The Prophet’s Curse: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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The Curse of the Prophets: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Richard D. Ackerman (2010-2011, 2d.Ed.)
Riverside County Bar Magazine Article

When first asked to write this article, I didn’t quite know what to think or how to approach the issues.  Naturally, one would inquire as to why they had been chosen to write an article on the idea that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’  Perhaps it’s just because I truly believe in a uniform justice system that cannot be destroyed or weakened by the whims of political correctness, unjustified entitlements to power, or discrimination.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have lost on so many unpalatable positions, that I am perceived as being the consistent bearer of the losing position.

Perhaps the characteristics of being hopeful, tenacious and committed are necessarily defined by commitment to suffering humiliation.  For all I know, it may just be my fearless stupidity.

A model justice system is ruled by reason, equity, and a sense that one is entitled to rely on equal application of uniform law.  With this in mind, it also must be remembered that today’s dissent may very well be basis for tomorrow’s justice.  We know this, yet so often fear being the voice of dissent or a counterbalance to excess power.

Fortunately, the otherwise controlling fear of change can be defeated. The recent decision by Judge Virginia Phillips on the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy aptly demonstrates the power of commitment to principle.  While I did not agree with the decision for reasons of the separation of constitutional powers, I bear the deepest respect for her courage to take on the entire military system in the pursuit of equality.  Indeed, the very essence of dissent is what makes for human progress and development of the unique democratic experience bestowed upon us.

One might want to say that this has nothing to do with being punished per se’ for good deeds.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For its power to be felt, prophecy nearly requires persecution. For the known history of humankind, we have seen one prophet after another being condemned for simply taking a stand and pronouncing the truth.

The essential form of what it means to be a prophet is historically seen in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, even the unimposing Dharma Bum, or just about any other perceived revolutionary.

By the way, don’t let your sensibilities about religion get in the way of a good thought about what it means to be human.  Don’t let my biases as to Biblical prophets interfere with the definition of yours (i.e., perhaps the Buddha or others).  Prophecy has never been a form of proselytization nor evangelism.  The latter require the ability to sell or enforce an idea or belief.  Prophecy is most defined by its initial lack of luster and desirability (i.e., because of its demand of human introspection).

I must also mention that I believe that prophets are neither nuts nor fortune-tellers.  To be a prophet means to be a representative of something higher than yourself.  It doesn’t mean you are a great person.  It certainly does not mean that you have any more power than anyone else.  You bear the calling of a messenger.  You get to bear complete responsibility for whatever you say and may even bear the risk of death itself.

Theoretically, each of us in the law ought to be a prophet on behalf of the Constitution and of the Judicial Branch in all of its noble purposes.

Of course, however, there must be a price for one’s desire to profess the law as it is, and the reason which provides the lifeblood of the law.  The price for your message may very well be disdain, frustration, mockery, lack of understanding, and intolerance.  As was recently pointed out by Jack Clarke, one of my most respected colleagues, if it was not for Dr. Martin Luther King, and so many others, we would not know the concept equality as we now know it to be.  What was the price Dr. King paid?  His very life.  Yet, his prophecy and vision lead to the conclusion that we all ought to be equally able to seek the highest that humanity has to offer.  This principle seemingly should never have been the barter for death.  His humiliation became a call for human dignity.

What is the sacrifice you would be willing to make in order to be a seeker of truth?  I don’t know if we would all deny representation of a well-paying client with a bad cause.  It doesn’t seem respectable that one should disagree with the mainstream.  Would you challenge a judge openly on a matter or law, or hide behind the veil of secrecy provided by ‘papering the judge’?  Will you and your house follow the law? Will you abide in the law and all of its travails?  Would you be willing to die to feed the life of another perceived to be of no value?

Often, respect for the law means that one will get to unpalatable conclusions.  Being truthful carries the risk of scorn.  This also means that one might as well plan on losing some arguments since reason, consistency, and justice require a stern heart and a desire to be magnanimous regardless of opposition.  Is strength and character found in accepting the status quo?  Or would it be better to define the status quo ante bellum, even if someone else may have to carry the torch after your embattled demise?

In the case of a being a lawyer, your representation of the law, as a higher cause, may simply mean that you have to be willing to respect the authority of the Court, but yet advocate for a position you know to be inconsistent with the realities of the times.  Humility in purpose has oft been the hallmark of a strong prophet.  Simply staying in the ring, without a complete knock-out, becomes the monument to one’s identity.

As of late, it seems that just about everybody needs to somehow be politically, religiously, or spiritually neutral.  This sickly complacency starves the human condition of its vitality.  Only an honorable judge needs to bear the responsibility of being completely neutral until the time of ultimate judgment under the law of our time.

