Insight on the News
The Pope’s Transfusions
● After Pope John Paul II was shot by a terrorist earlier this year, reports the New York “Times,” “he was given about 10 pints of blood, which means that virtually his entire blood volume was replaced.” With what result? The pope acquired a lingering viral infection—cytomegalovirus (CMV)—causing a lengthy delay in his recovery. A spokesman for the Apostolic Delegation in Washington, D.C., admitted: “We understand the transfusions were the apparent cause of the infection.”
It is just possible that John Paul may have died without the transfusions. However, is it not proper, in this respect, for Christians to obey that part of God’s law that the Catholic Bible includes among “essentials” for them? It states: “You are to ABSTAIN from food sacrificed to idols, FROM BLOOD, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right.” Explains a footnote in the Catholic “Jerusalem Bible”: “Blood symbolises life, and that belongs to God alone.” Since there are several modern alternatives to blood therapy, such doing “what is right” Scripturally often contributes to the good health of those confronted with problems related to blood and leaves them with a good conscience before God as well.—Acts 15:20 (footnote), 28, 29, “Jerusalem Bible,” Imprimatur: John Cardinal Heenan.
‘Are We All Heretics?’
● “Are we, then, all heretics?” asked a recent letter in London’s “Daily Telegraph.” The writer had just drawn attention to a “theological puzzle” created by the words of the early Christian churchman Justin Martyr: “If you have fallen in with some who are called Christians . . . who say that their souls, when they die are taken to heaven, DO NOT IMAGINE THAT THEY ARE CHRISTIANS.” In response to this “puzzle,” the newspaper published the following letter from John Dunnett, senior lecturer in Theology at Newbold College:
“The early Church Fathers, basing their beliefs and teachings on Holy Scripture . . . were under no illusion as to the experience of man, even of a Christian, in death. They understood death to be an unconscious state, a ‘sleep,’ from which there would eventually be a resurrection. It was said repeatedly of Old Testament kings that they slept with their fathers. The psalmist described death thus: ‘He breathes his last breath, he returns to the dust; and in that same hour all his thinking ends.’—Psalm [146:] 4 (New English Bible).”
After citing other examples of the “consistent Biblical teaching” of a resurrection after sleep in death, the theologian observed: “So it was that not only Justin Martyr and Irenaeus but also Ignatius, Polycarp, Lactantius and other early Fathers could not hold that Christian souls are taken to heaven when they die.” Then how did this unscriptural teaching get into the Church? Answers professor Dunnett: “It was under the influence of Platonic philosophy . . . that the concept of the immortality of the soul came largely to permeate the Christian Church and to make acceptable the idea that souls go to heaven at death; but it remains a non-Biblical belief.” Hence, it can be said that most so-called Christians today are Scriptural “heretics.”—Ezek. 18:4, 20.
Churches: ‘Don’t Preach’
● After two years of work, the British Council of Churches (BCC) has issued a series of guidelines that, according to “The Guardian” of London, warn against “taking too evangelistic an approach in discussions with people of other faiths.” The guidelines, approved by all the major denominations, declare: The type of speaking or writing which is specifically ‘evangelistic’ or ‘spiritual’ may often reinforce misconceptions,” hence, should be avoided.
Of course, the Bible itself advises “instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed.” But it does not irresolutely back away from the urgency imparted by Christ to his followers when he commanded them to “make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—2 Tim. 2:25; Matt. 28:19, 20.