Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dissenting Pagan Christianity: Searching for Biblical Christianity

I started my reading of the book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna this week. I have just read the preliminary pages, but so far the writers have written what I believe. One of the author speaks about the concept of the 'institutional church' that has become like the Pharisees of Jesus' time, adding to the scriptures traditions of men. Viola also speaks about the other movement within Christianity, that operates like the Sadducees, subtracting from the Scripture and removing Biblical practices from the church. I appreciate his words, as ever since I arrived at university with the pivotal experience of finding Christians accusing other Christians of being a cult, the Lord has lead me into a spiritual journey of discovering for myself authentic Christianity. While for a time, the Seventh-day Adventist church and Ellen G. White's The Great Controversy (the first half of the book) played a role in supplying the answers, today I see the church as carrying out the same errors of creating its own traditions, perpetuating other Protestant (and even Catholic traditions) and abandoning the principles and even beliefs of its founders.

I therefore appreciate the growing number of Christians who feel to identify themselves as 'unchurched" or "uncommitted". Like this growing body of Christians, I too feel uncommitted to any religious institution, as all the Christian religious institutions that I know possess traditions that are not quite Biblical and unquestioned. In other words, their theology seems closed, or perhaps to the other extreme of being so open that they change their beliefs and practices to meet contemporary times and postmodernist thought. Hence, my identity is not defined then by an institution's system of beliefs, but rather more eclectic, as I shop for beliefs among Christian and Jewish thinkers that best explain truths that I see in the Bible.

However, in the mean time, for my children's sake, I have to pause my spiritual shopping around, so that they can get a stable spiritual environment to support their own social and spiritual development. As I do this, I try to guard myself from becoming to active in the denomination that only possess portions of my own spiritual beliefs. After all, like Abraham, I am a wandered, a pilgrim, awaiting the holy land and the promises that the great teacher (Messiah Jesus) will come to earth, put an end to all false doctrine and teach the whole world righteousness. However, before that day comes, I need to study the word of God for myself and be like the Bereans, questioning the dogma and teachings of preachers, speakers and denominational leaders (Acts 17:11). For if one thing is clear, it is that these are the days of deception and false prophets are everywhere.


Viola, F. & Barna, G. (2008). Pagan Christianity? Exploring the roots of our church practices. [Carol Stream, Ill.?]Barna/Tyndale House Pub.

White, E. G. (1911). The great controversy between Christ and Satan: The conflict of the ages in the Christian dispensation. Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing Association.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lessons from John D. Rockerfeller's biography

After blogging in the previous post about John D Rockerfeller and how his Christian views shaped his capitalism, I have decided to share more about what I read in his biography and my assessment of the lessons to be learned from his life. For those who are not familiar with the man, Rockerfeller was a 19th century American  entrepreneur who was hated by many because of how he did business. Nevertheless, the man was also at the end of his life a philanthropist giving a lot of money for charity. In Colllier and Horowitz (1976), Rockerfeller was so considered to be a wicked man that there were some pastors who felt that they could not accept funds donated for charity  from him. Rockerfeller was so considered evil (in my estimation), because he was on of those men who destroyed small businesses while creating one of America's large corporation within his period. At the time, the people of America valued small businesses rather than corporations (and perhaps still do).

From now on, all the information that I present in this post comes from the book/source :

Collier, Peter and David Horowitz. The Rockerfellers: An American Dynasty. New York: Holt, Rhineart and Winston, 1976.

Alternately to this post, one can browse the Wikipedia article on him.

While I do not want to insinuate that Rockerfeller was evil, wicked or immoral, I see some lessons from his life that will do well to serve as a warning to Christian entrepreneurs and those who are financially rich while professing the faith. It must be noted that the scriptures hints that the very anti-Christ spirit could come from a falling away from Christianity (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3). It is therefore not strange that someone from the Christian faith that grew up in the church and once practiced Christianity could become the final embodiment of the Antichrist. On reading the biography of John D. Rockerfeller, the concern in my mind is how close every one of us is to falling into that pattern.

An inspiring beginning?

John D. Rockerfeller had ambition as a young man. He set out in his mind what he wanted from life. He did not just want a career, but wanted to be worth thousands of dollars (p. 11).

He took his first job because he wanted a job that would prepare him for (to borrow Charles Dicken's words) his "great expectations" (p. 12). As such, he aimed high, seeking employment at big companies (p.12). This ambitious young man was thereby in pursuit of greatness and wealth. Especially considering the dishonour to be gotten from his poor family background, especially the negative and criminal reputation of his father.

John's Father, William was a deceiver, a con artist/artiste or con man, a "pitchman", who was also ever absent from the home (p.8). He was described as "the sort of man who could tell a tale" (p.7). He was implicated in the rape of a girl and was on the run from law (p 8-9).

