Friday, November 30, 2018

Understanding John Allen Chau’s Martyrdom & What It Means To Us

            Christian missionary John Allen Chau is believed to have been killed by the members of the North Sentinelese tribe on November 16th when he attempted to establish contact with them.  His long-term vision was to translate the Bible into their language. Although the media informs us that Mr. Chau is no more, his mother, who is also a Christian, believes that her son is still alive.1

                        A section of the Christian community voiced their disapproval.  Without much information about John Allen Chau being available immediately after his death, one cannot fault the legitimate common-sense-based questions that suspect the wisdom of such an endeavor.

            Questions such as, ‘How could he evangelize a hostile tribe (that’s been perennially secluded from the world) without knowing their language?’ or ‘Was he adequately prepared for such a dangerous mission?’ were asked. 

            John Allen Chau’s martyrdom was compared to that of Jim Elliot and his five friends, who were speared to death in the year 1956 by another isolated tribal group – Waorani.2

            Was John Allen Chau crazy to undertake such a dangerous life-threatening missionary endeavor? What does his martyrdom mean to us, Christians?

            These were the last words of John Allen Chau:3

Bryan and Mary and Mom and Dad,
You guys might think I am crazy in all this but I think it's worth it to declare Jesus to these people.
Please do not be angry at them or at god if I get killed-rather please live you lives in obedience to whether He has called you too and I'll see you again when you pass through the veil.
This is not a pointless thing-The eternal lives of this [Sentinelese] tribe is at hand and I can't wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language as Revelation 7:9-10 states.
I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.
SOLI DEO GLORIA (Glory to god)
            John Allen Chau loved the Lord Jesus more than anything else. His last words reveal this fact with great clarity.

            It’s one thing to love the Lord Jesus, but it’s totally another thing (so radical) to love the Lord Jesus more than anything else – our family, our life, included. If we are totally convinced about Christ’s calling in our life, we would be willing to let go of anything and anyone.

            He was not brainwashed by certain radical elements within Christianity. Rather, he loved the Lord Jesus so much so that he was willing to lay down his life for HIS sake (cf. John 13:37,38, 15:13-15).

            Oswald Chambers explains the notion of laying down our lives for the Lord Jesus, “If I am a friend of Jesus, I must deliberately and carefully lay down my life for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is. Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” And Jesus says to us, “…I have called you friends….” Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.”4

            John Allen Chau loved the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20) and the Sentinelese tribe. His love for the Great Commission motivated his love for the Sentinelese tribe. He loved them so much so that he dedicated a good portion of his life preparing to take the gospel to them.

            Here’s an excerpt from two articles in Christianity Today. These articles present pertinent background information about Chau’s preparation:

            From What John Allen Chau’s Missions Agency Wants You to Know:5

Chau was working with All Nations, whose stated mission is “to make disciples and train leaders to ignite church planting movements among the neglected peoples of the earth.”
Mary Ho, the international executive leader at All Nations, described Chau as a “very interesting young man” and “very focused.”
“Since he was about 18 years old, I believe, he took a mission trip and on that mission trip he really felt a call to be a missionary,” Ho said. “Around that time he started researching all the different people groups and he came across the North Sentinelese people.”
Chau really felt that “his life’s call was to take the love and goodness of Jesus Christ to the North Sentinelese,” said Ho. “Since then, every decision he has made has been to prepare himself for his life’s call.”
            From John Chau, Missions, and Fools, authored by Ed Stetzer:6

In an interview for Christianity Today, Mary Ho…shared that Chau was intentionally preparing for many years by getting a degree in sports medicine, training as an EMT, and studying at a respected linguistic institute in order to learn this previously undocumented language.
Furthermore, it appears that Chau was not unaware of potential health risks his presence could pose to the tribe (which has been a major point of criticism) and planned his trip accordingly. According to the interview, Chau had received multiple vaccinations, and intentionally quarantined himself for many days prior to his multi-day trip to the island…
In personally talking with some of Chau’s friends I learned that his purpose with all of this training was to live on the island for years, build a relationship with the people, help them through his medical training, learn their language, and then tell them about Christ.
Chau is described by Ho as a “soft-spoken, very gentle man,” not rash or impulsive. In fact, Ho indicated that he underwent a rigorous screening process through the agency which included mental, psychological, spiritual, and physical evaluation to determine whether this type of training was appropriate for him and his personality.
So, according to Ho, there are years of preparation, training, independent assessment, and logic behind what happened on the shores of the Andaman Sea…
We live in a world today where some people are simply unable to wait for more information, even when something seems odd. The result can be hot takes that cause more harm than they help.
Now we know more. We know that Chau was not a rogue individual, cavalierly traveling to a protected island as an adventure stunt. According to Ho, he was an intelligent, educated, humble, and gentle man who intensely focused over years on one, singular goal: to reach the North Sentinelese with the message of the gospel.
Now, that does not mean that everything was done as we might prefer. Furthmore, [sic] it does not answer many of the important questions on which we still do not have clarity. However, it does start the conversation at a different place.
            He was willing to lay down his life for the sake of HIS Lord and for the sake of his friends – the Sentinelese tribe. The Great Commission was his driving force.