Indeed, at the time of judgment under the law, not even a judge must remain wholly neutral.  Judgment ultimately entails the adoption of a steadfast position.  Our judges bear the message of a reliable system of law.  While rendering judgment does not necessitate the moral judgment of another, it certainly does require a willingness to rely on a foundation of truth.  Where the truth becomes elusive, fear of change causes manifest injustice.  If one cannot move from neutrality to judgment, one should not bear the position of being the arbiter of any dispute.  If one wants to find power in being wholly neutral from beginning to end, take up mediation or marital counseling.

Neither the parties nor their attorneys should be expected to maintain complete neutrality in their positions.  Not only is this psychologically impossible, it is unreasonable and a disservice to the calling of the profession.  Neutrality can be downright dishonorable.  The omission to act can amount to complicity in evil.  While it is true that one must be objective, it does not follow that one must simply concede to the most politically acceptable position.  The acceptability of particular political positions changes over time.  The failure to act in the face of intellectual tyranny has proven itself, time and again, to be consistently destructive.

Some would say that this is an over-dramatization of what it means to be a lawyer.  I think not. Indeed, I think it is a categorical imperative that we not be governed by reference to what our fellow attorneys might think.  Worse yet is the situation where we run from the law for fear of those who have not been blessed with the same gifts of knowledge we bear.  We don’t define our conduct by the conduct of others.  Neither hope nor faith would have a home in a static moral environment.

It is not sufficient that we simply do what is necessary to get by and achieve a result that just makes everybody happy.  Were it left to the happiness or perceived satisfaction of a given society in time, slavery would be but just one more accepted condition of being part of a human power structure.  Or, perhaps, the perceived right to be free of the crime of seditious libel against the government would be just a fleeting glimpse of true human freedom.  Perhaps the call of secularism would be the death of a hope in ultimate justice, regardless of what happens by mistake, evil, or just happenchance in this life.

The job requirements of being an advocate may very well mean that one is required to represent the higher principle of maintaining a system that can be relied upon by all regardless of the one’s perceived sins committed against society and its powers.

For, as has been said in other contexts, we wrestle not against the flesh but principalities.  Indeed, we become free by our very adherence to the strictures of the Constitution.  Paradoxically, we can find complete solace in a result we neither wanted nor one that could not have been foretold.

The fear of humiliation shouldn’t be confused with the humility which may be exactly what is required in a given situation. The unintended indignity of being told to sit at the back of a bus becomes the clarion call for the desire to stand up for the sacred privilege of defining the essence of human dignity for future generations.  Perhaps being called to the stench and squalor of a foreign place might lead to the conclusion that we justly be called blessed.  Don’t be afraid to accept punishment for your good deeds.

Be not afraid.  For the Good Judge shall bring down his judgment on all of us in the end.

December’s Scream (2010)

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R.D. Ackerman (2010)

Faith Alone: The Impossible Proposition

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The Impossible Proposition

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27.

Nobody wants to hear that you can’t get into Heaven unless you do the right thing, but that’s how each of our life-stories will end. It doesn’t seem to me, anyway, that Heaven is a place where you get to watch from afar the long line of condemned non-believers whilst you stand fully confident in your own faith/salvation. By assuming that your faith alone justifies you, you can only believe that you somehow hold the keys to Heaven and Hell. Not even Christ can take your faith away from you, right?

Your works or lack thereof will become manifest when your time comes. Matthew 13:49-50; 1 Corinthians 8-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 4:17-18; Jude 1:14-17; Revelation 20-21. Your deeds will follow you. Romans 2:1-16; Revelation 14:13.

Even if one assumed the absolute integrity of his or her faith, what is the harm in living out a life of works which is 100% consistent with your valued faith? This is sort of a modern-day Pascal’s Wager on morality.

The proposition that “faith alone” is wholly sufficient for entrance into Heaven is not only untenable, it is literally impossible. You don’t hold the keys to Heaven and Hell, no matter how hard you “believe.” Revelation 1:18, 20:13. Those who teach the concept of ‘justification by faith alone,’ without more explanation, are potentially misleading those who follow them. Matthew 24:4-24; 25:31-46. Without a doubt, works of selflessness, forgiveness, and charity are the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 6:37.

What can be said, however, is that we are not the only ones who believe in these basic characteristics of a holy or good person. The purposes of dying to self, charity, and love are not a Christian monopoly. As such, it is true that simply doing the acts does not justify us as Christians. That is ‘works for the sake of works’ is inadequate to justify nor sanctify the “Christian” as such.

Your works follow you into eternity and they will become the sole basis for your judgment — unless you think the Bible and its promises are a bunch of lies or just simply a self-help book of suggested living. John 10:32-38; Revelations 14:13, 20:11-15; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Ephesians 2:9-10; James 2:14-26; Titus 2:7, 3:8-14.

