The abiding message of Philippians concerns the nature and grounds of Christian joy. For Paul, true joy is not a surface emotion that depends on favorable circumstances of the moment. Christian joy is independent of outward conditions, and is possible even in the midst of adverse circumstances, such as suffering and persecution.
Joy ultimately arises from fellowship with the risen, glorified Christ. Throughout the letter, Paul speaks of joy in the Lord, emphasizing that through Christ alone is Christian joy realized, as are other Christian graces. Essential to this joy is the confident conviction of the lordship of Christ, based on experience of the power of His resurrection. Because of this conviction, life for Paul attained meaning. Even death became a friend, because it would bring him into a fuller experience of the presence of Christ (1:21-23).
The joy presented in Philippians involves eager expectation of the near return of the Lord. That this expectation was dominant in Paul’s thinking is seen in his five references to Christ’s return. In the context of each reference is a note of joy (1:6, 10; 2:16; 3:20; 4:5).
Paul further describes a joy that springs from fellowship in the spreading of the gospel. He begins the letter by thanking the Philippians for their partnership in spreading the gospel through their monetary gifts. The gifts, however, are only an expression of their spirit of fellowship, or as he puts it in 4:17, “the fruit that abounds to your account.” So Christian joy is an outgrowth of being in the active fellowship of the body of Christ.
This letter reveals the timeless message that true joy is to be found only in a dynamic personal relationship with Jesus Christ and in the assurance that God is able to turn adverse circumstances to our good and His glory. Because he was united to Christ by a living faith, Paul could claim contentment in all circumstances. His unadorned testimony was “I rejoice … and will rejoice” (1:18), and his unqualified command was, “Rejoice . . . again I will say, rejoice! (4:4).
Introduction to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Spirit Filled Life Bible, General Editor Jack W. Hayford, Litt.D. (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), pp. 1800-1801
“A different form of attack upon the Scriptures, which may be described as Rationalism, was developed in the 19th century. Rationalism set aside Revelation, assuming the sufficiency of the mind, or Reason, to enable man to find out truth and to attain to the highest good.
The unprecedented progress made in scientific knowledge not only gave valuable insight into the works of God in Creation, but also stirred in some minds a desire to explain creation apart from God. This made it necessary to prove that the account of the Creation given in the book of Genesis did not spring from Divine inspiration, but from the ignorance of men, who, living before us, were presumed to have known less than we do. As fresh discoveries were made in the illimitable field of Nature, theories were founded upon them which were said to be incompatible with the Genesis history and therefore to prove it incorrect. As further facts came to light new theories had to be formed, each displacing its predecessor, yet each in turn accepted on the authority of the learning of the men of science who promulgated it. The “Origin of Species” published by Charles Darwin in 1859 is an important landmark in this development of thought.
Those who accepted the view that there had been no creation, of necessity lost the knowledge of the Creator. This involved the loss of all revealed knowledge, for the revelation of God through the Scriptures begins with Creation as the work of God, without which there could have been no Fall of His creature, Man; and neither need nor possibility of man’s Redemption. Consequently, the new theories evolved from the minds of men who discarded the Scripture teaching of the Fall, replacing it by constantly changing theories of the development of man from a lower form of life. The experience of Salvation and the hope of Redemption became incredible on the basis of these teachings, and whatever vague promises might be held out to the race, the individual was left without hope.
Although in the minds of the multitude evolution has replaced God the Creator, so that many trace their ancestry from beasts rather than from God, and are ignorant of God as their Redeemer, yet not all, even among those recognized as the most eminent men of science, have followed this teaching. It would not be correct to say that increase of knowledge of the facts of Nature necessarily leads to disbelief in God or in the Scriptures. Many have found that the more they have learned of the works of God in Creation the more they have appreciated the consonance of this revelation with that contained in the Scriptures. Indeed, the assertion so often and so eagerly made that no modern, intelligent, educated man can believe the Scriptures, is without foundation. It is not a fact that the more people know the less they believe, nor yet that the more ignorant they are the more faith they possess.
Rationalism is largely due to the failure to recognize that man is not only mind, but mind and heart, and that the mind always serves the heart. The heart, which is the character, will and affections, and is the seat of experience, uses in its service the mind, with its intelligence and reasoning powers. The heart of the natural man uses his mind in order to justify his unbelief in God and in Scripture by finding countless reasons for complaint against God, and contradictions and errors in the Scriptures, but if this same man has an experience which brings him to see his sinful state, his need of salvation, and Christ is revealed to him, then his heart — that is his will and affections —are captured; they go out to Christ in faith as Saviour and Lord, and the Divine and Eternal Life is communicated to him, as it is written: “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). With that his mind, though neither more or less capable, intelligent and instructed than before, enters into the service of a changed heart, finding truth and beauty and revelation in the very Scriptures which it formerly despised, and discovering in the ways of God constant reason for thanksgiving and worship. Saul the persecutor, changed to Paul the apostle is a striking illustration of this.
Excerpt from The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent, pp. 493-495
Genesis 1:31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
C.S. Lewis suggested that those who deny the supernatural can still believe in a god of sorts. He said:
The great interlocking event called Nature might be such as to produce at some stage a great cosmic consciousness, an indwelling ‘God’ arising from the whole process as human mind arises (according to the Naturalists) from human organisms…. What Naturalism cannot accept is the idea of a God who stands outside Nature and made it.
One Christian evolutionist has maintained that Christians who are scientists do not mention God in their research papers, because there is a long-standing tradition against partiality in science. It follows that his scientific research does not start from God, and does not start from the Bible.
While he maintains this as a virtue, it suggests to his readers that nature is all that there is; there is nothing outside of science that science cannot, or will not one day be able, to explain. Yet he believes in God, and is a member of a Bible-believing church. This gives the impression that faith is a bolt-on. It is not part of reality. Therefore, the god who is implied is not the supernatural God of the Bible, despite the claims of such people that this is the God in whom they believe. Instead, the impression is given that nature is all that there is, so God must be a natural god arising out of creation.
This is why the first few words of the Bible are so important. “In the beginning, God created…” gives the correct context for everything else that we read in the 66 books.
