Sunday, May 27, 2018

Should Christians Judge Or Not?

            How many times have we been shot down by someone saying, “Don’t judge…”? An article in Answers in Genesis elaborates on this point, “The claim that Christians are not to judge is often made when dealing with issues such as abortion, adultery, homosexual behavior, and same-sex marriage. When a Christian says, for example, that homosexual behavior is a sin and that same-sex marriage is wrong, he or she is often met with objections like the following:

· “Who are you to judge two people who love each other?”
· “Who do you think you are, telling someone who they can and cannot love? You’re a sinner, too!”
· “Someone’s private life is none of your business. Don’t judge them.”

            Some people will even quote Matthew 7:1, where Christ said during the Sermon on the Mount, “Judge not, that you be not judged.””1 These days, the phrase, “don’t judge,” is so popular that it is used in many informal arguments [by the guilty party] as a means to shut down the accuser.

            So should we judge [our neighbor] or not?

            There are a few components to the process of judging:

                      (1) Being aware of the right and wrong.

                      (2) Declaring the verdict to the accuser &/or the accused or the prosecutor and the defense etc.

                      (3) Convicting the offender/sinner, and at times – in formal situations, declaring due punishment.

            Problems with judging often arise if the first step is awry. If we do not know what is right and wrong, we may accuse the innocent and acquit the guilty.  

            So a righteous judgment is always predicated on the judge’s impeccable knowledge of the right and the wrong. (A righteous judgment will either forgive the accused - depending on situations - or award the righteous punishment to the guilty.)

            All of us deliver judgments. Passing judgments is a part and parcel of our life. There is no life without judgments.

            Passing judgments is not limited to the judiciary or the religion. It happens in friendships, in business; in formal and informal situations. It happens between teachers and students, parents and children, doctors and patients; it happens in almost every situation involving two or more people.

            Those who say, “Don’t judge me” are, in fact, judging their accuser, for they think that they know more than the other and that the other person is wrong, whereas they are right. Saying “do not judge me” is practically the same as saying, “You do not have the knowledge/authority/jurisdiction/competence to judge me.”     

            Tolerance is also a form of judgment. Tolerance is always predicated on judgment. To tolerate something is to acquit (release) the disputed behavior or person from any form of guilt.

            Does Christianity prohibit judgment? Those who strive to cease a Christian from judging will invoke Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (NIV) or Romans 14:10, “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (NIV).  

            Are Matthew 7:1 and Romans 14:10 absolute commands? They would be absolute if the context says so, and if the same Bible, in its other parts, does not mandate Christians to judge. However, if the same Bible advises Christians to judge, then Matthew 7:1 cannot be termed as an absolute mandate to prohibit Christians from judging.

            Consider these verses that mandate Christians to judge:

            “…but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24, NIV).

            “…The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not   subject to merely human judgments…” (1 Corinthians 2:15, NIV).

            So it’s sufficiently evident that the Bible does not prohibit Christians from judging. In fact, neither Matthew 7:1 nor Romans 14:10 or any other verse in the Bible is absolute in commanding Christians to not judge, “There are significant logical problems with the claim that believers should not make judgments. The first becomes evident when we read the context of Matthew 7:1…

            Here, Christ is warning believers against making judgments in a hypocritical or condemning manner. That type of judging is a characteristic often associated with the Pharisees during the ministry of Jesus. Many people who quote “judge not” from Matthew 7:1 fail to notice the command to judge in Matthew 7:5, when it says, “Then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The point Jesus emphasizes here is to judge yourself first before you make judgments about others. (Also, notice the discernment and judgment required in Matthew 7:15–16, 20.) In the broader context, Jesus is telling believers to be discerning when it comes to false teaching and false prophets because they “look” Christian, but their goal is to lead the flock astray (Matthew 7:15–20; Luke 6:43–45).”2

            These are the words of the late Christian theologian, Lewis Smedes, from an article in Christianity Today entitled Who Are We to Judge?:3