            Some within Christianity ardently disapprove of Chau’s endeavor. Ed Stetzer’s words should provide an apt response to them:7

It is easy to criticize from our desks when someone makes a dangerous missionary choice…But now we know more firsthand accounts and have accurate, detailed information on Chau’s training and experience. How might we process his failed plan to live among this tribe and also what the response to his death tells us about the new world we live in?
We have to start with the reality that this entire idea of sharing the gospel with the world is offensive to many. However, it is something that is central to the very words of Jesus…
Propagating one’s religious beliefs through missionary activity is practiced by segments of the world’s largest religious groups, including Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. Even the United Nations affirms missionary activity as a legitimate expression of religion or belief.
Christianity has been a missionary movement since its beginning. As I noted above, Jesus, in his final address to his followers, commanded them to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20). And, speaking to Christians everywhere and in all eras, the apostle Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16)…
…Here’s the reality. At the end of the day, I am among those that believe the world needs Jesus. I believe we are called to get the gospel to the ends of the earth and to every tribe.
            Today, Chau’s martyrdom challenges us to question our own love for the Lord Jesus. Do we love the Lord more than anything else? The key phrase is ‘more than anything else.’

            This verse provides us with the context, ““Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39, NET).

            Just as Chau’s life was totally committed to our Lord Jesus, is our life solely committed to serving the Lord Jesus? In other words, are we doing what the Lord Jesus wants us to do in HIS Kingdom?

            Jim Elliot and his five friends were speared to death in the year 1956 while unsuccessfully trying to evangelize the Waorani tribe. Today, some members of this tribe are Christians.8

            Similarly, let us hope and pray that the work commenced by Chau will result in some or all of the members of the North Sentinelese tribe knowing and loving the Lord Jesus.

Endnotes:

1https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/incidents/chance-us-missionary-shot-dead-on-north-sentinel-island-may-still-be-alive/news-story/3633b82a3432edb4d5355e2ce63127b9

2https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/november-web-only/john-allen-chau-jim-elliot-missionary-martyr-dilemma.html

3https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/john-allen-chau-sentinelese-killing-full-letter-1394833-2018-11-23

4https://utmost.org/will-you-lay-down-your-life/

5https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/november-web-only/all-nations-john-allen-chau-north-sentinel-island.html

6https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/november/john-chau-missions-and-fools-part-1.html

7Ibid.

8https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/november-web-only/john-allen-chau-jim-elliot-missionary-martyr-dilemma.html


Websites last accessed on 30th November 2018. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Why Is God Referred To As The Father And Not The Mother?

            God is spirit (John 4:24). HE is neither male nor female. (Male and female are the attributes of the corporeal humans, not the incorporeal God.)

            However, when the Bible reveals God, HE is mostly revealed metaphorically in the masculine and not the feminine. Why?

            Professor Marc Zvi Brettler, the Bernice & Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies at Duke University, and the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies (Emeritus) at Brandeis University offers an explanation from the perspective of the Biblical language, Hebrew:1