Prayer: You put everything in place, Lord God. You created it all from nothing. We praise You that only in You can everything be understood in its place. Amen.
Author: Paul A. Bartz
Ref: Lewis, C.S. (1947), Miracles, (New York: Macmillan Collins), p12. Image: Adobe Stock photos, licensed to author.
Christians must understand the nature of the change that has occurred in our culture. No longer do the secularists just mock Christians from afar. They are now actively campaigning to indoctrinate children in an anti-God philosophy—to teach them to be secularists and atheists.
—Ken Ham (born 20 October 1951, Australian Christian fundamentalist, young Earth creationist, and apologist)
Acts 17:26a “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth. . . .”
Does God approve of inter‑racial marriage? To answer this question, we must look at the concept of race. The Bible teaches that we are all descended from the man Adam. Scripture also states, we are all of one blood; Scripture never even uses the idea of race.
The descendants of Ham, who were cursed, were the Canaanites. Yet when Rahab, a Canaanite, came to faith in the true God, she not only was welcomed to marry a believer, but God included her in the line leading to Christ. The idea of different races, as distinct from different religions, was not much of an issue until 1859 when Charles Darwin published his famous book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin was a product of Victorian times and extremely racist in his views, always referring to colored peoples as “savages.” Among the book’s purported scientific claims for evolution was the claim that there are different races because some groups are more evolved than others. As this idea became accepted both in and out of the Church, racism became institutionalized. Today we know that typically the genetic differences between you and anyone else is only 0.2 percent. Scientifically, there is only one human race, as Scripture clearly teaches. The Church can only combat racism by proclaiming the truth that all people on earth are one flesh, descended from one, real Adam, whose blood we share. It can also proclaim the Gospel, that all believers are spiritual descendants of the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us and made us new creatures.
Prayer: Help me, Father, love all people as Your Son did when He died for them. Amen.
Author: Paul A. Bartz
Ref: Ken Ham, Inter-racial marriage: is it biblical?, Creation 21(3) June-August, 1999. Photo: Pixabay (PD)
WASHINGTON — An Anglican chaplain who was fired and reported to an anti-terrorism program for preaching Christian doctrine on sexual ethics during a chapel service is warning about the totalitarian ideologies actively at work in the West.
At a breakout session at the International Religious Freedom Summit, a panel on “polite persecution” — a phrase coined by Pope Francis — assembled by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, described how secular abortion and gender activists are gutting cherished freedoms in countries that have historically championed religious liberty. Often, religious persecution is state-sanctioned.
This so-called polite kind of hostility is often experienced by practitioners of faiths that adhere to more traditional views about human life, marriage, and the material reality of biological sex.
In his remarks, the Rev. Bernard Randall recounted how just over three years ago, he, as an ordained chaplain, was reported to authorities and investigated as part of a government anti-terrorism probe for espousing Christian sexual ethics during a chapel service in a Church of England school.
The school had invited LGBT activist Elly Barnes, founder of Educate & Celebrate, an LGBT education charity, to a staff training session to introduce a new curriculum under the guise of anti-bullying education, he said, noting that no one objects to protecting students from bullying. Yet, he soon found out that there were aspects of this training that were not about bullying but the indoctrination of LGBT ideology. It went so far that at one point the trainers had the staff chanting about the need to “smash heteronormativity.”
“That’s something well beyond not bullying people,” Randall said.
The LGBT group further taught staff that there are nine characteristics that are protected under British law, among them “gender” and “gender identity.” But that is not true, Randall stressed, noting that the trans movement has coerced the public into believing such claims.
Since the aim of the Educate & Celebrate curriculum material is to “embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organization,” students asked Randall to address the issue at a chapel service.
After doing so, he was summarily dismissed from school for gross misconduct and reported to the counter-terrorism program after he told students, aged 11 to 17, that they were not compelled to “accept an ideology they disagree with.” He also told the students that they could make up their own minds about gender identity and sexuality.
Randall added that students could either choose to adopt the thinking of LGBT activists or adhere to Christian sexual ethics — that marriage is only between a man and woman and that sex is confined to that context. Most importantly, he advised students to show respect for those who disagree.
“I was summoned into what I can only describe as an interrogation by the senior leadership,” he said. “I was suspended. And I was fired for gross misconduct for doing my job as per the job description.”
Randall was also reported to Child Protective Services and a British government anti-terrorism program as a potential violent extremist.
“I’d like to think that I’m a reasonably moderate sort of chap,” he said, reiterating how he left the question of believing the claims of LGBT activists open-ended in his chapel remarks. UnmuteAdvanced SettingsFullscreenPauseUp Next
But his firing and being reported to the government anti-terrorism task force was a revealing moment showing how far the school’s administration had gone to the other extreme.
He is now suing the school for religious discrimination but noted how astonishing it is that he has to take legal action against a Church of England institution, for proclaiming Christian beliefs in a sermon during a chapel service. The Christian Legal Centre has since been representing him.
Speaking of the relevance of the international religious freedom summit, the Anglican chaplain stressed that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. The Marxist progressive ideology at work functions much like a religion and people should be free from that if they wish to be.
“If Western countries cannot protect their own religious groups from discrimination there is absolutely no reason that the other countries at which we might point the finger” who are violating religious freedom, and they can say to the West and say, “You’re not taking it seriously, so why should we?” he said.
When asked by The Christian Post why gender ideologues won’t even allow a disagreement, Randall pointed to its philosophical roots.
“It seems to me that if you look at the Marxist-type origins of this sort of thing, what’s going on is that they are objecting to what they regard as religion — the opiate of the masses — this sort of false consciousness, and they just have to educate us into true consciousness,” he said.
“But anybody who says ‘Oh no, I’m quite happy with my religious ideas, I’m quite happy with this consciousness I’ve got already’ is a real threat to the whole set of concepts. They are a threat to the idea that what everybody believes is false and the Marxists will take us to this new wonderful, enlightened utopia.”
“And they cannot tolerate that kind of threat. It’s a very totalitarian system,” he added.