In three words, blunt and absolute, Jesus commanded us, "Do not judge" (Matt. 7:1). But did he really mean that we should never judge others? He goes on to suggest that it's not the act of judging but the attitude with which we do it that God is most concerned about—"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" (7:2).
There are other Scriptures that either cloud or shed light on the issue. Paul told the Christians in Rome not to judge one another (Rom. 14:13) but taught the Corinthians that they were to judge sinful believers and leave people outside the church to God (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James said he who judges his brother speaks against the law (4:11) but also implied that our judgments of others must be done with mercy (2:12-13).
Common sense suggests that if no one ever judged other people, there would be no real human community. In a sinful world, no community can exist for long where nobody is ever held accountable: no teacher would grade a student's performance; no citizen would sit on a jury or call a failed leader to account. And, when you come to think of it, nobody would ever forgive anyone for wrongs he had done; we only forgive people for what we blame them, and we blame them only after we have judged them.
I would suggest that, in our day and age, we need more—not less—judgment…

            So how should Christians judge?

            Judge righteously and in humility, love, grace, and kindness, “The key is making righteous judgments so that we can point people to the gospel. God’s Word gives us a clear standard to abide by, and the Holy Spirit guides us in what is right, wrong, true, and false. In order to make judgments righteously, we should be striving to live righteously and allowing the Word of God to be our foundation in every area of our thinking…

            Those people who call for tolerance and quote “judge not” out of context are not using sound thinking. Their call for tolerance is impossible because as Christians, we are called to judge righteously, and judging between right and wrong is something we do every day—and it should be a part of biblical discernment in every believer’s thinking. But it is God’s Word that makes the judgment on morality and truth, not our own opinions or theories.

            What’s the purpose of judging error in a biblical manner? The church is to be built on the foundation of Christ and the authority of His Word (Ephesians 2:20)—and that means believers should examine their own lives regularly and also lovingly challenge Christian brothers and sisters who are in error or commit sin. To do this, believers must be bold for Christ, but they also have to be humble, loving, and kind.”4

            Also, as Lewis Smedes says, let us judge, knowing well that we will, one day, be judged with the same severity of our judgments and being aware that we, as sinners, are not morally superior to anyone else:5

…making judgments is the hard work of responsible and compassionate people… Jesus may have been moved to speak as he did by the haughty way the Pharisees had of judging people. In Matthew 5:20 through 7:6, Jesus warns his disciples against following the traditions and practices of the Pharisees, who judged others as if they themselves were beyond judgment. What's more, they judged people by the letter, not the spirit, of the law.
So, most likely, Jesus meant, "Do not judge at all if you judge others the way the Pharisees do. If you do judge people this way, you will be judged with the same severity." Jesus' intent comes out in his metaphor of motes and beams (Matt. 7:3-5). We all have beams in our eyes, so to speak; to judge people for the little motes stuck in their eyes while we have big beams in our own is devilish arrogance as well as folly.
Nobody with a beam in his eye can see things clearly. He is dangerously low on discernment. And, since we all have this distorted perspective, we need either to be very humble or else leave judging to God alone. We have a moral responsibility to judge the moral behavior of others—but only if we are humbly aware that we will sometimes be dead wrong and never totally right. We must remember that our ability to judge is limited and especially that we are sinful people who will ourselves, one day, come under judgment.         

Endnotes:

1https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/does-the-bible-tell-christians-to-judge-not/

2Ibid.

3https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/october1/29.70.html

4https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/does-the-bible-tell-christians-to-judge-not/

5https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/october1/29.70.html


Websites last accessed on 27th May 2018.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Human Suffering - Should God Be Punished?

            God created this world where evil is an existential reality. Evil is not an illusion. When evil attacks us with all its force, we do feel the pain and, at times, we succumb.

            Speak to anyone who lost their job for no fault of theirs or speak to those whose baby was raped and murdered. Try listening to people who lost their loved one because a shooter lost his mind and randomly shot everyone in his eyesight.

            We may be able to find some reasonable answers for God allowing evil in this world. Those answers may be predicated on the love of God and the freewill of man:

            1. The love of God necessitates mankind’s freewill i.e. man should not be compelled to love God, but the man should have the freedom to love God.  

            2. Man’s freewill allows for the possibility of evil. Man can freely reject God. When man freely rejects God, evil is a certain possibility.

            3. Evil would not rule forever. The Bible teaches that God would defeat evil once and for all. And in the life to come, in heaven with God, there would be no evil. So those who believe in Christ would be spending the eternity in heaven without any pain or suffering.

