Monday, November 30, 2009
When Cain killed Abel, what was he thinking? That God was unjust not to accept his sacrifice while He accepted Abel’s? That he (a planter) did his best to please God while Abel (an animal-er) was just as good as him? That his values were not confused and that his unresolved frustrations needed to be resolved? That to kill Abel was the right solution to whatever personal crisis he went through?
Cain knew from Father Adam and Mother Eve that God was real – his parents talked to God in the Garden – but He was nowhere to be seen East of Eden. Cain, then (it seems), only had second-hand evidence of God’s existence. The third human being was the first to be born and to live in the new and fallen world, a bird’s flight away from Paradise and from immortality.
Raising Cain was literally a new paradigm for the forlorn former-dwellers and freshly-ordained parents of Eden. Barely had they overcome the trauma of encountering guilt and the prospect of inevitable death when they – driven from Paradise with fig leaves as their only worldly possessions – now faced the reality of the gruesomeness of death and what it was really all about. Their other son, Abel, whom God favored for His righteous behavior, became himself the very first human offering in what will turn out to be a long, senseless string of murders of innocents that humanity will inflict upon a dying Earth itself till the arrival of the Lord of Life.
Abel, the pure sacrifice who prefigured Christ, offered a pure sacrifice. For God looks at the heart of the worshiper. He saw, even before Cain offered his own sacrifice, that he was merely following rules and not loving God (or others) with his whole being – heart, soul and mind -- as Abel did. That the first death should be tied historically and morally to the supreme sacrifice of God’s own Son Jesus, gives us a preview of the righteousness of God’s final judgment upon those who fail to obey His commands, one of which is not to kill. Or, put it positively in its general perspective, to love others including one’s enemies.
Death is morally tied up to worship or any spiritual act involving one’s life, talents and ambitions. Ancient people saw the necessity of blood as the ultimate symbol as well as the very reality of life as the highest God-given gift which humans were expected to value and respect with their very life in return. Hence, Cain’s and Abel’s works allowed them to express their tribute to a righteous God through a symbolic representation of their “best-effort” produce. For Christians, Christ's perfect sacrifice models a living sacrifice they now must struggle to exhibit daily. Again, God looks at the heart first before the offering.
Cain failed the test. His may have been externally his best offering but his heart was not. His offering was tainted by his inner unrighteousness – his hatred for his brother. He may have offered a good thing; but he felt bad within him and worse for Abel and, so, did his worst. Cain spent days and, perhaps, even weeks and months dealing with the hatred in his heart. With every rejection he felt for his failed worship (he could not seem to accept that what he did reflected his heart and his whole life and, therefore, his relationship with God), he became envious of his brother’s material and spiritual prosperity.
This dilemma Cain faced was merely a continuation of the battle between good and evil which began in the Garden. Being the first child of the womb ever and the first inheritor of Adam and Eve’s fallen nature, Cain, unfortunately, grew to become a maladjusted person. He, it seems, harbored hatred not just for Abel but also for his parents and, it follows, for God Who had brought such a disastrous thing to occur to him, his family and to the world-at-large. Abel was merely a, well, convenient and appropriate scapegoat at that, upon which he vented his unhappiness or displeasure in life. Apparently, there are no genuinely happy murderers.
Death then first came to this world through Cain’s murderous act and through Abel’s sacrifice. Since then, murder has stained this world a million-fold or more. Since then, countless martyrs and innocents have given up their lives for God.
In essence, every murder is premeditated or planned by its perpetrator. Whether one takes a day or a year to plan the act or does so in a moment’s anger, it all comes from a heart which has been brought up in a culture of hatred, vengeance, selfish pride and unrighteousness. A road-rager kills not because he has a gun in his car but because his heart speaks hatred and murder every minute. Hence, like genuine worship, which is nothing but an expression of constant love, the antithesis of hatred, it all starts in the heart. And it was conceived in the Garden. By whom?
