columns from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 3: Number 5, 1990.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
The "New Revised Standard Version" of the Bible Eliminates Many Male-Centered Terms.
According to the September 28 New York Times, "a new translation of the Bible that uses contemporary language and eliminates many male-centered terms and all the archaic thees and thous was officially introduced [on September 27] for use in the nation's major Protestant churches." The sponsors of the new version say it will eventually replace the "Revised Standard Version" which was published in 1952 and has sold over 55 million copies.
While the new version makes many changes, there was no tampering with the masculine idiom for God. "God remains 'Our Father' and Jesus is 'the Son of Man.' But other masculine renderings not referring to the deity have been eliminated, especially where translators felt the intent of the original Hebrew or Greek was more inclusive."
The article noted that while the new version has gained broad acceptance, "objections have been raised at both ends of the religious spectrum. Fundamentalists have questioned its innovations, and Christian feminists have complained it does not go far enough."
Besides trying to minimize male-centered language, the translators also tried to be sensitive to issues of race. For example, where the Revised Standard Version (RSV) says "I am very dark, but comely" (Song of Solomon 1:5), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) says: "I am black and beautiful."
The translators have also tried to eliminate terms that have taken on colloquial meanings since the RSV was published in 1952. For example, where the RSV says, "I will accept no bull from your house" (Ps. 50:9), the NRSV says, "I will not accept a bull from your house." Likewise, where the RSV says, "once I was stoned" (2 Cor. 11:25), the NRSV says, "once I received a stoning."
The translation committee was headed by Princeton scholar Bruce M. Metzger and the Bible was produced under the auspices of the National Council of Churches. Metzger said the aim was to be "as literal as possible" in adhering to ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, but also "as free as necessary" in making the meaning clear in understandable English.
Most CRI researchers recommend either the New American Standard Version or the New International Version.
The Boston Church of Christ Attempts to Keep a Low Profile in the Western United States.
The Boston Church of Christ is well known for using authoritarian methods on its converts. Unlike Boston Church congregations in other parts of the United States, however, those established in Los Angeles and Orange County (California) a year ago have apparently been free of controversy, according to the August 4 Los Angeles Times.
Marty Fuqua, who oversees about 20 congregations planted by the Boston church in the western United States, admits that the church has been subject to criticism elsewhere. The article says the Boston church's practices "emphasize intense teacher-disciple relations that limit members' personal freedoms."
The Times cites an article in Discipleship Magazine in which church member Steve Johnson said that group sessions may become rough because "personal sins will be exposed, confessed and dealt with." Some will be "on the hot seat, under the gun, so to speak." The Times notes the claim of church critics that members are forced to be totally dependent on the group's approval.
The mainstream Churches of Christ -- a loose-knit fellowship of about 13,000 theologically conservative congregations -- has sought to distance itself from this controversial movement. In 1987 a Churches of Christ publication called the Boston Church "divisive, authoritarian, and 'dangerous,'" the Times reports.
The Persian Gulf Crisis Stirs Doomsday Predictions of Armageddon.
Russell Chandler, in the September 20 Los Angeles Times, reports that "as the threat of a major war in the Persian Gulf has heated up in recent weeks, so have religious predictions of a fiery Armageddon and the end of the world." Many see the Middle East crisis as "the trigger for a bloody series of events that will lead to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ."
Billy Graham recently warned that upheavals in the Persian Gulf could have "major spiritual implications." According to the article, Graham said that "these events are happening in that part of the world where history began, and, the Bible says, where history as we know it, will some day end."
Graham later said he does not agree with those who say Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is the Antichrist predicted in Scripture. In support of his position, he commented that "historians tell us that people thought Napoleon was the Antichrist, they thought Mussolini was the Antichrist and they thought Hitler was the Antichrist."
The article cites a number of prophecy teachers who relate what is happening in the Persian Gulf to prophecies in the Bible. While developments in the Persian Gulf may or may not be related to Bible prophecy, CRI urges Christians to approach this issue prudently and nonsensationally.
An article that may be of interest to Newsletter readers is in the Fall 1990 CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL and is entitled "Millennial Madness." In this article, Ron Rhodes examines the folly of putting much credence in doomsday predictions.
Reverend Sun Myung Moon Hints that He is the Messiah to the "Assembly of the World Religions."
Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder and leader of the Unification Church, indicated to an eclectic gathering of swamis, scholars, lamas, and imams that he is the new world Messiah. This group was attending Moon's own "Assembly of the World Religions" -- a lavish, all-expense-paid conference Moon bankrolled at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency, according to the August 17 Orange County Register.