While Christ serves as our God-appointed defense attorney, there will be a final judgment of acquittal or one of condemnation. Confession of our crimes is a prerequisite to Divine Mercy. If one believes in “Biblical” Christianity, one would have to believe this as a matter of simple consistency. Revelation 20:11-15.

You must actually fear God, even if you think you are saved. Indeed, our fear is a necessary element of His loving Salvation Plan for us. Where should the fear come from? – In the potential loss of our salvation. Hebrews 10:26-31, 38. Nor is anything of this to say that we instantly become perfect through our acceptance of Christ into our lives. Some of us apparently need a longer purgation period than others (at least for me anyway).

Given the society and times we live in, it is perfectly foreseeable that alcohol, drugs, selfishness, vanity, lust, avarice, greed, sloth, pride, negative criticism of others, ignorance, and other sins would abound through no conscious fault of the sinner per se’. Some of our sins we bring to others, and sometimes we follow others into sin. 1 Timothy 5:24. The same goes for our good works. 5:25.

We are not in control of all of the influences which affect the strengths and weaknesses of who we were created to be. We often know, deep down, that we are screwed up. 1 John 3:20. Some sins are more serious than others. 1 John 5:16-17. Anybody who thinks that they are not screwed up has been lost on the whole point of the Divine Endeavor of Christ. 1 John 1:8.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, failing in works of mercy/forgiveness of others is definitely one of the more serious problems. Matthew 5:22-30; Mark 9:43-47; James 5:9. Our anger and our words are no lesser issues when it comes to condemning ourselves to Hell. Matthew 5:22, 12:36; James 3:6; Jude 1:15. Even, our ‘religion’ can be made vain by our failure to bridle our words. James 1:26.

Indeed, there are darker parts of each of our souls that we don’t even understand, but we do get to watch God shine beams of light into through His purgations of our being. Romans 8:1; Luke 16:15; John 3:19-21; Acts 26:18. We are each faced with unique challenges suited to our calling and, concomitantly, the gifts/talents which allow us to actively engaged in a necessary purgation of the flesh and soul toward the end of spending an eternity in Godly peace. 1 Thessalonians 5:23. We need to be aware of the painful fact that our soul and body can be destroyed. Matthew 10:28.

Nevertheless, the idea that we have to work, or should have worked, to get into Heaven seems even offensive to many. Be offended, but don’t do it in ignorance. I don’t know why anybody would be offended by the idea that being a Christian means that certain conduct is not only expected of us, but mandated at the potential cost of losing our relationship with God. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins … The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26-39. Read it for yourself.

You are not “set aside” because God thinks you are somehow special unto yourself or that his pleasure in you is somehow permanent because you think you were “saved.” The Christian life is a selfless life of humble sacrifice and devotion. If you find yourself in the middle of having a monologue/dialogue about how certain you are that you are saved, you ought to be concerned. Where’s the humility in that? This said, we are all his children and are subject equally to His discipline for violating His covenants. Hebrews 26-29, 36-39. Thankfully, we are also all equal in the story of salvation from our confession of sin as well. Romans 10:9-15.

You are set aside because you willingly submit yourself as a vessel of God’s forgiveness, love, and charity toward all mankind. Indeed, fervent charity “shall cover the multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8. However, you can also stop being used by God and choose a path of sin. Hebrews 10:26. Were it otherwise, we would deny the very freewill that allows for a conscious decision to accept or reject Christ in the first place. Romans 2:1-16; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 2:9.

When you reject your opus Dei, you reject the Holy Spirit endowed in you by your acceptance of Christ in your life. Matthew 12:31-32. Thus, the redemptive works are not yours. But in failing to do those assigned to you, you intentionally reject God’s purpose for you.

To be Christ-like means that you would selflessly do the works he commands of you just as He did for the Father. Likewise, if you do works of mercy only for your salvation, where is the charity in that? Others can only see Christ in us by the way we act (i.e., work). John 5:36, 10:37-38, 14:10-12; 15:24. To the extent that we suffer in life, we share in the Redemptive and Ultimate Suffering of Christ. In a very real sense, we can accept pain as a means of relating to Christ and living a small part of the incredible sacrifice He made for you and me.

In any event, we can’t be lukewarm about how we approach our duties on Earth lest we be spit out from the mouth of God. Revelation 3:15-16.

As of late, it seems that we only want to hear that we’ve been saved and if all goes well, we will do the right thing because we are Christians. The latter statement is true, but that’s just the point – you are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had ordained that we should walk in them.”’‘ Ephesians 2:10. If one does not maintain a constant focus on works, we lose within us the very creative force which distinguishes us from other elements of the world.

