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China bans Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in spite of rapid church growth

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China bans Handels Messiah in spite of rapid church growth

When a Government says, ‘you can’t sing that’, that’s a government in fear.” Dr. James White stated on the latest webcast of the Dividing Line.  He was responding to the report that China has banned the singing of Handel’s “Messiah” outside places of worship. With the population of Christians growing at an astonishing rate, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have reason to be. The Desire to crackdown on certain songs may very well be a indication that the state recognizes that it is on the brink of seismic social change.

From missionaries preaching the Gospel in the 7th century, to the persecutions under Mao Zedeng, China’s relationship with Christianity is a long one. Yet, what’s grabbing the attention of so many isn’t necessarily the past, but China’s future. In 2014, The Telegraph reported that “…by 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world.” Now, that number is expected to swell. As PJ Media reports in their piece:

“In 1980, there were approximately 10 million Christians there. In 2007, that number had climbed to 61.1 million. By 2030, they estimated, there will be 294.6 million Christians – nearly the entire population of the United States.”

The revelation that the officially atheist country is well on its way to becoming the largest Christian nation on earth has caused many state officials some degree of trepidation. The reason is that Christianity is thought to be a subversive religion. The issue for the government is the concern that Christianity could become an opposition political force which the West would manipulate to overthrow the communist government. In the words of President Xi Jinping, China must “…resolutely guard against overseas infiltration via religious means.

In the past, that usually meant suppression of the Church. While Freedom of religion is explicitly written in the Chinese constitution, freedom of assembly is another issue. In fact, according to the Council of Foreign Relations,

“…2014 saw a spike in state repression against house and state-sanctioned churches alike, including a campaign to remove hundreds of rooftop crosses from churches. The government sentenced prominent Christian pastor Zhang Shaojie to twelve years in prison for ‘gathering crowds to disturb the public order.”

These days, those voices in favor of the CCP have said that the state is becoming more tolerant of Christian groups. However, the relationship between the dominant communist party and religion is a tenuous one. The CCP has tried to both discourage and even co-opt Christian groups in the form of the state-sanctioned “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association” and the “Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement“.

The government keeps close tabs on those state-sanctioned churches, even installing cameras in the sanctuaries and monitoring pastors to make sure that they do not preach anything that the CCP would find questionable. As one pastor related to The Telegraph,

 “…State churches often shunned potentially subversive sections of the Bible. The Old Testament book in which the exiled Daniel refuses to obey orders to worship the king rather than his own God is seen as very dangerous.”

For those who are suspicious of the CCP, that has lead to an explosion of underground or, House Churches. It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of China’s Christians attend a House Church. Christianity Today published a wonderful article  that stated while individual House Churches are much smaller than the state-sanctioned churches and out of the sight of the police, many assume that the government knows about them. They are often harassed and sometimes shut down. Yet, the Christian community is steadfast. The Telegraph quoted a pastor saying:

“They do not trust the church, but they have to tolerate or accept it because the growth is there. The number of Christians is growing – they cannot fight it. They do not want the 70 million Christians to be their enemy.”

It’s of little wonder then, that the Chinese Communist Party is cracking down on Handel’s ‘Messiah’ as they look headlong into a future where there will be an estimated 294.6 million Christians starring back at them, declaring with the lyrics:

“The kingdom of this world;

Is become

The kingdom of our Lord,

And of His Christ

And He shall reign forever and ever…”

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Culture and Religion

Does Matthew 22:29-30 indicate Jesus was referencing the Book of Enoch?

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Does Matthew 2229-30 indicate Jesus was referencing the Book of Enoch

Extra-Biblical texts such as the Book of Enoch are often frowned upon by churches. Some see 1 Enoch as fake. Others say it’s a good historical reference but not inspired. The Ethiopian Bible includes it as scripture. Should we read it?

To understand the answer to this question, we need to consider three things. First, it was referenced as holy by many of the early church fathers, but was excluded from official canon. Second, Enoch is referenced multiple times in the Bible: Genesis 4 and 5, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, and Jude 1:14. Third, Jesus makes a statement in Matthew 22:29-30 that references “scripture” but what he is saying is only found in 1 Enoch.

Many who oppose the validity of Enoch say that it was written after the Book of Jude because the it includes the quote that Jude references, but fragments of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which most scholars date to before Jude was born.