            So God may have very good reasons to allow evil. Hence the existence of God and evil need not be incompatible.

            However, an agnostic/skeptic/honest seeker could wonder about God and evil through the following thought process:

            A. God exists (or assume that God exists).

            B. Evil is an existential reality.

            C. When evil hurts God’s people; God should be punished, because HE fails to protect     HIS people.

            D. But God is not punished.

            E. Hence, there is no God or there is an evil God.

Why Should God Be Punished?

            Justice demands punishment for evil and any type of wrongdoing. Since God is just, evil should be punished. Since justice demands that the perpetrators of evil should be punished in this world or in the world to come, God has assured that Satan and his cohorts (angels and evil mankind) would be punished unto eternity. 

            God is our ultimate source of love, care, comfort, and protection. We expect and desire that God protect us from evil. Hence we pray, “…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…” (Matthew 6:13, NIV).

            But it is quite evident that God’s protection is lacking in many lives that trust in God fully. There is untold suffering in many Christian homes.

            So there seems to be a degree of validity to the thought process that God should be punished!

            Consider this problem from another vantage point.

            Governments and governing authorities are to care for and protect their people. If they fail in their duty, they may not be reelected. This is their punishment. 

            Similarly, God is the supreme governing authority. So HE should protect HIS people. If HIS people suffer for illegitimate reasons, then God should assume responsibility. In other words, God should be punished.

            Assume an instance where an old lady was robbed by a young man. Also, assume that a perfectly able police officer was in the vicinity and he watched this event unfold. But he did nothing to prevent the theft. At the very least, that police officer could be deemed inefficient. An inefficient police officer is to be punished.

            The very duty of a police officer is to prevent crime from happening. If a police officer remains passive and allows crime to happen, then the police officer fails in his duty. Thus he is to be punished. 

            If you disagree with the above conclusion to posit that this police officer should not be punished, it is plausible that this police officer was tolerant of the crime. A logical corollary, then, is that anyone who is tolerant of evil is evil. Since justice demands that evil should be punished, the police officer who does not prevent a crime should be punished.

            This analogy could be extended to God.

            God has created a world where evil exists. And in many instances, evil triumphs over good. If evil triumphs over good, there is something wrong with the world that God has created (at least in the here-and-now).

            God alone is present everywhere (omnipresent).  Hence, HE is the only one who is present in every evil situation where good people suffer.

            God is the only all-powerful (omnipotent) being. Hence, HE alone can prevent any and every evil that occurs in this world.

            Since God is the only all-powerful and the only omnipresent being, HE is perfectly capable of preventing every evil that occurs in the world. If God fails to prevent evil, then HE may be either evil or inefficient. Hence, God should be punished!

Has God Been Punished?

            The Bible teaches us that God, in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered punishment for the sins of the whole world, “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (Romans 3: 25-26, NLT).  

            But some could argue that this punishment is not sufficient, considering the fact that, not one, but millions and billions of people are being slaughtered by evil. So a onetime punishment that God took upon HIMSELF, even if it were gory, is insufficient.

Would Our Afterlife Reward Suffice?

            The Bible teaches that although evil remains triumphant in this world (in many instances), there is an afterlife without evil and that afterlife is the reward for those who suffer evil now.

            But the pain experienced by those suffering should be healed in this world. A prospect of healing and restoration in the afterlife remains an intangible prospect in this life, whereas the pain we suffer is tangible in this life.

            Consider two people who are suffering. There is always a prospect that, in this life, one is healed and the other is not. This is what we observe now.

            The one who has been healed will enjoy peace and joy in this life, whereas the one who suffers without healing, does not experience peace and joy in this life. But the reward these people would receive in their afterlife could be similar. In fact, they would enjoy a similar quality of peace and joy in the afterlife, whereas in their life on earth, one enjoyed more peace and joy than the other. So the afterlife reward does not seem to offer justice in this instance.     

Why Should God NOT Be Punished?

            Punishment should only be invoked upon injustice. If God has done nothing wrong, then HE need not be punished.