Unlike, e.g., German or Greek, Hebrew has no grammatical neuter gender, so all items must have a grammatical gender of masculine or feminine.  Thus, every item must be assigned either a masculine or feminine grammatical gender—and the particular assignment often seems arbitrary to us.  Thus, for reasons we can no longer understand, a table, שֻׁלְחָן (shulkhan) is masculine, while a bow, קֶשֶׁת (qeshet) is feminine.
Within this framework, YHWH in the Bible is masculine.  Most scholars believe that this is irrelevant, claiming, e.g.:
The grammatical forms for God are masculine and the representations of God are mostly masculine. Although God does use a comparison to a woman in childbirth (Isa 42:14), nonetheless there is a strong scholarly consensus that God is regarded as nonsexual. “If sex must be applied to Israel’s deity, it would be monosex, and this is either an incompleteness or a contradiction in terms.”[12]
In other words, most scholars suggest that the fact that God is grammatically masculine has no more bearing on the actual gender of God than the fact that table is masculine meant that ancient Israelites viewed tables as masculine and bows as feminine.
Recent linguistic studies, however, show that this is incorrect; grammatical gender does spill over to understandings of real gender.  The same object—let’s say a table, may be marked as masculine and feminine in different languages.  And depending on the language you speak, you will then view tables as either more masculine or feminine![13]
Thus, it is far from trivial that when YHWH was referred to in the Bible, YHWH always governs a masculine verb and is described by a masculine adjective.  This grammatical fact derives from a view of YHWH as masculine, and would have reinforced that view.[14]
            William Lane Craig explains that the metaphor of God as the Heavenly Father portrays both the parental love and the authority of the father in a Jewish household, “Since God is neither male nor female, why does He reveal Himself as Father and Son? In the Old Testament there are passages in which God presents Himself as a mother tenderly caring for her children. But Jesus thought of God as his Heavenly Father and revealed Him as such. In using the metaphor of God the Father, Jesus expresses two attributes of God which would not be so aptly captured by the metaphor of God as a Mother. The metaphor of God as a Heavenly Father captures both the parental love that God has for us and the authority that a father, as the head of the Jewish family, exercises. No other image could express so beautifully this combination of qualities in God.”2

            God is not androgynous (being both male and female). It is incorrect to think of HIM as such. Here’s Professor Marc Zvi Brettler’s explanation:3 

Genesis 1:27 reads:
וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ     God created person in His image;
בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ                  in the image of God did He create him/it
זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃                   male and female did he create them.[18]
For many readers, this verse suggests that God is male and/or female since people, who are male and female, are created in God’s image.[19] This interpretation is possible, but far from certain.[20] Genesis 1:27 is an unusual poetic verse in the Bible.  The basic structure of biblical poetry is the two-part verse (bicolon) where the halves parallel each other.[21]  Well over 95% of Hebrew poetic verses have this structure—and in it, the two verse-parts are tightly connected (or parallel).[22]  Gen 1:27, on the other hand, is an infrequent biblical tricolon, and in tricola all three verse parts need not be tightly connected.  Thus, some tricola may be read as a bicolon plus an additional thought.  If this is so here, then the verse may be read as:
            God created person in His image = in the image of God did He create him/it;
            and, in addition, male and female did he create them.
This verse would then have no bearing on God’s gender or sex. Given what we know of the structure of biblical poetry, such a reading is certainly possible, and therefore this verse may not be used to prove that God is both male and female.[23]  Thus, the constant reference to God using masculine grammatical forms, and the depiction of God as king in the chapter, suggest that this deity was viewed as male and masculine.
            It is also important to learn that God being genderless does not prevent HIM or conflict with HIM inhabiting a male body during incarnation. Here’s William Lane Craig’s answer to such a question:4

Hi, Dr. Craig…Most theologians believe God is genderless, but if that is true doesn't that mean a genderless spirit was inhabiting a male body in the incarnation? That seems potentially problematic from an ontological perspective as humans are, of course, male or female. What are your thoughts on the matter?
DR. CRAIG: I am inclined to think that because the Genesis narrative says that God made man in his image – male and female he created them – that men and women alike are created in God's image and that, therefore, God includes in himself the properties that go to make up masculinity and femininity. Therefore, it is not that Jesus would be genderless. He would be a man – he would have a male body – and included in the divinity are the properties that go to make up masculinity that would be represented in him.
            Finally, we should accept God’s revelation in the masculine without trying to dilute this fact:5

While God contains all the qualities of both male and female genders, He has chosen to present Himself with an emphasis on masculine qualities of fatherhood, protection, direction, strength, etc. Metaphors used to describe Him in the Bible include: King, Father, Judge, Husband, Master, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One famous Christian scholar, C. S. Lewis, has suggested that gender is far deeper than our human distinctions reveal. He suggests that God is so masculine that we all are feminine in relation to Him. If this is true, it might explain why the church is referred to as the bride of Christ, though it is composed of both men and women.
There are those who would like to blur this emphasis in some of the newer Bible translations, but it is very dangerous to tamper with the way God has chosen to reveal Himself. He most certainly does not intend to minimize women, since men and women are revealed as being made in His image and are of equal value to Him. But it remains that He is Father, not Mother, and even in the Incarnation chose to come to us as a man, Jesus Christ.
Endnotes:

1https://thetorah.com/the-gender-of-god/

2https://www.reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/P40/why-god-the-father-and-god-the-son

3https://thetorah.com/the-gender-of-god/

4https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/questions-on-god-and-gender-eternal-life-and-the-resurrection/

5https://billygraham.org/answer/why-does-the-bible-refer-to-god-in-masculine-terms/


Websites last accessed on 28th November 2018.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Beware Of The Transgender Activists; They Are Out To Destroy Our Children

          Transgender activists are on a rampage. They are hellbent on destroying the biological basis for gender identity.