The scripture in question is Matthew 22:29-30:

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

Nowhere in the 66 Books of the Bible does it say angels neither marry nor are given in marriage. What did Jesus mean when he said “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures” in reference to the angels not marrying?

Here is 1 Enoch 15:5-7:

5. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. 6. But you were ⌈formerly⌉ spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. 7. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling.

Hmm.

As with anything regarding extra-Biblical texts, I must urge caution. Many who believe 1 Enoch is authentic refute the authenticity of 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch. Then, there’s the question of inspiration and protection of the text. Many Christians believe the Bible has been able to survive and flourish despite so many attempts to disrupt it is because it has been protected over the millennia. If that’s the case, why was Enoch not included the whole time?

The answer to this question, to those who believe in its authenticity, may be found in the first two verses of the manuscript.

1 The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous, who will be 2 living in the day of tribulation, when all the wicked and godless are to be removed. And he took up his parable and said -Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw, but not for this generation, but for a remote one which is 3 for to come. Concerning the elect I said, and took up my parable concerning them:

If Enoch is real, it’s meant for a later generation living in the day of tribulation. If it’s a fake, then it’s intended to deceive those in the end times. Either way, it’s understandable that it would not be included in most Bibles.

I tend to believe 1 Enoch is legitimate, but not to the point that I would teach on it. Not yet. Much more prayer and study is required before I would ever risk misleading anyone.

Nevertheless, the reference in Matthew 22 is compelling.

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Culture and Religion

The ‘church fathers’ and the Book of Enoch

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The church fathers and the Book of Enoch

This article first appeared in Torah Driven Life. The site appears to be down currently, so we’re including this page here for reference.

The following is a compilation of attestations to the authenticity and acceptance of the Book of Enoch as Scripture by the fathers of the early church. This list is, by no means, an exhaustive list of quotations from the church fathers, but is rather just skimming of the surface. At any rate, the case is clear, that even beyond Jude’s open reference to it, the Book of Enoch had some degree of acceptance in early Christianity.

Tertullian and the Book of Enoch

Tertullian, an early church father and founder of Latin Christianity, wrote a few positive things concerning the Book of Enoch. Tertulian writes as follows in his 2nd century work, On the Apparel of Women I 3:1-3.

“I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order of action to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either. I suppose they did not think that, having been published before the deluge, it could have safely survived that world-wide calamity, the abolisher of all things. If that is the reason for rejecting it, let them recall to their memory that Noah, the survivor of the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself; and he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s ‘grace in the sight of God,’ (Genesis 6:8) and concerning all his preachings; since Enoch had given no other charge to Methuselah than that he should hand on the knowledge of them to his posterity. Noah therefore, no doubt, might have succeeded in the trusteeship of his preaching; or, had the case been otherwise, he would not have been silent alike concerning the disposition of things made by God, his Preserver, and concerning the particular glory of his own house.

“If Noah had not had this conservative power by so short a route, there would still be this consideration to warrant our assertion of the genuineness of this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, every document of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.

“But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that ‘every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.’ (2 Timothy 3:16) By the Jews it may now seem to have been rejected for that very reason, just like all the other portions nearly which tell of Christ. Nor, of course, is this fact wonderful, that they did not receive some Scriptures which spake of Him whom even in person, speaking in their presence, they were not to receive. To these considerations is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude.” (Jude 1:14-15)

Origen and the Book of Enoch

Origen appeals to the Book of Enoch as having the same canonical authority as he does the Book of Psalms. He writes as follows in De Principiis IV.

“But some one will perhaps inquire whether we can obtain out of Scripture any grounds for such an understanding of the subject. Now I think some such view is indicated in the Psalms, when the prophet says, ‘My eyes have seen your imperfection;’ (Psalm 139:16) by which the mind of the prophet, examining with keener glance the first principles of things, and separating in thought and imagination only between matter and its qualities, perceived the imperfection of God, which certainly is understood to be perfected by the addition of qualities. Enoch also, in his book, speaks as follows: ‘I have walked on even to imperfection;’ which expression I consider may be understood in a similar manner, viz., that the mind of the prophet proceeded in its scrutiny and investigation of all visible things, until it arrived at that first beginning in which it beheld imperfect matter existing without ‘qualities.’ For it is written in the same book of Enoch, ‘I beheld the whole of matter;’ which is so understood as if he had said: ‘I have clearly seen all the divisions of matter which are broken up from one into each individual species either of men, or animals, or of the sky, or of the sun, or of all other things in this world.’”