            Positing any arguments to assert that God cannot be punished without any legitimate reasons would be to ascribe evil upon God – as if God is an untouchable evil dictator. Justifiable reasons should be provided to establish that God has done no wrong.

            God cannot do any wrong. God is the ‘greatest conceivable being’ or the ‘maximally great being.’ Hence, HE can only be perfect and good.

            Imperfection cannot be a part of God. Evil is an imperfection, hence evil, too, cannot be God’s character.

            Therefore, if God, in HIS perfect knowledge, has allowed HIS people to suffer for a particular period of time in this world without receiving justice in this world, then HE would have good reasons to do so.

            Should the good and perfect God necessarily broadcast the good reasons for the suffering of HIS people? No, a good and a perfect God is not required to publicize the reasons for the suffering of HIS people. Since God is perfect and good, HIS reasons would also be perfect and good. People should have faith in God.

            Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about this theme. The Bible does address this situation.

            The Bible affirms that God’s people (not everyone, but some) will continually suffer in this world, especially when they are striving to live for God. In fact, Paul spoke about his suffering with an emphasis that God’s servants will indeed suffer for the sake of God, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6: 4-10, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            The very fact that the Bible addresses this theme is an affirmation to God’s goodness and perfection. So it is evident that God allows evil to attack HIS people. It is also obvious in the Bible that God heals or delivers some and not the others (for reasons that are only known to HIM or better known to HIM).

            Christians should not be surprised if and when they suffer, instead, they should trust God while they suffer, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name! It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message! If good people barely make it, What’s in store for the bad? So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.” (1 Peter 4: 12-19, MSG).

            God pours HIS abundant grace upon those who are suffering. God is with HIS people during their suffering. Those who are suffering can always seek and gain help from God.

            God sustains HIS people during their times of trials and tribulation. God would fail if HE neither delivers nor sustains those who are suffering. Those who suffer need a great help. The Bible is replete with instances of God helping those who are in pain.

            Apostle Paul’s life is a classic case in point, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, NASB).  

            In fact, as these verses teach us, those who earnestly seek God during their suffering would be filled with God’s power to endure their suffering.

Conclusion

            God has done nothing wrong to warrant any punishment. The Bible is also unequivocally clear that God’s people would be called to suffer. But God does not abandon us while we suffer. Instead, HE offers us HIS abundant grace and power to endure suffering.


            “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5: 10-11, NIV). 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Why Do Christians Support Abortion?

            Supporters of abortion seem to think that they have a right to abort because abortion is placed under the reproductive justice framework. Reproductive justice framework “offers a new perspective on reproductive issues advocacy, pointing out that for Indigenous women and women of color it is important to fight equally for (1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to parent the children we have, as well as to control our birthing options, such as midwifery…”1

            If the Bible speaks against abortion, then Christians cannot support abortion, irrespective of reproductive justice. However, a group of Christians passionately support abortion. Why?

            Before we consider the reasons behind Christians supporting abortion, let us examine the biblical position on abortion.

            The Bible teaches against abortion, because: “(1) God is actively involved in the creation and sustenance of the fetus from conception (Jeremiah 1: 5; Isaiah 49: 1; Psalm 139: 13-16).

            (2) Bible uses the terms ‘conception’ and ‘birth’ interchangeably (Job 3:3; Jeremiah 1:5; Isaiah 49: 1; Psalm 51: 5), implying the fetus as a person from birth. In fact, Psalm 51: 5 states a continuity of personal identity (as a sinner) from conception to birth. The Greek term for a baby, ‘brephos’ is applied to a child in the womb (Luke 1: 41-44) and a newborn baby (Luke 2: 16), for Christ’s incarnation was recognized from the time of conception.