Satan. His great plan was to murder pure and innocent beings. Such were Adam and Eve. Such is every one born into this world. But to effect his plan – the premeditation of murder all began in Eden – he had to cause the most devious deed ever thought of in the history of the Universe and even of pre-Creation: the invention of death. Not that Satan had the power to author death but that God merely authorized Satan to be the bringer of death which was his lot after he, as Lucifer, rebelled against God with his angels. Imprisoned, it seems, in the underworld and within reach of humans, Satan sought to interfere with Creation and take vengeance upon God through humans. And here is the big catch, literally: Satan would put the blame in the hands of God by causing Him to pronounce death upon humans and, thereby, implicate God in the eyes of humans and lead many to doubt God’s goodness and even His very existence. Great plan, for it works so well that so many even deny Satan’s or Hell’s existence.
Eden was God’s replication of Heaven in material form. What was up there, He put in the Garden. Life, Beauty, Bliss and Immortality. Satan, who was driven from God’s presence for his rebellion, planned the overthrow of this new realm. He, like every other murderer, hopes to destroy whatever goodness there is that exists. Hatred, in essence, is a person’s inability to see or acknowledge that God is good and that to acknowledge that truth (that is, to worship Him) one needs only to thank Him and do as He bids. How hard is it to live and let live in this world? Not for Satan and murderers; death is their aim and also their lot. Divine Justice requires the latter.
Why then did God put the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden? To give way for Satan and his evil scheme? No, it was put there for humans to appreciate God’s goodness – and His power. With a million and one good things in Eden and one nice-looking bad thing to choose from, how could we choose the latter? Unless one is so naïve and so lacking in self-control, the choice was so easy. Such was Adam; he kept away from the Fruit and from Satan. Not so Eve. It was not that Eve was weaker. Both she and Adam were weak when separated as individuals. If Adam had been there, they would not have eaten it. And so, when Eve had eaten and tempted Adam, he could not resist for he was all alone against Eve and Satan.
And so, Satan, it seems, succeeded in forcing God to destroy His own creation. Furthermore, it seems that he succeeded in putting the blame upon humans for violating God. They were not pure and innocent after they had committed sin against God. And with God, the Just One, punishing them for their disobedience, Satan triumphed over God and His Creation. Since then, the whole Universe has followed the whims of God’s archenemy. Murder is but one of many past-times the Devil delights in for breakfast, lunch, supper and snack-time. His followers are legions and their ways versatile and atrocious.
When we see massacres, bombings and wars, we see Satan smacking his lusty lips, savoring the flow of blood into his deathly coffers of souls he hopes to keep eternally in Hades. His gruesome collection awaits judgment just as he does. Knowing he has little time left and no hope whatsoever of victory, he aims, at least, to maximize his hold over those who will join him in Hell. He suffers punishment as of now and seeks only to do as much damage as he can to a wasting Universe. He has brought about so much confusion, delusion and destruction upon humanity that to stop at any time would only give a chance for more people to escape his clutches.
Satan, as is often said, is the busiest person there is -- more workaholic than a bee or any banker, media person, politician, business-person or showbiz celebrity. When we see how many of these people seem to be in the Devil’s sway (if not drugged for primetime, drunk with money, prestige, lust and power), we do not wonder at all. The spate of murders and unnecessary deaths around us all come from the Great Death Orchestrator whose curtain is about to fall.
His final and supreme act is nothing short of spectacular for apart from death he also has tentacles into the very realm of God. Whereas He has caused God to pronounce death upon humans, he has proudly pronounced life upon those he has deceived. Satan has proclaimed himself as the sole god of this world and promises salvation through deception via the many false teachings, fake sciences and pseudo-religions he has established. This is, in fact, his great soul-harvester: Promising life eternal without or apart from God. In the end, however, what it leads to is – Death. Bloody murder of souls! The Great Deceiver continues to plan and to deceive. Satan continues to murder.