These quotations which he attributes to Enoch are not found in the Ethiopic text of the Book of Enoch, upon which our modern translations are based. There are, however, two sufficient reasons to believe that Origen is still quoting from the Book of Enoch. First, notice how Origen mishandled Psalm 139:16, “My eyes have seen your imperfection,” as if to indicate that God had imperfections which could be seen. Psalm 139:16 is more accurately translated, “Mine unformed substance Thine eyes saw.” (YLT) So it is very possible that Origen was simply incorrectly quoting passages that do exist in the Ethiopic text. Second, it is known from the discovery of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of Enoch found in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran that there are large portions of text that are not present in the Ethiopic manuscripts. (See 4Q209 and 4Q211) So it is also possible that he was quoting from portions of Enoch that may have not been translated into the Ethiopic text, and hence have not survived to today.

Irenaeus and the Book of Enoch

Irenaeus, in his work The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 18, records a condensed retelling of Enoch 6-8. He does this without directly citing the Book of Enoch, yet the citation here is unmistakable.

“And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them: and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness, in that they brought them the virtues of roots and herbs, dyeing in colours and cosmetics, the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God; by the entry of which things into the world evil extended and spread, while righteousness was diminished and enfeebled.”

The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas and the Book of Enoch

The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas is frequently ranked among the Apostolic Fathers, i.e. the founding documents of gentile Christianity. This letter contains several blatant quotations from the Book of Enoch, citing it as “Scripture” in Barnabas 16:5-6.

“Again, it was made manifest that the city and the temple and the people of Israel were to be delivered up. For the Scripture says, ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days that the Lord shall deliver the sheep of His pasture, and the sheep-fold, and their tower to destruction.’ (Condensed from Enoch 89:54-56) And it took place according to what the Lord said. But let us inquire if a temple of God exists. Yes, it exists, where He Himself said that He makes and perfects it. For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass when the week is ended that a temple of God shall be built gloriously in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Similar to Enoch 93:6-7)

Given that the writing style of Pseudo-Barnabas does not always give exact quotes from the Scripures, but frequently handles them in a very midrashic style, it is probable that the author is giving a condensed paraphrase of the passages in question from the same version of Enoch we have in our possession today.

Athenagoras and the Book of Enoch

Athenagoras of Athens, in his work 2nd century work Legatio, claims to regard Enoch as a true prophet, and this same work relies heavily upon the angelic cosmology presented in the Book of Enoch.

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Conspiracy Theory

Ezekiel’s prophecy and the truth about false prophets

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Ezekiel's prophecy and the truth about false prophets

The topic of “false prophets” is often difficult to discuss on the internet in general and social media in particular because invariably whenever we warn of false prophets, we’re accused of being false prophets. Such is the nature of our struggle to live a faithful life and spread the Gospel. Naysayers and mockers are always there.

This topic in particular is a challenging one because it’s based upon a set of verses that some believe has been misinterpreted in most churches today. The verses in question are found in Matthew 24, verses 4 and 5.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

The standard interpretation says that there will be people in the end times who claim to be Christ. While this is also true, as we see regularly, an alternate (and in my opinion, much more credible) interpretation is that false teachers will come in the end times in the name of Jesus Christ and will lead their flocks astray.

The argument is all in how the context is understood. Most read it as people saying, “I am Christ,” as in they’re claiming to be Christ. But what I believe he’s saying is people shall come in His name saying that He (Jesus) is Christ, and then shall deceive many. It changes the risk factor for believers because it insinuates there are those who may be leading a church today who pretend to be teaching the Gospel but are actually preaching a self-serving version of it that still claims to be a message from our Lord and Savior but is actually a great deception.

Those who have seen or even been brought into the prosperity “gospel” may have a very clear idea of what I mean.

This video goes into much more detail about prophetic events told of in both the Old and New Testament. I strongly recommend watching it, if only to make you think about what’s happening in the world around us.

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