            Thus, it is evident that the Bible affirms the personhood of the fetus from conception, and that God is actively involved in fashioning the fetus from conception. HE knows us even before our conception. If a man kills the fetus, then it’s not only equivalent to killing a full human being, but it’s also equivalent to rebelling against God’s design of a human from conception (cf. Exodus 20: 13). Man sins when he rebels against God. Since abortion is a sin against God, a man should not abort his unborn baby.”2

            Christian Q&A website, Got Questions, states that a Bible-believing Christian cannot remain in the pro-choice group, “The Bible is clear that all human life is created by God for His purpose and His pleasure (Colossians 1:16), and a Christian who truly wants to know the heart of God must align his or her viewpoint with God's. When we start justifying evil according to our understanding, we dilute the truth of God's Word. When we rename adultery an "affair," homosexuality an "alternative lifestyle," and murder of the unborn a "choice," we are headed for serious trouble. We cannot redefine what it means to follow Christ. Jesus said we must first "deny ourselves" (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23). Part of denying ourselves is letting go of comfortable lies the world has fed us. We have to let go of our own understanding and allow God to change us (Proverbs 3:5-6)…

            … The Bible is clear: since God is the Creator of human life, only He can determine who lives or dies. And every person who claims the name of Christ has the obligation to make certain his or her views line up with His Word. Is it possible for a born-again Christian to be pro-choice? Yes. Is it likely that such a person will remain pro-choice? Not if he or she is allowing God’s Word to transform and renew his or her mind (Romans 12:2).”3

            If the Bible is against abortion, why do some Christians support abortion?

            Fundamentally, the pro-choice Christian groups affirm the women’s right arguments in favor of abortion. Some of these arguments are:

1. “women have a moral right to decide what to do with their bodies

2. the right to abortion is vital for gender equality

3. the right to abortion is vital for individual women to achieve their full potential

4. banning abortion puts women at risk by forcing them to use illegal abortionists

5. the right to abortion should be part of a portfolio of pregnancy rights that enables women to make a truly free choice whether to end a pregnancy”4

            Within the group of Christians who support or espouse abortion, there are the leaders and the followers. A lay Christian, who may or may not have an opinion on abortion, should understand one significant attribute of the leaders who espouse abortion.

            Those who lead the pro-choice group or those who fervently support abortion would subscribe to progressive Christianity. In other words, they would no longer believe the tenets of Historic Christianity. Abandoning the tenets of Historic Christianity allows the individual Christian to do anything that he/she feels is right.

            In order to justify their feelings or emotions, these pro-choice leaders would misinterpret the Bible. They assert that the Bible does not condemn abortion, since the word abortion is not present in the Bible as against the 3000 Bible verses that mandate social justice, “…in the New Testament, there is no direct teaching on abortion. Jesus does not address the topic specifically and not one of His parables talks about ending a pregnancy. Neither do any of Paul’s letters mention abortion. Abortion was very prevalent in many of the places Paul visited – we know this from other historical texts, and as he mentions in his letters, these cities were brimming with prostitution and illicit sexual activity. In fact, Paul never had a problem speaking out on any topic he believed followers of Christ should pay attention to! This makes it very interesting that abortion was obviously not a topic of enough priority for Paul to mention…”5 

            If abortion could be endorsed through this mode of reasoning, then by the same mode of reasoning a whole host of sins could be endorsed. For instance, watching porn or smoking could be endorsed, because pornography and smoking are not explicitly condemned in the Bible.

            Rebecca Todd Peters is a Christian who fervently supports abortion. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church and professor of religious studies at Elon University. She is also a progressive Christian.6

            Liberal or progressive Christians supporting abortion would generally have a very low view of salvation. Rebecca Todd Peters says, “Progressive Christianity, for me, and for many people, is about focusing on what the social teachings are in the Bible, in the traditions, in the church, that help us think about and address the social problems we see in the world. That’s very different from an evangelical understanding of Christianity, which is about salvation. I actually don’t care that much about salvation. That’s not my primary concern. My primary concern is about the world that we live in, and how we make a more just world. That’s the tradition of the social gospel.” (Emphasis Mine).7

            Christians reject Christ if they are not concerned about salvation. The Lord Jesus did not come to preach social justice to the world. HE came to die for our sins so that those who believe in Christ would live forever.

            The cross is the central aspect of Christianity.  If Christians claim that they are not concerned about salvation, then they are not really aligned with Christ. If they are not aligned with Christ, then their Christianity could be unequivocally questioned. So would it be accurate and reasonable to conclude that those Christians who support abortion are not Christians, to begin with?

            Finally, the hypocrisy of those who fervently support abortion is unraveled by the Christian apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, “At Ohio State University, I did an open forum on a radio talk show. The host was an atheist.