            The fact that children are determined to be male or female by their biological sex1 is being aggressively challenged by transgender activists. Instead, they argue that our gender has nothing to do with our biological sex.

            Nancy Pearcey, hailed in The Economist as America's pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual, has authored a book Love Thy Body. In the book, she addresses hard questions on transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion etc. Christian apologist, William Lane Craig quotes Nancy Pearcey’s exposition of the transgender ideology, “…the transgender movement expresses the negative view of the body even more clearly and more obviously. Because the transgender narrative itself says your gender has nothing to do with your biological sex. In fact there are trans websites now that are treating biological sex as a hate term, because it reminds people that they are denying their biological sex when they adopt a trans identity. So today, kids down to kindergarten are being taught that their bodies are completely irrelevant to their identity. And that matter does not matter. That all that matters is your personal feelings, your internal sense of self.”2

            This transgender movement is here to stay. This is not a transgender moment,3 but it is a definite transgender movement.

            Western countries have a strong commitment to the transgender cause. In June 2017, Canada passed Bill C-16 that enshrines the rights of transgender Canadians by including them under human rights and hate-crime laws. In other words, “Canadians who deny gender theory could be charged with hate crimes, fined, jailed, and compelled to undergo anti-bias training.”4

            Gender theorists argue that gender is not a biological concept, but a sociological construct. There is no connection between gender and biological sex, they contend. “According…to Judith Butler in Gender Trouble (1990), and most other gender theorists, there is no connection at all between sex and gender (where gender is understood to refer to one’s identity as male or female). Sex “is an analytic attribute of the human; there is no human who is not sexed; sex qualifies the human as a necessary attribute. But sex does not cause gender, and gender cannot be understood to reflect or express sex.” Gender is “always acquired.” In short, a person’s identity as male, female, neither, or both has nothing to do with one’s biological sex…”5

            Application of this transgender ideology is very scary.

            Jonathon Van Maren’s article in lifesitenews.com enlightens us of this scary predicament:6

To illustrate just how radical the transgender ideology is, consider some advice given to parents at a 2016 conference (attended by over 400) people by Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, who is a developmental psychologist and the author of The Gender Creative Child…
After Ehrensaft’s presentation, one mother stood up to ask how best to “explain gender to a three, for, and five-year-old? My daughter asks a lot of questions about gender expression and identity without knowing what she’s asking, but I don’t quite have the language to talk to her about it…Is that a boy, is that a girl, what does it mean to be a boy, what does it mean to be a girl? Is it because they have a penis? Is it because they have a vagina? And I don’t quite know how to use language to talk about gender…” Dr. Diane Ehrensaft’s answer gives a clear picture of how trans activists wish to impart the ideology of gender fluidity to children:
First of all, in terms of the question is that a boy or is that a girl, I would say we don’t know—we’ll have to ask them. So that would be the start, that only they know for sure. Some people like to be asked and some people don’t. I’d say you know, some people think (because by three you’re learning) that if you have a penis you’re a boy and if you have a vagina or a vulva you’re a girl, but actually it’s not like that. It’s not like that at all. If you’re a boy it’s because your mind is telling you I’m a boy. If you’re a girl it’s because your mind is telling you you’re a girl. Some girls like to wear dresses and some girls like to dress as Darth Vader—that’s a people thing, but there are some people where we live who think one thing is a boy thing and one thing is a girl thing. So there is a teaching moment there. Kids by three know their culture. Remember I said gender socialization starts at two? So we have to sometimes unsocialize those messages with new messages. Then the next thing is: Some people think there is only two genders. But there is lots and lots of genders—it’s just like a rainbow. It has all different colors. And then I’d stop there because that’s almost way too many words already for a three-year-old.
There you have it, in her own words: Children must be “unsocialized” out of antiquated beliefs such as the idea that men have penises and women have vaginas, or that there are only two genders. Instead, children as young as three years old are to be told that you can be whatever you decide to be, regardless of biological reality.
            Our children are in danger.