Simply stated, a Christian needs to work on being a Christian. Titus 1:16. The failure to do so is a failure to seek sanctification and justification of our souls before the Heavenly Throne. Bad things will happen if you are remiss in your works. Revelation 20:11-15. Grace is the helpful stopgap between God, us, and our human failings at and before the time of death.

Do you need to ask for forgiveness more than once as a Christian? Does it matter? Do you need to confess of your sins (which have already been forgiven, according to contemporary Evangelical thought)? Confession is not a one-time deal at your altar-call or, if you are Catholic, at your confirmation. Romans 10:10.

There is simply no way to Biblically believe that believing that you’ve been saved is sufficient for entry into Heaven (i.e., “faith” alone). The Word clearly requires more of us and the number of Scriptures on this point is beyond overwhelming – and that’s just covering the New Testament.

While it may be easier to rest on the laurels of believing that my faith ‘tells me that I am saved and I don’t need to know any more,’ this is the functional equivalent of saying, ‘I know how to drive cars, because I believe in them.’ In reality, when we do bad stuff, we fall out of our Christianity altogether. 1 John 3:6-11 (we are not of God/Christ when we sin). Claiming the honor of Christianity means that we must stay honorable in all that we do and say. 1 John 3:4-10. Admitting/confessing that we are intentionally rejecting our inheritance is about the only way we can regain it. 1 John 1:9-2:1. Also see, Leviticus 5:5-6; Numbers 5:5-10 (sacramental confession).

It seems self evident that the need for “the law” as Paul describes in many letters, only came about as a result of the People of Israel’s failure to do the works that were commanded by God – they simply didn’t do what they were told to do and had to have the law imposed on them. See generally, Deuteronomy; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24. With Paul, he saw the Redemptive Story of Christ as a liberation from the law as it is being defined Biblically. Romans 3:28 (“that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the LAW.). Compare, James 2:24 (“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [emphasis added]).

The New and Everlasting Covenant did not release anyone from the need to work toward the end of what it means to be Christian. It meant that an eternal font of Grace would be available, regardless of the violations of “law” committed by us. When negligence, omission, or simple(y) intentional human failing (i.e., venial sin) gets in the way of holiness, Christ will meet us between Earth and Heaven. We fall out of brotherhood with Christ when we fail to do the word which we hear. Luke 8:19-21.

A pastor of ours, Ike Riddle, used to say “covenant keepers always win and covenant breakers always lose.” Such is the story of the Bible. But, what does it mean to keep a covenant? It means you have to do something – we need to abide in our promises. Luke 22:20-30; Jeremiah 31:31-33:26. How we express our Christianity, the covenant, is by what is “seen and heard.” Acts 2:33; Matthew 5:17-19 (commandments still valid and enforceable by teaching and doing). Be humbly seen and heard in your covenant-keeping now and forever.

So then, where does the Bible say that our works matter to salvation or, even, that they are absolutely necessary to our sanctification before God? The following is about as simple as it gets.

This is not a matter of parsing out only select words/verses, but actually constitutes a continuing theme and stream of thought by the Author of the Bible. This list is taken from the King James Bible in an effort to appease those who might claim that the Bible is somehow coopted by a Catholic interpretation of its contents.

The continuing theme of necessary works for our salvation is found in the following:

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

Matthew 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matthew 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Matthew 14:2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Mark 6:14 And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

John 5:36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

John 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

John 7:3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

John 10:25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

John 10:37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

John 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

John 15:24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Romans 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

2 Corinth. 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

1 Timothy 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

1 Timothy 5:25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.

1 Timothy 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 2:7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Titus 3:14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

Hebrews 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

1 Peter 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 18:6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

The end.

Heaven’s Happy Customers

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Heaven’s Happy Customers:

It’s often been said by me that I can’t know what heaven or hell are like, because I’ve never heard of anyone coming back as a happy or unhappy customer. Thought about that — Actually, the shopkeeper himself came back and gave quite a description. What he didn’t cover in specifics got covered by his friend John. Revelations, Chs. 4, 5, 21.

Definition of Self Employment:

Definition of self-employment: Everybody wants me to bake a cake but nobody wants to pay for the ingredients.

Am I Married to Christ, Or Am I Having an “Affair”?

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“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” ~G.K. Chesterson

The above comment raises interesting questions. It easily brings up the meaning of what Christ intended when the Church was described as His Bride in a number of Biblical references. Psalms 19:5; Matthew 9:15 & 25:1; Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34-35; John 3:29; Revelations 21:9.

