These TimesVol. 26 No. 2 | Jan/Feb 2016
IS MARY APPEARING TO OUR WORLD?
In 1981, six youth burst into a church in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia with the startling news that a woman, wearing a long, flowing dress and a veil had spoken to them. It was the beginning of a daily relationship with an apparition claiming to be Mary who shared startling messages calling the world to repentance, to pray the rosary, and to return to God. Thirty-four years later, tens of thousands flock annually to the village, some claiming to receive their own messages and miracles.
Encounters with “Mary” have been reported for nearly 2,000 years and on every continent. One of the most famous reportedly took place in 1531 when a poor Aztec shepherd claimed he saw the Virgin and that she had left her image on his cloak. The image is now the celebrated “Virgin of Guadalupe.” The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. People come from around the world to view the cloak and its image and to pray to the Virgin for miracles. Many believe their prayers have been answered.
Similar stories are told from Japan, Rwanda, Haiti, France, Cairo, Ireland, and Portugal—to name only the most famous destinations where millions of pilgrims visit shrines dedicated to Marian apparitions.
The December 2015 National Geographic cover story is “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman.” What it won’t tell you is that the Bible does not support the claim that “Mary” has appeared to anyone. Nowhere does the Bible teach that souls go to heaven when they die, or that after her death, Mary’s body was taken without corruption to heaven. Mary is sleeping in the grave, waiting for the resurrection, along with many other godly people down through the ages. See John 5:24–29 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18.
Who is appearing to these individuals? The Bible teaches that Satan and his demons impersonate to deceive. We should expect more of this as we near the end of human history. Satan is desperate to control the religious thinking of the world and will use “miracles” and “messages” to confuse and deceive. Our only safeguard is to accept the Bible’s teachings about death and the afterlife. See 2 Thessalonians 2:1–15 and Revelation 16:13, 14.
FUNDAMENTALISM IS A “DISEASE”
Following Pope Francis’s recent three-nation tour of Africa where he was cheered by thousands as he visited a mosque and preached reconciliation and hope to Muslims and Christians, he stated that fundamentalism is “a disease of all religions,” including the Roman Catholic Church. “We have to combat it,” he added.
“Fundamentalism is always a tragedy. It is not religious, it lacks God, it is idolatrous,” he told the press aboard a chartered jet. Fundamentalists “believe they know absolute truth and corrupt others…”
What is “fundamentalism”? When used pejoratively, it refers to philosophies perceived as literal-minded or carrying a pretense of being the sole source of objective truth, regardless of whether its proponents mean it in a religious or secular sense. Secular fundamentalists, for instance, advocate practices and spew rhetoric of “expulsion and exclusivity, extremism and polarization” towards those who do not agree with scientific materialism. “Christian” fundamentalists are accused of believing the Bible to be inspired and its morality and ethics still binding today.
Early in his pontificate, Francis opposed fundamentalism from any religious tradition, including his own. His open attitudes towards same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraception has shocked and angered hardline Catholics who see Francis as downplaying truth in pursuit of popularity.
In an interview in 2014, Francis opined about the threat of fundamentalism: “A fundamentalist group, although it may not kill anyone, although it may not strike anyone, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalists is violence in the name of God.”
On October 28, 2015, the pontiff asked a delegation of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists celebrating the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s landmark document on interfaith relations to join him in the fight against fundamentalism and extremism. Instead, they should focus on “positive values” such as the promotion of peace, care for the poor, and environmental protection.
Whether he means to or not, this Pope has put Bible-believing Christians in a dangerous light—on par with violent terrorists and oppressive dictators. “Pope says fundamentalism is ‘disease of all religions,’” news.yahoo.com, December 1, 2015.
A PERFECT FLOOD IN SOUTHERN INDIA
“The highest daily rainfall in a century. Freak weather conditions on one day. The hottest-ever Indian Ocean. The strongest-ever El Niño. The hottest year on record.” All these effects combined to create the worst ever deluge last week for storm battered Chennai, the capital of the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
For the month of November, Chennai reported 1,024 millimeters (40.31 inches) of rain, more than 300 percent of the normal rainfall that is expected for the entire month. More than 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain fell in Chennai, India’s fourth most populous city, on the first day of December, a 100-year record.
The relentless storm left reservoirs under serious strain; consequently water officials released a massive amount of water into the river, which promptly overflowed and swamped lower lying areas of Chennai, India’s fourth most populous city, with over 2.5 meters (8 feet) of water. People were trapped on rooftops with no communication and no transportation. Several facilities were closed including schools, auto factories, and even the airport.
To date, about 280 people have died across Tamil Nadu state as a result of the torrential rains. Many thousands of people are homeless, without power, safe water, food, and shelter.
The worse news is, this could happen again, and soon; 2015’s El Niño is likely to be the strongest ever recorded, “with potential impacts across the world…including searingly high temperatures, droughts and intense rainfall.” The El Niño is a cyclical weather phenomenon resulting in warmer than expected ocean temperatures in the central and eastern parts of the tropical belt of the Pacific Ocean.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed climate change for the deluge, as the Paris global climate talks just get under way. “Freak weather whipped up a perfect storm,” The Hindu, Dec. 7, 2015.
CREATING AN INFERTILE MOSQUITO
Scientists in the UK believe they have developed a genetically modified mosquito that is infertile. If so, this would be a tremendous achievement in the fight against malaria.
Two copies of the modified gene are enough to render the female malarial mosquito infertile. But both males and females can pass on a single copy and eventually female infertility would spread. These infertile mosquitos would still be carriers of malaria, but they would not be able to reproduce and their species would die off. “Scientists create infertile mosquitoes.” BBC News Online, December 7, 2015.
The Bible prophesies that knowledge would increase at the end of time. Daniel 12:4. Using scientific knowledge to lessen suffering is a right use of such a blessing.
When two men returned home to share how Jesus had delivered them from demons, a door was opened for thousands to hear the gospel in a previously hostile region. [This story is based on Matthew 8:28–34; Mark 5:1–20; and Luke 8:25–39.] It was early morning, and...
A Jewish ruler came secretly one night to learn the way of life from the lowly Teacher of Galilee. [This story is based on John 3:1–17.] Nicodemus was a highly educated and honored member of the Jewish national council. He had been stirred by Jesus’ teaching. The...
What does the Bible teach about our duty to the environment? By Leilani Hortaleza and Andrew Hendrickson Forget the pictures you see in travel brochures. Our world is dirty, smelly, polluted, and quickly becoming toxic. Retreating into pristine wilderness will not...