Archives for posts with tag: Religions of the World

Religions Blog

Few people know anything about the Baha’i Faith and that is a shame. The most you’ve seen is probably the signs on the side of highways saying that that stretch is “adopted” by the Baha’i Faith. But there is so much more about them that I am willing to say they have a lot going for them. Let me list a few of these things here:

1. Their two founders were committed to the very end to the idea of non-violent struggle. Baha’u’llah, the “Manifestation,” and “the Babi” (the gate or forerunner) all refused to use force, even when justified to do so. Baha’u’llah would eventually remove the idea of “jihad” from any of his religious instructions.

2. Their followers endured some of the most intense and inhuman persecution perpetrated by a splinter group of the main religion, which hunted them down, tortured them, targeted the core leadership for murder, exiled them into foreign parts, and yet with the exception of a couple of incidents, they endured in silence, throwing their fate into the hands of their god.

3. Already in the mid 19th Century, these two religious leaders were advocating justice-related themes such as the equality of the genders, the eradication of all forms of racism, the end of poverty, the idea that government should serve the people, stewardship of body and the environment, etc. Many of these ideas didn’t become en vogue until fairly recently.

4. Their current involvement in human rights issues is commended. Baha’is continued to be persecuted in places like Iran and their campaign to stop it is outstanding.

But in spite of so much good, there are some issues that don’t sit well with me about the Baha’i Faith. Here are some examples:

1. I don’t buy the entire eschatological scheme whereby somehow Baha’u’llah is a “Manifestation” of god on a par with other prophets such as Moses and Jesus Christ. Shia Muslims may still be waiting for their 12th Imam (or the “Hidden Imam) to appear,  but my Messiah has already come in the person of Jesus Christ.

2. The idea that all religious postulations are equally valid, being considered chapters of one single book is self-defeating. All one has to do is look at the self-evident contradictions found in so many of these traditions to realize that either there are some that are not true or we are dealing with a pretty schizophrenic god.

3. To give equal value to the “Manifestations” of god, including Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, Baha’u’llah, etc., and say that taken all together we can get to know about god, goes against some very basic tenets of Christianity – that Jesus is above them all because He is God in flesh and that we can know God in reality (not only in attribute) when we know Jesus.

4. Though powerful, the god of the Baha’u’llah is not personal. His immanence is so otherworldly that he is rendered virtually unapproachable. In the Baha’i Faith, there is no such a thing as the “Abba, Father.”

5. The denial of the incarnation of Jesus Christ (“God in flesh”) removes any possibility that I might ever rise above the level of a condemned sinner.

Thank God for Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 Religions Blog

We religionists are often accused of being known more for what we stand against than for what we stand for. If that is true to a certain extent about most religions, I think it is particularly true of Jehovah’s Witness. I feel really bad for kids growing up in these families. Of course, their parents will tell them that they should be privileged to be persecuted for the sake of Jehovah, but from where I stand, this is mostly self-imposed, not resulting from specific commandments from God Himself.

Here are a few examples from this religion of “not”:

Serving in the military.

Saluting the flag.

Celebrating Christmas, Easter and any of the other Holidays.

Celebrating Birthdays and anniversaries.

Blood transfusion.

In addition to that, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings also deny the following foundational doctrines of the Christian faith:

Only 144,000 select few will enter heaven.

For the rest, there is only hope for immortality on this earth.

Eternal punishment means annihilation, not suffering in a literal hell.

Jesus was only “a” god, in the same sense that Satan is the god of this world. He is not God incarnate.

Christ’s ransom only takes care of the sin we inherited from Adam. For individual sins, we must be judged by God based on our performance. “His own willful obedience or willful disobedience will decide whether he may or may not have life everlasting.” (Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, p. 152).

Jesus was raised from the dead not in bodily form but as a mighty immortal spirit Son. “The man Jesus is dead, forever dead.” (Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, p. 454).

There is much more I could say but I will stop here. What is obvious from studying Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs and practices is that they have missed the centrality of Christ in their message and instead have put their faith upon a Society which would like for them to believe that it holds power over their life and eternal destiny.