What Randall experienced three years ago in England is what he and others have called “soft totalitarianism,” whereas what people endure in China is “hard totalitarianism.”
“But the difference between them is not as much as we might like to think,” he stressed.
Finnish lawmaker Päivi Räsänen, prosecuted for voicing her traditional Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality, believes that a “heavy hatred for Christian values” in Western society will cause many Christians to censor themselves for social acceptance.
The former interior minister who has served in Finnish Parliament for nearly three decades was one of several global political figures to speak at the annual International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., this week.
The event aims to increase “the public awareness and political strength for the international religious freedom movement. The summit is led by former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who led similar events at the State Department headquarters during the Trump administration.
In March, Räsänen was cleared of hate speech charges for repeatedly asserting her belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But her legal battle continues as the prosecution has appealed the ruling to a higher court.
She spoke with The Christian Post ahead of her participation in a panel discussion at the summit focused on religious freedom in the Western Hemisphere Thursday.
As she faced a possibility of up to six years imprisonment, the 62-year-old politician attributed her prosecution to Finland becoming a “post-Christian world” where “Christian values are, in fact, a minority.”
“The change has been so fast that it is difficult to understand what is happening,” She said.
As the wife of a Lutheran pastor and former chair of Finnish Christian Democrats, Räsänen believes Christian values are “targeted” in criminal court as part of the “breaking of the virtue and the challenging of Christian values” that is now “very visible in our societies.”
In Räsänen’s case, she faced hate speech charges over a book she wrote 18 years ago titled Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity and a 2019 tweet taking issue with the Finnish Lutheran Church’s promotion of LGBT “pride month.” She faced a third charge for comments she made on a radio show about homosexuality.
Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland was charged with hate speech for publishing Räsänen’s book.
Räsänen insists that she has no ill will toward homosexuals and suggested that those accusing her of practicing hate speech are the ones dabbling in hatred.
“We all are sinners and we need Jesus. But now, I think there is a heavy hatred against Christian values in our society,” Räsänen said. “If you speak about gender issues — that there are two genders or that marriage belongs to one woman and one man — it arouses hatred against you in our society.”
Räsänen told CP that she “never thought” she would face prosecution for expressing support for “classical Christian doctrines about marriage and sexuality” as she openly discussed her “Christian values” and beliefs about “marriage and sanctity of human life” throughout her time in Parliament.
“Nothing has changed in my faith and in my conviction, but suddenly I was like a criminal because of this hate,” she said.
“The world has changed,” she concluded. “I think that my conviction has not changed but the world has changed very [quickly] in Finland and I think that also in other Western countries, post-Christian countries.”
Describing the cultural shift as “very alarming,” Räsänen believes Christians must “wake up to see what is going on” because her experience proves that “it is more and more difficult” for Christians to express their faith publicly.
“I’m afraid that this leads to some kind of self-censorship. If you are labeled a conservative Christian, it would hinder your career or your social acceptance,” she stated. “So, these kinds of problems are very topical in Finnish society.”UnmuteAdvanced SettingsFullscreenPauseUp Next
Although she “hoped that the prosecutor would have been satisfied with the acquittal,” she sees her case moving to a higher court as an opportunity “to get a precedent and to get a more heavy guideline for possible further similar cases in Finland and also in Europe.”
She praised her acquittal of hate crime charges by a Helsinki District Court as “a victory for me.” Still, She said a “possible victory from Appeal Court and especially from Supreme Court” is an “even bigger victory for freedom of speech … and freedom of religion” because it would create “legal guidance for other cases.”
“I think that this is all in God’s hands, and I believe in His guidance that there is some meaning that this process continues,” she added.
Räsänen said the ordeal and her platform with the Finnish media provided an opportunity to “hold up the biblical values in public and also testify about Jesus” and give people “the answer to the problem of sin that Jesus has died for all people and that this is the way to salvation.”
Although Finland has a Constitution that “guarantees the freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Räsänen is concerned that “the influence of LGBT ideology is very strong in Finnish society and some kind of woke culture is creating cancel culture in our society and it is narrowing those freedoms.”
Räsänen lamented, “we have now some kind of totalitarian, ideological totalitarianism.” She cited efforts to convince social media companies to censor “hate speech” in the Finnish Parliament and the European Union as examples of this ideology’s emergence.
Räsänen hopes that her remarks at the IRF Summit will “encourage people to use their rights and speak openly,”
“At first, when the trial in January started, [the] prosecutor said that this will not be about [the] Bible,” Räsänen recalled. “She started to ask questions about [the] Bible, about theological issues, she even cited some verses from the Old Testament, and she wanted to show that there is a lot of hate speech in [the] Bible.”
Räsänen maintained that the prosecutor classified the Christian doctrine of “love the sinner, hate the sin” as “insulting and defaming” because “according to her, you cannot make a distinction between the person’s identity and his actions, so if you condemn the act, you also condemn the human being and regard him inferior.”
She pushed back on this analysis, classifying the idea of “loving the sinner” and “hating the sin” as “the core of Christianity and the message of the Bible.”
“If this is denied, if this kind of speech and teaching is denied, then also the core of Christianity is dead,” she contended.
“But the doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers is not merely a negative teaching abolishing an order of clergy. For along with that freedom which makes the believer responsible only to God for his faith and life, there is an added responsibility. We are members of a Christian community, “an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). As Christians, then, we are not “laymen,” not mere spectators of the Christian enterprise who may or may not engage in it as we choose, but “priests,” and therefore responsible to God for the faith and lives of others.
We are under obligation to make known this message of salvation. The word “layman” is not found in the New Testament, nor is there any “layman’s movement” in the Bible. A priest is inevitably involved in the lives of others, and is responsible to God for others. He has the high privilege and duty of making God known to others.
This priesthood, therefore, applies to all believers, and consists of two things: (1) Immediate access to God in prayer for one’s self, and (2) the right and duty of intercession for others. Only as we grasp these ideas can we appreciate the full, rich meaning of the doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers.
