Monday, May 25, 2015

Lessons Learnt From Aruna Shanbaug's Life

            Shortly after her 25th birthday, this nurse was sexually molested and ruthlessly strangled by a vengeful hospital sweeper. The brutal attack incarcerated her into a vegetative state for 42 years. Aruna Shanbaug died on 18-May-2015, disowned by her family, but devotedly loved by the hospital staff to an extent that they kept her away from the pain of bedsores.

            We do not hope for Aruna’s painful situation upon anyone. But her situation could happen to anyone although in a different manner. Such is life’s gory unpredictability.

            She was in her prime and beautiful; her beauty attracted a young doctor who dated her because he saw her fit to be his wife. She was born to serve or so it seemed; she chose a respectable profession that served the ailing. That she lacked nothing could be a safe guess.

            But Aruna’s undoing was activated when she reprimanded a hospital sweeper for stealing food intended for hospital dogs. In response, his evil and perverted mind processed a reciprocation of rape. After sodomizing her, he harmed her irreparably by strangling her with a dog’s chain.

            In a moment, Aruna’s life morphed into gruesome pain.

            Her pain compounded when her family abandoned her. Aruna’s life could not have been darker and gloomier. Pain was at its zenith.

            Instantaneous death could have been a blessing in disguise for Aruna, for living in a vegetative state, and abandoned by her family, was a colossal pain than death. This is horrendous suffering.

            Without a cure in sight, death may have seemed like the best form of pain-relief. But God kept Aruna alive for 42 years in vegetative state.

Why and for what purpose did God keep Aruna alive almost to the point of being a burden upon the society?

            The Bible reveals that sickness and death are intended for God’s glory (cf. John 9: 1-3, 11: 4). So, how did Aruna’s life display God’s glory?

     Intriguingly, Aruna’s life offers a bright ray of hope to those in pain.

            The significant players in Aruna’s life were the hospital sweeper, Aruna’s family, the doctor who dated her, and the hospital staff.

            The hospital sweeper who molested and injured Aruna was an epitome of evil. He reminds us that evil lurks around the corner, waiting to assault us any moment. Despite our diligence, we could be susceptible to an evil assault, for we are rank powerless against evil if we strive to live our life in our own strength and might.

            Whatever be our situation, such an evil response cannot be justified. Even if we are in the very same situation as the hospital sweeper, reprimanded for doing wrong, we should take utmost care to not process any response that is remotely proximal to evil.

            Aruna’s family reminds us that no one or that nothing is certain in our lives. Our family and friends could discard us anytime. When we find ourselves in deep trouble, not many may come to our rescue. No one is perfect, our families included.

            On the other hand, if we are blessed to have family and friends who care for us when we desperately need help, then we ought to be grateful to God and to those who care for us. It is indeed a blessing to have family and friends who sacrificially care for us when we need them the most.

            The doctor who dated Aruna apparently took care of her for four years, but when he learnt that there would be no definite cure for Aruna, he decided to move on with his life. It seems that he has since married and lives outside India.

            Could we blame him for dumping Aruna? I don’t think so, for he too is not perfect. He may have found it unwise to squander his life over a person bound to remain incarcerated to die someday.

    What’s the point in being miserable and lonely waiting for someone who is not going to recover? Isn’t it the greater good to live happily? These thoughts probably motivated him to move on with his life.

            The hospital staff, especially the nurses and doctors, is the human-reason for Aruna’s seemingly painless vegetative state of life. As media reports portray, these nurses were God’s own angels, who kept this pathetic remnant of a human alive and well to the best of their abilities. 

            In hindsight, if it had not been for these kind souls, Aruna could have been dead, gone and forgotten a long time ago. In fact, the hospital staff may be the sole reason for Aruna’s fame in pain, for she was kept alive for 42 years. If she were not living, even vegetatively, she would not have been in the main stream news.  

            Think about this, what did the hospital staff have to gain by serving Aruna for 42 years? I could safely assume that they had nothing to gain. However, they cared for her because they loved her as if she was their own. This, I reckon, is the highest form of human love. 

            This is unconditional love - the very form of love that we should practice. Unconditional love expects nothing in return. Occasionally, we could be rejected by those whom we love unconditionally. But the prospect of rejection should not deter our love. 

            Were the nurses mandated to care for Aruna as if she were their own sister or mother? To care for Aruna so much so that she did not suffer from bedsores is the highest form of care. These nurses have undoubtedly engraved an admirable benchmark for us to emulate.