All their efforts to live a holy life, all their dedication to “Bible” studies and religious observance, etc. are nothing more than man-made rules to try somehow to attain to God. They have zeal without knowledge, as Paul says in Romans 10:1-4.

What they need is Christians reaching out to them in love and sharing the true gospel with them. They don’t need another Christian slamming the door on their faces. They need a gentle touch for God Himself, through us, Christ-followers. They need to meet the Head through the body.

Let’s make sure we do our part in this most important endeavor. And if you want to hear more, make sure you join us this Sunday in church. We will hear about ways we can reach out in love to Christ’s other friends who are being led astray by a set of doctrines contrary to God’s Word.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Religions Blog
“The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible”
is a motto that has been around Grace Brethren circles for a long time. While I am conscious of the historical context that gave rise to it – the Grace Brethren group broke off from the Ashland Brethren group in large part because of the perceived weak view the latter had regarding the authority of Scriptures – I now realize that this can also be a narrow way to define one’s principal beliefs.

That the Bible is central to everything we believe as Christians is undeniable, but contrary to Islam and Mormonism, to cite just two, we do not seek to place our religious writings in an exalted pedestal requiring a level of veneration almost akin to adoration. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, ascribed to the Book of Mormon a status achieved by no other religious book in the world. It is the most complete, the final authority from God. Muhammad, naturally, also claimed the same about the Koran.

We, Christians, on the other hand, claim that Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God. The author of Hebrews said that in these last days God spoke “in” His Son, not simply “by” or “through.” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Hmmm. Jesus was the walking billboard of God. If for some reason we didn’t have the Bible, God’s ultimate revelation to mankind would still be intact because it lived, breathed, walked and talked among the likes of us. The Christian view permits no quasi-divine status to the Holy Book. We are biblio-centric but never bibliolaters.

Since the claim has been made that the Book of Mormon is the crown of God’s revelation to mankind, then it is reasonable to say that the book will be a bullet-proof case of precision and order, completely insulated from the perils that plague a merely human book or a religious book of less worth (as all others would be, according to Joseph Smith).

But when you apply that test, the Book of Mormon is found wanting. Willfully short of perfection.

Let’s forget the unusual circumstances in which the book was supposed to have been found. Let’s forget the cunning and conniving that seemed to be present during the so-called “translation” from the gold plates. Let’s forget that “Reformed Egyptian” is not even a language any linguist anywhere has ever recognized that it exists. Let’s forget all of that and go to narratives in the book itself.

According to the Book of Mormon, the American Indians are direct descendants from the Hebrews, who immigrated to the New World; but this is contrary to every anthropologist or archaeologist (non-affiliated with the Mormon Church). Even some scientists from Brigham Young university have expressed doubt whether the traditional view espoused in the Book of Mormon can be maintained.

The whole geography of the book appears to be a fiction (not a single town listed in the Book of Mormon has been found — even traces of them– by archaeologists). One is left with only faith in something that the prophet and a few of his followers said about the origin of the book.

Though many Mormons claim that the Smithsonian Institutions have used their book in their research, this has been patently denied by this institution, as you can read here.

The chronology of the book is also off. According to Joseph Smith, the first group of Semites arrived in North and South America between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C., but Archaeology shows conclusively that  western hemisphere was populated at least as far back as 10,000 B.C. by east Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering Strait. For a summary of this argument, go here.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that even some Mormon scholars have expressed doubt about the overall geography present in the Book of Mormons. Some of them have proposed what is called the “limited geography” theory, but this presents even more challenges to someone who believes the Book of Mormon is the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind. For a detailed analysis of the limited geography theory, go here. Warning: it is somewhat technical…

I am not buying any of it, and if you want to hear more, please join us this Sunday at Grace Church. As I compared the understanding we Christians have about the Bible with how Mormons view the Book of Mormons, I was once again reminded of how radically different our approach is. Christ could never compete for a place of prominence, even against the Bible. Though I like the motto that places emphasis on Scriptures, I for one would rather live by this motto: “Christ alone, all of Him, and nothing but Him.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Religions Blog
I have spent hundreds of hours poring through piles of materials related to the Church of Scientology, including books and articles by the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, the official church website, videos, blogs, and commentaries by both friends and foes, etc., etc. The result of my examination has been a crisp reminder of the fact that people are willing to pay any price and do anything for the promise that they will be able to better understand themselves and help themselves and others to achieve greatness and perfection in the universe.