Furthermore, we are a royal priesthood. That means that we have been called, chosen, by the King of Kings to be His priests before our fellow men. We are not first of all clergy and laymen. We are first of all a royal priesthood, under obligation individually to make known the message of salvation. And the strength of Protestantism lies precisely here, in the willingness of its people to accept this strange office and all that it means, and to serve in the household of God as the royal priests that we really are.
False religion has created “priest” who inserts themselves between man and God insisting that they alone are the source of God’s marvelous grace therefore you have to come to them. The New Testament says this is a lie.”
“In the Epistle to the Hebrews several chapters are devoted to showing that the Old Testament priesthood has been abolished and that there is no place in Christianity for a sacrificing priesthood, because Christ, “through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption,” and that He has offered “one sacrifice for sins forever” (9:12, 10:12). The many human priests (of OT Israel) with their innumerable animal sacrifices were effective in their work of reconciling the people to God only because they represented the true High Priest and the one true sacrifice that was to come. But after the reality appeared, there would be no more need for the shadows and types that had preceded it.
Hence we read concerning the sacrifice of Christ: “But now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”(Hebrews 9:26); and again: “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). The sacrifice of Christ was therefore a “once-for-all” sacrifice which only He could make, and which cannot be repeated. By its very nature it was final and complete.
It was a work of Deity, and so cannot be repeated by man any more than can the work of creation. By that one sacrifice the utmost demands of God’s justice were fully and forever satisfied. Final atonement has been accomplished! No further order of priests is needed to offer additional sacrifices or to perpetuate that one. His was the one sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Let all men now look to that one sacrifice on Calvary!
Any continuing priesthood and any “unbloody repetition of the mass,” which professes to offer the same sacrifice that Christ offered on Calvary, is in reality merely a sham and a recrudescence of Judaism within the Christian Church.”
Source: Roman Catholicism by Lorraine Boettner, p. 43 and 45, online version
Dear Reader, false religion will insert itself between you and Jesus Christ, and tell you they are the source of the grace God wants to freely give you. Jesus said,
“Come toMe, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-29 NASB, emphasis added)
Do not let any Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant priest/minister stand between you and God. Jesus Christ is your High Priest if your born again and you yourself are a priest before Almighty God (I Peter 2:9). The New Testament exhorts us,
“Since then we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens , Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrew 4:14-16)
If you have not been born again, which Jesus said you must be to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3), I encourage you to put your faith and trust in Jesus’ death on the cross for your sins today. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins, to save you from the wrath to come and be your Lord and Savior. He will. Then He will give you the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you through this life and to lead you into all truth about our Himself. Then find you a Bible teaching church where you can be baptized and grow in grace and faith feeding on the Word of God only, not the commandments and teachings of men.
So be it! May God richly bless you and lead you into all Truth. Carl
“As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God—not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.” —George Müller
Genesis 6:3 “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”
Before the Flood people were living hundreds of years. As man grew more evil, God declared that man’s lifespan would be reduced to 120 years. Modern biology has learned that we do indeed have built-in timers in each of our cells that limit the number of times they can divide. When enough cells can no longer divide, we die. We can even do things to speed up the timers.
The timers are called telomeres. However, every time a cell divides, a small part of each telomere is lost. When these telomeres are worn down to nothing, the cell no longer divides and soon dies. Researchers studied 58 healthy women between the ages of 20 and 50. All the women had children, but 39 of them had a child that was seriously chronically ill. Stress levels were measured through questionnaires while blood samples provided information about their cell health. Among other things, scientists checked for levels of an enzyme that maintains the health of telomeres. The mothers who saw their stress levels as high proved to have much shorter telomeres than those who reported little stress. They reported that cells from stressed women had telomeres that were as short as unstressed women ten years older.
Scripture tells us to cast all our cares on the Lord. Among the many blessings of doing so are healthy telomeres.
Prayer: Father, I cast all my cares on You. You have loved me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. I trust Your love. Amen.
Author: Paul A. Bartz
Ref: Science News, 12/4: 2004, p. 355, C. Brownlee, “Stressed to Death.” Photo: Human chromosomes (grey) capped by telomeres (white). Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program. (PD)
Genesis 4:21 “And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.”
The Bible tells us that the earliest generations of human beings were making music. By the time the eighth generation of man came along, Jubal, a member of that generation was able to make his living providing musical instruments. On the evolutionary side of things, however, musical ability would seem to provide no survival advantage. Yet, the human brain devotes considerable resources to the processing of music.
Our love of music is wired into our brain. Each of our sense organs is important to our enjoyment of music. And each of these organs is linked to its own part of the brain which is responsible for how we experience the music. Parts of the brain are reserved for memory which stores the music. Other parts of the brain are dedicated to trying to understand the entire piece of music, referencing back to parts of the music stored in the memory. Even more interesting is that one need not hear music to activate the various parts of the brain devoted to music. Positron-emission tomography reveals that a person only needs to imagine music for these portions of the brain to become active.
The ability to make or appreciate music offers us no apparent survival value, and therefore, according to evolutionary theory, should not have developed. Yet, our brains, and indeed, all our senses, are designed to make and appreciate music. The obvious message here is that evolution had nothing to do with the formation of human beings. Rather, we were created by God Who loves music, and wants us to praise Him with music.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for the gift of music and the ability to appreciate it. Amen.
I recently shared a sermon titled The End Times and The Unsuspecting. The sermon is based on Romans 16: 18 which reads:
 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
The “men” are people trying to deceive Christians into error. The “unsuspecting” are those Christians who go through life unaware of the demonic snares.
They are not aware of the spiritual fact that if we have something that belongs to or is dedicated to the devil or his kingdom, he has a legal right to be in the Christian’s home or life. We have, as Paul warns us not to do, “given place to the devil”. The word “place” means we have given him ground to stand on in our lives. A “beachhead” may more properly describe it.
As I was reviewing the PowerPoint, when I reached the section stating that “unsuspecting Christians participate in or have an unhealthy interest in occult practices”, the Holy Spirit impressed me that I needed to add Native American spirituality to the occult practices list. I had created the list from Deuteronomy 18: 10-14 which contains most of the occult practices God considers an abomination. So, I added it to my notes and made a few comments during the sermon.
