Anti-Theist Religious Bits & Pieces: Round Five

Of all of those Big Questions central to philosophical concepts that surround life, the universe and everything, the realms of theology and religions and the nature of deities continue to fascinate. Opinions proliferate in books, articles, videos, conversations in bars and pubs, and in fact anywhere and everywhere two or more humans are in proximity. There’s the pro side; there’s the anti-side. There aren’t too many fence-sitters. I’m still in the anti-camp as the following fifth instalment of “religious bits and pieces” illustrate.

Regarding Religion

*I believe in the freedom of religion providing the religion you believe in is the exact same religion as mine is.

*False Religion: Any religion that’s not your religion! When you say that your brand of religion is right and all others are false (either in part or in whole), you do realize of course that you have no appeal to any authority, higher or otherwise, and that the majority doesn’t rule (except of course unless by pure force).

*You can just about get away with anything if you claim that your “anything” is part and parcel of your religion and thus your religious beliefs and practices. Witness all of the recent and very heated debates over the ‘rights’ of the religious to refuse giving any ‘rights’ to the LGBT community or to prohibit a woman’s right in having an abortion. Then we have the religious community determining or at least trying to determine what should or should not be taught to children (i.e. – creationism / intelligent design vs. evolution in science class). But this is relatively mild compared to what follows. So, for yet another example, albeit a more serious example, putting your religious faith in faith healing as opposed to medicine has resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths, often of children by their fundamentalist ‘well meaning’ religious parents. Animal sacrifice is still legal providing that it done in the name of your religion. And the numbers of people, especially children, who have endured psychological as well as physical harm by exorcisms are legend. There have been many recorded cases of people who have even been killed during exorcisms, again especially children who have died by ‘well-meaning’ religious adults trying to beat demons out of them – literally. Exorcism often became an execution, putting meaning to the phrase that the cure was worse than the disease (which is what so-called ‘demon possession’ usually was – just an actual disease). The psychological and physical abuses inflicted on members and ex-members of the so-called ‘Church’ of Scientology are numerous and well documented, yet Scientology oft regains and retains it’s tax free status as a ‘religion’ and is virtually untouchable. Even New Age spiritual beliefs aren’t always harmless as people have died from fad diets and herbal remedies / treatments as well as putting trust in psychic surgery. And no amount of words can adequately describe the hideousness of the Westboro Baptist Church. Actually it’s not the ‘Church’ that’s hideous – it’s the ‘human’ member ship of that ‘Church’. Then too, to round out some (but by no means all) religious horrors still practiced in some parts of the world, we still have literal witch-hunts and trials were the accused was damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. The final resulting outcome was, and is, never in doubt – death to the ‘witch’.

*Religion has many a closet full of many a skeleton, all too often literally really real skeletons. One just has to recall all of those European ‘Christians’ who invaded North, South and Central America destroying entire indigenous cultures and societies in the process in the quest for gold / silver (El Dorado), resources, land and all-round empire building (i.e. – I claim this [already occupied] land for X in the name of Y) and of course converting the native pagans to Christianity by any means possible. Of course multi-hundreds of thousands of indigenous natives had to be exterminated in achieving those ‘Christian’ goals. Ethnic cleansing would not be too strong a phrase, but when God is on your side; when you are of the Chosen People; when you have “Divine Right” and Manifest Destiny backing you up, the ends justify the means and might makes right.

*We all know, or at least should know, that religious fundamentalists (and that includes or incorporates various religious faiths) have as their ideal goal the goal to ram their faith down the throats of anyone and everyone else not part and parcel of their One True Faith. More specifically, there are various American politicians and former politicians who have as an ultimate goal an American theocracy (Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Mick Huckabee, Joni Ernst perhaps even Newt Gingrich) and a total end to the separation of church and state. Translated, there are numerous right-wing religious fundamentalist politicians who, if elected to high office (i.e. – the presidency) would govern according to the Bible and not according to the American Constitution.

*Speaking of the U.S.A., to the best of my knowledge the United States is the only country with the word “God” imprinted on its currency although that hasn’t always been the case since “In God We Trust” was only established as the official motto of the United States by Congress in 1956 (and reaffirmed 50 years later) and the phrase first appeared on paper currency in 1957 (although the phrase had appeared on (and off and on again) on some American coinage since 1864). However, this is actually in direct violation of the American Constitution’s First Amendment which requires that officialdom not favor any one religion over another belief system – the so-called Separation of Church and State. However, there wouldn’t be any politician brave enough to try to rectify that unfortunate state of affairs since 90% of Americans are in favor. Oh, as an aside, as the joke goes, “In God we trust, all others pay cash”.

Regarding Faith & Belief

*Nothing fails like prayer fails. Prayer may make you feel good, but it fails in the results department.

*Linus carries around a security blanket. True Believers in principle do the same. They both have and carry around their own version of a security blanket!

*Theists J.P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Keith Ward, Richard Swinburn and millions of others of a similar ilk had they been born 10,000 years ago, would NOT be theists but polytheists at best; lacking any theological philosophy of any kind at worst.

Regarding Women 1

*Is this the best of all possible [religious] worlds? Not if you’re a woman!

*If a childless wife’s husband dies, she is not free to remarry anyone else but rather she becomes the wifely property of the deceased’s brother. (Deuteronomy 25: 5).

*It’s not just Muslim women that have to keep their head covered but also Christian women! Check out 1 Corinthians 11: 5! However, that doesn’t apply to Christian men if you look at 1 Corinthians 11: 4!

*Christian women also need to keep their big mouths shut in church – or else! Instead, they have to wait till they get home and then ask their husbands if they want to learn anything! (Check out 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35)

*But if a Christian woman really wants to know her proper place in society, she needs to digest 1 Timothy 2: 9-15.

*Also we should note that a woman is always worth less in shekels than a man according to Leviticus 27: 3-7.

*Women are as second-class citizens in religious institutions and associated religious circles. So for example, what do you think the odds are of a Nun ever becoming Pope? Women in religious circles are not about to break the stained glass ceiling anytime soon!

Regarding Women 2: Historical, Mythical & Biblical (i.e. – Also Mythical):

1) Presumably you’d have relatively little if any problem independently verifying via historical documents and/or via archaeological evidence the actual existence of the following real historical women.

Real Historical Women: Joan of Arc (French heroine); Cleopatra VII (Queen of Egypt); Flavia Helena (also Queen Helena, later St. Helena) – mother of Constantine the Great*; Servilia (Mistress to Julius Caesar); Boudica (leader of rebellion against Roman occupying forces of Ancient Britain); Hatshepsut (Egyptian Pharaoh); Nefertiti (wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten); and Hypatia (Library of Alexandria).