This loving and sanctified relationship is best described at Ephesians 5:25-33. The description of the ‘marital relationship’ between Christ and His Church is not a mere theory, but is an objective description of what is expected of the person who loves the source of their Faith, and the relationship between these two ‘betrothed.’

The term ‘love affair’ almost doesn’t fit. It is almost tawdry, except to the extent that the author desired to think of religion as sanctified and one of solid covenant as opposed to an affair of sorts.

Moreover, the Chesterson quote introduces a vagueness and unnecessary subjectivity into the relationship between Man and God. It invites the error of unmet expectations into a relationship that is otherwise made clear by historical fact and by Biblical covenant.

In simpler terms, God does not always come through and give me the attention I want, or perceive myself to need, on any given day — nor should I expect Him to, for He teaches and disciplines me according to my actual needs and the covenant we made with each other. Sometimes, the relationship requires that I simply give my life up to Him and “repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42.

Considering myself to be in a “love affair” with Him will certainly not guide me in any truly objective way. The daily expectations of my wife or I can change as our moods change, life circumstances change, and in light of other external factors. Human love affairs are hardly consistent or predictable. What I can expect from God is that he will abide in the covenants made with me through the specific Words he chose to speak to all of us through the Bible. John 1:1-14.

If I do not believe in the covenant, I should not be in the relationship, much in the same way that those who are not willing to stick to their marital vows should not be married and bring judgment upon themselves for such failures. Matthew 5:31-32. But, that I should believe, I am required to bring my ship back to the safe harbor of His Love, Word and Compassion for me, as I would with my marriage and the love that it holds for me.

How can one please God if we do not know what to expect from him? Are His set of expectations merely “theory”? No, he expects us to keep his sayings/commandments and live by them much in the same way couples live out their vows. John 14:15-24.

When viewed from a humanistic stance, the expectation that one’s religion might be viewed as a “love affair” carries with it all of the potential for self interest as a governing force, the expectation of certain results, errors, false perception, and unmet expectations as with most “love affairs.” My love of, and servitude to, Christ must be submissive and humble. As I learn from my submission to His Church, I also learn patience, commitment and humility in my own human affairs. Ephesians 6:5-9. Acts 20:19; Colossians 2:18-23.

In fact, it is no secret that marriages, love affairs, and the entry into any covenant must be based on trust, honor, dignity and like factors. Conversely, such relations require much work, are not always perfect because of the people involved (regardless of the strength of the words of any covenant made between them), and relationships require an element of daily tolerance and forgiveness in order to work.

One of the other thoughts that comes to mind is one which relates to the definition of marriage and love. For me anyway, the purpose of marriage is so that the couple might become one flesh and so that they might put forth future generations. Often, we look to our parents, or at least want to look at prior generations, to learn about what makes for a good relationship. Perhaps this is why we were given the Commandment to honor our parents. Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:1-6. Indeed, we look for the “things that made it work” for our relatives and friends who have been married for decades. Psalm 45:16-17. Much the same can be said for religion.

Would I look for a community of believers that had stayed together consistently for 2000 years, or would I want one that is unproven or shown to have splintered since its inception? I think that the building blocks for a marriage ought to be based on the objective history of what has kept other marriages together — regardless of whatever cultural, environmental, or financial challenges there were in those relationships.

Religion faces many of these same challenges and how the Faith responds to the challenges will either be honorable or dishonorable. The quality or reliability of the response, on the other hand, can only be looked at on a larger historical level. We often ask ourselves, “Did the couple last?” or we say, “Wow, that couple really made it. What a great marriage. They’ve been through a lot and still love each other.” What of us who have not forgotten the true love that we have for the Faith we had as children? What of that love that is rediscovered, but tempered with years of experience and life before coming back to the beloved?

As with all marriages, there are ups and downs and some of these peaks, separations of time, troughs, and plateaus last for varying periods of time. The issue then becomes more of a matter of assessing whether the “family” survived the challenges and made the most of them over the length of the relationship. As with marriage, the ability to maintain the relationship depends on my willingness to go back to the vows/commitment/covenant that I made in the first place, because I know that the words are objective and lasting — regardless of my own faults in keeping to the words at times.

Or, if I want to look for good or bad examples of relationships, what shall I say of the persons who continually switch love affairs or who are always trying to change their spouses? Is this not what Luther did? He didn’t love the spouse he married (i.e., the Catholic Church). Simply stated, Luther left his beloved for another. See generally, 2 Corinthians 11:1-2.

In a very strong sense, Luther seized upon the weaknesses of a long marriage and, instead of counseling and reforming, chose to be a home-wrecker of sorts. Such efforts were egged on by the likes of Zwingli and Calvin as well. Instead of looking to save the marriage, they tried to find new wives for Christ. Instead of reminding the cheaters (the religious leaders of the Catholic Church), of their vows, the “Reformers” focused on the destruction of the 1500-year-old marriage which had survived many an attack before Luther.