            From the start, the callers were antagonistic. I could feel the tension as soon as the lines lit up. One angry woman caller said, “All you people have is an agenda you’re trying to promote.” Referring to abortion, she said, “You want to take away our rights and invade our private lives.”

            Abortion had not even been brought up.

            “Just a minute,” I replied. “We didn’t even raise the subject.”

            I said, “Can I ask you a question? On every university campus I visit, somebody stands up and says that God is an evil God to allow all this evil into our world. This person typically says, ‘A plane crashes: Thirty people die, and twenty people live. What kind of a God would arbitrarily choose some to live and some to die?'”

            I continued, “but when we play God and determine whether a child within a mother’s womb should live, we argue for that as a moral right. So when human beings are given the privilege of playing God, it’s called a moral right. When God plays God, we call it an immoral act. Can you justify this for me?”

            That was the end of the conversation.” (Emphasis Mine).8

Endnotes:

1https://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/courses/fileDL.php?fID=4051

2http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2013/08/the-dilemma-of-abortion.html

3https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-pro-choice.html

4http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/mother/for_1.shtml

5https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-truth-about-christianity-and-abortion_us_58f52ed7e4b048372700dab5

6What is Progressive Christianity?

            It can be hard to define progressive Christianity because it’s an umbrella term for a lot of different beliefs. But I think my friend and fellow blogger, Alisa Childers (who was once part of a progressive Christian church) hit the nail on the head when she summarized it this way in a recent post:

            A lowered view of the Bible
            Feelings are emphasized over facts
            Essential Christian doctrines are open for reinterpretation
            Historic terms are redefined
            The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice

            Here’s the danger. To the untrained ear, the progressive Christian message can sound a lot like biblical Christianity. There’s talk of God, Jesus, the Bible, love, and compassion. If a child has never learned to think more deeply about theology and what the Bible actually teaches, they can easily mistake progressive Christianity for biblical Christianity.

            And progressive Christianity often teaches an incomplete or false gospel.

(Source: https://crossexamined.org/progressive-christianity-is-as-much-of-a-threat-to-your-kids-
faith-as-atheism/)

7https://www.thenation.com/article/a-christian-argument-for-abortion-a-qa-with-rebecca-todd-peters/

8https://rzim.org/just-thinking/reaching-the-happy-thinking-pagan/


Websites last accessed on 18th May 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

Are Mosquitoes God’s Mistake In Creation?

            Mosquitoes are more of a menace than a blessing. This is a common opinion of mosquitoes by any layperson. “It is the mosquito’s ability to transmit diseases that has earned it the reputation of deadliest animal on earth—a statistic popularized by Bill Gates. Malaria alone infects more than 200 million people a year. Nearly half a million die. Besides malaria, mosquitoes are responsible for spreading dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis, filariasis, West Nile, and increasingly, Zika virus”,1 says an article in Christianity Today.

            Not only mosquitoes, but the existence of viruses and other organisms that cause profound anguish upon human beings perplexes us and prompts us to ask questions such as this, “I am intrigued by the existence of viruses which seem to cause so much grief to mankind. I’m thinking of the devastation caused by, for example, SARS, Zika, and Ebola. Did God create them for good, but their function was distorted with the Fall? What about the creatures that carry them; for example, mosquitoes? Did God create them for a greater purpose than to torment humans?...”2

            Molecular biologist and Christian apologist, Anjeanette Roberts details the role of viruses in the Creation, the Redemption and the Fall, “Viruses play a critical role in creation by maintaining Earth’s biogeochemical cycles and contributing to Earth’s precipitation cycles. Life as we know it is possible in large part because of viruses.

            Viruses are also phenomenal tools for discovering many other things we know about cellular and molecular biology. And they are fantastic tools for delivering payloads and altering cellular and disease processes. I associate these characteristics of viruses and virus studies as viruses in redemption. Through God’s providence, viruses can help us steward creation well to mitigate disease and ease human suffering—all redemptive works (although not in the spiritual sense of redemption).