            Impossible as it may seem, the utterly selfless caring act of these nurses, most surely informs us that such a glorious art of caring is humanly possible. As long as God gives us breath to breathe and energy to serve, may we serve those in need with an utterly unconditional love.

            If anyone is in need, then we ought to serve them sacrificially. Sacrificial love is the need of the hour. We should practice sacrificial love always and at any cost.

            Significantly, Aruna’s life teaches us that not everyone would be healed by God. God heals some and not the others. We do not know the precise reason for God not healing some. But we are sure that God loves and cares for everyone. Just as God cared for Aruna through the hospital staff, HE would most surely care for you and me.

            Aruna’s life offers a glimmer of hope to those in severe pain. There are moments we may find ourselves lost and lonely in our terrible suffering. Aruna was lost and lonely in pain. But as Aruna received unexpected yet quality care, God will provide care and assistance from HIS people.

            May we be those who provide that unconditional and selfless love and care to anyone who is in need.        


Information about Aruna Shanbaug was gleaned from these sources:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Has Science Disproved Prayer?

                  Atheists deploy science as an instrument to negate religion. Through the deployment of science, if they prove the ineffectiveness of prayer, they reckon that they could posit God’s non-existence. 

            Atheists refer verses from the Bible that apparently mandates 100% answer to prayer (Matthew 17:20, 18:19, 21:22; Luke 11:9-10).  So if a less than 100% answer to prayer is observed, the atheists suppose that prayer is ineffective, hence the Bible is incorrect.

            Then they argue that if the Bible is incorrect, either God is a liar or that the fallible man authored the Bible. Since God cannot lie, they posit God’s nonexistence and assert that it was man who authored the Bible independent of God. Thereby they strive, although in futility, to render Historic Christianity as invalid.

            This then is the background to the question, “Has science disproved prayer?”

            If a person or a group of people prayed for the sick in which there was no improvement, then, from among a few deductions, one could reason that prayer was ineffective. Conversely, if the sick are healed through prayer, a plausible deduction could be that prayer was effective. Praying for others is “Intercessory Prayer” (IP).

            Research by Kevin Masters et al published in The Society of Behavioral Medicine was exceedingly critical of prayer, “There is no scientifically discernable effect for IP as assessed in controlled studies. Given that the IP literature lacks a theoretical or theological base and has failed to produce significant findings in controlled trials, we recommend that further resources not be allocated to this line of research” 1

            But for every scientific research that invalidates the efficacy of prayer there is a study that validates it.

            Dr. Randolph Byrd’s research (published in Southern Medical Journal) asserted the effectiveness of prayer.

            Byrd studied patients in the coronary care unit who were assigned to born-again Christians (with an active Christian life) for prayer to the Judeo-Christian God. Byrd concluded that those prayed for were benefitted “with less congestive heart failure, required less diuretic and antibiotic therapy, had fewer episodes of pneumonia, had fewer cardiac arrests, and were less frequently intubated and ventilated” 2

            Duke University’s Dr. Harold D Koenig is utterly confident about prayer’s effectiveness, “… out of 125 studies that looked at the link between health and regular worship, 85 showed regular churchgoers live longer. There’s a lot of evidence out there.” 3

             Relying on science to determine the efficacy of prayer is futile, for science corroborates both the prayer and the anti-prayer groups. Some studies observe the healing of patients upon prayer and others do not.

            So science does not categorically establish the invalidity of prayer for it also establishes the validity of prayer.

            Significantly, “Should science validate prayer (or religion)?”  

            A perpetual conflict between science and religion is often observed, for to reiterate, science is the crutch of the atheists in their futile attempt at denying religion.

            In response, we could subscribe to evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould’s Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) and assert the total disconnect between science and religion to affirm that they should not overlap. Hence, we could univocally reject science’s intervention to validate prayer.

            Albert Einstein, in his paper Science, Philosophy and Religion (Sep 1940), seemed to reject the notion that science and religion should not overlap; he said, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” So, on the other hand, we could heed the words of science about religion provided science is valid in its evaluation of religion.      

            Then again, is it possible for science to determine the effectiveness of prayer?