Luther, in a spiritual form of domestic violence, forcefully redefined his covenant and put in motion a view of the “love relationship” between Man and God that splintered, caused division, led to war, and resulted in a complete lack of unity between literally hundreds if not thousands of denominations. Prior to his “love affair” there was a solid bond among believers, and the unity had survived for more than 1500 years, not including the 3500-4000 years of lasting covenants between God and the People of Israel. These relationships and the example they set were not merely theoretical, they were confirmed by the annals of history and the happiness, sorrows, and challenges of the persons who lived in the relationships that form the basis even for our Faith today.

These things being said, it cannot be forgotten that couples need time alone, they often need time to heal spiritual wounds, they need time to reform their relationship so as to bring it into conformity with their original vows. Is a “date-night” not the time for ‘rekindling the fire’ and creating and enjoying memories as to why we love each other in the first place? Can these things not be said about the Church as well? God wants ‘date nights’ with us as well — it’s called prayer. Reform, however, cannot be confused with changing one’s vows. The vows remain the same, but are renewed through peace, reformation, and time.

The Chesterson quote also raises the question: What about the folks who find out that they fell in love, and found out the person/religion wasn’t what they thought they found? What if the beloved is dishonest? What if one spouse matures and the other remain stagnant? What about the spouse who suffers from a disease that inhibit the relationship? No true vow of marriage allows for its breaking through any of these ‘reasons.’ The strength of the relationship can only be defined by the willingness of those in it to remain true to themselves and to the relationship formed through their unique identities, overall purpose, and their complimentary reflections upon each other.

Isn’t Romanticism an ideal (i.e., theoretical)? To be loved, one must have all of the qualities necessary to be capable of being loved. For some, this is a history of honor, a definitive covenant, consistency, loyalty, appearance, accountability, depth, satisfaction, trust, and other such factors. These factors aren’t theoretical — either they exist as a matter of fact or not. Christ’s words and the history of His people are not theoretical. These Words tell us of what He expects of us for so long as we shall love each other, just as my vows tell me what I have promised my wife and she to me.

We’re Stirring the Cosmic Soup: A Quick Retort to the Religion of Pure Atheism

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While it may very well be that all that we are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.

As of late, I have given some thought to the arguments of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Edward Wilson, Peter Singer and a number of other players in the current debates about God, morality, and evolutionary biology.  Their basic premise seems to be that what it means to be human or a part of nature can only be explained by evolutionary theory.  Moreover, this theory leads the to the inexorable conclusion that all can be reduced to an explanation as to how atomic physics have played out in the last however many billion years or so. (See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe ). Nary a thought is given to the real fact that all of us have an epistemological gap between us and the beginning of time, such that no present explanation of our world can suffice to explain it entirely.  God does readily fill that epistemological void.

While it may very well be that all that we (and the universe we have our be-ing in) are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.  This ability is seen nowhere else in the ‘natural world.’  Indeed, it is this very deviation from cosmic destiny, evolutionary theory, or even simple neuro-psychology, that uniquely defines what it is to be human.

Unlike the natural world, we are not dependent on the synchronicity of our coexistence with/in  the many moving and interactive elements of the earth’s evolved environment.  Ostensibly, we are readily able to defy what nature might otherwise dictate.  Singer and others have, rather oddly, concluded that behavior which defies nature is somehow ignoble or immoral.  Isn’t everything “natural,” in the sense that all that is must be derivative of evolutionary processes and atomic destiny?  What possible moral difference could stirring the pot of cosmic existence make, if we can only have derived our ability to stir the pot from the very substance found in the pot?  There has to be a clear distinction made between the subject and objects confronted by human existence.

As an aside, this does not mean that morality would have to be completely dependent on some traditional notion of God. It is simply a matter of distinguishing a difference between intentionality, conscious acknowledgment and the human experience of what is “moral,” from that which is simply a byproduct of evolutionary necessity and atomic structure. Whether these aspects are distinguishable from each other is the question that Professor Dawkins raises. The conceptual parsing done by Dawkins is actually quite admirable and necessary to the understanding of either side’s argument.

Moreover, it seems readily apparent that the process of evolution for the ‘natural world’ moves at the same pace as it has from the beginning of time (barring any natural disasters).  Animals and plants are not dependent on us for their existence in a natural state.  They only evolve at certain scientifically definable rates in accordance with the environmental variables which govern the process.