At the conference, Moon said humanity must find its "true parent" and free itself from the grips of Satan. "This person is the Messiah," the article cites Moon as saying. "To help fulfill this very purpose I have been called upon by God....I have suffered persecution and confronted death with only one purpose in mind, so that I can live with the heart of true parents to love races of all colors in the world."
The article notes that "Unification Church doctrine says Jesus failed in his mission and must be supplanted by a second, Korean-born Messiah. Longtime church members said Thursday's speech was Moon's most direct public pronouncement that he sees himself as that Messiah."
Moon's message received a mixed reaction from the eclectic group. "For us, the only Messiah is Jesus Christ," said Reverend Eugenia Araya, a Lutheran minister from Chile. Other non-Christian participants gave Moon a more favorable hearing. "We don't accept Moon as Messiah, but we respect his vision of bringing the world's religions together," said M. A. Zaki Badawi, principal of the Moslem College of London.
The Register reports that "other participants conceded that the main reason they came to the conference was that they could not pass up an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco."
Despite a Vatican Ban, Catholic Pilgrims Continue to Flock to Medjugorje.
At this writing, over 11 million pilgrims have visited the Yugoslav village of Medjugorje, many claiming to have witnessed supernatural phenomena there. According to the September 28 New York Times, "the Vatican has warned that church-sponsored pilgrimages to this mountain village are banned, but that has not stopped Roman Catholic pilgrims from crowding into Medjugorje, where the Virgin Mary is said to have been appearing daily to four young people for the last decade."
The article notes that Medjugorje has become "Yugoslavia's hottest tourist attraction, a hard-currency wellspring whose yearly cash flow even church and government officials are loath to gauge." Once a poor peasant village, Medjugorje has "taken on the trappings of a bustling beach town... The streets are jammed with tour buses, campers, cars and pilgrims."
A recent letter published by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's office on doctrine, warned that the Roman Catholic church forbids official pilgrimages to Medjugorje. "This ban has been interpreted to mean that Catholic parishes may not organize tours and that priests, nuns and lay church workers may not officially lead pilgrimages here until the Vatican makes a pronouncement on the apparition's authenticity. Such a pronouncement may be years off," the Times reports. Some Catholics have circumvented the ban by "organizing private tours accompanied by clergymen cast as 'spiritual advisers.'"
Contending for the Faith
The Christian Research Institute (CRI) was founded in obedience to Jude 3: "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Because this verse is central to CRI's mission, and because God desires all Christians to contend for the faith, it is appropriate that we make some observations about its meaning.
In the Greek text, the definite article the preceding the word "faith" points to the one and only faith; there is no other. Of course, this excludes the counterfeit "faith" of the cults. "The faith" refers to a specific body of faith or belief -- that apostolic teaching and preaching that was and continues to be regulative upon the church. References to this body of truth are sprinkled throughout the New Testament. Acts 6:7, for example, indicates that following Pentecost, "the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith." Later, after Paul had become a believer, Galatians 1:23 reveals that "he who once persecuted us [believers] is now preaching the faith." Speaking prophetically, this same Paul wrote that "in latter times some will fall away from the faith." (1 Tim. 4:1). Clearly, "the faith" refers to a definitive body of truth.
Jude 3 tells us that this body of truth was "once for all delivered to the saints." The word translated "once for all" (Greek: apax) refers to something that has been done for all time, something that never needs repeating. It was a unique, and final event.
Moreover, the word translated "delivered" is an aorist passive participle, indicating an act that was completed in the past with no continuing element. There would be no new or complimentary "faith" or body of truth "delivered" later in new "revelations" such as The Book of Mormon. The delivering of the faith was a once for all event of the past.
What does it mean to "contend earnestly" for this faith? The Greek word translated "contend" was often used in New Testament times to refer to competition in athletic contests. The idea behind the word is that of an intense and vigorous struggle to defeat the opposition. The English word "agony" comes from the noun form of this word. Athletes were to push themselves to the point of agony in their struggle to win the contest. Likewise, believers are to engage in an intense and vigorous struggle in defending the Christian faith against doctrinally errant challengers.
CRI exists to help Christians "contend" for the faith and stand against the errors of the cults, the occult, and aberrant Christian movements. The materials available from CRI cover a broad range of topics and are strategically designed to help Christians discern truth from error. If you would like a copy of CRI's Resource Catalogue, please check the appropriate box on the attached order form/envelope.