2) Presumably you’d have all sorts of problems independently verifying via historical and/or via archaeological evidence the actual existence of the following ‘real’ women of myth and legend.

‘Real Women of Myth & Legend: Pele (Hawaiian); Isis (Egyptian); Cassiopeia (Greek); Andromeda (Greek); Hera (wife of Zeus); Helen (of Troy); Pope Joan; Gaia (Greek Earth Goddess); Aphrodite (Greek); Demeter (Greek); Freya (Norse); Inana / Ishtar (Mesopotamia); Artemis (Greek); Athena (Greek); Brigid (Celtic) and more recently Wonder Woman (superhero); and Supergirl (superhero).

And of course you, knowing what you already know in advance, probably wouldn’t even bother trying.

3) Assuming you are a True Christian Believer, presumably you’d argue that you would have relatively little if any problem independently verifying via historical and/or via archaeological evidence the actual existence of the following ‘real’ women of the Bible.

‘Real’ Women of the Bible: Eve (first woman); Sarah (gave birth at 90); Ruth (Book of Ruth – Old Testament); Esther (Book of Esther – Old Testament); Lot’s wife (turned into pillar of salt); Bathsheba (wife of David); Queen of Sheba (visited King Solomon); Jezebel (wife of King Ahab), Mary (mother of Jesus); Delilah (betrays Samson for money); and Mary Magdalene (follower of Jesus).

Yet you would run into the exact same problem you’d have in verifying the actual existence of those ‘real’ women of myth and legend and for the exact same reason. The ‘real’ women of the Bible are as ‘real’ as those ‘real’ women of myth and legend whose actual existence you couldn’t be bothered trying to verify since you know better. Well now you know better about those ‘real’ women of the Bible.

*Helena (at near 80 years old) was sent by Constantine to the Holy Land on a quest to find and collect Jesus relics and she allegedly found the ‘One True Cross’ (hundreds of years after the fact of course) and thus is now called for her pioneering efforts, the Patron Saint of Archaeology.

Regarding Family Values

*We keep hearing the mantra that the Bible commands that a marriage be just between one man and one woman. What utter rubbish! If you slice and dice things down to the basics, a man can have however many wives as he can afford to have living under his roof. They can be acquired for money and via rape. If you rape a girl who isn’t already engaged and then pay her daddy 50 shekels, she’s yours (Exodus 22: 16-17; Deuteronomy 22: 28-29). Presumably you could do this as many times as you wanted and thus acquire a harem.

*We note how Lot offered his daughters to strangers for sex in preference to the strangers having their wicked way with his guests (Genesis 19: 1-8). Later on down the track Lot’s two daughters got daddy drunk and then raped him (Genesis 19: 31-38).

*Then too we have polygamy sanctioned in the Bible (so much for the ‘one man, one woman’, mantra often spouted off by fundamentalists).

*God commands Abraham to kill his son – not a very family-friendly command on God’s part.

*If you have rebellious children, you don’t spank them or send them to bed without supper, instead you have them stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21). On the other hand, instead of having the stones come to the child, bash the child against the stone (Psalm 137: 9).

*Speaking of killing disobedient children, if you don’t obey the Commandment to honor mummy and daddy but rather curse mummy and daddy, you’re going to have a date with the executioner (Exodus 21: 17; Matthew 15: 4).

*And it is quite okay to capture and kill the children of your enemy, except female children who are virginal. Those virginal female children you can keep for yourself and for your own pleasure (Numbers 31: 17-18).

*For pleasure of a slightly different kind, boiled children are on the Biblical menu! Cannibalism in the Bible? Really? Check out 2 Kings 6: 29; Leviticus 26: 29; Ezekiel 5; 10; Deuteronomy 28: 53-57; Jeremiah 19: 9; and Micah 3: 3.

*For some reason God wants you to give Him the firstborn of your sons (Exodus 22: 29; Exodus 34: 20; Numbers 3: 13) and we can only think the worst here. Does God have a fondness for young boys?

*And Jesus really didn’t care for family values as Luke 14: 26 makes very clear indeed.

Regarding Miracles

*If you are to believe all of those fundamentalist, right-wing, evangelist Christians, there are thousands of God-inspired supernatural miracles recorded every year, especially in faith healings and related. If you add to those claims those supernatural miracles accepted as genuine bona-fide true miracles by the Catholic Church, then there should be absolutely no doubt that supernatural miracles were as real and as well documented as gravity. Alas, there’s not so much as even one miracle ever observed and verified and written up in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and undisputedly accepted by the scientific community as proof of the supernatural. I think that alone pretty much sums up the validity of any supernatural miracle attributed to God.

Regarding the Bible

*The Bible: A primitive text from a primitive time. The Koran: An equally primitive text from an equally primitive time.

*The Bible (as well as the Koran) should NOT hold any privileged position in society since there are literally thousands of other non-related pieces of literature that can be said to be equally inspirational – not that the Bible contains all that much that is inspirational unless your name is Hitler (or hundreds of equally historical equivalents).

*As long as you can find at least one example of God perpetrating an evil deed (out of many dozens one could cite), you can hardly call the Bible “The Good Book”.

*Contrary to what Christians would have you believe, the Bible DOES sanction abortion. Check out Numbers 5: 11-31 and reference to “bitter water”, administered by a priest, which will abort a woman’s baby if that woman has conceived by a male other than her husband. Even God will apparently slay that which is in the womb (Ezekiel 20: 26; Hosea 9: 11-16; Hosea 13: 16).

*There are some who say that because the Bible oft uses the geographical phrase “four corners” that the Bible therefore is advocating a Flat earth geography, as a circle or a globe / sphere has no corners, four or otherwise. However, I think this is a pretty weak conclusion on the grounds that the phrase “the Four Corners of the Earth” is still a very common expression that is still frequently used even today.

*Do you like to eat pork, bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, etc.? If “yes”, then repent you sinner! The Bible prohibits you eating the flesh of the swine, as in Deuteronomy 14: 8.

*And you are forbidden to eat any fat or any blood (Leviticus 3: 17) so that rules out that cheeseburger or juicy rare hamburger / steak.

*And do you also like to eat clams and oysters and mussels and other shellfish like crab and lobster and shrimp / prawns and marine / freshwater snails (if you’re French) and associated delicacies? Give them at miss for they are an “abomination unto you” according to Leviticus 11: 10-12. You don’t even get to eat land snails according to Leviticus 11: 30. And turtle soup is also off the menu too – Leviticus 11: 29. In fact if you follow the dietary restrictions given in Leviticus you’d probably die of hunger! Well not really as God allows you to eat grasshoppers, beetles and locusts so you won’t actually starve (Leviticus 11: 22). [As an additional aside, Leviticus 11: 19 as well as Deuteronomy 14: 18 includes the bat as being a bird!]

*But don’t stuff your face with too many locusts, grasshoppers and beetles for then you are a glutton and according to Proverbs 23: 21 gluttony will lead you to the poor house, that’s assuming you don’t slit your own gluttonous throat first (Proverbs 23: 2).

*Do you ever consult a psychic or use Tarot Cards or read your astrology forecast in your daily newspaper? Shame, shame, shame on you. God is NOT amused. You are forbidden to have anything to do with the spirits, mediums, fortune tellers, astrology and the like according to that party-poop of all party-poop Biblical books, Leviticus, as in specifically Leviticus 19: 31 and Leviticus 20: 6.

*Do you have a tattoo? If so, well you’re a very wicked, wicked person! God forbids you to have a tattoo, and if you doubt this, you’d better look up Leviticus 19: 28.

*Do you shave? Have you ever shaved? Naughty, naughty, naughty. The Bible commands that you do NOT shave. Check out Leviticus 21: 5 and Ezekiel 44: 20. So, do not pass go, do not collect $200, instead go straight to hell in a handbasket if you have ever shaved!

*Okay men, let’s be honest here, have you ever had lust for a woman? Well if so then you’re evil, evil, evil because you have actually committed adultery in the eyes of Jesus and therefore in the eyes of God! (Matthew 5: 27-28)

*Do you ladies specifically (and gentlemen too I guess) ever wear sexy / revealing clothing and associated hairstyles and use adornments like jewelry? Tisk, tisk, tisk! Abandon your wicked ways immediately for 1 Timothy 2: 9 forbids all of this – so there!

*And do you ladies like to gossip? Control yourself and cease blabbering immediately for the Bible and the Lord so commands you according to Leviticus 19: 16; Psalm 101: 5.

*Do you fancy yourself as a bit of a comedian or jester or jokester? Shame on you according to Ephesians 5: 4. So straighten up and fly right!

*Hands up, have you ever been divorced and then remarried? Again you have committed adultery and Jesus / God will get you for that! (Matthew 5: 31-32; Matthew 19: 9; Mark 10: 11-12; Luke 16: 18; 1 Corinthians 7: 10-11.) Basically the Biblical Commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20: 14) and if you do commit adultery your head is on the proverbial chopping block (Leviticus 20: 10). And so that would seem to apply to those who divorce and remarry because you can’t ever remarry because that too is adultery. Oops!

*Now here’s a contradiction if ever there was one. According to 1 Corinthians 7: 1, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (i.e. – no sex)! A man can have a wife and a woman can have a husband, but no touching! That being the case, how do you “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1: 28; Genesis 9: 1)?

*And you’d better no ever have premarital sex or else it’s hell for you (Jude 1: 7)! Maybe even worse, if you’re found out not to be a virgin, then you can be stoned to death according to Deuteronomy 22: 20-21.

*Do you ever do work on the Sabbath? Sooner or later nearly everyone does some form of labor on the Sabbath, and it doesn’t matter whether Saturday or Sunday is defined as the Sabbath day. Well working on the Sabbath is a no-no. Who says? God says! See Exodus 20: 10; Exodus 31: 14; Leviticus 23: 3; Deuteronomy 5: 14 and Jeremiah 17: 24. So what if I do work on the Sabbath, what’s the big deal? Death my friend, death. You have committed a crime punishable by death according to Exodus 31: 14-15; and Exodus 35: 2.

*Here’s a bit of Biblical weirdness for you. Do you like to wear polyester and fabric blends? Cease immediately for the Lord commands you not to mix fabric blends, like linen and wool. Check it out at Leviticus 19: 19.

*To conclude Biblical weirdness, if you’re a male and for some reason you have been wounded in the privates, or your private parts are missing, then you are forbidden from going to church, which is “the congregation of the Lord”, at least according to Deuteronomy 23: 1. So all your male True Believers, you’d better look after your “stones”.

*I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat it here – the easiest path to atheism is just to read the Bible!

Regarding the Geography of Heaven and Hell

*Attention all True Believers: Have you actually seen heaven? No? Have you actually seen hell? No? Do you know anyone who has actually seen heaven or hell? No? If heaven and hell are physical places then you’d suspect that astronomers (by now) would have spotted heaven “up there” and geologists would have (by now) found actual seismic evidence of hell “down there”. In any event all of the fires of hell should have been doused by that ‘global flood’. Now you may have FAITH that heaven and hell exist; you may have some degree of BELIEF that heaven and hell exist, but you most certainly don’t KNOW that heaven and hell exist. If you and no one that you’ve ever known have ever visited hell, you can have absolutely no idea what the dimensions of hell are. True Believers are just making it all up. By the by, what ‘below’ (not on) earth does hell actually have to do with Satan? Satan didn’t create hell; God created hell (and we all know that God loves you). Now True Believers have to ask the question, does the punishment of eternal hell fit the crime? Finally, not all theologies actually postulate a hell – or a heaven for that matter. So my final question to True Believers is, what makes you right and theologies that don’t advocate a heaven or hell, like the Quakers, wrong? Extraordinary claims, and heaven and hell ARE extraordinary claims, require evidence. True Believers have provided absolutely NO evidence to back up their wild assertions that heaven and hell exist.

Regarding the End Times

*Isn’t it absolutely amazing how lucky you are being born into just the right family in just the right country into just the right religion at just the right time in history to become one of the very few privileged True Believers who absolutely know that you are one of the chosen ones to witness the End Times, the Second Coming, the return of Jesus and be Raptured up into Heaven and have an eternal [after]life! What are the odds of that?!?

*I have to wonder whether if our current reigning End Times Queen, Michele Bachmann, might not be the reincarnation of former Queen Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). McPherson (also known as Sister Aimee) was a Christian evangelist, faith healer and media celebrity prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. She drove around L.A. in the second decade of the 20th Century in her “Gospel Auto” with the message painted on the side “Jesus Is Coming – Get Ready”. It just goes to show that there’s no shortage of True Believers, not only now but over the centuries who truly believe we’re in, or were in, the End Times. However, it didn’t come to pass for Aimee Semple McPherson and it won’t come to pass for Michele Bachmann either.

The Day of Itching Ears

For the professing Church the day of theological controversy has passed. Ecumenism is now the word on every tongue. Church leaders appear to have become convinced that the stifling confusion in the Church can be overcome only by all of us getting together, minimizing our differences, and emphasizing those doctrines on which we all agree. As a result, some of the most important doctrines of Scripture are neither denied nor affirmed; they are ignored. But little matter, for the objective now is not to be true to the written Word of God but to see to it that the Church is “strong” and commands the world’s respect.