Simply put, humans command the ability to even deprive ourselves of the natural synchronicity with nature.  It is indeed arguable that we sometimes separate from nature and defy it.   At a minimum, we stand out from nature.  For example, a lion cannot simply redefine itself or make claim to an existence other than that which it has at its essence. A view toward’s Heidegger’s philosophy on death would also underscore the reality that humans are perfectly capable of  experiencing “unnatural” deaths.  Most lions and other creatures will die substantially the same way and of the same causes.  Humans, however, bear a capacity for defining even the parameters of our own deaths.  Certainly, our nearest alleged “relatives,” chimpanzees, can hardly lay stake to such abilities.  In other words, there is something about the human experience that can be completely differentiated from that of the animal experience.  Indeed, this statement can be made even without accounting for the unique capacity of humans to conceive of [a] God, to understand beauty, and to engage in the fine arts.

Nevertheless, we can rightly claim that humans engage in unnatural acts.  They engage in acts that defy natural selection and the otherwise undisturbed progression of the natural world outside of humanity.  Animals are not generally self destructive in any real way.  Humans, on the other hand, are completely competent to destroy themselves and everything else around them.  Indeed, humankind is readily able to change its environment quickly and drastically.  And, in so changing, it becomes apparent that we are the only creatures on earth that are capable of self-directed evolution, even to the point of destroying ourselves.   Seemingly, evolutionists are ready to deprive of humankind of this sacred and distinct attribute shared by no other living creatures.

Frankly, it seems inconsistent to stand by an evolutionary biology explanans for why things are the way they are, and yet complain about the seemingly out of control, or even allegedly  immoral, progress of humanity.  Morality simply has no place in a universe driven only by the predisposed nature of atomic structures and the rules of physics to which they are bound.  In a very important sense, the effect of human existence on the environment is no less evolutionary or atomically driven than any other process that is claimed to have arisen from a purely evolutionary beginning.  That is, if one believes that all must have come from simple existence which led to a graduated complexity.

In order to speak of “moral” behavior, one must first believe that there is some constituent part of the universe which can be moral or act in a moral way.  If we rely simply on the synaptic firing of our neurons, coupled with a genetic destiny, it simply does not make sense to incorporate a moral lexicon into human existence.  However, if one believes that moral behavior is a step above, or uniquely differentiated from, the coldness of evolutionary survival of the species, it must follow that one believes that there is a higher arche to the human existence.  Whether this is attributable to God or a higher being/be-ing (a template for higher being or a more complex nature outside of the natural rules that apply to all other creatures), or not, seems to be the real question.

There are a good number of evolutionary biologists and philosophers of our time who readily conclude that all of human existence can simply be explained by reference to the primordial atomic soup from which all has evolved.  They do not explain where the atomic structure/fabric came from, they do not explain the source of the energy driving all that is, they ignore or gloss over the origins of art and beauty, and they completely ignore the obvious fact that the human line of species significantly deviates from otherwise predictable genetic destinies or even basic natural evolution of the rest of nature and its evolving complexity.

At first glance, the basic problem with evolutionary biology is that it rests upon what appears to be a purely linear view of the time-space continuum.  This purely linear view adds an unnecessary viscosity to the stream of the cosmos and nature itself. The evolutionists view does not account for the fact that all matter, or representations of matter, derive from an admittedly common source and theoretical moment of being put in motion.  That is, all things that can be perceived in the real world are the same age by reference to atomic matter, interactivity, and movement of the cosmos.

The only difference between one atomic structure and another is the ‘present’ constituency of the thing perceived.  Under a non-linear view of time, it may just be the case that the “age” of things is a function of where they are in the movement of the “cosmic swirl.”  An evolutionist should not confuse the properties of age with actual age — if time can even be said to be a good structure for cosmology.  If there was a single moment of creation, moving forward, differing “ages” of the atomic world’s constituents are not so obvious as to merit the conclusion that the universe actually is 13.7 to 37 billion years old or any other specific age for that matter.  If, at the time the cosmos was put in motion, certain aspects of reality were given characteristics in their atomic structure that give off the impression of being “older,” it may simply be that the evolutionist has been fooled in much the way a purchaser of art might be fooled by the acquisition of a good faux painting.  The thing acquired or perceived has all of the characteristics, but is lacking in the need of its original creator and an understanding of the process leading up to the perceived masterpiece.

In other words, the moment of creation may simply have been a stirring of the pot by an Omnipotent and wholly self sufficient Primary Mover.  A cyclical or interwoven time structure is not the same as a linear structure which starts from a given point and brings us to something called “today.”  The ‘swirl’  of the cosmic mass we call reality should not be confused with a purely linear view of reality, upon which evolution must rely (i.e., reliance on a Big Bang, primordial soup, then various periods of evolution/advancement of varying species).  Obviously, if linear time is the framework for the edifice of evolution, there is a strong likelihood that evolutionary theory is defectively constructed.