            In order to think this through, we should consider three truths from a theological perspective (since prayer is a religious act that presupposes God’s existence), which are:

            1. Prayer is directed towards God, seeking HIS favor upon the needy.

            2. Man merely intercedes; man does not and cannot heal.

            3. God alone can heal and deliver. 

            Therefore, when researchers observe patients not being healed upon prayer, it merely signifies God’s decision to not heal. God healed some (in the studies where patients were healed) and did not heal some (during the other studies where patients were not healed).

            To reiterate, studies that observed a positive impact of prayer upon the sick revealed God’s positive action i.e. healing upon the sick, whereas the studies that did not observe a positive impact upon the sick revealed God’s inaction.

            Why did God not heal some? That’s for God to answer and not for man to speculate unless God has revealed HIS reasons for inaction to man. God has indeed established certain principles about prayer in the Bible, which is not always in alignment with man’s carnal inclination.

            Consider a popular inactivity of God to prayer in Paul’s statement “…in order to prevent my becoming absurdly conceited, I was given a physical handicap—one of Satan’s angels—to harass me and effectually stop any conceit. Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, PHILLIPS, Emphasis Mine).

            This per se is not about God’s inaction to prayer, but it’s about God’s action to glorify HIS name through a willing man’s trial and tribulation. God’s inactivity was to strengthen and draw people closer to HIM. Therefore, when a sincere believer reads this passage, just as Paul accepted his pain, the believer trusts more in God and learns to accept his pain as a part of God’s grand plan to strengthen HIS people.

            Atheists, by rejecting God, reject that God alone, in HIS perfect omniscience, knows what is good for man. But prosperity is not necessarily the most ideal blessing for man.

            A testimony offered to God’s glory amidst severe pain is more powerful than a testimony offered in pleasure. This is unadulterated Christianity.

            Science then, cannot determine the efficacy of prayer because science has to learn God’s mind – as to why HE heals some and not heal others – so to determine the effectiveness of prayer.

            Anybody could seek God’s mind provided they repent and believe in God, seek HIM earnestly in humility and accept God in HIS terms (not on our terms). This is a simple algorithm to seek God’s mind.

            Then there are moments where God’s answer to our prayers would not necessarily please us, for HE could delay or reject our plea for just reasons. During these moments, we ought to, in humility, agree with God and not battle against HIM, for to battle against God is neither worthy nor winnable.

            So the question is not about whether science can determine the effectiveness of prayer, but the real question is if the atheists, who use science as a means to their futile endeavor, are willing to accept God. Atheists could repent and accept God in humility if they seek HIM earnestly.

            Therefore, since science does not disprove prayer categorically, the studies on the effectiveness of prayer are of no relevance to Historic Christianity or God.       





Monday, May 11, 2015

How Could Christianity Insult & Injure You? (Toxic Christianity)

                Barna research reveals the rise of secularism and the abandonment of religion by many young people.1 In this day and age, quite a few young people believe it’s hip to be a secularist or an atheist.

            Apparently, in today’s Arab world, an appearance of being religious is more in vogue than being religious. WIN/Gallup International poll reveals one million Saudis who are “convinced atheists.”2

            Religion should draw people closer to God. Religion appeals to God, who loves people and strengthens them to live their lives victoriously. Outside of salvation, religion should enable its believers to live a fruitful life. Hence, religion, be it valid or invalid, ought to positively motivate and encourage its adherents.

            In the past, an aberration of religion was its reputation for genocides. The Christian crusades, Muslim conquests, Aryavarta-Lanka conflict, and Mahabarata wars are some instances of massacres in the name of religion. In our time, religion insults and injures people.

            So, people are abandoning religion. Not just Christianity, all religions are experiencing abandonment.

            Sure enough, the secular world has pounced on this opportunity by coining the term, Religious Trauma Syndrome and have established outfits such as Recovering From Religion.3 Then they utter ridiculously bewildering statements such as, “We are recovering from every imaginable religion: Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Muslims, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and many more,” 4 as if they have the cure to alleviate the problems of those abandoning religion. 

            Why do people abandon religion?

            People could abandon religion for their own selfish reasons i.e. to live a hedonistic life. Conversely, when religion fails to serve needy people, people abandon religion. 

            Would it be accurate to affirm the failure of religion to serve its adherents? Most certainly! Consider Christianity as a case in point.

            Could Christianity be toxic? Of course!

            Christianity i.e. Christians / Churches / Christian mission organizations could injure you, even irreparably in some instances, when it ruthlessly controls you for selfish and carnal reasons.