Ecumenism, sad to say, has made significant inroads among evangelical believers too. All too seldom do men of God stand up to defend by the Scriptures the truths they believe and proclaim. The theological debate has given place to dialogue, in which two individuals or groups sit down together to discuss their differences and see if there is not some basis for agreement. This appears generous and objective, but too often convictions are compromised and the truth watered down by such undertakings, with the result that the Spirit’s power is sacrificed for numerical strength. No man of God can speak in the power of the Spirit when he places anything before the Word and Will of God. Nor can the Church ever be truly united and strong unless she puts God’s Word and Will first and takes her place in the world as Christ’s ambassador on alien territory (See II Cor. 5:20).

But what do the Scriptures say about this new “open-mindedness,” this new “let’s all get together” trend?

OUR LORD’S WARNING

During our Lord’s earthly ministry He warned His disciples: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).

The disciples did not immediately grasp the significance of the Lord’s warning. Realizing that they had forgotten to take bread with them, they supposed that He referred to the leaven which their bakers used and concluded that the Pharisees and Sadducees were evidently out to poison their food!

To correct this mistake our Lord had but to remind them how, with but a few loaves, He had fed five thousand people at one time and four thousand at another. They themselves had taken up baskets full of the fragments on both occasions. Surely, then, He could supply them with food!

“Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees (Ver. 12).

Someone was out to poison them–spiritually! It is doubtful that the Pharisees and Sadducees meant to propagate poisonous doctrines, but in their pride and hypocrisy they were the ready tools of Satan. It was because of the destructive qualities of these doctrines that our Lord had used the term “leaven” to describe them. Where false doctrine is concerned, it takes but a little to do a great deal of harm. Referring to this very thing Paul warned the Galatians that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9).

What was so dangerous about the teachings of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? In general it was that the Pharisees added to the written Word (Matt. 23) and the Sadducees took from it (Acts 23:8). Both were dangerous, and our Lord warned His disciples to BEWARE of both. We do well to take this lesson to heart, for the Pharisees and Sadducees are with us still–those who add to the Word of God and those who take from it.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE PHARISEES

“The doctrine of the Pharisees” has held a prominent place in the Church throughout its history. The Reformation did not put an end to it by any means, for still today vast numbers of religious people subscribe to it.

The leaders of Christendom have added all sorts of rituals, restrictions, and requirements to God’s revealed program for His Church in this dispensation of Grace, and multitudes of sincere believers follow like sheep, instead of searching the Scriptures daily to see whether these things really do belong to His program for our day.

Look at the members of Christ’s Body. Many have placed themselves under the Law, while others are trying to recover the miraculous signs of Pentecost, or are striving to carry out a “great commission” that is not theirs. They observe holy days, baptism, footwashing, and all sorts of other forms and ceremonies which are contrary to God’s program for this dispensation, as revealed in the epistles of Paul. As a result the Church is a Babel of confusion and Satan is well satisfied.

How perverse is the heart of man! God reveals the Substance and lo, His people go back to the shadows! He demonstrates the all-sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work and behold, His people continue to observe the rites that pointed to it. Indeed, they add ceremonies which He never commanded at all! In grace God postpones the judgment and the earthly reign of Christ, to offer grace and reconciliation to His enemies and lo, His servants do not even understand and go about vainly trying to “establish His kingdom.”

They do not deny that we are commissioned to proclaim God’s offer of grace and reconciliation, but they add another commission and so confuse the God-given message. They do not deny the all-sufficiency of Christ’s finished work, but they add unscriptural and undispensational teachings and forms and ceremonies, and so confuse and adulterate God’s clear message of grace.

This is “the doctrine of the Pharisees” and it is dangerous.

Added error blinds men’s minds to the truth. Those who add the so-called “Great Commission” to God’s program for this dispensation cannot fully appreciate the glory of our Lord’s “great commission” to Paul and to us (II Cor. 5:14-21; Eph. 3:8,9; et al). Those who go back under the Law of Moses or even back to Pentecost cannot fully appreciate the glory of our Lord’s finished work or “the exceeding riches of His grace.” Those who observe footwashing, water baptism, or holy days cannot fully understand the mystery of God’s purpose and grace. These added things hang as a veil before their eyes and blind them to the glories of their position in the heavenlies in Christ as members of His Body.

Our Lord charged the Pharisees with “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” and with “making the Word of God of none effect through your [their] tradition” (Mark 7:7,13). This is being done on every hand today as religious leaders add to God’s glorious “grace” program ceremonies and observances which belonged to former dispensations, or which He never commanded at all. This is dangerous to our spiritual welfare and we should “beware” of it.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE SADDUCEES

But if Satan cannot deceive us with “the doctrine of the Pharisees” he will seek to accomplish his purpose through “the doctrine of the Sadducees.”

In comparison with the bigoted Pharisees, the Sadducees were the “advanced thinkers” of their day. Not that they did not also substitute human tradition for the Word of God, but they made more of the human intellect and refused to believe certain truths which were supernatural in character. The Sadducees have a host of followers in our day with its emphasis on the intellectual.

But our Lord warned His disciples against the Sadducees too. He said “Take heed….Beware” and described their doctrine as leaven because a little of it can spread so fast.

This warning is sorely needed today since some sincere Christians, wishing to be intellectual and open-minded, place themselves in positions of great spiritual danger.

On the premise that they are mature and are seeking for the truth, such people often spend their time examining all the different viewpoints they can find and so make shipwreck of the faith. We should be careful about assuming that we are mature either intellectually or spiritually. To the puffed-up Corinthian believers Paul wrote:

“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become [take the position of] a fool, that he may be wise” (I Cor. 3:18).

“And if a man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (I Cor. 8:2).

The fact is that we cannot trust our intellects. Surely the sharp disagreements among the world’s greatest intellects should teach us this. These disagreements exist because, as the Bible teaches, the human mind, like the human heart, has become depraved by sin.

THE THESSALONIANS, THE BEREANS, AND THE ATHENIANS

But were not the Bereans commended for listening with open minds to teachings which they had never heard before? Yes, when they were confronted with them. It was the Athenians, not the Bereans, who made it their policy to consider as many viewpoints as possible on every subject (Acts 17:18-21).

The strength of the Bereans was that they kept close to the Scriptures. When confronted with some new doctrine, they did indeed give it an interested hearing, but then “searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Had they found anything in Paul’s message which contradicted the Scriptures they would immediately have rejected it. And for this God calls them “noble.” They were the truly great, the spiritual aristocracy of their day.

Too many believers today aspire to be like the Athenians rather than the Bereans. They say they wish to have open minds, and this is good if it is remembered that an open mind is like an open mouth; not everything should be put into it.

The Athenians went to the other extreme from the Thessalonians, who would not even consider a new doctrine when confronted with it–would not even consider it in the light of the Scriptures.

The Bereans were the wisest of the three. They kept close to that blessed Book, and, when confronted with unfamiliar teachings, immediately subjected them to the test of Scripture.

This is the wisest course even if only because we are all limited in time and strength. Obviously we cannot spend a great deal of time looking into the conflicting teachings of men without sacrificing a great deal of much-needed time for Bible study, and in the measure that we do this we are bound to grow spiritually weaker.

THE QUESTION OF EXPOSURE

There are those who argue that believers cannot be strengthened against error without being exposed to it. Our Lord knew better. He did not invite the Pharisees and the Sadducees to address His audiences. Rather He warned His audiences against the “leaven” of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and kept teaching His hearers the truth.

The depravity of the human heart and mind is such that the believer is not strengthened against error by constant exposure to it; he is strengthened against error by feeding consistently upon the Word of God. Exposure to error strengthens the believer only as it drives him to the Word of God. Show me a Christian who is always “considering all sides” and I will show you one who will fail dismally to give the Scriptural answer to false teaching–if indeed he is not taken in by false teaching himself. But show me a Christian who spends his time with that blessed Book and I will show you one who, strong in the faith, can easily answer his adversaries by the Scriptures. Paul wrote to young Pastor Timothy:

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ…. Preach the Word….For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (II Tim. 4:1-3).

And what was to be the result of this “itching ears” condition, this passion to hear teachers of all schools of thought expound their various doctrines? Hear the divine prediction:

“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (Ver. 4).

What thoughtful student of the Word will deny that we have reached this point in the history of the professing Church, that the day of “itching ears” is upon us?

The desire to “give everyone a hearing,” as it were, may seem superficially to indicate spiritual greatness, but actually it is of the flesh and is based upon the exalted presumption that it is safe for me to trust my intellect, even though the greatest intellects have disagreed over the most vital subjects. Where our intellects are concerned we are wiser to heed the Spirit-inspired exhortation of one truly great intellect, the Apostle Paul:

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).

The Apostle Paul did not assume that his followers were mature enough to consider all religious viewpoints. He delivered his God-given message and warned his hearers and readers against false teachings.

To the Corinthians he wrote:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11:3).

Reminding the Colossians of his labor and strife and toil and conflict to establish them in the faith, he warns:

“Beware lest any man spoil [rob] you….Let no man beguile you…” (Col. 2:8,18).

He did not suggest to the Ephesian elders that it might be big of them occasionally to invite the legalists or the gnostics or some other heterodox teachers in to address their audiences. He rather impressed upon them their responsibility to protect their congregations from false teaching. Read carefully and prayerfully his very words, as found in Acts 20:28-31:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood.

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

“Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”

Even those two outstanding pastors, Timothy and Titus, were warned against the “leaven” of false teaching. The apostle exhorts Timothy:

“Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee” (I Tim. 4:16).

This passage explains why some pastors have been unable to save their hearers from error and spiritual shipwreck. Certainly it teaches the danger of false doctrine to both pastor and people.

Throughout his two epistles to Timothy the apostle warns his son in the faith against those who “teach otherwise” and exhorts him to “fight the good fight of the faith.” How earnestly he beseeches young Timothy to stay close to the Word of God and especially to the Word of God committed to him for this present dispensation:

“O Timothy, keep [guard] that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding…oppositions of science falsely so called” (I Tim. 6:20).

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep [guard] by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (II Tim. 1:13,14).

In his letter to Titus the apostle declares that a bishop must be “blameless as the steward of God” (Titus 1:7).

“Holding fast the faithful Word… that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Ver. 9).

Never does Paul advise even the strongest, most mature man of God to seek out the doctrines of those who “teach otherwise” so that they may know how to deal with them. He rather exhorts them to keep strong in the truth, ever ready to meet false doctrine with the Word of God.

When you are confronted with the familiar sign, “BEWARE OF THE DOG,” be wise and keep out of the way. If you ignore the warning and have to flee torn and bruised, that is your fault. Nor can you expect God to protect you from spiritual harm and loss if you ignore His admonition to beware of false doctrine.

Do not presume: “I am mature. I will never be confused or overthrown by error.” BEWARE! This is the course of obedience. This is the course of wisdom. This is the course of humility.

Every believer should remember that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). It was by the Spirit that our eyes were opened to the most vital truths which confront mankind. Therefore it behooves us to protect ourselves from error and spiritual harm by consistent, prayerful, believing study of that blessed Book of which the Spirit is the Author.

Challenges Facing The Library At West Africa Theological Seminary, Affiliate Of University Of Nigeri

INTRODUCTION

The library has become “a place entrusted with the acquisition, organization, preservation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information in whatever format it might appear” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, ix). West Africa Theological Seminary Library is at the crossroad. The traditional library practices and modern technological advances must be developed and embraced if it is to be relevant in this information age. It is a very high price which must be paid otherwise the library will eventually become like the legendary character who slept for twenty years at Gasgill Mountain in Gulliver’s Travels and eventually woke up to find the world completely changed.

BRIEF HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

The history of the above seminary could be realistically traced to the historic visitation by two American missionaries (Rev. Dr. and Rev. Mrs. Gary Maxey) who led a group of Nigerian and expatriate Christians to Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria in April 1989. (The Maxeys had initially worked creditably in religious education in Port Harcourt for seven years). The establishment of the seminary in 1989 was a practical demonstration of the need to actively participate in the training of pastors, evangelists, missionaries and teachers not only in Nigeria but also in other parts of the continent and the west. Presently, the seminary is the largest non-denominational evangelical holiness seminary in Nigeria that has attracted students from a broad spectrum of Nigerian Christian denominations, (and) ethnic groups. During a recently completed semester, WATS has students from thirty of Nigeria’s states, from over forty language groups, from (several) other African countries, and from well over eighty different church groups (West Africa Theological Seminary Prospectus 2004, 5).

The name of the seminary was changed from Wesley International Theological Seminary to West Africa Theological Seminary on 1 June 2001, the same year it relocated to 35/37 MM International Airport Road, Lagos, Nigeria. The institution is affiliated to the University of Nsukka, Nigeria and presently offers several programs of study including : Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Diploma in Theology, Certificate in Computer Studies, Diploma in Computer Studies, M.A. in Biblical Studies, Master of Divinity, M.A. in Christian Leadership and M.A. in Intercultural Studies. The seminary started publishing the West Africa Theological Seminary Journal in 2002.

One of the immediate plans of the seminary is to automate its library collection. A crucial aspect is to identify software that will be able to meet the needs of the seminary. In selecting software, the seminary must think in terms of networking and bear in mind that automation programmes normally require annual support fees.

WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY LIBRARY

It is a truism that “the library is the nerve center of educational institutions” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, vii) and West Africa Theological Seminary Library is no exception. This library uses the second edition of the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) and the twentieth edition of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC 20). The card catalog is divided, “a file of authors and titles kept in a single alphabetical order and a file of subject cards in alphabetical order” (Newhall 1970, 38) and the filing system is letter by letter, a system in which “entries are filed without considering the spaces between words” (Nwosu 2000, 61). There is a book catalog, which contains the projects (undergraduate and graduate) submitted by students of the seminary and some members of staff who studied in other institutions.

In 2003 the library benefited from a subscription paid by Asbury Theological Seminary to use the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) Database on CD Rom. This is a comprehensive tool designed to support religious education and faculty research. The library serves students, academic and administrative staff of the seminary and external users (academic staff and students from other theological institutions).

Other relevant information include:

OPENING HOURS:

A. During term: Mondays to Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. ? 10:30 p.m.

B. Holiday: Mondays to Fridays: 9:00 a.m. ? 9:00 p.m.

NO OF BOOKS: 36,500

NO OF journal titles: 98

NO. OF VIDEO AND AUDIO CASSETTES: 114

PHOTOCOPYING MACHINE: 1

THE BOOK CATALOG: Projects (both card and book catalog)

NO. OF REFERENCE MATERIALS: 1,722

LIBRARY STAFF

With the exclusion of the presenter, WATS library is presently manned by seventeen members of staff, nine of whom are student workers. These student workers mostly work in the evenings, manning the security and circulation desks (although no external borrowing is done during this period). In addition, they clean they library.

CHALLENGES

1. Training and recruiting professional librarians

Nine out of the seventeen members of staff are student workers who use this opportunity to raise a significant portion of their fees and, in some cases, some extra funds to maintain themselves as they pursue their theological studies. The presenter is unaware of any who has expressed interest in the library profession. Services rendered cannot be classed as professional. Unfortunately, only two of the regular members of staff have completed some form of library training at the senior supporting level. The implication is that the library is seriously in need of professional librarians otherwise it would continue to run sub-standard services. An irksome dimension is that in most cases, junior members of staff who are in the majority “are allowed to do professional duties in the absence of the right cadre who should do them” (Nwosu 2000, 103).

The card catalog for instance will be used to demonstrate the effect the paucity or lack of professional librarians is having on the library collection.

The most common form of library catalog in West Africa is the card catalog and “there is need for (one) to know the design of the system to be able to use it effectively” (Nwosu 2000, 57). A challenge for the library is to maintain a consistent filing rule. Although WATS library operates the system known as the “letter-by-letter” or “all-through” method, there are evidences of the other method, that is the “word-by-word” or “nothing before something”. The former is the common approach to alphabetization, where B must always come before C. In the latter, the space between words is taken into account since the focus is on each word. When it gets to the turn of the word in the alphabetic sequence, all its associates are considered along.

Marrying the two methods of filing or alphabetization may cost one the information that is needed.
Another problem is misapplication of the filing rules. The American Library Association Code (Rule 6) stipulates that “abbreviated words should be filed as if they were spelled out in full, with one exception, that is, the abbreviation Mrs. St. is therefore filed as if it were spelled Saint, and Mc… as Mac” (Harrison and Beenham 1985, 82). The above rule is unfortunately misapplied in WATS library. If the rule is not taken into consideration, the word scan will be filed before St. when it should be the other way round. In the same manner, the Dr. (doctor) will also be filed before down and not the other way round.

A third issue in filing (Rule 5) states that initials should be filed before words. (However, acronyms are treated as words, for example UNICEF, UNESCO, ECOWAS etc.) There are instances in the WATS catalog that this rule is not taken into consideration. A word like Aaron erroneously comes before A.G.M and A.L.A.

It is frightening that there is no clear room for upward mobility of library staff. In the absence of a professional scheme of service or promotion guidelines, members of staff have worked in one position since they received their appointment letters.

2. Computerizing the library

Some libraries in Nigeria have automated their services. Examples include the Institute of Tropical Agriculture Library at Ibadan and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Library, Oshodi, Lagos. Others, including WATS Library, are on the verge of putting their automation plan into action.
Automation can benefit the Acquisition, Cataloging and Serial Departments in the following ways :
Acquisition : Automation can help in fund control as well as in generation and dissemination of reports. List of items, including the accession list can also be printed.

3. Acquisition

Acquisition is generally defined as “the process of obtaining books and other documents for a library, documentation center or archive” (Prytherch 1986, 61). Incontrovertibly, it is “one of the most important functions of any library system” (Ali 1989, 66). Some means of acquisition of library materials include purchase, donation, exchange, Legal Deposit Legislation and membership of professional organizations. In most libraries in West Africa, it is observed that
acquisition rates are grossly inadequate to support both teaching and research even if judged by minimal standards accepted in developed countries. Attempts to alleviate the situation with various forms of aid though intrinsically meritorious offer little hope for long term improvement (Allen 1993, 232).

Donated materials extensively stock West Africa Theological Seminary Library. Since beggars are not choosers, there is a significant proportion of dated publications. There are many reading materials which are not even relevant to the general curriculum of the seminary. Weeding ‘unwanted’ stock is a big problem to the library since there are no suitable replacements.
An often-overlooked means of acquisition is membership of professional associations. If the library continues to distance itself from the professional register of library institutions, it will not be aware of current trends in the professional which will negatively reflect on the type and quality of services rendered.

4. Internet connectivity

The WATS administration released a letter on 2nd January 2005 announcing a significant reduction (about 75%) of the internet service provided on campus. This was attributed to the reduction in the bandwidth which made it impossible to support all the former work stations. A technological blow was dealt on the library cyber café since it fell prey to this decision. Students were advised to use the cyber café on the ground floor. The seminary administration must support the library in its embryonic stage to judiciously embrace the new technology. On the other hand, the theological librarians have a very crucial role “to ensure that the resulting use of computers and telecommunication and any other appropriate technology contributes in cost effective ways to the needs of scholarship and research since (they) have the expertise in acquiring materials in a variety of formats and make them accessible for a variety of purposes” (Simpson 1984, 38).

5. Online resources

An online resource that was used at West Africa Theological Seminary (and which is highly recommended for other theological libraries in Africa) is the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Index, useful for accessing articles, reviews, essays, dissertations and monographs. The use of databases, which overlap subject fields, that is, interdisciplinary database searching, is an often over-looked aspect of online searching.Users of West Africa Theological Seminary Library do not have access to an incredible amount of online resources because it is not subscribing to use these materials. An example of a very important online resource is the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC). This center, a bibliographic utility based in Dublin, Ohio is a global electronic information co-operative serving about 39,517 libraries in seventy-six countries. It runs an Online Union Catalog. There are approximately twenty eight million cataloguing records and the database (using MARC tapes and other online input data for users) provides reference services and interlibrary loan, qualifying it probably as the world’s most comprehensive database of bibliographic information that produces the First Search System through which a library can subscribe to thousands of academic and professional titles from about seventy publishers available electronically.

6. Functional photocopier

Although the library has a photocopier, the machine is frequently out of order. This second hand machine needs to be replaced to enable the library to realistically benefit from its services. The seminary administration even took a decision recently to hand over photocopying services to a student who is presently running a better business.

7. Audio visual collection

Audio visuals are non-paper based information carriers. They have been introduced into the library through advances in technology. They are called audio-visuals because they require auditory and visual appreciation. One of their chief advantages is storing a large amount of information in a small space. Audio visuals include audio tapes, microforms, filmstrips, charts, slides, video tapes, television etc. Some of these appeal only to the sense of hearing (audios), some only to the sight (visuals) and others to both the auditory and visual senses (audio visuals). Although WATS library has received quite a few audio visual materials, there is need to purchase the necessary supporting equipments to make the audio visual collection a reality.

The seminary has been receiving several research tools in the form of CD ROMS for a considerable period. The library is yet to make these available to users by installing them in a functional computer.

8. Bindery

It is true that “once any item is selected for the collection, the library promises to preserve it” (Goodrum and Dalrymple 1985, 65). The absence of a bindery collection within the library is adversely affecting the physical condition of books. It must be borne in mind that since a significant portion of library materials are donated, many are received in a very poor physical condition.

The bindery could also be very instrumental in binding back issues of newspapers and journals to facilitate a relatively easier storage, retrieval and dissemination of information.

9. User instruction

A major weakness of library practice is the failure to instruct users in the use of the library to the best advantage. From experience, “surveys have shown that public use of such tools as catalogues are minimal, largely because they have never been shown how they operate” (Jackaman 1989, 3). Many students in WATS go through the seminary without a reasonable grasp of basic library principles. This means that the one hour orientation conducted at the start of every semester is insufficient.

10. Serial collection

Various journals subscribed to by the library are selected, ordered and received, processed and shelved by this collection. It is constantly checked to determine if there are any missing issues already due but have not been received in order to make such claims. This section also stocks newspaper. The relevance of such an invaluable collection in the library cannot be overemphasized. It is unfortunate that WATS library is not subscribing to journals and this explains why there are many distinct gaps in periodical literature. The library is at the mercy of donors who normally send journals at random.

Newspapers are directly purchased by the WATS administration and these are subsequently sent to the library in most cases not on the day of purchase. This defeats the purpose of newspapers since they come late to the library. Providing recent information must be the primary concern for the library or information worker. Consequently, “currency should therefore be a requirement and not an option” (Wilson 1993, 636).

11. Heat in the library

The present heat in the library is detrimental to the books since humidity is a threat to their survival. If not sprayed periodically, fungi easily develop within the pages and damage the writing. Many researchers are unable to stay for a considerable period simply because of the discomfort caused by a very hot environment.

12. Internet searching

When the library cyber café was functioning, user statistics of users indicated that ninety percent of those who used the Internet did so to send mails and chat with friends. The remaining ten percent use it to conduct research and perform other functions. The insignificant percentage that uses it for research purposes heavily rely on Google. A student and a library staff opined that they adopt the ‘google only’ approach because they are not aware of any other cite.
It is observed that “most users locate (information) through subscription-free search engines such as Google” (Harding 2004). This over-reliance is a serious limitation. The effectiveness of Google is assessed thus:

A recent search on Google of ‘Ancient Near East’ resulted in over 150,000 results. While many of these are probably excellent sites, many more are probably not. The ETANA site, interestingly, does not appear in the first one hundred listings. Thus, the researcher who would benefit from access to ETANA but who does not know of its existence will likely not stumble across it using Google (Limpitlaw 2003, p.5).

It is rather unfortunate that even lecturers are incredibly proliferating reliance upon one web site (Google). The issue is that “if faculty researchers themselves are relying almost exclusively upon Google, however, how many of them are likely to encourage students to expand their searches beyond Google, to at least explore the resources and materials their libraries maintain?” (Norlin 2004, 56). The library staff must be very instrumental in directing users to many other relevant sites and free online libraries, for instance Africa Digital Library in South Africa. Continuing education for the library staff must be encouraged to enable them to be abreast of technological changes. It is opined that “a successful training program is also dependent on the commitment that top management shows for the training process” (Martey 2002, 14). An incontrovertible reality is that “librarians need to know how to access and filter what is on the web” (Rosenberg 1997, 15). Among several suggestions to shake the evident frost off the African church in its theological mission, Tienou (1990) proffers the improvement of theological libraries, and (by implication), the theological librarians who intersperse between the information and the user. The training of library staff and information professionals is very crucial in coping with the astronomically fast development that is evident in the information age. It is rather unfortunate that the theological librarians have not generally accompanied the introduction of Internet service at West Africa Theological Seminary Library with a thorough training on its use.

Indubitably, unless … librarians receive this staff training, there is a danger that the potential of this technology for sourcing and repackaging for information transfer will remain insufficiently exploited and that it will not become integrated with more traditional print-based library services” (Asamoah 2003, 17).

13. Funding

It is incontrovertible that “every good collection is an expression of adequate and sound financial backing, and no collection development can achieve this objective if it is financially handicapped” (Alemna 1994, 47). In their commentary on the challenge in the field of librarianship, it is observed that “library funding will probably be the issue which consumes the energy of library managers to the end of this century (and the next)” (Moore and Shander 1993, 19). WATS library must be realistically budgeted for if it is to continue to be the academic nerve center of the seminary.

THE WAY FORWARD

Like Ato Yawson in Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost, the question is, shall WATS library go to Cape Coast (representing the traditional) or Elmina (representing the modern’)? In the field of librarianship, a realistic response lies “in preserving traditional services and embracing the technological advances” (Harding 2002, 9).

The following are proffered for consideration to assist WATS library to face the inescapable challenges:

1. Professionally trained staff

The library profession is in crises. It is observed that “the need to find and retain quality leadership for libraries is a core issue for the future” (Hisle 2002, 211). Library staff at WATS must be professionally trained. Acquisition of relevant library qualifications cannot be overemphasized. Relevant training must include use of software applications. The modern theological librarian is standing on a crossroad and must maintain a very useful balance between traditional and modern research techniques to be relevant in this information age. Substandard services will continue to be provided if staff are employed just because they are Christians with little emphasis on professional training. Theological librarians need the kind of training conducted by ACTEA (Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa) East Africa Library Staff Training Institute in Daystar University in Kenya in July 2004. Untrained librarians need courses in cataloguing and classification, management of the library and answering reference questions. Furthermore, they must receive training in searching the internet, using Boolean operators to consult full-text journals, accessing reference materials on CD Roms, using MARC, and compiling lists of important websites and reference CDs.

Seminary, library, training, recruiting, librarians,

2. Scheme of service

In order not to make a continued mockery of the library profession, it is recommended that the professional guidelines for the appointment and promotion of library staff at all levels be drafted and implemented. The seminary administration could compare the scheme of service of several institutions in Nigeria and the sub-region as a guide to reasonably maintain the standard.

Positions which should be taken into consideration within the various categories include:

a. Junior staff

i. Messenger/cleaner

ii. Library attendant III

iii. Library attendant II

iv. Library attendant I

v. Library assistant I

vi. Library assistant II

vii. Library assistant III

b. Senior supporting staff

i. Trainee Librarian/Senior Library Assistant II / Admin. Assistant II

ii. Senior Library Assistant I / Admin.

c. Senior staff

i. Library Officer

ii. Librarian II

iii. Librarian I

iv. Senior Librarian

v. Deputy Librarian

vi. Head Librarian

The criteria for scoring senior library staff should be taken into consideration. Some of these areas include :

Academic and professional qualifications

Professional/working experience

Professional activities

Research and publications

Administrative experience

3. Revamping of internet services in the library

The library cyber café must be resurrected if the library is to be relevant in this technological age. The library staff should receive training that will enable them to creditably handle databases in their library.

4. User instruction

The library should be more proactive in user education strategies. More current awareness or selective dissemination of information should be done to attract students and staff. A course on the use of the library could be introduced as a compulsory subject for all categories of students. It is evident even in West Africa Theological Seminary that “librarians can no longer assume the same level of interest in and support for the library from a faculty that increasingly rely upon their own search strategies and abilities in an electronic world they can access from their offices” (Norlin 2004, 56). Theological librarians need to be carefully attuned to the concerns of the students and faculty. If librarians at WATS discharge professionalism in identifying the problem of the researcher, searching for specific pieces of information efficiently and expeditiously and transmits the result of the search by any convenient means to both faculty and student users (telephone, email, personal call, short letter to mention a few), the interest in the library as information intermediary would gradually be revamped.

The library of West Africa Theological Seminary should spend several weeks offering “faculty only” and “students only” training sessions on the use of American Theological Library Association database (after paying the current subscription). An incontrovertible fact is that “unless theological librarians consciously view the faculty (and students) as the primary target for (their) activities, (they) would become irrelevant to…students, faculty, administrators and institutions” (Norlin 2004, 55).

5. The role of the seminary administration

Management at WATS must recognize that the library is not an optional extra and that the impending doctoral programme in the seminary will only become a reality when the library attains a particular professional standard. Seminary authorities must support its progress by developing existing collections (for instance, subscribing to scholarly journals for the serials collection) and by assisting in the setting up of a vibrant Digital Library Collection which should be manned by a professional librarian. Providing server upgrades and disk storage space must be seriously considered. There should be regular in-service training to assist library staff gain relevant skills in information technology.

The issue of funding cannot be overemphasized. The WATS Library can only be relevant in this information age if the seminary administration would recognize “the centrality of its academic nerve centre (the library) and ensure the sustainability of the library programmes and services” (Harding 2002, 9). Introduction of user charges, more fund raising activities in the library (such as book sales), increase in the support from donor agencies could yield an increase in income needed to purchase and maintain necessary equipment.

When the library is adequately funded, it will be in a position to subscribe to relevant journal titles, purchase standard theological texts, build a vibrant audio visual collection, provide air conditioning facilities to control the heat, replace the photocopier and provide other necessary services as and when necessary.

Professionally trained staff, scheme of service, revamping of internet services in the Computerize, cataloging, acquisition, internet, user instruction, audio visual, serial, bindery, funding, scheme of service,

6. Membership of professional organizations

WATS library should enroll as an institutional member of professional library associations such as Nigeria Theological Library Association, Christian Librarians’ Association for Africa, American Theological Library Association and Christian Librarians’ Fellowship. (The presenter is a member of all but the former). It was through the American Theological Library Association that the author was informed that the twenty second edition of the Dewey Decimal Library (DDC) classification has been published. (WATS is using the twentieth edition). The DDC numbers include all headings newly mapped to the 200 Religion Schedule, as well as others considered to be of interest to theological libraries.

Below is an illustration:

Subject heading Call number

All Souls’ Day in art 704.9493943

Islamic modernism 297.09

Nymphs (Greek deities) in art 704.9489221

Open-air preaching 206.1, 251

Social capital (Sociology) ? Religious aspects 201.7

Venus (Roman deity ) in art 704.9489221

(Osmanski 2003, 2-1)

7. Computerization

CONCLUSION

It is indubitable that the role of the library as information intermediary would never change. However, the means to fulfill this invaluable role keeps changing and the library must adapt to maintain its relevance. WATS library is a unit of a self-supporting institution with several challenges. Traditional library practices must be fully developed and the best of modern technology must be embraced. This high price must be paid as the library journeys to ‘Cape Coast’. The seminary librarians have a major challenge to move from being mere keepers of the book to guides through a universe of knowledge, thereby playing an invaluable role as information intermediary (Kargbo 2002). Since the mission of the library to facilitate the free flow of information endures even in the midst of technological changes, the librarians in all types of libraries, including WATS, “must find a very useful balance between the conventional/traditional library functions and the methods of the new challenges in order to maintain their leadership role in (the) information age” (Harding 2002, 10). Librarians in West Africa Theological Seminary could only be relevant in this age if they gear up to possess the necessary skills to enable users to creditably use materials for reading, study and consultation in whatever format they might appear. This cannot be realized without the invaluable support of the seminary administration. With this realization, “the students will be taught the art of electronic information retrieval, which they can use to write their project work and thesis” (Asamoah 2003, 17).

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