Additionally, it seems that the atheist opposition confuses their perceived improbability of God with ultimate exclusion from the range of all possibilities.  In the view of Dawkins and his company, it is nearly an absolute truth that God does not exist.  Were it the case that Dawkins could overcome the long standing objections that might be made by George Berkeley as to the importance of human perception in all of this, perhaps a better argument could be made.  However, Dawkins and his crew presuppose the validity and concrete values of their perceptions and just assume that a consensus gentium argument will carry the day because a vast number of other evolutionary biologists happen to agree on the notion that God, Creationism or Intelligent Design are improbable or altogether wacky.  Solipsism remains a strong enemy of confidence in the truth values of our own perceptions.  In fact it does seem that the utility and efficacy of certain “memes” bears out this very problem.  Cultural evolution is a product of passed on perception, without necessary regard to or of principles deriving from mathematics or physics.

In order for anyone’s argument to work with respect to great cosmological arguments, it does seem that the veil of basic human perception must first be torn and put aside in favor of an unobstructed view of reality.  Humanity has proven itself quite incapable of divesting itself from its condition as a status which depends purely on the senses and humanized logic.  Professor Dawkins and his ilk may be assured that just as great a number of scientific theories have fallen, after ready acceptance by consensus, as have arguments for the existence of particular gods or ontologies.  In large part, it seems that the human defect of limited perception is the cause of a great number of these many failed scientific theories throughout history. Indeed, it seems apparent that our singular or collective experiences limit the conclusions to which we may arrive.  Experience naturally limits the parameters of what we can actually know.  Admittedly, the breadth of one’s “experience” can be widened with knowledge/exposure to mathematics, physics, chemistry, theory of biology, philosophy, and other areas of learning.  However, the expansion of theory is dependent on the limits of our own personal knowledge and that of our colleagues in thought.  The limits of humanity do not give way simply because one believes in evolutionary biology.

Father Time has proven himself to be a bitter enemy to the life span of most scientific theories.  As human perception ‘evolves,’ scientific theories die.  Sometimes they die by the weight of their own complexity or the simply are shown to be inconsistent with the collective perceptions of an advanced humanity.  Oddly, however, the explanatory value of a higher cause or higher being has not died since the conceivable beginnings of human thought about the source of our being and the reasons for our existence.  This may be simply because a belief in God does provide a fabric to all that is.  Or, it may just as well be that the vast majority of humans have perceived something that can only be described as God.  For as many scientists and theologians as there have been in history, there have probably been nearly as many fools among them.

The pervasive perception of God, or the empirical basis for the use of a word such as “God,” cannot be simply disregarded.  Simply because Dawkins has not personally perceived something that might be called God does not allow him to summarily dispense with any Wittgensteinean objections as to the limits of our language and ability to articulate what we experience.  It is undeniably the case that the Judeo-Christian view of the world has rather successfully sufficed to unite an advancing/progressive group of humans, indeed the entirety of Western Culture, of which Professor Dawkins would be a participant.  The “memes” of, or which are, Christianity have proven to be a rather powerful force by any account.  See generally, John 1:1-4 (KJV).

It seems to me that the evolutionists of our time ought to give some minor consideration to the thought that the theoretical explanans and the actual explanandum of human existence are conceivably different.  If truth be the sum of its complete, necessary and agreed upon conditions, the evolutionary biologists/theorists have plenty of agreement, but could not possibly have a complete or necessary epistemological basis for the ultimate truths they espouse.  Admittedly, the same applies for a strict historical or epistemological view of Christianity.

In the case of both Evolutionary Theory and the belief in God, there is indicia of pure religion.  Religion requires certain elements, which appear to be:  1.)  A redemptive or explanatory story for what is;  2.) An explanandum/definiendum which outside of complete human perception or experience;  3.) Preachers and prophets of the truth or content contained within the explanans/definiens; 4.) A body of the faithful who simply may have no epistemelogical basis for a belief in what is explained or the explanation itself; 5.) A desire to operate by explanatory fiat or ultimatum.  Zealotry on behalf of any such religion can lead to discord and unnecessary viscosity in the stream of otherwise valuable arguments.  Certainly, both sides of the Intelligent Design argument seem perfectly capable and willing to lift the sword toward the other.

Or it may very well be that the enemies of God are simply asking the wrong questions even about their own existence and be-ing (Dasein) in the Heideggerian sense.  Perhaps it is just that they think it important to “stir the pot” in the proverbial sense.  But what sense does it make to stir the pot if you’re in it?

 

 

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Thought for the Day

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Lest our Faith become nothing more than a Platonic shadow, we must throw ourselves into the Light of Christ. We must become the Form of our Faith.

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