The only problem is that Scientology does not deliver on its promises. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt in my mind that Scientology does grant many of its practitioners some benefits. People have remarked how they learned to communicate better, to understand the root of some of their behaviors and  to deal calmly with stressful situations.

But Scientology promised a lot more than that. A person who has progressed through the various levels of Scientology to the point of being considered “Clear” (a stage where all the bad memories from this and past lives no longer affect you) is supposed to be able to perform tasks at a higher speed than a normal person (“pre-Clear”), and with total control of mind and spirit be able to function above the fray of the hang-ups common to man.

But the first Clear was a colossal failure. Trumpeted as someone who had attained “full and perfect recall of every moment of her life,” Sonia Bianca, a physics student from Boston, was presented at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1950 as the  “World’s First Clear.” But when asked what she had for breakfast on a particular day and what the color of Hubbard’s tie was, she couldn’t remember. Fiasco wouldn’t come even close to describing it. It would take Hubbard 16 years to publically produce another “Clear.”

I am dealing with some key doctrinal aspects of Scientology this Sunday in church, but this post here today will be more about some of the other weird elements of this rather unusual religion.

First, its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. There is no question the man achieved something truly amazing. The speed with which he wrote is still unparalleled. His dedication to founding a religion with a broad scope touching every aspect of one’s existence borders the feat of geniuses. But did Hubbard have help?

His eldest son, also named Ron, now deceased, as well as some others who were close to him, have been on record as saying that Hubbard was influenced by a British writer who was a staunch promoter of black magic. They allege that he delved deeply into the occult and experimented with drugs. He was constantly preoccupied with sex and engaged in multiple affairs, at one time marrying a woman before he had divorced from a previous wife. This man fathered seven children through three different women, not exactly a model of someone who is operating at a higher level in the spiritual plane.

There are also many elements in the church’s version of Hubbard’s biography that are highly disputed. They claim that he was injured during the Second World War but there is no evidence for it. He claims that he cured himself through the use of his own “Scientific” methods, but again there is no reliable record of it except his word. Hubbard seems to have been a specialist when it comes to lying and we know who the father of lies is. Could Scientology be a carefully disguised way Satan has presented himself to the mind of “enlightened” man?

The current leader of Scientology, a man by the name of David Miscavige, has also been on the hot seat from time to time, accused of unspeakable abuses of staff and practitioners, both by family members and, more importantly, by some high level international executives who are no longer with the organization. If only a fraction of what people are alleging is true, this man should be in jail somewhere.

By the way, Hubbard himself spent the last months of his life hiding in a car, traveling throughout the country, to avoid being brought to justice in the biggest case of domestic spying to date, so-called “Operation Snow White,” which apparently originated in his mind and was carried out by his command. They managed to infiltrate several government organizations through wiretapping as well as physically planting spies in different places. Hubbard’s wife did time for this crime.

The allegations of wrong doing, from black mail to child slavery to physical abuse to forced abortion to kidnapping, etc. abound, which raises the question – why does Scientology continue to attract so many high profile, supposedly intelligent and incredibly powerful people in our world? To hear the answer to that, you will have to come to church this Sunday.

Meanwhile, if you want to read more on your own, you may get a hold of a recent book by Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker. You may also read a series of articles by The Tampa Bay Times, titled “The Truth Run Down,” or visit the website Obviously, Scientology officials deny every allegation that has been brought against them and their organization, but they are comfortable in the world of shades and nuances, as you can clearly see from the opening page of their dazzling webpage when they affirm that Scientology is compatible with any other religious belief.

Don’t let it fool you: Scientology can NEVER be compatible with Christianity. NEVER.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade