Thursday, May 16, 2019

When God Seems So Far Away; How Do We Survive?


            ‘Hiddenness of God’ is an ancient and a complex theme. It is portrayed in subjective and objective questions such as, ‘Where is God when we need HIM the most?’ and ‘Where was God during the Holocaust?’ respectively.

            “Deus absconditus is the Latin phrase that describes this phenomenon—the hidden God,” writes Margaret Manning Shull in an article she authored in RZIM.org.1  

            Trials and tribulations are the existential staple for many people from various faiths. Deliverance from these painful situations may not be in sight for many.

            They say there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. But the journey towards this light could be so burdensome that death, depression or insanity seems more existentially plausible than comfort, peace, and deliverance.

            Yes, deliverance from pain and misery may not be everyone’s lot. It is most certainly an ardent desire for all, but need not be a reality for everyone reeling under pain.

            But pain and distress are not the only premises emphasizing God’s Hiddenness. True; we yearn for God when we are amidst trials and tribulations. Not only during trials and tribulations, but we yearn for God during other circumstances as well.

            Another article in RZIM.org authored by Margaret Manning Shull explains this situation well, “Why isn’t God more obvious? This question is often asked in many ways and in many contexts, by people of all levels of faith. When prayers go unanswered, why is God silent? When suffering or tragedy strikes, why would God allow this to happen? Why wouldn't God want more people to know God's good news? When all the "evidence" seems to counter the biblical narrative, why doesn't God just give the world a sign? If God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn't God act that way today? All of these examples get at the same issue—the seeming "hiddenness" of God.”2

            Hiddenness of God is an ancient theme. The Bible portrays God’s Hiddenness through these verses:

            Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1, NIV)

            Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy? (Job 13:24, NIV)

            “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. (Job 23:8-9).

            Man, then and now, suffers from the same dilemma. He seems to not find God when he needs HIM the most.

            Hiddenness of God is a complex theme. Some Christians who are in pain and suffering seem to have found God’s peace. They may have not necessarily attained deliverance from pain, but they dwell in the peace of God. Other Christians, who are suffering, run helter-skelter trying to find God, which turns into a futile exercise for them.

            Ravi Zacharias often quotes the hymn He Giveth More Grace written by Annie Johnson Flint. Here are the context and the lyrics:3

Annie Johnson Flint, the author of these words, lived a life on this earth full of pain and suffering. She was orphaned as a young girl, lived as an unwelcome burden with her first foster family. However, she finally did find love and acceptance with a new family, only to be orphaned again as a teenager. She suffered many physical afflictions that left her bedridden, incontinent, and in constant pain. And yet she wrote some of the most beautiful, faithful words you’ll find.
“He Giveth More Grace” by Annie Johnson Flint
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
           
            This then is one facet of the complexity that requires greater detail. Some Christians, who are in suffering, find God and thus are able to be at peace with God even during their painful predicament. Some others become angry, bitter, and depressed and are at constant war against God during their painful predicament.

            Dr. Bart Ehrman, an erstwhile Christian, currently an agnostic, departed from the Christian fold because of God’s Hiddenness (especially during suffering). He wrote, “Suffering increasingly became a problem for me and my faith. How can one explain all the pain and misery in the world if God—the creator and redeemer of all—is sovereign over it, exercising his will both on the grand scheme and in the daily workings of our lives? Why, I asked, is there such rampant starvation in the world? Why are there droughts, epidemics, hurricanes, and earthquakes? If God answers prayer, why didn’t he answer the prayers of the faithful Jews during the Holocaust? Or of the faithful Christians who also suffered torment and death at the hands of the Nazis? If God is concerned to answer my little prayers about my daily life, why didn’t he answer my and others’ big prayers when millions were being slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, when a mudslide killed 30,000 Columbians in their sleep, in a matter of minutes, when disasters of all kinds caused by humans and by nature happened in the world?”4

            God’s Hiddenness is real. How do we cope with God’s Hiddenness?

            It may be depressingly difficult to offer an answer to this highly complicated question if this theme was not addressed in the Bible. The Bible, speaking about God’s Hiddenness is tantamount to God acknowledging HIS hiddenness from HIS people.

            A loving, gracious, merciful and a just God who acknowledges HIS hiddenness from HIS people will always reveal HIMSELF to HIS people. In other words, HE will not let HIS people down.

            The key attribute in finding God during our pain and misery is patience. But godly patience is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. So those who remain in Christ even during their trials and tribulations are more likely to be patient.

            How long do we have to be patient for? I have not the least iota of an idea.

            The Bible says, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8b, NIV).

            Giving God an ultimatum to show up need not work always. Let not man dictate to God as to when HE should show up. This attitude does not work. This attitude will always be to man’s detriment. 

            There is also another possibility – a precarious one at that.

            God may never show up. Even that is within HIS sovereign prerogative. It does not violate any of HIS attributes such as justice, love, mercy or grace.

            The Bible addresses this situation as well.

            Prophet Habakkuk professes faith in God regardless of his circumstances. He affirms his faith in God even if God should allow more suffering and misery, “When the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines; when the olive trees do not produce, and the fields yield no crops; when the sheep disappear from the pen, and there are no cattle in the stalls, I will rejoice because of the Lord; I will be happy because of the God who delivers me! The sovereign Lord is my source of strength. He gives me the agility of a deer; he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NET).

            Trusting in God even when we do not find HIM during our trials and tribulations is indeed a glorious faith. By trusting in God regardless of our circumstances we echo this wonderful verse, “Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25b, NET).

Endnotes:

1https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/deus-absconditus

2https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/hide-and-seek

3Thankfully, Phil Schneider’s blog offers the context and the lyrics for this song: https://www.philschneider.net/2014/he-giveth-more-grace/

4https://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/blogalogue/2008/04/why-suffering-is-gods-problem.html#WHQpUiBP60ZCJmmy.99

Websites last accessed on 16th March 2019.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Does The Bible Endorse Suicide Bombing? What Motivates Suicide Bombers?


            Suicide bombing has been a terrorism staple for years. A suicide bomber is one who sacrifices his life and kills many more for the sake of his religion or for the sake of principle.

            Can a Christian be a suicide bomber?

            If the Bible supports suicide bombing and if a Christian can be a suicide bomber, then Christians cannot condemn any act of terrorism that involves suicide bombing. Some of our Muslim friends believe that the Bible endorses suicide bombing. 

            A Christian cannot be a suicide bomber. In other words, a Christian cannot kill people.

            However, a Christian can be a martyr for his faith as the apostles were. The Bible espouses martyrdom (cf. Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts 6 & 7; Matthew 5:11, 10:39; Revelations 20:4). Therefore, a Christian can die (sacrifice his life) for the sake of his faith.

            However, some Muslims inaccurately claim that the Bible endorses suicide bombing.1 They cite Samson’s death as a case in point.

            Christian apologist and blogger, Andy Wrasman, debunks the notion that Samson was a suicide bomber in his article entitled Samson is not a Biblical parallel to Suicide Bombers! Find below an excerpt of his article – the titles of the four distinctive points:2

1st – Samson was a judge over Israel, the people of God.  The position he had was appointed by God.  Justice needed to be served.  The false god and the temple of the Philistines should not prevail against the real God of the universe.
2nd – Samson’s strength always came from God.
3rd – Samson’s death was far different from that of a suicide bomber.
4th – From the Biblical worldview, all life comes from God and it is his to give or take.  All humans die as punishment for our sin (man, woman, or child).  When and how death shall come is a matter left to God.

            Therefore, Samson’s death cannot be associated with suicide bombing.

            Saul’s death can also not be associated with suicide bombing. Saul committed suicide. Period. 

            Interpreting Saul’s death as an endorsement of suicide bombing is an exercise in Eisegesis,3 not Exegesis.4

            Since both the Old Testament (Exodus 20:13, 23:7; Proverbs 6:17) and the New Testament (Matthew 5:21-22, 15:18,19; 1 John 3:11-12) prohibit us from killing people, we could reasonably conclude that a Christian cannot be a suicide bomber.

            So the Bible prohibits the despicable act of suicide bombing. But that does not prevent a Christian from sacrificing his life for the sake of Christ, albeit without harming others.

            The Bible endorses martyrdom.

            The Bible speaks of martyrdom. The Apostles died for the sake of their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. They died because they literally saw the risen Lord. They knew their life on earth was short and fleeting. They believed they would continue to live after their death and they would be in the presence of God forever and ever.

            The Bible teaches afterlife. Jesus gave the apostles the assurance that they will continue to live even after they die, ““I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26a, NIV). They believed Jesus. Hence, they died for HIS sake.

            Therefore, Christians can sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ, but they cannot be a suicide bomber. The Bible does not condone suicide bombing.

            What motivates suicide bombing?

            Religions motivate suicide bombing. For instance, Islam endorses suicide bombing.

            Islam also teaches afterlife and martyrdom. A Muslim believes he/she will be in paradise if they die for the sake of Allah (Sura 47: 4-6, 15). Sura 3:157,165-167,169-171&195b teaches that Allah will blot out the sins of the martyrs, and they will go to paradise.

            Atheism, as a religion or a worldview, cannot prevent suicide bombing. If atheists desire to be a suicide bomber, their worldview tacitly endorses it.

            Atheists believe that there is no afterlife. Lack of afterlife is also a motivating factor for martyrdom.

            If there is no afterlife, and if this life is all that there is to be, then what prevents a desolate or a deranged atheist to be an agent of death? Nothing!

            Afterlife is not the only motivating factor for a suicide bomber. There are other factors too. Chief among them is national humiliation.

            BBC cites a study of suicide bombers (because of suicide attacks that failed for a variety of reasons) from Tel Aviv University and reports that ‘national humiliation’ is another motivating factor, “…"national humiliation" ranked higher as a reason for an attack." This was by far the clearest, strongest motivation they expressed. “It is not a matter of personal suffering; they tried to avenge their communities suffering. They mentioned events that they saw on television, not events that happened to them personally.”5

            Therefore, the belief or unbelief in afterlife and/or national humiliation are indeed motivating factors for suicide bombing.

Endnotes:

1http://www.answering-christianity.com/suicide_bombing_in_the_bible.htm

2https://andywrasman.com/2015/01/08/samson-is-a-biblical-parallel-to-suicide-bombers/

3An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text: https://www.dictionary.com.

4Critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible: https://www.dictionary.com.

5https://www.bbc.com/news/health-11770842

Websites last accessed on 7th May 2019.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Is Astrology A Science?


            Astrology is the study of celestial bodies' purported influence on human behavior and worldly events. Astrology has captured the minds of so many millennials that they read their horoscope every day.1 “According to a new survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say that astrology is either "very scientific" or "sort of scientific." By contrast, 92 percent of the Chinese public think horoscopes are a bunch of baloney,” reports an article in the UPI.2     
   
            In an effort to validate astrology, its staunchest believers term astrology as a science. In fact, an Indian High Court pronounced astrology as a science, “India's Bombay High Court has ruled that astrology (which took a recent and very public drubbing after an astronomer pointed out that astrological signs have changed over millennia) is not merely a harmless diversion but instead a science, presumably on par with biology, astronomy and physics.”3

            Is astrology a scientific discipline?

            NASA emphasizes that astrology is not science and that it should not be confused with the scientific discipline of astronomy, “Astronomy is the scientific study of everything in outer space. Astronomers and other scientists know that stars many light years* away have no effect on the ordinary activities of humans on Earth.

            Astrology is something else. It's not science. No one has shown that astrology can be used to predict the future or describe what people are like based only on their birth date.”4

            An article in The Wire authored by Dr. S.K Arun Murthi, Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, offers a scientific rebuttal to the notion that astrology is science:5

If astrology is about how planetary positions influence humans, then what exactly does the ‘strength’ of a planet mean as far as humans are concerned? This is not made clear. Meanings in such cases have to be made clear in empirical terms – by deriving meaning from observational correlations.
For example, there is a certain astrological concept called shukra asta, a period of around two months or more during certain parts of the year. According to astrological traditions, no auspicious ceremonies are to be performed during this period.
An internet search revealed that, according to astrological texts, planets come very close to the Sun at certain times of the year. As a result they lose their brightness, or lustre, with respect to the Sun. This is symbolic of a planet losing its strength, resulting in shukra asta (Sanskrit for ‘combustion of a planet’). The implication for astrology is that shukra asta robs the beneficial effects of the planet.
From this, we can infer that a planet’s strength stands for the intensity or brightness of its light, and such strengths or brightness symbolises certain good and bad effects for human lives. However, this explanation is puzzling because no planet has a light of its own. It only reflects the light of a star. Thus, to speak of the brightness of a planet being blunted because of its proximity to the Sun is empirically meaningless.
There are many people who have been exposed to school-level science and who attempt to provide a rational defence of astrology. Their superficial argument of how planets influence human beings, stemming from an evident lack of understanding, goes typically like this: Planets (in astrology, this includes the Sun and the Moon) influence Earth. Therefore, they influence water bodies that, in turn, influence the lives of living beings. This is essentially an appeal to Isaac Newton’s and Albert Einstein’s laws of gravity.
But this is demonstrably naïve. Of course, the gravity due to one object influences every other object – but the assumption is that these objects ought to be quite heavy for their effects to be perceptible. Second: the attractive force between two massive bodies is a physical force. So the question arises: how can the gravitational force exerted by a planet be able to affect out love lives, matrimonial prospects, business affairs, etc. – in other words, the typical issues that astrologers deal with? Can astrologers or astrological texts establish a literal causal relationship?
The flyer for the workshop proposed in the IISc campus (which stands now cancelled) described astrology as “a scientific tool for individual progress”. Individual progress is a matter of human activities (such as those listed in the previous para) and aspirations. Other animals that we inhabit our Earth with do not have to bother with these things and so astrology does not matter to them. Then again, this is precisely the point: how can there be natural influences on our socially constructed practices and behaviours, the evaluation of which is also socially constructed?
For example, to be successful at something is to achieve a specific set of outcomes that our society has evolved. So planets guided by natural laws can’t have any say in whether a person will achieve those outcomes. In fact, any such connection in this context will either be completely alien to us or, of course, simply meaningless. The astrological texts that do claim to make this connection will have resorted to metaphors. There is, as a result, a complete lack of meaning and evidence.
Such analytical demand for meaning and evidence is usually met by appealing to something unquestionable, such as a tradition. However, the excuse of a tradition is easily invoked as a shield whenever beliefs like shukra asta are threatened by rational sensibilities. If a tradition is taken as ground for belief – a ground where neither reason nor empirical thinking operate – then tradition becomes connected to ignorance, such as is the root of all superstitions some people adhere to in the name of tradition. It is time that a society guided by such baseless traditions works to right itself, and that TV channels stop airing nonsensical programs on astrology.

            So these are very reasonable objections (from non-Christian sources) against astrology being a scientific discipline.

            Finally, let us consider the objection of another non-Christian source, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, who is one of Hinduism’s most popular proponents, debunking astrology. When questioned whether we are defined by the stars or self, Sadhguru alludes to the notion that astrology does not impact our lives:6

Questioner: I have studied Vedic astrology and I am wondering, does astrology work? Are we defined by the stars, or by intention and mind, or by the self?
Sadhguru: You need to understand, India is not just about the Vedas or Vedic culture. Sage Vyasa, the person who compiled the four Vedas – his father was an Aryan and his mother was a Dravidian. In spite of that, in South India, they don’t ascribe to the Vedas.
Dravidian culture never went for astrology by looking at the stars, they made predictions by looking at people. Here, we have what is called Nadi Joshyam. But the Aryan culture came with astrology. Astrology is an interpretation of astronomy. If you try to interpret something, invariably you miss a lot of points. So it is a mis-interpretation because you missed a lot of things.
Anyway, the choice is this: either you try to live your life by predictions or you have the capability to make a plan and fulfill the plan. All those minds which are incapable of a plan will look for a prediction. The stars that you see in the sky are far away, so very far away that they have nothing to do with you. Just one star has a big influence upon you – the Sun. And its satellite, the Moon, also has some influence upon you. This planet has an even greater influence upon you. But above all, what is within you has the biggest influence upon you. All those who are incapable of committing themselves to a plan and fulfilling it, want a prediction. The advantage with predictions is, you can keep changing them. But if a plan has to work, you have to pay enormous attention in creating one. Then you have to stick to it.
I only hope all predictions go wrong for you. Then it means your life is happening wonderfully. Otherwise you are going by the script that was written by some fool. In India, for twenty-five rupees, or fifty cents, they will write your life. Let your life not be so bad. It does not matter what the hell happens, let something other than the prediction happen to you. Is that okay? May your predictions and dreams not come true. Because a prediction is just a compromised dream (Emphasis Mine).

            To conclude, astrology is not a science, and significantly, it does not impact our lives. Therefore, Christians should not practice/consult astrology (Deuteronomy 18:10-14; Acts 4:12, 16:16-18; Hebrews 12:2).

Endnotes:

1https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-millennials-are-ditching-religion-for-witchcraft-and-astrology-2017-10-20

2https://www.upi.com/Science_News/2014/02/11/Majority-of-young-adults-think-astrology-is-a-science/5201392135954/

3https://www.livescience.com/12856-astrology-science-indian-court-ruling.html

4https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/starfinder2/en/

5https://thewire.in/religion/science-says-astrology-lacks-meaning-evidence

6 https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/wisdom/article/does-astrology-work

Websites last accessed on 30th April 2019.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Why Islam Persecutes Christians?


            Christians are the most persecuted people on planet earth. Open Doors lists 33 countries where Christians are widely persecuted by Islam.1 Most of these countries boast a Muslim majority. However, Christians are being persecuted even in a few countries where Islam is not a majority. This is an interesting dynamic.

            In the wake of the recent Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, a proper understanding of the motive behind the Islamic persecution of Christians is necessary.

            The Quran seems to motivate terrorism against Christians. I mentioned a few verses from the Quran in my earlier blog entitled Islamic Terror & A Peaceful Response:2

Quran 2: 191: “And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.”
Quran 3: 85: “And whoever desires other than Islam as religion - never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.”
Quran 5:33: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment…”
Quran 8: 12: “…I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”
Quran 9:5: “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush…”
Quran 47:4: “So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah - never will He waste their deeds.” 
         
            There are more verses from the Quran that seems to motivate the persecution of Christians. Christian apologist David Wood mentions these verses in his YouTube video:3

Quran 9:29: Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.
Quran 9:123: O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous.
Quran 48: 29: Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah ; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in prayer], seeking bounty from Allah and [His] pleasure. Their mark is on their faces from the trace of prostration. That is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is as a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers - so that Allah may enrage by them the disbelievers. Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward.
Quran 8:60: And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.
Quran 9:111: Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment.

            Some of our Muslim friends would refuse to believe that the Quran promotes terrorism. They insist that Islam is a peace-loving religion and that these verses are misinterpreted.

            Christian apologist David Wood has a very interesting thought. He correlates the life of Prophet Muhammad to the notion that Islam is a peace-loving religion, “…more than thirteen centuries ago, the relatively peaceful Muhammad fled Mecca because of intense persecution. As he fled the city, he left the path of peace farther and farther behind him. He eventually returned at the head of an army, and few were brave enough to oppose him. Islamic law was suddenly supreme, with a host of bloody tales to warn its enemies. A similar phenomenon occurs in the world today. When Muslims are in the minority (as they are in America) the message is always "Let us live in peace with one another, for Islam is a religion of tolerance and understanding." Then, once Islam has spread throughout the country, the message suddenly changes to "Anyone who stands against the Prophet is worthy of death!"”4

            In his article Is Islam a Religion of Peace? Christian apologist Sam Shamoun claims that Islam is not a peace loving religion. In fact, Shamoun demonstrates the fact that the Quran teaches Muslims to seek peace if they are outnumbered. On the contrary, and interestingly, if Muslims are in power (and in the majority), the Quran teaches them to not seek peace.5

            Shamoun lists three stages in the Muhammadan model of dealing with enemies:6

            Stage 1 – Preach tolerance when outnumbered by unbelievers/No retaliation stage.

            Stage 2 – Permit Defensive Fighting when there are enough Muslims and weapons to successfully carry it out.

            Stage 3 – After amassing a large number of soldiers and resources permission is given to carry out Offensive Warfare in order to kill the pagans and humble the Christians and Jews.

            To further substantiate the notion that Islam is not a peace loving religion, David Wood’s enlightening response to the question Is Islam a peace loving religion? is a must-read:

            David Wood writes, “If someone were to ask me, "David, do you believe that Islam is a religion of peace?" my answer would not be "Yes" or "No." Rather, my response would be, "First tell me what you mean when you say ‘Islam,’ for it is a term that is used in different ways." If by "Islam" we mean the religion that is practiced by more than a billion people around the world, I could reasonably answer with a qualified "Yes," because it is a religion of peace for many people (though not for all). But if by "Islam" we mean the religion taught by Muhammad, I would have to respond with a resounding "No."”7

            David Wood asserts that the peace-loving group and the terror-loving group can coexist under the unifying worldview of Islam. He writes, “One Muslim beheads an innocent woman to protest the war in Iraq, while another Muslim curses him for slaying the innocent. One group of Muslims flies an aircraft into a building, while another group condemns the attack. One Muslim detonates a bomb on a bus filled with passengers, while another Muslim says on the evening news, "Islam is a religion of peace." Each side quotes the Qur’an to support its actions. However, it may be even more important to note that each of them is following the example set by Muhammad.”8

            How then do we reconcile with our friends who ardently claim that Islam is a peace loving religion?

            David Wood cites the reason behind the claim of our benevolent Muslim friends that Islam is a peace loving religion. He writes, “I’m very happy that most Muslims are willing to live in peace with their neighbors. Yet we have to be honest here. Benevolent Muslims aren’t peaceful because they are following the example set by Muhammad. They are peaceful because they’ve chosen to do what’s right, and because they are willing to live far better lives than Muhammad himself lived. In fact, many Muslims are such kind, peaceful, and gentle people that they seem to be following the example set by another great religious leader—one who died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead to prove his message. This man gave his listeners a sober warning: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:15). And, may I add, we should also watch out for false religions, which come to us crying "Peace! Peace!" when they are built on a foundation of murder and bloodshed.”9

            To conclude, Islam persecutes Christians because the Quran validates the persecution and Prophet Muhammad’s life reflects the Quranic validation of persecuting Christians. Furthermore, there is a reasonably good case to believe that Islam is not a peace loving religion. Having said this, we should mention the presence of many Muslims who believe in living peaceably with their neighbor and let’s pray that these Muslims would, slowly yet surely, instill peace into Islam.

Endnotes:

1https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/

2https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2017/06/islamic-terror-peaceful-response.html

3https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt8Z_XMcluw&t=362s&fbclid=IwAR37vizfZXQwMby6zoVZdBS0WUF2yQ2N1CDH16vsh_fwIZv-011wrjnH7qg

4https://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Wood/two_faces.htm

5https://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/na_debate.htm

6Ibid.

7https://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Wood/two_faces.htm

8Ibid.

9Ibid.

Websites last accessed on 25th April 2019.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

To Build Or Feed? (Why God Allows A Quick Rebuilding Of Notre Dame Than Alleviating Poverty?)


           We were not only shocked to see the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames, but we were also shocked to see the speed at which donors pledged money to rebuild this cathedral. “Within hours of the fire that destroyed much of the cathedral on Monday, donors pledged more than $1 billion to restore the Parisian icon to its former glory,” reports The Washington Post.1

            The New York Times relays the just anger of those who recognize the evil disparity in rebuilding iconic structures over feeding the millions who remain in utter poverty, “But the spectacle of billionaires trying to one-up one another quickly intensified resentments over inequality that have flared during the Yellow Vest movement, just as President Emmanuel Macron was looking to transform the calamity into a new era of national unity…

            “Can you imagine, 100 million, 200 million in one click!” said Philippe Martinez, the head of the militant CGT labor union. “It really shows the inequalities in this country.”

            “If they’re able to give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame,” he added, “they should stop telling us that there is no money to pay for social inequalities.”

            Ollivier Pourriol, a French philosopher and novelist, summed up the sentiment more drolly.

            “Victor Hugo thanks all the generous donors ready to save Notre Dame and proposes that they do the same thing with Les Misérables,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to another one of Hugo’s famous novels, about the lives of the poor.”2

            Yes, this anger is indeed appropriate.

            What’s the big need to rebuild an iconic structure when more than a million lives are in danger of dying because of the acute poverty they are in?  

            Well, this is precisely the world that we live in. The optics of rebuilding an iconic structure seems more significant than the optics of rehabilitation of the millions who lack the basic necessities of life.

            Regrettably, we even err in the optics!

            The frenzied response of the donors to the rebuilding of Notre Dame has ignited anger towards God in the minds of some who seek the truth amidst the multitude of hypocrisies in this world. The question they ask is this, ‘Why does God allow a quick rebuilding of an iconic structure rather than alleviating poverty?’

            An answer that does not multiply causes beyond necessity does justice to Occam’s razor. Let’s then strive for such an answer.

            First, be cognizant of the hypocrisy of importing God into this theme. When we zealously reject God while we kill our unborn babies (cf. Pro-Choice movement), why do we itch to import God in the rebuilding of Notre Dame?

            Let this remain a rhetorical question.  

            Second, everyone in whose mind this question resides knows we are not living in a theocratic society. We are neither ruled by God directly nor by priests claiming a divine commission. Given this reality, why do we even strive to import God into the decision-making process of a man? Or are we alluding that these billionaires are absolutely devout and godly that they look to the Triune God for every business decision?

            Let this also remain a rhetorical question.

            Third, what is God’s role in such situations as rebuilding Notre Dame? God has created us as free creatures. We are free to do this or that.

            God did not coerce the billionaires to donate a portion of their wealth towards rebuilding Notre Dame. Of this, we can be sure.  

            In fact, I posit godlessness to be the driving force that motivated these billionaires to pledge their millions.

            In our dispensation, we are cognizant of God’s mind with respect to such predicaments. If a godly man is presented an option to either feed the poor or build an extravagant structure (rather unnecessary) that would only serve as a good optics for that city or society, the godly man would inevitably choose to feed the poor.

            The Bible remarkably associates God’s final judgment to our care for the needy and the poor in our society:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25: 31-46, NIV)

            This passage, significantly, reveals that it’s not that those who feed the poor and care for the needy are made righteous in God’s presence. But it is the righteous (those who are already righteous by virtue of their belief and discipleship in Christ) that genuinely feed the poor and care for the needy.

            Therefore, every righteous believer of the Triune God would zealously strive to alleviate the suffering of God’s people than building extravagant structures that gratify the carnal passions of a secular man.

            So to conclude, if God is the active ruler of every wealthy person, poverty would have been extinct years ago. However, since God does not violate the freewill HE has offered to man, HE allows the man to decide on every matter. So man has the freedom to decide on every matter either by being obedient to God or by casting God out of his decision making purview.

            The rebuilding of Notre Dame is a recent instance of man’s decision that reveals the extent of his allegiance to the Triune God. 

Endnotes:

1https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/billionaires-raced-to-pledge-money-to-rebuild-notre-dame-then-came-the-backlash/2019/04/18/7133f9a2-617c-11e9-bf24-db4b9fb62aa2_story.html?fbclid=IwAR3xi__SeXPM57L2_Ft8X1NSlghAL3mAsa2tQyeP5wT_cU_6VF6yFlRhOds&utm_term=.36b8775f8d5d

2https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/world/europe/yellow-vest-notre-dame-fire-donations.html

Websites last accessed on 20th April 2019.