            Transgender activists, as this author says, are focused on our children, “Trans activists are especially focused on young people because they rightly feel that indoctrination is more effective at a younger age. The fact is that experts like Ehrensaft are the ones informing new sex-ed curriculum for schools, new governmental policies, and new social responses to the transgender ideology. In her view, her ideology applies even to children under the age of five, including those who are “preverbal.” Most parents are unaware of what activists like Ehrensaft believe and teach, but it is incredibly important for people to be aware of what this ideology constitutes, and to find out whether it has infiltrated the curriculum of your local schools, as well.

            Trans activists are waging a war for the hearts and minds of the next generation. Don’t fool yourself: That means your children, too.”7

            How should Christians respond to this scary predicament?

            Christians, who subscribe to Historic Christianity, will affirm in God’s creation of human beings as either male or female. God assigned gender to children even before they were born, as it was in the case of John and the Lord Jesus (Luke 1:13, 31). If God assigns gender to children even before they’re born, then man does not have an option to rewrite his/her gender after they are born.

            You cannot call yourself a Christian if you support/endorse this transgender ideology. William Lane Craig says that the transgender movement is predicated on the notion that God does not exist, “…the best defense for homosexual or transgender lifestyles would be to simply say God does not exist and therefore there are no objective moral values and duties that I'm obliged to respect.” He goes on to say that if we call ourselves Christians, then we have objective duties to fulfill, which also includes a firm belief that our gender is based on our biological sex, “I don't think trying to found them in the body alone is going to suffice. There's got to be something more than the body to ground objective moral values and duties because the body in and of itself is just an animal organism – an electrochemical machine. We need to say that these bodies that we possess are en-souled by human person and therefore designed by God to function in certain ways, and that we have objective prohibitions and obligations to fulfill that God has laid upon us. The worth of the human body and its respect is therefore grounded in theism.”8

Endnotes:

1The end result of the development of a person’s genes. The presence of the SRY gene leads to the development of a male (a person with a penis and other biological attributes of the masculine sex). The absence of SRY leads to the development of a female (a person with an ovary and other biological attributes of the female sex. Source: https://kirkcenter.org/reviews/the-absurdity-of-gender-theory/

2https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/nancy-pearceys-love-thy-body-part-2/

3The term ‘Transgender moment’ is referenced to Ryan T. Anderson's book When Harry Became Sally, Responding to the Transgender Moment

4https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-canada-passes-radical-law-forcing-gender-theory-acceptance

5https://kirkcenter.org/reviews/the-absurdity-of-gender-theory/

6https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/in-their-own-words-what-transgender-activists-have-in-store-for-your-childr?
fbclid=IwAR0F4A2jRm_0YjBeMm6WTgRl6_ppg-_d0juF7YQdVUiS2DA4a0Jh_zOH5oQ

7Ibid.

8https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/nancy-pearceys-love-thy-body-part-2/


Websites last accessed on 24th November 2018. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Women Tweeting #ThisIsNotConsent; But We Are Not Living In A Perfect World

            Women around the world are tweeting pictures of their underwear with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent as an expression of their outrage against the acquittal of a 27-year old rapist in Ireland. The rapist’s lawyer told the jurors that the victim had worn lacy underwear. Thus the lawyer argued that the 17-year old girl consented to sex.1 

            Mary Crilly, director of the Cork Sexual Violence Center, said, “What a woman wears…is her business and does not indicate interest or consent. “It’s never her fault…We’re allowing the perpetrators to get away.””2

            You may be appalled and the Irish legal system may be ridiculed over this decision. The victim cannot be blamed for being raped. You are right in thinking that the young girl’s outfit does not matter in rape. A rape is a crime regardless of victim’s outfit.

            But this incident once again prompts us to contemplate two significant aspects:

            1. Evil could be curtailed. But it is impossible to eliminate evil from our world.

            2. #ThisIsNotConsent hashtag is a product of sound reasoning. However, evil such as rape is not predicated on either sound reasoning or sensible moral judgment. Sound reasoning and sensible moral judgment cannot usher a good sense into the mind of the rapist. Hence, it is incumbent upon those who are vulnerable to evil to primarily protect themselves.

Impossible To Eliminate Evil

            Be mindful that evil cannot be eliminated once and for all.

            For evil to be eliminated once and for all, God should judge Satan and annihilate him (cf. Revelation 20:7-10). Subsequently, the new heaven and a new earth should replace the current heaven and earth. The new earth will be free from all evil, suffering, sickness, and death.

            But as long as we live on this earth, evil will continue to prevail (Ephesians 2:1-2). 

            No two ways about it!

Protect Yourself

            In a perfect world without evil, even a scantily clad or a nude person will not be raped. But such goodness is possible only in a perfect world (sans evil).

