All posts by Peter Ditzel

Peace on Earth, or a Sword?

by Peter Ditzel

December 2016: One Scripture we’re likely to hear at this time of year is Luke 2:13-14: “Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to Peanuts character contemplating the apparent contradiction of Jesus brining peace and a sword. He concludes with the question, Why not a blanket?God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.'” The angels were announcing the birth of Jesus Christ to the shepherds, and what they said about peace on earth is true. Yet, what, exactly did they say? Years later, Jesus Himself said, “Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This would certainly seem to be the opposite of the angels’ good news. Is what Jesus said a contradiction of the angels’ message? If not, how can both of these things be true?

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Musings About Ebenezer Scrooge and Modern Wealth and Poverty

by Peter Ditzel

I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!

Wouldn’t you like to hear your employer say that to you? The other day, we again watched the old A Christmas Carol/Scrooge movie starring Alastair Sim. Dickens wrote his Ebenezer Scrooge character as the epitome of miserliness, and “scrooge” has even become a dictionary word that means “a miserly person.” Nevertheless, before his conversion, miserly, stingy Ebenezer Scrooge gave his clerk, Bob Cratchit, Christmas day off with pay.

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Q. Don’t you think that your article, “Do you think Bible-believing Christians should keep Christmas?” is double-talk? I think that attending a Christmas dinner or having anything else to do with Christmas is observing the day and is an unacceptable compromise with pagan practices.

A. I want to point out that I was not promoting the observance of Christmas in any religious way. Under the New Covenant, there are no days, whether commanded under the Old Covenant or practiced by pagans, that Christians must keep. Day keeping is one of the “weak and beggarly elements” and “rudiments of the world” (Galatians 4 and Colossians 2). Paul clearly taught against such observations. But he also said that even an idol is nothing, his point being that he knew he could even eat meat that had been offered to an idol (see 1 Corinthians 8). In other words, it’s not the thing but what is in our mind. Yet he would not do it if it offended his brother.

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8 September 2010–How to Turn Muslims Off to Christ in One Easy Step—Burn the Koran

by Peter Ditzel

14 September 2010: As you no doubt know, Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, called off his stated plan to burn Korans this past Saturday. I am thankful for this because it avoided an action that, I believe, would have turned Muslims (and, perhaps, others) away from the Gospel. It would also have been a biblically inexcusable, un-Christian action. (The article below gives further details about why I believe this.) This incident has brought to the forefront certain disturbing trends in American society and questions about the direction in which we are heading. Perhaps I will mention some of these in a future article.

9 September 2010: This is an update to the article below concerning pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center's plans to burn copies of the Koran. I want to clarify two points: 1) Even if Terry Jones and Dove World burn Korans, this action would not justify Muslims or anyone else committing any acts of violence in response. One foolish action does not justify another. It should be perfectly obvious to any Muslims following the news that Terry Jones and Dove World do not represent Christianity or the majority of the American people. Unfortunately, there are many people who are just itching for violence and looking for an excuse like this. 2) It may be true that burning Korans is a form of free speech that is protected by the Constitution of the United States. However, Paul said, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (1 Corinthians 10:23). That is why my article does not concentrate on Constitutional rights, but on what, for a Christian, is expedient and loving and gracious and what would further the Gospel rather than hinder it. Certainly, we should not be afraid to evangelize Muslims, but burning the Koran is not the way to go about it.

If you try clicking on the links in the article below to go to the doveworld.org website, you will notice that they are not working. When I wrote the article , the links were working. But at midnight last night, doveworld.org's web hosting company, Rackspace, pulled the plug on doveworld.org. According to Dan Goodgame, a spokesman for Rackspace, "We had a complaint that this site was promoting anti-Islamic hate speech, we investigated and agreed that it breached our acceptable use policy." Terry Jones told CNN that this was an attack on his freedom of speech. The bottom line is that because of this, the links to doveworld.org in the article won't work (the other links should still work), but I still hope you will read the article. Here is a link to an article on The Register that gives a little more information about Rackspace's action (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/09/rackspace_dove/). By the way, this same article says that Dove World Outreach Center has lost half of its 50 members because of Jones's plans to burn the Koran. I have not yet been able to confirm this.