In all this, God has already given the antidote. Beauty for ashes. Life and Resurrection in Christ. The war has already been decided except for the body count. When God finally visits the scene of the crime and looks at the strewn bodies of Satan’s victims, He will not simply carry a clipboard and list the names of those who had died and how they looked when they died. He will bring His Book of Life and call out those whose names are written there. And those who hear His voice will rise up and join Him to Eternal Life. God will un-murder those whom Satan murdered. Victory!
Myth or Fancy? Satan whispers unseen. But the Holy Spirit says openly: Trust God and live. His own Son Jesus was murdered and resurrected. The testimony of Christ speaks out the Truth. Listen, finally, to what He said to the hypocrites:
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44 NKJV – highlighting provided)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Look out the window and what do you see?
If you live in a high-rise condo, you will see tall buildings or low houses. All made by human hands. If you live in a subdivision, you will also see houses, streets and cars -- all formed by human labor. Even in the provinces, you will see old churches, bamboo houses and concrete or asphalt roads built by human hands. Except for the plants, animals, rivers, forests, mountains, planets, the Sun, the stars in the sky and yourself, almost everything else came through the power of human ingenuity.
The chair you sit on may have been once a tree planted by Nature without any human involved; but it took human hands to cut it down, to saw the lumber and to nail the wooden parts to make the chair. In a way, the chair and its wooden parts are still the tree -- transformed into something else -- and is, therefore, not entirely human-made.
But, philosophically speaking, we can also say that the lumber taken from the tree is dead and is, therefore, no longer the original tree. It has taken on a different form and has even acquired value for human use. Even as firewood, it might still have some of the qualities of the former living plant species but it is now a different matter with a different use. Its heap of ashes is the remains of the tree and, well, “was” the tree.
As creative humans then, we see ourselves as agents of change or transformation -- for better or for worse. People have the power to utilize what Nature hands us and to form things -- that is, solid ideas -- that make us multiply the value of un-harnessed things, so we think.
Of course, many today say that tropical forests are better off left alone to preserve the environment and to maintain ecological balance. That allows millions of living things to thrive and reproduce in the perpetual cycle of life. Ideally this is the case, for we know that dwindling resources bring us closer to transforming the globe into something that it was not meant to be before humans began abusing Nature.
Conservation and preservation are, in reality, two somehow overlapping goals of environmental protection which can provide the only practical approach to saving the environment. Conservation aims to “conserve” the use of things such that we allow Nature to recover and to maintain production in a sustainable way. Economic use requires producing value out of things -- tree to lumber to chair involves input of human capital and labor which is why the chair may be many time more expensive than a single tree. When people are led by greed to make more than Nature can produce, we end up with no raw materials and a degraded environment. The resultant floods tell a truly sad story, apart from the expected deaths that they bring. We lose good soil and we lose water. What is life without these?
Preservation, on the other hand, aims to preserve the overall interrelation of each aspect of our environment. This means, leaving enough space for rivers without shanties or buildings constricting its flow to the sea. It also means retaining enough open space for plants to grow, animals to thrive and humans to live in comfortably and provide water to seep into the ground and be retained much longer. This refreshes the land instead of letting the water carry so much soil through uncontrolled erosion. Ultimately, preservation is finding the ideal and overall balance of Nature needed to sustain life in any tiny patch of land and, it must follow, in the whole Globe. When we fail to do this, we not only lose raw materials, we also lose many of our basic needs in life -- enough space for planting and for water to collect in. Yes, we may have houses, condos and malls; but where would we go to catch fish, to wash our clothes and to swim for leisure if the rivers are gone? A long time ago, we used to do all these things in a river.
We may have passed the point-of-no-return in conserving and preserving what we have left in order to sustain a rapidly growing global population. Human hands (and other organs) have worked too fast and too wildly to have caused so much change while failing to give back to Nature. We have changed the entire world just by our unknowing and uncaring ways. Unknowing, because as young ones, we did not know that we live in a world that has limits. Uncaring, because we said often that everything will be fine.
Today, we cannot afford to be unknowing and uncaring.
Take this simple insight into the human cycle of life. Inside the toilet room, we shed off a small part of our physical being -- some falling hair, dead skin cells, liquid and solid excreta and, in an unending process, carbon dioxide and other gases. Yes, in the process, too, we renew or refresh ourselves by inhaling oxygen and when we eat, we rebuild our bodies. With what?
With fish, vegetables and the meat of animals which ingested what we gave out. The water we used to take a bath carry with them some of ourselves and flow into the streams and into the oceans where other creatures feed upon our dead skin and excreta. And so, the food we eat is actually us! The cycle of life seems gross but, quite literally, “we are” what we eat! Well, maybe in another form made more colorful and tastier by someone who studied culinary arts, but, in reality, the foie gras or the dimsum may contain the remains of a whole generation or two of nations from at least two or three continents. For without being facetious at all, the soil that remains to be eroded from the mountains today may well contain the remains of thousands who had died during the Flood of Noah. Forget about the millions who may lie safely in their modern “sanitized” graves. Millions more – whether shipwrecked, killed in battles or fires, or simply lost at sea or in the jungles -- died and gave back to wild Nature what it gave them beforehand.
People and animals die so that others may live. Now we know that this must be also literally true.
Human hands may reform or change the environment but the original design and intent of the Creator will never change. To dust we came from and to dust we will return. From a once-perfect land, humans were formed and given the spark of life. In the Fall that followed, the imperfect land now claims back what it once owned. Four things, Solomon said, are never satisfied: a barren womb, a barren land, fire and the grave.
Humans today remain unsatisfied, insatiable, greedy and subject to death. It is not in our power to completely conserve and preserve this world. It is a passing scene. Like a movie which begins with great youth-filled allure and magical hopes, it winds down to the climax until the story unfolds and brings us home to its resolution. Either the lovers kiss and live happily ever after or the actor dies and leaves us empty or victorious.
The story of the world is the greatest story we can tell our children and one another. Until today, we do not agree as to how it began and how it will end. Some say it will survive forever. Others say it will disappear. No, it was actually God Who said the latter. And if He did say so, we must have reason to listen more intently. Why? Because if this world is not made by human hands -- obviously --then it must be God-made. As it is written, God’s word created everything from nothing. And to nothing it will return. If He said so, it must truly come to an end, like a movie that has an ending. A beginning and an end.
Whether the story of the world will be a happy ending or not is the big question. As it is, it does not show much of a promise. But the weather alone seems to be telling us something. Is it something good or evil? Well, depending on how we treat the world and people today, we can deduce the outcome. The Maker of this world must be saying something through His own handiwork, the way our own hand-made civilizations are telling us that we have failed in so many respects.
Hope or despair. Life or death. Human-made or God-made. We have the power to create; we must surely have the power to decide what we can have out of life.
(Photos above: Thea Jael Tuazon builds castles on the sand not unlike so many people who think their handiwork will last forever.)
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
(I am posting a letter I wrote to a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church on the complex issue of Transubstantiation. As the other forum did not allow me to voice out my personal opinion, I have opened this space for that very purpose without being bound by rules that seem necessary for order but not really conducive to free exchange of ideas and, the opportunity to learn from one another.)
Thank you very much for your comments.
I never said my book or my discoveries matter to anyone. In fact, my views don’t matter, to so many -- Orthodox, RCC, Protestant or Evangelical. But it is my own and I live my life and faith by that revelation. Besides, a wrong concept repeated a billion times will still be wrong. But when one discovers the Truth, it can erase a thousand years or more of error, as in the case of Christ bringing the Gospel to the Jews. My statement served only to introduce who I am (a writer) and what I know (from studies) in relation to the topic.
The verses you quoted (John 6:48-66) only prove my point that Jesus was not talking about literal flesh and body. He still had to finish His ministry and He was merely testing the faith of the disciples if they were indeed willing to see His mission through the end -- that is, to eventually “eat” His flesh and “drink” His blood. But we have to understand what He meant based on what He really said as a whole.
All He was saying at that moment was that He indeed was able to give them life through real food (spiritual food, not physical substance). He defined His words as “spirit”, hence, to be construed figuratively or spiritually. Not literally as many do. (John 6:63) “The flesh profits nothing!” (Was He not also referring to His own flesh when He said this? Obviously, for He was talking about His own flesh and not anyone else’s.) Why then should He leave us with His flesh if He lives and reigns as spirit? The bread and wine are enough concrete reality that connects us to His bountiful blessings here and now.
Remember what He said after feeding the throng? (John 4:32-34) He was telling them that “to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work”-- that was His food! Christ was as consistent on the figurative meaning as He could; but, today, we act like Jews still taking the literal, albeit, mystical meaning (a very convenient mental route). Those who deserted Jesus, as with so many today, think of food and of flesh every time they see or read the “bread” or “body” but fail to see the real significance in “spirit”. The veil of Moses still hangs!
Those who worship today must do so in truth and spirit. Transubstantiation fails under this primary test.
It is so easy to say, as you claim, that what Jesus said (“This is My body”) means what it says. But He was also referring to His own real body when He spoke those words. He was, in effect, saying, “In a few hours, I will be giving up this body and my blood for you all. (The kingdom is not about eating and drinking -- Rom. 14:17) Meanwhile, I have this food that will remind you of Me and what I am about to do for you.” In the minds of the disciples, Jesus was saying meaningless words, until the Spirit explained everything afterward on Pentecost Day.
The Greek word used for “reminder” is anamnesis which derives from a root word which means “to think of” or "to put into mind" and not “to remember His death”, as we do today. Thus, when Jesus said, “Do this to think of Me”, He was not referring directly to His death or His body but to Himself as Lord and Savior. He was still alive and He wanted them to think of Who He was, what He had done and What He would do. The bread and the wine (ordinary food, like burger and juice) merely point us to the real nourishment we have from Him through His completed saving work. Hence, today, we think of Him alive and reigning in Heaven. (II Tim. 2:8) That is all that He requires from each believer. So, what’s all this talk about flesh and blood? I do not see it from all the verses cited and from the essence of His teachings.
I don’t know which is more obvious: what He explains or what He speaks without explaining? It is like a father telling his son one day that he will strangle and kill their bad neighbor, which really scared the son. When the dad said, “I won’t really kill him, I will sue him in court,” the boy understood what he meant. If the son had left without hearing the explanation, he would have been uneasy all day long. The same confusion remains among us today.
Therefore, when we say that “This is My body” should be taken literally, materially or substantially, we miss the easy and liberating feeling of being filled with plain food and yet being full of the spiritual grace knowing that Christ sits on His throne in Heaven, no longer to be sacrificed over and over again on the altar of ritualism but proclaimed as Living Savior once and for all in the hearts of simple believers.
Can we not see how simple and elegant the Gospel message really is?
In short, therefore, what I believe and practice is much older than what churches today practice for that is what the early disciples did. Acts 2:42, 46 pictures the culmination of Christ’s work, the spontaneity and innocence of which is sorely missing in our world until now. They were communing (eating full and satisfying meals, just like the Passover was, and not a mere bite and a sip) and celebrating daily the reign of Christ in their homes as one community. Do we now see why churches today are so divided? It is because we cannot agree upon what Christ taught about the Meal of Love and Unity.
Finally, I respect what the Orthodox fathers have taught and done for their followers but I honor the Lord Jesus Christ above all. It is His word and His alone, as revealed by the Holy Spirit, our Sole Teacher, that guides me. (I John 2:20-22, 27)
In Christian love,
(Photo above: Someone said that the Bible is shallow enough for a child to swim in but deep enough for theologians to drown in. Often, God talks as if He were a child talking to a child, rather than an adult talking to an adult. Thus, "out of the mouths of babes" God speaks. >>Tyra Jamile Tuazon plays with the sea and sand of Subic Bay.)