            Viruses may also be associated with the Fall in a couple of different ways. They may be defunct cellular machinery that results from biological organisms undergoing natural decay processes. Or viruses that cause disease and fatalities in humans and other organisms may be viruses that have resulted from mismanagement of creation and/or a combination of that and decay processes. I am not convinced that any virus is a direct result of the Fall, but their disease state may be exacerbated by events associated with the Fall—such as humanity’s mismanagement of creation or Adam and Eve’s denied access to the tree of life.”3

            If mosquitoes are a menace, why did God create mosquitoes? Did God err in creating mosquitoes?

            Biochemist and Christian Apologist, Fazale Rana explains the reason behind God’s creation of a mosquito:4

The misery caused by mosquitoes has lead to eradication efforts. If this work is successful and these pests are completely eliminated, what will happen? Recently, a writer for Nature posed that very question to scientists who study mosquito biology and their ecological role.1 Would the total eradication of mosquitoes have a deleterious impact on ecosystems? If not, then one would be justified in viewing these creatures as a true nuisance, incompatible with the work of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good Creator. But if they would be missed, then it means that mosquitoes are indeed part of God’s good creation.
As it turns out, mosquitoes do play an important role in a variety of ecosystems. For example, each year when the snow melts in the Arctic tundra, mosquitoes hatch from their eggs and make up a significant part of the biomass. Some scientists believe these insects serve as an important food source for migratory birds. Mosquitoes even impact the migratory routes of caribou. As caribou move through the Arctic, they take certain routes specifically to avoid mosquito swarms. These migratory routes then impact plant distribution, dictate the feeding behavior of wolves, etc.
In aquatic environments mosquito larvae serve as a food source for fish. In other habitats, spiders, salamanders, frogs, reptiles, and other insects consume mosquitoes. Mosquitoes themselves feed on decaying leaves, organic debris, and microbes. They serve as pollinators as well. Around 3,500 known species of mosquitoes occupy every continent and every conceivable habitat. Yet, only around 200 of these species will annoy humans and even fewer will bite.
So, it looks like mosquitoes do serve a function. As such, they can be understood as part of God’s good design.
But what would happen if these creatures were eradicated completely? It seems that mosquito experts are divided on whether or not their loss would have a dramatic effect on most ecosystems. According to some ecologists, the loss of mosquitoes would harm most ecosystems. Others believe that other organisms would step in and assume mosquitoes’ role as food sources, detrivores, and pollinators. Yet even if mosquitoes can be eliminated without consequence, it doesn’t exclude them from God’s good design. If they were never created, it appears that God still would have to make something like them.
The fact that other organisms could possibly assume the role of mosquitoes within ecosystems speaks of the natural order’s elegant design. It appears that robustness has been built into ecosystems; if a key species disappears other organisms can take its place and buffer the ecosystem from potential damage.
Most scientists agree that—compared to other organisms—mosquitoes are unusually efficient at sucking blood from one individual in the population and then transferring the blood to another individual. This makes mosquitoes adept at spreading pathogenic microbes. As a consequence, if mosquitoes were eliminated, the spread of certain diseases would halt—but there is a downside to such an outcome. While the population might become healthier, its numbers would swell and overpopulation would eventually become a concern. Overpopulation then leads to the loss of health because of limited resources and, thus, leads back to suffering.

            So we could reasonably conclude that mosquitoes are not God’s mistake in creation, instead, they are a part of God’s good plan. In fact, Christian scientists who were involved in studying mosquitoes glorified God, as did Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, who “…was able to view, for the first time, “pigmented bodies” (i.e. oocysts) beneath the gastric lining of a "dappled-wing" mosquito (female Anopheles). He later penned the following, giving glory to God for this important discovery of the malaria parasites:

This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing, and God
Be praised. At this command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
Oh million-murdering Death.
–Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, August 1897”5

Endnotes:

1https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/april-web-only/creation-caught-in-crosshairs-in-fight-to-end-malaria.html

2http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/theorems-theology/read/theorems-theology/2017/12/14/viruses-mosquitoes-and-suffering-bad-or-good

3Ibid.

4http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2010/09/02/why-would-god-create-mosquitoes

5https://answersingenesis.org/biology/disease/design-mosquito-and-its-dangers/


Websites last accessed on 7th May 2018. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Why Don’t Most Churches Teach The Bible?