            Recently a friend shared his despair about a church that I shall leave unnamed. This church prohibits its members to write exams on Sunday. Consider the dilemma of the students belonging to this church, who had to write their exams on a particular Sunday.

            Those who did not write their exams on that Sunday would have failed and their career would have suffered a setback. If they did write their exam, then they would have sinned against this church. (Thankfully the Bible assures us that they did not sin against God by writing that exam on Sunday – cf. Mark 2: 23-27)

            So, you are living in a toxic Christian environment when…

            …self-righteous Christians proudly hate sinners (forgetting that God in Christ loved them when they were sinners). Those disparaged as sinners then depart from the church.

            …your Christian friends blame you for your sickness or adversity by accusing you of faithlessness in God. These are Job’s comforters – people who increase the pain of those suffering with their godless and mindless statements.

            …your non-christian friends are more supportive than your Christian friends.

            …you speak your mind about your church and you are crucified for doing so.

            …you expect justice from the local church or the Christian mission organization and all you receive is injustice. Many friends have shared with me that their Christian employers are easily the worst.

            …your church ignores or abuses you for your genuine doubts about Christianity.

            …your church refuses to emotionally or financially help the sick and the needy in your congregation.

            …your church threatens you with curses if you desire to quit.

            …your church alienates the youth by not including them in the worship service.

            …your church plays favoritism by favoring the wealthy and the powerful and ignores those who desperately need Christ’s love from the church.

            …your church mandates you to not watch movies, TV shows and listen to secular music because it is satanic. So you are abandoned with a gigantic guilt even when you watch decent movies and TV shows and listen to clean secular music.

            …your church abandons you based on a false charge, thus destroying your emotional health.

            …your church does not equip its members to live amidst pain.

            These are a few powerful instances of toxic Christianity. Here are a few mild instances of toxic Christianity.

            …your church says that it is the best church – the most Christlike.

            …your pastor replaces Jesus by misusing the Scripture to bolster his own authority.

            …your church’s youth group caters more of food and entertainment than spiritual nourishment.   

            …your church focuses more on money than spirituality.

            …your church is pastor-focused than Christ-focused.

            …your church measures success through church attendance and offertory figures. 

            So what do you do if you find yourself in a toxic Christian environment?

            Unfortunately, many churches operate as business units. These institutional churches would be more interested in stabilizing their business in such a way that they satisfy their big givers rather than serve the spiritual needs of ordinary Christians, in their midst, who require encouragement, and comfort.

            So if you are a part of one such business unit (church), then you could abandon this church. But the big question remains, “is there a better church in your vicinity?” If so, you depart to the better church. If not, you are in a huge dilemma.

            Having said this, every Christian, Christian organization and Church will have their unique imperfections. None can expect to find a perfect Christian or a perfect Christian outfit in this imperfect and evil world. Given this situation, it is better off to be in a lesser toxic environment, than not being in the fellowship of Christians.

            But when the discussion is about friendships, we are better off without toxic Christian friendships. We would be much better off with good friends irrespective of their religious affinities.  
            God, as revealed in the Bible is a loving and a gracious God. God does not harm anyone. However, when people are injured by religion, they should be careful to not blame God.  

            Let’s make this abundantly clear. The Bible reveals that Christianity per se cannot insult or injure anyone. Insult and injuries are caused by Christians who misinterpret the Bible to their own benefit.

            The greatest harm to Christians, in our time, is dealt by postmodern and liberal Christians. But their meager numbers prevent adverse impact upon Christians.

            Christianity is not entirely toxic. There are quite a few true followers of Christ, who truly serve God and truly bless those around them.

            When we are damaged by Christians, Churches and Christian mission organizations, we are left with no other option but to approach God like never before. Abandoning God will not heal us. God alone has the power to heal and deliver us.

            God will love, care and heal those who seek HIM, especially those who are grievously wounded by HIS own people. God will heal us supernaturally and through HIS humble servants. Of this, you can be sure.  

            So may we be those humble servants of God to be Christlike and bless those around us with the grace and love of God that we perpetually receive from HIM.              






Monday, May 4, 2015

Are Earthquakes A Part of The Great Tribulation? How Should Christians Respond To Natural Disasters?

            The Bible foretells a seven year tribulation period prior to Christ’s second coming. This will be a time of unparalleled suffering for mankind.