            It is impossible to eliminate evil from our world. Hence, primarily, we need to protect ourselves to the best of our abilities.

            If we live in a location known for robbery and theft, then we’d do well to protect our possessions. We cannot expect the police to protect our home when we are diligently careless about our own protection.

            This is a no-brainer.

            Leaving our door unlocked or advertising on social media about our vacation (implying that our home would be uninhabited for a while) would be an open invitation for evildoers to plot an attack against our home.

            Similarly, anyone, let alone women, who are vulnerable to evil, should primarily take care of themselves. You may as well heed to good counsel such as, ‘do not meet a stranger,’ ‘do not travel alone, but if you are to travel alone, take the most appropriate precautions’ etc.

            Likewise, dress in such a manner that you will not be the center of any attraction - be it good or bad.

            This is for your own good! 

Endnotes:

1https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/world/europe/ireland-underwear-rape-case-protest.html

2Ibid.


Website last accessed on 20th November 2018.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Can People In Heaven See Us?

            ‘Can People In Heaven See Us?’ is a complicated question. There are two possible answers to this question:

            (1) People in heaven can see the occurrences on earth.

            (2) People in heaven cannot see the occurrences on earth.

            Both these answers invoke further complications.

            If occurrences on earth are inaccessible to people in heaven, there may be no significant problems. But we could pose a question based on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. If people in their afterlife, remember the catastrophic state of their loved ones on earth, they could be sad and disappointed.

            If their loved ones on earth are either in horrendous pain or not saved, people in heaven could be sad and disappointed. But sadness and disappointment are not the attributes of heaven.

            How could this predicament be resolved?

            Similarly, if people in heaven can see the mayhem caused by evil on earth, would they not feel sad? If so, how do we explain the presence of sadness in heaven in light of hell, where there will be perpetual sadness? This problem is enhanced when we consider sadness in the presence of God - how can there be sadness in the very presence of God (cf. Psalms 30:5, 126:5; Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17, 21:4)?

            Therefore, this question is indeed very relevant to a curious theological mind or a serious student of the Bible.

            A popular belief among many Christians is that the people in heaven would not know what is happening on earth. They thus justify their belief:

Pastor John Macarthur’s teaching website, Grace to You, says, “Some teach that our deceased Christian loved ones can see us from heaven. They frequently cite from Hebrews 12:1, which says: "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us . . . run with endurance the race that is set before us."
They interpret that to mean our departed loved ones watch us like spectators do in a stadium, seeing our every move and cheering us on. While that may seem comforting, we don't believe the Bible is really teaching that.
The witnesses in that verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who lived victorious lives by trusting God. Those saints are witnesses to us because their lives testify about the value of trusting God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us with their eyes.
Consequently, when we understand Hebrews 12:1 in its context, we realize that it doesn't really support the idea that our loved ones are watching us from heaven. Our comfort comes not from knowing they can see us, but that they can see Jesus and one day we will see Him with them as well-never to be separated again.”1
Another popular Christian ministry, Gotquestions.org says, “The Bible doesn’t specifically say that people in heaven cannot look down on us, so we can’t be dogmatic. However, it is unlikely that they can. People in heaven are likely preoccupied with other things such as worshipping God and enjoying the glories of heaven.”2
            Even if people in heaven would not know the happenings of earth, there seems to be a possibility of sadness remaining in their minds, just by virtue of their memory of their loved ones on earth, especially if their loved ones are in pain or in the state of being unsaved.

            How does the Bible resolve this predicament?

            Let us consider the memory of the loved one who’s in horrendous pain.

            Perfect knowledge is a hallmark of the people in heaven (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9-12).  If the person on earth who suffers horrendous pain is saved (believes in Christ) or will be saved, then his loved one in heaven would be aware of this fact. Ergo, the person in heaven need not necessarily be sad for he knows that his loved one will soon be in heaven with God unto all eternity. The fact that his loved one is secure unto eternity is of invaluable worth, especially when it’s equated with the temporary pain on earth. This knowledge is adequate to replace the possibility of sadness with joy.  

            The other possibility is more complicated. What if the person in heaven knows that his unsaved loved one is destined to hell because he will never believe in Christ? Would this knowledge not usher an immeasurable sadness in the person in heaven?

            When people in heaven possess perfect knowledge, they would also know, for sure, what God has done to save their loved one. Thus they would know that God has done everything possible to bring everyone to HIMSELF – even their loved one. The knowledge that their loved one consciously rejected God in spite of God’s every effort to draw this person to HIMSELF, would ensure an absence of sadness.   

