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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ When Donkeys Talk ~


The letter/book of Jude is too short to be broken into chapters. It is, however, compact with wisdom meriting research. Jude, who identifies himself as "a servant of Christ and a brother of James," writes, "Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion" (v. 11). Woe to us! Should we not be interested in these sins and ways so as to alert ourselves? Jude precedes his warnings with this revelation: "In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies [a reference to his preceding verses regarding "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns [that] gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion"], reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even when the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals -- these are the very things that destroy them" (v.8-10).

The last verse may well be a reference to early Gnosticism, which was one of the central considerations of the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Gnosticism reached a developed stage and needed to be addressed. You are hearing a lot about this heresy with release of the film "The Da Vinci Code," drawing heavily on the Gnostic tradition. The Council of Nicea condemned Gnosticism as a heresy and that status still applies today, as, novel or not, The Da Vinci Code is a heresy. Thank goodness we are beyond calling for the death of heretics in these times, but work for the exposure of Dan Brown's declarations for what it is through discourse and rebuttal.

Christians may squabble among themselves about the nature of the communion elements, baptism, the "rapture," and prophesies of Daniel and Revelation. These, however, are not of salvific importance and the secular world has no interest in entering into these discourses, let along publish books or distribute films about them. But "secret knowledge," the meaning of "gnosis," and secret societies are intriguing as we are drawn to conspiracy theories, such as the Jews control the media; Dan Brown and Mel Gibson are not Jews but as far left and right of the Gospel as can be; the "gay agenda" influencing the media, TV and Hollywood is not Jewish (or Islamic) driven, and please inform me of any temple, synagogue or mosque congregants who have wrestled with the controversy of ordaining gay leaders because I don't know of any. These traditions do not tolerate homosexual beahvior. But we all know of many such controversies in the Christian denominations. Christian brothers and sisters, go figure that out. And please write to me with your insights and teach me. 

Perhaps that is what Jude had in mind when writing about "Korah's rebellion," a man who fought against God's appointed leadership rather than leadership appointed by humans. (See Numbers 16.) In another short book without chapters, St. John wrote, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping, maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church" (v. 9-10). 

There is no esoteric (secret) knowledge you need to learn to know the truth. The Christ was so clear that He is the Truth, the Way and the Life, and that He hid nothing from us about the mysteries of redemption. People who are not quite satisfied with the Scriptures in their canonical collection and seek some revelation beyond them probably haven't studied the God-breathed Scriptures deeply and contemplatively enough. They are all we need and it will take us eternity to assimilate their declarations of truth.

Yes, I read the sacred writings of many traditions. They help me to better understand my own Christian faith, some in a positive way and some in a negative way. But when I find myself talking more about their teachings than of the Judaic-Christian Scriptures, I must pause and reflect that I do not go in the direction of the sin of Korah. Jude's mention of Cain's sin is one of selfishness and greed, murder driven by hatred and jealously of his brother. (See Genesis 3.) This is so prevalent in our cultures of death however nations rationalize it that it needs no further commentary here.

"Balaam's error" is a combination of pathos and humor. He was so driven to cursing Israel against God's orders to him as a prophet. "Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey say the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again...Then the Lord opened the donkey's mouth and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?' Balaam answered the donkey, 'You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now' " (Numbers 22:21-29, NIV).

We read of a talking donkey enunciating truth, speaking for God ("the angel of the Lord" is always a reference to the Christ in the Old Testament.) Of course Balaam would consider this a treatment of a fool, and fool he was. Unlike humans, no animal has ever lied to me or tried to direct me into some heresy. And, like Balaam, I do talk to animals. I well recall the psalmist's respect of those who cannot speak eloquently: "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger" (Psalm 8:2). I never feel foolish talking to animals, but I have felt foolish realizing they may know more about how to live than I do. "They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey -- a beast without speech -- who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error [heresy]. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity -- for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it over overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. If would have been better for them not to known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then turn to backs on the sacred command that was passed onto them. Of them, the proverbs are true: 'A dog returns to its vomit,' and 'A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud' " (2 Peter 15-22).

Powerful words, and a challenge to the simple "prosperity gospel" of "just say this 30 second sinner's prayer, repeat after me, and you will have a free ticket to heaven." Rather than "accepting Jesus," a term not found in the Scriptures in the original language, the Gospel is about embracing Him and willing to dissolve our self and our ambitions into His will and to participate in His suffering and so participate in His resurrection and union.

You will not find that proclamation in the heresies of Gnosticism, Masonry, the "Gospel of Judas," or "The Da Vinci Code." Choose what you wish to believe but do not predicate that choice on what is the most easy and intriguing way. Jesus explained that the road to the heavenly realm is narrow and few find it and fewer follow it.

That is how it should be. But that way is not enshrouded with secrets. All has been revealed by Christ and by His gift of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing hidden except to the spiritually blind. Christ declared Himself the Bridegroom and His church, His people, the Bride. Unlike us humans, this Bridegroom hides nothing in secret from His beloved spouse.

Let me finish with a reflection on the term "heresy." It certainly isn’t politically correct in these times of calling for tolerance in the name of peace and brotherhood. A precept of the “New Age” adherents is “My truth [opinion] is as valid as your truth [opinion].” This cries of self-centeredness, antithetical to the teachings of Christ. People who maintain we cannot legislate morality are ignorant. Of course we do. The US legislated morally based rules of conduct for its citizens, against theft, fraud, murder, and rape, to name only a few. We do legislate morality and we do legislate immorality, such as the genocide of our progeny (our children in the wombs of their mothers) at 4,000 per day. 

Is it a matter of “opinion” that these “fetuses” are not human beings? I contend medical science declares they are humans, not “tissue”. And that is not “my” opinion. Our Scriptures declare they are: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body” (Psalm 139:13-15).

Let us be vigilant regarding Korah’s error. Heresy is not a conflict of opinion. Let us not teach our children otherwise or espouse the destructive mantra, “As long as you are happy.” The first draft of the Nicene Creed was written during the Nicene Council in A.D. 325, finalized in 327. It, or the Ten Commandants or the clear teachings of Christ are not opinions or suggestions. Any deviation from them, by definition, are heresies and prostitutions of the truth. 

So yes, the New Age adherents and those espousers of heresies speak truly when they proclaim, “Your truth is not my truth.” We can agree on that.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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