A small church in Florida has made international headlines by saying its members will burn several hundred copies of the Koran on September 11, 2010. (Koran is also spelled Qur’an, Quran, Qur’ān, Coran, and al-Qur’ān, but I will use Koran in this article.) The church’s Facebook page says they will do this “in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!” The Dove World Outreach Center is pastored by Terry Jones, author of a book called Islam Is of the Devil.

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How Many Religions Are There?

by Peter Ditzel

Map of the Prevailing World Religions

Click Map for Larger View*

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, 19 major religions share the earth (not always peacefully, of course). A closer look shows these further subdivided into 270 large religious groups with many smaller ones. This source identifies 34,000 separate Christian groups. Other experts might differ on the exact numbers, but the point is that most people would say that this planet sports a great many religions. But is that really true? I mean, if you were to distill these religions down to their basic essence, how many would you really wind up with? Or, to put it another way, if you can sift 19 religions into 270 by examining their finer points, can you go in the reverse direction and aggregate them into a smaller number? What if I were to tell you that, when it comes right down to it, the people of this world can be divided into only two religions? That’s right, I’m making the claim that when we use the most basic component of a belief system as our criteria, we will find that only two religions exist on the earth and that all of the other divisions arise merely because of details. Sound crazy? Let’s see.

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The Hebraic Roots Movement

by Peter Ditzel

Readers are increasingly asking me questions about a set of doctrines called Hebraic Roots. In recent years, Hebraic Roots teachings have invaded many churches and even some seminaries. There are even Hebraic Roots Bibles and a Hebraic Roots Network. Because this trend appears to be growing in numbers and adherents, we should know something about it. It would be too much to explore all of the teachings of this movement in one article, and, to complicate matters, there are some variations in belief from one specific Hebraic Roots group to another. What I would like to do is briefly examine a few of the core beliefs of this movement and compare them to Scripture.

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Hell: Should We Keep Quiet About It?

by Peter Ditzel

Laurel and Hardy making shush faces
Is it better to not talk about hell?

The thinking I want to address in this article is this: There are some people who profess Christianity who say that it doesn’t matter whether hell is real or not, the doctrine of hell is an unnecessary teaching that can be dispensed with, and, in fact, speaking of hell as a reality is harmful to the furtherance of Christianity. Their reasoning goes like this: Since (whether we believe in a literal hell or not) we would all agree that Christians are not going to hell, therefore Christians don’t need to hear anything about hell. They may as well just forget about it. Further, since many non-Christians refuse to believe in a God so cruel that He would condemn people who do not trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior to eternal torment in hell, then it would be better if we also stop talking to them about hell. In other words, we would get more people saved if we dropped hell from our vocabulary. Thus, why don’t we just stop talking about hell altogether? This sounds reasonable to many people. Is this sound thinking? Does the Bible support it? Is there a flaw somewhere?

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Does God Promise Healing Today?

by Peter Ditzel

Many Christians suffer from various illnesses and injuries or have loved ones who do. Understandably, they wonder whether God still heals today. As we know, the Bible is full of accounts of healings. Many of them were spectacular, and the authorities of the day investigated some of them. In John 9 and in Acts 4:16, for example, the authorities never denied that the healing had occurred, they just took the stupid position of trying to cover it up. But does God still heal today? Or, to get right down to the heart of the controversy, does God promise physical healing to believers?

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Why Christians Believe in the Trinity

by Peter Ditzel

So that we know what we are talking about, let’s begin with a definition. A basic formulation of the Trinity doctrine is, God is a Trinity of three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. Many who teach against the Trinity misunderstand this formula. They make a wrong assumption about what is meant by God being a Trinity of three Persons. They assume this to be tritheism, a belief in three gods. What is meant by “Person” in speaking of the Trinity is that which has the attributes of personality. It comes from the Latin word persona. In the ancient world, actors wore masks. The actor’s mask was his persona. It showed the role he was playing. In the discussion of the Trinity, “Person” never means “person” as we commonly use it today; that is, it never means a free and independent consciousness with his own will. Nevertheless, it does mean that the Persons have an I-you relationship: as I will point out in the Scriptures cited in this article, they communicate with each other.

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