In contrast, John's mother "was quite the opposite – moral, strict, severe with harsh Scottish piety”. She filled her son's head with maxims that he would recollect all throughout his life (p.9). Her influence resulting in John growing up as a faithful Christian at the Erie Street Baptist Church where he eventually became a deacon.

John was both diligent in his career, business and in his church life. He rendered faithful service both at his job and at his church. He believed in recording his expenditure and in record keeping of what he spent. Consequently, he “wrote down (daily) the penny, the income and expenses, the saving and investment, the business and benefactions of his life” (p.12). Church was his only “recreation” (p.13). He gave money faithfully to his Sunday school at Erie Street Baptist Church, money to the poor and to foreign missions (p.13). Eventually, John became an entrepreneur, after asking for a pay raise and being denied that raise.

The immoral change?

Our friends and associates really colour us. It is the company that we keep that can drag us into immorality. So it is with John, who though distant from his father's ways, encountered someone who had those same ways that helped to lead him into a path that deviated from his inspiring progress.

John found a “friendship” that was “founded on business” which he believed was better than a “business founded on friendship” (p. 20). This friendship was with a man that John believed to be competent in making deals. John later remarked that “the ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee...and I pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun” (p. 21).

It was this friend that was made an executive in Rockerfeller's firm. This same friend was a man that was shady and of the same disposition as his father. Collier and Horowitz states of the man that he “resembled [John's] father and did not stickle at taking care of those aspects of business from which Rockerfeller himself preferred to establish a certain distance” (p.21). Apparently this began the downward spiral of Rockerfeller's character.

From then on Rockerfeller went on a path of making secret deals that would eliminate his competitors. His lifelong policy of close door meetings to change the economic landscape of the state of Ohio and later America and eventually the world now began. He wanted to buy out all his rivals and establish a monopoly, viewing himself and the company that he operated as acting in grace by saving the other firms. He declared of this initiative:

“We find her the strongest and most prosperous concern in the business...turning to its less fortunate competitors...and saying to them, 'We will stand in for the risks and hazards of the refining business...Come with us, and we will do you good. We will undertake to save you from the wrecks of the refining business'” (p.25).

“What other men saw as villainous self-interest, he regarded as Christian charity...'Get into the ark. Put in your old junk. We will take the risks'” (p.25). John wanted to bring all businesses under the umbrella of his own company, and believed that what he was doing was merciful and righteous.

My questions:

Is Christianity today being perceived in the same way as Rockerfeller? Especially in America. And if the answer is yes, are these principles truly Christian and in light with the ancient faith from 2000 years ago?

My interpretation or assessment

I remember from my studies of European history that Antisemitism began when people in Europe saw the Jews as wealthy aristocrats, benefiting from the economic system while the masses struggled and suffered. It was on this issue that Hitler and Fascist Germany arose.

Yet I fear that the recent US elections also painted the Republican party in similar light. It seemed as if the America's wealthiest persons were conservative Christians benefiting from the current economic and social system of US while those not included in that social group suffered. But that is not just in America.

In my homeland Jamaica, it is the same. My Anglican education and Protestant upbringing caused me to see that the important, respected and wealthy people in society were all professed Christians. They had stable  families, wealth and prestige. As such, what I learned from school, was that if I followed the rules, rituals and protocols that my principal and teachers taught me, I too could achieve the success of those highly respected people of society. In fact my school motto was "hard work conquers all".

I also remember a political cartoon sketch from my study of the French revolution, where the nobility and clergy were pictured as placing burdens on the poor while being well fed and rich. It is therefore with concern that I note that the wealthy Christians among us may be creating an image that will lead secular people who are suffering to blame us as the scapegoats for their sufferings.

However, my greatest concern is that rather than showcase Christ, we ourselves may be the obstacles or the stench that turn the poor away. Just like Rockerfeller, we may be doing what we feel is our Christian duty, but in the process, causing people to blaspheme God's name because of our insensitivity to their needs. And even after we have made millions of dollars and decide to spend some of it on the poor, the damage may be irreparable.

Rethinking Christianity's support for Capitalism

It is good to have a blog, because one's views are always and constantly evolving. After some interaction with friends and introspection based on some thoughts expressed in my previous blog post on the American 2012 election, I have given some thought to my current ideology, paradigm and worldview. In my previous blog, I espoused views that endorse preference for a capitalist economy over a socialist one. After interaction, conversation and introspection, I reflected on views on socialism and asking the question are my views on socialism really Christian or are they inspired by the traditions of men?

So much of the New Testament is written about money and personal money management. Just take for example the book of Luke. Luke records many stories about money. Luke 18 - parable of tax collector and the story about the rich ruler, Luke 19 - parable of 10 pounds + Jesus cleansing the temple of the money changers; Luke 20, paying taxes and wicked tenants; Luke 21 - widow's offering. Consequently, in the scriptures one can find so many references, stories and parables about money. Yet does the scriptures either sanction socialism or capitalism? That is not as obvious.

I know that most of my views though on the relationship between capitalism and Protestant Christianity are inspired not by the Scriptures, but by the work of the German sociologist Max Weber. Weber (1930) wrote on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (for more about this see this entry in Wikipedia), pointing out how much the Protestant ethic was compatible with and also aided the initiation of capitalism.

Weber's work is not the only one to point to the compatibility of capitalism. I have also read the biography of  John D. Rockerfeller and have seen in this evidence of such compatibility in action. Collier and Horowitz (1976) tells us how John D. Rockerfeller's worldview was influenced by his mother's Protestant teaching. Rockfeller learned how to relate to money and personal money management and accounting from his Christian Protestant Baptist beginning (Collier & Horowitz, 1976)

As such, I now question if capitalism is really compatible with true Christianity or is it only compatible with fallen or apostate Christianity? These are the questions that I now pose for others and myself, at the eve of a possibly new America, as the conservatives and the harbingers of the old American Protestant story of democracy have suffered defeat to the new America of minorities and youth.

In one regard the old story of American Protestant is not very applicable today. Protestant story works when there are stable families that care for each other. However, with America's new demographics of unstable (if it is not politically correct to say 'broken') families, poverty concerns are inevitable. There are no guarantees that families will take care of each other in the present or future. People "fall in and out" of love, and no longer decide to commit to and persevere in keeping the family together and caring for each other until death.

Within this context, the issue then is, should not the Christian support widows and orphans, with widows in this case being single parents? Our New Testament theology answers with a resounding yes (See for example, James 1:27). Hereby, it is Christian to support and help single parents and those in unstable family conditions or situations of distress. The question however arises: should that duty be done through compulsory tax deduction via the state or through philanthropy, charity and good works?


Collier, Peter and David Horowitz. The Rockerfellers: An American Dynasty. New York: Holt, Rhineart and Winston, 1976.

Weber, Max. (1930). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Roxbury Publishing Company

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My reaction to American Election 2012

On November 7, 2012, when I heard the results of the hotly and closely contested election, the information while not surprising confirmed to me the beginning of the decline of Evangelical America. Unlike the rest of my Caribbean friends who are elated at the re-election of the president of colour, my concern is that Americans have voted against Biblical Christianity's influence on their public policy. That to me is not something that I celebrate. In fact, it tells me that from now on Biblical Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, will be a minority not only in America, but globally. It also tells me that America, the last religious developed nation on earth, will now go the way of secular Europe. For me, this is a hard pill to swallow.

Most of my spiritual values have been shaped by both Anglican education and American Protestantism. My outlook and worldview have all be constructed from drawing on the stories from either American Protestantism, or being inculcated by my education in Anglican schools up to tertiary level. As such, my identity and "self" or what secularists would call "ego", identifies with American Evangelicals and Catholics and their struggles to maintain their national identity. But at last, progressive liberal secularist and humanist agenda has won the culture wars. Progress is now defined as abandoning the Protestant ethic and history of the United States towards the socialist and secular models of Europe.

However, people have a right to chose and to decide their destiny. And the people of America have spoken louder than the Christian community. Hence the last religious developed nation on earth is about to shed its identity with its conservative religious past, and change its own story and history. A new story about America will be written within the coming decades. One that will be increasingly secular and anti-Protestant  and anti-Christian. However, this will also be not just the situation in America, but across the rest of the world.

I have always felt like a minority because of my spiritual beliefs. Even within Christianity and even within the denomination that I now fellowship in. This is due to the fact that I am anti-traditions of men. My own religious identity draws upon the story of Reformation and the need for Christianity to be in a constant state of looking back at their traditions and identifying what is a product of apostasy versus what is authentic. The election results have had me this week in a state of introspection recognising that the days of me having political influence in any nation has ended. My votes will always be within the minority. Also, the candidates that I would want to represent me, will never win nomination much less an election. That to me deprives me of hope for the nations and my place in them.

Yet, there is hope when I look back to the stories and prophecies of Scripture. Because, if these things did not take place, then Biblical prophecies would not be coming to pass. In the Bible, Jesus tells me that these last days, Christians will be hated, but must stand their ground (Matthew 10:22).  However Jesus  also says that when we are persecuted as Christians, we must flee into other cities (Matthew 10:23). Hence, today's globalisation presents the opportunity to travel and immigrate providing us Christians with the opportunity to flee persecution as we remain true to our identity in Christ. As such, for those in America, I encourage you not to limit your identity to your nationality, but be willing to even flee to a developing nation, when and if you are persecuted in your homeland for your beliefs and refusal to act against your conscience. Look back to the stories of the American pilgrims and remember that they too had to flee Europe to establish what you have inherited. Yet not only can we flee to other nations when the persecution becomes unbearable, but Jesus promises that we will not exhaust the cities before he returns (Matthew 10:23).  May God bless you as we wait the return of the one in whom we believe. Stand firm and trust the word of God, though hell seems to move against you.