            Earthquakes are a sure means to inflict this gory suffering, and the Bible includes earthquakes as a part of the tribulation period. Hence some Christians were quick to associate the recent earthquake in Nepal with the tribulation, thus implying the rapid proximity of Christ’s second coming.

            To be fair, one cannot blatantly ignore these voices, for ‘’1 reported 109 earthquakes today (4th April 2015), 680 during the past week, 2987 in the past month and 37, 655 in the past year. These large numbers could easily validate these voices (this report includes earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or greater).

            Two pertinent questions could be raised in the wake of natural disasters such as the recent earthquake in Nepal:

            1. If these voices are valid, are we living in the tribulation period - are we experiencing unparalleled suffering now? If not, when do we expect the great tribulation?

            2. When earthquakes (read suffering) destroy many lives irreparably, should Christians shout loud to the world about the earthquake being a part of the tribulation period or God’s judgment upon mankind etc.?

            Are we living inside the tribulation period? Matthew 24 outlines consecutive tribulational events:

            1. Deceptive Messiahs: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many” (verses 4-5).

            2. Wars: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (verses 6-7).

            3. Famines & Earthquakes: “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (verse 7b).

            4. Persecution & Martyrdom: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” (verses 9-12).

            5. Cosmic Disturbances: “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (verses 29).

            6. Christ’s Second Coming: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (verses 30-31).

            Various other passages speak about the tribulation period (Daniel 9: 24-27; Jeremiah 30: 3-14; Revelation 6-18; Zechariah 12: 2-3, 8-9, 14: 1-5, 7-9; 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-10). However, the first event of the tribulation period, as elucidated by premillenial scholars, is the arrival of antichrist.

            Until now there is no concrete sighting of the antichrist. Many rumors do circulate, but they are unconvincing. Similarly, there are wars, famines, earthquakes and cosmic disturbances, but is the unparalleled suffering of the tribulation period?

            Let us think this through by considering the factor of peace through the global peace index. In other words, is the world at peace now?

            Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) study2 reveals that only 11 countries in the world were not involved in conflict of one kind or another. Another significant revelation of this study is that the world is becoming less peaceful every year since 2008.

            Having said this, the world is not being traumatized by peacelessness. For instance, India ranks 143/162 in the global peace index (#1 ranked country is most peaceful and the 162nd ranked country is the least peaceful). According to this statistic, India is not considered a peaceful country. However in reality, barring instances of conflicts and violence, life is quite normal in most parts of India.

            If this is the situation in India, 142 other countries do seem to enjoy a relatively greater degree of peace. Hence a conclusion that we are not living in the tribulation period, since suffering is not at its zenith in this world, is reasonable.  

            When do we expect the tribulation period to commence? Tribulation will surely occur in the future, but since the Bible does not provide us with a specific date, it would be unwise to propose a specific time frame.

            When natural disasters augment our suffering, should Christians make damaging statements through social media forums equating natural disasters with God’s judgment or as indicative of tribulation period? What purpose does this serve?

            One blogger had this to say, “Yet we know in the Tribulation, all the mountains will be thrown down…. O, Nepal, your dead idols cannot help you now! Turn from them and repent to the True and Living God!”3

            A Christian preacher tweeted, “Praying 4 the lost souls in Nepal. Praying not a single destroyed pagan temple will b rebuilt & the people will repent/receive Christ.”4 As one would expect, there were a number of angry responses. This preacher then responded with greater hostility.

            Is this the need of the hour? I do not think so.

            Did the earthquake in Nepal kill only the non-christians? No, many Christians died and church buildings may have also been destroyed. 5

            When this act of God did not spare Christians, why make statements as if this was God’s judgment upon non-christians?

            How could we be certain that God has allowed a natural disaster as a means of his judgment? If we are not sure, then why make those statements? Wouldn’t we be better off without such demeaning statements?  

            Since we do not know the mind of God in the context of natural disasters, it is merely probable that natural disasters could be God’s judgment upon mankind. Natural disasters could include believers and unbelievers of Christ. Since believers of Christ who die during natural disasters would be heaven bound, natural disasters are not a mechanism of God’s judgment upon Christians. However, Christians cannot use natural disasters as a means to pronounce judgment upon non-christians. 

            Pronouncing judgment upon non-christians would not bring them to Christ. It is the love of Christ, made perfect by HIS perfect sacrifice that draws people closer to HIM.


1, last accessed on 4th April 2015, 10:20 AM, IST.