I found out later some church members were convicted by the Lord to dispose of their Native American “dream catchers’ hanging over their beds. Goes to show that only the Lord knows the hearts of His lambs.
As a follow up, I would like to share a short article on “dream catchers”. The author is Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Native American Christian woman of Cree First Nation. Nanci’s father and grandfather were both medicine men or shamans; therefore, she has first hand knowledge concerning the occult powers behind Native American spirituality. May your spiritual eyes be opened if you are involved in this snare. God bless you! Carl
Dream Catchers—Those Popular Spidery “Sacred Hoops”
By Nanci Des Gerlaise (author of Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality)
Dream catchers—those spidery “sacred hoops” with feathers. They originated with the Ojibwa tribe during the ’60s and ’70s, supposedly to protect a sleeper by “catching” bad dreams or evil spirits. Then they caught on with other tribes and spread through the New Age movement into popular culture. Today, it is not uncommon to see dream catchers in gift and variety stores. Dream catchers are even used in some public school settings, as the following describes:
Every classroom displayed at least one dreamcatcher—a magical spider web inside a sacred circle. The students explained that dreamcatchers protect them from evil spirits and nightmares by catching the bad dreams but permitting good dreams to pass though the center. According to fourth grade teacher Ms. Preston, the amber crystal in the center of her dreamcatcher meant proper spiritual alignment with the energy of the universe.1
But you can be sure, most of the general public has no idea of the meaning and purpose of dream catchers.
Basically, using a dream catcher in its intended purpose is nothing more than a form of practicing occultism. How can an inanimate object “catch” evil spirits, much less bad dreams? And why attempt to “catch” evil spirits or nightmares when you cannot fight them physically?
Although Native people can sometimes see into the spiritual world of darkness, dream catchers, or anything having to do with the occult, merely attract evil spirits and demonic activity and provide no means of protection from them. Using dream catchers is an open invitation for more spiritual works of darkness.
If you are a born-again Christian, you have a Protector—God Almighty—who stands between us and the evil realm. We need nothing more than Jesus Christ Himself who overcame all works and powers of darkness by His death and resurrection. If we pay attention to God’s Word and not to seducing spirits, we can walk in His freedom from fear.
Ephesians 6:12 says that our battle is not against “flesh and blood,” but is against “principalities,” “powers,” “the rulers of the darkness” and “spiritual wickedness in high places.” And in Hebrews, we read:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15)
(To understand more about Native Spirituality, read Muddy Waters, by Nanci Des Gerlaise).
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”– James Madison, Primary Author of the U.S. Constitution, Fourth President of the United States of America
The question I asked myself today is if I really believe the Scriptures below concerning what Jesus and the New Testament say about the “second death”, what would I do differently today?
My answer was to seize the opportunities that present themselves to share the gospel with a fellow human being. And that is what I was able to do.
What would you do differently?
Revelation 20:14- “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:8 – “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Revelation 2:11 – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
Revelation 20:6 -“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
Matthew 10:28 – Jesus says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
John 3:16 – Jesus says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. “
(“Perish” means to experience the second death.)
Romans 5: 8-10 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
(“the wrath of God” – the second death is the ultimate expression of His just wrath.)
Ephesians 2:7-9 – “…in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”
If you possess this “gift” of salvation, please find a way to share it with the hopeless and dying souls all around us that are unknowingly headed to a second death.
Be faithful to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,
(The following is written by four Chinese pastors from the underground church in Communist China. They have or are experiencing persecution from the Communist China government simply because they are born again Christians. They have spent a combined total of 47 years in prison for their faith in Jesus Christ. The source of the article is omitted due to security issues. Carl)
“In recent years—especially since the start of the Covid pandemic—many believers around the world have contacted us to ask if we can share insights or do interviews into how Christians can survive persecution, as they see the storm clouds of persecution gathering on the horizon in their countries.
First, we point out that we have written more than a dozen books on the Church in China, each containing principles and testimonies of how God has not only helped His children survive six decades of persecution, but has caused them to thrive, so that China is still experiencing the greatest revival in Christian history.
When we try to help church leaders and believers in the West prepare for persecution, after more dialogue it usually emerges that they are not really looking for straight answers. Often, what people mean when they ask these questions is: “How can we survive persecution in our current church structures, so we don’t have to suffer or change?”
The answer to this is… you cannot!
True, physical persecution (e.g. when Christians are being arrested, beaten, imprisoned, or even killed) will not leave most current church structures intact. It will completely dismantle them!
Gone will be the denominations, emphasis on church buildings, Reverends, division between “clergy” and other believers, and all kinds of church traditions and outward imagery that are not found in Scripture. They will be swept away.
This pattern is what happened when persecution was ramped up against believers in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and other countries we work in.
We don’t know if severe persecution is coming to your part of the world soon, but we must be prepared. The Lord Jesus said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9), while the Apostle Paul told Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
We would like to conclude by sharing five important truths about persecution, which we hope will bring encouragement and focus to our fellow believers:
God is always in control! If He allows persecution to come, it’s for the good of His kingdom. In China, believers only experienced the full joy of intimacy with Jesus when they were in the furnace of affliction and after they came out the other side.
Persecution is the last thing our flesh desires, but our faith must rest on the fact that the Lord Jesus will not let us down, and He will never leave nor forsake us. Persecution cannot destroy our relationship with Him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
Importantly, when intense hardship comes, we shouldn’t see only the hand of Satan in persecution. In China, God’s people looked back later and realized that it was actually the Lord Jesus overseeing the entire process out of love for His children. He is zealous to remove the dead religious structures that trap people in bondage and keep millions of unbelievers from being able to see the true Gospel.
Persecution is a pruning process, when the Holy Spirit removes half-hearted believers from among the flock. In China, when fierce persecution first broke out in the 1950s, around two-thirds of churchgoers fell away from the faith. The Lord Jesus told us this would occur: “When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away” (Mark 4:17). Friends, if two-thirds of Chinese Christians fell away at the onset of persecution, how might things be in your part of the world?