"Jehovah's Witness Outreach a Resounding Success"
Brazilian Watchtower officials seldom miss an opportunity to impress their countrymen with dramatic displays of their "Christian" unity and coordination. This year, however, the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) boldly planned a first: simultaneous conventions in Sao Paulo's two largest soccer stadiums -- Morumbi and Pacaembu. Combined attendance was estimated at 150,000 -- a figure close to half the total number of JWs in the entire country. Broad media attention was guaranteed.
But CRI was ready. On August 18 some 200 believers, trained by CRI personnel, divided between the two stadiums from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- and even after this time, many of them didn't want to go home!
The outreach strategy was to conduct a peaceful demonstration in front of both stadiums, with a twofold message. (1) To the public: the Watchtower organization is a willfully deceptive, anti-Christian, authoritarian cult, and the Jehovah's Witnesses are its victims. (2) To the Witnesses: the Watchtower Society has betrayed your trust, but Jesus freely offers you eternal life.
Watchtower leaders who had hoped for a public-relations coup found themselves with a minor nightmare on their hands. Frightened convention officials did what little they could to prevent, or at least neutralize, the outreach. They did this first by attempting to persuade police to bar demonstrators from the stadium grounds (they were overruled), and then by sternly warning convention-goers not to accept "apostate literature" or read the signs and banners the Christians were carrying.
Nevertheless, the message got through. At one stadium, JW officials made the mistake of routing a line of 2,000 baptismal candidates outside the stadium -- right in front of the smiling demonstrators, whose 12-foot-wide banners they couldn't resist reading as they slowly filed past.
There were also many fruitful one-on-one dialogues with JWs and their students. One JW decided to abandon the Watchtower organization before he even left the convention.
One of the most striking answers to prayer was the unprecedented media coverage CRI received. CRI researchers and one former JW were able to forcefully state the case against the Watchtower before millions of Brazilians through nearly every major magazine and newspaper, along with national and local radio and television interviews.
The effort is still bearing fruit. A few days after the outreach, a JW named Marcelo accepted an invitation to stop by CRI's office and watch a videotape of the convention news coverage. He was stunned to see a Watchtower official lying not once, but twice on camera. He is now discussing Christian doctrine with CRI staff, who feel he is not far from the Kingdom of God.
Please pray that Marcelo and the thousands of other JWs touched through this effort would turn their lives to Christ.
East Bloc Update
Cult activities continue to expand in the East Bloc. Recent developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union include:
Mormonism: Only days after the Supreme Soviet passed legislation guaranteeing greater religious freedom, Salt Lake City proudly announced that the Soviet Council of Religious Affairs had officially registered the Leningrad branch of the Mormon church. Efforts to obtain recognition of the church go back to June of 1987.
Scientology: A recent promotional piece by this cult boasts that "with the recent opening of the Eastern Bloc, there are now active Scientology groups in Hungary, East Germany, Poland and Bulgaria."
Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism: On July 27 Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International, met for the first time with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for a "humanistic dialogue." At the same time, Soka Gakkai leaders fanned out to confer with a variety of Soviet educational and cultural leaders. Raisa Gorbachev plans to visit the group's college for women when traveling in Japan next spring.
Hare Krishna: On August 12 about three dozen devotees danced and sang through Gorky Park in the sect's first legal celebration in the Soviet capital, following years of official harassment and persecution.
Werner Erhard, father of the est training and its latest incarnation, The Forum, has been hired by Soviet officials to host a series of management seminars that one Russian dubbed "a perestroika [restructuring] of our brains." Erhard is said to have become an "intellectual hero" to dozens of Soviet officials earlier this year when he went to Moscow to speak to businessmen, economists, and philosophers.
The December-February edition of Maharishi International University News reported that "in just over four months, over 12,000 people have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique in Armenia...and are enjoying the benefits of this effortless technique for relief from stress and full unfoldment of human potential."
Police Raid Stuns Children of God in Spain
On July 8, some 50 members of an elite police unit raided two communal homes of the Children of God/Heaven's Magic cult near Barcelona, Spain. The blitz was the culmination of a four-month undercover and surveillance plan dubbed "Operation Moses." Twenty-two minors, whose ages ranged from 11 months to 14 years, were taken into protective custody, and agents reportedly seized a great quantity of literature and videos -- much of it pornographic. Ten adult members of the group, locally called "Missionary Families," were arrested on charges of theft of minors, proselytism in schools, and illicit associations.
Spanish publications allege that the sect maintains several training centers to teach minors "the art of prostitution'which they will practice when they become adults." The Children of God were expelled from Spain in 1977.
End of document, CRN0023A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Research Notes" and "International" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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