Endnotes:

1https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA108/do-those-in-heaven-know-what-is-happening-on-earth

2https://www.gotquestions.org/heaven-look-down.html


Websites last accessed on 6th November 2018. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What About Christians Who Believe In Ghosts?

            Years ago, I met a person whose home was haunted. He had not slept for many days and asked me if I could help him. He told me that a ghost was not allowing him to sleep even for a moment. I went to his house, which was nothing but a hut with a thatched roof. I prayed, and by the grace and the power of God, whatever was haunting him, left him. A couple of days later, he told me that he was sleeping peacefully.

            Are ghosts for real? A ghost is defined as “the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons.”1

            Do spirits of dead people roam the earth? No, they do not.

            How do I know that? Because the Bible says so (Hebrews 9:27)!

            I believe in the Bible because the Bible is trustworthy. (For a more detailed explanation as to why anyone should believe the Bible, please read “Why Believe The Bible?2)

            So ghosts are not real (if the term ‘ghost’ refers to the souls of the dead people roaming the earth). 

            If dead people’s spirits do not roam the earth, then is it true that we cannot see or talk to our loved ones who have passed on? Yes, we cannot speak to them or engage them in any mode whatsoever because the spirits of the dead people cannot visit or roam the earth.

            What about King Saul seeking the spirit of Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28: 3-20)? An article “Do You Believe In Ghosts?” explains this incident well, “…this passage doesn’t suggest that séances work, and it absolutely doesn’t condone witchcraft. Some scholars believe that God sent Samuel on this unique occasion.3 But others believe a demon was impersonating the prophet based on the fact that he made some false claims. For example, commentator John Gill notes that the apparition warned that all of Saul’s sons would die on the next day, but some survived.4 Either way, the emphasis is that Saul had sunk so low that he tried to dabble in the occult, which God condemns. The next day Saul died.”3

            If spirits of dead people do not roam the earth, then what was it that haunted the man who asked for my help? Is haunting even true?

            Yes, haunting is true because evil spirits inhabit the earth. The Bible provides us with many instances of evil spirits coming into contact with mankind (Mark 5:1-20; John 10:10; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15; 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1–3). Evil spirits can haunt vulnerable people.

            What about apparitions (a supernatural appearance of a person or thing, especially a ghost)? Legend has it that the famous reformer, Martin Luther, threw ink at the devil to chase him away, “When the monk, who was totally absorbed by his work, heard a scratching and chafing, he valiantly grasped the ink pot and threw it right at the devil's grimacing face, in order to chase away the perpetrator, who had disturbed his task of translating the Holy Scripture into German. This is how a blue ink stain next to the oven is said to have originated. Today, there is only a hole. But nobody can tell what exactly has happened at that time in the guest room on the Wartburg. Although Luther has reported many events from his life on the castle, he did not say anything about the alleged ink stain.”4

            It is impossible to see &/or communicate with a dead person. But it may be possible to see a fallen angel/demon provided God allows for such an event.  

            Can evil spirits impersonate the dead? The answer is an unambiguous yes:5

No evidence has produced a single fact that should sway a Christian into believing that the spirits of deceased people can loiter on earth. In light of the Bible, the only conclusion is that ghost sightings are either the figments of overactive imaginations, or else they are demons.
In his book The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, and Psychic Phenomena, Christian author Ron Rhodes states, “People sometimes genuinely encounter a spirit entity—though not a dead human. Some people encounter demonic spirits who may mimic dead people in order to deceive the living (see 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1–3). Many who claim to have encountered such spirit entities have some prior involvement in the occult.”5
But why would demons want to deceive the living by impersonating the dead?
As servants of Satan and enemies of God, they would have every reason to cast doubt on God’s Word and its warnings about future judgment. Getting people to believe in ghosts automatically forces them to reject key Bible verses (see Hebrews 9:27).
Do you believe in ghosts? The question is huge. Coming to a wrong conclusion about the afterlife has eternal consequences, and the wrong choice on this side of the grave can condemn a soul to eternal agony on the other side.
            What about those Christians who believe in ghosts?

            If you, being a Christian, believe that the souls of the dead people roam the earth, then you have not read and understood your Bible properly. If you have had an apparition or a séance, then you would have encountered an evil spirit/demon.