For those who do not give up, persecution often brings great revival. In China, the number of Christians has grown from less than one million to over 100 million after 60 years of brutal Communist persecution! All glory to God. When that realization dawned on believers, many learned not only to grimly endure persecution, but to embrace it as a special blessing from God.
May God Almighty continue to bless and multiply His church in Communist China. May the church in the West return to its New Testament roots before the fires of persecution makes it return to that unchanging guidance He has given us! Carl
(Blogger note: I have been doing research on the origin of infant baptism and found this article by Francesco Arduini published in the Biblical Archaeology Review shed light on how the practice may have originated though it was not practiced in the New Testament. I share it with you for your consideration. May God lead you in His ways! Carl)
Pandemics can influence and radically alter habits and practices of entire populations. Billions of people have personally tested this phenomenon during the current Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. History knows numerous signs of behavioral practice changes that can be attributed to pandemics, such as the bubonic plague that devastated medieval Europe in the mid-14th century, upsetting many sectors of civil life, or the pestilence that ravaged the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Justinian (mid-sixth century C.E.), even forcing the Goths and the Byzantines to suspend the war fought on the Apennine Peninsula.
Like other catastrophes, pandemics can be critical and polarizing events that generate societal changes beyond the immediate, health-centered issues. Some historical pandemics also had considerable religious consequences: They fueled religious radicalism, encouraged reform movements, and inspired theological discourse. One ancient pandemic even helped to establish the Christian rite of baptism administered to little children and infants—a practice not attested in early Christian communities until the late second century.1
Sometime during 165 C.E., under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180), the Roman Empire was struck by the first documented devastating outbreak of an infectious disease.a Known as the Antonine Plague, it probably was the first appearance of smallpox in the Mediterranean and Europe. The origin of this pandemic was probably in the city of Seleucia, near present-day Baghdad. According to the most widely accepted hypothesis, the Roman soldiers sent to invade Parthia returned in 165, spreading the plague all the way back to Rome, where, according to some modern estimates, smallpox at its apex killed approximately 5,000 people per day.
Mortality was so high it was not unusual to see caravans of fully loaded chariots carrying dead bodies from cities. The scourge reportedly wiped out more than 90 percent of the population in limited areas of Egypt and probably more than 20 percent of the Roman Empire’s total population.2
Christians likely managed to face and overcome the epidemic with greater success than pagans. It can be assumed that the organization of the Christian communities and the care that individual members showed toward the sick may have reduced their mortality rate. However, smallpox tends to cause a high mortality among children, and Christians certainly were not exempt.
The pandemic generated a religious response in the highest echelons of Roman society. Marcus Aurelius restored temples and shrines, summoned priests, and called for every form of prayer to calm the divine anger that he believed was at the origin of the plague. These unusual religious manifestations probably began around 166.3
So what kind of impact did the Antonine Plague have on Christian communities?
One might imagine that the sense of fear and impotence felt by the population along with the revival of religious sensitivities may have contributed to the growth and rapid spread of Christianity throughout the empire.b However, it is plausible that Christian communities were first reorganized internally, including on a theological level.
There hasn’t ever been a Christian community that, at any time, would not request baptism for those who wanted to be part of it. The practice of the rite generated heated debate in the 1950s and 1960s concerning the legitimacy of administering baptism to children and infants. If today the tone of the debate has somewhat dampened, it is due more to a certain fatigue than to a consensus.
The first mention of child baptism comes from the bishop Irenaeus and dates to c. 180 C.E. (Adversus haereses 2.22.4). But we must wait another 20 years to find a clear statement on the baptism of children, put in writing by the prolific author Tertullian, in c. 200 C.E. (De baptismo 18.1.4–5). Tertullian opposed baptizing children, who do not fully understand the significance of the rite. However, it is equally clear that by the end of the second century child baptism was already a reality. About 15 years later, the theologian Hippolytus in his Apostolic Tradition provides a palpable liturgical formulation of the baptism of children (21).
To what factor do we owe the rapid establishment of this habit within the Christian community between 180 and 200 C.E.? The growing number of those who were born into Christian families (as opposed to adult converts) meant an increasing presence of children within the Christian community. When we consider the high infant mortality rate, we can see how an emergency practice of administering the salvific (i.e. leading to salvation) baptism to infants eventually became a normal practice—even more so under the circumstances of a cruel pandemic. Once the emergency of the epidemic was over, in 180 C.E., Irenaeus and other Christian theologians developed a theology of infant baptism and spread the teaching in the following 20 years, so much so that Tertullian, at the dawn of the third century, speaks of it as a commonly accepted practice.
The problem with this scenario is that the connection between the beginnings of infant baptism and the Antonine Plague is purely hypothetical, because no literary source explicitly expresses it. Intriguingly, not only is the link between the plague and infant baptism missing, but also any type of generic mention of the plague in the writings of contemporary Christian authors. We can assume that in the middle of the Antonine Plague every learned debate was silenced by the emergency of the epidemic. The plausible demands for seriously ill children by their Christian parents, who wanted to ensure their salvation through baptism, needed immediate action. It was only when the calamity ended that the first references to the baptism of children began to appear, while the silence of the sources on the plague itself persisted.
So why this silence even after 180 C.E.?
The majority pagan population considered the epidemic a sign of the gods’ disfavor, putting the blame on Christians. Christianity, still living in the imminence of Christ’s return, interpreted this event in a similar manner—as God’s disapproval of the world’s immorality, despite Christians’ presence. The Antonine Plague was the first devastating demographic catastrophe that struck the church. Apologists had to face a sort of theological disorientation: how to justify this “divine punishment.” Is it possible that this disorientation resulted in the puzzling silence of literary sources?
Throughout the subapostolic period, there is no explicit reference to the baptism of children. Every time the topic is tackled, children are considered pure regardless. This was orthodoxy up to the time of the Christian theologian Justin (in 150 C.E.), who was the last apologist to write about baptism before the Antonine Plague struck the Roman Empire (First Apology 61.9–10). Thirty years later, with Irenaeus, the situation seems to have changed, and, after 20 more years, we learn from Tertullian that the practice of infant baptism was implemented unreservedly.
