in copies. The problem is that Copernicus did the church a massive favor. Since he understood orbits and so forth, he more accurately predicted the timing of Easter than even the Catholic system! Their deal was not to ban the book, but to edit it, to tone it down.

For instance, The title of Chapter 11 in Book One of his On The Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres was “The Explication of the Three-Fold Motion of the Earth” was to be changed to “The Hypothesis of the Three-Fold Motion of the Earth.”

I am currently reading a book by a professor who traveled all over the world looking at copies of Copernicus’ Revolutions. He notes that hardly any contain these corrections. Pretty much the only people that took the corrections seriously were a few people in Italy. No one else seemed to bother. In fact, Copernicus’ book made it to China because of Jesuit missionaries (Jesuits are Catholics, incidentally.)

Summing it all up, although the Church is routinely bashed for denying science, the reality is that many who bash the church deny history. They invent ideas and then repeat them so it looks like their statements are adequately cited. But when you trace the sources back, you realize many of the charges are inventions.

Again, the Catholic Church did have a messy history with science. But keep in mind, they also have a messy history with Jews, Muslims, Lutherans, Protestants, Baptists, governments, people who want to read the Bible, and many other supposed enemies. I do not defend them. They have not done us any favors.

But next time you hear an accusation against the church, just like I encourage you to do when someone throws a Scripture reference at you: LOOK IT UP! You might be surprised what you find.