           The Bible should be studied, not read. Unless the Bible is studied, its rich content cannot be understood. The Bible is the Word of God; the 66 books that make up the Bible belong to different genres, or types, of text (Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophecy, Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypse). One cannot understand poetry as he/she understands a narrative. Hence the need to study the Bible gains greater credibility.  

            Christians’ faith in God and their relationship with God is always consistent with the extent and intensity of their Bible study. It’s more likely that the Christians’ relationship with God be deeper and better if their study of the Bible is rigorous. This is a no-brainer.

            The term ‘churches’ in the title refers only to those churches subscribing to Historic Christianity. Hence, it does not include the postmodern, the liberal, the progressive or the emergent churches. So the title, “Why Don’t Most Churches Teach The Bible?” incriminates only those churches subscribing to Historic Christianity that do not teach the Bible.

            Quite a few churches take great effort to teach the Bible to its members. These churches preach from the Bible and they conduct sincere and intense Bible study programs. Blessed are those who utilize these opportunities to study the Bible. Even those worshipping in such churches are blessed because they have a convenient opportunity to study the Bible.

            However, many churches do not teach the Bible to its members. Hence, those worshipping in these churches are deprived of an opportunity to study the Bible.

Why Don’t Churches Teach The Bible?

            Indifferent Pastor: The pastor is the leader of the church. If the pastor is not keen on teaching the Bible to its members, then, more often than not, the church would not teach the Bible.

            There are many reasons for a pastor to be indifferent towards teaching the Bible. A pastor may not have the time to prepare for the Bible study or he may have other priorities. But the fact remains that he is indifferent to the importance of Bible study, hence his church does not focus on teaching the Bible to its members.

            Institutional Church: If the church remains bogged down in a package of programs, committees, policies, team, ministries, initiatives, budgets and events, then the church may be an institutional church or on its way to being one. There’s nothing different between this church and an organization.

            A church is an institutional church when its primary agenda is in the material, and not in the spiritual. Such a church would not be interested in Bible study since it is not interested in the spiritual growth of its members. Instead, the church would be scrupulously interested in its material growth (number of people attending the church, increased offering, and the likes).

            Ignorant Members: The Bible is filled with unpleasant truths. For instance, the Bible unequivocally states that unless a person believes in Christ, he/she cannot inherit eternal life. But a convenient lie to mask this unpleasant truth is that God saves everyone – those who believe in Christ and those who do not. This convenient lie is the doctrine of universalism or inclusivism.

            There are churches that choose to not preach the unpleasant truths. Instead, they preach the convenient lie. Such a church would rather let its members remain ignorant of the Bible. An ignorant mind cannot distinguish between a lie and the truth so it will accept the convenient lie as the truth. Hence the church leadership will have an easy time preaching the convenient lies.

            Intimacy With Culture: If the church prefers to be intimate with the popular culture, then it will refrain from teaching the Bible. However, the Bible consistently opposes the popular culture.

            If the popular idea is to accept homosexuality, a church that desires to be intimate with the culture would approve and endorse homosexuality. Such a church would not desire to teach the Bible since the Bible is explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality.

What About Small Group Bible Study?

            Some churches promote small groups within their congregation to teach the Bible. How effective are these small groups?

            Small group Bible studies can be very effective if there is a strong leader to lead the Bible study. Any small group will be effective only if the leader excels in teaching the Bible and guiding the Bible study.

            A temptation the devil throws at the small group Bible studies is to morph it into a social group where friendships, business collaborations, and whatnot, are cultivated diligently. Small group Bible studies will always need to fight the good fight to remain a Bible study group instead of morphing into a social outfit.

            Small group Bible study would also do better if it manages its time effectively. Any effective Bible study requires a minimum of 60 minutes to a maximum of 90 minutes per session.

            Bible study should consume the entire 60-90 minutes. Singing, prayer etc. should be outside this time. Anything less than 60-90 minutes for Bible study cannot lead to an effective study.

            The small group Bible study should meet every week. Apart from meeting every week, there should be homework for the participants to keep them engaged in the study during the week.

What If You Are Worshipping In A Church That Does Not Focus On Bible Study?

            Approach your church leadership and request them to begin a Bible study program. If they do not implement your sustained request, then you are probably left without an option but to look out for a private Bible study program or another church.