Endnotes:

1https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ghosts

2https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-believe-bible.html

3https://answersingenesis.org/angels-and-demons/do-you-believe-in-ghosts/?fbclid=IwAR2J7yxKFaCl4K5G4u0diwVb57byQSKAV3lyfZcA4uSK1ezWZ4YmgLEIPG0

4https://www.luther2017.de/en/martin-luther/history-stories/the-throwing-of-the-ink-pot/

5https://answersingenesis.org/angels-and-demons/do-you-believe-in-ghosts/?fbclid=IwAR2J7yxKFaCl4K5G4u0diwVb57byQSKAV3lyfZcA4uSK1ezWZ4YmgLEIPG0


Websites last accessed on 31 October 2018.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Christianization Of Halloween? (Could Christians Celebrate Halloween?)

            Some Christians criticize the celebration of Christmas and Easter. They argue that these originated as pagan festivals. Hence they claim that Christians are not to celebrate either Christmas or Easter.

            These Christians, who criticize the celebration of Christmas and Easter, should not endorse the celebration of Halloween. The only premise that could motivate them to endorse the celebration of Halloween would be an argument that Halloween had a Christian origin.

            How did Halloween originate? 

            The encyclopedia describes the origin of Halloween, “Halloween, contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, a holiday observed on October 31, the evening before All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day… In much of Europe and most of North America, observance of Halloween is largely nonreligious…Halloween had its origins in the festival of Samhain among the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland…During the Samhain festival the souls of those who had died were believed to return to visit their homes, and those who had died during the year were believed to journey to the otherworld. People set bonfires on hilltops for relighting their hearth fires for the winter and to frighten away evil spirits, and they sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts thought to be present. It was in those ways that beings such as witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons came to be associated with the day…” (Emphasis Mine).1

            Halloween’s origin is not Christian. Instead, there is a very good case for a non-christian origin.

            The Bible teaches us that when we die, we either go to heaven or hell. The souls of the dead do not return to visit their homes. As a Christian, the only way to fight the devil is to wear the metaphorical ‘Armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:10-18). Wearing masks and setting bonfires are an exercise in futility while fighting the devil and his entourage. So there is no connection between Christianity and the celebration of Halloween.

            Therefore, ideally, there is no need to celebrate Halloween.

            Given a choice, neither would I celebrate Halloween, nor would advise you to celebrate it. But Halloween is an alien festival in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East – the territories of my stay hitherto. Hence, rejecting Halloween is certainly an easy task for me.

            But if you have lived in the West and if you have grown up celebrating Halloween or watching your neighbors celebrate Halloween, then rejecting Halloween, however ideal as it may be, could be a difficult task for you. Ergo, Christian ministries advice safe practices to celebrate Halloween.

            Billy Graham Evangelistic Association believes that Christians could celebrate Halloween, albeit safely, “Halloween, the eve of “All Saints’ Day” (November 1), is also associated with Martin Luther and the Reformation. They celebrate the religious freedoms won at that time in history…We encourage each family to develop their own approach to Halloween based on their own convictions and the options for celebration available to them. The responsibility to make this decision rests on the adults in the family, not the children. The peer pressure on children is far too great for them to be objective. Certainly, providing a safe, fun environment must be a priority.”2

            Gotquestions.org holds a similar opinion, “So, should a Christian celebrate Halloween? Is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or cowboy and going around the block asking for candy? No, there is not. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely! If parents are going to allow their children to participate in Halloween, they should make sure to keep them from getting involved in the darker aspects of the day. If Christians are going to take part in Halloween, their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behavior should still reflect a redeemed life (Philippians 1:27). There are many churches that hold "harvest festivals" and incorporate costumes, but in a godly environment. There are many Christians who hand out tracts that share the Gospel along with the Halloween candy. The decision is ultimately ours to make. But as with all things, we are to incorporate the principles of Romans 14. We can’t allow our own convictions about a holiday to cause division in the body of Christ, nor can we use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith. We are to do all things as to the Lord.”3

            Finally, an article on the website of ‘Grace to You’ offers the following advice:4

First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God's Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). God has forever "disarmed principalities and powers" through the cross of Christ and "made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]" (Colossians 2:15).
Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists or pagan witches, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior—drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.
Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people should stay away from secular Halloween parties since those are breeding grounds for trouble. Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.
Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn't just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls "a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God's] adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God's wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner—now that is truly terrifying.
Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination—death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry—as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian's ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner…
Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it's a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?
Endnotes:      
1https://www.britannica.com/topic/Halloween

2https://billygraham.org/story/billy-grahams-my-answer-should-christians-celebrate-halloween/

3https://www.gotquestions.org/Christians-celebrate-Halloween.html

4https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A123/christians-and-halloween


Websites last accessed on 29th October 2018.