Between 150 and 180 C.E. something must have happened that would justify such an important and unprecedented change. The Antonine Plague fits perfectly in the history of baptismal theology, presenting itself as a crucial event on the world stage.
FRANCESCO ARDUINI is an author and independent researcher in biblical studies and the history of Christianity. He wrote the book Il battesimo dei bambini (2010).
Following are testimonies from the Wa people of northern Myanmar concerning being animists and their conversion to evangelical Christianity. Reading on the internet about animists, some writers would lead you to believe that being an animist is a positive thing. The Christian Wa people would beg to differ as the following testimonies reveal:
“My name is Khuat, and I am a 53-year-old pastor. My parents were animists who offered sacrifices to the spirits every month, and our family was plunged into poverty and bondage to cruel demons. In 2001 I heard of God’s love and forgiveness, and I committed my life to Jesus. We smashed all our idols and the Lord blessed us in every way. I was eager to read the Bible, but for years I could not find even one for sale. Now you have brought many Bibles to us, and we are overwhelmed with joy. Thank you! You have done the greatest thing possible.
“My name is Nyi. Everyone in my family lived in fear of the spirits for generations. We did all we could to appease them, but in return we got death and suffering. My mother died when I was a baby, and my father died when I was 8. Then when I was 13 my brother died and there was no one to take care of me. I started using drugs, and at my lowest point a Christian told me about Jesus, and He changed my life! I even graduated from Bible school, and now I serve my Wa people, getting as many saved as I can. The Word of God you gave us is so precious!“
“My name is Moe, and I am 19 years old. My family were animists, so we served the spirits and had never heard about Jesus. My friend told me the Good News, and I went to church with her. The pastor gave me a Bible and I brought it home, but my father was the village shaman so he didn’t let me read the Bible. One day my mother fell ill, and my father spent all our money to try to make her well. He heard that Jesus could heal the sick, so he let her go to the church with me. She was healed that day, and now my whole family are Christians! Thank you for the wonderful Bibles you freely gave us.”
The anthropologist who say that these tribes should be left alone and not evangelized are deceived themselves by the powers of darkness and do not have the spiritual discernment to understand the great spiritual and physical deception that these people suffer under.
Lord Jesus understood it, that is why He said to go into all the earth and preach the gospel and set the captives (of the demons) free!
Has He set you free from the sins or idols that bind you up?
(The Bibles they refer to were printed and donated by the supporters of Asia Harvest.)
Of chalices they make helmet and sword and sell by the bucket the blood of the Lord. Michelangelo
What a shocking statement! When I initially read this, I was shocked by the second part, “sell by the bucket the blood of the Lord.”
The author of this famous quote is Michelangelo, the famous painter hired by pope Julius II (1503-1513) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. He also painted the Last Judgement. The chapel is in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City which is the residence of the pope and where the new popes are decided.
The chapel is named after and was built by pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484). You may remember him from your study of church history as the pope who taxed the numerous brothels in Rome with a Church tax. He added to this considerable profit by charging a tax on mistresses kept by priests, though he paid no tax on his own mistresses. This revenue stream was a side “benefit” of the Vatican’s doctrine of celibacy.
The word ‘they’ in the quote refers to the pope of his day, Julius, and his passion for fighting “holy wars” to extend the papal territories. Unfortunately for those who resisted the popes and their errors, Julius was not the only pope who believed the killing of those who disagreed with them was approved by Jesus Christ. It is estimated by credible historians that approximately 50 million true Christians, Jews, even some Catholics and others died during the 605 years the Roman Catholic popes operated the Inquisition.
The shocking, second part of the quote stated, “sell by the bucket the blood of the Lord”, refers to the pope’s selling “salvation” for gold, silver, precious gems, mammon or service to whatever cause the pope was promoting. Pope Urban II in 1096, who inspired the first ungodly, unchristian crusade to retake Jerusalem, promised “salvation” to those who killed the heretics (Muslims and Jews) or died in battle. Martin Luther, himself a Catholic monk, lit the fuse of the Reformation in the 1500s because pope Leo X was selling “salvation” through indulgences in what we now know as Germany. Leo used the money to rebuild Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The apostle Peter said this about the blood of Jesus: “For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb.”
The Lord’s blood is precious to God the Father and is the ransom paid for the salvation of those who repent and believe in the good news of Jesus Christ.
Today many consider the Shroud of Turin—the alleged burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth—to be the most important relic of Christianity.1 It is a linen sheet measuring about 14.5 by 3.5 feet and featuring a monochromatic image on the front and back of a naked male figure. This figure appears to bear marks from ﬂagellation and cruciﬁxion as well as various red spots corresponding to the blows. The human image is the result of a change in the color of the linen ﬁbers, but it remains to be fully understood how such coloration occurred. Two scorch marks, which appear as black lines, and a series of vaguely triangular holes caused by burns, run lengthwise down the fabric, on either side of the human figure. This damage is believed to have occurred due to ﬁre in 1532.
The Shroud was first photographed in 1898, and this year is commonly considered to mark the emergence of sindonology (from the Greek word sindōn, used in the Gospels to define Jesus’s burial cloth), that is, the science—or, rather, set of scientific disciplines—that set out to prove the authenticity of the Shroud. Over the past 120 years, sindonology has produced hundreds of books and articles dedicated to the relic, involving every possible field: chemistry, physics, forensic medicine, palynology, numismatics, and so on. Although the field is dominated by the so-called hard sciences, some authors have also dealt with the relic’s history. These accounts recount what can be inferred from historical documents. But because such are only available from the Middle Ages onwards, historians often use imagination to fill the large chronological gap between the first and 14th centuries. It is telling to see how the historiography of the Shroud during the early modern era and until the turn of the 20th century strove to remove any untoward aspects from its history by suppressing inconvenient documents and creating new legends.
Deposition of Christ (1620), by Giovanni Battista della Rovere, portrays the imagined origins of the Shroud of Turin. It shows Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and John the Evangelist wrapping Jesus’s body in a burial cloth. The angels above display the resulting image. Credit: Galleria Sabauda, Turin
There are two irreconcilable positions on the authenticity of the Shroud: The camp of sindonologists assert the relic’s authenticity, and the other side insists the Shroud is a pious medieval forgery. The overwhelming majority of scholars has supported the latter view, while the former has always enjoyed support in religious circles as well as a great deal of coverage by media outlets, always hungry to report on the supernatural and mysterious.
Thanks to the tenacity of sindonologists, the Shroud has survived even the most severe blows that brought down the structure of a belief in its authenticity. Historically, the first substantial blow came at the end of the 19th century, when prominent French historian and canon Ulysse Chevalier published and commented on the medieval documents referring to the moment the relic surfaced in the historical record. In particular, Chevalier reported on the position expressed by two contemporary bishops of the city of Troyes, the diocese in which the relic appeared in the 14th century, who denounced the relic as a forgery and forbade people from venerating it as the real shroud of Christ. Another critical assessment of the Shroud came from archaeological studies of the type of cloth and Jewish burial practices used at the time of Jesus that suggested the relic was from the Middle Ages.
The most serious blow then came from modern scientific analysis of the artifact. The radiocarbon dating of the fabric carried out in 1988 in three different laboratories indicated a date range of between 1260 and 1390. As is well known, this evidence failed to convince the Shroud’s supporters, who continue to produce literature to the contrary, discrediting the radiocarbon results on a variety of grounds. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has not allowed any new scientific examination of the cloth, alleged human blood, or the nature of the image.
Understandably, the authenticity discussion has almost completely stalled out. With no new data to consider and the two camps entrenched in their positions, is there anything left to say about the Shroud? If we do not want to engage in the fight over its authenticity, is the Shroud still an object deserving of further study?
We need to recognize that the issue of authenticity is only one among many. As a professional historian born in Turin and familiar with the Shroud from childhood, I felt very uneasy when I reviewed the extant scholarship on the subject and realized that very little had been published on the relic’s history and archaeology. This is due in part to the fact that professional historians and archaeologists—most of whom consider the Shroud to be a medieval artifact—prefer to keep their distance from such a controversial subject. As a result, the Shroud is absent from history textbooks and studies of ancient or medieval Christianity or Christian archaeology. It remains a disputed object that scholars prefer to ignore. Most books on the Shroud either have copied from each other or are shaped by devotional interests. Their authors usually lack sufficient training in historical-critical methods, and their coverage of historical and archaeological aspects is insufficient.
It was in this spirit that I set out to investigate the historical and archaeological sources, devoting approximately a decade to the study of the Shroud. In my research, I considered both published sources and unpublished documents from public and private Italian, Vatican, and French archives.2
Although knowing the origin of a relic is certainly important, it would be a mistake to focus all efforts on this point. The issue of origin and authenticity is only one among many. Cynically speaking, most relics are intrinsically worthless objects—materially, the Shroud is nothing but an old piece of cloth. Relics only gain importance when someone attributes it to them. It would also be a mistake to focus on a single relic. Expanding the focus beyond one particular object to examine also all that surrounds it has the potential to highlight the power of symbolic language and to understand the historical underpinnings and meanings.
The Veil of Veronica is one of the multiple shrouds and veils historically associated with Jesus’s execution and burial. This painting by Lorenzo Costa is titled Saint Veronica (1508). Credit: Shonagon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
On the latter point, it is important to note that until the second half of the sixth century, no one had ever looked for Jesus’s burial cloths, and that there was no record of them. It was only in the sixth century that burial cloths began to appear among the references to various relics of Christ. It is very instructive to follow the stories of these “sister” shrouds, which increased in number over time. They came, one by one, from Palestine and entered collections in all the most important cities of the world. Since the Carolingian period (eighth to ninth centuries), France has stood out as the place with the highest concentration of shrouds. Although some of them vanished, others still exist: The shroud of Cadouin was venerated until 1933, when it was proved to be a medieval Islamic cloth; or the shroud of Carcassonne, also from the Middle Ages. In Spain, the shroud of Oviedo is still regarded as a relic despite its dating from approximately the eighth century.
Among the dozens of alleged shrouds and sudaria (or, small cloths), the Shroud of Turin is unique because it, unlike the others, bears the image of Jesus’s tortured body. There were cloth relics with the image of Jesus already in late antiquity, but those depicted only his face: the Veil of Veronica, Mandylion of Edessa,3 and the Camouliana.
My recent study of historical documents corrects a great many misconceptions about the Shroud of Turin and provides a clear description of the first decades of life of this cloth, which appeared practically out of nowhere around 1355, in a country church in the middle of France. At the time, ecclesiastics, bishops, nobles, and even the king of France and the Pope all took interest in the matter.
Since the 16th century, the Shroud of Turin has been a powerful religious relic and political tool. This photo is of the 1933 exhibition of the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin. Credit: Archivio Arcivescovile di Torino
When it first appeared, two local bishops declared it to be a forgery, the king of France tried to seize it, and the pontiff forbade people from describing it as the authentic linen cloth that once enveloped Jesus in the tomb. However, matters took a different turn in 1453, when, after a series of events worthy of a historical novel, the Duke of Savoy illegally purchased the Shroud, invalidating all previous acts of censorship. When it was transferred to Chambéry and then, in 1578, to Turin—the two capitals of the Duchy of Savoy that later became the Kingdom of Italy—the relic became the most precious religious object of the sovereign family. It also played a political role in the hands of the House of Savoy.
Following the history of the Shroud means touching on multiple themes related to theology, devotion, literature, art history, and politics. The relic may seem frozen in time, but it is not a static artifact; rather, it has very much reflected changing historical circumstances, and its role in history has evolved together with societal changes. It first had to face the criticism of the Protestant world, then that of the Enlightenment, then critiques from modern historians and scientists, and finally—after the authentic documents had surfaced and opposition to the relic even by prominent ecclesiastics—the disaffection of those who had come to view the cult of relics as nothing but the survival of old superstitions. Yet, through waxing and waning fortune, the Shroud has survived to this day.